Mega trends EAC must address


THE government is to be congratulated for establishing the new Economic Action Council that will give a better sense of direction and priorities for the nation to overcome the short-term economic challenges, such as rising cost of living, cost of doing business, restoring investor confidence and promoting sustainable economic recovery.

The Council should move with a sense of urgency. Its composition is balanced with a cross-section of representation, including from the orang asli community and consumer associations, which is praiseworthy as it does not just represent business interests. The presence of distinguished economists is also reassuring.

But I propose that the EAC also develops a longer term National Economic Strategy. To move forward, we need to identify the key mega trends that will impact on the nation in the next five to 10 years and then develop a comprehensive and holistic national strategy to address them.

I have identified here 10 strategic shifts or mega trends that need to be addressed.

1. On the international scene, we see a shift from geo-politics to geo-economics, requiring nations to adopt a geo-strategic response. This can be seen from Brexit and the US-China trade war. Geo-economics, including the control over economic assets such as oil and gas, will have a greater impact on international diplomacy. Increasingly, we will see economic and trade diplomacy becoming more important than political diplomacy to maintain global peace, stability and prosperity. We need to be able to step up to this level to analyse and strategise our response to geo-economic and geo-strategic challenges.

2. We also see a shift in the global centre of gravity from West to East with the rise of China and re-emergence of Japan as well as the growth of India and Korea. We need to identify a strategy to succeed in enlarging our presence in these markets and create new opportunities for our entrepreneurs and SMEs in China and Japan.

3. The world is also witnessing a rapid technological shift towards digital disruption and the Fourth Industrial Revolution with growing interest and applications in artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things. Big Data can be a strategic competitive advantage. The impact of drones and driverless vehicles will make a big impact on society. What is our national strategy to deal with these new technological advances? Hopefully, the EAC will also develop a strategic game plan to deal with these challenges and opportunities.

4. We also see an eco-sustainability shift with growing concern over climate change. This will drive demand for green technology and clean energy. We have a dynamic Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister. More must respond to support this ministry and its institutions. We need to embrace clean energy faster and more comprehensively.

5. Demographic shift will lead to an ageing society and a hollowing out of the demographic middle where we will have more aged elderly and younger cohorts below 30 but fewer of the middle-aged. It has been estimated that 20% of our population will be above 60 by 2040. Hence, we need new strategies and action plans to deal with the changing demographics.

6. Consumer shift will see the rise of e-commerce as we move from bricks to clicks. The rise of online business and e-commerce will not only impact on retail business but also on traditional banking, education and healthcare with the risk of fintech (financial technology), online learning and distance education, and telemedicine (pic). We need to embrace and adapt to these trends.

7. Globally, we also see a political shift from liberalism to the emergence of the right. The rightward shift led to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and is also partly the cause of Brexit. Is this era the end of liberalism? What can we do to bring people back to the centre? This trend has also led to a consolidation of the Malay right-wing with the strengthening ties between Umno and PAS. While the immediate focus of the EAC is economic, it also needs a strategy to deal with this phenomenon as it will impact on race relations and religious harmony, which are so essential for peace and stability to facilitate business and economic growth.

8. A shift in wealth and income has caused growing inequalities. The income gap between the highest earning population and the bottom 20% has grown. The income gap and inequalities can destabilise peace and stability. New thinking and new strategies need to be adopted to overcome the growing inequalities in our society.

9. Urbanisation shift arising from continued rural-urban migration will also cause urban poverty to rise. Urban poverty is a challenge that must be urgently tackled. The urban poor is a microcosm of Malaysian society as it comprises all ethnic groups. The rising cost of living affecting the urban poor needs to be prioritised.

10. A freedom shift is very evident after the 14th General Election with Malaysians feeling more free. This is good as it will lead to stronger support and protection of human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

I believe the above 10 strategic shifts and key challenges are important priorities the government and the people must work on together.

We should have new policies to address these challenges. In formulating new policies, it is important to focus on the 4Cs – consistency, clarity, certainty and coherence.

The new Malaysia also needs the 3Is – integrity, inclusiveness and innovation. Old problems need new innovative solutions and new problems also need new ideas to resolve.

We should work together to address the above key challenges. We need to come together as a nation seeking national reconciliation and unity.

With a common purpose, we can move forward with renewed determination to build a new Malaysia that is sustainable and not a flash in the pan.

As the government has already established the EAC, I propose that it should also consider establishing a National Strategy Commission to plan future scenarios for the nation as well as effective strategies to overcome them.

A National Strategy Initiative should also be established to carry out in-depth Futures Studies for the country.

 


Kingsley Strategic Institute | Where Leaders Meet

 

TAN SRI MICHAEL YEOH OON KHENG

President

Kingsley Strategic Institute

 

 


 
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The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced the  establishing of the Economic Action Council (EAC), which
will respond to and take acti.

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Members of Economic Action Council (EAC)


The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced the establishing of the Economic Action Council (EAC), which will respond to and take action to address economic issues faced by the public, based on their feedback.

“The main objectives of the council are to stimulate economic growth, ensure fair distribution of wealth and improve the well-being of the people. The council will also focus on issues related to costs of living, labour, poverty and home ownership,” it said in a statement today.

Members of the council include Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as chairman, along with Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Ignatius Darell Leiking and the Prime Minister’s economic adviser Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid.

Other members of the council include former International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Permodalan Nasional Bhd chairman Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz and Council of Eminent Persons member Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

A list of corporate leaders are also members of the EAC, such as Public Bank Bhd managing director Tan Sri Tay Ah Lek, Majlis Amanah Rakyat chairman Dr Hasnita Hashim and Bursa Malaysia chairman Datuk Shireen Ann Zaharah Muhiudeen.

Asean Business Advisory council chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (FOMCA) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Paul Selvaraj, lawyer Bah Tony @ Amani William Hunt Abdullah and MASA institute board of trustees member Nizam Mahshar are also in the EAC.  – The Edge

Council to drive economy forward

It will also look into issues related to cost of living, employment and home ownership

The Prime Minister and his key economic and finance ministers feature in a 16-strong committee that will form the Economic Action Council.

It will examine and decide on the economic and financial affairs and welfare of the people.

“The council was formed to respond and act on the feedback of the masses on the problems they face, particularly in the field of economy.

“The main aim of the council is to encourage and stimulate sustainable economic growth, equitable distribution of wealth and further enhance the well-being of the people.

“The council will also look into issues related to the cost of living, employment, poverty and home ownership,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday. (See graphic for list of members)

The move is timely and a positive step in the right direction, said Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie.

He said the council was expected to draw up immediate and medium-term priorities to sustain the country’s economic growth and development.

“Among these include the measures to address cost of living as well as to ease the cost of doing business and compliance costs.

“Structural policies and reforms have to be stepped up, in particular in skilled manpower, public sector delivery and efficiency, exports capacity, develop innovative and creative industries and the digital economy,” Lee told The Star.

Echoing a similar stance, AmBank Group chief economist Anthony Dass said the council was similar to the one formed in 1998 during the Asian Financial Crisis.

“However, this time around, the council will focus on ways to address economic headwinds and how to drive the domestic economy amid the challenges,” he said.

The old NEAC (National Economic Action Council) was formed to navigate Malaysia out from the worst recession in a generation.

Dass added that the formation of the Economic Action Council was timely, considering the current challenges that had affected the macroeconomic conditions and the rakyat.

“The council’s composition is broad and well-mixed, a variety of experience and expertise and the council will have to find measures to stimulate the economy, continue economic expansion and ensure that the machineries of the government can work with the private sector to drive the economy,” he said.

The council, he added, must identify areas that could be areas of growth and also add to public revenue.

“It must also focus on the new key areas such as the digital economy and how can the government encourage the adoption of digitalisation across industries, particularly among SMEs.

“The working group under the council is also important, to ensure the success of the execution,” he said.

The main brickbat the composition of the council has drawn is the absence of younger faces.

“It is the same ministers and academics and where are the business people and entrepreneurs?” asked a political analyst.

Another source who declined to be named said younger people would have brought different perspectives to the council and offered an independent voice in the formation of ideas and policies.

He said such voices would probably be sourced from the working groups the Economic Action Council would have featured at the high-level main committee. – by jagdev singh sidhuganeshwaran kana

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Wide-ranging issues for council to deal with – Nation

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/02/13/wideranging-issues-for-council-to-deal-with/

 

Experts urge council to excite people with proposals – Nation

China’s new tech soft power


Foreigners are tapping Chinese innovation to network and build businesses
International market: Foreign visitors to an expo in Nanning, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous
region, evince interest in forestry by-products and pay for them using WeChat Pay. [Photo by Peng Huan / for China Daily]

China’s innovations impress foreigners, change startup game, boost confidence

The consumption power of more than 1 million foreigners working or studying in China is disproportionately bigger than their tiny share (0.07 percent) of the total population – and whizzes of the country’s homegrown tech ecosystem are sitting up and taking notice, as the economy transitions from export and investment-led growth to a consumption-driven model.

Manufacturers of gadgets, providers of technology-enabled services, and developers of intellectual property like innovative technologies are all vying to make life easier for the relatively small but monetarily significant foreigner community in China.

French engineer Sebastien Bernard, 37, will probably agree. He came to work and live in Beijing four months ago. The first thing he was asked to do by his friends and colleagues was to download and install WeChat, the all-in-one killer app, on his smartphone.

He complied, and his life is much the better for it, he said. As it transpired, Bernard was e-invited to join a WeChat group.

Initially, 15 foreigners chatted with each other and shared their life experiences on the e-group. Gradually, the group grew to a 200-member community of sorts that shared not just useful information like job links or party invitations but, wait for it, e-commerce discount coupons and weekend getaway packages.

Friendly advice sensitized Bernard to other treasures on WeChat. Among many other things, he learned to use the app to order food, book a taxi ride, buy movie tickets, and make digital payments for e-commerce.

Using Chinese apps, some of his friends even play online games, and borrow or lend money using e-credit channels that are redefining inclusive finance.

According to a WeChat report, by May 2017, foreigners in China sent 60 percent more WeChat messages than Chinese users on average per month. They also use WeChat audio calls 42 percent more than Chinese users.

Notably, foreigners in China are good at using different functions or features of WeChat. On average, they use emojis 45 percent more than Chinese users per day. Typically, a foreigner sends 10″red packets” – cash e-gifts – per month. Nearly 65 percent of foreigners who use WeChat use the app’s digital payment tool WeChat Pay.

“Here in China, having WeChat and Alipay accounts is like being plugged into the world. The apps include almost every conceivable service that can help make modern life easy,” said Bernard.

Agreed Yang Qiguang, 26, a researcher from Columbia University’s Tow Center who is pursuing PhD at the Renmin University of China in Beijing.  

“Chinese companies are creating a tech ecosystem that helps everyone, including foreigners, to work and live in a more convenient way.”

Forming social networks using e-tools has become integral to modern life, particularly in urban areas – and China’s tech ecosystem perhaps performs this function better than any other, by bundling consumption-related conveniences, he said.

“The tech ecosystem here facilitates people, including foreigners, to spend more. It is also boosting the confidence of both domestic and foreign companies operating in China. They know they now have powerful and reliable e-tools like apps to drive sales in a humongous market with more than 1 billion consumers,” he said.

That’s not all. Yang said China’s tech ecosystem is fostering entrepreneurialism. Even foreigners living in China are beginning to use Chinese apps to start up in a variety of fields, including technology, education and entertainment. All this business activity is a long-term positive effect for the Chinese economy, he said.

Yang could well have been speaking about David Collier, 52, a Briton who has founded four startups so far, respectively in the United States, the United Kingdom and China.

Rikai Labs, his WeChat-based e-learning business in China, helps Chinese users to master the English language through proprietary automated software. Collier said every seven years, a big platform shift comes along – from web to mobile apps; from apps to messaging platforms – that creates huge opportunities.

“We chose to base our business on WeChat because it provides a great platform for a knowledge service. You have to build your business where people are spending their time, and the biggest messaging platform of all is WeChat,” he said.

“Also, we can use WeChat payment for instant payment, QR codes for marketing purposes and to track user acquisition channels. Now with WeChat’s mini programs, we can add interactive games and other features.”

There’s more. Links to Rikai Labs and related content can be shared socially online. “It provides a very compelling platform with real-time features, social distribution, marketing hooks and monetization,” Collier said.

But risks abound too, he said. Platforms such as WeChat have become extremely competitive for startups. “If you don’t move at high speed, riding with WeChat is like taking the maglev.”

Data, however, suggest that foreigners appear to have an edge over Chinese users in exploiting the local tech ecosystem for small businesses and online social networking, which actually helps businesses directly or indirectly.

A case in point is Baopals, a startup founded by three expatriates. Call it the English Taobao, if you will. Baopals is anchored in Taobao and Tmall, the online shopping platforms owned by Alibaba Group, China’s tech giant.

Foreign visitors to an expo in Nanning, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, evince interest in forestry by-products and pay for them using WeChat Pay. [Photo by Peng Huan / for China Daily]

In July 2015, Charlie Erickson, Jay Thornhill and Tyler McNew, all US citizens in their late 20s and early 30s, developed Baopals, a website that helps translate product information on the Chinese Taobao and Tmall into English. In one stroke, the trio thus opened up the astonishing world of Chinese e-commerce, or 800 million products, to non-Chinese consumers in China.

Baopals already boasts 40,000 registered users, with 16,000 of them joining last year alone, doubling the user count in 2017. A Baopals user buys 58 items on average per year, and spends about 2,500 yuan ($368) to 3,500 yuan annually.

In addition to English, the website has Korean and Russian versions, making e-shopping simpler for foreigners in China.

The website is going from strength to strength on the back of the trio’s innovations. It has introduced attractive sections like “The Cool, The Cheap& The Crazy”. It accepts Alipay, WeChat Wallet and China UnionPay for payments.

Although e-commerce destinations are dime a dozen in China, most of them are in Chinese, and cater to Chinese consumers, so Baopals stands out, said Thornhill.

“Even on Amazon China, the default language is Chinese. When you switch to English, you still see lots of content in Chinese. They just haven’t made the effort to serve China’s expat population properly,” he said.

That gap should spell business opportunities for those looking to start up, he said. “We are also changing the stereotype that Chinese goods are cheap products with low quality,” he said, adding that several products including Xiaomi air purifiers and Huawei products are very popular among foreigners.

According to Thornhill, Baopals’ revenue comes from service fee paid by shoppers. It charges a service fee of 5 percent of each item’s price, plus a small fixed fee based on the item’s price – 2 yuan for items priced below 30 yuan, and 8 yuan for items priced above 90 yuan. More than 2.3 million products had been sold by Jan 17 this year, a huge increase from the same period last year.

Given the experience in China, it is clear that homegrown technologies can succeed outside the mainland, he said. “This year is going to be a big year for Baopals, as we’ll be launching our global service. Expats leaving China can continue buying things they love here, and foreigners everywhere can discover the treasures of China’s online shopping.”

Agreed Yang from the Tow Center. China’s tech ecosystem, he said, provides foreigners on the mainland with well-rounded platforms to do business not only in China but across the world.

“It may take years for foreigners to build such infrastructure themselves. The time and energy saved during the process can be used for bolstering their own products and business.”

It’s not just small players such as Baopals that are drawing confidence from their success in China. Even e-payment giants such as WeChat Pay and Alipay, emboldened by their rapid adoption among foreigners in China, are confident of replicating their success worldwide.

Alipay has introduced its payment services, including departure tax refunds, at 10 major international airports in Japan, Thailand and New Zealand. Although the initial goal is to serve Chinese tourists traveling overseas, the larger plan is to roll out Chinese technologies worldwide and gain a global visibility and footprint.

So, it has struck cooperation agreements with local banks and companies in foreign markets, to provide e-payment services. For instance, its partners in Japan are Hida Credit Union and Kyoto Shinkin Bank, which helps attract Japanese users as well. Using such strategies, Alipay has accumulated more than 1 billion users in all, including 300 million outside China.

Sources:  China Daily/Asian News Network

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Why Huawei’s 5G technology is seen as a threat by the US


Reuters pic.

The term 5G stands for a fifth generation — to succeed the current fourth generation of mobile connectivity that has made video sharing and movie streaming commonplace.

The new technology will require an overhaul of telecommunication infrastructure.

The 5G will do more than make mobile phones faster — it will link billions of devices, revolutionising transportation, manufacturing and even medicine. It will also create a multitude of potential openings for bad actors to exploit.

The vulnerability helps explain the rising tension between the US and Huawei Technologies Co, China’s largest technology company.

Huawei is pushing for a global leadership role in 5G, but American officials suspect that could help Beijing spy on Western governments and companies.

“Huawei’s significant presence in 5G creates a new vector for possible cyber-espionage and malware,” Michael Wessel, a commissioner on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that advises Congress, said in an interview.

By connecting whole new classes of products, 5G “creates new vulnerabilities”.

The technology holds great promise. Forests of gadgets will communicate instantly via millions of antennas. Cars will talk to each other to avert lethal crashes, factory foremen will monitor parts supplies and doctors can perform remote surgery as video, sound and data flow without delay.

Connections will be 10 to 100 times faster than current standards — quick enough to download an entire movie in seconds.

Yet, US national security officials see billions of opportunities for spies, hackers and cyber-thieves to steal trade secrets, sabotage machinery and even order cars to crash.

Citing security threats, the US has been pushing allies to block Huawei from telecommunication networks. The US Congress has banned government agencies from buying the company’s gear.

Why is the United States intent on killing Huawei? Look at the data below:

Huawei employs more than 10,000 Phd degree holders as well as many talented Russian mathematicians.

Do you know how many Huawei employees earn more than 1 million yuan (RM603,280) a year? More than 10,000 people.

Do you know how many Huawei employees earn more than five million yuan a year? More than 1,000 people!

In China alone, Huawei’s research and development expenditure is 89.6 billion yuan.

Among the Big Three, Alibaba employs 30,000 people, Baidu 50,000, Tencent about 30,000, leading to a total of 110,000; but Huawei’s global employees total 170,000.

Alibaba’s profit is 23.4 billion yuan, Tencent’s 24.2 billion yuan, Baidu’s 10.5 billion yuan, and their profits total 58 billion yuan, but 70% is taken away by foreigners. Since 2000, Huawei has earned 1.39 trillion yuan from abroad.

In taxes, Tencent pays more than seven billion yuan a year, Alibaba 10.9 billion yuan, and Baidu 2.2 billion. Huawei pays 33.7 billion yuan, which is more than the total of the earlier three firms.

Huawei is a high-tech company, and technology represents the true strength of a country.

In China, many companies can’t last long because there are always other companies ready to replace them, but Huawei is irreplaceable.

Huawei is a 100% Chinese company that has not been listed and does not intend to go public because of the susceptibility to be controlled by capital (which the United States can simply print money to do).

Huawei is the first private technology company in China ever to join the league of the world’s top 100. The Chinese should be proud of Huawei.
FMT NewsKoon Yew Yin is a retired chartered civil engineer and one of the founders of IJM Corporation Bhd and Gamuda Bhd.

The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Better to buy a car or a house first?


Given a choice, would you prefer to get a loan to buy an item that depreciates over a short period which is deemed as “bad debt” or commit on a “good debt”, which is to purchase a house or asset that will appreciate in the long term?

A car used to be a symbol of freedom and ease of mobility. I could understand the dilemma of having to choose between a house and a car a decade ago.

Even then, we should still have chosen a car within our means to manage our financial position.

Today, with public transportation and the availability of ride-sharing services such as Grab Car, we can now really have the option of buying a house first. This gives us both shelter and value appreciation.

This choice has just been made easier with Budget 2019 and the recent announcement by the Finance Ministry.

The government has rolled out several measures to assist homebuyers, including stamp duty exemptions.

Homebuyers will get a stamp duty waiver for memorandum of transfer (MoT) for the purchase of houses priced up to RM1mil, during the six-month Home Ownership Campaign (HOC) from January to June 2019. In addition, the stamp duty on loan documentation is fully waived up to RM2.5mil.

Besides that, the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) has also agreed to cut the prices of its completed and incoming units by at least 10%.

When I talk to potential homebuyers, they always ask about the right time to own property.

There is no perfect time to buy a house on foresight. If the price is within your means, and you plan to buy it for own stay or as a long-term investment, then anytime is a good time.

However, with the property market at the bottom half of the cycle now, this could be a good time to commit to a house with the attractive tax incentives rolled out by the government.

Homebuyers can grab the “duty-free” opportunity now to explore the property market. Those living in the Klang Valley will be able to find their dream home during the Homeownership Campaign Expo at the KLCC Convention Centre from March 1-3.

The campaign is jointly organised by Rehda and the Housing and Local Government Ministry. Besides having all developers under one roof, the ministry will also be featuring homes under RM300,000 by PR1MA, SPNB, PNB and others.

The Homeownership Campaign was first held in 1998 to lessen the burden of homebuyers and to encourage homeownership. It is re-introduced after two decades now with the same objective.

For homebuyers who don’t like the risk of buying a house under construction, there are plenty of completed units for sale in the campaign.

Buying a house can be emotional and uncertain for many homebuyers. However, in the long run, we can rest assured that we are buying an asset that will appreciate.

For homebuyers, always buy within your means as you can upgrade your house in the later stage of your life.

In this auspicious Chinese New Year, I hope you decide to prioritise a new house over a new car. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

By Alan Tong . . . Food for Thought

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the World President of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email bkp@bukitkiara.com
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The price we pay to axe East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)


KUALA LUMPUR: Loss of jobs, harm to diplomatic ties with China, damage to the economy plus a RM20bil compensation are awaiting Malaysia if the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project is cancelled.

The billion ringgit 688km long track linking Selangor, Pahang, Trengganu and Kelantan is already 20% completed, says MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong on the trail of potential damage if the project set for completion in 2024 is axed now.

The Ayer Hitam Member of Parliament who issued an open letter to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Cabinet Ministers on the matter, said he earnestly hoped the Cabinet can explore the effects of axing the project.

The ECRL project whose construction contract was awarded to China Communications, Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and financed by China is a hot topic in the past few days, and its fate is expected to be made known officia­lly this week.

Yesterday, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia will be “impoverished” if the government proceeds with the ECRL project.

While not confirming that the project has been scrapped, Dr Mahathir said paying compensation is cheaper than bearing the cost of the project.

Below is Dr Wee’s letter in full:

An open letter to YAB Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers

The cancellation of the ECRL project and the bickering between two Cabinet ministers over the issue has become the talk of the town. I foresee this issue to be a hot topic in the Cabinet meeting this Wednesday (Jan 30).

Whether the cancellation of ECRL was discussed in previous Cabinet meetings or not, I earnestly hope the Cabinet can explore the effects of axing this project.

Take a moment to consider factors such as the friendship between the people of both countries, jobs and economy, diplomatic ties and the reputation of Malaysia.

On the bilateral relations between Malaysia and China, I can safely say that putting a stop to the ECRL project will harm the diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China.

If we put ourselves in China’s shoes, we will surely respond negatively as well if our overseas investment is treated as such.

A nightmare looms should China take any retaliatory action, such as reduce or even halt the import of commodities (palm oil in particular) from us.

If that happens, Felda, Sime Darby and other big corporations will be the first to feel the heat.

The livelihood of some 650,000 smallholders and their families will be directly affected.

From the economic perspective, the ECRL project is likely to boost the GDP growth of three east coast states by 1.5%.

It will also spur the development of the east coast, enhance connectivity between the east and west coast, and close the economic divide between the two coasts.

Through bridging the rural-urban divide, the overall development of Malaysia will be more balanced and comprehensive.

The rail link is 20% completed, with several tens of billions paid to the contractor.

On top of that, Malaysia will be penalised for cancelling the RM30bil loan from the EXIM Bank of China.

We will have to repay the loan and compensation within a short period of time.

From my experience in administering engineering projects, any breach of contract will result in a hefty penalty. The compensation for cancelling ECRL could reach RM20bil.

Financial losses aside, scrapping the ECRL will also bring a negative impact to Malaysia’s reputation in the international arena and erode Malaysia’s trustworthiness.

Judging from my past experience dealing with China and its officials, as well as the friendly gestures displayed by China so far, I can conclude that China is willing to achieve a win-win solution instead of situation where both sides lose out.

The Malaysian government can consider restructuring the project timeline or reducing the project scale, which are alternatives that work in Malaysia’s favour while maintaining the amicable ties between Malaysia and China.

The government should also keep the small and medium enterprises in mind.

Business owners in 150 related industries, including tens of thousands of contractors who have taken a loan to purchase equipment, will suffer greatly should ECRL be cancelled.

China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009, with bilateral trade figures reaching US$100bil. Business linkages and people-to-people exchanges have also flourished over the years.

Products such as palm oil, bird’s nest, Musang King, white coffee, etc, are exported to China, while people from both countries visit each other for vacations and academic exchanges, benefitting Malaysians of all races.

All these have contributed to the income of various communities and brought in foreign exchange earnings for the country.

It takes years to build a bilateral relationship, and only seconds to destroy it.

The Malaysian government should appreciate our friendship with China and try its best to achieve mutual benefits and common prosperity with China.

Prioritise the economy and the livelihood of the people, and put an end to the political game to discredit your opponents.

For the sake of the people in the east coast as well as the whole of Malaysia, the government should not cancel the ECRL project.- The Star

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Recession? No, not this year 2019


 

THE influential International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted slower global growth this year on the back of financial volatility and the trade war between the United States and China.

Turkey and Argentina are expected to experience deep recessions this year before recovering next year.

China, apart from fighting the trade war, is also experiencing its slowest quarterly growth since the 1990s, sending ripples across Asia. In the last quarter of 2018, China recorded an economic growth of 6.4%, which is the third consecutive quarter of slowing growth.

This has led to fears of China’s economy going into a hard landing and it possibly being the catalyst to spark global economic turmoil.

After all, it has been more than 10 years since the world witnessed the last recession in 2008 that was caused by a financial crisis in the US. If we are to believe the 10 to 12-year economic turmoil cycle, the next downturn is already due.

However, the economic data so far does not seem to suggest that the world will go into a recession or tailspin this year.

The bigger worry is what would happen next year.

The narrowing spread between the two-year and 10-year US Treasury papers would lead to banks being more selective in their lending. It is already happening in the US.

The impact is likely to be profound next year. When banks are more selective in lending, eventually the economy will grind to a halt.

But that is the likely scenario next year, assuming there is no fresh impetus to spur global growth.

At the moment, there is a significant amount of asset price depression due to slowing demand. The reason is generally because of the slower growth in China and the trade war.

China has fuelled demand for almost everything in the last few years. Companies and individuals from China drove up the prices of everything – from property and valuations of companies to commodities.

China itself is experiencing a slowing economy and the government has restricted the outflow of funds. Its overall debt is estimated at 300% of gross domestic product and banks are reluctant to lend to private companies for fear of defaults.

China’s manufacturing sector has slowed down because of the trade war. Companies are not prepared to expand because they fear the tariffs imposed by the US.

Nevertheless, the world’s second-largest economy is still growing, albeit at a slower pace. A growth rate of 6.4% per quarter is still commendable, although it is far from the 12% quarterly economic growth it recorded in 2011-2012.

The US, which is the world’s largest economy, is also facing slower growth this year. The Federal Reserve has predicted a slower economic growth of 2.3% in 2019 compared to the 3.1% the country recorded last year.

The ongoing US government shutdown is not going to make things easy.

As for Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) has warned of a slowdown this year. The warning came just six weeks after the ECB eased off on its bond-buying programme that was designed to reflate the economy.

Business sentiments on Germany, which is a barometer of what happens to the rest of Europe, is at the lowest.

As for Malaysia, the country is going through an economic transition of sorts following the change in government. Government spending has traditionally been the driver of the domestic economy when global growth slows.

The new government has cut back on spending, which is a necessary evil, considering that many of the projects awarded previously were inflated. Generally, the cost of most projects is to be shaved by at least 10% – and some by up to 50%.

However, the projects with revised costs have not got off the ground yet and contractors have not been paid their dues. For instance, contractors in the LRT 3 project had complained of not getting payments for work done a year ago.

Fortunately, a new contract for the LRT 3 has been signed. Hopefully, the contractors will be paid their dues speedily and work recommences on the ground fast.

The volatile oil prices are not helping improve revenue for the government.

Domestic demand is still growing, although people complain of their income levels not growing. This is because companies as a whole are also not doing as well as in previous years.

Nevertheless, even the most pessimistic of economist is looking at Malaysia chalking up a growth rate of more than 4.5% this year, which is respectable. The official forecast is 4.9%.

One of the reasons for the optimism is that they feel government revenue is expected to be much higher than expected, giving it the flexibility to push spending if the global economic scenario takes a turn for the worse.

According to the Treasury report for 2019, federal government revenue is to come in at about RM261bil, which is 10.7% higher than in 2018.

The amount is likely to be much higher, allowing the government the option to put more money in the hands of the people. It also allows the government to reduce corporate taxes, a move that would draw in investments.

Malaysia has a new government in place. What investors are looking for are signs of where all the extra revenue earned will go. They are also looking for the next growth catalyst.

The trade war and financial volatility is causing structural shifts in the global economy. It is impacting China, the US and Europe.

Eventually, the global crunch will come, but it is not likely to happen this year.

By m. shanmugam

 

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