Penang’s eight transport plans unfulfilled, Not even one commenced work, says Teng


https://youtu.be/GL2DRy_6PpU

 

Hard questions: Teng holding up leaflets highlighting ‘51 Empty Promises’ of the state government.

GEORGE TOWN: From a monorail over Penang Bridge to the undersea tunnel project, the state has not delivered any of them, said Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow.

“Between 2008 and 2016, there were public transport proposals from a tram, a monorail, Penang Sky Cab, aerobus between the island and mainland, light railway transit, cable car and underground subway to underground mass rapid transit.

“Eight promises made but until today, not even one has commenced work,” Teng told a press conference yesterday.

In November 2008, a few months after helming the state, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state was considering adding a hanging monorail along Penang Bridge, among other transport projects.

Teng brought up these unfulfilled transport projects yesterday.

He also maintained that the state could cancel the Penang undersea tunnel project because there was no clause in the agreement to pay compensation for cancellation.

“I am shocked that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said I should pay compensation if the project is cancelled.

“The question is why the state government still refuses to cancel the contract.

“With so many missed deadlines and no construction after five years and the tunnel feasibility studies not completed, we wonder why the state government still refuses to cancel the project.”

Teng was responding to Lim who said on Wednesday that when a signed contract was cancelled, there must be some sort of compensation – The Star

Related News:

Tunnel project: Guan Eng is ignorant, says Teng | Free Malaysia Today

Penang Transport Master Plan (Ptmp) | PropSocial

[PDF]Recommended Transport Master Plan Strategy – Penang Transport …

 

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Penang Forum Planning for Penang’s Future


NGO draws up own manifesto to assist the next state government

(From left) Anil, Ben, Dr Chee, Khoo Salma, Dr Anwar and Dr Kam at the press conference to launch the Penang Forum Agenda 2018 at Penang Heritage Trust in Church Street.
(From left) Anil, Ben, Dr Chee, Khoo Salma, Dr Anwar and Dr Kam at the press conference to launch the Penang Forum Agenda 2018 at Penang Heritage Trust in Church Street. 

PENANG Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups, has come up with its own ‘manifesto’ with emphasis on three principles namely good governance, social inclusion and sustainable development.

Dubbed the ‘Penang Forum Agenda 2018’, six members shared insights into various areas that could be improved by the new state government.

The agenda, supporting transit-oriented development, walkable downtowns, mixed-income housing, public green open spaces and social inclusion was discussed by forum members comprising of activist Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal, scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng, social activists Dr Chee Heng Leng, Khoo Salma Nasution, Anil Netto and Ben Wismen.

Khoo Salma said in the past 10 years, the state made progress on some fronts but it was over dependent on growth driven by the property sector and tourism.

“A far-sighted vision for Penang requires a paradigm shift to new urbanism, sustainable transport and environmental resilience.

“We are willing to work with the next state government to come up with different economic strategies so that we are not over reliant on the construction sector and mass tourism,” she told newsmen at the Penang Heritage Trust in Church Street after the event yesterday.

Khoo Salma urged the new government to look into making public buildings, spaces and transport accessible for people with disabilities.

“Employment and housing quotas should be fulfilled for them as well.

“Public facilities at council and state flats need to be updated to an elderly-friendly design,” she said.

Khoo Salma also urged for the new state government to adopt a comprehensive approach to the housing policy, prioritising social housing for the low-income category.

Anil said that affordable housing should be not more than three times the annual income for the middle-income group.

“It does not mean we need to stop building but we need to look at the needs of the population, we should look for property development for the two categories rather than high-end development.”

Scientist Dr Kam shared that the agenda was not only to give ideas to political parties but to survive beyond the campaigning period.

“If they like certain things or better still all of our recommendations, it would be great.

“I hope that the next state government will take a look at our manifesto and incorporate some of the ideas,” she said.

Dr Anwar said the Penang Forum Agenda would be shared with all concerned parties as well as posted online for the public to view.

For further details on the agenda visit https://penangforum.net/  by N. Trisha The Star

Penang Forum has a list of demands which it calls on Penang’s newly
elected officials of 2018 to act upon and deliver. These demands are
related to the three principles of good governance, social inclusion and
sustainable development. Read More

Trapped in US-China trade war when 2 elephantine economices fight …


Tit for tat: The trade scuffle between US and China threatened to escalate to a full-scale war when Beijing fired back with punitive taxes on a wide range of US goods entering China – Reuters

The dispute between the two countries is real and has escalated. Malaysia is feeling the heat, but its palm oil sector is set to shine in this conflict.

THE US-China trade war drummed up by Washington last month threatened to escalate to a fullscale confrontation when Beijing fired back last week with punitive taxes on a wide range of US goods entering China.

And Malaysia, being an open economy with huge exports to China and the United States, is feeling the heat of the tit-for-tat measures rolled out by the two largest economies in the world.

President Donald Trump has given several reasons to act against China. A key reason is trade imbalance and US large trade deficit, which he attributed to China.

In 2017, China exported US$505bil (RM1.95 trillion) in goods to the United States, which in turn exported US$135bil (RM522.4bil) in goods to China.

The Trump administration has also alleged that China sought to misappropriate US intellectual property through joint venture requirements, unfair technology licensing rules, purchases of US technology firms with state funding and outright theft.

Last month, Trump slapped Beijing with punishing tariffs on the import of steel and aluminium products, and warned that there would be higher taxes on about 1,300 Chinese products worth US$50bil (RM193.5bil).

China, which has often stated that it does not want a trade war as it would hurt all, retaliated last Monday by imposing additional duties of 15% to 25% on 128 US products worth up to US$3bil (RM11.6bil). Pork, recycled aluminium, steel pipes, wine and fruits are on the list.

After being criticised by its own elites that it was too soft in its retaliation, China’s State Council announced on Wednesday that it planned to impose additional tariffs of 25% on 106 US products into the country, including soybeans, aircraft and cars. The import value of the goods on the list in 2017 was US$50bil.

Beijing’s Wednesday response came soon after the US Trade Representative Office released details of 1,333 Chinese imports worth about US$50bil that it planned to hit with 25% tariffs, with emphasis on industrial and hi-tech goods.

Global Times, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said in an editorial on Wednesday before its State Council’s statement: “China’s countermeasures should deal a heavy blow, hitting what the United States fears most. We strongly recommend starting with US soybeans and corn products. The ruling GOP will pay a huge price.”

It noted that nervous US soybean farmers, who were big supporters of Trump during the presidential campaign in 2016, had run advertisements to oppose launching a trade war against China.

China’s former finance minister Lou Jiwei reportedly said at a recent forum: “If I were in the government, I would hit soybeans first, and then cars and planes.”

By imposing punishing tariffs on US soybeans, Beijing will hurt US major farmers, given that China was the second largest importer of US agricultural products last year, buying US$19.6bil (RM73.5bil) of goods with 63% spent on soybeans.

As reducing US soybean imports would leave a shortfall for Chinese edible oil consumption and animal feed, this would need to be filled by imports from other countries. One source could be palm oil from Malaysia.

“Malaysia’s palm oil growers would stand to enjoy a windfall gain if China reduces the intake of soybeans from the United States, though our competitors like Indonesia also hope to sell more to China,” says economist Lee Heng Guie, executive director of SocioEconomic Research Centre (SERC).

In fact, the futures contracts of Malaysian crude palm oil (CPO) rose on Wednesday after China’s announcement. The positive impact on CPO prices continued on Thursday.

However, the local stock market – like other markets in the region – plummeted, as many investors believed more tit-for-tat measures covering more industries would be unveiled in this spat. The FBM KLCI lost 1.88% to close at its nineweek low of 1,815.94 points.

The local stock market has been weakening due to fear of this trade war. The technology stocks are particularly jittery as the US tariffs are seen as targeting mainly the Chinese electrical and electronic (E&E) and machinery sectors.

“In our view, the sectors that could be affected by the US-China trade war due to recently proposed import tariffs are semiconductors, building materials and ports in Malaysia,” said CIMB Research in a report on Thursday.

As Malaysia exports many E&E products and parts to China, local players within this supply chain are likely to feel the heat.

“We estimate Malaysia’s ultimate exposure to the United States – including via intermediate goods to China for assembly into final products destined for the United States – at 10% of GDP, about half of which is in electronics products,” Nomura Research says, adding that another 8% is exposed to China’s final demand.

While exports to China account for 13.5% of total annual exports of Malaysia, exports to the United

States make up 9.5%. And E&E products form the biggest export item to both countries.

Nomura sees US trade protectionism and a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China as posing risks to the Malaysian economy, as exports account for 71% of its GDP.

This trade conflict has been listed by Moody’s as a global risk this year.

Consultancy Oxford Economics says the escalation of the trade war could knock 0.5% off global growth in 2019.

Although earlier this year many analysts and business groups in the United States had warned that Washington would not win in this trade war, Trump charged ahead nevertheless.

The modern and economically mighty China, under President Xi Jinping, will punch back decisively and swiftly, many have warned.

The pain points of China are not easy to find. Over a decade ago, Beijing had realised it could not rely on the low value-adding export processing industries.

The country is now focusing on developing its high-technology sector and expanding the domestic consumer market to cut down on reliance on exports.

With so many odds against America, why would Trump insist on taking on China?

According to an analysis by Hong Kong-based International Chinese Newsweekly, the rise of American nationalism and Trump’s gearing up for the mid-term elections is the key reason for the president’s plunge into a trade war.

His focus is on midterm elections and keeping a Republican majority in Senate and Congress. But he will have to deal with the possible backlash from the first round of USChina trade war once it goes full on.

Apart from the soybean sector, the United States’ aircraft and automobile sectors will be hit.

According to South China Morning Post, Boeing Corporation delivered 202 planes to China in 2017, or 26% of its global total. The company has projected that in the next 20 years, China will need 7,240 new planes valued at about US$1.1 trillion (RM4.26 trillion).

On the auto sector, the United States sold more than US$10bil (RM38.7bil) worth of vehicles to China. Last year, General Motors sold 3.9 million cars to China, or almost 39% of its global total. The company expects sales in China to grow to five million by 2020.

The Hong Kong newspaper also warned that if China discourages its nationals from visiting the United States, the impact on US tourism will be painful.

In 2016, three million Chinese visitors and students spent US$33bil (RM127.7bil) while in the United States. The US Department of Commerce expects Chinese visitors rise to 5.7 million by 2021.

The other weapon China could weild against Washington is off-loading its US treasury bonds. This will have an impact on the dollar and US interest rate.

Bejing’s holding of US treasury bonds was close to US$1.2 trillion (RM4.6 trillion) at end-2017.

How long the current trade tension will last is anybody’s guess, given Trump’s unpredictable character. The world still remembers that he showered Xi with praises before turning his back on China.

But one thing is certain: if US protectionism and the trade war escalates, it will hurt not only the two major economies, but also countries which have trade links with the two powers.

“The global repercussions will be highly disruptive and damaging on trade and economy if the US-China trade war deepens and impacts more products and countries. In such widespread trade conflicts, Malaysia’s trade will be significantly dampened,” says Lee from SERC.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star


When 2 elephantine economies fight

Upping the stakes: Trump has ordered his
administration to consider imposing tariffs on an additional US100bil of
Chinese imports. Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier hit back with
US50bil worth of tariffs on US imports.

Will Malaysia be caught in the middle?

The trade war between the world’s two largest economies is not showing any sign of stopping just yet.

US president Donald Trump initiated the trade confrontation by announcing additional 25% tariffs on Chinese imports worth US$50bil, citing China’s unfair trade advantage. In retaliation, China initially announced higher tariffs on US$3bil imports from the US, but later raised it to US$50bil.

Now, Trump has ordered his administration to consider imposing tariffs on an additional US$100bil of Chinese imports.

While it remains to be seen whether these tit-for-tat announcements will materialise or eventually fizzle out, economists and fund managers generally agree that the US-China trade fight will affect Malaysia’s local industries and several stocks on Bursa Malaysia.

However, they differ on the extent of the impct from the escalating trade war.

In an email interview with StarBizWeek, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute research and business development director Lau Zheng Zhou says that Malaysia will be hit with losses in trade opportunities, as both the US and China constitute 25% of Malaysia’s total trade.

He points out that investors may adopt a “wait-and-see” approach, which could cause certain sectors to slow down and hence disrupt manufacturers’ resource planning and projection.

“As opposed to exporting finished goods, Malaysian exports have footprints along an extensive supply chains across sectors in Asia such as automobiles, electronics, oil and gas, and machinery.

“With heavy tariffs being imposed by the US, Malaysian firms will be slapped with rising input costs and therefore falling demand for their value-added component products.

“Our logistics sector may also be affected if global trade slows down.

“But China’s tariffs imposed on the US may not directly impact Malaysia as it is strategically designed to cause damage to the US agricultural producers,” he says.

On the other hand, Malayan Banking Bhd group chief economist Suhaimi Ilias indicates that the potential impact from the US-China trade spat is small, or only 0.3% of total trade value, at this juncture

However, greater risks could arise if the additional tariffs spill into services trade and investment.

“In any case, US tariffs on solar panels, steel and aluminum will have some impact on Malaysia but we understand that the International Trade and Industry Ministry is seeking exemptions for these since Malaysia is in talk with the US on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as an alternative following the US pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Meanwhile, China’s tariffs on US products may result in some trade diversions or substitutions that may result in increase demand for Malaysian products from China, and one potential area is chemical or petrochemical products which is a major industry and export for Malaysia,” states Suhaimi.

Currently, the Trump administration has proposed a long list of 1,333 items, which would see the imposition of an additional 25% tariff.

These items include robotics, aircraft seats, machine parts, semiconductors, communication satellites and television components, among others.

It is worth noting that there will be 60 days of public review before the tariffs take effect. Observers believe both China and the US will re-negotiate their trade terms during this period in order to prevent a full-fledged trade war.

More items affected

In the event of the US government imposing tariffs on the additional US$100bil worth of Chinese imports as per Trump’s suggestion, more items will be affected.

China, on its part, has announced that it will slap a similar 25% additional tariff on 106 products from the US, which include soybean, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft.

According to Lau, China’s tariffs are well-targeted to hurt rural, agriculture-dependent communities who were big supporters of Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Many companies in Malaysia have been involved in the export of raw materials and intermediate goods to China and the US, which are later re-packaged or used in the production of other finished goods.

These finished goods, in turn, are exported by both China and the US to one another as well as to other countries.

Indirectly, the Sino-US trade spat will affect these exporting companies from Malaysia.

Suhaimi calls for accommodative monetary policy and the implementations of major investment and infrastructure projects to buttress Malaysia’s economic activities, if the trade dispute continues to worsen.


Fund managers’ take

Fortress Capital chief executive officer Thomas Yong says that the Malaysian semiconductor sector will be most negatively affected due to the trade spat.

“This is because most semiconductor companies in Malaysia export intermediate semi-conductor components to end-product manufactures in the US, and a tariff on these end-products could indirectly lower the demand from these component players,” he says.

He cautions investors to monitor the ongoing trade war between the US and China closely.

“If the tariffs are implemented, the impact will be very detrimental to the ongoing global growth recovery.

“A trade war will negatively affect stock valuations all around the world,” he says.

Similar to Yong’s perspective, Areca Capital chief executive officer Danny Wong also reckons that export-based Malaysian businesses in the electrical and electronics domain could be affected, especially if their exposure to both China and the US is significantly large.

However, both fund managers believe that the Sino-US trade spat may not be entirely bad for companies in Malaysia.

Wong tells StarBizWeek that the US’ Federal Reserve (Fed) may take necessary actions to remedy any unwarranted implications to the economy.

“If the trade war continues to prolong and ultimately weigh down global growth and trade, it could affect the Fed’s future actions.

“Hence, there is a likelihood for the Fed to put the expected interest rate hikes on hold.

“In the event of such decision, dividend stocks in Bursa Malaysia will definitely benefit.

“On top of that, the real estate investment trust (REIT) stocks will also benefit from the situation, as Reits thrive in the low interest rate environment,” he says.

Meanwhile, Fortress Capital’s Yong adds that stocks related to palm oil production may also benefit from the trade spat.

“Since crude palm oil (CPO) is a substitute for soybean oil, the Chinese tariff on American soybeans can potentially allow China to substitute to CPO to meet their vegetable oil consumption needs, in turn supporting the demand and prices for CPO.

“As Malaysia and Indonesia both account for more than 80% of global palm oil supply, oil plantation companies from these two countries could potentially benefit from the much needed price boost amid the current soft CPO price.

“However, it remains uncertain if China will substitute all of the current soybean oil consumption to CPO, as there are quite a number of other vegetable oils available in the market,” he says.

Earlier, StarBiz reported that the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) believes Malaysia may see an increased amount of foreign investments, particularly from the US, if the brewing trade war between the US and China escalates further.

Businesses from the US and other countries could make Malaysia an alternative regional production hub for several goods instead of China, to avoid the additional tariffs imposed by the US on products imported from China.

The additional 25% tariff levied on the imports from China would likely make Chinese goods pricier. Under such circumstances, global manufacturers may opt to establish their operations in Malaysia or outsource their production to a domestic company.

Commenting on whether the Sino-US trade war will place Malaysia as an alternative to China in the eyes of investors, Lau says it is not reasonable for investors to do so.

“However, the trade spat may rather increase foreign direct investments, especially from China, in industries with heavy use of steel and aluminium or value-added manufacturing of innovative consumer products.

“This can avoid a ban, restrictions or high tariffs on products which are associated with China,” he says.

By Ganeshwaran Kana The Star

 

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Lost cause: An employee arranging imported American apples for sale at a grocery store in Beijing, President Donald Trump says the US lost a trade war with China ‘years ago’. In a tweet Wednesday after China announced a list of US products that might be subject to a 25 tariff, Trump said: ‘We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the US.’ — Bloomberg
Trade war – more of letting off hot air so far – Business News

China to fight back US trade tariffs ‘at any cost’ – Business New

China vows to fight US ‘at any cost’ after Donald Trump threatens $100B ..

 China’s import tariff on US soybean can support CPO prices – Business News

 

 

Sign of good faith: Mustapa receiving the Amcham survey report from Wong (right) and Das at the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce Summit.US-China trade spat good for Malaysia – Business News

US tariff to have little impact on global economy

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Malaysia’s low wages: low-skilled, low productivity, low quality, reliance on cheap foreign workers! Need to manage!


Survey: Most workers not paid enough to achieve minimum acceptable living standard

 

Wages too low, says Bank Negara – Survey: most workers not paid enough to achieve minimum acceptable living standard

ALTHOUGH the income levels of Malaysians have increased significantly over the years, voices of discontent are mounting over the decline in purchasing power.

Low and depressed salaries are among the grouses of executives and non-executives amid the apparent lifestyle changes of Malaysians.

With the rising cost of living, they lament that there is now less room for long-term savings and investments.

According to the Employees Job Happiness Index 2017 survey by JobStreet.com, one in three Malaysian employees want a pay rise, with rewards constituting 52% of the domestic workforce’s motivation to work.

In its 2017 Annual Report, Bank Negara points out that the expenditure of the bottom 40% (B40) of Malaysian households has expanded at a faster pace compared with their income.

From 2014 to 2016, the average B40 income level grew by 5.8% annually, marginally lower than the 6% growth in the B40 household spending in the same period.

It is also worth noting that half of working Malaysians only earned less than the national median of RM1,703 in 2016.

The central bank, in consideration of the low-wage conundrum, has recently recommended that employers use a “living wage” as a guideline to compensate their employees for their labour.

Essentially, the living wage refers to the income level needed to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living, depending on the geographical location.

Citing Kuala Lumpur as an example, Bank Negara estimates that the living wage in the city two years ago was about RM2,700 for a single adult. The living wage estimate for a couple without a child was RM4,500, while for a couple with two children, the living wage was RM6,500.

As much as Malaysians support higher wages, which can outgrow escalating living cost, the bigger question is whether their employers are willing to increase wages significantly.

Also, is it realistic for employers to pay higher salaries in line with the suggested living wage?

Speaking to StarBizWeek, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan says that the living wage is unsuitable for adoption in Malaysia – for now.

He believes that the living wage will turn out to be damaging to the domestic labour market, given the rising cost of doing business in recent times.

Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs. << Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.
Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.

“The living wage concept is unrealistic in Malaysia for the time being. While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.

“However, if the workers are proactive and upskill themselves to increase their productivity, then I do not see any reason for employers to refrain from offering higher pay packages.

“The Government on its part, should not micro-manage the economy to the extent of telling the employers how much to pay their workers. Instead, the Government can provide various incentives to the employers to bring down costs, which will translate into higher salaries or even exempt the employees’ bonuses from tax,” he says.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie welcomes Bank Negara’s living wage guideline “to prevent a wage employee from the deprivation of a decent standard of living”.

In order to push for the acceptance of a living wage in Malaysia, Lee recommends that government-linked companies (GLCs) adopt the concept gradually.

“The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.

“This would require extensive consultations and engagements with the stakeholders.

“Perhaps, as one of the largest employers in the country, GLCs can incorporate the living wage clause in their suppliers’ procurement contracts,” he says.

Concerns about Malaysia’s low-wage environment are not only centred on the low-skilled workers but across-the-board, as even executives lament about being lowly-compensated.

Are Malaysians being paid enough?

Based on data from the Statistics Department’s Salaries and Wages Survey Report 2016, most Malaysian workers are still paid significantly lower than the desired amount to achieve “minimum acceptable living standard”, at least in Kuala Lumpur.

Nearly 50% of working adults in Kuala Lumpur earned less than RM2,500 per month in 2016, notably lower than the RM2,700 living wage as suggested by Bank Negara.

In fact, up to 27% of households in Kuala Lumpur earned below the estimated living wage in 2016.

While wage growth has exceeded inflation over the years, real wage growth has been largely subtle. Real wage refers to income adjusted for inflation.

According to the MEF’s website, the salaries of executives were expected to grow by 5.55% in 2017, compared with 6.31% in 2013. As for non-executives, the average salary was anticipated to increase by 5.44% in 2017, down from 6.78% in 2013.

Given the 3.7% headline inflation registered in 2017, executives’ salaries may have just inched up by 1.85% on average, after factoring in inflation.

As for non-executives, their real wage could have grown by 1.74%, lesser than the executives in Malaysia.

While a slight moderation in headline inflation is expected this year, the purchasing power of Malaysians is unlikely to improve significantly.

In an earlier report by StarBiz, Shamsuddin described 2018 as a “bad year for employees and employers”, and projected Malaysians’ average salary increment to be lower than last year.

He blamed several new policies and measures introduced by the government such as the mandatory requirement for employers to defray levy for their foreign workers and the introduction of the Employment Insurance System, which would increase the costs borne by domestic businesses.

“It will be difficult for employers to raise salaries after this, given such dampeners,” he was reported as saying.

The biggest challenge now is to strike a balance between the market’s ability to compensate a worker and the worker’s required income level to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living.

Sunway University Business School professor of economics Yeah Kim Leng says that more efforts have to be made to enhance the business and investment climate, in order to entice existing firms to expand and upgrade while new firms and start-ups emerge to create more high-paying jobs.

Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth. << Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth.
Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth
.

He also calls upon business owners and employees to forge appropriate wage-setting mechanisms, which are benchmarked against the productivity of the workers.

“The Government should consider additional fiscal incentives for firms that provide worker benefits to meet the living wage standard. For example, double tax deduction for transport allowance and other cost of living adjustments for the lower-salaried employees,” states Yeah.

Meanwhile, Lee opines that employees should be given a higher share of the profit generated by their employers moving forward, in line with the practice in many high-income nations abroad.
 

“It is actually reasonable for Malaysian employers to allocate a larger chunk of their profits to reward their workers and motivate them,” he says. 

In 2016, the compensation of employees to gross domestic product (CE-to-GDP) ratio in Malaysia improved to 35.3%. The CE-to-GDP ratio shows the workers’ share in the profits made by business owners.

For every RM1 generated in 2016, 35.3 sen was paid to the employee and 59.5 sen went to corporate earnings, while five sen was given to the government in the form of taxes.

In its 11th Malaysia Plan, the Government aspires to increase the CE-to-GDP ratio substantially to 40%, from 34% in 2013.

While Malaysia’s CE-to-GDP ratio has continued to improve over the years, it is notably lower than several other high and middle-income countries.

The 11th Malaysia Plan document stated that the country’s CE-to-GDP ratio was lower than Australia (47.8%), South Korea (43.2%) and even South Africa (45.9%).

In an earlier media report, however, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research executive director Zakariah Abdul Rashid hinted that Malaysia was unlikely to reach its CE-to-GDP ratio target by 2020.

This was mainly as a result of Malaysia’s lower-than-expected productivity growth.


Low-wage conundrum

 According to Bank Negara, the main underlying cause of Malaysia’s low-wage environment is the high numbers of cheap foreign workers.

Governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim says that the country should cut back on its foreign worker dependency to drive higher wages for Malaysians across-the-board.

“In Malaysia, our salaries and wages are low, as half of the working Malaysians earn less than RM1,700 per month and the average starting salary of a diploma graduate is only about RM350 above the minimum wage.

“It is high time to reform our labour market by creating high-quality, good-paying jobs for Malaysians,” he says.

Echoing a similar stance, Yeah says that the continuing reliance on foreign workers has resulted in a predominantly low wage-low productivity-low value economy, with many features of a middle-income trap.

“On one end of the wage-skill spectrum, the low-skilled jobs are being substituted by easy availability of unskilled foreign workers, thereby keeping the blue-collar wages from rising.

“At the other end, skilled job wages are being depressed by insufficient high-wage job creation, weak firm profitability amid rising market competition and excess capacity, industry consolidations and other factors resulting in a slack labour market,” he says.

Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers. << Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.
Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.

It is worth noting that the share of high-skilled jobs has reduced to 37% in the period from 2011 to 2017, as compared to 45% from 2002 to 2010.

Malaysia has come a long way since its independence, transforming itself from a largely rural agragrian country to a regional economic powerhouse, which is driven by its strong services and manufacturing sectors.


While industrialisation and automation have grown robustly since the 1990s, economists feel that the country has not managed to substantially move up the value chain compared with other countries such as Singapore.

The lack of a high-skilled workforce, low productivity, employment opportunities to cater to high-skilled professionals and the presence of cheap foreign workers have all weighed down on the Malaysian economy, particularly the income levels of Malaysians.

Citing the examples of Singapore and Australia, which are successful in raising wages historically, Yeah says that structural reforms should be undertaken in Malaysia to reverse the low-wage conundrum.

“A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth, raise productivity and wages and shift to higher-value activities,” he says.

Sources: by Ganeshwaran Kana, The Star

Economist: Manage labour issues to achieve high-income economy

Cheap manpower: While Malaysia has clearly
benefitted from the presence of foreign workers, the role that foreign
workers play in the Malaysian economy must keep up with the times.

WHY are wages still low in Malaysia?

Well, there are six words to describe the main reason for this – “high dependence on low-skilled foreign workers”.

The issue of Malaysia’s huge reliance on low-skilled foreign labour has been raised time and again, but only moderate progress has been made in alleviating the situation.

Low-skilled foreign labour remains a prevalent feature of Malaysia’s economy, and according to Bank Negara, it is a major factor suppressing local wages and impeding the country’s progress towards a high-productivity nation.

As the central bank governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim puts it, Malaysia is currently weighed down by a low-wage, low-productivity trap, with the contributing factor being the prolonged reliance on low-skilled foreign workers.

While their existence may benefit individual firms in the short term, they could impose high macroeconomic costs to the economy over the longer term.

“Easy availability of cheap low-skilled foreign workers blunts the need for productivity improvement and automation. Employers keep wages low to maintain margins,” Muhammad says.

“Unfortunately, this depresses wages for local workers. The hiring of low-skilled foreign workers also promotes the creation of low-skilled jobs,” he adds.

From 2011 to 2017, the share of low-skilled jobs in Malaysia increased significantly to 16%, compared with only 8% in the period of 2002 to 2010. Apart from that, local economic sectors that rely on foreign workers such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing also suffer from low productivity.

Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that foreign workers do contribute somewhat to Malaysia’s economic growth.

The World Bank, in its study about three years ago noted that immigrant labour both high and low-skilled, continued to play a crucial role in Malaysia’s economic development, and would still be needed for the country to achieve high-income status by 2020.

The global institution’s econometric modeling suggested that a 10% net increase in low-skilled foreign workers could increase Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 1.1%. For every 10 new immigrant workers in a given state and sector, up to five new jobs may be created for Malaysians in that state and sector, it said.

Even so, the World Bank acknowledged that the influx of foreign labour did have a negative impact on the wages of some groups.

Its study found a 10% increase in immigration flow would reduce wages of the least-educated Malaysians, which represents 14% of the total labour force, by 0.74%. Overall, a 10% increase in immigration flow would slightly increase the wages of Malaysians by 0.14%.

According to Muhammad, while some argue that foreign employment creates economic activities, which consequently create jobs for local employment, it is neither the most efficient nor the desired route to create more mid-to-high-skilled jobs.

“Compared with local employment, foreign workers repatriate a large share of their incomes, which limits the spillover or multiplier effect on the domestic economy,” he explains.

Total outward remittances in 2017 stood at RM35.3bil, of which the bulk was accounted for by foreign workers.

In addition, Muhammad says high dependence on low-skilled foreign workers will also have an adverse effect of shaping Malaysia’s reputation as a low-skilled, labour-intensive destination.

Bank Negara says while Malaysia has clearly benefitted from the presence of foreign workers, the role that foreign workers play in the Malaysian economy must keep up with the times.

The central bank believes critical reforms to the country’s labour market are very much within its reach, and it should continue to gradually wean its dependence on foreign workers.

Malaysia should seize the opportunity now to set itself on a more productive, sophisticated and sustainable economic growth path, it says.

According to Muhammad, cutting back on foreign worker dependency can help to drive higher wages for Malaysians across-the-board.

The Government’s efforts in reducing the country’s dependency on low-skilled foreign workers have been ongoing since the implementation of the 8th Malaysia Plan (2001-2005), with greater clarity and a renewed focus to resolve the issue at hand upon the implementation of the 11th Malaysia Plan.

This has resulted in the steady decline in the share of documented foreign workers from 16.1% in 2013 to 12.0% of the labour force in 2017.

More can be done to build on the progress made, Bank Negara says, while proposing a five-pronged approach to managing foreign workers in Malaysia.

Firstly, it says, there must be a clear stance on the role of low-skilled foreign workers in Malaysia’s economic narrative. Secondly, policy implementation and changes must be gradual and clearly communicated to the industry.

Thirdly, existing demand-management tools (such as quotas, dependency ceilings and levies) can be reformed to be more market-driven, while incentivising the outcomes that are in line with Malaysia’s economic objectives.

Fourthly, there is room to ensure better treatment of foreign workers, be it improvements in working conditions or ensuring that foreign workers are paid as agreed. Lastly, it is also important to note that the proposed reforms must be complemented with effective monitoring and enforcement on the ground, particularly with respect to undocumented foreign workers.

An economist tells StarBizWeek that addressing the high reliance on foreign workers is pertinent for Malaysia’s transition into a high-income economy.

“Malaysia needs to shift its focus from importing cheap labour to managing labour flow that can maximise growth and facilitate its structural adjustment towards a higher income economy,” he says.

“It has been far too long for our economy to be swamped with foreign workers who are unskilled, or have low skill sets that could not contribute meaningfully to Malaysia’s aspiration of becoming a high-income economy,” he adds.

By Cecilia Kok, The Star

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Did Trump just launch a trade war?


LAST Thursday, US President Do­­­nald Trump signed a proclamation to raise tariffs for steel by 25% and for aluminium by 10%.

It sent shockwaves across the world not only because of the losses to metal exporters, but due to what it may signify – the start of a global trade war that will cause economic disruption and may damage, if not destroy, the multilateral trade system.

The United States, joined by Europe, has been the anchor of the global free trade system since the end of World War II. In practice, this rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the West continues to have very high protection of their agriculture sector, which cannot compete with those of many developing countries.

Moreover, the developed countries champion high intellectual property rights standards through an agreement in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), under which their companies create monopolies, set high prices and make excessive profits. This is against the free competition touted by free-trade advocates.

In manufacturing and metals, the developed countries have pressed the others to join them in cutting or removing tariffs and to expand trade, through negotiations in the WTO and its predecessor, the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

They have argued that poorer countries can best grow richer by cutting their tariffs, thus benefiting consumers and forcing their producers to become more efficient.

Trump’s move upends the ideology of free trade. According to his America First philosophy, if cheaper imports displaced local steel and aluminium producers, these imports must be stopped because a country must make its own key products.

Since the US has been the flag-bearer of the free-trade religion, this has profound effects on other countries. If the leader has changed its mind and now believes in openly protecting its industries, so too can other countries. The basis for liberal trade is destroyed and the old rationale for protectionism is revived.

The WTO rules allow countries adversely affected by imports to take certain measures, but they have to prove that the producers of exporting countries unfairly receive subsidies or set lower prices for their exports. Or they can take “safeguard” measures of raising tariffs but only for a limited period to help affected local producers to adjust.

Trump however made use of a little-used national security clause (Section 232) in the US trade laws to justify his big jump in steel and aluminium tariffs. The clause allows the President to take trade action to defend security. The WTO also has a security exception in GATT Article XXI.

But what constitutes national security is not clearly spelt out either in the US or the WTO laws, and countries can abuse this clause.

The Trump administration tried to justify invoking the security factor by saying steel and aluminium are needed to make weapons of war. But this was undercut by giving exemptions from the increased duties to Canada and Mexico due to their membership of Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agree­ment that includes the US. The exemptions for reasons unrelated to security exposes the security rationale as fake.

Other countries are angry and preparing to retaliate. The European Union has drawn up a list of American products on which its member countries will raise tariffs. China warned it would make an appropriate and necessary res­ponse.

At the WTO General Council on March 8, the US action was attacked. Many countries condemned the unilateral move and the use of the national security rationale. Canada said the security issue “may be opening a Pandora’s box we would not be able to close”.

Brazil expressed deep concern about an elastic or broad application of the national security exception. India said the national security exception under GATT should not be misused and unilateral measures have no place in the trade system. China argued that the over-protected domestic industry would never be able to solve its problems through protectionism.

Many WTO member states will most likely take the US to a dispute panel, and the outcome will have strong consequences. If the panel rules for the US, then other countries will view the decision as permission for all countries to take protectionist measures on the grounds of security.

If the decision goes against the US, it will strengthen the anti-liberal trade faction and tendency in the Trump administration to ignore or even leave the WTO.

Malaysia will be affected by the new tariffs as it exports 96,000 tonnes of steel to the US. But this is small compared to how much steel we import.

The bigger blow to us is the US measure in January to slap up to 30% tariffs on solar cells and panels. Malaysia is the largest photovoltaic cells exporter to the US, with a market share of 30%. The tariff increase will have a big impact on the solar industry, a solar company chief was quoted as saying last month.

The next big protectionist move from the US may come in a few weeks when Trump decides what action, if any, to take against China after considering a Commerce Department report on China’s trade and intellectual property practices.

If strong action against China is announced, China can be expected to take strong retaliatory action.

That may escalate the trade war that is already under way.

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Donald Trump: Trade War Threatens Germany and Europe

Did Trump Just Start a Global Trade War? – Bloomberg

Did Trump Just Launch a Trade War? | Watching America

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Western system not reference for China’s Constitutional change The ongoing annual session of the 13th

China Constitutional change accords with times


https://youtu.be/K2Q0rbqSMAY

Western system not reference for China’s Constitutional change

The ongoing annual session of the 13th National People’s Congress adopted an amendment to China’s Constitution with an overwhelming majority on Sunday, which sets the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era in the country’s political and social life. The most watched parts of the amendment include adding the clause that the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics, removing the term limits on the Chinese president and vice president, and listing the supervisory commissions as a new type of State organ in the Constitution.

Some Westerners used to intervene in China’s major decisions. This time Western opinion basically held that the Constitutional change was China’s internal matter. Yet there are still some in the West that are keen on grabbing attention by comparing the amendment to Western political systems.

But they have evaded two facts. First, in this juncture China faces a series of major challenges regarding its reform in and outside the country, which demands the Constitution be revised in accordance with the times. Major countries now are mobilizing their political resources to strengthen their decision-making capacity. The amendment is primarily driven by China’s internal needs for development.

Second, Chinese people are deeply aware that their happy life must originate from solidarity and stability, and that this has to be guarded by the whole of society led by the CPC Central Committee. In these years we have seen the rise and decline of countries and particularly the harsh reality that the Western political system doesn’t apply to developing countries and produces dreadful results.

Luckily China has maintained its steady rise for a long period. We are increasingly confident that the key to China’s path lies in upholding strong Party leadership and firmly following the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core.

Upon its founding, the People’s Republic of China largely copied the Soviet Union’s socialist system. Since reform and opening-up, China has embarked on a socialist path with Chinese characteristics and become the second-largest economy. This shows political independence is key to how far China can go.

Most major phenomena facing China can’t be explained by Western theories. China must find solutions with its own wisdom. Whether our practices are good should be assessed by whether they respond to and promote China’s mission, and the actual results.

Despite the flood of information that poured into China after reform and opening-up, Chinese society has managed to deal with it and accumulated collective wisdom. In this process the leadership of the Party Central Committee has been instrumental. The Constitutional amendment comes at a good time as it consolidates the guiding thought, Party leadership, the leadership structure and the improved supervisory mechanism when China faces arduous tasks in the new era.

This is what Chinese people truly expect. Nonetheless some Westerners who fail to figure out Chinese people’s opinion want to be the backseat driver. They should have been more objective and modest in the face of China’s long history and great practice.

Source:Global Times

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Tycoon Robert Kuok stands tall amid the bashings from Umno leaders


Well-regarded: Kuok in his office in Hong Kong. Picture taken from ‘Robert Kuok: A Memoir’.

 

DURING the two week-Chinese New Year celebrations, with the tossing of yee sang for better times ahead, the key topic of conversation among the Chinese revolved around the general election.

But the sudden eruption of high-level political attacks on Robert Kuok last weekend sent shockwaves through the community. Since then, the richest man in Malaysia has been the talk of the town.

The onslaught could not be taken lightly as Kuok is not just any ordinary businessman but someone of stature held in high esteem not only in Malaysia and China, but also by the global Chinese community.

It is a known fact that Kuok helped to lay the groundwork for the end of communist insurgency in Malaysia, played a role in easing racial tension after the May 13 racial riots and contributed funds to Umno and MCA during elections.

His generous donations have benefited the poor and rich.

Kuok has always stood tall among everyone.

Dubbed the “Sugar King of Asia”, Kuok has set up a huge international empire with businesses spanning from commodity trading to hotels, sugar and oil palm plantations, wheat flour milling, property development and entertainment.

In Malaysia, he retains control of Shangri-La Hotels and the wheat flour business after selling his sugar and property businesses.

Hence, the Chinese community here feels hurt to see their business icon being smeared based on hearsay. They see grave injustice done to this man whose loyalty and commitment to the country is being questioned.

However, due to suspicion that the whole episode could be a politically driven scheme ahead of GE14 for various reasons, Chinese community leaders only spoke up after Kuok defended himself.

While many are aware that Kuok’s recent memoir had irked some quarters due to his disdain for the New Economic Policy (1971-90), they are perplexed by the timing of this smear campaign.

Kuok’s political revelations in his book have also earned him brickbats from some people.

This round, the criticisms against the tycoon were based on three articles posted by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin on the online portal Malaysia Today.

The most startling allegation made by the controversial blogger, who has a record of stirring up racial hatred towards local Chinese in past writings, was that Kuok had donated hundreds of millions to the DAP in a bid to overthrow the Umno-led government.

Without verifying the content, Malay critics and senior Umno politicians told Kuok to be grateful to the Government as the tycoon had built his early sugar, rice and flour empire based on his good ties with Umno leaders.

The remarks by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz were particularly scathing, as crude and offensive words were used. In addition, he told Kuok to surrender his citizenship.

The critics might have misconstrued earlier statements by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who had said that some of the richest people, including Kuok, owed their success to opportunities created through government policies.

“If we look at the list of names of the richest people in Malaysia, such as Robert Kuok, who gave him the key to become the rice and sugar king? It was given to him by the ruling government,” said the Prime Minister at an event in Selangor on Feb 24.

“Yes, he is driven, hardworking, industrious and disciplined – but that is not enough. Everyone still needs the key to creating these opportunities,” he added.

Although DAP leaders promptly denied receiving money from Kuok, this failed to stop the tirade of aspersions cast against Kuok.

It was obvious that Kuok had to defend himself. He issued a statement last Monday, saying all allegations against him were “untrue, unjustified and amounted to libel”.

The 94-year-old Kuok, who moved his business headquarters from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong in 1975, denied funding The Malaysian Insight portal or opposition parties to overthrow the Government.

He also denied that he was anti-government, a racist or a Chinese chauvinist.

While Kuok’s hint of instituting libel suits might have some deterrent effect, the proposal by MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to the Prime Minister to intervene in the matter could have shut the mouths of Umno leaders.

Liow tweeted: “I have conveyed the feelings of the Chinese community to the PM. We hope that the PM will intervene to put this issue to rest. Mr Kuok has contributed greatly towards the development of the nation.”

If the vicious attacks on Kuok were allowed to continue, the first casualty in GE14 could be MCA and Gerakan, and ultimately Barisan Nasional, as angry Chinese could be provoked to vote against the coalition in GE14.

And the unintended winner from this latest episode could be the opposition side.

The question now is: Faced with so many challenges in the coming polls, could Barisan afford to sow a new seed of discontent and allow it to germinate unchecked?

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement, saying Kuok’s success is “an inspiration” for other entrepreneurs.

Though this brief statement and its “cooling effect” came a bit late in the political sense, it was better than nothing.

In addition, a tribute to Kuok posted by Najib’s brother Datuk Seri Nazir Razak on Instagram is also a comfort to the Chinese.

“I may not agree with all his views but he (Kuok) is a patriot, the icon of Malaysian business and a first-class gentleman,” said Nazir, the chairman of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd last Wednesday.

However, the injustice done to Kuok on such a scale is unlikely to be forgotten soon, as this incident has also stirred up some debates.

Is there any hidden political agenda to vilify Kuok before GE14? Do successful businessmen owe their allegiance to ruling political parties? Is it morally wrong to change your political stand?

Dr Oh Ei Sun, former political secretary of Najib, offers some explanations to Sunday Star: “Robert Kuok has shown his contempt for the NEP in his book. This may be seen as questioning Malay supremacy and this attitude must be nipped in the bud.”

He adds that Kuok may not be forgiven for stating the obvious, which many Chinese have wanted to voice out but could not for fear of losing business opportunities.

In his memoir, Kuok stated that although the Chinese have played a significant role in the economic development of Malaysia and other South-East Asian nations, many did not receive just and fair treatment.

Sin Chew Daily, quoting unnamed Barisan sources, says the bashing of Kuok also carried a warning message to the business community to think twice before they contribute election funds to opposition parties.

“These attacks also sent a message to the Malay community that they must be united to support Umno, which is being ditched by others it has helped to prosper,” said the Sin Chew report last Thursday.

Although a life member of the MCA, businessman Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew believes people owe no loyalty to political parties.

He tells Sunday Star: “A businessman is expected to be loyal to his country, not to ruling parties. Politicians and political parties come and go.

“Whoever becomes the government has a duty to create a conducive environment for the people to prosper and live harmoniously. If politicians are not worthy of support, people are free to switch their political stand in a democracy.”

Apart from ordinary people, the business community is also watching developments linked to Kuok with concern.

“If the issue on Robert Kuok is not handled properly, there will be a negative impact on the sentiment of investors. We are all following these developments,” says a businessman at a CNY dinner.

by Ho Wah Foon, The Star

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