Can Malaysia’s household debt at 87.9% in 2014 be reduced to 54% ?


BEING a teenager, my granddaughter started to pick up interest on how the economy works, what are the real assets and liabilities in one’s financial planning. As the topic itself can be slightly “dry”, I made an attempt to discuss it in a way that was easier for her to digest.

“Our national household debt to GDP ratio edged up to 87.9% last year. Is the number alarming?” she asked one day.

“It depends. We have good debts and bad debts in life. For example, 10 years later, our new cars may have depreciated more than 80% and our new clothes would have been worn out. Those are liabilities. On the other hand, houses are assets as they will appreciate in the long run. Debts which are backed by appreciating assets are considered good debts,” I said.

As she nodded in agreement with my simple explanation of good debts and bad debts, her question has piqued my curiosity to look into the details of our household debt.

Overall, is our nation having more good debts or bad debts?

Bank Negara report shows that our household debt was at RM940.4bil or 87.9% of GDP as at end of 2014. Residential housing loans accounted for 45.7% (RM429.7bil) of total debts, hire purchase at 16.6%, personal financing stood at 15.7%, non-residential loans were 7.7%, securities at 6.5%, followed by credit cards and other items at 3.9% respectively.

At first glance, our residential housing loans were the highest among all types of household debts. However, a recent McKinsey Global Institute Report highlighted that in advanced countries, mortgages or housing loans comprise 74% of total household debt on average. As a country that aspires to be a developed nation by 2020, our housing loans that stand at 45.7% is considered low. In other words, we are spending too much on other depreciating items instead of appreciating assets like houses.

If advanced economies, which are usually consumer nations, have only 26% debts on non-housing loans, we shouldn’t have as high as 54% loans on items such as hire-purchase (which are mostly cars), personal loans, credit cards and others.

If we were to follow the household debt ratio of advanced economies, our housing loans of RM429.7bil should be at 74% of total household debts, and other loans should be reduced from 54% to 26%, i.e. from RM510.7bil to RM150.9bil. With such reduction, total household debt would be slashed significantly from RM940.4bil to RM580.6bil (existing housing loans plus reduced non-housing loans), the amount would be at 54.2% of GDP instead of 87.9%.

I am wondering why we can’t have a household debt to GDP ratio of 54.2% as illustrated above. Are we spending too much on depreciating items?

Non-housing loans comprise mainly borrowings for cars, personal loans and credit cards. Car value depreciates about 10% to 20% per year based on insurance calculation and accounting practice. Borrowings for personal loans and credit card are also likely to depreciate over time which can be dubbed as “bad debt”.

Perhaps it is time for the Government to introduce massive cooling off measures for non-housing loans in order to curb bad debt in our household debt.

According to our Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister, our homeownership rate currently stands at 50% and the Government strives to increase the number with more affordable homes. As a comparison, almost 85% of Singaporeans are homeowners.

We can expedite the above vision if more stringent measures are imposed on non-housing loans, it will free up more resources for household financial planning. The rakyat should be encouraged to secure a roof over their heads with effective execution of affordable housing policy by the Government.

It is time to re-look our debt categories and reallocate our resources appropriately. If we are willing to cut back on cars, clothes, shoes and other depreciating items, reducing a household debt to GDP ratio of 54.2% is not only an aspiration, but an achievable reality.

By ALAN TONG Food for Thought

And the more beneficial effect is, more rakyat will have the financial resources to own a house, which is both a shelter and an appreciating asset.

■ FIABCI Asia-Pacific regional secretariat chairman Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

 

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Milestone for tech firm: Toray Group starts production of battery film at new division in Penang


Toray Battery film Penang openingRed letter day: (From left) Hagiwara, Lim and Toray Battery Separator Film Co Ltd president O. Inoue checking out Penfibre products used in electronic tools during the opening of the division.

'TORAY'Innovation by ChemistryPenfibre Sdn Bhd has launched its Battery Separator Film (BSF) division in Bayan Lepas, Penang. The company is a member of  Toray Group in Malaysia and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toray Industries, Inc

Penfibre Sdn Bhd managing director K. Kurokawa said the company obtained its International Procurement Centre licence last year to process and market BSF in Penang.

“Located at our sister company’s premises Penfabric in the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, the RM15mil BSF project was smoothly completed last year despite extensive renovation work.

“Commercial production started early this year,” he said in his speech during the opening of the BSF division at the Equatorial Hotel recently.

He added that the division was capable of producing a high value-added BSF trademark under the name of Setela for supply to regional buyers for use in lithium batteries.

Toray Industries Inc senior vice president S. Hagiwara said Toray was a leading global supplier of polyester film, commanding a combined global market share of about 20%.

Toray produces and sells many types of films under the trademark ‘Lumirror’. They are used in a wide range of applications.

“To date, we have established sound manufacturing and delivery systems at six major bases worldwide in Japan, the United States, France, Korea, China and Malaysia,” said Hagiwara.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said Toray was now one of the single largest investors in Penang and Malaysia.

“Thank you to Toray for providing thousands of job opportunities for Malaysians over the last four decades,” he said.

He said Penang’s approved manufacturing investments increased to RM8.2bil last year, which is a 109% increase from RM3.9bil in 2013.

“This made Penang the state with the highest investment after Johor and Sarawak,” he said.

He added that total investments in Penang increased to RM48.2bil from 2008 to 2014.

Lim also commended Toray Group (Malaysia) for their contributions via several corporate social responsibility programmes.

These included providing the RM6mil electronic scoreboard at Batu Kawan Stadium in 1999 and setting up the Malaysia Toray Science Foundation in 1993 and the Toray USM Knowledge Transfer Centre with a donation of RM4mil.

Toray also contributed RM300,000 towards the Tech-Dome Penang project recently.- The Starmetro

THE OPENING OF PENFIBRE BATTERY SEPARATOR FILM (BSF) DIVISION

SPEECH BY YAB TUAN LIM GUAN ENG THE RIGHT HONORABLE CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
AT THE LUNCHEON HELD IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE OPENING OF PENFIBRE BATTERY SEPARATOR FILM (BSF) DIVISION
ON 23RD APRIL 2015 AT HOTEL EQUATORIAL, PENANG

Good afternoon.

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to attend this luncheon, held in conjunction with the official opening of the Battery Separator Film Division at Penfibre this morning.

On behalf of the government and people of Penang, I would like to extend our heartiest congratulations to Toray for another milestone in your business expansion, particularly in the State of Penang.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From a humble beginning where Toray Industries Inc., Japan first invested in Penang in 1973, we are proud to see that TORAY Group (Malaysia) has grown and expanded tremendously over the last 40 over years. With approximately RM4.5 billion investment to date and annual sales revenue of over RM4.1 billion from Penfibre, Penfabric, Toray Plastics (Malaysia) and Toray BASF PBT Resin, Toray is now one of the single largest investors in Penang and Malaysia. Thank you to Toray for providing thousands of job opportunities to our Malaysians over the last 4 decades.

Penang’s approved manufacturing investments increased to RM 8.2 billion in year 2014 compared to RM 3.9 billion in year 2013, a significant 109% increased. This made Penang the top 3 State with the highest investment, after Johor and Sarawak. Total investments in Penang has increased 93.6% to RM48.2 billion for the seven years period of 2008 to 2014, compared to the previous seven years period of 2001 to 2007 which was only RM24.9 billion. The jobs created has also increased 20.1% to 109,592 compared to 91,252 for the same period.

Going forward, it is important for Penang to stress on establishing Penang as a centre of science and technology through the Tech-Dome Penang project. Supported by our strong commitment to the Penang Government’s CAT policy, which stresses on “Competency”, “Accountability” and “Transparency”, it is our fervent hope that the bond and cooperation between all stakeholders will bring about a better tomorrow for every one of us.

I am happy to note that TORAY Group (Malaysia) has never failed in coming forward to support our nation building, through the various community projects under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), namely:

• the RM2.5 Million Seberang Jaya Swimming Pool Complex in 1982,

• the RM6.0 Million Electronic Scoreboard at Batu Kawan Stadium in 1999,

• the establishment of the Malaysia Toray Science Foundation (MTSF) in 1993 to promote science and technology in Malaysia,

• the setting up of the “TORAY-USM KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER CENTRE” with a donation of RM4.0 Million to Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and

• the recent cash contribution of RM300 thousand towards the Tech-Dome Penang project.

In conclusion, I would like to once again congratulate Toray for having successfully established this new BSF Division in Penang. I am confident that Toray Group will enjoy even greater success in your future endeavors.

Thank you.

Chief Minister of Penang – Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang

Wake up and live: Hiking can build confidence, health, endurance, stamina and fitness!


Hiking_Shereen Teng
Shereen Teng clambering up rocks at Gunung Rinjani.
It took death and sickness to make one girl change her life… and start hiking.

Shereen Teng? That petite girl … a hiker? You must be kidding. This was the reaction of anyone who knew me well back then.

I was a couch potato-cum-workaholic who was glued to the TV during my free time. After work, I rushed home to watch my favourite Korean actor in action – Lee Min Ho. During peak periods, I spent hours in the office working like there was no tomorrow.

But in 2011, my life took a 360 degree turn and I transformed from a typical “girlish” lady into an outdoor person.

Let me reminisce what inspired me to transform my lifestyle back then. I had just joined a new company and firstly, there was shocking news about a lady there. After being diagnosed with cancer, she passed away three months later, leaving behind her two little children.

Secondly, during the first week on my new job, I worked until the wee morning hours even though I had very high fever. To keep my temperature down, the doctor jabbed me with painkillers. I was eventually hospitalised for one night due to an extreme allergic reaction (my whole body was swollen).

Hiking_Shereen Teng1

Teng (seated in orange) with her team mates at the top of Gunung Rinjani, Lombok, Indonesia. Photos: SHEREEN TENG

These two events woke me up. I didn’t want to die as a person with a meaningless life. And so I decided it was time to make a difference in my life and all those around me.

Being a Facebook addict, I browsed through many groups and found Boots n Fins, which organises activities such as hiking and scuba diving.

I decided to try hiking. Who knows, maybe I would enjoy it.

I signed up for a hike to Gunung Datuk, Negri Sembilan. There were carpooling arrangements, and I braced myself to meet a couple of strangers – YY Wong and Tamil Selvam – in front of Subang Parade. People thought I was crazy because I might end up being kidnapped!

But I had to take my chances. Being my inaugural hike, I was not prepared with the proper gear. Instead, I was just clad in a shirt, long pants and sports shoes. After an hour of driving, we reached the place. It was a very bright sunny day, perfect weather for hiking.

The initial part of the hike past a river was reasonably easy. Then, we had to ascent a very steep trail. My heart sank and I thought, “Why in the world did I sign up for this? Why torture myself?”

I hardly exercised back then and I worried if my legs could handle it. But step by step, I pulled myself uphill, stopping many times to catch my breath. Along the way, I met a girl called San San and her friends. It was strangely conforting to see that they were also exhausted.

After hiking for about three hours, I reached the top. The view was breathtakingly beautiful and I immediately fell in love with the place!

At the top of Gunung Kutu, near Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor.

Then we had to descend and my leg muscles started to cramp. Oh no! We had to hike a long way back to reach the trailhead. I used all my strength and slowly pulled myself together. After hiking for an hour, I almost wanted to give up, but I had no choice – no one was going to carry me down.

San San and the other girls, kept on encouraging me and shouted, “Jia You! Jia You!” in Mandarin, which means “Do your best!”. Yet, I was exhausted and could hardly feel my legs. I felt as if I was crippled, sitting in a wheelchair.

Slowly, I kept on going, even though my legs felt like lead. After an hour more of sheer torture, I finally reached the bottom.

For a week after the hike, I could hardly walk. Yet it was the most memorable hiking experience ever. And it led me to many more adventures. Hiking has strengthened me physically and mentally. I have joined other groups such as the KL Hiking and Trail Running group.

I can hardly believe it … but I have made a difference in my life. I am overjoyed that I have succeeded in climbing many mountains, including Rinjani (Indonesia) and Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. My journey in hiking will never cease. I am glad to say that I am no longer a couch potato!

If I can do it, I am sure everyone can too. Carpe Diem! Seize the day!

By Shereen Teng The Star/Asia News Network

Building stamina: A hiker goes from hill to Mount KinabaluHiking_Jason Lim

Jason Lim made it to peak of Mount Kinabalu on his second try.

After struggling and sweating buckets, climbing a modest hill, one hiker has since done Kinabalu three times.

“Let’s climb Mount Kinabalu,” said a friend. That’s how it all started for my big climb up there.

Since joining the workforce in 2001, life was mostly about work and then spending the hard-earned money on food, gadgets, holidays, etc.

Exercise decreased and pounds were beginning to build up, no thanks to my job which sometimes involves hours of “yum cha” (tea drinking) business development sessions.

Mount Kinabalu first struck my interest when my colleague showed wonderful pictures taken during her climb to the summit. And in early 2008, when Ben, one of my “yum cha” kaki, suggested a climb to Mount K, I promptly agreed.

This was the beginning of my hiking journey. Prior to that, I had also noticed that my fitness level was at the lowest level since school days. Joining the trip was a way to push myself to be fit again and to prove that I still had what it takes.

Our training brought me to Bukit Tabur, Apek Hill and Batu Caves (all around Kuala Lumpur) as well as Gua Tempurung (Perak). These were places which I would not have thought of going if I had not taken up the challenge.

I still remember our first hike at Apek Hill in Cheras, KL. At the end, I felt like I had just gone through a detox programme, after sweating out what seemed like litres of toxins from my body. Though it was really tiring, I felt completely “refreshed” and knew that there was a lot more to be done.Hiking_Jason Lim1

Jason Lim (centre) with his friends on a training climb up Bukit Tabur, near Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Jason Lim

Among all the places I’ve climbed, I would say Bukit Tabur has probably the most wonderful scenery. It’s also challenging enough to build your endurance and stamina.

We had about six months to prepare for our big climb. For anyone planning to conquer Mount K, I would say it’s good to train up your stamina consistently. However, my training regime was not very consistent – I paid for this later.

Our climb was on Aug 30 and 31, 2008 (Merdeka Day) and the seven of us rented a van to send us to Kinabalu Park from Kota Kinabalu (KK) city before sunrise.

The climb started in a joyous and excited mood, but close to the third kilometre of the trail, accident struck. The trail was wet and slippery from an earlier downpour and Ben accidentally slipped, fracturing his ankle. The team were shocked and sad for him as he was the one who had pulled the group together for this trip and made all the arrangements. He had to be escorted back to Kinabalu Park by our guide, and eventually transferred to KK for hospital admission.

Our spirits were a bit down but we continued our journey and eventually the last of us reached (the halfway point of) Laban Rata around 4pm.

Rain started to pour midway and we had to put on raincoat for the last half of the hike.

The journey to the peak started around 2:30am the next day. Of the six of us, only four completed it. One of us suffered from altitude sickness not long after starting the climb, while the other one who didn’t make it was myself. I gave up about 500 metres away from the peak.

But having made it that far, I was still very proud of my achievement, though there were some regrets till this day for not completing it. At that time, somehow I just didn’t feel like I had the stamina. Now you know why I say consistent training is important.

Drenched with rain at Laban Rata, halfway to the Mount Kinabalu.

 We continued our regular hiking sessions after his recovery, and less than two years later, I went back to Mount K again with Ben and different group members. Better prepared and trained this time, I eventually made it to the peak this round. However Ben didn’t due to altitude sickness.

But the most important part of it was, both of us had tried our best. And along the way, we built a friendship that we treasure. Thanks Ben for bring me back to fitness!

The climbs up Mount K have definitely brought back the “exercise mode” back to me. I started running, cycling and hitting the gym more from then on.

As for my health, I have managed to prevent my blood pressure level from going up further, and my stamina has also improved so much. I did a third Mount K climb in 2012 and the time taken to reach Laban Rata was 25% less than the first climb.

I have come so far since my first training session at Apek Hill where I was struggling to just keep up with the other regular climbers who were mostly uncles and aunties!

 

By Jason Lim The Star/Asia News Network

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Remembering the legacy of Bandung, Sandakan death and Hiroshima bombing


THIS year marks the 60th anniversary of the historic Bandung Conference
and the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
 A copy of the final “atomic bomb” leaflet, I think? I don’t read Japanese, but this was attached to the above memo. If you do read Japanese, I’d love a translation. Please ignore my thumb in the corner — it’s hard to photograph documents that are bound like these ones were.  http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2013/04/26/a-day-too-late/

In order to commemorate the past, a series of conferences and events have been held, the most recent being the Afro-Asian Conference hosted by Indonesia President Jokowi this week. The first Bandung Conference was called by the first Indonesia President Sukarno in April 1955 among newly independent Asian and African nations, beginning what was later known as the Non-Aligned Movement against colonialism. Twenty-nine countries participated, representing 1.5 billion people or just over half of the world’s population. It was the first time that leaders of these countries met to discuss their future after the end of colonialism.

The conference was historic because it was attended not only by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, but also Egyptian President Gamal Nasser, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, Muhammad Ali Jinnah of Pakistan, U Nu of Burma, Nkrumah of Ghana and Tito of Yugoslavia, all giants not only in their countries, but makers of history in the 20th century.

The United States did not attend because it was not sure whether it sided with the European colonial powers or its new role as an ex-colony liberating the world.

The Bandung Conference was a conference of hope that the newly independent nations would build themselves into a zone of peace, prosperity and stability. On the whole, despite some failures, they succeeded. By 2013, these countries together have a GDP of US$21.2 trillion or 28.1% of world GDP, significantly improved compared with their share of less than one-fifth of world GDP in 1955.

Aug 6, 2015 will also mark the 70th anniversary of the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which led to the end of World War Two on the Pacific side.

Lest we forget, World War Two was a horrific period, since the world lost between 50 million and 80 million people or 3% of world population. Japan lost 2-3 million during that war, but the rest of Asia suffered estimated losses of up to 10 times that number.

Even though memories are fading, there is still a generation who remembered the hardships and atrocies of war, from personal experience of family being killed, bombed or flight as refugees. Even a remote country like Australia could not escape that war. Australian soldiers fought heroically in Kokoda Trail to repell the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea in 1942. If not stopped, Australia could have fallen to Japanese hands, changing the course of history.

Image result for sandakan death marchBut the 625 Australian deaths defending the Kokoda Trail paled in comparison to the Sandakan Death March, in which 2,345 Australian prisoners of war died marching from their prisoner of war camp in Sandakan across primitive jungle in Sabah. Only six Australians survived those marches in early 1945, only because they escaped. One in 12 of every Australian who perished in the war died in that death march.

My impressions of this incident are indelible, growing up in Sandakan and following the trail across Sabah on a road built by the Australians to commemorate their dead. It fascinated me that man could be that cruel to other human beings to send them across the virgin jungle without food to certain death.

On June 9, 2014, when Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe addressed the Australian parliament, he did mention Kokoda and Sandakan. In it, he did not offer an apology, but he did sent his “most sincere condolences towards the many souls who lost their lives.” This was very Japanese English, because one gives condolences to the living, not the dead.

Image result for Hitler's Abe imagesIn the Afro-Asian Conference this week in Bandung, he rephrased his words as follows, “Japan, with feelings of deep remorse over the past war, made a pledge to remain a nation always adhering to those very principles (of Bandung) throughout, no matter what the circumstances.”

We note that he is already shifting the official Japanese view on the war from his predecessors Murayama and Koizumi, who offered “deep remorse and heartfelt apology,” in their statements about the war in the 1995 and 2005 anniversaries respectively.

I always thought that the difference between remorse and shame is one that differentiates Western and Asian values. A remorse is a feeling of regret that something has happened but there is no sense of guilt. Shame is a feeling you have injured someone else and you feel guity about it, and you want to make amends.

There is a sharp difference between the German and Japanese attitudes. Seventy years after the war, the German courts are going to try the 93-year old “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, whereas the Japanese are still revising their history books on what really happened.

What makes Abe’s “deep remorse” poignant is that he is a leader of a faction that wants to re-arm Japan by changing its constitution and he regularly visited or sent ritual offerings to the Yasukuni shrine, which contains the shrines for 14 class A war criminals. Even the Japanese emperor has not visited Yasukuni after these enshrinements.

Most Asians like myself have great respect for Japan, but feel uneasy that the Japanese are beginning to whitewash their role in the war. The Yasukuni shrine has an accompanying museum that seems to suggest not only that the Nanking massacre did not occur, but that US actions to deny Japan energy resources pushed it into war. But these do not explain why Japan invaded China in 1937.

On the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War, will the US leader express an apology or remorse for bombing Nagasaki or Hiroshima? If the Japanese want to understand how the rest of Asia feels about its actions during World War Two, just changing the history book will not solve the deep sense of injustice that war brought to the region. Could those who died or suffered during that period appeal to the rule of law that Abe-san so proudly proclaim today?

All of us want to move on, but not through denying the past. As the philosopher Santayana said, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Think Asian by Andrew Sheng

 President of Fung Global Institute
http://ineteconomics.org/people/andrew-sheng
Sheng is Malaysian Chinese. He grew up in British North Borneo (todaySabah, Malaysia). He left Malaysia in 1965 to attend the University ofBristol in England, where he studied economics.

Datuk Seri Panglima Andrew Sheng (born 1946) is a Distinguished Fellow of Fung Global Institute, a Hong Kong based global think tank. He started his career as an accountant. He served as Chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) before his replacement by Martin Wheatley in 2005.

THE AUTHOR IS CHIEF ADVISOR TO THE CHINA BANKING REGULATORY COMMISSION, A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF MALAYSIA’S KAZANAH NASIONAL BHD AND A MEMBER OF THE INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY PANEL TO THE AUSTRALIAN TREASURY’S FINANCIAL SYSTEM INQUIRY

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Why should an organisation devoted to saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war” make it its
business to authorise war?

Why not abolishing wars, seeking peace in the 70 years after WW2 & inception of the UN?


TheWorldWar_2Why should an organisation devoted to saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war” make it its business to authorise war?

In the 70 years since the inception of the UN, the world has unfortunately witnessed many theaters of conflict. 

SEVENTY years ago, the Charter of the United Nations solemnly proclaimed that the people of the UN were determined to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to “establish conditions under which justice … can be maintained”.

Peaceful resolution of disputes was the over-arching ideal of the Charter. However, the Charter permitted two exceptions under which recourse to war was permissible:

> Under Article 51, a nation can defend its sovereignty against an armed attack.

> Collective use of force can be undertaken under Chapter VII of the Charter under a resolution of the UN Security Council.

In the euphoria of the establishment of the UN, these two provisions were regarded as just and fair exceptions to the prohibition on the use of force.

But with the tragic misuse of UN authorised interventions in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, one is made to wonder why an organisation devoted to saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and securing peace and justice should make it its business to authorise the revolting actions that necessarily flow from war.

It is therefore timely to demand that the provision relating to collective use of force under Chapter VII be reviewed or repealed.

Spiralling wars: In the 70 years since the inception of the UN, the world has unfortunately witnessed many theatres of conflict. In a nuclear age, the savagery of war has become even worse. The grounds on which war can be waged have expanded.

Anticipatory self-defence: Some powerful nations like the US and Israel have interpreted the Charter to read into it the right of pre-emptory attack or anticipatory self-defence.

Humanitarian intervention: A new ground of “humanitarian war” without the authority of the UN has been established extra-legally by the American-European Union Alliance.

Regime change: Wars for the purpose of regime change were and are being waged in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Proxy wars: Many rich and powerful states are fomenting civil wars and supporting armed mercenary forces for the purpose of subverting the sovereignty of other states. Tragic examples are Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

Privatising torture: Since the 90s, wars, incarceration in overseas prisons and torture have been privatised. This is a wicked way of avoiding accountability under national laws.

Terrorism: Unspeakable horrors are being committed by terrorist groups like the IS. However, it must be stated that all terrorism, whether by private groups or state actors, is an abomination. On the pretext of combating terrorism, many states are committing atrocities both within their territory and abroad.

Targeted killings: Extra-judicial assassinations of the officials of other states or national liberation movements are being carried out by drone attacks, special-forces units or covert operations.

Humans as guinea pigs: Some nations are developing, deploying and testing their new weapon systems in countries that they invade or occupy – countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza whose population has become a guinea pig for testing deadly weapons.

Threat of missile attacks: Threats of missile and nuclear attacks have become standard language of foreign policy. This is a violation of international law.

Selective sanctions: In the name of human rights, sanctions are being enforced but in a very selective way by the Security Council and by individual nations against their opponents. This is despite overwhelming proof that sanctions hurt innocent civilians and cause untold misery and deprivation to the weakest members of society.

The ICC: The International Criminal Court has gone into operation. But nations like the US and Israel refuse to join it. The UN Security Council and the ICC have brought to book a few war criminals. Sadly, the work of the ICC shows a terrible ethnic bias against Africa. Mass murderers from the USA, EU and Israel remain immune.

Cold War reignited: The Cold War has become reignited and with it new theatres of conflict as in Ukraine are causing massive loss of life.

Merchants of death: The arms trade continues unabated and ignites and fuels regional wars and retards the search for political solutions to international disputes. All arms traders are merchants of death but enjoy a prestige and wealth unknown to many other professions.

Western exceptionalism: Western unilaterism is a sad reality of geopolitics today. In the last decade itself, there were full scale invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq on trumped up charges plus bombing of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria. In Yemen, Libya and Syria, western proxies are in the forefront of the so called civil war.

US drones blow up “enemy combatants” in many parts of the world with sickening regularity. Despite its professed belief in democracy, Washington has a sorry record of collaborating with right-wing military officers to overthrow elected leaders who do not do Washington’s bidding. The latest victims are Morsi in Egypt in 2013 and Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2014.

On July 3, 1988 the United States shot down an Iranian Airbus killing 290 passengers. The Western world expressed only muted regret.

Genocide in Palestine: US and European complicity with Israel in the 67-year old genocide of the Palestinians is an undeniable fact. As I write, Israel continues to butcher children, women and civilians in Gaza.

Srebrenica: Dutch complicity in the massacres in Srebrenica is well documented.

Structural violence: Add to these military atrocities, the structural violence and oppressive economic systems of the West. There is a desire to consolidate an uncompromising version of corporatism that seeks total economic hegemony over Asia and Africa.

Environment: An environmental catastrophe is awaiting the world unless we take adequate measures to control the threat. Needless to say that part of the ecocide is contributed by the use and misuse of weapons of mass destruction.

In sum, it is a pretty grim situation in the world today. What can be done to bring about a more peaceful and just world? There are obviously no simple solutions. A comprehensive, holistic approach is badly needed.

Reflecting On The Law by Shad Saleem Faruqi

Shad Faruqi, Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM, is a passionate student and teacher of the law. He can be reached at prof.shad.saleem.faruqi@gmail.com. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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the US …
22 Jan 2015
The decade-old wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the lives of hundreds
of thousands of civilians, but the mainstream media outlets in the US have largely ignored the tragedies and focused on the loss of their own
troops.

Bandung Spirit: a short walk but with giant steps !


Bandung Walk 2015(From L) Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, China’s President Xi Jinping, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, his wife Iriana Widodo, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, his wife Rosmah Mansur, Mufidhah, wife of Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Jusuf Kalla and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen walk down the street with other Asian and African leaders during ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference in Bandung on western Java island on April 24, 2015. Bandung was the site of the landmark 1955 Asian African Conference, credited with galvanising momentum towards the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement. – AFP

Bandung 2015 is a chance to build on the cooperation among developing countries launched by Bandung 1955.

LAST Friday, I took a 10-minute walk from an old hotel to ano­­ther old building, a confe­rence hall. About 300 others were on the same walk on the warm and sunny day.

It didn’t seem anything remarkable or newsworthy. But this was no ordinary walk. Sixty years ago, on this same date, a small but powerful group of men and women took the same walk and then launched a movement that snowballed into a united anti-colonial and post–colonial battle.

We had come to commemorate and celebrate the anniversary of the Bandung conference of Asian and African leaders, all of whom had just won Independence or were on the verge of doing so.

The same grand Savoy Homann hotel was where the leaders had stayed, and they had taken the historic short walk on the Asia Africa Road to the Merdeka Building.

Bandung April 24, 1955, saw giants like Sukarno of Indonesia, the host, Zhou Enlai of China, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, President Gamal Ab­­del Nasser of Egypt, U Nu of Bur­ma and some leaders of Africa, coming together to discuss the need for newly independent countries to unite and fight for common interests.

They adopted the Bandung principles, that included respect for national sovereignty and self-determination, equality of all nations and abstention from use of force or exerting pressure on countries.

Bandung 1955 was the first ever meeting of the developing countries, who pledged to help other countries still under colonialism to complete their independence struggle, and to cooperate to develop their poor economies.

That Bandung spirit led to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, and indirectly also led to the Group of 77 in 1964, the two major umbrella organisations of the developing countries.

Last Friday, political leaders from over 40 countries, led by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and officials from international organisations walked from Savoy Hotel to Merdeka Building and took part in a brief but meaningful commemoration ceremony.

Among the leaders present were the presidents of China, Zimbabwe and Myanmar, and the prime ministers of Malaysia, Nepal and Egypt.

We were told the Merdeka Building had not changed, and the chairs were the same as the ones used 60 years ago.

Widodo invoked the memory of the leadership and spirit of the giants of old, who had pioneered their nations’ independence and forged unity among the newly independent countries.

In a two-day Asian African summit conference in Jakarta preceding the Bandung ceremony, even more leaders were present to discuss the theme, South-South Cooperation for Peace and Prosperity.

President Widodo made a strong speech highlighting the continuing power inequalities and injustices in the world, in which developing countries were still struggling to get their rightful fair share in decision-making in world affairs.

Global injustice is obvious, when wealthy nations think they can change the world with their might, when the United Nations is powerless, when force is used without the mandate of the UN and powerful countries ignore the existence of the UN, he said.

Injustice exists when rich countries refuse to recognise the shifts in world economic power and only re­­­­­­­cognise the World Bank, In­ter­national Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, he added.

“The fate of the global economy cannot be left to these three organisations, we need to build a new world order that is open to new countries. A new and fair global system is needed.”

Widodo also stressed that as the Bandung spirit demanded indepen­dence for countries, we are still indebted to the people of Palestine. “We have to struggle with them to give birth to an independent state of Palestine.”

The plight and struggle of Palesti­nians became a major issue at the Summit. It was obvious that the con­­tinuing occupation of Palestine lands and their unfulfilled fight for an independent state was a big piece of “unfinished business” of the Asian African Bandung conference.

A special declaration in support of Palestine was adopted by the conference. Two other documents adopted were the Bandung Message and the new Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership, which details the actions that are to be taken to promote more cooperation in economic, health, food security, education and other areas.

President Xi Jinping of China pledged to provide places for 100,000 students and officials in Asia and Africa for education and training in his country over five years.

He put forward several principles, including to seek common ground and be open to one another’s views, expand South-South cooperation, and the closing of the North-South gap. He also mentioned the new Chinese initiatives of setting up the Asian Infrastructure Investment bank as well as a new fund to finance the activities of the Economic Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road.

These initiatives by China were a reminder that with the growing wealth of China and some other emerging economies, there is now a real possibility for the developing countries to help one another in financing their own development.

A new trend in South-South ga­­therings is that criticism of the ways of the West in dominating the South is now combined with announcements of how the developing countries are organising various ways to rely more on one another, including creating new institutions.

In a speech representing the South Centre, I mentioned that we support the call by the Indonesian president to establish a new world order where the developing countries have an equal say and enjoy their fair share of the benefits.

In this new and more equitable world order, the developing countries will be able to contribute to the solutions to the multiple crises of global finance and economy, food security, unfulfilled social development, energy and climate change.

The developed countries will change their unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and assist the developing countries through financial resources and technology transfer to embark on new sustainable development pathways.

South-South cooperation, based on solidarity and mutual benefits, will play an increasingly important role. There is much to be done politically and concretely in this area.

Bandung 1955 was a landmark event that launched many good developments for the newly independent countries.

Bandung 2015 could also prove to be a landmark event that catalyses further breakthroughs in South-South cooperation which, together with our better performance in multilateral relations, will implement the building of the new world order that our first generation of leaders were dreaming of.

As the Jakarta and Bandung events came to a close, Indonesian officials indicated that they will be undertaking follow-up actions after the Summit. It is important that concrete programmes are formulated, so that the good-intentioned declarations do not remain only on paper but spark new shoots of South-South cooperation.

Global Trends by Martin Khor

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre, a research centre of 51 developing countries, based in Geneva. You can e-mail him at director@southcentre.org. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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The Bandung Spirit: strengthering Asian African economic cooperation & legal consultation


Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered a speech, with the aim of carrying on the Bandung Spirit and promoting the common development of the two vibrant continents.

Chinese president delivers speech at Asian-African Summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Asian-African Summit 2015, where he joins leaders and representatives
from around 100 countries and international organizations.

http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf


Opening ceremony: Li giving a speech at the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO) in Beijing. — AFP

Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation was born at a historic moment, but struggles to deal with the present day issues.

LAST week, the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO) held its annual session in the Chinese capital of Beijing.

Here’s a bit of the organisation’s background – with a focus on international law and legal matters of common concern, AALCO is the legacy of the Bandung Conference.

That historic conference in 1955, also known as the Asia-Africa Conference, led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War.

INDONESIA-BANDUNG-XI JINPING-COMMEMORATIVE WALK

Chinese President Xi Jinping, his wife Peng Liyuan, Indonesian Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana take part in a highly symbolic stroll with other Asian and African leaders to commemorate the historic 1955 Bandung Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, April 24, 2015. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

More than 30 world leaders, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Chinese President Xi Jinping, gathered in Indonesia this week for the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Bandung Conference.

Malaysia is one of the 47 member states of AALCO that has its headquarters in New Delhi, and the current AALCO secretary-general, Prof Dr Rahmat Mohamad, is a Malaysian.

“AALCO is not a political union. That is why it is not popular and people do not know of its existence,” said Dr Rahmat.

“We are a legal consultative body comprising legal experts from the Asian and African countries.”

AALCO deals with issues that affect the legal rights of its member states and highlights their views to the International Law Commission (ILC) and the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.

It has also established permanent observer missions to the United Nations and set up regional arbitrary centres, one of which is in Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Rahmat, who was the deputy vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Mara, won the election to the post in 2008. He is now serving his second four-year term.

“The regions of Asia and Africa have different political beliefs, culture and systems. But at the end of the day, we get the common concern and bring it to the attention of the ILC and UN,” he said.

“It was the vision of leaders like (Indonesia’s first president) Sukarno and (India’s first prime minister) Jawaharlal Nehru that newly independent countries must have their voices heard in international forums like the United Nations.

“When you have a body like AALCO, the other side will know what our concerns are.”

Using the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as an example. Dr Rahmat said many Asian countries are not state parties to the treaty, but that does not mean that they are against the idea.

“It is good but a lot of issues have to be clarified and resolved first,” he said.

“The Penal Code in Malaysia, for instance, only has definition of crime, but not crime against humanity. How do you apply that in our system? We are not used to it, our judges and prosecutors are not used to it.”

The Rome Statute, which has been acceded to by 123 countries, established the ICC to investigate and prosecute four core international crimes, namely genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes and crime of aggression.

“There are issues that need to be resolved domestically first,” Dr Rahmat said.

“However, the politics of it are causing apprehension. My job is to continue to disseminate legal knowledge to make people aware.”

During the 54th annual session of AALCO here last week, delegates from the member states explored issues such as the deportation of Palestinians, the work of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (Investment Treaties), international law in cyberspace, environment and sustainable development, violent extremism and terrorism, and law of the sea.

As broad and complex as these topics may seem, Dr Rahmat said the works of AALCO are closely related to the people.

“We do not live in a vacuum. International law is part of every individual’s life,” he said.

“In addition to what is happening within our own country, we must also pay attention to matters in the world.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who officiated at the annual session, proposed a China-AALCO exchange and research programme on international law.

He said the initiative, to be funded by China, would help develop AALCO and promote co-operation in international rule of law.

In his speech, Li said Asia and Africa have a combined GDP of US$29 trillion (RM105 trillion), accounting for 37.5% of the global total. It is a 47-fold increase compared to that of 1970.

He also proposed the Asian and African countries to, among others, deepen exchanges and co-operation on international legal system, and work together to meet global non-traditional security challenges.

The session also commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. Representatives who spoke during the event agreed that the Bandung Spirit of peaceful co-existence and solidarity is still very much relevant in today’s world.

Check-in China by Tho Xin Yi

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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