To fellow US interest rate hike or to cut rates?



Fed RateEmerging economies in a dilemma on whether to follow suit or cut rates

“Specifically, we expect rate cuts in India, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand in 2016. We also project a further 75bps of rate cuts and a 200bps reduction in RRR in China’. – Credit Suisse

THE big question is what happens next?

The much anticipated hike in US interest rates on Thursday meant that for the first time in almost a decade, US interest rates are on the way up. The 25 basis point (bps) rise in US interest rates by The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to between 0.25% and 0.5% was made as the US economy showed tangible signs of improvement.

Such gains in the US economy through lower unemployment and higher forecast inflation has meant that the target for interest rates by the end of 2016 has been pegged at 1.5%, meaning that rates are expected to rise by 25 basis points every quarter until the end of next year.

The implications of what the US FOMC does reverberates throughout the world. Conventional thinking of the past is that higher rates in the US does put pressure on central banks elsewhere to follow suit.

But times have changed. Countries today have their own domestic economies and issues to manage and that has taken precedence over what the US does with its monetary policy.

It is clear that the de-coupling has taken place a long time ago. The European Union and Japan are still engaged in quantitative easing and are keeping rates near zero or in the case of the EU, in negative territory.

For Malaysia, the thinking is that with the difference between domestic and US interest rates still having a nice cushion, the focus of Bank Negara will be on the Malaysian economy.

Rate pressure: Should the path of the US rate cycle starts to steepen, economists say it will put pressure on Bank Negara as the ringgit may be pressured by inaction. – Reuters
Countries such as China cut its interest rates in October to 4.35% as it grapples with a slowing economy. Different priorities call for different action.

But analysts feel the move by the US does create a bit of a dilemma for policy makers. Raising rates does cool an economy, which is already shifting to a lower gear given the tangible cooling of major economic indicators.

Trimming interest rates further, while will help the economy, will put more pressure on the flow of capital. Analysts feel that might not be what the central bank will want to do at the moment considering the weakness of the ringgit not only against the US dollar this year but also against the currencies of its major trading partners.

“Our rate is accommodative for economic growth and Bank Negara can raise rates when the economy is slowing down,” says an economist with a local brokerage.

To each its own

The United States has been the traditional locomotive of growth for the world for much of recent history. But the emergence of China has changed that equation. Trade of the emerging world increases with China as the second largest economy of the world grows, its influence on Malaysia and the rest of Asia has become more affixed.

It is for that reason that some are speculating that emerging economies, such as Malaysia, will keep its eyes focused on what the People’s Bank of China does while having the US action in its periphery vision.

“We argue that Asian central banks’ monetary policy stance next year will be more influenced by economic and monetary policy cycles in China than in the past, and will diverge from the US. Unlike the previous US Fed hiking cycle when virtually all Asian central banks tightened their policies, we think this time Asian policy rates will stay lower for longer,” says Credit Suisse in a report.

“Specifically, we expect rate cuts in India, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand in 2016. We also project a further 75bps of rate cuts and a 200bps reduction in RRR in China.

“Given the challenging environment for exports, we expect growth in trade-dependent economies including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand to surprise the consensus on the downside. Meanwhile, more domestic-oriented economies with policy catalysts, including Indonesia and the Philippines, could outperform expectations considerably,” it says.

For Malaysia, the FOMC decision was keenly watched. Any time US interest rates move, Bank Negara pays close attention to it.

Is it the key determinant for the direction of domestic interest rates?

No, say economists. “Local conditions override what the US does,” says an economist.

For Malaysia, economists believe that the current overnight policy rate of 3.25% is appropriate to support growth. But they do too acknowledge that Malaysia is in a dicey situation depending on what happens next.

The general view is that the US will continue to push rates upwards. Just how rapidly will be important and as US rates goes up, the differential with Malaysia will narrow.

“If the local economy does as it is predicted, then there is a possibility of a small hike next year but there is no urgency to do that,” says an economist.

The question is what happens after next year should the path of the US rate cycle starts to steepen?

Economists say that will put pressure on Bank Negara as the ringgit might be pressured by inaction. As it is, the drop in crude oil prices is the most pressing issue affecting the value of the ringgit.

The effect on emerging currencies

Emerging markets have had a series of bad press over the past year. With sentiment souring and the outlook in the US getting brighter, it was no coincidence that the US dollar surged, gaining about 40% on average against emerging market currencies since May 2013.

But is it time for things to change?

Schroders thinks that might happen.

“It is difficult to argue that the Fed has been the sole factor in emerging market debt weakness. China hard landing fears, plummeting commodity prices, Brazilian political disarray, Russian policy concerns and general weakening of growth across all regions created a near perfect-storm for emerging market debt investors.

“However, a more predictable and less fraught path going forward for the Fed should help steady investor nerves and risk appetite. If developed market bond yields remain very low – as seems likely with a very slow hiking path, set out with some confidence – emerging market dollar yields may remain one of the few places to look for meaningful income generation for years to come,” it says.

Schroders says the move by the US Federal Reserve comes at a time when emerging market dollar debt seems particularly attractive.

“Yields in the primary sovereign dollar index are at highs not seen since 2010, when Treasury yields were much higher than today. Yield spreads over Treasuries for investment grade sovereign debt are just under 300 basis points, and remain at elevated levels that were last seen consistently during the European crisis of 2011. High yield sovereign debt currently has a yield to maturity of 8.5%.

“The divergence between developed market monetary policies has driven the dollar nearly 20% higher on a trade-weighted basis since July 2014. Emerging market currencies have fallen in lock step.

“With the European Central Bank now charting a path towards a steady dose of quantitative easing as growth in Europe stabilises, Fed predictability should help curb that dollar appreciation. Emerging market currencies should then likely steady at attractive levels, boosting sentiment towards the asset class. Even a modest virtuous cycle led by these factors could make emerging markets one of the strongest global fixed income performers next year, given today’s generous yield levels.”

By Jagdev Singh Sidhu The Star/Asia News Network

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World Internet Conference 2015 Live from Wuzhen, China

Video: President Xi Jinping delivers keynote speech at WIC

Chinese President Xi Jinping began to deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Second World Internet Conference (WIC) held in the river town of Wuzhen in east China’s Zhejiang Province Wednesday.

Xi calls for: No double standards in cyber security, cyber sovereignty, inclusive Internet community to build shared cyber future

WUZHEN, Zhejiang, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for joint efforts to combat cyber crimes and Internet terrorism, while underscoring that there should not be any double standards in safeguarding cyber security.

“We can not just have security for one or some countries, leaving the rest insecure, still less should one seek the so-called absolute security of itself at the expense of security of others,” Xi said in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Second World Internet Conference held in the river town of Wuzhen, east China’s Zhejiang.

Cyberspace is for all mankind. Its future should be in the hands of all nations and countries should step up communication, broaden consensus and deepen cooperation, the Chinese president said.

Xi Jinping has put forward five proposals to build a community of shared future in cyberspace.

Speaking at a government-organised conference in Wuzhen Town attended by executives of global and Chinese Internet companies, he called for efforts to speed up the building of global cyber infrastructure and promote connectivity.

“China stands ready to work with all parties concerned to come up with more investment and technical support to jointly advance the building of global cyber infrastructure and enable more developing countries and their people to share the development opportunities brought by the Internet,” Xi said.

China’s President Xi Jinping laid out his vision for the internet, calling for respect of different governance models and standardized online security, placing China at the front of debates on online control and sovereignty.

“Each country should join hands and together curb the abuse of information technology, oppose network surveillance and hacking, and fight against a cyberspace arms race,” Xi told China’s second World Internet Conference.

Major Internet players such as Facebook, Microsoft, and China’s Alibaba attended the conference.

Participants hail President Xi’s remarks at WIC

Participants hail President Xi’s remarks at WIC.


Commentary: “Shared and governed by all” only way for Internet to get out of “Hobbes Jungle”

BEIJING, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Twenty-eight years ago, the founding father of the German Internet Dr. Werner Zorn helped Beijing send its first email to the outside world, which said: “Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world.”

However, today, China, together with other developing countries, still find themselves trapped in a jungle due to an expanding digital divide and a lack of joint governance.

The divide, a technological gap between developing and developed countries on an international scale, is mainly caused by some Western countries’ arrogance and monopoly of information and communication technologies.

For example, the central nervous system of the global Internet with 13 root severs is completely dominated by the West, with the United States having 10 root severs while Britain, Sweden and Japan possess one respectively.

The ever-enlarging gap is detrimental to the stability and sustainable development of the international community, leading to anarchy in cyberspace and to some extent, gradually transforming it into a Hobbes Jungle where the stronger always has a bigger say over the destiny of smaller ones.

In addition, the divide has begun to show side effects like cybercrimes or even cyberterrorism as it accelerates social inequality, which provides fertile ground for extremism.

Like China, the United States is also a victim of cyberanarchy and such side effects. The recent shooting rampage in southern California, where two attackers radicalized by fanatical propaganda of the Islamic State (IS) on the Internet opened fire on innocent people, has sent a strong signal to Uncle Sam and its Western allies that they need to share and govern cyberspace with others.

After all, the Law of Jungle is relentlessly fair to everyone. In the long run, it neither favors the United States for its preponderance nor discriminates against the IS for its extremism.

In this sense, the opening of the Second World Internet Conference on Wednesday in China’s Wuzhen with the theme of “an interconnected world shared and governed by all — building a community of common future in cyberspace”, is a boon to nations worldwide threatened by the Law of Jungle.

If they want to get out of the jungle, they should bear three things in mind.

First, teamwork. Treat each other with respect and equality. The jungle is too enormous for egoism. Selfishness and hegemony worship will only ruin the mission. So the hefty ones like the United States should learn to cooperate if they want to defeat common enemies like cybercrimes.

Second, sharing. Don’t let the smaller ones be knocked out. Help them grow. Otherwise, they will become accomplices of the jungle. The Western countries who enjoy early advantages of information technology should loosen their restriction on technology transfers to developing countries.

Thirdly, joint governance. Never seek hegemony in decision-making. There are many paths to leave the jungle and the one you choose may not suit others. The governance of cyberspace needs the participation of all parties and all voices should be heard before a final decision is made.

By Tian Dongdong Xinhua

Cyber security depends on US cooperation

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks next to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (L) at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, January 13, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

China’s attempts to cooperate with the United States to safeguard the strategic stability of cyberspace have been welcomed, as the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong have suffered a series of high-profile cyber attacks this year, according to the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers Global State of Information Security Survey. The average financial loss caused by cyber-crimes in the region, says the report, rose 10 percent year-on-year to $2.63 million, compared with a 5 percent decline globally.

In cooperating to safeguard cyberspace, Beijing and Washington could seek the Internet equivalent of the code of safe conduct agreed between their militaries to avoid naval and air encounters, which has helped manage several bilateral disputes.

The two countries should first try their best to not point the finger at each other in case a conflict over cyber security emerges. The latest round of tensions in cyberspace started in early 2013, when American private security company Mandiant released a report, “APT1: Exposing One of China’s Cyber Espionage Units”, accusing the Chinese military of stealing US intellectual property.

Such a hysterical attitude, to a point, reflects the US’ anxiety over China’s impressive economic growth in the recent years. It is, therefore, important that the US seek to adjust its strategic perception of China and accept that the power gap between them is closing.

Beijing, on its part, ought to make more efforts to make its ideas clear to acquire a bigger say in global cyber-security affairs. Besides, neither country, especially the US, should make a habit of “making enemies” by taking irresponsible actions, even for the sake of national security.

True, most cutting-edge technologies in the age of the Internet can be lawfully and strategically used to gather military intelligence and keep cyber attacks at bay. But highly politicized discussions and operations, which used to be kept secret, can now be made public by the media today. So the challenge is to keep such details confidential.

In regard to China-US cyber cooperation, the major problem lies in Washington’s attempts to create enemies for political motives. Tactics such as exaggerating the perils of the so-called Chinese cyber-attacks and intimidating the American public and legislature with some selectively chosen materials, for example, have been routinely used by the US cyber-security authorities to create more room for political maneuverings and get more military budget.

Such tricks may have eased some of their pressure to safeguard homeland security, but they have come at the cost of cyberspace stability which China and the US both need. They have also failed to protect the two countries’ national interests, which need them to closely coordinate rather than oppose or accuse each other.

Washington should also be careful about its military industry, which is basically bolstered by certain security enterprises and departments trying to abduct the national security policy.

For some US security companies, gathering evidence on the imaginary cyber-attacks from China to help thwart them in the future can guarantee the consistent increase in their market values. Likewise, relevant governmental organs also tend to overstate the cyber security issue to increase their budget and influence security affairs.

China and the US should not let such parochial and hawkish mindset affect Washington’s cyber-security strategy, because neither country can emerge as winner in a cyber war; in fact, such a war will cause huge damage to the world. As a responsible major power, the US is obliged to push forward the China-US strategic dialogue on cyber security to make global cyberspace more stable, rather than using double standard to defend its controversial strategy and tactics, and condemn China for absurd reasons.

By Shen Yi (China Daily)
The author is an associate professor in the Department of International Politics at Fudan University in Shanghai.

China key to turning cyberspace truly global

A visitor tries out wearable device at the Light of the Internet Expo in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, Dec 14, 2015. [Photo /]

China holds a pivotal role in the Internet. It had more than 650 million Internet users by the end of last year and it is the largest and fastest growing information and communications technology consumer market in the world. The Chinese ICT sector is currently valued at €433 billion ($477.472 billion) and it is growing at an annual average rate of 7 percent, the fastest in the world. The country has made tremendous progress in Internet development in the past decade having become the most active e-commerce market in the world.

However, if we look at the distribution of the world’s ICT sector, China does not rank first. It ranks third. In 2012 China accounted for 13 percent of the world’s ICT, behind the United States (32 percent) and the European Union (23 percent). In the same year, the value of the EU’s ICT sector exceeded €516 billion.

These figures show the tremendous growth opportunities of China’s ICT industry. Obviously, the strategy should not be just to copy leading brands or seek to produce “Chinese” products. The ICT industry is not the car industry. It doesn’t just produce a series of final products; it produces interconnected systems too. In the ICT industry, we cannot innovate in isolation. Each single new product or system needs to be compatible — to interoperate — with those of upstream service providers and of the applications that users want.

Even more than in other globalized industries, the keyword in ICT is specialization. In other words, China should not promote investments in areas where other countries or economies are strong, but seek cooperation instead. In this regard, an analysis of the ICT statistics of China and the EU show how complementary China’s and Europe’s ICT sectors are.

China is very strong in manufacturing — more than 50 percent of the ICT sector comprises the manufacturing of telecom equipment, consumer electronics and electronic components. The EU instead dominates in high-end innovative services and IT applications, which together account for more than 55 percent of regional ICT sector.

The EU is a major technology hub and it can provide a key contribution for the growth of new ICT markets in China if adequate cooperation agreements are timely discussed and concluded, for example, in niche markets like the Internet of Things, smart cities, big data, e-health, cloud services, which will drive growth in the ICT industry in the next decade.

But opportunities for cooperation also exist in the “traditional” telecom segment. China and the EU are home to the world’s major telecom vendors. Synergies in 5G development are clear, especially following the signing of the EU-China Agreement on 5G last September in Beijing.

The EU-China political and economic relationship is very developed, though there are some challenges, which we need to overcome to improve cooperation in the digital field, such as the lack of mutual understanding of the reciprocal markets, divergences in the approach to cyber security and, related to it, a lack of global Internet confidence. Moreover there are substantial regulatory divergences between the Chinese and EU rules, for example, on consumer protection and data protection.

The EU has just started its ambitious “Digital Single Market” strategy, which should in the coming years reduce barriers to doing business across the EU’s internal borders, provide EU companies scale and resources to grow and make the EU an even more attractive location for global companies.

The EU’s Digital Single Market strategy will offer substantial investment opportunities to Chinese ICT companies.

However, in the global Internet ecosystem, the concept of attracting investment by making one’s investment conditions more attractive than those in competing economies is outdated. We need a global single, open cyberspace.

The second World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, could be the starting point of discussions between China and the EU, for instance, on how to facilitate online purchases of digital contents and to promote affordable high quality parcel delivery. Obviously, at a later stage anecdotal evidence should be complemented thorough academic study of respective Internet regulations in China and the EU.

By Luigi Gambardella (China Daily)
The author is president of ChinaEU, a non-profit platform aiming to boost bilateral digital cooperation.


Wuzhen showcases China’s Net prosperity

If we all apply the rules of the US, many societies could not afford the consequences.
Source: Global Times | 2015-12-16 0:48:01

Aerial view of Wuzhen, venue for World Internet Conference

Wuzhen World Internet Conference 2015

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  World Internet Conference to be held Dec 16~18 2015 Wuzhen China

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the upcoming Second World Internet Conference (WIC) in the river town of Wuzhen in east China …


Crowdfunding is slowly gaining credibility, helped entrepreneurs achieve their dreams

This alternative source of funding has helped many entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.

Ng (right) handing over a mock cheque to Jamaliatul Shahriah bt Jamaluddin, the project creator for YAKEEN Honey Booster after a successful round of funding on the platform.

CROWDFUNDING has gained a strong following as an alternative funding option over the past few years. Small businesses that have not been able to secure conventional financing are looking more and more towards the practice as a source of financing.

However, the level of awareness and interest in crowdfunding in Malaysia is still at its infancy stage, noted chief executive officer Kristine Ng.

“Maybe about one in 20 people have heard of the concept and understand exactly how it works. There are currently just a handful of noted platforms in the market. Some local companies try to raise funds on international platforms such as

“There is still a lot more which local players need to do to gain the credibility and recognition to grow further. And having the support from the local community would be a great boost for us,” she said.

Fundaztic, which rolled out in June this year, is among the handful of local crowdfunding players in the market. The platform was founded by a group of ex-bankers and a lawyer who have been following the development of financial technology (FinTech).

The potential of crowdfunding as an alternative funding platform is huge, said Ng, because access to funds has always been an issue, especially for new businesses and new business sectors that are viable but yet to have proven track-records.

Furthermore, Malaysians tend to be generally cautious when it comes to adopting new technology. Additionally, having to overcome the hurdle of building confidence in the credibility of the platforms would take a lot of time and effort for crowdfunding to be a significant part of the funding scene here.

Fundaztic has listed eight projects on its platform so far, with four projects currently in active funding stage.

But crowdfunding has taken the world by storm in the western countries and established strong platforms such as and that have helped many entrepreneurs bring their dreams and aspirations to life. Reports have even noted the possibility that the crowdfunding industry could account for more funding than venture capital (VC) in 2016.

A recent report by Massolution said global crowdfunding is set to raise US$34.4bil for 2015. In comparison, the VC industry invests an average of US$30bil each year.

“We truly believe that crowdfunding is a proven platform for like-minded people to support each other, and epitomises the meaning of ‘people power’ in an extremely positive manner,” Ng said. Fundaztic has listed eight projects on its platform so far, with four projects currently in active funding stage.

“We are happy that two of the projects are over-funded and have helped the project creators, who are both women and homegrown entrepreneurs, to grow their business in a risk free manner.

“This is the strongest benefit of crowdfunding. Entrepreneurs can leverage on the platform to gauge the level of public acceptance and support towards their products before having to splash out the funds on their own to commercialise a product or to stock up on inventory,” said Ng.

Funding on Fundaztic is through the concept of cornerstone funding whereby projects that are not able to meet its funding goal but have managed to generate at least 80% of the required funding, can get a maximum of 20% of the required funds from Fundaztic itself.

“Because we truly want all projects to be successful, we would be more than willing to hand-hold in the curation of the project so that the message will sink in well with the local community and thus, enjoy a higher degree of success,” Ng concluded. – The Starbiz

Entrepreneurs Slow to Market Via Equity Crowdfunding Platforms


Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide, talks about the rise of Giving Tuesday and the latest trend in charitable

Equity crowdfunding platforms are providing a new and innovative way to  raise money from angel investors that centralizes, streamlines, simplifies and shortens the fundraising process. Equity crowdfunding pools money from a group of investors via internet platforms, using social media and other types of marketing.

You might be surprised to learn that entrepreneurs, who are known for innovating in their products and services, are not innovating when it comes to the way they raise money. And  angel investors, who put money into innovations, are not innovating in the way they invest. Few entrepreneurs are marketing their securities offerings to angels online via crowdfunding.

That’s unfortunate, since angel investors provide about half as much financing as venture capitalists: $24 billion compared to $48 billion, according to the Center for Venture Research and MoneyTree, respectively. Angels, defined here as accredited investors who earn $200,000 annually (or $300,000 as a couple), or have a net worth, excluding their homes, in excess of $1 million, are more likely than VCs to focus on  seed and early-stage companies.

The State of Private Companies Publicly Raising Financing

This new public-facing financing method became possible on September 23, 2013, when the SEC put into effect the rules and regulations that allow private companies to advertise their securities offerings to angel investors. Previously, public solicitation was prohibited. Entrepreneurs now can market their securities offerings through websites such as AngelListCircleUpCrowdfunder and Portfolia.

Yet surprisingly few companies choose to seek funding publicly. Last year, 382,000 companies sought to raise money from angels in the real world. Fewer than 100 companies were added to those already trying to do so in the online world between January 1 and June 30, 2015, according to Crowdnetic, which aggregates data from 18 equity crowdfunding platforms.

The reality is that concerns about a new way of doing business often hold back adoption. I tackle these concerns in 6 Common Misconceptions About Equity Crowdfunding. The good news is that entrepreneurs who are embracing public-facing financing are blazing the trail, and best practices are emerging. I’ve written about some of those practices in How to Ensure a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign and in Stand Out In the Crowd: How Women (and Men) Benefit From Equity Crowdfunding

Women Entrepreneurs and Equity Crowdfunding: A Gap and Great Potential

Raising money via equity crowdfunding platforms has the potential to level the playing field for anyone raising money, but its impact may be greatest on underrepresented groups—such as women—who lag even further in taking advantage of this new approach. Women entrepreneurs are twice as likely to seek money offline from angels (36%) than publicly online (18%), according to the Center for Venture Research and Crowdnetic.

The average amount raised via crowdfunding is rising for companies in general ($412,000 as of the end of 2014 to $432,000 as of June 30, 2015) and falling for women-led companies ($331,000 as of the end of 2014 to $323,000 as of June 30, 2015).

This gap highlights tremendous potential. “The Kauffman Foundation reports that women build capital-efficient companies, generating 12% more revenue on one third less capital,” according to Kay Koplovitz, chairman and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator for women-led businesses in technology, media and life sciences. “[Think] how much more productive they could be if they raised capital on a par with men!”

Types of Securities Used

You may wonder what types of securities other entrepreneurs use when raising money. A majority (58%) issue stock as their method of financing. Nearly one third of entrepreneurs choose  convertible note, which allows them not to set an equity valuation at the time of the investment or to simply pay back the money within a set period of time prior to taking in permanent equity capital.

There are other financing structure options, such as revenue sharing or royalty agreements, but these are far less likely to be used. Depending on your long-term goal for the company, a securities lawyer can  advise you on which is the right form for you..

Top Locations for Equity Crowdfunding

It’s no surprise that the top location for equity crowdfunding activity and deals is the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area, both for entrepreneurs in general and for women-led companies in particular.

Over the past few decades, this area has developed a strong culture of entrepreneurship. It takes a village to build a growth company and to provide the ancillary support that makes growth possible. San Francisco/Silicon Valley has a long tradition of assisting high-potential entrepreneurs, not just with capital but with expertise and connections to customers, talent and vendors.

New York City is in second place. Worth noting are the high performance of relatively small cities such as Austin and Las Vegas, which rank among the top ten cities for raising money publicly online.

Other Signs That Equity Crowdfunding Is Gaining Credibility

Venture capitalists recognize the potential of crowdfunding and have invested in these platforms to the tune of $250 million in 2014, according to Massolution’s 2015CF Crowdfunding Industry Report. Big-name companies such as Coca-Cola, Nike, General Mills and Chrysler use crowdfunding platforms not to raise money but to gain insights into consumers.


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Penang Forum concerns over hill clearing and floods; the Declaration & Recommendation

Under fire over hill slope developments

Penangites upset with approval of high-rises on slopes…

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government has come under fire for the clearing of hills and high number of high-rise buildings approved on slopes above the permitted 76m and 25-degree gradient.

Environmentalist and scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng claimed that massive hill clearing from 2008 to 2015 at Pantai Acheh and Teluk Bahang endangered the lush hills at the Penang National Park boundary where the Teluk Bahang Dam is situated.

She also said the state government claims to listen to the people but went ahead and redesignated Bukit Relau, infamously known as Botak Hill, as a residential zone in 2012 amidst massive protest against the development of the hill.

She also decried the big number of projects approved on slopes above 76m and 25-degree gradient when the Penang Structure Plan clearly stated that there could be no development on such slopes.

Dr Kam was delivering a talk titled, ‘What is happening to our hills’ at the Save The Hills of Penang public forum at Dewan Sri Pinang here yesterday.

A handout distributed to the 300-odd participants of the event claimed that 30 blocks of high-rise buildings were approved on such slopes in Paya Terubong, 15 blocks in Bayan Lepas, 14 blocks in the Tanjung Bungah/Batu Ferringhi belt and nine blocks in Teluk Kumbar/Balik Pulau.

Universiti Sains Malaysia deputy vice-chancellor Dr Sharom Ahmat said hill development above 76m could be approved under ‘special projects’ if it benefits the masses but added that “bungalows costing RM4mil to RM5mil are barely for the people.”

In his talk titled, ‘Why are we here today?’, he claimed that public hearings seemed to be more of a formality as decisions were made before such hearings.

Environmentalist and engineer K.K. Lim, in his presentation ‘Are our hills protected by the government’, said the rampant development on the hills could see a repeat of the Highland Towers tragedy in 1993.

He said soil erosion due to rain and the lack of water retention because of hill clearing could bring a major disaster in the event of a landslide.

In her talk ‘Hill Offenders: Fine? Jail? Nothing?’, lawyer Datuk Agatha Foo said the RM500,000 and RM50,000 fines for violations under the Town and Country Planning Act and State Drainage and Building Act respectively were not a deterrent.

“It is merely a slap on the wrist,” she said, claiming that developers pay the fine as part of their development expenditure.

A declaration was made at the end of the half-day forum. It among others, urged the state government to comply with its own policy of prohibiting development on hill land above 76m or greater than 25-degree gradient and not to include ordinary residential buildings as special projects.

It also called upon the state government and Penang Island City Council to prosecute violators to the full extent of the law, including imposing jail sentences and to blacklist all offenders for future development projects.

Two PKR elected representatives were among those who attended the event organised by the Penang Forum which is a loose coalition of public-interest civil society groups. They were Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin and Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T. Jayabalan.

By Sekaran The Star

Forum Declaration & Recommendation:

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Uphill battle: A hiker passing by a vegetable farm on Penang Hill overlooking Air Itam. Treasured heritage seems t…


Save Penang Hill from the greedy

Uphill battle: A hiker passing by a vegetable farm on Penang Hill overlooking Air Itam.

Treasured heritage seems to be losing its charm to illegal farms and development

THE stall at the Air Itam market in Penang is said to offer the best asam laksa in Malaysia.

Rain or shine, it pulls in the crowd.

The ingredients for the dish such as ginger bud (bunga kantan), mint leaves (daun pudina), laksa leaves (daun kesum) and kalamansi limes (limau kasturi) come from Penang Hill, which is less than 200m away.

Farmers who cultivate the land at the hillslope sell their produce at the wet markets on the island.

The fertile hillslope from Air Itam to Paya Terubong is cultivated with vegetables and fruits.

Demand for the produce is so great that farmers are illegally clearing the hillslope to expand their farms.

About 2km from the market along Jalan Paya Terubong, there is a trail leading to a hillslope.

Lately, hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts have been using the trail to reach the 135-year-old Cheng Kon Tse Temple, nestled on the slope of the hill.

Travellers can see vegetable farms and fruit trees on both sides of the trail.

There are nutmeg trees, kalamansi lime trees, papaya and banana trees.

The vegetables include lemon grass, lady fingers and sweet potato.

As one continues walking up, a large swathe of hillslope which had been cleared near the telecommunication towers comes into view.

The bald patch can be seen from the Paya Terubong road below.

The slopes on Penang Hill have been cleared by farmers over the past few decades.

Such illegal hillslope clearing has been raised by environmental groups but there has been no firm action from the authorities.

A former Penang Island City Councillor claimed that he had provided pictures of the clearings to state leaders and that he had also raised the matter with the Consumers Association of Penang and Malaysian Nature Society.

“The press should continue to highlight the issue so that something is done finally,” said the former councillor who did not want to be identified for fear that the farmers might go after him.

“Penang Hill is our heritage. But no one seems to bother,” he said.

Besides Penang Hill, bald patches are also appearing on hills in several parts of the island.

Bukit Relau in Jalan Bukit Gambier has been dubbed “botak hill”.

There is also hill clearance in Bukit Kukus in Paya Terubong and Bukit Laksamana, a water catchment for the Teluk Bahang Dam.

More and more hillslopes are going bald because of developers and contractors who cleared the land without the authorities’ approval.

The clearings are done on weekends and smoke can be seen from far when the trees are burnt.

A large swathe of land has also been cleared at a place referred by hikers as level 45 station.

It should not be difficult to nab the culprits since there are cemented trails all over the hillslopes in Air Itam and Paya Terubong.

When The Star reported on Feb 14 last year that more bald spots could be seen, a state exco member said they had pictures of the illegal activity and that action would be taken against the culprits but till now, no one knows what the action is.

It is troubling that all this is happening under a state government which emphasises on Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

Penang Hill seems to be losing its charm.

Yet, the state government seems to be focused on mega projects and land reclamation.

At a state assembly sitting last month, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the Penang Island City Council was using drones to check on illegal hill clearing and CCTVs would be installed next year to monitor illegal earthworks.

The spate of hill clearings has prompted the Penang Forum, a coalition of public interest NGOs, to hold a forum on Save the Hills of Penang tomorrow.

Hopefully, the outcome from the event will reach the right ears.

There is a compelling need to save the hills from greedy farmers and developers.

Comment by K. Suthakdar

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World Internet Conference to be held Dec 16~18 2015 Wuzhen China

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the upcoming Second World Internet Conference (WIC) in the river town of Wuzhen in east China’s Zhejiang Province, an official announced on Wednesday.

Xi is expected to deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the conference, which is scheduled to be held between Dec. 16 and 18, said Lu Wei, minister in charge of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), at a press conference.

More than 2,000 attendees from over 120 countries and regions will participate in the conference, with foreign guests accounting for roughly half, Lu said.

Conference participants include representatives of governments, international organizations, Internet companies, academics, experts, think tanks and foreign and domestic college students.

The representatives also include the prime ministers of Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as senior officials from the United Nations, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Lenovo, Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.

The conference will cover 22 topics, including Internet cultural transmission, Internet innovation and development, digital economy cooperation, Internet technology standards and cyber space management.

Ten sub-forums will be held during the conference on topics such as the “Internet Plus” strategy, digital China and Internet innovation.

An expo and more than 80 press conferences will be held during the second WIC, showcasing cutting-edge technology and the latest achievements from about 260 enterprises from all over the world.

Local officials from Zhejiang Province praised the changes the WIC has brought to Wuzhen and provincial economic development. They vowed to provide high-quality services for the conference.

Lu also defended the CAC’s role in Internet management when responding to questions about access to some foreign websites, saying their business activities should abide by China’s laws and regulations.

“China adheres to reform and opening up to the outside world,” said Lu, adding that “for those foreign firms that want to enter China, there is a basic rule: they must abide by Chinese laws and regulations.”

Lu proposed joint efforts to build a “peaceful, safe and transparent” Internet for the welfare of people worldwide.

Guo Weimin, deputy head of the State Council Information Office (SCIO), said the SCIO will provide on-the-spot press release service during the second WIC.

The conference will be co-hosted by the CAC and Zhejiang provincial government.

The first WIC was held in Wuzhen in November last year.


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Being constantly connected online has bad consequences: harming memory, make you stupid

How much is too much?: Studies have found that Internet is harming our memory, especially short-term or working memory
How Smart Phones Make You Stupid
– Consumer Association of Penang (CAP)

Being constantly connected to the digital world has its consequences – setting the rules with social media

In order to have a more harmonious marriage, H and I have decided that we need some rules.

Recently, we came up with Rule No. 1: You can only repeat something once.

It’s been really helpful in keeping the nagging level of our marriage down. In the past, we would nag at each other quite a bit.

It has worked so well, we thought we should introduce more rules.

A few weeks back, he suggested Rule No. 2: No Googling and checking of e-mail at the dining table and just before we sleep.

I baulked.

What a ridiculous rule, I said. It’ll be impossible for me to agree to it and it’s not fair because it’s targeted at me.

How can I not be checking my e-mail all the time, I continued. I am a journalist. I must know what’s happening and I must be contactable 24/7. What if a story breaks? I need to know at once. I was, of course, exaggerating my own importance.

The world and the newsroom chug along just fine whether or not I am online. My bosses don’t expect me to be constantly connected (I think).

I was using work as an excuse. An excuse for an affliction I am finally coming around to acknowledging, but which H has noticed for some time: I have an addiction.

I have an addiction to Googling, to my smartphone, to my iPad, to being connected to the digital world.

My phone follows me everywhere I go. I sleep with it inches away from my pillow and my nights (as well as his) are punctuated with beeps, blips and pings from the many message notifications streaming in.

I check my phone goodness knows how many times a day, to look at my e-mail, WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and a few other apps.

When I’m at the cinema, I’m one of those irritating people whose phone screen lights up during a movie because I’m checking it.

I literally break out in a cold sweat when I misplace my phone.

At home, I walk around not only with my phone, but also my tablet.

I am addicted to Googling on my iPad. I can spend an entire day in bed just Googling (oh, bliss). Sometimes, when the Wi-Fi speed is acting up, I Google on both my phone and tablet at the same time, just in case one gets to the information I want quicker.

“You’re addicted,” H says.

“I’m not,” I say. “It’s my job. I am not addicted. I know when to stop.”

To prove my point, I went onto Google (of course) to try out some are-you-an-Internet-addict tests.

The most helpful article I came across was in Yahoo by Dr James Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor University in Texas in the United States.

He explained that anything that can produce pleasure in our brain has the potential of becoming addictive and what makes something an addiction is when we lose control.

Research, he said, has identified “six signs” of any type of substance or behavioural addiction.

These signs relate to issues connected to salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse. I have a problem. But the situation isn’t that dire, I’d like to think.

Still, I shouldn’t be complacent. It can’t be pleasant living with someone who doesn’t give you her full attention because her nose is always stuck in a screen. It is also rude.

At work, I have got into the bad habit of not looking at colleagues I’m talking to because I’m also typing away on my phone or computer.

At meetings when I’m just the slightest bit bored, I find it hard to resist reaching for my phone and checking my e-mail, which is impolite to the person who’s speaking.

My attachment to my devices can be dangerous – I walk and text a lot. The intense and constant staring at screens is causing eye strain.

Studies have also found that the Internet is harming our memory, especially short-term or working memory.

Information overload and distractions – hallmarks of Internet surfing – make it harder to retain information in our brains.

When we know a digital device holds information for us, we are also less likely to remember it ourselves. It has been years since I memorised anyone’s telephone number. I’m not even sure I can do it now.

Having so much information at my fingertips has made my brain lazy and mushy.Google makes you feel clever when you really aren’t.

Also, while social media like Facebook have been praised for bringing people closer, they can in fact isolate us when we use them in place of face-to-face interactions.

As for H and me, I think I should agree to some version of Rule No. 2 if I want a happier marriage.

Totally no Googling and checking of e-mail at the dining table and just before we sleep might not be doable.

But I can live with “less” Googling and checking of e-mail. One step at a time

By Sumiko Tan The Straits Times/Asia News Network


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