Najib arrested, charged and pleaded not guilty


 

Former premier Najib Abdul Razak was arrested at his residence in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, this afternoon, according to MACC chief commissioner Mohd Shukri Abdull.

The arrest was carried out in relation to the commission’s investigation into the SRC International issue.

Speculation is also rife that the former premier could be charged tomorrow.

Shukri Abdul told the media that the arrest took place at 3pm and the former premier has been taken to the commission’s headquarters in Putrajaya for further questioning.

Previously, MACC had recorded Najib’s statement twice with regard to the SRC International issue.

Last Friday, Malaysiakini had reported that there is a strong likelihood the former premier would be arrested this week.

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[More to follow]

LIVE: Najib arrives in court

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Goldman Lunch at Taste Paradise Sets Table for 1MDB Money Probe


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2018-06-28/goldman-bankers-in-focus-in-1mdb-money-probe-video

Low Taek Jho and an official from 1MDB had hired Goldman Sachs Group to underwrite the US$1.75 billion bond offering.

SINGAPORE: In a private dining room at Singapore’s Taste Paradise restaurant, over a meal of abalone and suckling pig, two Goldman Sachs Group Inc bankers were explaining a US$1.75 billion bond offering to six executives of a Swiss bank.

It was early 2012, and joining Goldman bankers Roger Ng and Tim Leissner that day were a young Malaysian financier named Low Taek Jho and an official from state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, known as 1MDB, which had hired the New York bank to underwrite the bond sale.

Now, people familiar with the matter say, investigators from Singapore to the United States are looking more closely at the roles of Mr Ng and Mr Leissner, who have both left Goldman. And they’re asking what happened in that private dining room named after the first emperor of a unified China, Qin Shi Huang.

In particular, they’re examining how US$577 million in proceeds from a bond sale that May ended up a day later in an account at BSI SA in Switzerland – the same bank whose executives were at the Taste Paradise.

Click here for the full report: Goldman Sachs lunch at Singapore’s Taste Paradise set the scene for 1MDB’s money probe

The lunch, previously unreported, brought together the key parties in what has become the biggest financial scandal in Malaysia’s history, involving the alleged misappropriation of US$4.5 billion of 1MDB funds. It was the culmination of numerous conversations as BSI bankers and compliance officials sought clarity on the deal.

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Najib is guilty of incompetence, he says: board to be blamed for 1MDB debacle, not me, I don’t know !


Dr M: Najib always assumes people are stupid 

‘Najib assumes M’sians are stupid’

Every bit of money that was borrowed by 1MDB had Najib’s signature, says PM

It is impossible for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak not to know of transactions related to 1MDB when his signature was on the documents, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Prime Minister said he could not believe his predecessor’s claim that he knew nothing about money from the state fund ending up in his personal account.

“Who wants to believe him (that he didn’t know), when he signed (his name)?

“Every bit of money that goes in and out of the first borrowing of RM42bil, all (had) his signature,” said Dr Mahathir.

The amount refers to the total debt accumulated by 1MDB, a fund which was, in fact, founded by Najib in 2009.

“If he doesn’t know, it must be that he doesn’t understand what a signature means,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying in an interview with the Malay Mail yesterday.

Dr Mahathir described as “ludicrous” for someone to direct RM2bil to be transferred into his account, while refusing to be informed of the transaction.

“This cannot be. Because I have to sign to use the money.

“To use the money, I have to issue cheques. Najib always assumes that people are stupid,” Dr Mahathir added.

It was previously reported that about US$700mil (RM2bil) was allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB into Najib’s personal account.

In a Reuters report on Wednesday, Najib blamed his advisers and the 1MDB board for keeping the alleged embezzlement information from him.

He said he did not know if hundreds of millions of dollars that moved through his personal account was from 1MDB, and if money from the fund was eventually laundered to acquire assets globally, including yachts, paintings, gems and prime real estate.

To this, Dr Mahathir said the Government had all the information on Najib’s alleged involvement in moving the 1MDB money, and that it knew how much money had gone into Najib’s account.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister disclosed that the authorities had “an almost perfect case” against Najib for embezzlement, misappropriation of funds and bribery.

1MDB had fallen RM42bil in debt since its inception in 2009, and Dr Mahathir had been at the forefront raising questions on it over the past three years. -The Star

Najib: If I was informed about the troubles the fund was in, I would have acted

He does, though, have explanations for the vast sums of cash, luxury handbags and jewellery recently seized from his homes by the Malaysian authorities.

Speaking to Reuters in his first sit-down interview since his shock May 9 election defeat, Najib said his advisors and the management and board of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), had wrongly kept the alleged embezzlement of funds a secret from him.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Reuters on Tuesday that the authorities have “an almost perfect case” against Najib on charges of embezzlement, misappropriation and bribery linked to 1MDB.

Najib, in some of his most extensive comments yet on the 1MDB scandal, said he did not know if hundreds of millions of dollars that moved through his personal account was from 1MDB, and if money from the fund was eventually laundered to acquire assets globally, including yachts, paintings, gems and prime real estate.

“I’m not party to the yacht, the paintings…I’ve never seen those paintings whatsoever,” said Najib.

“I was not aware of these purchases. This was done without my knowledge. I would never authorise 1MDB funds to be used for any of these items. I’ve been in government so long, I know what’s right and what’s wrong,” Najib said in the interview held at a luxurious sea-facing private villa in a five-star hotel on Pulau Langkawi.

He blamed 1MDB’s board, saying it was incumbent upon them to tell him if something was wrong.

Relaxing in a black T-shirt and brown pants, Najib said he was enjoying golf, food, and time with his family.

The family booked the villa to celebrate Hari Raya holidays together. Najib’s children, including stepson Riza Aziz, a Hollywood film producer, were with him for the week, his aides told Reuters.

Malaysian investigators looking into 1MDB say they believe that Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor have amassed vast amounts of wealth and property using funds from the state fund.

Rosmah briefly appeared at the interview but Najib said she would not take questions.

Nearly 300 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery were among the items taken away by police in raids at properties linked to Najib’s family.

Items included Birkin handbags from the luxury goods maker Hermes, each worth up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Najib said the public seizure of handbags and other luxury items created a negative perception but most were gifts given to his wife and daughter and had nothing to do with 1MDB.

“Yes these were gifts, particularly with my daughter’s they were tagged, they were actually labelled: when, by whom,” adding that a lot of them were wedding presents.

Najib said his son-in-law Daniyar Nazarbayev, the nephew of Kazakstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev, also gifted many of the handbags to Rosmah.

“People might find it hard to understand, but my son-in-law for example, he gets Birkin from his source, five or six at one go,” he said.

“His family has got some means, so it has nothing to do with 1MDB if it comes from Kazakhstan.”

US prosecutors have alleged that more than US$4.5bil (RM18.02bil) of 1MDB funds were laundered through a complex web of transactions and shell companies. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed several lawsuits to claim about US$1.7bil (RM6.8bil) in assets believed to have been stolen from 1MDB.

Some of the assets sought include a Picasso painting, luxury real estate in South California and New York, shares in a Hollywood production company and a US$265mil (RM1.06bil) yacht, and more than US$200mil (RM800.9mil) worth of jewellery – including a 22-carat pink diamond pendant and necklace.

Najib said this jewellery set was also meant to be a gift for his wife but she never received it.

“And until today we do not know…she says the item is not in her possession,” Najib said.

In the interview, Najib for the first time also spoke at length about Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian financier better known as Jho Low.

US and Malaysian investigators have named Low as a key figure who benefited from 1MDB funds.

Najib said he felt that Low’s connections in the Middle East, particularly with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, could be helpful in pulling in more investment to Malaysia from those places.

But he said he had never instructed Low to get involved in 1MDB, and had no control over what he did.

“I didn’t give him instructions, but he volunteered to do certain things, which he thought would help 1MDB. But whatever he did ultimately is the responsibility of the management and board.”

Malaysia is seeking to arrest Low, believed to be residing abroad, for his involvement in the 1MDB scandal.

He described Low and Najib’s stepson Riza as friends but said he was not aware of any dealings involving 1MDB funds in Riza’s Hollywood production company, which produced The Wolf of Wall Street among other movies.

When asked if he was still in touch with Low, Najib said:

“We have cut off communication again. I don’t know where he is.”

Low’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing in 1MDB. He has said US$681mil (RM2.72bil) transferred into his personal bank account was a donation from Saudi Arabia, and not as US lawsuits have alleged misappropriated funds from 1MDB.

Najib said he had been given assurances from the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud that Saudi Arabia would be sending a donation.

“All I knew, I accepted at face value that this is coming from the Saudis, from King Abdullah at his behest, at his instruction,” Najib said. – Reuters

 

Najib: I did not benefit from 1MDB in any way 

 

His say: ‘If anyone is found to be on the wrong side of the law, let the legal process take its course.’

LANGKAWI: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has denied that he benefitted from 1MDB, adding that he believed that the sovereign fund had been created to do “something good for the country”.

“If I knew there was going to be misappropriation of funds, if that was my knowledge, I would have acted,” he said.

To a question if he blamed the 1MDB board for the fund’s troubles, he said:

“No. I am saying as a general principle, if they are in the know that something is not right, then it is incumbent upon them to tell me. It is the fiduciary duty of the board and the management to do the right thing. I expect them to do the right thing and to follow the law.”

He also said that they had no control over what Jho Low – who has been named the main suspect in the 1MDB investigation – did, adding that he could not pass judgment.

“But there are certain things which he may or may not have done. But I am right to say that investigations should proceed and if anyone is found to be on the wrong side of the law, let the legal process take its course.

“No, he was not working on my behalf. All those items he never invoked my name but he did say he was acting for someone else,” he said.

Asked who Low was acting for, Najib said: “You have to ask him that.”

He also said that he had not talked much about the 1MDB allegations because all these things happened out of Malaysia and that there were some “international ramifications” if he were to name certain prominent individuals who might affect the country’s diplomatic relations.

“I would also like to place on record that (his step-son) Riza has done very well – the movies, the box office sales has reached beyond RM3.2bil. So, it is not abusing concern. It is a profitable concern. But source of funding is subject to investigation. I think we will leave it at that.”

On RM2.6bil that was moved into his personal account in 2013, he said with the general election coming then, he had not wanted to get funding from companies as they would expect something in return eventually.

“If I have a source of funding, I could fund the elections and I could also do a lot CSR (corporate social responsibility) work without being obligated to anyone. That was my real intention you see. And I assumed everything was fine,” he said, maintaining that the RM114mil ringgit allegedly seized during investigation into 1MDB to be “genuine donations because the raid happened just two days after the 14th General Election. As president of the party, I had to prepare for the elections, and elections are very expensive affairs.

“Because donations are made in cash in election times. You don’t send cheques during election times, because people want cash. That is when monies are disbursed accordingly.”

On Barisan Nasional’s defeat in the elections, Najib said he saw part of it coming but that he did not expect it to be this catastrophic, blaming it on Opposition’s allegations that changed public opinion.

On the reopening of the Altantuya Shaaribuu murder case, he said the case had already been dealt with and denied that there was any evidence that he had ever met her.

“There are no records, no pictures or witness to say that I even knew her. It was subject to a proper trial and my name didn’t come up during the trial whatsoever.

“I’m on record to have sworn in a mosque in the name of Allah that I had nothing to do with the case.” – The Star

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US Federal Reserve rate rise, Malaysia and regional equity markets in the red


 

Fed’s big balance-sheet unwind could be coming to an early end

NEW YORK: The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet may not have that much further to shrink.

An unexpected rise in overnight interest rates is pulling forward a key debate among US central bankers over how much liquidity they should keep in the financial system. The outcome will determine the ultimate size of the balance sheet, which they are slowly winding down, with key implications for US monetary policy.

One consequence was visible on Wednesday. The Fed raised the target range for its benchmark rate by a quarter point to 1.75% to 2%, but only increased the rate it pays banks on cash held with it overnight to 1.95%. The step was designed to keep the federal funds rate from rising above the target range. Previously, the Fed set the rate of interest on reserves at the top of the target range.

Shrinking the balance sheet effectively constitutes a form of policy tightening by putting upward pressure on long-term borrowing costs, just as expanding it via bond purchases during the financial crisis made financial conditions easier. Since beginning the shrinking process in October, the Fed has trimmed its bond portfolio by around US$150bil to US$4.3 trillion, while remaining vague on how small it could become.

This reticence is partly because the Fed doesn’t know how much cash banks will want to hold at the central bank, which they need to do in order to satisfy post-crisis regulatory requirements.

Officials have said that, as they drain cash from the system by shrinking the balance sheet, a rise in the federal funds rate within their target range would be an important sign that liquidity is becoming scarce.

Now that the benchmark rate is rising, there is some skepticism. The increase appears to be mainly driven by another factor: the US Treasury ramped up issuance of short-term US government bills, which drove up yields on those and other competing assets, including in the overnight market.

“We are looking carefully at that, and the truth is, we don’t know with any precision,” Fed chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the increase. “Really, no one does. You can’t run experiments with one effect and not the other.”

“We’re just going to have to be watching and learning. And, frankly, we don’t have to know today,” he added.

But many also see increasingly scarce cash balances as at least a partial explanation for the upward drift of the funds rate, and as a result, several analysts are pulling forward their estimates of when the balance sheet shrinkage will end.

Mark Cabana, a Bank of America rates strategist, said in a report published June 5 that Fed officials may stop draining liquidity from the system in late 2019 or early 2020, leaving US$1 trillion of cash on bank balance sheets. That compares with an average of around US$2.1 trillion held in reserves at the Fed so far this year.

Cabana, who from 2007 to 2015 worked in the New York Fed’s markets group responsible for managing the balance sheet, even sees a risk that the unwind ends this year.

One reason why people may have underestimated bank demand for cash to meet the new rules is that Fed supervisors have been quietly telling banks they need more of it, according to William Nelson, chief economist at The Clearing House Association, a banking industry group.

The requirement, known as the Liquidity Coverage Ratio, says banks must hold a certain percentage of their assets either in the form of cash deposited at the Fed or in US Treasury securities, to ensure they have enough liquidity to deal with deposit outflows.

The Fed flooded the banking system with reserves as a byproduct of its crisis-era bond-buying programs, known as quantitative easing, to stimulate the economy. The money it paid investors to buy their bonds was deposited in banks, which the banks in turn hold as cash in reserve accounts at the Fed.

In theory, the unwind of the bond portfolio, which involves the reverse swap of assets between the Fed and investors, shouldn’t affect the total amount of Treasuries and reserves available to meet the requirement. The Fed destroys reserves by unwinding the portfolio, but releases an equivalent amount of Treasuries to the market in the process.

But if Fed supervisors are telling banks to prioritise reserves, that logic no longer applies. Nelson asked Randal Quarles, the Fed’s vice-chairman for supervision, if this was the Fed’s new policy. Quarles, who was taking part in a May 4 conference at Stanford University, said he knew that message had been communicated and is “being rethought”.

If Fed officials do opt for a bigger balance sheet and decide to continue telling banks to prioritise cash over Treasuries, it may mean lower long-term interest rates, according to Seth Carpenter, the New York-based chief US economist at UBS Securities.

“If reserves are scarce right now, and if the Fed does stop unwinding its balance sheet, the market is going to react to that, a lot,” said Carpenter, a former Fed economist. “Everyone anticipates a certain amount of extra Treasury supply coming to the market, and this would tell people, ‘Nope, it’s going to be less than you thought’.” — Bloomberg

Malaysia and regional equity markets in the red

 

In Malaysia, the selling streak has been ongoing for almost a month. As of June 8, the year to date outflow
stands at RM3.02bil, which is still one of the lowest among its Asean peers. The FBM KLCI was down 1.79 points yesterday to 1,761.

PETALING JAYA: It was a sea of red for equity markets across the region after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point to a range of 1.75% to 2% on Wednesday, and funds continued to move their money back to the US. This is the second time the Fed has raised interest rates this year.

In general, markets weren’t down by much, probably because the rate hike had mostly been anticipated. Furthermore for Asia, the withdrawal of funds has been taking place over the last 11 weeks, hence, the pace of selling was slowing.

The Nikkei 225 was down 0.99% to 22,738, the Hang Seng Index was down 0.93% to 30,440, the Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.08% to 3,047.34 while the Singapore Straits Times Index was down 1.05% to 3,356.73.

In Malaysia, the selling streak has been ongoing for almost a month. As of June 8, the year to date outflow stands at RM3.02bil, which is still one of the lowest among its Asean peers. The FBM KLCI was down 1.79 points yesterday to 1,761.

Meanwhile, the Fed is nine months into its plan to shrink its balance sheet which consists some US$4.5 trillion of bonds. The Fed has begun unwinding its balance sheet slowly by selling off US$10bil in assets a month. Eventually, it plans to increase sales to US$50bil per month.

With the economy of the United States showing it was strong enough to grow with higher borrowing costs, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday and signalled that two additional increases would be made this year.

Fed chairman Jerome H. Powell in a news conference on Wednesday said the economy had strengthened significantly since the 2008 financial crisis and was approaching a “normal” level that could allow the Fed to soon step back and play less of a hands-on role in encouraging economic activity.

Rate hikes basically mean higher borrowing costs for cars, home mortgages and credit cards over the years to come.

Wednesday’s rate increase was the second this year and the seventh since the end of the Great Recession and brings the Fed’s benchmark rate to a range of 1.75% to 2%. The last time the rate reached 2% was in late 2008, when the economy was contracting.

“With a slightly more aggressive plan to tighten monetary policy this year than had previously been projected by the Fed, it will narrow our closely watched gap between the yield rates of two-year and 10-year Treasury notes, which has recently been one of a strong predictor of recessions,” said Anthony Dass, chief economist in AmBank.

Dass expects the policy rate to normalise at 2.75% to 3%.

“Thus, we should potentially see the yield curve invert in the first half of 2019,” he said.

So what does higher interest rates mean for emerging markets?

It means a flight of capital back to the US, and many Asian countries will be forced to increase interest rates to defend their respective currencies.

Certainly, capital has been exiting emerging market economies. Data from the Institute of International Finance for May showed that emerging markets experienced a combined US$12.3bil of outflows from bonds and stocks last month.

With that sort of global capital outflow, countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Turkey, have hiked their domestic rates recently.

Data from Lipper, a unit of Thomson Reuters, shows that for the week ending June 6, US-based money market funds saw inflows of nearly US$34.9bil.

It makes sense for investors to be drawn to the US, where the economy is increasingly solid, coupled with higher yields and lower perceived risks.

Hong Kong for example is fighting an intense battle to fend off currency traders. Since April, Hong Kong has spent at least US$9bil defending its peg to the US dollar. Judging by the fact that two more rate hikes are on the way this year, more ammunition is going to be needed.

Hong Kong has the world’s largest per capita foreign exchange reserves – US$434bil more in firepower.

By right, the Hong Kong dollar should be surging. Nonetheless, the currency is sliding because of a massive “carry trade.”

Investors are borrowing cheaply in Hong Kong to buy higher-yielding assets in the US, where 10-year Treasury yields are near 3%.

From a contrarian’s perspective, global funds are now massively under-weighted Asia.

With Asian markets currently trading at 12.3 times forward price earnings ratio, this is a reasonable valuation at this matured stage of the market.

By Tee Lin Say StarBiz

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Malaysia can’t extradite Jho Low, key people in 1MDB saga


Deep discussion: Dr Mahathir, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption director-general Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed having a chat after a ministry event in Putrajaya. — Bernama
Deep discussion: Dr Mahathir, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption director-general Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed having a chat after a ministry event in Putrajaya. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: They know where he is. But they can’t get their hands on him.

That is the predicament that the authorities face in bringing back Malaysia’s most wanted man these days – Low Taek Jho better known as Jho Low.

Low is at the centre of the debt-laden and scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) that is a thorn in the administration of the previous Barisan Nasional government.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Low is in a country in which Malaysia does not have an extradition treaty with.

“We are trying to arrest Jho Low, but he is not in the country. And we do not have extradition rights in the country where he is at,” said Dr Mahathir without disclosing the country.

Legal experts say while it is not impossible to bring him back despite the absence of extradition treaty with the country, they cautioned this can be a long and tedious process.

Low has been identified as the mastermind behind 1MDB, which is the subject of investigations by Malaysian as well as international authorities for alleged corruption and money laundering.

1MDB accumulated debts of more than RM35bil in ringgit and US dollar denominated bonds in less than five years from 2009. Most of the money raised were placed outside Malaysia, which the Government is trying to recover.

Apart from Low, the principal officer in another 1MDB-related company is also on the wanted list.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has issued an arrest warrant for SRC International director Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil.

SRC International was a former subsidiary of 1MDB, which had allegedly transferred RM42mil into the personal account of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

It issued two tranches of RM2bil debt papers in 2011 and 2012. The money was to be used to purchase resource based assets in the region. However, there are no assets to back the purchases.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operation) Datuk Seri Azam Baki told Bernama there is no excuse for Low and Nik Faisal not turn up to facilitate investigations into the SRC International case.

“I refuse to comment on what action can be taken against both of them (Low and Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil). As far as I know, they cannot give any excuses and must present themselves,” he said.

Nik Faisal, 47, last stayed in Alam Impian, Shah Alam.

Low, 37, previously resided in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

The Prime Minister’s Office in a statement earlier announced the setting up of a special task force to conduct detailed investigations, detection and seizure of assets and prosecution of individuals who committed any criminal offence in the management of 1MDB.

Meanwhile, sources said Low’s lawyers have yet to get in touch with the MACC.

It was earlier reported that Low had instructed his lawyers to make contact with the MACC after he was made aware they were seeking him for assistance.

By Mazwin nik anis, Wddie chua, Joseph kaos jr, and Royce Tan The Star

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Malaysia scraps MRT3 project, reviews HSR, ECRL mega projects to reduce borrowings


PUTRAJAYA: The Klang Valley mass rapid transit line 3 (MRT 3 or Circle Line) project, reported to cost between RM40bil and RM45bil, will not proceed, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The MRT3 or MRT Circle Line was planned as the third MRT line for the Greater Klang Valley area.

While the MRT1 connects Sungai Buloh and Kajang, the MRT2, which is now under construction, will run from Sungai Buloh to Serdang and Putrajaya.

MRT3 was planned as a loop line to integrate the lines, with most of its stations underground.

He also said the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) was still being studied, while a review was being done on the East Cost Rail Link (ECRL).

He said Malaysia was open to re-considering its decision on the HSR if Singapore could convince Malaysia to proceed with it.

He said the Cabinet had agreed for the rail project to be scrapped, but it would also depend on discussions with Singapore.

“We want to do this as it has high financial implications. But we will listen to them (if Singapore wants to proceed). They are our good partners,” he told the media after chairing the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

He explained that Malaysia needed to reduce its borrowings, hence the decision to scrap HSR and review other mega projects that cost billions of ringgit.

“We have borrowed too much money. If this country is to avoid bankruptcy, we must learn how to manage our big debts by doing away with projects that are not beneficial to the country,” he added.

Later, at a buka puasa event at Putrajaya International Convention Centre, he said the money spent on the HSR project did not justify the number of jobs it could generate.

“If you are going to spend RM60bil to RM100bil so that thousands of people can work, that’s not very efficient,” he said in response to a Facebook post by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who defended the HSR.

Najib, who asked the Government not to make “an emotional decision” to scrap the project, said the HSR was projected to create RM650bil in gross national income and 110,000 job opportunities, which could expand to 442,000 jobs by 2069.

On the fate of the ECRL, Dr Mahathir said the project has not been called off and a detailed review was being conducted.

“We haven’t cancelled ECRL. We have spent a lot of money on it and need to look at ways to handle this matter,” he said.

According to recent reports, the actual cost of the ECRL could be more than RM55bil.

Dr Mahathir also said the 11th Malaysia Plan mid-term review would be tabled in Parliament in November along with Budget 2019.

“The review will take into consideration the progress of projects carried out from 2016 to 2018, and the Government’s way forward for the remaining period of between this year and 2020,” he added.

Parliament is expected to start its meeting next month, but Dr Mahathir said the dates had yet to be fixed since the appointment of ministers had not been completed.

On whether the Cabinet had decided on the fate of the National Civics Bureau (BTN), he said the matter was still being studied.

The Prime Minister also said no decision had been made on whether the Department of Islamic Develop­ment (Jakim) would be closed.

 

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From Industrial 4.0 to Finance 4.0


 

MOST people are somewhat aware about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first industrial revolution occurred with the rise of steam power and manufacturing using iron and steel. The second revolution started with the assembly line which allowed specialisation of skills, represented by the Ford motor assembly line at the turn of the 20th century.

The third industrial revolution came with Japanese quality controls and use of telecommunication technology.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or first called by the Europeans Industry 4.0, is all about the use of artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics and process, creative design and high speed computing capability to revolutionise production, distribution and consumption. Finance is a derivative of the real economy – its purpose is to serve real production. Early finance was all about the finance of trade and governments to engage in war.
It is no coincidence that the first central banks (Sweden and England) were established in the 17th century at the start of the First Industrial Revolution. Industrialisation became much more sophisticated as Finance 2.0 brought the rise of credit and equity markets in the 18th and 19th centuries. Industrialisation and colonisation came about at the same time as the globalisation of banks, stocks and bond markets.

Again, with the invention of first the fax machine, then Internet that speeded up information storage and transmission in the 1980s, finance and industry took a quantum leap into the age of information technology. Finance 3.0 was the age of financial derivatives, in which very complex (and highly leveraged) derivatives became so opaque that investors and regulators realised they became what Warren Buffett called “weapons of mass destruction”. Finance 3.0 stalled in 2007 with the Global Financial Crisis and was only propped up with massive central bank intervention in terms of unconventional monetary policy with historically unprecedented interest rates.

We are now on the verge of Finance 4.0 and it may be useful to explore what it really means.

The common definition of Industry 4.0 is the rise of the Internet of Things, in which cloud computing, artificial intelligence and global connectivity means that cyber-physical systems can interact with each other to produce, distribute and trade across the world in a massively distributed system of production.

But what does Finance 4.0 really mean?

What truly differentiates Finance 4.0 from the earlier version is the arrival of Blockchain or distributed ledger technology. The best way to think about the difference is the architecture of the two different systems.

Finance 3.0 and earlier versions were all about a top-down or hierarchical ledger system, like a pyramid, in which trade and settlements between two parties are settled across a higher ledger.

A simple example is payment from Joe in bank A to Jim in bank B is finally settled across the books of the central bank in local currency. But in international trade and payments, the final settlements (at least more than 60%) are settled in US dollar finally across the ledgers of the Federal Reserve bank system.

Finance 3.0 was not perfect and those who wanted to avoid regulation, taxation or any official oversight basically moved trading and transactions off-balance sheet and also off-shore. This was the “shadow banking” system that financial regulators and central banks conveniently blamed on their failure to see or stop the last global financial crisis.

Although technically the shadow banking system is the non-bank financial system, which would include bond, stock and commodity markets, the bulk of illegal, illicit transactions traditionally was done in cash.

Welcome to the technical innovation called cyber-currencies, which was made possible for peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions across a distributed ledger system (commonly known as blockchain). In architectural terms, this is a bottom-up system which technically can avoid any official oversight. Indeed, cyber-currencies or tokens were invented precisely because the users do not trust the official system.

As the populist philosopher Stephen Bannon said, “central banks are in the business of debasing the currency”. Hence, those who want to avoid the debasement of their savings prefer to deal with either cash or cyber-tokens like bitcoin (pic).

What is happening in the rapidly evolving Finance 4.0 is that as the world moves from a unipolar order to a multi-polar world in which other reserve currencies also contend for trade and store of value, the top-down architecture is fusing (or merging) with a bottom-up architecture in which trade, transactions and stores of value are shifting towards the P2P shadow system.

Why this is taking place is not hard to understand. Post-global financial crisis, the amount of financial regulations have tripled in terms of number of rules and complexity on what the official sector can regulate, which is mostly the banking system. It is therefore not surprising that all the innovation, talent and money are moving to outside the banking system into the asset management industry, which is much more lightly regulated.

No talented banker, however dedicated to the values of banking probity, can resist the temptations of working in asset management, away from the heavily regulated environment where he or she is 24×7 under regulatory internal and external oversight.

Another reason why the cyber-P2P business is flourishing is because the official sector is worried that further regulation would hinder innovation. But those who want to increase the complexity of regulation must remember that for every 50 foot wall, someone will invent a 51 foot ladder.

So competition in the 21st century has already moved from the physical and financial space into cyber-space.

If there is one thing I learnt as a former regulator, it is that if the banks are behind the curve in terms of technology, the regulators are even further behind, since they learn mostly from those whom they regulate. But if financial regulators deal with financial innovation through “regulatory sandboxes” where they allow their regulated banks to experiment in sandboxes, they are treating their regulated institutions as kids in an adult game of ruthless technology.

Time for the official sector to make their stand clear or else Finance 4.0 promises to be very different from the orderly world that they are used to imaging. Nothing says this clearer than a recent survey by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, which showed that 54% of institutional investors surveyed and 38% of retail believe that a financial crisis in the next one-three years is likely or very likely.

You have been warned.

– Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

Related

 

With blockchain’s rise, regulators must keep up with Industry 4.0 or lose
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With blockchain’s rise, financial regulation must keep up with Industry …

How Industry 4.0 will change accounting – Journal of Accountancy

Finance 4.0: Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution | Oracle ERP …

Five ways Industry 4.0 financing unlocks productivity bonus – YouTube

 

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