International Anti-Corruption Day, Fight corruption with us, MACC said


United against corruption for development, peace and security

 

Aerial group photo of staff in Geneva simulating the Sustainable Development Goals logo on United Nations Staff Day. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.  “On International Anti-corruption Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to ending the deceit and dishonesty that threaten the 2030 Agenda and our efforts to achieve peace and prosperity for all on a healthy planet.” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP. In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune. This year UNODC and UNDP have developed a joint global campaign, focusing on how corruption affects education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity and development.

The 2016 joint international campaign focuses on corruption as one of the biggest impediments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

what you can do.

MACC: Fight corruption with us

Commission urges public to be proactive

 

PUTRAJAYA: Drawing parallel to the Liverpool FC anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is calling upon the public to play a proactive role and work closely with them to nip all forms of corruption in the bud.

In saying that the fight against corruption was a never ending task, MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil (pic) said the anti-graft body would continue to carry out its duties in accordance with the three key pillars – free, transparent and professional.

<< MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil.

“Let me put on record that as long as there is a report, we will probe the alleged wrongdoer, and this includes politicians.

“We don’t need to refer to others or wait for the green light to start an investigation.

“As far as we are concerned, we will go after any shark or small fry in the public or private sector, regardless of their background, position or social status.

“Our target over the next three years is to clean up the public sector, particularly those involving enforcement authorities, local councils and government-linked companies,” he said in an interview in conjunction with the International Anti-Corruption Day today.

Shamshun Baharin said while it was impossible to totally eradicate corruption, the MACC would do all it could to cut down such unhealthy practices.

“Frankly, there is not a single country in the world with zero corruption.

“But our continuous anti-graft efforts have started to bear fruit and get strong public support.

“We have also received international recognition. Some countries have requested to sign MoUs to share our expertise,” he said, citing Bhutan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia.

Shamshun Baharin said battling public perception was still its biggest challenge, and that the MACC was also trying hard to convince people to give information and lodge reports.

“Whistleblowers are worried about personal safety and that of their family members, so they choose to remain quiet.

“But this will permit wrongdoers to continue with their wicked ways for personal gain,” he said, adding that the Witness Protection Act 2009 and the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 could be used to protect the identity of informers and keep them safe.

Shamshun Baharin said public expectation was high and that the people were scrutinising all cases, especially those involving big names and seizures, and alleging that the MACC was being selective.

“But they fail to realise that we only have investigative powers.

“Prosecution is solely in the hands of the Attorney-General while the courts decide on the verdict,” he said.

By Simon Khoo The Star/ANN

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“First of all, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can only compel someone to declare his assets. Once the assets are declared, there is no offence.”

“It shall be an offence of any person to lead a lifestyle or possess assets which are disproportionate to his or her declared income.”

UNTIL October 2006, few people outside political circles knew him. He rose from an obscure railway gatekeeper staying in a one-room quarters at the railway crossing where he was required to raise the barriers to allow vehicular traffic to flow after the trains had passed by.

By the time theSun front-paged the story on his “meteoric rise” and his “palace” which he had built on land meant for low-cost housing, his positions in the party and as a state assemblyman were hanging by a thread.

The late Zakaria Mat Deros (God bless his soul) gained notoriety for building his 16-bedroom house without even submitting building plans. He had not paid the assessment for 12 years on two low-cost units previously occupied by his large family.

So, last week nostalgia came back when the Ikan Bakar man took journalists on a helicopter ride to show the “palace” of a politician – a divisional youth leader in the opposition.

Preceding this, Crime Watch supremo alleged that the inspector-general of police had himself built yet another “palace” in Mantin.

The accusers in both instances asked the relevant authorities to investigate them alleging that they must explain how they got the money to acquire such property.

This prompted a Facebook user to suggest in jest that he wants partners to start a helicopter service for aerial tours to pick out mansions of politicians. In banter, I offered my services and reasoned that I had a good track record.

Over the years, I have come across several ordinary cikgu who became millionaires after their foray into politics. There are scores of “politically connected people” (to borrow a term that has now become the new mantra for banks and bankers) living in similar luxury.

There are also good people who stepped into the dark side unable to resist their own temptation or that of their wives to lead different lifestyles and keep up with the Joneses. There are some female golfers who even have golf bags to match the colour of their attire.

Then there’s the average man who is turned over because he can’t make ends meet on his meagre salary and many dependants. But the law does not differentiate between the poor, the middle class and the rich. Perhaps, such a factor could be pleaded in mitigation for a lighter sentence.

I have been repeatedly told that being rich or wealthy does not constitute an offence.

An offence only takes place if the money is obtained illegally – corruption, money laundering, criminal breach of trust, cheating and the like.

Asking the authorities to investigate the source of the money is dangerous territory full of mine fields and cluster bombs.

First of all, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can only compel someone to declare his assets. Once the assets are declared, there is no offence.

Second, if he or she is caught with the cash or money in the bank, a non-acceptable explanation would lead to charges of money-laundering – NOT corruption; not getting assets through corruption; not getting money from illegal activities.

We had the perfect opportunity to put it right when former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi promulgated the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act to replace the outdated Anti-Corruption Act towards the end of his tenure.

In the proposals was a clause which stated: “It shall be an offence of any person to lead a lifestyle or possess assets which are disproportionate to his or her declared income.”

By the time this legislation was presented as a bill in Parliament, this clause had been removed from the original draft. We were then told that several “warlords” within the system opposed the clause because they themselves would have to account for their wealth!

So, instead of putting the onus on the official suspected of corruption to prove he earned the money legitimately, the prosecution has to prove that he had received a gratification. That is difficult because corruption is a victimless crime. Both giver and taker benefit and one usually will not squeal on the other.

In the absence of such legislation, the prosecution usually files money laundering charges. But the core issue of proving that he or she was a corrupt person through the legal process becomes almost impossible. In such circumstances, it leaves Joe Public’s imagination to run wild as to the source of the wealth.

Under these circumstances, shouldn’t that catch-all clause be re-visited with a view to tightening our anti-corruption laws? Hong Kong has been successful in its fight because such a clause in its legislation empowers officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption to serve notice demanding explanations from suspected corrupt officials.

If they fail to provide a plausible or satisfactory account of their wealth, they are prosecuted. A few like-minded lawyer-friends had a discussion on this and came to the conclusion that if this clause is incorporated, our prisons would be overcrowded.

From Citizen Nades – Easy to catch the corrupt by R. Nadeswaran

R. Nadeswaran had the benefit of seeing the “new” legislation before and after it was presented and passed in Parliament. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

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Structural defects to blame, stop history repeating itself !


Sniffing out signs of life: The K-9 unit of the City Fire and Rescue operations looking for possible victims at the site of the bridge collapse near Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: Structural failure possibly caused the collapse of an under-construction pedestrian bridge at KL Eco City near Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum here.

Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) director-general Datuk Mohtar Musri said the initial investigation suggested that a defective structure could have led to the disaster on Wednesday.

He said the department would refer to the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall regarding the quality of materials used in the construction of the bridge.

Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said a task force has been set up to probe the incident.

He said the result of the investigation was expected to be made public in a month, and that tough action could be taken against the developer if it was found to have flouted safety regulations.

“We can bring them to court, not just under DOSH but CIDB too. Under the CIDB Malaysia Act 1994, they can face a RM500,000 fine or a two-year jail sentence,” he said.

The RM7mil pedestrian bridge linking the planned KL Eco City project to the Gardens Shopping Mall in Mid Valley, which was still under construction, collapsed and killed one worker and injured five others on Wednesday.

The search-and-rescue operation at the site of the incident was halted after it was confirmed that there was no worker trapped underneath the mangled brick-and-iron structure.

City Fire and Rescue Department deputy operations chief Ruhisha Haris said K-9 teams had confirmed that there were no signs of a body.

However, the mystery of the missing construction worker remains.

“We first received information that a worker might have been trapped because a colleague saw him under the bridge minutes before it collapsed.

“A head count by the developer also revealed a missing worker, but they were unable to give us a name,” he said.

The dead victim has been identified as Tran Xuan Vang, 21, from Vietnam. Two other Vietnamese, Tran Van Hai and Luong Van Guyet, as well as Indonesian Nor Syamsi, Bangladeshi MD Jashim and Pakistan national Rais Aman Majid were injured and are currently being treated at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre.

Medical staff were forced to amputate Rais’ left leg on site to save his life.

In a statement issued on the day of the incident, SP Setia, the developer of the project, said it deeply regretted the incident and was working with the authorities in the investigation.

“The project team is still assessing the situation,” it said.

Work on the KL Eco City project – a mixed development comprising three residential towers, one serviced apartments tower, three corporate office towers, 12 boutique office blocks and one retail podium – started in 2011 and is scheduled to be fully completed by 2023.

Commenting on the incident, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the time had come for players in the construction industry to practise their commitment to safety.

“All these accidents are preventable if the person in charge puts into practice good occupational and safety health measures and the site safety supervisor makes sure work is done properly,” he said.

By M. kumar and Nicholas Cheng The Star/Asian News Network

Stop history repeating itself

THE Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is horrified with the news of the collapse of the incomplete pedestrian bridge meant to connect KL Eco City and Mid Valley Megamall in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

Not even a month after a couple was crushed by a piling rig that fell on them at a construction site along Persiaran Astana, Klang, another tragic incident leading to serious injury and death has occurred.

If all the parties involved in the building industry – including the local councils, developers, contractors, architects, quantity surveyors, structural engineers, DOSH and all the others – had carried out their roles and functions efficiently, this could have been prevented.

Despite our repeated calls for the Government to conduct a full inquiry into the operations of the Department of Safety and Health (DOSH), it would seem like the relevant authorities are unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

When incidents like this happen, it becomes clear to us that DOSH and developers do not have their priorities right.

Instead of working on preventing such incidents, they wait until it happens before scrambling to take corrective measures to fix the problem.

The issue here is that there are no corrective measures that can be taken once a life is lost; that is not something that can be recovered.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Professor Datuk Dr Mahyuddin Ramli has been reported saying that incidents of this nature can happen when contractors do not comply with safety standards.

In this case, he said that concrete takes at least a week to dry and harden; the wet weather we have been experiencing means it will take even longer.

The USM professor also said that another way something like this can happen is if contractors do not use proper scaffolding during the construction process.

The distance between scaffolds and the size of the scaffolds used are very important as they will vary according to the structure they are meant to hold up.

DOSH’s director-general, Datuk Mohtar Musri, has stated that their initial investigation suggested that the incident happened because the structure was defective.

He said that they need to look into the quality of the materials that were used to construct the pedestrian bridge.

Whatever the cause, the relevant authorities and the public need to be aware that this is just history repeating itself.

If the incident did truly happen because of a structural defect, then it needs to be made clear that nobody can plead ignorance.

DOSH safety officers and onsite safety inspectors should have known about the structural defects if they did exist.

This begs the question of whether or not proper safety inspections were done at the appropriate stages by the relevant parties.

We ask that the results of the investigation into the latest incident be shared with the general public.

CAP would also like to know what happened to the findings from the investigation of previous incidents.

Why has this information not been shared with the public when their lives are also put in danger by the conduct of those at construction sites?

In view of this, CAP calls for penal action to be taken against all parties who have been involved in the project. They should all be held accountable even if they were not directly involved.

By S. M. MOHAMED IDRIS President Consumers Association of Penang

[PDF]The Law of Construction Defects and Failures

 Worker killed in bridge collapse tragedy

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/3QFRF_5oRAY

The Star Graphics:  http://clips.thestar.com.my.s3.amazonaws.com/Interactive/midvalley/midvalley.mp4

KUALA LUMPUR: A Vietnamese construction worker was killed and five others were injured when a 70m yet-to-be-completed bridge near Jalan Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum and Mid Valley Megamall collapsed.

The victim was buried in the rubble of the collapsed pedestrian bridge.

As of press time, rescue workers were still searching for a Bangladeshi worker believed to be trapped in the rubble.

The authorities have since mobilised the K9 unit to locate him.

The firemen and paramedics were seen changing shift as the rescue mission continued into the night. Some were heard saying that locating the victim would be challenging.

However, all the rescuers were resolute in their attempt to find the last victim, never once giving up hope.

The five injured workers – two Vietnamese, two Bangladeshis and an Indonesian – were sent to the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre for treatment.

Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Sharul Othman Mansor said the bridge was 80% completed when the incident occurred.

“We are still investigating the incident.

“We were alerted at about 4pm of the incident and quickly mobilised a search-and-rescue team,” he said at the scene.

Four roads were also affected by massive jams due to the incident.

According to Star Media Radio Traffic, the affected roads were the Federal Highway from the arch, the Kerinchi Link after the Pantai toll plaza, Kerinchi Intersection from Bangsar South or Pantai Medical Centre and Jalan Syed Putra from the Kuen Cheng School till the Robson Intersection.

While the main reason for the traffic congestion was due to certain road closures to make way for rescue workers, traffic was backed up near the mall due to many motorists slowing down to see the collapsed bridge.

Mall patrons, construction workers and curious onlookers were seen crowding the area near the bridge, where it was cordoned off for safety precautions.

By Farik Zolkepli, Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi, and Austin Camoens The Star/ANN

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Govt may handle workplace safety

Fadillah: Independent monitoring likely

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government would like to take over the job of monitoring safety at construction sites away from developers following a string of deaths as a result of mishaps in the last three months.

Those duties, said Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, may be entrusted to third party organisations that will be given autonomy in the planning, execution and supervision of workplace safety at construction sites.

Usually, these jobs are handled by contractors hired by the project developers but Fadillah said that this would mean the monitoring process was not independent.

Speaking at the launch of the Sustainable Construction Excellence Centre (Mampan), the minister said the suggestion for independent monitoring was brought up by the experts at the centre.

Mampan is headed by the Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (Cream), a subsidiary of the Government’s Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).

Fadillah said the proposal to appoint third party safety monitors would be implemented first in Government construction projects.

He added that he hoped the private sector construction industry would do the same.

Currently, the Department of Occupational and Safety Hazard (DOSH) monitors government projects but it is reportedly too understaffed to keep track of every project.

For now we will have to make do with existing laws. This is why we need a commitment from the industry players,” he told reporters after the launch.

For now we will have to make do with existing laws. This is why we need a commitment from the industry players. Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof

He said that Mampan would be a key organisation under the Government’s environmental sustainability initiative for its Construction Industry Transformation Programme.

The centre will undertake research with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and the Rehda Institute to instil better industry practices, certification and awareness in the construction industry.

“We don’t want to build bridges that have no resilience and collapse when there is a flood.

“Our short-term goal is to position Malaysia as a regional leader in sustainability in construction and to raise the perception of sustainability in construction here,” he said.

Fadillah witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Cream chairman Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Ali and academics from the four universities and research institutes which will be a part of the new centre.

By NICHOLAS CHENG The Star/ANN

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More senior govt officials held over corruption involving millions of ringgit


 

PETALING JAYA: Two senior government officials have been remanded in Malacca and Johor over separate cases of graft involving millions of ringgit.

In Malacca, a senior state government official with the title of Datuk was remanded for four days.

The 55-year-old was brought to the magistrate’s court by the Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC) officers before the remand order was issued by assistant registrar Syarina Shaarani @ Tan.

On Monday in Putrajaya, MACC also detained and obtained a fiveday remand for a 70-year-old contractor with links to the Malacca senior official, who was believed to have solicited kickbacks in exchange of approval for projects.

It is learnt that MACC had frozen 22 bank accounts owned by the senior official and his family members amounting to RM11mil and 24 accounts belonging to the contractor totalling RM12mil.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the latest arrest, adding that the investigation would zoom in on the projects involving the two suspects.

In Johor Baru, an assistant officer with the Johor Land Office was remanded for six days by a magistrate’s court over abuse of power in a land acquisition case.

Clad in an MACC orange lock-up shirt, the suspect, in his 50s, was brought in under the escort of several officers at around 11am. The remand order was approved by assistant registrar Norhidayah Abdul Manaf.

MACC state director Datuk Simi Abdul Ghani told Bernama that it was in the process of identifying the source of the man’s assets.

The suspect, he said, was believed to have abused his position to obtain land through land offices in other districts as well as acquire these via ownership transfers.

Initial investigation revealed that the suspect owned several pieces of agricultural land as well as a few residential plots and luxury homes.

In another case, a director of a federal agency in Labuan was rearrested by MACC a day after his remand for a graft probe over a RM12mil food court in Tg Purun expired.

This time, the suspect, 59, was held over a probe into a building and infrastructure project worth RM48mil in Labuan.

Yesterday, Labuan magistrate’s court registrar Haizah Tamin granted a seven-day remand order against the director.

So far, MACC has recorded statements from 17 witnesses, including two civil servants and staff from several companies and contractors.

However, sources said no new arrests or seizure of assets and property had been made.

Graft investigators are still sifting through documents and other evidence to determine the number of contracts in the project since the director took over the helm about two years ago.

Two contractors, in their 40s, who were detained with the director earlier over the food court project, have been released.

The director is said to have asked for RM100,000 from the contractors as kickback for awarding them the project.

Confirming the re-arrest, Azam said the director was detained over an ongoing probe under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act for offering and receiving bribes.

So far, 12 bank accounts with cash amounting to RM889,000 belonging to the suspect and several family members have been frozen.

MACC is also tracing several million ringgit allegedly transferred out of the accounts shortly before the suspect was picked up.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said MACC’s action against the state senior official reflected its government’s transparency.

There had been speculation that the officer was closely linked to certain key officials in the state, including himself, said Idris.

“Anyone can be seen to be close to me, but when it comes to corrupt practices, I will be the first to stand against it,” he said.

However, he urged people not to jump to any conclusion as the probe was still ongoing.

Senior officials held for alleged graft

 

PETALING JAYA: Two senior civil servants, one of whom is a Datuk, were detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Malacca and Johor for alleged corrupt practices.

Sources said the first suspect, aged 55, was picked up in downtown Malacca at about 2pm yesterday and is to be remanded today.

More than 20 bank accounts containing over RM10mil were frozen.

It is learnt that the suspect was soliciting kickbacks in exchange for approval of projects involving local authorities.

The sources said the MACC was currently determining the amount of money and number of projects involved.

More individuals are expected to be picked up to facilitate investigations.

In a separate case, an assistant land district officer was also picked up over alleged corruption.

The suspect, in his 50s, was detained when he appeared at the Johor MACC office to have his statement recorded at about 2pm yesterday.

Sources said the suspect was said to have misused his position to obtain land, including alleged illicit transfer of land ownership.

The case is being investigated under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009.

Initial investigations showed the suspect owned several plots of agricultural land covering 6.77ha.

In addition, he is said to have acquired a 27.51ha piece of jointly-developed land, residential land and a high-cost luxury unit in seve­ral districts in Johor.

Johor MACC director Datuk Simi Abdul Ghani confirmed the arrest.

He said the suspect would be brought to the court for a remand order to detain him further as part of the probe.

Earlier this month, the MACC arrested two senior office bearers of two government-linked companies over suspected abuse of power and corruption.

Cash and other assets worth millions were seized and bank accounts frozen.

Last week, a federal agency director and two contractors were also detained.

The contractors had been released but the director was re-arrested to assist in a money-laundering probe.

By Simon Khoo The Star/Asian News Network

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What Trump means for Asian investors?


In the lead-up to January 20 when Donald Trump becomes US president, Asians are guessing about the outlook for their savings.

Trump is particularly difficult to read because he made so many wild statements on the campaign trail. Everyone accepts that campaigning politicians promise heaven and deliver mostly hell, but when they win elections, most become much more sober. So far, it looks like Trump’s policy will follow his campaign threats.

The Trump presidency will be bi-polar – either highly successful if he reboots American dynamism, or one that may bankrupt the country trying, including getting involved in another war.

His rise to power has been accompanied by wild swings in investor mood as markets yo-yo from hesitation to rally, with the Dow currently peaking.

So far, Trump family members appear to have more clout than was the case with any previous , with perhaps the exception of President Bill Clinton.

Disappointingly, the favourite to be Trump’s treasury secretary is ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, which means Wall Street would have another insider running the status quo. It remains to be seen whether he can simultaneously deliver the promised spending on infrastructure, tax cuts for the rich and containment of effects of a stronger dollar.

All signs are that the dollar will strengthen, bringing echoes of the famous phrase, “my dollar, your problem”. In its latest health check on the US economy, the International Monetary Fund reported in June that “the current level of the US dollar is assessed to be overvalued by 10-20 per cent and the current account deficit is around 1.5-2 per cent larger than the level implied by medium term fundamentals and desirable policies”. The IMF thinks that the risk of the dollar surging in value is high, and estimates a 10 per cent appreciation would reduce American GDP by 0.5 per cent in the first year and 0.5-0.8 per cent in the second year.

Trump is likely to be highly expansionary in his first year because the Republicans, having control of the Congress, Senate and the White House, must revive growth and jobs to ensure voters give them a second term. Note carefully that Trump’s election promises of stopping immigration, scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, imposing sanctions on China and cancelling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are all inflationary in nature.

This is why if the Fed does not raise interest rates in December this year, it may be under pressure next year not to take any action to slow a Trump economic recovery. The Fed’s independence will be called into question, since Trump’s expansionary policy will put pressure on his budget deficit and national debt, already running at 3 per cent and 76 per cent of GDP respectively. A 1-per-cent increase in nominal interest rates would add roughly 0.7 per cent to the fiscal deficit, making it unsustainable in the long run.

Those who think that recovery in US growth would be good for trade are likely to be disappointed. So far, the recovery (which is stronger than in either Europe or Japan) has led to little increase in imports, due to three effects – lower oil prices, the increase in domestic shale oil production and more onshoring of manufacturing. The US current account deficit may worsen somewhat to around 4 per cent of GDP, but this will not improve unless sanctions are imposed on both China and Mexico, which would in turn hurt global trade.

Why is a strong dollar risky for the global economy?

The answer is that the global growth model would be too dependent on the US, while the other economies are still struggling. Europe used to be broadly balanced in terms of current account, but has moved to become a major surplus zone of around 3.4 per cent of GDP. Germany alone is running a current account surplus of 8.6 per cent of GDP in 2016, benefiting hugely from the weak euro.

Japan has moved back again to a current surplus of 3.7 per cent of GDP, but the yen remains weak at current levels of 107 to the dollar. I interpret the Bank of Japan’s QQE (qualitative and quantitative easing) as both a financial stability tool and also one aimed at ensuring that the capital outflows by Japanese funds would outweigh the inflows from foreigners punting on a yen appreciation.

The Bank of Japan’s unlimited buying of Japanese government bonds at fixed rates would put a cap on losses for pension and insurance funds holding long-term bonds if the yield curve were to steepen (bond prices fall when interest rates rise). Japanese pension and insurance funds have been large investors in US Treasuries and securities for the higher yield and possible currency appreciation.

In short, the capital outflow from Japan to the dollar is helpful to US-Japan relations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to call on Trump and likely dangled a carrot: Tokyo will fund Trump’s expansionary policies so long as Japan is allowed to re-arm.

From 2007 to 2015, US securities held by foreigners increased by $7.3 trillion to $17.1 trillion, bringing its gross amount to 94 per cent of GDP, official figures show. Japan already holds just under $2 trillion of US securities and, as a surplus saver, has lots of room to buy more.

The bottom line for Asia? Don’t expect great trade recovery from any US expansion. On the other hand, Asian investors will continue to buy US dollars on the prospects of higher interest rates and better recovery. This puts pressure on Asian exchange rates.

Of course, it’s possible that US fund managers will start investing back in Asia, but with trade sanctions and frosty relations between US-China in the short-term, US investors will stay home. If interest rates do go up in Asia in response to Fed rate increases, don’t expect the bond markets to improve. The equity outlook would depend on individual country responses to these global uncertainty threats.

In short, expect more Trump tantrums in financial markets.

Think Asian By Andrew Sheng, a former central banker, writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

 

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More trained workers needed to attract new capital investments

Yap says manufacturers have to source for high-quality technology from places such as Taiwan and Europe to upgrade their production.

THE Malaysian economy can sure use a boost to grow sustainably in the long term because the indicators for long-term growth do not look very good.

That boost should come from a focus on human capital. To put it simply, a better proportion of skilled workers is needed for the economy to move up the value chain and be globally competitive.

This year the economy is expected to grow just over 4% year-on-year, after growing 5% last year and 6% in 2014. The economy is expected to grow by 4% to 5% next year although the headwinds buffeting the Malaysian economy will make it challenging to hit the upper band of the target.

Moving up the chain will mean producing goods and services that have a higher value, meaning that productivity will rise. The rise in productivity will mean that workers will get better wages. This is the basic argument of policymakers when they speak of how human capital can help the economy.

However, the reality is different. According to data from the Malaysian Productivity Corp, the average annual labour productivity growth between 2011 and 2015 was 1.8% while the 11MP has a target of 3.7% annual growth. The doubling in labour productivity growth is needed to hit the high-income target of the New Economic Model.

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan notes that the economy saw a labour productivity growth of 3.3% last year but believes that it will be challenging for labour productivity to grow in the years to come because of the lack of skilled workers.

Shamsuddin: ‘I doubt very much whether our policy emphasising English will be successful, as statistics indicate that if we ask teachers themselves to take SPM English exam, possibly half of them will fail.’

The 11MP targets skilled workers, that is, those with diplomas and higher qualifications, to reach 35% or 5.35 million of total workforce by 2020. Currently 28% of the total workforce of 14.76 million are considered skilled workers.

Shamsuddin fears that without more skilled workers, the economy will find it more difficult to move up the value chain and will not be able to attract large capital investments.

He tells StarBizWeek that the 11MP target is well below the proportion for skilled workers compared to developed economies, where the proportion is at least half of the total workforce.

Shamsuddin says government plans to raise the skill levels of Malaysian workers have so far only shown mixed results, with a gap between the plans and the actual implementation.

Indeed, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a grouping of rich economies, says in a 2013 report that the country needs to address long-standing economic weaknesses in the medium term in order to progress toward becoming an advanced economy within the next decade.

“Skill shortages and mismatches and the deficiencies in the education system that underlie them and the low participation of women in the workforce particularly need to be remedied,” it says.

It adds that the talent base of the workforce lags behind the standards of high-income nations. “The country suffers from a shortage of skilled workers, weak productivity growth stemming from a lack of creativity and innovation in the workforce, and an over-reliance on unskilled and low-wage migrant workers,” it adds.

Observers say cheap unskilled foreign labour is the bane of the Malaysian economy. According to the latest official estimates, there are 1.9 million documented foreign workers in the country with the Government having put a cap of the proportion of foreign workers to the total labour force at 15%.

Unofficial estimates of foreign workers, both legal and illegal, could be more than double that with the numbers having a negative effect on total wages.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie says in the long run, businesses will need to increase automation for the low-value processes in the manufacturing sector in order to reduce their reliance on foreign labour.

“We are not asking everything to be automated as some places you still need labour, but what you want is to gradually move up rather than continue to rely on cheap labour.

“It is not a solution for industries to compete,” he says. There is also a need to review policies in order to identify implementation flaws and weaknesses.

But the work cannot be all one-way. Lee points out that the private sector must come forward to work with the Government to create a sustainable ecosystem for innovation.

While businesses acknowledge the urgency of working efficiently and relying less on foreign workers, they point out that the supporting technology including for automation cannot be found in the country and must be sourced from abroad.

Asia Poly Industrial Sdn Bhd executive director Michael Yap says manufacturers have to source for high-quality technology from places such as Europe and Taiwan to upgrade their production processes. The company, a subsidiary of Bursa-listed Asia Poly Holdings Bhd, is a maker of cast acrylic sheets used to make corporate signages, lighting displays and sanitary ware, has a high proportion of foreign workers in its workforce.

Yap also finds it difficult to get skilled workers or even motivated ones compared to the 1980s and 1990s. He says engineers today are not willing to take up challenges and many graduates cannot solve problems.

His colleagues observe that Malaysians also do not want to work in the manufacturing sector, even if the workplace environment is conducive and they are given opportunities to give their inputs.

Given the increasing importance of the services sector to the economy, Englishlanguage skills are important but again, there is a gap between the plan and the implementation.

The Services Sector Blueprint launched last year targets the sector to make up 56.5% of gross domestic product by 2020.

Shamsuddin says it is critical for the education system to plan for the future requirements of the economy and the command of English is very important to the services sector.

“I doubt very much whether our policy emphasising English will be successful, as statistics indicate that if we ask teachers themselves to take SPM English exam, possibly half of them will fail,” he adds.

Lee feels that a more consistent policy towards English is important, referring to the abrupt change in the teaching of mathematics and science to Bahasa Malaysia after it was taught in English from 1996 to 2012, as a change that has failed Malaysian children.

By ZUNAIRA SAIEED Starbizweek

RelatedLiow: Malaysia needs more skilled workers

Reducing reliance on foreign workers

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/eBG7C3xitL4

More engagement needed with industry to avoid labour shortage in certain sectors

PETALING JAYA: The freeze on the hiring of foreign workers from February reveals how reliant Malaysia’s economy is on low-wage labour for growth.

A rough calculation by Malaysian Palm Oil Association chief executive Datuk Makhdzir Mardan showed that in 2013, when the plantation industry had a shortage of 23,500 workers, the opportunity cost came to RM1.6bil. He points out that in 2013, one foreign worker who works as a harvester equalled RM500,000 in productivity.

While the over-arching industrial policy is to produce higher value-added goods and services, the truth is that large segments of the economy is still very much dependent on low-wage labour, particularly of the low-skilled foreign migrant-worker kind.

Migrant workers Manik and Mohammad Delowar, both 27 years old from Bangladesh, are two such workers working on the multibillion ringgit Sungei Buloh-Kajang MRT line. Manik has lived in Malaysia for the last eight years and has worked on three property projects before being employed to work on the MRT project.

Both earn a salary of between RM1,500 and RM1,600 per month, 75% of which is remitted home to support their families. Manik told StarBiz that the freeze, which came about after a public outcry over an agreement between the governments of Bangladesh and Malaysia to supply low-skilled workers, would definitely affect the flow of workers that wanted to work in Malaysia.

“I do not wish to go back to my country as I’ll not be able to find a job there,” he said, adding that unemployment in Bangladesh was high and he had to support a family of six.

Manik paid RM8,000 to an agent and waited a year before securing a job in Malaysia. He sold land and borrowed money in order to pay for the fees. Mohammad, who has been working in Malaysia for eight months, paid RM12,000 in fees.

Their experience tell the often unheard human story of foreign workers in Malaysia. These millions of workers who come from the most part from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines and Vietnam are familiar faces in various sectors of the economy. The construction and agriculture sectors cannot do without them while the services sector, especially the hospitality, food and beverage and security industries, have large numbers of foreign workers.

Although the low-cost model of growth has served Malaysia well in the 1980s and 1990s, it has also made local firms reluctant to adopt technology or more efficient ways of doing things. Malaysia’s membership of the Trans Pacific Partnership makes higher productivity and efficiency ever more urgent.

Economists argue that without a rise in productivity, measured in the production of higher value-added goods and services, wages will continue to be low. The large number of foreign workers with their lower skill sets and low wages makes things worse.

This is not to say that there are no higher value-added goods or services being produced, or that the Government is not encouraging it. The New Economic Model, together with the National Key Economic Areas, have identified various sectors and subsectors in which Malaysia can have a competitive advantage.

Leadership, clear-cut policy on foreign workers and investment in education as well as technology are just some of the issues that come into play as the country strives to reduce its reliance on low-wage workers and move up the value chain.

Master Builders Association Malaysia president Matthew Tee and Makhdzir agree that the adoption of technology and mechanisation will reduce dependence on foreign workers.

Tee said the Government should provide more incentives for construction firms to adopt more efficient processes such as the industrialised building system (IBS) that could reduce dependence on low-skilled migrant workers. He pointed out that reducing the import duties on construction machinery could also help.

Meanwhile, Makhdzir said more funds should be allocated to oil-palm research and development (R&D) to make the industry more competitive. “If we desperately need to make that progress, we need to put in more talent, and more money to make it competitive in terms of R&D,” he added.

Makhdzir said the policy needed to be more flexible where R&D was concerned as talent must be sourced from outside the country if necessary.

But in the meantime, the freeze on foreign workers is causing a lot of problems as news headlines in recent months show. The problem is particularly acute in the construction and agriculture sectors.

Tee said there was a shortage of 1.3 million workers in the construction sector and predicted a shortage of up to 2 million by 2020. “This will cause delay in projects which could result in liquidated damages by clients translating to thousands of ringgit per day,” he adds.

Tee observed that the government-initiated rehiring programme that in part would also legalise illegal foreign workers had only attracted 3% of the 1.7 million total number of illegal workers in the country. He said the requirements to legalise the workers were inflexible and because of that, many did not fit the requirements – one reason why the overwhelming majority had decided not to get properly documented.

He said firms wishing to hire workers under the rehiring programme found it more expensive than hiring fresh foreign workers. On the other hand, Makhzir said there needed to be leadership in tackling the issue while Tee said there needed to be more engagement with industry as the reaction from the authorities had been slow.
By ZUNAIRA SAIEED

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US electoral democracy is failing, enter the China model? 21st century belongs to strivers


Authoritarian regimes and dictators around the world must feel vindicated by the just concluded presidential race in the United States, the one-time champion of liberal democracy that had the habit of exporting if not imposing its political system and the accompanying values to the rest of the world.

It is not so much the final outcome of last week’s race as the entire democratic process that is being questioned or scrutinized in and outside the US.

In the run-up to the Nov. 8 election, spectators of American politics were served with the tale of a contest between two candidates, both with problematic backgrounds and flawed characters.

More negative revelations about the candidates emerged as the election day neared to raise serious questions about their credibility and competency of whoever is elected to lead the world’s most powerful country.

The American media had rightly if not unkindly described this as an election where voters had to choose between the lesser of two evils.

When that choice fell on Donald Trump rather than Hillary Clinton, there was more indignation, both at the outcome as well as the electoral process.

What went wrong with the system, many people asked?

Is the American electoral system failing that we should question its effectiveness and efficiency in picking national leaders? Or are we seeing signs of fatigue in the system that has evolved in the last two centuries? To describe this as a systemic breakdown of the electoral process would probably go too far, and would give pretext for countries to conveniently discard or to forget liberal democracy.

Maybe it is worth recalling that just eight years ago, the same system gave America its first black president in Barack Obama, who was reelected in 2012. This year, the same system almost produced the first US woman president.

Still, the 2016 American presidential race, from the process to the final outcome, gives plenty of ammunition to those who doubt the ability of liberal democracy in producing great leaders.

The timing could not be worse, coming as the US superpower status is waning, through a combination of its own failing strengths and the rise of China challenging America’s supremacy.

Liberal democracy a la America had its strong appeals in recent history that it seemed to be the natural or only course for any nation to go. Theories were postulated about the first wave, second wave and third wave of democracy. There may not be a fourth wave, at least not until nations are convinced that this is really the best way to move forward.


Enter the China model
.

Because it is a system that has proven efficient and effective, and certainly delivered the economic goods, it is now being touted as the better option than liberal democracy for developing countries looking for the right kind of nation-building model, including in the way they pick their leaders.

One caveat about the China model, however: Forget freedom and basic rights, the fundamental tenets that underpin liberal democracy.

What matters is that the system brings economic growth and development and raises people’s prosperity. The suppression of some freedoms and rights — big or small is relative — is the price nations have to pay to ensure stability, a prerequisite to development.

Freedoms and basic rights can come later, if at all.

In The China Model — Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy (2015, Princeton University Press), author Daniel A. Bell shows how China introduced a meritocratic system that has produced leaders the nation can be proud of.

The leaders that have come out of this system have consistently produced rapid growth rates that turned China from a large poor developing country to the second-largest economy in the world in these last two decades.

The system still ensures periodic changes of national guards to prevent China from becoming a dictatorship. It offers a degree of predictability to ensure stability, a factor sorely missing in liberal democracies. It is not a perfect system by any measure, but it is a model that has evolved in China out of the socialist system that the founding fathers of the People’s Republic of China launched in 1949.

But if countries are not comfortable with the costs to freedom and basic rights that the China model entails, they should probably take another look at the US democracy, and consider 2016 as an aberration rather than a system that is failing, a system that is suffering from fatigue and needing reforms.

Americans need to look at the role of the political parties and the way they produced presidential candidates. Surely a country of 320 million people deserved better choices than Trump and Clinton. How their track records and flawed characters got past the political screening system is simply baffling.

The US electoral system — including the primaries and the conventions — is simply too long and too expensive for any country to emulate. For that price, Americans should feel they are being shortchanged by the system.

This year’s voter turnout, estimated at 58 percent this year, is another reflection of the growing public apathy toward the electoral system or the candidates it produced.

The 2016 American presidential race saw the ugliest and most divisive campaigns ever seen that inevitably would leave behind a sour taste, even if Clinton gave a gallant concessionary speech.

The US election has become one big and long political show of selecting the most popular, but not necessarily the most capable candidate. One could compare it with American Idol, but even this reality TV show has been pulled out due to viewers’ fatigue.

If this is the picture of democracy, then many nations around the world would want none of it.

The US electoral system actually has built-in self-correcting mechanisms such as the two-term limits and the various institutional checks-and-balances to prevent the emergence of a despot.

The First Amendment, and the independent media, ensure that people will always have the right to speak up and to be heard, even if they have made the wrong choice.

But these may not be enough to restore the faith in liberal democracy in producing great leaders. This faith has further waned after the 2016 US presidential election. One could also throw in Brexit as another product of a democratic exercise in the Western world that has gone wrong.

In many countries, liberal democracy is no longer considered the best political system in selecting national leaders. It is not the only way forward. The China model has never been more attractive alternative in some countries, including Indonesia, still grappling with nation building.

America can help restore faith in liberal democracy by carrying out the necessary electoral reforms. It needs to show once again that democracy is the best political system in selecting leaders because it is based on the principles of respecting freedoms and basic human rights.

Yes, America can be great once again. But probably it would be asking too much from the new elected president.

By Endy Bayuni, Editor-in-chief of The Jakarta Post

Can China overtake US to lead the world?

Trump’s trade tempest

Discussions were running high on global governance among Western public opinion on the eve of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting in Lima, Peru. Some Western media outlets hold the US is giving up its global leadership following Donald Trump’s election as US president on promises to abolish the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and withdraw from the Paris climate deal. They believe a rising superpower, China, will replace the US to lead the world.

Trump’s campaign remarks do reveal his intention to retract US global strategy. He seemingly wants to focus more energy and resources on reviving the US economy and social development. But as the US has been central to globalization, Trump is unlikely to take on the traditional isolationist road.

The West likes to use “leadership” to define the function of a major power. Admittedly, different countries have different powers and obligations due to varied national strength. The world after the Cold War was dominated by US leadership. Washington designed and maintained a string of systems, including the world trade system, the financial system, the Internet system, the security pattern and so on.

The US has invested much into maintaining this leadership and also gained considerable benefits. In the foreseeable future, it’s impossible for the US to abandon its global leadership.

The US sought supremacy over everything in the past few years. However, it didn’t have enough national strength to bolster this unrealistic goal. Trump appears to be redesigning the US leadership, withdrawing the country from fields in which he thinks resources are being wasted. China thus will gain some room to exert its influence, but is China ready?

China still cannot match the US in terms of comprehensive strength. It has no ability to lead the world in an overall way, plus, neither the world nor China is psychologically ready for it. It’s beyond imagination to think that China could replace the US to lead the world.

But as China is rapidly developing, bringing about changes to the global power structure, its participation in global governance will be a natural and gradual process, which Beijing cannot rush or escape.

If Washington withdraws from the Paris climate deal, China can stick to its commitment, yet it won’t be able to make up for the loss caused by the US. Or if the US takes on an anti-free trade path, the messy consequences will be beyond China’s ability to repair.

But on the other hand, the US, under the leadership of Trump, cannot rope in China’s neighboring countries to contain China or isolate China from the world trade system. Obama’s administration had worked to undermine China-initiated projects, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the “One Belt and One Road” initiative, but to no avail.

So Sino-US cooperation is the only choice for future global governance. For a long time to come, the leadership of the US will be irreplaceable, meanwhile, China’s further rise is inevitable.

– Global Times

Commentary: 21st century belongs to strivers 

“The 21st century is the time for the Chinese,” said the CEO of a Chinese mobile phone company at the recent launch of a new product. The CEO remarked that Western bigwigs will finally be surpassed by Chinese strivers who are determined to change their lives through hard work.

He further explained that, although some companies in developed countries are leading the world in many aspects, their bureaucracy, laziness, arrogance and ego will hinder their development.

To some extent, all Chinese people in the past 100 years are strivers who have managed to change their own fates and the fate of their country through sheer diligence; this trend is vividly illustrated by the process of reform and opening-up. After keeping their noses to the grindstone despite hardships and difficulties, Chinese people have finally succeeded in ushering in a new era.

Those who have doubted China over the years were not aware of the strivers’ true personalities. The strivers desperately thirst for better lives. They are able to bear unbearable hardships and endure unendurable suffering. Such morale and pluck can never be defeated.

The struggle of a software company in Guangdong, which has grown from a small enterprise into an industry titan, offers an inspiring story. During a trip to Germany for an exhibition shortly after the company’s founding, both boss and employees slept on park benches in order to save money. More importantly, none of them complained about having to do so.

In 2009, China needed to build a large exhibition area, as the guest of honor of that year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. However, shortly before the opening of the event, construction was not yet complete because of German workers’ fixed schedule. Therefore, the Chinese exhibitor invited workers from China to complete the work, and that team was able to finish before the opening ceremony.

It is the effort, hard work and sweat of these strivers that have contributed to China’s current development. Their willingness to struggle came from a thirst to change their fate.

In recent years, many Chinese enterprises are expanding their business in Africa. Instead of spending money on entertainment, Chinese employees there save money to make phone calls to their families back home. This priority was not received well by some locals, who believe that one should enjoy life with one’s money. As a result, people cooked up stories that Chinese employees in Africa were prisoners sent by the Chinese government. Believing these rumors, some Western media outlets even slammed China for human rights violations. Finally, a media outlet from the U.K. discovered the truth. These Chinese workers are just the same as their Western counterparts: they love their families and hope to change their lives through hard work. They consider it their life purpose to improve the quality of life of their families, especially their children. The U.K. outlet ultimately concluded that the unyielding spirit of Chinese people is unrivalled, and they will certainly change the world.

Hard work pays. This is the basis for social function. Any society will collapse without such faith.

China is no longer the impoverished country it was 30 years ago. Even so, the enterprising spirit of its citizens has endured. The country needs to stay confident, especially during the “new normal” of slower economic growth. As long as its people have the faith to change fate through hard work, they should fear no difficulty.

One dare not say that the 21st century is destined to be the era of China, but it certainly belongs to the strivers who are determined to change their lives through work.

This article was edited and translated from 21世纪属于渴望奋斗改变命运的”泥腿子”

Source: People’s Daily

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