New Year 2018 high for Malaysia


FBM KLCI moves higher past 1,800 mark while ringgit breaches RM4 level

In a synchronised fashion, the ringgit, stock market and exports are all glowing for Malaysia. Add this to the rising price of crude oil, economists are expecting the good start to the year to continue leading up to GE14. Experts foresee these translating to lower import costs and more affordable overseas education.

 

Busa and ringgit on a high

PETALING JAYA: In a rare occurrence, the local capital markets got off to a roaring start in the first week of the new year.

US$ vs ringgit at 3.9965 

Sentiments on the stock market picked up as it sailed through the 1,800 mark, the ringgit breached the RM4 level against the US dollar and the latest trade numbers released showed that exports have hit record levels.

FBM KLCI up 14.52pts to 1,817.97

The FBM KLCI, a key benchmark for the local stock market, closed at 1,817.97, up 14.52 points yesterday – the highest since April 2015. Analysts and fund managers expect the upward momentum to continue, leading to the 14th General Election (GE14).

“The local stock market is set to continue its upward momentum, with investors in optimistic mood, lingering upon expectations of the GE14,” an analyst said.

The Malaysian stock market is now playing catch-up with key regional markets in other countries that have been moving up.

For instance, in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at fresh record highs above 25,000. Trading volume on Bursa has risen sharply to a high of nearly six billion shares valued at RM3.94bil. This is the highest since 2014.

“The increasing volume is an indicator of more investors joining the fray,” said the analyst.

The ringgit also perked up against the US dollar and strengthened to 3.9945 yesterday, the strongest level since August 2016.

Crude oil prices continue to climb with the Brent Crude rising above US$67 per barrel. Apart from a brief spike in May 2015, this is the highest price levels it has reached since December 2014, when the oil price started its slide down.

Exports in November rise to RM83.50bil

Exports hit record high of RM83.5bil in November – Business News …

Adding to the optimism, the country’s latest trade data for November showed that exports exceeded expectations and rose to a monthly high of RM83.5bil. This is an increase of 14.4% from last year.

The head of UOB Kay Hian Malaysia Research, Vincent Khoo, expects global and local conditions to be favourable for the local stock market as sentiment builds up for the GE14.

“Malaysia has been a laggard and now it is reversing its underperformance. Liquidity is strong locally and internationally as there is more foreign funds participation.

“Economic numbers are strong and export momentum continues to be solid,” Khoo said.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said there were continued optimism and positive sentiments on the global economy and markets.

He said the tax reforms in the US would beef up corporate earnings while central banks around the world were raising rates.

The impending GE14, he added, spurred investors’ interest in the stock market and the recovery in oil prices continued to lift the demand for ringgit.

He said the ringgit had a good rally since the last Bank Negara meeting and the upcoming meeting on Jan 29 might see the central bank review its overnight policy rates (OPR) upwards.

The OPR now is 3.25% and many are expecting it to increase, a move that would spur banks to raise their interest rates.

Additionally, Lee said trade data was better than expected and as long as the macro numbers and earnings deliver, it would lift sentiments on market.

Nonetheless, he said investors might be a bit cautious when the dissolution of Parliament was announced.

Meanwhile, Oanda head of trading Asia-Pacific Stephen Innes said Bursa Malaysia was playing catchup as the ringgit remained undervalued in a lot of fund managers’ portfolio.

“But I think the current run will take us to 3.90 (against the US dollar) but at this stage, I think the market is starting to factor in the Bank Negara rate hike in January.

“So we may see a slower appreciation of the ringgit and we should expect profit taking ahead of the rate decision (by BNM) later in the month,” he added.

On the external front, Inness said the global equity market rally was benefiting from higher commodity prices in general and specifically oil prices.

“The recent supply disruptions are having a much more significant impact on prices given Opec’s (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) recent production cut and the market is certainly much tighter than it has been in the past.

“Rising oil prices bode well for the FBM KLCI given that oil and gas constituents play a big role in the KLCI make-up. However, I don’t think this is strictly an isolated oil play but it is also rallying on the global growth narrative which is supporting export-oriented firms,” Innes said.

By leong hung yee The Staronline

Bursa and ringgit on a high

 

FBM KLCI moves higher past 1,800 mark while ringgit breaches RM4 level

PETALING JAYA: In a rare occurrence, the local capital markets got off to a roaring start in the first week of the new year.

Sentiments on the stock market picked up as it sailed through the 1,800 mark, the ringgit breached the RM4 level against the US dollar and the latest trade numbers released showed that exports have hit record levels.

The FBM KLCI, a key benchmark for the local stock market, closed at 1,817.97, up 14.52 points yesterday – the highest since April 2015. Analysts and fund managers expect the upward momentum to continue, leading to the 14th General Election (GE14).

“The local stock market is set to continue its upward momentum, with investors in optimistic mood, lingering upon expectations of the GE14,” an analyst said.

The Malaysian stock market is now playing catch-up with key regional markets in other countries that have been moving up.

For instance, in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at fresh record highs above 25,000. Trading volume on Bursa has risen sharply to a high of nearly six billion shares valued at RM3.94bil. This is the highest since 2014.

“The increasing volume is an indicator of more investors joining the fray,” said the analyst.

The ringgit also perked up against the US dollar and strengthened to 3.9945 yesterday, the strongest level since August 2016.

Crude oil prices continue to climb with the Brent Crude rising above US$67 per barrel. Apart from a brief spike in May 2015, this is the highest price levels it has reached since December 2014, when the oil price started its slide down.

Adding to the optimism, the country’s latest trade data for November showed that exports exceeded expectations and rose to a monthly high of RM83.5bil. This is an increase of 14.4% from last year.

The head of UOB Kay Hian Malaysia Research, Vincent Khoo, expects global and local conditions to be favourable for the local stock market as sentiment builds up for the GE14.

“Malaysia has been a laggard and now it is reversing its underperformance. Liquidity is strong locally and internationally as there is more foreign funds participation.

“Economic numbers are strong and export momentum continues to be solid,” Khoo said.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said there were continued optimism and positive sentiments on the global economy and markets.

He said the tax reforms in the US would beef up corporate earnings while central banks around the world were raising rates.

The impending GE14, he added, spurred investors’ interest in the stock market and the recovery in oil prices continued to lift the demand for ringgit.

He said the ringgit had a good rally since the last Bank Negara meeting and the upcoming meeting on Jan 29 might see the central bank review its overnight policy rates (OPR) upwards.

The OPR now is 3.25% and many are expecting it to increase, a move that would spur banks to raise their interest rates.

Additionally, Lee said trade data was better than expected and as long as the macro numbers and earnings deliver, it would lift sentiments on market.

Nonetheless, he said investors might be a bit cautious when the dissolution of Parliament was announced.

Meanwhile, Oanda head of trading Asia-Pacific Stephen Innes said Bursa Malaysia was playing catchup as the ringgit remained undervalued in a lot of fund managers’ portfolio.

“But I think the current run will take us to 3.90 (against the US dollar) but at this stage, I think the market is starting to factor in the Bank Negara rate hike in January.

“So we may see a slower appreciation of the ringgit and we should expect profit taking ahead of the rate decision (by BNM) later in the month,” he added.

On the external front, Inness said the global equity market rally was benefiting from higher commodity prices in general and specifically oil prices.

“The recent supply disruptions are having a much more significant impact on prices given Opec’s (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) recent production cut and the market is certainly much tighter than it has been in the past.

“Rising oil prices bode well for the FBM KLCI given that oil and gas constituents play a big role in the KLCI make-up. However, I don’t think this is strictly an isolated oil play but it is also rallying on the global growth narrative which is supporting export-oriented firms,” Innes said.

Experts see good tidings in firmer currency

Back in favour:People queuing to change the ringgit for US Dollar at a money exchange outlet in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

PETALING JAYA: Lower import costs and more affordable overseas education are among the benefits brought about by a firmer ringgit and bullish stockmarket.

National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) president Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap said the rise in the ringgit is a sign of growing confidence in the nation’s economy.

“These are good signs which have set a feel-good mood for the market. What is most important is for the ringgit to remain stable as business needs this rather than having to hedge on the foreign exchange,” he said.

However, a stronger ringgit could act as a “double-edged sword”, Ter added, as exports would now cost higher.

“Exporters may not make the windfall profit as before but they had adjusted to this,” said Ter, who is also Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) president.

Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) president Datuk Garry Chua said a stronger ringgit bodes well for retailers that rely heavily on imports.

“In the end, the shoppers will benefit as cost of products would be lower due to the exchange rate,” he said.

Chua said the positive stock run was also good news for retailers and consumers.

“People tend to spend more due to easy earnings from the market and this is good for business,” he said.

Malaysia Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) president Tan Sri Kenneth Eswaran said the positive developments showed that the nation’s economic transformation is on the right track.

“The ringgit breaking the RM4 barrier and the stock market climb are signs showing the Government’s economic transformation plans are bearing fruit. Traders and consumers will now enjoy lower import costs,” he said.

Taylor’s University deputy vice chancellor Prof Dr Pradeep Nair said the ringgit’s rally is expected to continue and strengthen below the RM4 region.

“For the education sector, this will be beneficial for parents who wish to send their children abroad to do part or whole of their studies to countries like the US, UK and Australia, should the trend continue,” he said.

He said a firmer ringgit would not have a major impact on incoming foreign students.

“We are still relatively cheaper than other countries that use English as the medium of teaching and we will remain one of the preferred destinations for foreign students looking for affordable, quality education,” he said.

Sunway Education Group senior executive director Dr Elizabeth Lee said some parents would be more willing to send their children abroad for further studies.

“I sense that enthusiasm in parents who enrolled their children with us. They are more confident of supporting their higher education throughout,” she said.

By martin carvalho The Staronline

Ringgit boost for investors, importers 

Companies which lost out during a low ringgit recouping fast

Ringgit on uptrend: People queuing up to change money at a money changer. The ringgit has broken past the crucial 4.00 level.

THE New Year is in, tides are changing and the ringgit is recovering from the past two year’s extreme blues.

The long-awaited reprieve has finally come for certain consumer companies that import intermediary goods for their production cycle.

Foreigners who have taken advantage by accumulating and buying into the equity and/or bond market when the ringgit was at a weaker level last year, would be firmly in the money now.

Analysts see the local currency as now being on a cruise control climb mode moving to new highs in the past week and possibly in the near future.

They note that the foreign buyers would see two-way gains and would be able to realise their gains if they choose to.

“If they liquidate and take the money out they will realise the gains and benefit. Last year the ringgit strengthened by almost 10.4%. Ringgit already broke the crucial 4.00 level, assuming that they make money from the market and take it out, they will also pay less to convert to US dollar,” Socio Economic Research Centre’s executive director Lee Heng Guie tells StarBiz Week.

The ringgit had seen a gain of 0.64% after we entered the New Year, adding to its gains that was achieved in the past two months of 5.63%.<

Currency strategists agree that the next crucial psychological mark would be the 3.80 level that is the infamous currency peg level some years after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

The recovering oil prices with the lifting of equity markets due to strong global sentiment aided gains in the ringgit, Lee says.

The FBM KLCI saw a strong upward move as investors celebrated Christmas and ushered in the New Year thereafter.

The benchmark index had gained some 4.6% since Dec 19 to yesterday’s close at 1,817.97.

Meanwhile, the other companies that will stand to gain are consumer-driven companies especially those that have imported intermediary goods to manufacture or complete end products.

Lee says the strengthening ringgit, if it is sustained, would eventually help to boost the consumer sentiment index (CSI).

In the latest reported third quarter of 2017, the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (Mier) said the CSI continued to remain weak with the index having retreated further to 77.1.

“Anxieties over higher prices grow and (there are) burly spending plans amid waning incomes and jobs,” the Mier said at the release of third quarter CSI figures then.

Any CSI level below the 100 indicates weakness on the consumer front.

Lee says he is hopeful the stronger ringgit would help eventually translate to additional cost savings to the consumer in the form of lower prices.

Meanwhile, MIDF Research’s consumer stocks analyst Nabil Fithri says not all consumer companies would automatically gain from the strengthening ringgit.

He notes that the gainers among the consumer companies would mainly be those which derive their sales from the local market and have imported intermediary goods in the supply chain.

“On average, the companies that import their raw materials lock in the prices through forward contracts for the upcoming six months. So, if there are any gains to their profit margins, it would be seen in the second half of the year,” he says.

Among the companies that stand to gain from this trend are the major consumer food companies such as Fraser & Neave Holdings Bhd (F&N), Nestle (M) Bhd and Dutch Lady Milk Industries Bhd.

Strong gains: The Dutch Lady Milk Industries
factory in Petaling Jaya. The company’s stocks had been making strong
gains since last year.
Better profit: Nestle Malaysia is one of the companies gaining from a strong ringgit.

All three stocks have been making strong gains in their share prices last year despite their high base.

Observers note that a common theme today that belies these stocks are that they derive their sales from the local market, with minimal or zero exports. Hence they will benefit from strong gains should the local currency appreciate further.

“Their raw materials that form a big part of their production are ingredients such as milk, coffee and sugar which are not readily available locally. They need to be imported and these are denominated in US dollar,” an analyst with a local research outfit says.

Two of those stocks that were mentioned above topped the gainers list on Friday: Nestle rising by RM1.20 to a new historical high of RM103.80 and F&N hitting an alltime high of RM27.82.

Investors may also want to train their sights on the smaller-capitalised consumer stocks some of which had been at a disadvantage earlier due to the weakened ringgit.

The stocks in this space include Apollo Food Holdings Bhd, Hup Seng Industries and Berjaya Food Bhd.

Apollo Food, the maker of packaged confectionery products see a big part of their sales being derived locally and their food is usually stocked in the school canteens.

The stock is trading at a current price to earnings ratio (PER) of 23.6 times and forward financial year 2018 ending April 30 (FY18) PER of 18.96 times.

The company’s second quarter profit had dropped by 11.1% to RM3.82mil primarily due to the lower ringgit then compared to the same quarter a year ago.

When the ringgit was trading above the 4.00 level then, the company had said in its prospectus that its operating environment was more challenging due to the increase in costs of raw materials.

Meanwhile, Berjaya Food Bhd could see further gains ahead as the ringgit continues its ascent.

The company owns half of the popular Starbucks franchise in Malaysia beside owning the worldwide Kenny Rogers Roasters franchise after acquiring KRR International Corp of the US in April 2008.

AmInvestment Bank Research said last month that it believed the worst is over for Berjaya Food with KRR’s robust same store sales growth following the disposal of KRR Indonesia.

The research house had highlighted that Berjaya Food would benefit from a stronger ringgit.

AmInvestment Research maintained its buy recommendation on Berjaya Food with fair value of RM1.91 per share.

“Valuations are pegged to a PER of 25 times FY19 forward, reflecting a 20% premium to its historical valuations. We think that it is justified as Berjaya Food has significantly enhanced earnings visibility following the disposal of KRR Indonesia, attractive growth off a low base and a stellar Starbucks brand,” it says.

By daniel khoo TheStaronline

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Critical trends to watch in 2018


There are many issues on a fast and slow boil and some of them could reach a tipping point in the new year

ANOTHER new year has dawned, and it’s time to preview what to expect in 2018.

The most obvious topic would be to anticipate how Donald Trump, the most unorthodox of American presidents, would continue to upset the world order. But more about that later.

Just as importantly as politics, we are now in the midst of several social trends that have important long-term effects. Some are on the verge of reaching a tipping point, where a trend becomes a critical and sometimes irreversible event. We may see some of that in 2018.

Who would have expected that 2017 would end with such an upsurge of the movement against sexual harassment? Like a tidal wave it swept away Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, film star Kevin Spacey, TV interviewer Charlie Rose and many other icons.

The #MeToo movement took years to gather steam, with the 1991 Anita Hill testimony against then US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas being a trailblazer. It paved the way over many years for other women to speak up until the tipping point was reached. So, in 2018, expect the momentum to continue, and in more countries.

Another issue that has been brewing is the rapid growth and effects of digital technology. Those enjoying the benefits of the smartphone, Google search, WhatsApp, Uber and online shopping usually sing its praises.

But the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It has many benefits but also serious downsides, and the debate is now picking up.

First, automation with artificial intelligence can make many jobs redundant. Uber displaced taxis, and will soon displace its drivers with driver-less cars.

The global alarm over job losses is resonating at home. An International Labour Organisation report warning that 54% of jobs in Malaysia are at high risk of being displaced by technology in the next 20 years was cited by Khazanah Research Institute in its own study last April. TalentCorp has estimated that 43% of jobs in Malaysia may potentially be lost to automation.

Second is a recent chorus of warnings, including by some of digital technology’s creators, that addiction and frequent use of the smartphone are making humans less intelligent and socially deficient.

Third is the loss of privacy as personal data collected from Internet use is collected by tech companies like Facebook and sold to advertisers.

Fourth is the threat of cyber-fraud and cyber-warfare as data from hacked devices can be used to empty bank accounts, steal information from governments and companies, and as part of warfare.

Fifth is the worsening of inequality and the digital divide as those countries and people with little access to digital devices, including small businesses, will be left behind.

The usual response to these points is that people and governments must be prepared to get the benefits and counter the ill effects. For example, laid-off workers should be retrained, companies taught to use e-commerce, and a tax can be imposed on using robots (an idea supported by Bill Gates).

But the technologies are moving ahead faster than policy makers’ capacity to keep track and come up with policies and regulations. Expect this debate to move from conference rooms to the public arena in 2018, as more technologies are introduced and more effects become evident.

On climate change, scientists frustrated by the lack of action will continue to raise the alarm that the situation is far worse than earlier predicted.

In fact, the tipping point may well have been reached already. On Dec 20, the United Nations stated that the Arctic has been forever changed by the rapidly warming climate. The Arctic continued in 2017 to warm at double the rate of the global temperature increase, resulting in the loss of sea ice.

These past three years have been the warmest on record. The target of limiting temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, a benchmark just two years ago by the UN’s top scientific climate panel and the Paris Agreement, seems outdated and a new target of 1.5°C could be adopted in 2018.

But it is much harder to meet this new target. Will political leaders and the public rise to the challenge, or will 2018 see a wider disconnect between what needs to be done, and a lack of the needed urgent response?

Another issue reaching tipping point is the continuing rise of antibiotic resistance, with bacteria mutating to render antibiotics increasingly ineffective to treat many diseases. There are global and national efforts to contain this crisis, but not enough, and there is little time left to act before millions die from once-treatable ailments.

Finally, back to Trump. His style and policies have been disruptive to the domestic and global order, but last year he seemed unconcerned about criticisms on this. So we can expect more of the same or even more shocking measures in 2018.

Opposition to his policies from foreign countries will not count for much. But there are many in the American establishment who consider him a threat to the American system.

Will 2018 see the opposition reach a tipping point to make a significant difference? It looks unlikely. But like many other things in 2018, nothing is reliably predictable.

Global Trends by martin khor

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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Chinese are the unsung heroes of South East Asia: Robert Kuok Memoirs


They are the most amazing economic ants on Earth, ‘Sugar King’ writes in memoir

Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70year career. Robert Kuok

The overseas Chinese were the unsung heroes of the region, having helped to build South East Asia to what it is today, said Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok (pic).

He said that it was the Chinese immigrants who tackled difficult task such as planting and tapping rubber, opening up tin mines, and ran small retail shops which eventually created a new economy around them.

“It was the Chinese who helped build up Southeast Asia. The Indians also played a big role, but the Chinese were the dominant force in helping to build the economy.

“They came very hungry and eager as immigrants, often barefooted and wearing only singlets and trousers. They would do any work available, as an honest income meant they could have food and shelter.

“I will concede that if they are totally penniless, they will do almost anything to get their first seed capital. But once they have some capital, they try very hard to rise above their past and advance their reputations as totally moral, ethical businessmen,” Kuok said based on excerpts of his memoir reported in the South China Morning Post .

“Robert Kuok, A Memoir’ is set to be released in Malaysia on Dec 1.

Kuok said the Chinese immigrants were willing to work harder than anyone else and were willing to “eat bitterness”, hence, were the most amazing economic ants on earth.

In the extracted memoir published by the South China Morning Post, Kuok, pointed out that if there were any businesses to be done on earth, one can be sure that a Chinese will be there.

“They will know whom to see, what to order, how best to save, how to make money. They don’t need expensive equipment or the trappings of office; they just deliver.

“I can tell you that Chinese businessmen compare notes every waking moment of their lives. There are no true weekends or holidays for them. That’s how they work. Every moment, they are listening, and they have skilfully developed in their own minds – each and every one of them – mental sieves to filter out rubbish and let through valuable information.

“Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70-year career,” he said.

“They flourish without the national, political and financial sponsorship or backing of their host countries. In Southeast Asia, the Chinese are often maltreated and looked down upon. Whether you go to Malaysia, Sumatra or Java, the locals call you Cina – pronounced Chee-na – in a derogatory way,” he said.

He added that the Chinese had no “fairy godmothers” financial backers.

“Yet, despite facing these odds, the overseas Chinese, through hard work, endeavour and business shrewdness, are able to produce profits of a type that no other ethnic group operating in the same environment could produce,” he said.

Kuok ultimately attributed the Chinese survivability in Southeast Asia to its cultural strength.

“They knew what was right and what was wrong. Even the most uneducated Chinese, through family education, upbringing and social environment, understands the ingredients and consequences of behaviour such as refinement, humility, understatement, coarseness, bragging and arrogance,” he said.

 

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Malaysia’s economy: stronger but eroding purchasing power


The story is the same everywhere – the rising cost of living has not been accompanied by an increase in wages.

HERE we go again – another set of impressive growth figures. Bank Negara has announced Malaysia’s latest economic growth at a commendable 6.2% in the third quarter of 2017.

The pace of economic growth for the three months up to September was faster than the 5.8% registered in the second quarter of the year.

This growth rate was the fastest since June 2014.

On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted basis, the Malaysian economy posted a growth of 1.8% against 1.3% in the preceding quarter, according to the Statistics Department.

Malaysia’s robust economic growth has been attributed to private-sector spending and a continued strong performance in exports.

To quote Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim last Friday: “Expansion was seen across all economic sectors.”

But try explaining this impressive economic growth rate to the average salaried worker struggling to pay his monthly household bills.

Stretching the ringgit is especially great for those living in urban areas, and Malaysia is increasingly becoming urbanised.

The story is the same everywhere – the rising cost of living has not been accompanied by an increase in wages.

Compounding matters is the depreciation of the ringgit, reducing the purchasing power of the ordinary folk. They can’t buy the same amount of food as they used to previously.

Employers are being forced to cut operating costs to match declining profits.

Job security is becoming paramount. Many are fearful of losing their jobs, as companies cut cost to cope with the challenging business landscape.

And the reality is that many companies are not hiring, as evident from the unemployment rate of 3.4%.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has cautioned that more people would be out of a job this year due to the current economic challenges.

Apart from the challenging landscape, technology has disrupted several brick-and-mortar businesses, forcing them to change their way of doing business.

According to MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, economic challenges will compel bosses to review their workers’ requirements.

While official statistics show that the economy is charting a strong growth path, the trickle-down effect is not being felt.

Why is the sentiment on the ground different from what the politicians and officials are telling us? Why is there a disconnect in the economy?

Are the figures released by the government officials more accurate and authoritative compared with the loud grumblings on the ground that are anecdotical in nature devoid of proper findings?

We hear reports of supermarkets and hypermarkets closing down, but could that be because their business model no longer works as more Malaysians turn to online shopping, with e-commerce companies announcing huge jumps in traffic?

It is the same with the malls – retail outlets are reporting lower sales and this is compounded by the fact that there is an oversupply of malls.

International restaurant chains such as Hong Kong’s dim sum outlet Tim Ho Wan and South Korean bakery Tous Les Jours and South Korean barbeque restaurant Bulgogi Brothers have ceased operations.

But then again, it could be that their offerings and prices had failed to compete effectively against the local choices.

According to the central bank, demand is anchored in private-sector spending.

“On the supply side, the services and manufacturing sectors remain the key drivers of growth,” Muhammad said.

Looking ahead, the governor said that the economy this year is poised to register strong growth and likely to hit the upper end of the official target of 5.2%-5.7%.

The trickle-down effect is not being felt simply because there is uneven growth in the various sectors of the economy.

The property sector, which provides the biggest multiplier effect, continues to be in the doldrums.

The weak ringgit has had a big impact on the price of food, especially processed food and beverages that make up 74.3% of Malaysian household spending.

It was reported that Malaysia had imported a whopping RM38bil worth of food between January and October last year.

In recent weeks, the ringgit has strengthened to about RM4.16 against the US dollar. But it is still far from RM3.80 to the dollar and the outlook of the currency remains uncertain.

We can’t even hold our heads up against the Thai baht and Indonesian rupiah – two currencies that have appreciated against the ringgit.

The headline economic numbers are showing good growth, but Malaysians’ purchasing power has dropped and our living standards have eroded. That is the bottom line. We are living in denial if we do not admit this.

This column first appeared in StarBiz Premium.
Source: On the beat by Wong Chun Hai, TheStaronline

 

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Call to shed light on PDC’s huge debts owned to Penang govt


GEORGE TOWN: The state has been told to explain the financial status of Penang Development Corporation (PDC) over its alleged mounting debts.

Datuk Dr Muhamad Farid Saad (BN-Pulau Betong) said PDC received a RM600mil loan last year from Budget 2017, while in Budget 2018 the loan to PDC was approximately RM300mil.

Questioning if the debts indicate that PDC was not on stable financial ground, he asked if PDC would be able to pay back the huge sum to the state.

“Both loans are huge. How is PDC going to pay it all back?

“What has happened to the revenue of PDC in recent years? We would like some answers to the whereabouts of the expenditure on whether the sum was used for investment or loan to a third party.

“Is the PDC today not on stable financial ground until there were some who said that PDC has to take a bank loan to give out salaries,” he said when debating the Supply Bill and Budget 2018 at the state assembly sitting yesterday.

State Opposition Leader Datuk Jahara Hamid (BN-Telok Air Tawar) also raised her concern if PDC “was in the red”, considering that it was among the corporations in the past which had developed Bayan Baru and Seberang Jaya.

“PDC has also contributed to numerous state funds. But now, it is the opposite. PDC is borrowing money from the state government,” she said.

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Penang tables election budget for 2018: higher defict of RM740.5mil, paints rosy economic picture …



GEORGE TOWN: Penang has tabled a higher deficit state Budget of RM740.5million for the next fiscal year of 2018.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng when tabling the budget, stressed that it was an estimate and it can be reduced if the state records a higher revenue collection.

Among some of the initial highlights for the state was a free Rapid Penang bus service during peak rush hours in the mornings and evenings.

Allocations would also be given to aid the medical tourism and hi-tech manufacturing sectors.

Penang has tabled a projected budget deficit of RM748.5 million for next year, compared to a RM667 million deficit for this year as administration and living costs continue to escalate.

However, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng stressed that the state has a unique distinction of tabling projected budget deficits every year yet recording actual surpluses.

Next year’s operating expenditure is RM1.25 billion, while the forecast revenue collection is RM503.7 million.

The cost savings come principally through the open tender system and an efficient administration, Lim told the state legislative assembly today.

After some 10 years of facing various external economic challenges, Lim said the state’s gross domestic product is projected to outstrip the national average growth of 5.2% for this year.

Penang is targeting a GDP growth of 6% this year with the main contribution coming from manufacturing and services, with farming also showing signs of promise through fish farming.

GDP per capita has increased from RM33,597 in 2010 to RM47,322 in 2016, a 30% increase. Penang’s GDP per capita is the second highest in the country, behind only Kuala Lumpur.

From 2015 to the first half of 2017, Penang attracted a total of RM13.8 billion in approved Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Tourism has also grown with the number of passengers at the Penang International Airport (PIA) hitting 6.7 million passengers in 2016, exceeding the airport’s capacity of 6.5 million passengers.

The success story in the last 10 years is reflected by annual budget surpluses since 2008, with accumulated budget surpluses over the eight year period between 2008 to 2015 reaching RM578 million.

Lim also announced a range of fresh initiatives, which pundits have described as a people-friendly fiscal plan designed to endear the state government to the voters with the next general election looming near.

> There is a “I Love Penang” card, which is a smartcard for all local residents that allows access to social amenities and benefits provided by the state. The public think tank Penang Institute will be the implementing agency for it, as they have been allocated a budget of RM4.5 million to produce and distribute the smartcards.

> A free public stage bus service was mooted during the daily peak hours in the mornings and evenings – it is aimed at reducing traffic congestion. The project is dependent on the cooperation of RapidPenang.

> Penang has allocated RM60 million to jumpstart a “Pinang Sihat” medical card programme for families whose combined household income is below RM5,000, where the state will subsidise treatment at private clinics.

A medical card will be issued to each recipient, who can only spend up to RM50 per visit to a panel of private clinics who are part of the Pinang Sihat scheme.

“This will help the recipients, who fall ill to see a doctor without worrying too much about expensive charges or travelling to government clinics that are far away from their homes,” said Lim.

> The free mammogram examination scheme for women above 35 years shall continue. So far more than 10,000 women have benefited.

> The state will also be increasing the annual payouts for senior citizens and the disabled from RM100 to RM300 for next year.

> A maximum bonus payout of RM2,000 will be accorded to civil servants who have a good disciplinary record while those below par will only receive RM1,000.

> The state will also allocate RM10 million for hill slope protection efforts, as well as to conceive a study on climate change, and tackle illegal farming.

Later, there was a protest at Komtar, led by former Penang PAS Youth head Mohamed Hafiz Nordin, who urged the state government to rescind the alleged appointment of PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as the new Penang Islamic Religious Council president, replacing Permatang Pasir assemblyman Datuk Salleh Man.

Hafiz argued that Saifuddin was not a religious scholar, therefore he was not suitable for the post. Saifuddin’s replied that holding protests is normal in a democracy.

Source:  Ian McIntyre and Imran Hilmi newsdesk@thesundaily.com

Much ado about nothing

Penang govt also gave an election budget, says MCA leader

“Public housing shortage is serious in Penang. Badminton courts and
swimming pools can be added into low and low medium-cost housing
projects. Tang Heap Seng”

WHAT is wrong with an election budget?

“Election budgets are happy and beneficial things for the rakyat,” said party secretary Tang Heap Seng.

He, however, advised Pakatan Harapan politicians not to “criticise something but did the same themselves”.

“Many Pakatan politicians criticised the Federal Budget and the Penang government did exactly the same.

“They claimed the Federal Budget will help Barisan Nasional win the general election.

“But then, the Penang government also gave an election budget,” said Tang during a press conference at the Penang MCA headquarters in Transfer Road yesterday.

Among the Budget 2018 goodies were Childcare Aid of RM300 for Working Mothers, RM300 aid for each local vocational school students and one-year waiver of business licence for about 29,000 hawkers and traders.

On the state Budget for next year, Tang said while there were many benefits, he was puzzled by the allocation of RM275mil to build 82 badminton courts and four Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“While sports are crucial to a happy society, we wonder why the state paid little attention to Penang’s urgent problems.

“Public housing shortage is serious in Penang. If the government wants to provide badminton courts and swimming pools, these could be added into low and low medium-cost housing projects,” he said.

Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong and secretary Hng Chee Wey also issued statements yesterday, expressing bewilderment at the RM275mil allocation.

In contrast, the tabled development expenditure for state Drainage and Irrigation Department is RM12.3mil.

Penang Island City Council and Seberang Prai Municipal Council will spend RM20mil on flood mitigation and for hillslope protection, RM10mil was budgeted.

Tang also said the RM53mil budgeted for the development of Islam was commendable, but wondered why only RM1.1mil would be given to Penang Hindu Endowment Board next year.

He said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng only mentioned that RM30mil was given to non-Islamic religious development since 2008 when he tabled the Budget.

He said it would be ideal to allocate RM30mil each for the development of Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Sikhism and other minor religions yearly.

In a statement as well, Penang Women’s Development Corporation applauded the RM300 yearly aid for each working mother under the age of 60 with children aged six and below through the state Budget.

Meanwhile, Lim clarified that the bonus for civil servants would come from the reserved funds of this year’s Budget.

Earlier, Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Dr Muhamad Farid Saad had expressed confusion, saying, “How could you give a bonus this year through a Budget for next year?”

Malaysia’s Budget 2018 Highlights


KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak has tabled the RM280 billion Budget for 2018, his last before the next general election which must be called by middle of next year.

Below are Salient points of the budget from Dewan Rakyat.

Civil Servants

• 1.6 million civil servants to receive the following benefits:

– second round time-based promotions

– senior servants who retire due to health reasons will be accorded the same benefits as those who undergo mandatory retirement

– special leave for teachers increased to 10 days a year, up from seven

– seven days unrecorded leave for umrah pilgrimage

– women at least five months pregnant allowed to leave work an hour earlier while husbands accorded the same privilege if their work locations are in close proximity to each other

– maternity leave increased from 300 to 360 days throughout service with a maximum of 90 days a year

– RM1,000 set for minimum pension amount

Senior Citizens, Disabled, Children

• RM1.7 billion for the following areas:

– RM603 million to increase allowance of senior citizens from RM50 to RM350

– RM100 million to increase allowance for the disabled by RM50 a month

Digital Free Trade Zone

• RM83.5 million allocated for DFTZ in Aeropolis, KLIA.

• Increase minimum value for imports from RM500 – RM800.

Sustainable Development

• RM5 billion allocated under Green Technology Funding Scheme.

• RM1.4 billion to reduce non-revenue water programme.

• RM1.3 billion to build Off-River Storage as an alternative water source.

• RM517 million for flood mitigation plans nationwide.

Reduction in Income Tax Rates

• Reduction in individual income tax rates:

– RM20,001 – RM35,000: 5% to 3%

– RM35,001 – RM50,000: 10% to 8%

– RM50,001 – RM70,000: 16% to 14%

• Increase disposable income between RM300-RM1,000 while 261,000 do not have to pay tax

Foreign Domestic Helpers

• Allow employers to hire foreign domestic helpers directly without agent.

GST

• No change to Goods and Services Tax but government to propose either exemption or zerorising certain items and services.

– local councils

– reading materials

– cruise operators

– construction of schools and places of worship funded by approved donations

– oil and gas equipment imports under lease agreement

– import of big ticket items like planes and ships

– management and maintenance of homes with strata titles

Health

• RM27 billion for better quality health services.

• RM4.1 billion for medical supplies and consumables.

• RM1.4 billion to upgrade and maintain health facilities, equipment, ambulances and construction of operation theatres in three hospitals.

• RM100 million to upgrade hospitals and clinics.

• RM50 million to subsidise hemodialysis treatment; and RM40 million for medical assistance fund.

• RM10 million for treatment of rare diseases; RM30 million for health community programmes.

• RM50 million for voluntary health insurance scheme.

Housing

• RM2.2 billion allocated to boost home ownership.

BR1M

• 7 million benefited from RM6.8 billion in BR1M payouts and in 2018 the 7 million will continue to receive the same payout.

Orang Asli Benefits

• RM50 million for Orang Asli for economic development and quality of life enhancement.

• RM60 million for Orang Asli village development.

Indian and Chinese Benefits

• RM50 million for Chinese SME loans through KOJADI.

• RM30 million to be channelled to the 1Malaysia Hawkers and Petty Traders Foundation.

• RM65 million allocated for Chinese New Villages and RM10 million for house restoration.

• RM1.5 billion additional Amanah Saham units for Indians.

• Increase the intake of Indians to IPTA and public service (7%)

Bumiputera Benefits

• RM2.4 billion allocated to UiTM.

• RM3.5 billion for the following initiatives:

– RM2.5 billion for MARA higher education and training scholarships

– RM90 million for Program Peneraju Profesional, Skil dan Tunas

– RM200 million for MARA Graduate Employability Training Scheme or GETS

– RM555 million for Bumiputera Entrepreneurship Enhancement Programme (RM200 million for PUNB Entrepreneurship Programme and Business Premises; RM200 million for MARA Entrepreneurship; RM115 million for Vendor Capacity Programmes).

• RM150 million for Pelaburan Hartanah Berhad and RM150 million to EKUINAS.

Defence

• A total of RM14 billion for armed forces; RM9 billion for police force, RM900 million for Malaysian maritime.

• RM3 billion for purchase and maintenance of defence assets; RM720 million for the construction of 11 police headquarters and six police stations.

• RM490 million to MMEA for repair and maintenance of ships, boats, jetties and procurement of three patrol vessels.

• RM250 million to ESSCOM

• RM50 million to enhance weapon capability to combat terrorism.

• Government to build 40,000 houses in phases for families of armed forces personnel.

• RM40 million to upgrade five hospitals; build four polyclinics and one hospital for veteran armed forces personnel.

Rural Development

• RM200 million allocated for Felda for water supply and road upgrades.

• 112,ooo settlers will each receive windfall worth RM5,000.

• RM43 million allocation for Felda settlers and RM60 million for replanting of oil palm, RM164 million allocation to build 5,000 houses for second generation Felda settlers.

• RM1.1 billion for people-centric projects; RM1 billion to develop communication infrastructure; RM934 million for rural projects; RM672 million for electricity supply; RM420 million for clean water supply inclusive of RM300 million in Sabah and Sarawak covering 3,000 homes; RM500 million for public infrastructure maintenance; RM50 million for mapping and measuring of native customary land

– RM30 million for Sarawak, RM20 million for Sabah.

• RM6.5 billion for rural infrastructure which includes RM2 billion for the Pan Borneo Highway.

Education

• RM4.9 million allocated for 100 scholarships for TVET students.

• RM4.9 billion allocated for Technical and Vocational, Education and Training (TVET).

• RM200 million added to PTPTN fund for B40 families.

• Discount for repayment of PTPTN loans is extended to Dec 31, 2018 (20% for full repayment, 10% for 50% repayment, and 10% for direct debit salary deduction).

• RM100 for 3.2 million schoolchildren totalling RM328 million.

• RM2.9 billion for food aid, text books and minor federal scholarships.

• RM2.5 billion for maintenance of schools – RM500 million in Peninsula, RM1 billion in Sabah, RM1 billion in Sarawak, in addition to an existing special fund for maintenance.

• RM654 million for construction of four pre-schools; nine Permata schools; two centres for children with autism; 48 primary, secondary as well as vocational and matriculation centres.

• RM61.6 billion for development of education.

TN50

• RM20 million for Bukit Jalil sports school.

• RM112 million to construct 14 new sports complexes nationwide.

• RM1 billion to conduct sports initiatives to make country a sports powerhouse.

• RM50 million to fund social enterprise and NGOs to solve communities issues.

• RM40 million for open interview programme under the 1Malaysia training scheme (SL1M).

• All undergraduates and those in Form Six will continue to receive book vouchers.

• RM90 million for MyBrain programme for 10,600 students to further their studies at post-graduate level.

• RM400 million for research and development grants to public institutions of higher learning with a special allocation to Universiti Malaya to achieve status of Top 100 universities in the world.

• RM2.2 billion for JPA scholarships, the ministry of higher education and ministry of health.

• RM20 million for setting up of a Cultural Economy Development agency.

• RM190 million to upgrade 2,000 classes to become smart learning classrooms.

• To enhance present computer science module to include coding programme in primary and secondary school curriculums.

• RM250 million to build science, technology, engineering and mathematics centre.

• Special fund set up for children born between Jan 2018 to Jan 2022.

• Tax relief for employers who employ the disabled that include those involved in accidents and have critical illnesses.

• Local councils to make it mandatory for all new buildings to have childcare facilities, beginning in Kuala Lumpur.

Public Transport

• Government studying proposal for a new airport in Pulau Tioman.

• Government to build new airport for Mukah and expand airport for Kota Bahru and Sandakan.

• Government to upgrade Penang and Langkawi international airports.

• RM55 million transport subsidy for rural rail services from Tumpat to Gua Musang.

• RM45 million to create a biometric control system to monitor the movement of express bus services.

• RM95 million for the repair and construction of jetties as well as river mouth dredging.

• RM1 billion for public transport fund for start-up capital and procurement of assets like buses and taxis.

• RM3 billion for transport development fund for the purchase of maritime assets, aerospace technology development and rail.

Infrastructure

• Special border economic zone in Bukit Kayu Hitam to be developed.

• Pulau Pangkor to be declared a duty-free zone.

• RM230 million to continue central spine road project from Raub to Bentong.

• RM5 billion for the west coast coastal highway from Banting to Taiping.

• Government to expedite MRT3 project by two years from 2027 to 2025.

• RM32 billion for MRT2 project (Sg Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya).

• RM110 million to provide alternative road to Port Klang.

Tourism

• RM30 million to be allocated to the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council to boost medical tourism.

• RM500 million for the promotion and development of tourism.

• RM1 billion to tourism infrastructure development fund.

• RM2 billion fund for SMEs in tourism.

Agriculture

• RM200 monthly for a duration of 3 months for padi farmers while waiting to harvest their crops, which amounts to RM150 million.

• RM200 million for rubber replanting, RM140 million for development, re-planting and promotion of oil palm.

• Almost RM500 million to improve agriculture infrastructure.

• RM2.3 billion in incentives and assistance for the agriculture community.

• RM6.5 billion allocated to the smallholders, farming and fishing communities.

Other Highlights

• RM100 million with a 70% government-guaranteed loan for the furniture export industry.

• RM200 million allocated for training programmes, grants and SME easy loans under SME Corp; and close to RM82 million for halal products and industry development.

• RM2 billion set aside for 70% government-guaranteed loans.

• RM5 billion allocated for start-up capital for businesses.

• RM7 billion allocated to Skim Jaminan Pembiayaan Perniagaan.

• SMEs expected to contribute 41% of GDP by 2020.

• Private sector investment is expected to reach RM260 billion by 2018 and will be the engine of growth.

• Total investments in the country is expected to increase by 6.7% contributing to 25.5% to the GDP for 2018.

• RM26.34 billion for economic sector; RM11.72 billion for the social sector; RM5.22 billion for the security sector; RM2.72 billion for general administration sector.

• Administration budget is RM119.82 billion; other expenditure is RM1.08 billion; asset procurement is RM577 million.

• For 2018, federal government is expected to collect RM239.86 billion in revenue.

• Allocation for Budget 2018 is RM280.25 billion, an increase of over RM20 billion.

• B40 household income has increased to RM3,000 per month from RM2,629 for the period 2014-2016.

• Monthly median income has increased from RM4,585 in 2014 to RM5,288 in 2016.

• Current per capita income stands at RM40,713, expected to reach RM42,777 by 2018.

• Our international reserves now stand at US$101.4 billion.

• In August, exports hit a high of RM80 billion, recording double-digit growth.

• 69% or 2.26 million new jobs created so far from the target 3.3 million to be created by 2020.

• 3 international credit rating agencies have reaffirmed our A-rating with stable prospects.

• Looking at 2009, our fiscal deficit was at 6.7% of the GDP and is expected to decrease to 3% in 2017 and 2.8% in 2018.

• Actual private investment for 2016 is over RM211 billion.

• Government projection growth of between 5.2% to 5.7% for 2017, higher than the projection in March of between 4.3% and 4.8%.

• Projected GDP increase from 4.9% to 5.2% for 2017.

• The country has had a growth rate of 5.7% in the first half of 2017.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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