Time to take fight against graft to the top, say group


Political parties should disclose all of their financing and expenditure, says Transparency International Malaysia.

“Political funding must be stated in the parties’ bank accounts and a properly audited account financial report must be published annually,” said its president Datuk Akhbar Satar.

“All ministers and top Govern­ment servants should also declare their assets to the Malay­sian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), and the chief commissioner should declare these to the Parliament,” he said.

Akhbar was commenting on the call by MACC for the Government to declare corruption and abuse of power as the country’s No. 1 enemy.

He said these declarations would be in line with the belief that “transparency and accountability begin at the top”.

“The public must also help MACC by reporting corrupt practices and cooperating in court,” he added.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar also supported MACC’s move.

“Such an honourable effort must be supported thoroughly,” he said. “The police always prioritise integrity and the war on corruption must be fought at all fronts.”

Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said reforms in corruption laws were needed to ensure that MACC could “act without fear or favour”

“Our laws on corruption should be reviewed, revised and made up to date,” he said. “And follow best practices such as in countries like Denmark, Hong Kong and Singapore.”

The Government could set an example by making sure there was a cap on money politics, he added.

Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation senior vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said it was vital for the public to be proactive in helping MACC.

“MACC needs a free hand to take action in fighting corruption,” he said.

G25 member Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim said the best way to start would be to require all election candidates in the 14th general election to sign a pledge against corruption during the campaign.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said the Government’s commitment to fight corruption was already there “but the journey to deal with the problem takes time”.

Source: Star/ANN By Razak Ahmad, Fatimah Zainal, Andmelanie Abrahamby

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Xi’s governance of China book a hot seller


 

After its debut in Thailand, Cambodia and Pakistan, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China has become a top seller and been well-received among local officials and scholars, with many hailing the value of the book for both its language and its outreach.

The book, which outlines the political ideas of the top leadership in China, has been released in Thai, Khmer and Urdu versions in the respective capitals of the three countries in the past two weeks.

A Thai publisher sold more than 2,000 copies of the book in a single day after its launch in Bangkok on April 7, with many readers inquiring on social media about ways to purchase the book, reported Xinhua news agency.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who had read the book, said it was written in beautiful language, even though it was not in the form of a novel or essays.

“I believe that to be a great leader, one has to be a good reader, good thinker, good speaker, good writer and good doer, and I found President Xi has achieved all of them after I finished reading this book,” he said.

In Phnom Penh, more than 700 officials, scholars and entrepreneurs, including Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and five deputy prime ministers, attended the launching ceremony for the book on April 11.

Chea Munyrith, director of the Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said publishing a Khmer version will enable the Cambodian people to better learn about China and Xi himself.

Chea, who assisted in the translation of the book into Khmer, said it offers insights for government officials and scholars on how to properly manage a country.

“That is why it is important for the officials, students and scholars in Cambodia to read through the book,” he said.

At the launching ceremony of the Urdu edition of the book in Islamabad on Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the book is as much about the contemporary world as it is about China.

“What has touched me most is that this book is not just about high-level politics, but also about moving stories of common people, their lives and inspirations about hard work and family values,” he said.

“This book is as much about the “Chinese Dream” as it is about the global dream to have a peaceful, harmonious and connected world,” he added.

Building a community of shared destiny is an important concept embodied in Xi’s thoughts on governance of the nation, said Jiang Jianguo, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and minister of the State Council Information Office.

“And this concept has been included in the resolutions passed by United Nations organisations,” Jiang said in Islamabad.

Source: China Daily/Asia News Network

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Extraordinary man from Middle Kingdom


 Dr. Huang Huikang

China’s top representative in Malaysia has made waves in a way that has earned much respect albeit with  raised eyebrows at times

DR Huang Huikang (pic) is no ordinary ambassador. This Chinese envoy has become one of the most-watched diplomats in Malaysia.

As China’s ambassador to Malaysia, he represents his country in important government and political functions here and works hard to promote bilateral ties, trade and investment between the two nations.

Like his predecessors, he mingles well with local Chinese leaders, praising the community for its sacrifices and devotion made over the decades in the development of Chinese education in Malaysia.

But unlike his low-key predecessors, this diplomat hands out cash donations to Chinese schools in a high-profile manner and celebrates Chinese New Year with locals.

The 62-year-old doctorate holder in international law and former law professor, who began his posting here in January 2014, has the poise of an envoy but stands out among his peers with his unconventional mannerism. While other ambassadors are usually more measured in their statements, he does not hesitate to make comments that may raise anxiety.

At official functions, Dr Huang is addressed as “ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary” – an ambassador’s official title in full. This may be no exaggeration.

Having served as vice mayor of Tangshan in Hebei province and completed stints as deputy consul-general in New York and minister counsellor-cum-deputy chief at China’s embassy in Ottawa, Dr Huang is a seasoned spokesman for China.

Late last year, he was re-elected as a member of the International Law Commission at the United Nations.

Here are snapshots of Dr Huang:

Role in vast investments

The role played by Dr Huang in bringing in large Chinese investments has put him in good stead.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit here in 2015 was crucial to Malaysia and the Middle Kingdom.

When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak visited China in November last year, Dr Huang was also seen in Beijing. The trip resulted in the signing of deals and investments totalling RM144bil.

Of late, there has been quite a number of visits by China’s central departments, provinces and cities here to promote trade and forge closer ties.

The influence of Dr Huang is pervasive.

When China’s investments in Malaysia came under attack by some opposition politicians, he crafted a strongly-worded statement to these unnamed politicians, explaining how China could help the local economy and its people. But to these naysayers, China is stealing jobs, eating into the economic pie and depriving opportunities to small and medium businesses.

Once, during a nationwide tour of Malaysia, he cautioned that “slander, vilification and obstruction” could dampen the enthusiasm of Chinese firms.

Chinese investments in Malaysia

With investments from China coming to Malaysia in a never-seen-before scale, particularly under China’s Belt and Road initiative, Dr Huang has hinted that Malaysia should not take all this for granted.

Chinese enterprises are encouraged to venture into Malaysia because of the close ties between the two countries, he said.

Dr Huang spoke of how China would share the benefits from its economic growth with Malaysia, citing technology transfer and job creation.

Malaysian industries could become world class if they adopt advanced technology, he said.

Though not an economist, he predicted that the value ofthe Ringgit would rise in line with the increased foreign trade and foreign reserves.

To a large extent, Dr Huang’s remarks reflected China’s confidence as a superpower and its responsibilities on the global stage.

Even DAP – after criticising MCA for acting like “China’s agent” with the setting up of the Belt and Road Centre and MCA People’s Republic of China (PRC) Affairs Committee – paid Dr Huang a courtesy call in February.

And Dr Huang, ever the gracious, told the delegation that bilateral cooperation transcended political parties and race.

In the limelight

Dr Huang has gained substantial coverage in the Malaysian media, particularly in the Chinese dailies.

Last year, Dr Huang contributed RM40,000 to eight SJK (C) schools in Sembrong, Johor. Early this year, he gave RM100,000 to five schools in Nilai and Seremban, and another RM200,000 to 10 Chinese primary schools and one secondary school in Raub, Pahang.

While the recipients were grateful to him and possibly China, some saw this gesture as China flexing its financial muscle.

As usual, Dr Huang took it in his stride. He said the embassy would continue to support the development of Chinese education here.

More recently, he went on a high-profile trip within peninsular Malaysia to visit projects with Chinese investments, covering Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Kedah, Malacca and Johor.

His visits were splashed across the Chinese dailies. The spotlight trained on Dr Huang has led to much feedback.

A Chinese community leader told Sunday Star: “He is grabbing so much limelight, even more than our own ministers.”

And a senior government official felt that it was “as though he is a politician on a campaign trail seeking re-election, or attempting to claim credit for the projects.”


Chinatown controversy

He did a Chinatown walkabout a day before the planned “Red Shirt” rally in September 2015 when a group led by Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos threatened a riot at the predominantly-Chinese trading area in Kuala Lumpur.

Accompanied by his wife, Dr Huang distributed mooncakes to the traders for the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration.

He told the media that China was against anyone resorting to violence to disrupt public order and that he would not stand idle if the interests of China’s citizens and firms were undermined. To him, it would be “a waste” if the harmony among the races in the area was jeopardised. However, his remarks were seen by some as an interference in Malaysia’s domestic affairs.

With all his fascinating activities and remarks, the diary of this diplomat will continue to come under the public microscope in the days to come.

Source: The Star by Tho Xin Yi

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Good time to invest in property now


Better upside: (from left) Knight Frank Sdn Bhd international project marketing (residential) senior manager Dominic Heaton-Watson, Knight Frank Asia-Pacific research head Nicholas Holt, Sarkunan and capital markets executive director James Buckley at the event

KUALA LUMPUR: The slowdown in the local property market has bottomed out, with prices seen picking up later this year, according to property consultancy firm Knight Frank Sdn Bhd.

“We predict a stable rate in 2017 and we will possibly see better upside towards the end of the year or early next year,” Knight Frank managing director Sarkunan Subramaniam said.

“The market has had a few years of contraction and we feel that this year, what will clear up one of the major concerns of most investors is the political uncertainty,” he said at the launch of Knight Frank’s 2017 Wealth Report here yesterday.

According to the report, “political uncertainty” was among the top concerns of its respondents in Asia at 25%.

“We’re going to have elections possibly this year. Once they have cleared, there will be positive movement in the market and that’s why I feel now is a good time to buy property in Malaysia.

“Once the elections are out, the economy will generally start picking up and sentiments will improve. Capital will also start coming in,” he said.

According to the wealth report, potential fall in asset values was the highest concern among its Asian respondents at 30%, followed by rising taxes and tighter controls on capital movement at 28% and 27% respectively.

Going forward, Sarkunan said affordable homes would primarily drive the local property market.

“Affordable homes will still be a driver to an extent, but medium-to-high end properties will also pick up again. Also, when the mass rapid transit (MRT) lines come into the city, it will drive the commercial market there as well.

“We’ve had a lot of decentralisation push over the last 10 years and the MRT will bring office workers to the city.”

Sarkunan pointed out that locations with light rail transit (LRT) and MRT lines, such as Damansara Heights, have bucked the trend in terms of condominium values.

“Prices have actually increased compared with some of the other areas in Malaysia. Transport hubs or transport-orientated developments, such as Kota Damansara, have also seen improvements in prices.”

The Knight Frank 2017 Wealth Report tracks the value of luxury homes in 100 key locations worldwide, including 19 destinations from Asia Pacific.

According to the report, values rose globally by 1.4% on average last year, compared with 1.8% in 2015. Asia was the second best performing world region last year, with prices rising 5.1%.

Australasia was the strongest performing world region with prices rising 11.4% year-on-year.

Source: BY EUGENE MAHALINGAM The Star/ANN

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Here come the robots; your job is at risk


Here come the robots & they are going to take almost all of our jobs…

The new automation revolution is going to disrupt both industry and services, and developing countries need to rethink their development strategies.

A NEWS item caught my eye last week, that Uber has obtained permission in California to test two driverless cars, with human drivers inside to make corrections in case something goes wrong.

Presumably, if the tests go well, Uber will roll out a fleet of cars without drivers in that state. It is already doing that in other states in America.

In Malaysia, some cars can already do automatic parking. Is it a matter of time before Uber, taxis and personal vehicles will all be smart enough to bring us from A to B without our having to do anything ourselves?

But in this application of “artificial intelligence”, in which machines can have human cognitive functions built into them, what will happen to the taxi drivers? The owners of taxis and Uber may make more money but their drivers will most likely lose their jobs.

The driverless car is just one example of the technological revolution taking place that is going to drastically transform the world of work and living.

There is concern that the march of automation tied with digital technology will cause dislocation in many factories and offices, and eventually lead to mass unemployment.

This concern is becoming so pervasive that none other than Bill Gates recently proposed that companies using robots should have to pay taxes on the incomes attributed to the use of robotics, similar to the income tax that employees have to pay.

That proposal has caused an uproar, with mainstream economists like Lawrence Summers, a former United States treasury secretary, condemning it for putting brakes on technological advancement. One of them suggested that the first company to pay taxes for causing automation should be Microsoft.

However, the tax on robots idea is one response to growing fears that the automation revolution will cause uncontrollable disruption and increase the inequalities and job insecurities that have already spurred social and political upheaval in the West, leading to the anti-establishment votes for Brexit and Donald Trump.

Recent studies are showing that deepening use of automation will cause widespread disruption in many sectors and even whole economies. Worse, it is the developing countries that are estimated to lose the most, and this will exacerbate the already great global inequalities.

The risks of job automation to developing countries is estimated to range from 55 to 85%, according to a pioneering study in 2016 by Oxford University’s Martin School and Citi.

Major emerging economies will be at high risk, including China (77%) and India (69%). The risk for Malaysia is estimated at 65-70%. The developed OECD countries’ average risk is only 57%.

From the Oxford-Citi report, “The future is not what it used to be”, one gathers there are at least three reasons why the automation revolution will be particularly disruptive in developing countries.

First, there is “premature deindustrialisation” taking place as manufacturing is becoming less labour-intensive and many developing countries have reached the peak of their manufacturing jobs.

Second, recent developments in robotics and additive manufacturing will enable and could thus lead to relocation of foreign firms back to their home countries.

Seventy per cent of clients surveyed believe automation and 3D printing developments will encourage international companies to move their manufacturing close to home. China, Asean and Latin America have the most to lose from this relocation.

Thirdly, the impact of automation may be more disruptive for developing countries due to lower levels of consumer demand and limited social safety nets.

The report warns that developing countries may even have to rethink their overall development models as the old ones that were successful in generating growth in the past will not work anymore.

Instead of export-led manufacturing growth, developing countries will need to search for new growth models, said the report.

“Service-led growth constitutes one option, but many low-skill services are now becoming equally automatable.”

Another series of reports, by McKinsey Global Institute, found that 49% of present work activities can be automated with currently demonstrated technology, and this translates into US$15.8tril in wages and 1.1 billion jobs globally.

About 60% of all occupations could see 30% or more of their activities automated. But more reassuringly, an author of the report, James Manyika, says the changes will take decades.

Which jobs are most susceptible? The McKinsey study lists accommodations and food services as the most vulnerable sector in the US, followed by manufacturing and retail business.

In accommodations and food, 73% of activities workers perform can be automated, including preparing, cooking or serving food, cleaning food-preparation areas and collecting dirty dishes.

In manufacturing, 59% of all activities can be automated, including packaging, loading, welding and maintaining equipment.

For retailing, 53% of activities are automatable. They include stock management, maintaining sales records, gathering customer and product information, and accounting.

A technology specialist writer and consultant, Shelly Palmer, has also listed elite white-collar jobs that are at risk from robotic technologies.

These include middle managers, commodity salespeople, report writers, journalists, authors and announcers, accountants and bookkeepers, and doctors.

Certainly, the technological trend will improve productivity per worker that remains, and increase the profitability of companies that survive.

But there are adverse effects including loss of jobs and incomes for those who are replaced by the new technologies.

What can be done to slow down automation or at least to cope with its adverse effects?

The Bill Gates proposal to tax robots is one of the most radical. The tax could slow down the technological changes and the funds generated by the tax could be used to mitigate the social effects.

Other proposals, as expected, include training students and present employees to have the new skills needed to work in the new environment.

Overall, however, there is likely to be a significant net loss of employment, and the potential for social discontent is also going to be large.

As for the developing countries, there will have to be much thinking about the implications of the new technologies for their immediate and long-term economic prospects, and a major rethinking of economic and development strategies.

Global Trends by Martin Khor

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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Malaysian start-up CO3 plans to set up Google-like offices in the region


 

KUALA LUMPUR: Taking a cue from the trendy, cool office spaces of Google and the like, a Malaysian start-up aspires to offer a one-of-its-kind co-working space in the region.

Dubbed CO3 Social Office, the venture was launched yesterday and will roll out by June.

Co-founder and CEO Yong Chen Hui said CO3 stood for connectivity, collaboration and community that offered a platform for people from different establishments to work together.

“Cool workplaces like Google make people envy,” he said in his presentation during a media conference here yesterday.

“Such places will inspire people to give their best to the corporation everyday,” Yong said.

The first CO3 Social Office, with a space of 21,000 sq ft for 300 people, will be housed at the shoplots next to IOI Mall in Puchong.

The second, covering 40,000 sq ft for 500 people, will be located at Jalan University in Petaling Jaya, next to Sin Chew Media Corporation Bhd, which is one of CO3’s eight founders.

Three more are planned. These will be situated at the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Sentral and Damansara.

The ambitious expansion plan is to include 40 locations in the Asean region. The spaces will be equipped with meeting rooms, private booths, sleeping pods, mini library, fast wi-fi, etc.

Yong said the company’s target audience was the 90s – “the future” – who value freedom, cool and charming trends, etc.

CO3 aims to respond to the flexibility and fluidity of today’s work environments by transforming offices into hip communal living spaces.

CO3 will also strive to provide entrepreneurs, SMEs and non-pro­fit organisations a unique co-office environment to help grow their businesses.

“We hope to be the next US$2bil ‘unicorn’ by 2022,” Yong said during the presentation.

A “unicorn” is a company with a billion-dollar valuation. The mythical animal is used to emphasis how rare it is to reach that status.

Bruneian artiste Goh Kiat Chun, better known as Wu Zun, is one of the eight founders of CO3 Social Office.

Source: The Star by tho xin yi

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Rich Gen-Y kids making their own success


SINGAPORE: One of Rachel Lau’s strongest childhood memories is the smell of newspaper. Her father, driving her to school each day in Kuala Lumpur, would make his sleepy daughter open the paper, go through stock quotes and do mental math.

“He would be, like, How did KLK do today? OK, if it’s up four sen and I’ve got 89,000 shares, how much did I make?” Lau recalled. The daily ritual continued through her teenage years. Her father Lau Boon Ann built his fortune in real estate and by investing in companies like Top Glove Corp Bhd, which became the world’s biggest rubber-glove maker.

Some days, he would stand in front of an empty lot with his young daughter and challenge her to imagine a building there rather than watching the chickens running around.

Lau, now 31, is one of the three millennial co-founders of RHL Ventures, along with Raja Hamzah Abidin, 29, son of prominent Malaysian politician and businessman Datuk Seri Utama Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin and Lionel Leong, also 29, the son of property tycoon Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum.

They set up RHL using the wealth of their families with a plan to attract outside capital and build the firm into South-East Asia’s leading independent investment group.

“We look at South-East Asia and there is no brand that stands out – there is no KKR, there is no Fidelity,” Lau said. “Eventually we want to be a fund house with multiple products. Venture capital is going to be our first step.”

RHL has backed two startups since its debut last year. One is Singapore-based Perx, which has morphed from a retail rewards app to provide corporate clients with data and analysis on consumer behaviour. Lau is a member of Perx’s board, whose chairman is Facebook Inc co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

In January, the firm invested an undisclosed amount in Sidestep, a Los Angeles-based startup that’s also backed by pop-music artists Beyonce and Adele. Sidestep is an app that allows fans to buy concert memorabilia online and either have it shipped to their home or collect it at the show without having to wait in line.

“RHL guys are really smart investors who are taking their family offices to a new play,” said Trevor Thomas who co-founded Cross Culture Ventures – a backer of Sidestep, together with former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter. “What attracted the founders of Sidestep to RHL was their deep network in South-East Asia.”

A lot of startup founders in the United States want to access the Asian market, said Thomas, but they often overlook the huge South-East Asian markets and only focus on China. “Rachel and the team did a great job of explaining the value of that vision and providing really great access to early-stage US companies,” he said.

In South-East Asia, RHL has positioned itself between early-stage venture capitalists and large institutional investors such as Temasek Holdings Pte. Hamzah said they want to fill a gap in the region for the subsequent rounds of funding – series B, C and D. “We want to play in that space because you get to cherry pick,” he said.

RHL’s strategy is to take a chunk of equity and a board seat in a startup that has earned its stripes operationally for at least a year, and see the company through to an initial public offering.

Summer camp

RHL’s partners represent a new generation of wealthy Asians who are breaking away from the traditional family business to make their own mark. They include billionaire palm-oil tycoon Kuok Khoon Hong’s son Kuok Meng Ru, whose BandLab Technologies is building a music business.

RHL’s story begins in 2003 at a summer camp in Melbourne. During a month of activities such as horse riding and playing the stock market, Lau struck up a friendship with Hamzah, unaware that their parents knew each other well.

Their paths crossed again in London, Sydney, New York and Hong Kong as they went to college and forged careers in finance – Lau at NN Investment Partners and Heitman Investment Management, where she currently helps manage a US$4bil equity fund; and Hamzah at Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Guoco Management Co. Together with their mutual childhood friend Leong, the trio would joke about all returning to Malaysia one day to start a business together.

That day came in 2015 when Hamzah called up Lau in Hong Kong and said: “Yo! I’ve moved back. When are you coming back? You haven’t lied to me for 15 years, have you?”

They decided their common trait was investing.

Hamzah shares Lau’s passion for spotting mispriced assets by analysing valuations. Lau says she trawls through 100-page prospectuses for fun and values strong free cash flow – the cash a company generates from its operations after capital expenditures. Leong helped structure debt products at Hong Leong Investment Bank before joining his family’s real-estate business to learn about allocating capital to strategic projects.

In February 2016, they started RHL Ventures – an acronym for Rachel, Hamzah, Lionel – with their own money. When their families found out about the plan, they were eager to jump in, said Lau. Now they aim to raise US$100mil more from outside investors.

The partners have roped in their family and hedge-fund experts as advisers. “We recognise that we are young and still learning,” Lau said. “There is no point pretending otherwise.”

Leong’s father runs Mah Sing Group, Malaysia’s largest non-government-linked property developer. Hamzah’s father, chairman of mechanical and electrical business Rasma Corp, is a former Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister. Top Glove chairman Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai is also an adviser, in place of Lau’s father, who died in 2008.

The other two advisers are Marlon Sanchez, Deutsche Bank’s head of global prime finance distribution in Asia-Pacific, and Francesco Barrai, senior vice-president at DE Shaw, a hedge fund with more than US$40bil in investment capital.

RHL added a fourth partner last month, John Ng Pangilinan, a grandson of billionaire property tycoon Ng Teng Fong, who built Far East Organisation Pte and Sino Group.

Ng, 37, has founded some 10 ventures, including Makan Bus, a service that allows tourists to explore off-the-beaten-track eateries in Singapore.

As well as their family fortunes, the four partners bring experience of upbringings in dynasties that valued hard work, tradition and dedication.

Ng recalls his grandfather, Singapore’s richest man when he died in 2010, would always visit a property he was interested in buying with his wife.

After driving around the area, they would sit on a bench and observe it from a distance. Then they would return to the same spot after dark.

“He said to us, ‘What you see during the day can look very different at night,’” Ng said.

Hamzah, whose great-grandfather Mustapha Albakri was the first chairman of Malaysia’s Election Commission, remembers his father’s lessons in frugality – one time in London he refused to buy a £2 (US$2.50) umbrella when it started raining as they had plenty of umbrellas at home.

Leong, scion of Mah Sing Group, grew up listening to tales of how his family business overcame tough times by consolidating and reinventing itself from its roots as a plastic trader. “It made me realise that we have to be focused,” he said.

“So with every deal we do, we have to put in that same energy and tenacity.”

Lau was a competitive gymnast as a child but quit the sport when she failed to win gold at a championship event.

“It’s one thing I regret. In hindsight, I don’t think I should have given up,” said Lau. “The ultimate champion is the person who doesn’t give up.”

One old habit however remains. When Lau picks up a newspaper, she goes straight to the business section. “It’s still the only thing I read,” she said. – Bloomberg/The Star by Yoolim Yee

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