Japan security bills, Abe fans anti-China flames with defense paper


By Li Feng

Abe fans anti-China flames with defense paper

People hold placards during a rally against Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration and his security-related legislation in front of the parliament building in Tokyo July 15, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

The Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday approved its annual defense white paper, in which it accuses China of raising regional tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea. China’s Ministry of Defense expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition toward the 429-page document later the same day, saying it “tarnishes the image of China’s military” and deliberately plays up the “China threat” theory. Comments:

By defaming China as a regional security threat in its defense white paper, the Japanese administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is clearly aiming to add necessity and legitimacy to the new security bills, which breach Japan’s pacifist Constitution, and complicate Asia-Pacific security issues such as the South China Sea disputes. It will be unfortunate for both Japan and East Asia if Abe remains adamant on challenging China.

Xinhua News Agency, July 21

Japan’s defense white paper for 2015 is not conducive to safeguarding peace and stability in East Asia. The so-called threat is not from China but Japan itself.

Kamakura Takao, an emeritus professor of Saitama University, Japan, July 21

Two new implications in Japan’s latest defense white paper should be noted. First, the document is in line with the new security bills that Abe is trying to muscle through, offering excuses for the country’s overseas military deployment. Second, as a non-stakeholder in the South China Sea issues, Tokyo may propose to participate in the US patrols in the area to expand its regional presence, and, of course, conduct more overseas military operations. It is a dangerous move that other regional powers should pay close attention to.

Qian Feng, vice-president of Asia Times, July 22

In the past, Japan used to see the Soviet Union and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as the top threats. Now China has become the No 1 “threat”. Confronted with the “unexpected” opposition to his security bills in Japan, Abe has resorted to the defense white paper to defuse public rage and convince peace-loving Japanese that the bills’ passage is necessary.

Ny Huang Dahui, director of the East Asia Research Center of Renmin University of China, July 21

Source: Asia News Network/China Daily

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II…

The great technology transformation


AFTER a week in the Silicon Valley, California last month, I came to the conclusion that I am a dinosaur. The speed of change from technology has been so fast and so profound that we are lost in transition, translation and transformation.

The digital revolution is already upon us, but the baby boomer generation, to which I belong, is having difficulty understanding this because we still upload (read) on paper, whereas the millenials (those born between 1980 and 2000) upload information mostly on mobile phones, video and communicate through social media.

Demographics say a lot. At the turn of the 21st century, the baby boomers (born 1946-1964) were half the work force, but today in the United States, millenials and Gen X (born 1965-1979) are roughly one-third each. The baby boomers may own most of the retirement funds and wealth, but the new wealth is being created rapidly by the younger generations.

A simple set of statistics says it all. The Forbes top five US companies by revenue are Walmart, Exxon, Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway and Apple. Walmart employs over 2.1 million people, with revenue just under US$485bil, but profits of US$16bil with market capitalisation of US$265bil. Apple, with only 80,000 employees, had double Walmart profits of US$39bil and a market capitalisation of US$725bil, larger than Walmart and Exxon put together. Twitter, with only 3,638 employees or less than 0.2% of Walmart workforce, is valued at 9.2% of Walmart. Facebook, with only 9,200 employees but 1.44 billion users, is valued at 86% of Walmart.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that Silicon Valley is booming in terms of wealth creation, California would be suffering from the economic effects of the worst drought in years. But at US$2.3 trillion, California is growing at 2.8% per annum, faster than US real gross domestic product growth of 2.2% in 2014. The Western Pacific states of Oregon and Washington are growing faster at 3.6% and 3% respectively, thanks to growing trade and services from the boom in technology.

Two things that stand out in the Digital Disruption – speed and scale. The speed and scale of the digital transformation is so fast and so wide and deep that we are all having problems valuing what it means – which is why we have a tech bubble in the making.

It is quite normal for us to accept that the Silicon Valley is the world leader in digital change, but what was eye-opening as I dug into the data is that the next waves are already happening in China and India. This has mind-boggling implications on a geo-political basis, especially for smaller economies, such as Malaysia, Hong Kong or Thailand.

What struck me from delving into the pattern of growth in the Internet Revolution is the speed and scale of change in China and India. Who would have expected even five years ago that four out of the top 15 global public Internet companies, ranked by market capitalisation would be Chinese (Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com) with a combined value of US$542bil or 22.4% of the total market valuation of US$2.4 trillion of these 15 companies as of May, 2105.

China Internet

Scale and speed

The reason for this valuation is scale and speed of the Chinese transformation, already overtaking the world leader, the United States. The rate of Internet penetration is over 80% for the United States, only 40+% in China and 20+% in India. But China already has more Internet users (618 million), double the US population and its growth in smartphones is double (21%) that of the United States (9%).

Although incomes in China and India are far lower than the United States, Chinese and Indian millenials (for that matter, millenials in all emerging markets) are beginning to spend more time on their smartphones than the advanced countries.

There are two implications from this broad trend, which the Chinese Internet platforms like Alibaba and Tencent are beginning to exploit.

The first is the ease and convenience of buying, selling and paying using the smartphone – an all service tool. Partly because of regulation, the US leaders such as eBay, Amazon and Facebook are still in their core areas of strength, but Alibaba and WeChat (part of Tencent) have developed eco-systems that are simultaneously social networks, chatrooms, trading and investing platforms combined.

When I lost my Blackberry, MacBook and camera recently in Latin America, I was staggered that using WeChat on iPhone, I could go on video and instant chat with friends across half the world for free. My only constraint was the battery on my iPhone and that I had not set up to get funds transfer in case of need.

The second implication is that traditional service providers are way behind in this technology. My credit card companies are still on outdated phone-banking, which meant that in order to report lost cards, I was frantically trying to Press one, Press two and Press self-destruct! These companies are at least two generations behind in customer service technology.

Internet Revolution

My conclusion from this survey of the Internet Revolution is that the disruption from technology on conventional businesses is yet incomplete. In the 1990s, the Internet changed the music, photography, book sales and video rental business. Today, we book airline and hotel travel on the web.

But with the arrival of the iPad and iPhone, healthcare, finance, investing, education and social communications are being combined into one gadget (the mobile phone) to do what we have to.

This disruption is happening very fast in China and India, because these late-comers have no pre-conceived legacy ideas on what cannot be done with technology.

If China is currently going through its tech bubble, watch out for the next tech bubble in India.

Those who think only in terms of risks think that bubbles are to be feared. I have come to realise that the animal spirits in us change the game through excesses. But those who learn from their mistakes will create the new.

Silicon Valley is not a place but a mindset – nothing ventured, nothing gained. That mindset is truly the New Digital Transformation.

Watch this space in Asia.

Andrew Sheng comments on global trends from an Asian angle

BRICS and SCO: Seizing the Eruasian moment


While the West is distracted by the Gulf region and Ukraine, moves are afoot in parts of Asia and Europe to empower emerging regions in the future

IF there is still any doubt that Russia and China are cultivating their global presence together, events in recent days come as a timely antidote.

The five emerging BRICS economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, spanning nearly as many continents, had their seventh summit in Ufa, south-western Russia on Thursday.

Any lingering uncertainty over Moscow-Beijing relations would also have been dispelled by the fact that the BRICS summit was held back-to-back with the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on Friday.

The SCO is an association of six countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan – and prime movers China and Russia, which also happen to be dominant. Its summit this time saw a growth in membership with the inclusion of India and Pakistan.

The BRICS countries have certain shared concerns and objectives, such as national development and international commerce that need not conform to the strictures of the Washington Consensus.

Strictures imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have bled already anaemic economies and destabilised countries in the developing world on the basis of ideological prescriptions.

At the same time, these Western-dominated financial institutions failed to give emerging economies, epitomised by China, their rightful voice according to their global economic importance. Thus a cash-rich China has had to evolve financial institutions of its own.

Such multilateral efforts are best done together with like-minded nations. So besides BRICS, SCO countries that span Eurasia – with a collective focus on Central Asia and now also South Asia – have come together to develop alternative funding agencies.

In addition to the Beijing Consensus of rapid growth that is politically conscious, defined and directed, there is now the “Shanghai Spirit” of mutual respect, trust, benefit and consultation with equality.

These values broadly mirror the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence adopted by China and India (Panchsheel Treaty) two generations ago.

But even as SCO membership sees steady growth, it is clear enough that its main drivers and those of BRICS are China and Russia. By dint of sheer size and capacity, particularly those of China, Beijing and Moscow have come to lead the rest.

The way Washington has managed to alienate China and Russia at the same time has helped develop their partnership. Following years of US criticism of both countries, the US navy chief lately branded Russia as the greatest threat while presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton accused China of hacking US sites.

Russia and China were thus prodded by the US to work more closely together. US foreign policy is often said to be defined by domestic interests, or perceived interests, and this is seldom more true than when a presidential election campaign approaches.

However, improving relations between China and Russia are not thanks solely to US posturing. Moscow and Beijing are not without common interests of their own.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rallied member countries of both BRICS and the SCO to fight terrorism together. International terrorism today is a clear and present danger, a substantive threat and a common scourge requiring close cooperation particularly among neighbouring countries.

While BRICS’s terms of reference are more economic, the SCO’s are broader and more strategic. Within BRICS, member nations have formed a Business Council and formulated an Economic Partnership Strategy. Key sectors are manufacturing and infrastructure besides clean energy and agriculture.

But the star attraction at Ufa was the launch of the New Development Bank (NDB), also known as the BRICS bank, with an initial capital of US$100bil (RM378.2bil).

To be based in Shanghai with its first president in India’s K.V. Kamath, the NDB would be raising funds locally and internationally. It is set to issue its first loans next April. This is among four new financial institutions championed by China, the others being the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund and the SCO’s Development Bank.

In the SCO context, member countries had made strides in the energy, telecommunications and transportation sectors. Now such gains needed to be affirmed while also developing opportunities in agriculture. Russia places a special priority on the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which also covers Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, with Russia dominant. China has prioritised its Silk Road Economic Belt initiatives linking Asia with Europe.

Working together, the EAEU and the Silk Road projects would be promoted jointly by the SCO. The proposed financial institutions, to which China would be contributing the most, would finance these and other related projects.

The fortunes of BRICS economies however have dipped in recent months. The Ufa summit did not deny the current challenges but chose to emphasise the positives.

Although numbering just five countries, the BRICS group had contributed half of the world’s economic growth over the past decade and produced 20% of total global output. No less than IMF findings show that until 2030 at least, BRICS growth would outperform developed and other emerging economies.

For Russia, the plans and initiatives have a more immediate tactical purpose – to alleviate economic pressures brought on by Western sanctions against its moves in Ukraine.

For China, the longer-term strategic purpose covers efforts to facilitate more trade, expedite internationalisation of the renminbi and generally build and solidify China’s global stature.

In investing massively in the new financial institutions however, Beijing will be competing against the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

In doing so it will have to be more borrower-friendly, minus the strictures so synonymous with the Western-run rivals. The official word is that these new lending agencies are not going to challenge the Bretton Woods institutions, but the practical effect is nonetheless to offer borrowers more choice.

To substantiate the claim that the new institutions will neither rival nor replace the older ones, China is also calling for more open international accountability of the IMF and the World Bank. Somehow that may still not come as comforting news to Western power brokers.

But after all the platitudes and hurrah in Ufa, there are now the realities to contend with.

Strategic analysts prefer to gauge the viability of regional institutions based on the common interests shared among member states. In this respect, the future of BRICS may seem less promising than the SCO’s. Precisely because of the broad spread of the BRICS countries, there is little they have in common besides an affinity with alternative modes of development.

Their economic growth has been significant, but achieved independently of other BRICS nations and – except for China – with little support from (integration with) other countries in their respective regions.

The obvious question arises as to how sustainable can BRICS as an entity be. The fortunes of international associations depend on more than goodwill and bravado.

The SCO by comparison holds more prospects for success. By comprising a contiguous region that includes Eurasia and a substantial chunk of the Asian land mass, cross-border concerns are shared and can be attended to jointly.

Furthermore, practical projects like the Silk Road Economic Belt and the EAEU require constant attention, commitment and contributions from the 60 countries and regions that are involved.

This may mean more obligations to begin with, but consistent maintenance will ensure better management and success.

Bunn Nagara
By Bunn Nagara Behind the headlines

> Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

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Council slow to act on Botak Hill which is to be patched up soon


An eyesore: Mitigation works being carried out to restore the cleared slopes of Bukit Relau.An eyesore: Mitigation works being carried out to restore the cleared slopes of Bukit Relau.
Council slow to act on Botak Hill

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Island City Council has come under fire for taking such a long time to tackle the illegal hill clearing at Bukit Relau.

Bayan Baru PKR MP Sim Tze Tzin (pcs left) said it should not have taken so long to carry out mitigation work at the 22.89ha site which became known as Botak Hill after it was cleared.

“When the issue broke out in 2013, I called a senior council officer who told me that it would be settled within six months.

“But after two years, the problem is still not settled.

“This is not rocket science. What is so difficult?” he told a press conference yesterday in Sungai Dua near here.

Sim said someone should be held responsible for the delay and urged the state to find the culprit.

“The person has to be punished as this has to do with accountability.

“If you cannot do the job, then resign to let other people do it,” he said.

Sim was commenting on the latest news report which stated that the mitigation work being carried out by General Accomplishment Sdn Bhd was scheduled to be completed by October. – The Star 15/7/15

Botak Hill to be patched up soon

GEORGE TOWN: Mitigation works on Bukit Relau, infamously known as Botak Hill after a section of its top slope was cleared in 2013, is scheduled to be completed by October.The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) said the mitigation works started in April and was expected to be completed in six months.

The council said it had endorsed the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan (ESCP) and slope strengthening design to mitigate landslips and pollution caused by mud flow based on the proposal by the geotechnical consultant appointed by General Accomplish-ment Sdn Bhd which owns the cleared site.

MBPP said the mitigation plan was vetted by the state’s Hillside Geotechnical Advisory Panel chairman Dr Gue See Sew.

General Accomplishment was fined RM30,000 by a Sessions Court here in July 2013 after a represen-tative pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to clearing the 22.89ha site between April 24 and May 8 the same year without obtaining written approval from then Penang Municipal Council (MPPP).

The offence under Section 70 A of the Street, Drainage and Buildings Act 1974 carries a maximum five-year imprisonment or maximum RM50,000 fine, or both.

MBPP said in a statement yesterday that the mitigation measures include the building of a few catchment and sedimentation ponds along the access route to the site, cutting the slope to reduce its steepness and covering the exposed slope with vegetation.

The council said the works also involved the building of cascading drains along the access route to dissipate the energy of surface runoff and mitigate soil erosion.

Several residents living nearby had earlier this month raised their concern after seeing earthworks being done at the site.

MBPP said the land cutting was done to allow access for heavy vehicles and to carry out rock blasting.

It said huge boulders needed to be removed to ensure a safe route and for the mitigation works to proceed, adding that the rock blasting was approved by the Minerals and Geoscience Depart-ment and police.

MBPP said it would continue to monitor the works to ensure that it was carried out in accordance with the approved mitigation plan.

It said grass had been planted on the access route to prevent erosion and that more plants could now be seen on the cleared slope. – The Star 14/7/15

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1MDB probe gains momentum, a sensitive time for PM and Umno


PETALING JAYA: The probe into claims that funds  were channelled into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Najib Tun Razak heated up when the task force investigating the matter froze six bank accounts and said it was looking into 17 others.The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) meanwhile revealed documents that it claimed were the basis of its controversial story.

The freeze on the six accounts was issued on Monday, according to a statement issued jointly by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim
Mohamed.

“Several documents over the issue of non-compliance with Bank Negara’s rules and procedures have also been seized,” it read.

“As the investigations are still under way, we appeal to all parties to give their fullest cooperation to complete the probe.”

It is learnt that the 17 accounts belonged to various companies and individuals.

While neither the banks involved nor the holders of the accounts were named, several portals claimed they had received confirmation that three of the accounts belonged to Najib.

Hours after the statement was released, WSJ uploaded nine documents on its claim that US$700mil (RM2.6bil) were channelled into three personal accounts of Najib.

The nine documents comprised three flow charts, three remittance forms, two credit transfer notices and a letter of authorisation by Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, the former chief investment officer of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

However, Najib’s name appeared only in the flow charts. It was not in any of the banking documents in which the last few digits of the account numbers were blanked out.

A banker said it was normal that entire bank account numbers were not made public for fear that the accounts could be hacked.

“What is important is the codes in the documents are correct,” said the banker.

The charts detail funds flowing from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a company that used to be under 1MDB but was subsequently taken over by the Finance Ministry in 2012, into personal accounts supposedly belonging to Najib.

According to the charts, the funds flowed into AmPrivate Banking in AmBank Islamic and the beneficiary, it claimed, was Najib.

Based on one chart, the funds flowed out of SRC International’s account in AmBank Islamic into Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd, also in Ambank
Islamic.

Subsequently, the money was transferred to Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd, whose account is in Affin Bank. From there, the funds were moved to AmPrivate Banking in AmBank Islamic.

There were three accounts under AmPrivate Banking in AmBank Islamic supposedly belonging to Najib. The last few digits of the accounts were blanked out.

The Prime Minister’s name was not to be found in any remittance transfer forms from Affin Bank to AmBank Islamic.

The total amount transferred from Affin Bank to AmBank Islamic was RM42mil and the transactions were done in three tranches.

There were two transactions on Dec 26, 2014 and one on Feb 9, 2015. The reasons for the transfer of funds by Ihsan Perdana to the AmPrivate Banking account were stated as CSR programmes.

Najib’s name is also not visible in the two credit transfer notices from Wells Fargo Bank in the United States to the AmPrivate Banking account under AmBank Islamic.

But a banker said it was normal for the beneficiary’s name to be left out of remittance forms or credit transfer notices.

“The identity of the beneficiary does not need to appear if it is a familiar name. The banks only need the necessary codes and account numbers,” said the banker.

The funds from Well Fargo amounted to US$681mil and were transferred in two tranches, on March 21 and March 25, 2013, according to the documents.

The transaction order came from Tanore Finance Corp in British Virgin Island. The funds were transferred to AmPrivate Banking account in AmBank                                                Islamic under the Swift Output Code of Single Customer Credit Transfer.

“A Single Customer Credit Transfer means the account is held by an individual,” said the banker. – The Star

Sensitive time for PM and Umno

DATUK Seri Najib Tun Razak has been out and about every day since the start of the fasting month.

He has been seen at a number of Ramadan bazaars, he has been the VIP guest at various buka puasa functions and he has joined the congregation for evening prayers after the breaking of fast.

The fasting month is a test for all Muslims and even more so for the Prime Minister given the issues surrounding him.

The 1MDB issue has snowballed into a political monster for his administration and he is fighting what could be the biggest battle of his political career.

Allegations in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that billions of ringgit went into what is believed to be his personal bank account are still reverberating among the financial and political circles.

Najib has responded to the report, calling it wild allegations and insisting that he has never taken funds for personal gain. It was not quite the explanation or answer that people were expecting and it has raised more questions than provided answers.

But many in Umno are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt even though they are unsure what to make of it.

Najib has a lot of support in his party and up until the recent allegations, he was said to have won over some 75% of the 191 Umno division heads.

They want to rally around him but they need clear answers in order to defend him.

Najib has made it very clear that he intends to sue WSJ and his lawyers are preparing a case to be filed soon against Dow Jones, the publisher of WSJ, in the United States. That is the way to go to clear his name.

The pressure mounted yesterday when four of the country’s top regulators and law enforcers issued a joint statement, saying that the special task force probing 1MDB had frozen six bank accounts related to the case.

The affected bank accounts were not identified but the signatories comprised the Attorney-General, Bank Negara Governor, Inspector-General of Police and the MACC chief.

It was unprecedented and it was a sign that the investigations had become more serious and complicated. The snowball has grown bigger.

Najib’s deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has added to the pressure. He had asked the authorities to look into the WSJ allegations and Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has joined in.

Their move confirms the political divide in the party that the Umno crowd has been talking about.

Umno politicians also noticed that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been rather restrained after months of relentless attacks and it could mean two things.

One, he feels that he has achieved his desired objective – he has got Najib up against the wall.

Two, Dr Mahathir might have realised that in his determination to remove the head of the house, the entire house may come down too.

His campaign against Pak Lah contributed to the 2008 political tsunami and his attacks against Najib has damaged Umno even more.

A group of Umno supreme council members met Najib at his official residence on Sunday night. It was very hush-hush and none of those who attended picked up or returned the calls of reporters, let alone spoke about what transpired.

The speculation is that the meeting was probably not about declaring support for the boss, otherwise they would not be so secretive.

The group was there to seek answers about what Najib plans to do and where he intends to go from here. This is a very sensitive time for Umno and especially for Muhyiddin. He played a leading role in Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s exit and he is again in the spotlight.

It is doubly sensitive for Muhyiddin this time around because he is an interested party.

Muhyiddin is being extra cautious because he understands the powers of incumbency and is aware of what the Prime Minister could do to those who are not with him.

Moreover, Najib’s tentacles in the party go back a long way and whoever wants to take him on has to consider the repercussions from his hardcore supporters.


By Joceline  Tan Analysis The Star

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Malaysian currency hardest hit in Asia by Greek crisis and political conerns, Fitch boost short-lived!PETALING JAYA: The simmering economic crisis in Greece and weakness  in China continued to roil financial markets across the region, with…

 

Malaysian currency hardest hit in Asia by Greek crisis and political conerns, Fitch boost short-lived!


PETALING JAYA: The simmering economic crisis in Greece and weakness in China continued to roil financial markets across the region, with the ringgit being the hardest hit among Asian currencies.

Sentiment on the ringgit was further compounded by rising domestic political risk, lingering concerns about 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s massive debt problems and lower oil revenue.

The local unit fell to a 16-year low yesterday at 3.809 against the US dollar – a level last seen before the exchange rate was pegged in 1998.

It was down 8.1% year-to-date and is currently the worst performing currency in Asia.

Independent economist Lee Heng Guie said Greece might be a small economy but the contagious implications on other weaker links in the eurozone could spook investors if Greece were to be forced out of the bloc.

“Recovery in the eurozone is still weak and people are worried that a possible fallout from Greece may impact the region’s economy,” he said.

Another economist said the depleting international reserves indicated that Bank Negara had carried out some currency stabilising activities.

A source suggested that Bank Negara may have sold more than US$1bil yesterday to shore up the ringgit, which had dropped to an intra-day low of 3.814 in early trade.

The country’s international reserves stood at US$106.38bil as at end-May, slightly higher than US$105.95bil at end-April.

“Our current account is still in surplus mode, so a twin deficit is unlikely.” the economist said, adding that the reserves level should be sustainable at above US$100bil.

“Bonds and the Malaysia Government Securities (MGS) have continued to thrive. Foreigners still believe in the country’s long-term outlook, as they remain the biggest bondholders,” she said.

Foreign investors had been increasing their holding of MGS up until the end of May this year, according to a recent estimate by Standard Chartered Global Research.

As at end-May, foreign ownership of MGS stood at 47%, or US$43bil of the total outstanding of US$92bil.

But May marked a significant turning point, both for the ringgit and the stock market.

MIDF Research, in a recent note, observed that foreign investors had been net sellers of local equities in the past two months. It said, June was the worst month for Bursa Malaysia since 2014, as foreign outflows totalled more than RM3bil.

This increased the cumulative net foreign outflow for the year to RM9bil, significantly higher than the RM6.9bil that had left the market in the whole of 2014.

“The Greece NO vote means uncertainties ahead and there will likely be a global sell-off in equities in the immediate term,” MIDF Research said.

“However, the Greece outcome should have been expected and priced in,” it added.

But the worst, however, may not yet be over for the ringgit.

“Fitch’s revision of Malaysia’s outlook seemed to be short-lived because of the negative sentiments. Investors don’t like uncertainties,” one analyst said.

A foreign report last Friday had alleged that there was investigative evidence of money from state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd being channelled to what was believed to be Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s personal accounts. Najib has denied the allegations and is looking at legal options against the publisher.

Meanwhile, the economy is still absorbing the impact of the goods and services tax while the country’s biggest trade partner, China, shows signs of slowing down.

“We expect a worse third quarter, as we foresee weaker economic numbers,” the analyst said.

By Ng Bei Shan The Star/Asia News Network

Ringgit hit by Greek crisis

Currency hit by Greek crisis

Currency plunges to 16-year low against US dollar

PETALING JAYA: Uncertainties in Greece have hit Asian stock markets and currencies, with the ringgit taking the brunt of it amid renewed political concerns within the country.

The ringgit hit a 16-year low of 3.8142 against the US dollar during intra-day trade before settling at 3.809 against the greenback at 5pm.

It broke the crucial 3.80 level for the first time since the US dollar peg was removed 10 years ago.

The ringgit had been pegged at 3.80 against the dollar since 1998 at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis to 2005. Closing lower by 0.78% against the dollar yesterday, the ringgit was the biggest loser among Asian currencies.

Malaysia’s stock market took a heavy beating, with the benchmark FBM Kuala Lumpur Composite Index falling 17.19 points, or 1%, to close at 1,717.05 points.

Other Asian currencies and equity markets also closed lower yesterday due to capital outflow after Greece on Sunday voted against further austerity to qualify for new bailouts to help its ailing economy.

Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned and the country is now at risk of exiting the single-currency eurozone, raising questions about the future of the 17-nation region.

Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected the bailout terms demanded by international creditors, with official figures from Sunday’s referendum in that country showing 61.31% voting “no” and 38.69% voting “yes”.

In Malaysia, the impact of capital outflow was worsened by renewed political uncertainties after The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) report on July 3 alleging that about US$700mil (RM2.6bil) from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) had ended up in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s personal bank account .

The allegations had resulted in some quarters calling for Najib to take leave and be investigated.

1MDB is being ­investigated by the Public Accounts Committee while a special task force involving Bank Negara, MACC and the police are looking into WSJ’s claims.- The Star

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Separate the Attorney-General’s powers to correct a flaw in Malaysian legal system !


T
an Sri Abdul Gani Patail

Revise Attorney-General’s powers

There is a flaw in our system, inherited since before Independence, that may prevent the public from giving their complete trust.

THE political challenges faced by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak continue to mount. He has issued several denials but his detractors are showing no sign of stopping.

Last week, internationally respected newspaper The Wall Street Journal published a story alleging that money from 1MDB somehow found its way into Najib’s personal bank accounts. Najib has denied any wrongdoing and he is said to be mulling legal action against the newspaper.

The response by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail is particularly noteworthy.

According to Gani, a multi-agency task force will probe the allegation, looking into the trail of money from 1MDB and examining if there has been any wrongdoing.

Even though Gani did not spell it out word by word, the implication is that our Prime Minister has not stopped agencies in his own Government from conducting what could become a criminal probe against him.

This is a healthy step and it is also the right decision by the Prime Minister. The whole saga has been a protracted one and I look forward to its conclusion.

According to reports that cited Gani, the multi-agency investigation team comprises the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the police and our central bank, Bank Negara.

I welcome the formation of this special team. It is imperative that all allegations are investigated thoroughly. To do so does indeed require cooperation from various agencies.

Having said that, I have a concern about how the public will react once this team concludes the investigation.

The most important element in any probe that involves public figures is public confidence. For the public to accept the outcome of the investigation, they must believe in the integrity of the agencies.

Unfortunately, there is a flaw in our system that may prevent the public from giving their complete trust. We inherited that flaw since before Independence and until today we have never tried to fix it.

The flaw centres on the dual roles of the Attorney-General. He is the principal legal adviser to the Government and he is also the one with sole discretion to decide whether or not to prosecute.

Yes, there are safeguards to ensure he makes prosecutorial decisions with independence and integrity. But that is a matter of procedures.

We are talking about a high-profile investigation where public confidence and public perception are just as important as everything else.

Imagine a situation where the investigation team finds that the allegations are false. They then submit their files to the Attorney-General.

The Attorney-General then would logically decide that there will be no prosecution. How will the public react to this?

My worry is that the public will simplistically say that we are seeing a cover-up. Of course, we will not know the detailed findings from the investigation and we can’t expect the agencies to be disclosing information in great detail either.

But we may end up with the public accusing the Attorney-General of merely protecting his boss whom he has been advising all this while. That would be most unfortunate.

However, we cannot blame the public for not fully trusting the system. Stories after stories have been told – whether concocted or true – about allegedly selective prosecution.

In our work on the MACC, we encountered many of these allegations. Critics target the MACC even when the agency has done its job to investigate, without realising that prosecution powers lie with the Attorney-General and not the MACC.

And among those who do know that prosecution is the discretion of the Attorney-General, a perception has developed that some people are always safe from prosecution, because they feel the Attorney-General has a conflict of interest. How can he be expected to prosecute the very people he is supposed to advise?

The fusion of the Attorney-General’s roles – as legal adviser to the Government and as public prosecutor – has resulted in decreased trust in the integrity of the system.

In cases that involve the Government, the public may not have full confidence in his decisions regardless of whether or not he is being independent and honest. And this time, it may result in a never-ending misery for the Prime Minister even if he is a victim of political sabotage.

I fully appreciate that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have thousands of other things to worry about at this moment in time. But for their own sake, this is a most urgent issue. The credibility of the Prime Minister is at stake here.

The roles of the Attorney-General must be separated. The Attorney-General should continue to advise the Government but we should create a new Public Prosecutor’s Office to decide on prosecution after the investigative agencies have done their jobs. This has to be done as soon as possible.

I appreciate that this is a major step. It requires a constitutional amendment because Article 145(3) of our Federal Constitution currently provides that the Attorney-General has absolute power to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence.

Additionally, the Criminal Procedures Code too will need to be amended because it currently says: “The Attorney-General shall be the Public Prosecutor and shall have the control and direction of all criminal prosecutions under this Code”.

The changes should be debated in this parliamentary meeting. If this is not done now, will anyone be able to save the Prime Minister’s credibility, regardless of what the investigation team finds?

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs ( http://www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

By Wan Saiful Wan Jan thinking liberally

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