Penang’s LRT project gets conditional approval from Transport Minister


GEORGE TOWN: Waves of excitement swept through Penang when the Transport Minister announced that the Bayan Lepas light rail transit (LRT) has received conditional approval.

It is seen as a move to reduce traffic congestion in the city and create a next wave of growth for the state.

The approved 29.9km Bayan Lepas LRT will bring convenience not only to the local folk but also tourists and investors, said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang chairman Datuk Dr Ooi Eng Hock.

Ooi, who is positive that the project will spur growth on the island, believes the LRT will bring in another wave of development into the state.

“The LRT will divert traffic congestion. It will attract new investments, make life easier for our workforce.

“I believe it will boost the state’s economy with another wave of growth,” he said yesterday.

Following the Transport Ministry’s conditional approval of the project, Ooi added that it is the first step for a change in landscape and behaviour of transport mode in Penang.

Yesterday, the Transport Ministry gave conditional approval to the Bayan Lepas LRT project.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke in a statement said that after a detailed study of the application by Penang Economic Planning Unit (BPEN) to develop the Bayan Lepas LRT project, approval with 30 conditions for the state to comply was given on Tuesday.

Loke said the conditions included a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) approval including traffic, social and heritage assess­ments.

The state must now exhibit documents on the project for three months, and the final go ahead will only be decided after the public responses are evaluated, said Loke.

“I welcome public participation from the people, NGOs and all stakeholders in this public review.

“The relevant documents are to be exhibited in public places including government offices.

“The state government must also upload a copy of these documents on a website for online viewing.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow thanked the Federal Govern­ment and said the state is committed to fulfilling all requirements.

“We will wait for the official letter from Transport Ministry to proceed and initiate public viewing of the documents,” he said.

The RM8.4bil Bayan Lepas LRT together with a monorail, cable cars and water taxis, is part of the state government’s RM46bil Penang Trans­port Master Plan (PTMP).

This LRT will begin at Komtar in the northeast corner of the island and head south through Jelutong, Gelugor, Bayan Lepas and Penang Interna­tional Airport, ending at the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) development.

It is expected to provide a fast route to the airport and will traverse densely populated residential, commercial and industrial areas.

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Trump is the biggest threat


Not much help: Despite his use of
tariffs to help skew the playing field in favour of US firms, the very
industries Trump has tried to help have become the weakest links in the
otherwise solid economy.

WASHINGTON: At rallies and whistle-stop campaign tours, President Donald Trump proclaims a renaissance in US factories rebuilding the nation with “American steel”, “American heart” and “American hands”.

But in reality, despite his relentless use of punitive tariffs to help skew the playing field in favour of US companies, the very industries he has tried to help have become the weakest links in the otherwise solid economy.

With just over a year to go before he faces re-election, Trump takes credit for the most vigorous economy in the industrialised world, with the expansion entering its 11th year and historically low unemployment.

But while services and office jobs dominate the US economy, Trump continues to promote the factory and mining jobs that were the lifeblood of the economy in the last century.

“American steel mills are roaring back to life,” he declared last month in Florida – the same day US Steel announced it would idle plants in Michigan and Indiana until “market conditions improve”.

And to West Virginians he said, “The coal industry is back.”

But in fact each of the sectors Trump has championed – coal mining, steel, aluminium and auto manufacturing – have been buffeted by a combination of market forces and changing technologies – factors beyond his control – or damaged by the very things he did to protect them, economists and analysts say.

Last month, a national survey of manufacturing activity hit its lowest level in nearly three years – narrowly avoiding slipping into contraction – while regional surveys have also seen record declines.

In March, the number of workers in US manufacturing shrank for the first time in nearly two years and it is now growing more slowly than the rest of the American workforce.

Trump has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions in imports, renegotiated trade agreements and dangled the threat of worse over China and Europe and Mexico – all while publicly browbeating companies that close US factories or move production offshore.

But weak foreign demand, a strong US dollar and a decades-long evolution away from domestic manufacturing have progressively shrunk America’s industrial sector, said Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics.

Trump’s world trade war has not helped either.

“The policies that have been implemented in terms of protectionism have hurt the very sectors they were meant to protect. There’s no escaping that,” Daco said. – AFP/The Star

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China can effectively sanction US companies who sell weapons to Taiwan: experts

The US is deploying a double standard by calling China’s proposed sanctions on US companies for arms sales to Taiwan a “foolish action,” Chinese mainland analysts said on Sunday, pointing out that the sanctions could not only cut base material supply to these companies including rare earths but also block their non-military products from entering Chinese markets.

 

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Uncertainty over the future of US-China economic relations has derailed the once high-flying global equity market, which rose almost 15 per .

Housing woes: death spiral or virtuous cycle?


THE World Economic Forum estimates that the global cost of corruption annually is at least US$2.6 trillion (RM10.9 trillion) or 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the World Bank, businesses and individuals pay over US$1 trillion (RM4.2 trillion) in bribes each year.

Corruption adds up to 10% of the total cost of doing business globally and up to 25% of the cost of procurement contracts in developing countries.

I gathered these shocking facts at a conference. There are other alarming statistics that shed light on the damage brought about by corruption and its dreadful impact on the economy.

Corruption leads to further impoverishment of the poor and other issues in many countries. The average income in countries with a high level of corruption is about one-third of those countries with a low level of corruption. In addition, corrupt countries have a literacy rate that is 25% lower.

The Corruption Perception Index 2018 released by Transparency International shows that on the scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean, over two-thirds of 180 countries score below 50, with the average score of 43.

In the index, Denmark ranked first in the world followed by New Zealand second. Finland and Singapore were tied for third with a score of 85. Malaysia was ranked 61st in the world, scoring only 47.

We were ranked the third highest in the Asean region, after Singapore and Brunei. Our country is doing better now with the ongoing investigation of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal and other prominent cases.

In TI’s report, Malaysia is one of the countries on the watch with promising political developments against corruption. However, more solid action is needed in combatting all elusive forms of corruption.

According to Transparency International Malaysia, corruption had cost our country about 4% of its GDP value each year since 2013. Added together, this amounts to a high figure of some RM212.3bil since 2013. For 2017 alone, that figure was a whopping RM46.9bil!

As a comparison, our development expenditure in 2017 was RM48bil. If the value of corruption above was accurate, our development fund was almost “wiped out” because of corruption.

Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akhbar Satar said: “This is our estimate. It is likely to be higher in reality (on the value of corruption).”

No country can eliminate corruption completely. However, we can learn from good practices shown in some developed countries, such as the Scandinavian countries which all scored high on the Corruption Perception Index.

Corruption leads to poverty as money collected is not used for the welfare of the nation. As a result, the people end up suffering and paying for the leakage in the system.

If a country is corrupt-free, it will reduce the need for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). NGOs advocate for the rights of marginalised groups. The government can take care of those group when it has a surplus in the budget.

A clean government and system will have a positive impact on many aspects including affordable housing, one of the prominent needs of the people.

Whenever there is corruption, there is a compromise in the delivery of goods and services. The same situation applies to affordable housing.

Someone mentioned to me in the past that “the government isn’t interested in affordable housing as there is literally ‘no money’ to be made in it”!

Things have made a dramatic change for the better since May last year. Our new government is working on a platform of clean government and improving transparency. It plans to build one million affordable homes within two terms of its administration. To make this a reality, the government needs to put in real money to make it happen.

Corruption causes a death spiral that leads to various problems. Without it, a virtuous cycle grows that ensures every part runs smoothly and the marginalised in society are looked after.

With a promise of a cleaner government, we hope we will soon see a virtuous cycle that makes the one million affordable homes an achievable target.

By Datuk Alan Tong, who has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email bkp@bukitkiara.com. The views expressed here are solely that of his own.

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Recession fears hit Asian region including Singapore


Malaysia may, to a certain extent, be less vulnerable with the revival of major construction projects which in view of the country’s strained finances, have been shrunk to cut costs. The Singapore economy may undergo a “shallow, technical recession” in the third quarter.

TALK of recession has hit the region, and near home, Maybank Kim Eng Research is flagging that possibility for Singapore in the next quarter.

Export-reliant economies are hard hit by slowing growth and supply chain disruptions caused by the prolonged US-China trade and tech war.

There may be a ceasefire now in the fight between the US and China following talks between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 Summit in Osaka last Saturday.

Existing US tariffs on Chinese imports still remain; additional tariffs on the remaining US$300 bil worth of Chinese imports, as threatened, will not be imposed for now

However, the new timeline for truce remains elusive; the suspicion is that of a “creeping” imposition of tariffs, as “each truce is followed by new tariffs and then, another truce.”

In December last year, Trump and Xi had struck a truce following which talks broke down in May this year, and tariffs on US$200bil of Chinese imports leaped from 10% to 25%.

Will there be light out of this tunnel, with harder issues involving tech and supremacy not tackled? Smaller economies with the fiscal and monetary space may be able to cushion their economies somewhat from the downdraft on growth.

Malaysia may, to a certain extent, be less vulnerable with the revival of major construction projects which in view of the country’s strained finances, have been shrunk to cut costs.

The Bandar Malaysia and East Coast Rail Link projects to be revived, are now downsized to RM144bil and RM44bil respectively.

Works for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) 3, from Bandar Utama in Petaling Jaya to Johan Setia in Klang, will resume in the second half of the year, at a reduced cost of RM16.63bil.

Talks are said to be ongoing to revive the Mass Rapid Transit Line (MRT) 3, or MRT Circle Line round the city centre, at possibly RM22.5bil which is half the original cost.

“The timing (of the revival of these projects) has been very good for Malaysia,’’ said Pong Teng Siew, the head of research at Inter-Pacific Securities. “These projects will go on for several years and positively impact the economy over that period.’’

Domestic spending and activities will provide ‘some comfort’ to the local economy but we should ensure that any further monetary easing actually goes into the real economy to support these activities, according to Anthony Dass, head of AmBank Research.

Malaysia’s private consumption was at a record 59.5% of its nominal (calculated at current market prices) Gross Domestic Product, which hit US$88.5 bil in March, 2019, according to CEIC Data.

Benefits from trade diversion from China, the current US tariff hotspot, are offset by downward pressure on global trade where volume was flat in the first quarter, the weakest since the financial crisis.

Global semiconductor sales also declined in February and March, the first back-to-back double digit contraction since the financial crisis.

In view of this decline, the volatile global trade environment and rising geopolitical tensions, open economies “should be prepared for the unexpected,’’ said Nor Zahidi Alias, the associate director of economic research of Malaysian Rating Corp.

The Singapore economy may undergo a “shallow, technical recession” in the third quarter, said Maybank Kim Eng, pointing to possible intensification of supply chain disruptions and US export controls on more Chinese tech firms.

Following the Trump-Xi talks, the US has reversed its equipment sales ban on Huawei but will that ease fears of other similar bans down the road? Defined as two consecutive quarters of negative quarter-on-quarter growth, a recession will prompt further easing of monetary policy in Singapore.

Manufacturing in Singapore, which accounts for a fifth of the economy, fell 2.4%, with electronics dropping 10.8% in May from a year ago; output is expected to decline again in June.

Hong Kong has also been issued warnings of recession, as its economy experienced the largest contraction since 2011, declining by 0.4% in the first quarter against the previous quarter.

Thailand’s economy grew at its slowest pace in four years, in the first quarter, hitting 2.8% from 3.6% in the same period last year; exports remain weak.

Taiwan’s economy avoided contraction in the first quarter but private consumption and gross capital formation slowed significantly while government consumption declined.

In the US, a mis-calibration in interest rate policy by the Federal Reserve can cause a sharper slowdown than expected or bring on a recession.“Monetary policy affects the economy with unpredictable lags, it could be hard for the Fed to time its policy (rate cut) that can prevent a downturn this and next year,’’ said Lee Heng Guie, the executive director of Socio Economic Research Center.

Columnist Yap Leng Kuen notes the reminder to ‘expect the unexpected.’

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US anti-China hawks may yet scupper trade deal

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Uncertainty over the future of US-China economic relations has derailed the once high-flying global equity market, which rose almost 15 per .

US technology sector faces triple threat


Uncertainty over the future of US-China economic relations has derailed the once high-flying global equity market, which rose almost 15 per cent in the January-April period.

Clive McDonnell, head of Equity Strategy at Standard Chartered Bank, looks at the causes behind the decline.

The technology sector, now facing challenges on a number of fronts, is supposedly the main cause behind the decline.

While President Trump’s policies get blamed for a lot of events impacting global equity markets, he is probably less responsible for the upset in the technology sector than many would have you think.

There are three primary challenges facing the US technology sector:

1. The sector’s high overseas revenue share: over 60% of total revenue comes from

abroad.

2. The threat of regulation on accessing and using personal data.

3. Monopoly powers and the risk of an antitrust investigation.

Let’s consider each factor. US economic growth appears resilient in the face of weaker growth prospects in the euro zone and emerging markets.

However, since US technology companies generate more than 60% of their revenue from overseas, they are acutely sensitive to slower growth prospects outside the US. In the past, they have been able to offset slower growth in the euro zone with robust growth in emerging markets led by China.

The next downturn may witness slower growth in both regions, which would leave US technology companies exposed relative to US banks and utilities which have the lowest overseas revenue exposure amongst US companies.

Additionally, there is a risk that China responds in kind to the US President’s targeting of Chinese technology companies. There is also a risk that US dollar strength creates a negative effect on US technology sector earnings once overseas revenue is converted into US dollars.

The threat of regulation on accessing and use of personal data looms large for technology companies, particularly those in the social media space. Europe has been at the forefront of regulating use of personal data via the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

These regulations changed the balance of power between individuals and companies over the use of personal data. The rules give EU citizens more control over their personal data held by companies and the right to have their data removed from databases, the so-called “right to be forgotten” law.

The challenge for US companies is these rules cover their processing of personal data in Europe, regardless of the residential location of the individual generating the data.  

The rules give EU citizens more control over their personal data
held by companies and the right to have their data removed from
databases.

Similar to the long arm of US financial regulators – which impact banks regardless of where they are incorporated once they engage in US dollar transactions – European rules on personal data are impacting US technology companies in ways that are not covered by domestic laws.

The central business challenge for US technology companies, in particular those in the social media sector, is their business models are built on free access to consumer data in exchange for free use of their software, including search, email and productivity tools, such as those available on Google Drive.

If these companies lose unfettered access to personal data, they would likely start charging consumers for use of the same software.

This, in turn, will have a significant impact on their advertising revenues, as the precision they have been able to offer companies targeting customers would decline. No doubt their business models would evolve, but this could be at the cost of lower net margins relative to the near-20% margins they currently enjoy.

Finally, the perceived monopoly power of some of the sector’s leaders and the resultant risk US technology companies face from antitrust investigations is probably the biggest risk to the sector.

The definition of monopoly power in the US, focusing on the short-term price impact on consumers from company actions, has been unchanged for over 40 years.

Specifically, if company actions lead to higher prices, it could be designated as a monopoly (and importantly, the reverse also applies). This is relevant for technology companies as many have helped to lower prices for consumers.

The definition of monopoly power is changing. This is led by Lina Khan, a Legal Fellow at the Federal Trade Commission and an academic Fellow at Columbia Law School.

In a paper, entitled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox (1)”, she challenged the current interpretation of antitrust law which is designed to curb monopolistic power. She proposed that lower prices were not necessarily good for consumers if prices were used as a tool to choke off competition and eventually restrict consumer choice.

The primary tool available to technology companies to manipulate consumer choices (and some would say restrict competition) is their search algorithm.

Whenever a social media or e-commerce company implements a change to their search algorithm, the ensuing uproar amongst its users and customers is a measure of the importance this tool has to drive sales and choices for consumers.

The search algorithm assumes unique power once a platform becomes dominant in an industry and consumers no longer look at other platforms as they believe that their chosen one offers them all the choice they need.

The risk is: their choices are being determined by companies who pay more to appear higher up the search results than those which pay less, even though the latter companies may offer lower prices.

If regulators’ definition of monopoly power evolves, as Lina Khan suggests, there is a risk of antitrust investigations against US technology sector leaders, with penalties ranging from fines to reversal of prior acquisitions.

The challenges facing the US technology sector have converged at a time when valuations are elevated and earnings growth has weakened.

They are shining a light on their business model, which can undoubtedly evolve, but may require changes that the market is not currently anticipating.

Clive McDonnell is Head of Equity Strategy at Standard Chartered Private Bank.

The views expresssed here are entirely the writer’s own.

 

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US block spurs tech independence drive by Chinese companies

The latest US blacklisting of the Chinese supercomputing companies will not reduce domestic technology companies’ resolve to pursue innovation and research and development (R&D) as they strive to make up for shortcomings in certain segments to pursue further growth despite “irrational assaults” by Washington, industry insiders said.

 

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Huawei: A Coffee With Ren; Innovation is a driving force within China’s economy today


 

Huawei Founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei hosted “A Coffee With Ren” discussion at the company’s headquarters, where he invited two distinguished guests to join him. Futurist, author and venture capitalist, George Gilder and Co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, participated in this live streaming where the gentlemen shared their thoughts on Huawei’s contribution to science & technology, commitment to partners all over the world, the US sanctions and many more.

For more details, watch the full discussion.

 

Huawei CEO Ren: We have a globalized economy

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“To me, the fundamental problem is the necessity of cooperation,” said Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer Huawei, in a discussion with two U.S. technology gurus George Gilder and Nicholas Negroponte in Shenzhen, China on Monday. #China #Huawei #Technology

Innovation is a driving force within China’s economy today. Yet behind that innovation, what’s the role of research and development?

 

 

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Apple explores moving 15-30% of production capacity from China


Malaysia among countries eyed by Apple to move production capacity

The countries being considered include Mexico, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. India and Vietnam are among the favorites for smartphones, Nikkei said, citing sources who did not want to be identified as the discussions are private.
The countries being considered include Mexico, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. India and Vietnam are among the favorites for smartphones, Nikkei said, citing sources who did not want  to be identified as the discussions are private.

 

TOKYO: Apple Inc has asked its major suppliers to assess the cost implications of moving 15%-30% of their production capacity from China to Southeast Asia as it prepares for a restructuring of its supply chain, according to a Nikkei Asian Review report on Wednesday.

Apple’s request was a result of the extended Sino-U.S. trade dispute, but a trade resolution will not lead to a change in the company’s decision, Nikkei said, citing multiple sources.

The iPhone maker has decided the risks of depending heavily on manufacturing in China are too great and even rising, it said.

Earlier this month, credit rating agency Fitch said it views Apple, Dell Technologies Inc and HP Inc as potential blacklist candidates if China blacklists U.S. companies in retaliation for restrictions on Huawei.

Key iPhone assemblers Foxconn, Pegatron Corp, Wistron Corp, major MacBook maker Quanta Computer Inc, iPad maker Compal Electronics Inc, and AirPods makers Inventec Corp, Luxshare-ICT and Goertek have been asked to evaluate options outside of China, Nikkei reported.

The countries being considered include Mexico, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. India and Vietnam are among the favorites for smartphones, Nikkei said, citing sources who did not want to be identified as the discussions are private.

Last week, Foxconn said it had enough capacity outside China to meet Apple’s demand in the American market if the company needed to adjust its production lines, as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to slap further $300 billion tariffs on Chinese goods.

Analysts at Wedbush Securities said in a best case scenario Apple would be able to move 5%-7% of its iPhone production likely to India in the next 12 to 18 months.

Given the complexity and logistics involved, brokerage said, it would take at least 2-3 years to move 15% of iPhone production from China to other regions.

“We believe this is all a poker game and Apple will not diversify production out of China overnight and certainly a long-term US/China trade deal is key for Cook & Co to sleep well at night,” Wedbush analysts said.

China is a key market for Apple as well as a major production center for its devices. The company got nearly 18% of its total revenue from Greater China in the quarter ended March.

Earlier in June, Trump met with Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook to discuss trade and other hot-button issues facing the tech company as Trump deliberates whether to make good on his threat to hike tariffs on imports from China.

A group of more than 30 people from Apple’s capital expense studies team have been negotiating production plans with suppliers and governments over monetary incentives that could be offered to lure Apple manufacturing, the report said.

A deadline has not been set for the suppliers to finalize their business proposals, Nikkei said, adding that it would take at least 18 months to begin production after choosing a location.

Apple and Foxconn did not respond to requests for comment. – Reuters

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