Philippine President Duterte in China for “Historic” Visit ; US Media Churlish!

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives in Beijing on October 18, 2016, beginning his state visit to China. [Photo:]

US media churlish on Duterte’s China visit

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ongoing trip to China has been seen as a gamble by the American media. Their astonished reaction clearly shows the selfish considerations of the US and its Western allies on the South China Sea issue. They take Philippine willingness to be a loyal part of the US alliance system as granted.

While providing security to the Philippines, Washington treats Manila as a pawn. The alliance requires the Philippines to serve US interests. To Washington, the Philippines’ value lies in providing military bases and legitimacy for the US containment of China in the South China Sea. As to the price Manila has to pay, it isn’t a problem at all for Washington.

We don’t foresee that the Philippines under the Duterte administration will break with the US. The majority of Chinese scholars on international strategy don’t think it will ever happen. Duterte appears more to be striving for increased diplomatic autonomy. Instead of serving Washington’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, he is redesigning Philippine foreign policy based on Philippine interests.

Manila has shifted its China policy from one of confrontation during the Aquino era to being friendly and cooperative, as China’s support is essential for its economic development. Washington needs Manila to stick to its geopolitical role, but 100 million Filipinos want a better life more.

The Philippines needs support to improve infrastructure, for which the US offers no help. Washington only sends soldiers and military equipment, but the security threat it paints is exaggerating to Filipinos.

Duterte’s China visit burst the “China threat” bubble jointly blown by Aquino and the US. Arbitration and US aircraft carriers are useless in solving maritime disputes between Beijing and Manila. Friendly engagement and negotiations are more beneficial to the Philippines. Aquino was more like a gambler, betting that confronting China would win public support and that all ASEAN countries would follow the US. He lost the bet.

Development and cooperation are the major theme in Southeast Asia, but the US is pushing the region to the opposite pole for its selfish strategic gains. It is a costly strategy. Washington ties Manila and Hanoi to its chariot for its China-containment strategy in the South China Sea, but the latter could have more room to cooperate with China.

A BBC opinion piece expects Duterte to focus on the maritime disputes and re-evaluate the importance of the alliance with the US some day. Beijing does not expect the Philippines to swing fully to China, but we are also clear that the Sino-Philippine friendship is in line with the long-term interests of Duterte and the Philippines as a whole. That’s enough. The US and Western mainstream media would be foolish to expect a Manila that is hostile to Beijing for Washington’s South China Sea strategy. Such a scenario will probably not reappear during Duterte’s term of office.

China should reciprocate Duterte’s overture

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte embarked on his state visit to China today. This visit would have been unimaginable three months ago when the Philippines, as an initiator of the South China Sea arbitration and a key pivot of the US strategy of rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, was in sharp conflict with China over maritime disputes. Duterte has made a fresh start with Beijing-Manila ties and the nation’s regional strategies after coming into office, and thus is widely regarded as a “subverter.”

Duterte’s straightforward way of speaking and acting has made a deep impression on the world. He extended the olive branch to China soon after taking office, making China the first country outside ASEAN for an official visit and speaking publicly in favor of Beijing. Now it’s China’s turn to receive his olive branch.

Since assuming office, Duterte reprioritized national affairs, taking the public’s attention from the South China Sea back to domestic governance. Meanwhile, he insists on Manila’s right to an independent foreign policy and opposes Washington’s excessive control over the Philippines, which has riled the US. The announcement of a suspension of Washington-Manila joint patrols and military drills has particularly rocked this alliance.

The Philippines plays a special role in the South China Sea situation. Manila is Washington’s ally and the most ideal pawn for Washington and Tokyo to intervene in the South China Sea issue. Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino III provoked strongly as he was backed by the US and Japan. Washington also counts on Manila to acquire legitimacy to launch South China Sea joint patrols. Once the Sino-Philippine relationship is returned to a friendly track, the US strategy of rebalancing will be undermined in the South China Sea.

Some are suspicious of Duterte’s sincerity toward China. However, Duterte’s policy has clear logic. China is his best partner in the anti-drug fight and for infrastructure construction. He is realistic and clear that the Philippines is only serving the US China-containment policy if it goes against China on the South China Sea issue.

Duterte’s understandings on the Sino-Philippine relationship reflect his left-wing political ideas. Whether he can resist pressure from domestic pro-US forces is key to the issue.

We call on China to grasp this major strategic opportunity brought by the Duterte administration. At the moment, China can make more efforts to facilitate the turnaround of the bilateral relationship. Beijing-Manila ties suffered an overall retreat during Aquino’s rule. Two-way trade dropped, Chinese tourist groups to Philippines stopped and fruit imports to China were affected. Changes are now happening.

The Philippine media has focused on the issue of fisheries around Huangyan Island. Duterte, under great domestic pressure, is strongly expected by Philippine media to bring a breakthrough on the issue.

Sovereignty is non-negotiable, but China can adopt a flexible policy on the Philippines’ fishing rights. Filipino fishermen fish on a shoestring and are unlikely to jeopardize the ecosystem of China’s waters.

A flexible fishing policy will bring the Sino-Philippine relationship to a new stage. As a major power, China should express its goodwill to Filipino fishermen and their president at this time. Washington’s strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific has increased China’s diplomatic and economic costs in Southeast Asia, and it is necessary for Beijing to reciprocate Manila for its clear stance of not willing to serve the US’ China strategy.

It is more effective to address the disputes in a friendly, instead of a confrontational way. China should make this clear to the world to win more respect in the world.  – Global Times

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Housing affordability is an income issue, what’s with the fuss?

Success story: The Pinnacle@Duxton, a HDB public housing estate, in the Tanjong Pagar district of Singapore. The HDB programme provides the government with an effective means to ensure targeted housing supply meant for community dwelling. – Bloomberg

Best practices from from HDB should be carefully studied

IT is increasingly a cause for concern to see the rising cost of living leading to a significant erosion of income. This results in more youths and job entrants unable to afford decent dwelling, be it in urban or sub-urban areas.

Therefore, it has become a pressing policy matter to find an effective solution to keep real estate prices in check. Many governmental agencies have been set up, but affordability remains a problem.

> Current state of health

From property developers to banks offering mortgages, the real estate sector supply chain has a high correlation with domestic economic performance.

According to the National Property Information Centre (NAPIC), the Malaysian House Price Index growth has been moderating since 2014.

The index had eased to 7.2% in the fourth quarter last year, down from a 7.4% expansion in the previous quarter. It is the fifth consecutive quarter of slower pace of growth.

Similarly, Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth had tapered to 4.0% in the second quarter this year, down from 4.2% in the previous quarter.

Notwithstanding the current sluggish economic conditions, the pertinent issue surrounding the real estate segment is affordable housing.

>Severely unaffordable

Even though broad property prices growth have plateaued, the high absolute price to own a house continues to be out of reach for the common Malaysian.

According to the report “Making Housing Affordable” by Khazanah Research Institute, the overall Malaysian housing market is ‘seriously unaffordable’.

Using the “median-multiple ratio” standard by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlement at the World Bank, a housing market is considered “affordable” if the house price to household income ratio is below 3.0 times.

The study conducted by Khazanah Research Institute, following the latest available data by the Department of Statistics, indicated that the overall Malaysian median-multiple in 2014 was 4.4 times.

More worryingly, the median multiple ratio for Kuala Lumpur (5.4 times), Penang (5.2 times), Terengganu (5.5 times) and Sabah (5.1 times) are considered to be ‘severely unaffordable’.

According to NAPIC data in the first quarter of the year, the median residential property sale transaction price in Kuala Lumpur was within the range of RM400,000 to RM500,000.

Assuming that the property price is RM450,000, after paying the 10% down payment deposit and taking a 35- year tenure housing loan at 4.5% interest per annum, the monthly mortgage repayment comes up to slightly over RM1,900.

Meanwhile, the surveyed salary of a four-to-five-year experienced sales manager with a university degree was reportedly at between RM5,000 and RM8,000 per month, according to a local recruitment specialist report.

Effectively, this means that the manager is looking at a house-to-individual income ratio of 4.7 to 7.5 times if he or she were to purchase the Kuala Lumpur property on his or her own capacity.

Property price and value to Income per country in SEA 20014

Moreover, given Department of Statistics’ expectation of 1.2% annual population growth rate between 2016 and 2020, Malaysia’s demography will have to accommodate a projected 1.6 million more people by the end of the decade.

Housing is a pressing socioeconomic issue for the long term not only in Malaysia but also worldwide. It has to be sustainable and affordable.

 >Focus on sustainable supply side dynamics

Fundamentally, housing affordability is an income issue.

Given the high absolute value of real estates, household income – at a much lower base – would have to multiply much higher to catch up to the affordability threshold.

To extrapolate it further, even with higher income growth, would real estate ever be considered ‘affordable’?

A conventional profit maximisation motive could mean that property developers would eventually price their units in tandem with income growth rates, therefore creating the ever elusive ‘affordability’.

Keep in mind that there is no lack of demand for housing in Malaysia in light of the relatively young demographic.

In 2016, the estimated age group younger than 24 years old of around 13.4 million people makes up 43% of total population.

Besides, the average household size is expected to shrink from 4.6 people in 2000 to an estimated 4.0 people by the end of the decade, according to Khazanah Research Institute.

>More residential units would be required for dwelling.

Essentially, policy makers should focus more on the supply side dynamics to tackle the issue of home ownership and also on sustainable policies to ease the cost of ownership – especially for first- time home buyers.

Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, the government has already outlined the need for affordable housing – especially for the bottom 40% of households – to alleviate the increasing cost of living.

The government targets to provide 606,000 new affordable houses during course of the 11th Malaysia Plan spanning from 2016 to 2020, introduce an integrated database to match supply and demand dynamics and also establish a land bank for future affordable housing projects.

This would be a continuation of the Program Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia (PR1MA), Ruman Idaman Rakyat and Rumah Mesra Rakyat initiatives.

The government looks set to establish a land bank for houses and an integrated database for all relevant stakeholders to match demand and supply dynamics.

Across the straits, the Singapore Housing and Development Board (HDB) is often cited as a success story in providing affordable and quality homes.

The HDB programme is a comprehensive nationwide strategy that aligns the government’s legal powers to acquire land for public housing purposes, act as a central authority on township development, while leveraging on the Central Provident Fund as a financing means to ensure affordability.

Moreover, there is a holistic township planning whereby the development of physical HDB flat infrastructure is complemented by socioeconomic integration that promotes a cohesive society.

No doubt there are studies that indicate Singapore’s median multiple ratio is around 5.0 times in 2015, thereby classified as ‘severely unaffordable’.

The scarcity of land in the island state limits the potential for competitive supply of land.

Nevertheless, the comprehensive central planning that the Singapore government employs allows it to have a firm grip on keeping property prices in check.

In short, the HDB programme provides the government with an effective means to ensure targeted housing supply meant for community dwelling.

Given that Singapore’s home ownership rate has increased from 29% in the 1970s to close to 90% in 1990 and a vibrant resale market for the private sector, it is a considerable success story for providing quality living standards for the nation.

While it would likely be a gigantic task for other countries to emulate Singapore’s public housing policy from scratch in light of the legal matters of land and elements of socioeconomic welfare distribution, the best practices from HDB should be carefully studied.

>Housing matter should be top on policy priority

In Malaysia, land matter is a state matter. For a comprehensive public housing plan to take off, the government would have to put up an economically viable proposal to develop new townships across the nation with a cost effective structure.

The Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry is mulling over the idea of developing a ‘Youth City’ township to cater to the young population.

Perhaps that could be a platform for the government to walk the talk and deliver value-added townships for affordable housing.

On the other end of the equation, besides providing dwelling space, real estate is also an asset class that yields cash flow from rental and also capital appreciation through time.

Therefore, it is imperative that the housing market price should never be trapped in an asset class bubble.

The 2008 United States’ sub-prime mortgage crisis serves as a grave reminder of the dire consequences and the impact on the real economy.

Fortunately, Bank Negara has already in place various macro-prudential policies since 2010 such as limiting loan-to-value ratio to 70% for home financing, and increase in real property gain tax to 10% for sales of real estate within two years to stem real estate market speculation activities.

In light of these, the recent consideration to allow property developers to offer home buyers financing at a much steeper financing cost of 12% interest rate per annum should be deliberated properly.

It is one matter to provide easier credit facility to own a property but it is an entirely different matter to compromise on the people’s capabilities to service the loan in the longer run and the spillover impact on real estate prices.

In short, housing is a necessity and it is imperative for authorities to have a policy interest in the issue.

The policy challenges going forward would only be more challenging as demand for housing continues to surge. It would be interesting to take stock of the plan that government has in mind come Budget 2017 on 21 October.

By Manokaran Mottain

Manokaran Mottain is the Chief Economist at Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd

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Water theft: 60% of RM3.3bil project allocation stolen by senior officers

Jabatan Air Negeri – Customer Service

How the millions were stolen?

1. Contracts broken down to small packages of RM100,000 each. This is to ensure the director or the deputy can award the contract.

2. Department carries out a limited tender process whereby between eight and 10 companies registered as contractors with the department are invited to put in their bids.

3. All the companies invited tend to act in concert. The ‘limited tender’ process is ‘fixed’ and given to the lowest bidder.

4. The other companies are paid off for their participation.

5. The project is finally carried out at a fraction of the tendered price.

Senior official: Unprecedented scale of corruption going on since 2010

In a shocking revelation, a senior government official said some 60% – close to RM2bil – of the RM 3.3bil Federal Government allocation for water projects in Sabah was siphoned off into individual pockets.

The projects were broken up into awards of less than RM100,000 each and tendered out to companies owned by the families of two top civil servants.

60% of project allocation stolen

Under scrutiny: MACC sources said they had identified 40 witnesses, mainly state Water Department officials, to have their statements recorded.

KOTA KINABALU: It’s shocking. Sixty sen out of every ringgit allocated by the Federal Government for water projects was siphoned off into the pockets of many individuals.

A senior state government official said only 40% of the federal allocations for water reached the ground in Sabah, and the rest of the money seemed to have been pocketed by individuals.

The official, who has knowledge of developments in the investigations involving the two senior Sabah Water Department officers, said there seemed to be an unprecedented scale of corruption involving the siphoning of federal allocations amounting to RM3.3bil for water projects in Sabah since 2010.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has arrested Sabah Water Department director Ag Tahir Ag Talib, 54, and his deputy Teo Chee Kong, 52, and seized over RM115mil, including some RM57mil in cash, from their houses and office.

Two others, including Teo’s older brother – a 55-year-old businessman – and his accountant have been arrested since Tuesday for investigations into what is possibly the country’s biggest abuse of power, bribery and money laundering case.

It is believed the tender process was fixed so that proxy companies would get the project at inflated prices.

In many cases, the projects were broken up into smaller parcels of up to RM100,000 to avoid the tender process.

The director or his deputy can sign off projects below RM100,000.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki has confirmed that there are 38 companies owned by family and friends of the two detained civil servants.

It is learnt that 17 of the companies were connected to the director while 21 were linked to his deputy.

These companies are said to have been used as fronts to take part in limited tenders to secure the projects.

This has been happening over the last five years with the amount adding up, sources explained, but declined to reveal the specific details of the projects.

MACC sources said they had identified 40 witnesses, mainly state Water Department officials involved in processing the contracts and contractors, to have their statements recorded.

A special team of 70 MACC officers are continuing to record statements, and scan through documents and the money trail.

They are also getting the director and his deputy to declare all their assets under Section 36 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009 as investigators want to obtain comprehensive details of their wealth.

So far, MACC has recovered some RM57mil in cash found from their offices, homes and safe boxes, frozen RM60mil in bank accounts of the duo including that of a company they were linked to.

They also seized 19.3kg of gold jewellery worth about RM3.64mil from the duo, and some 97 designer ladies handbags worth RM500,000 used by the director’s wife.

They also recovered some 127 land titles from Teo.

MACC is also working to repatriate funds banked into an account in a neighbouring country.

By Muguntan Vanar and Ruben Sario The Star/ANN

Pairin: State had nothing to do with stolen funds

Normal day: It’s business as usual at the Sabah Water Department despite the corruption issue surrounding the office.

KOTA KINABALU: The state government had nothing to do with the RM3.3bil Federal Government allocation to the Sabah Water Depart­ment, from which a large amount has been siphoned off.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said the projects allocated since 2010 came under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.

Sabahan Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal held the portfolio until 2015, when he was dropped from the Cabinet.

Pairin, who heads the state Industrial Development Ministry, said his ministry had no knowledge of the allocations as the water agency was the implementing agency for the federal funds.

Pairin said the procurement of the projects as well as the payments were handled by the federal ministry and the state water department.

“In light of this development, my ministry will study and propose an appropriate reporting system,” he said.

Investigators are looking into the possibility of some VIPS having links to the bribery and money laundering that have now been uncovered.

The sources, however, said it was still premature to speculate.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman had to step in to put an end to rumours linking the case to Kimanis Umno and also him.

Anifah, the Kimanis Umno division head, said MACC should be allowed to do its job.

He also threatened to take action if the defamatory statements continued to be published.

The Kimanis Umno link came as both the Sabah Water Department director Ag Tahir Ag Talib and his deputy Teo Chee Kong are from Beaufort and the Kimanis area.

There were claims on social media that Ag Tahir was the Kimanis Umno treasurer.

This has since been denied.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has also ordered an immediate review of procurement procedures, and monitoring and financial management of all state departments and agencies, particularly those involving allocations and funds outside the state budget.

Musa, who is also state Finance Minister, gave an assurance that the review would not affect the ongoing MACC investigations. – The Star/ANN

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Giving a choice of education to our students in Malaysian school systems


We can have many different school systems, as long as they all teach ways to acquire relevant skills and knowledge.


“Educational reforms must be driven by those who want to ensure that our future generations are able to be relevant in a global environment, earn good incomes and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.”

THE Johor Sultan’s recent proposal for there to be a single school system for the country became the latest talking point amongst teachers last week. The Sultan’s proposal, among other things, entails the use of English as a medium of instruction.

In the public space, the discussion went off tangent straight away. Some were quick to defend the present system because they said we need to preserve the vernacular schools, which in turn are meant to ensure the preservation of Chinese and Indian culture and their respective mother tongues.

These supporters seemed to suggest that without vernacular schools, the people of these respective ethnic groups would lose their cultures and languages altogether.

There are some primary-level vernacular schools in rural parts of India that are intended for the continued use of their mother tongue. However, students have the flexibility of transferring to English-medium schools at the secondary level. This flexibility enables Indian education to be largely singular in its system, with a wide use of English as medium of instruction.

Unfortunately, our view of vernacular schools is tied to a political idea: that politicians of a particular ethnic group are required to defend these vernacular schools – regardless of their actual usefulness and value to their communities – as an indicator of their care and concern for the welfare of their communities. Education becomes a political tool.

Middle-class parents want the present system to be retained because the approach taken by successive Ministers of Education has essentially been to privatise education. Hundreds of licences for private schools have been issued, and even international schools are now open to locals with the means to afford them for their children.

So this wealthy group does not mind the present system because for them at least, education is now isolated from the mainstream ; and they are thus able to have what some of them believe to be a superior method of teaching children, and imparting the right kind of education.

Others who want a single system insist on vernacular schools being abolished, and in their place “a Malay (national) centric system” where schools can impart lessons on loyalty and patriotism with more vigour. They argue that we still need to instil patriotism, unity and racial harmony in our pupils and students.

They believe that a sufficient amount of indoctrination is necessary to turn our young into “true Malaysians”, while religious classes and adequate prayer halls will shape Malay children into good Muslims (since we now seek to be Syariah-compliant in everything we do).

We can safely say that under the present political setup, no government will dare abolish vernacular schools. So if national schools become more “Malay” and more Islamic, we can expect more vernacular schools to mushroom all over the country, keeping pace with private schools (local and international ) as they seek to attract ever-larger numbers of students whose parents have “no confidence” in the national school system.

We can have as many systems in our schools as we like, as long as the “one” overriding component in any system that matters is the idea that schools are for teaching students to acquire deep knowledge and skills relevant to the present world.

Schools of the 21st century do not exist primarily to build national unity, to foster narrow nationalism, or to protect any mother tongue. They are not designed to make you “a better person” or religious and sin-free, for that matter.

Today’s education is primarily about having the right skills to get jobs, as the effect of globalisation and new artificial intelligence will be taking a lot of our work away, and may ultimately make us all redundant if we are not prepared. In that context, education must be about giving our children relevant, useful and productive skills.

If the characteristics of the national school were to be modelled on those found in Switzerland, Finland or Singapore, for example, (with some modifications, of course), that would be acceptable because their focus is on producing students with skills that are useful in this present environment.

The diversity of available subjects, with options given to parents to decide on issues such as language, can accommodate different aspirations without compromising on quality or the schools’ central mission.

I recently met a Finnish teacher in Helsinki who was proud to tell me that almost all Finnish students speak three European languages, although there is no compulsion to do so in their school system.

According to this teacher, they have to be multilingual because then their job opportunities become much wider. Necessity always produces better education systems and methods.

Mother tongues can be kept alive through their regular use in a modern education system, without having vernacular schools. Let’s face it: having a poor and mediocre Tamil school system with low enrolment will not do much to help preserve the language and culture of the Tamil community. The only people who benefit are Tamil politicians.

Today’s education produces well-rounded children who will get jobs. It’s when they have no jobs that we worry, no matter how well they can speak their mother tongue.

Educational reforms must be driven by those who want to ensure that our future generations are able to be relevant in a global environment, earn good incomes and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.

By Zaid Ibrahim All kinds of everything

Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim ( is now a legal consultant. The views expressed here are entirely his own.


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Why the US dollar will remain strong despite cheap money at near zero interest rates?

THE Fed failed to raise interest rates on Sept 21, giving many markets and fund managers a sigh of relief.

Fed chairman Janet Yellen said the case for an increase has strengthened, but decided for the time being to wait for further evidence of continued progress toward the Fed objectives of maximum employment and price stability. Some analysts felt that any Fed rate increases would be seen as favouring one party in the US Presidential elections.

Caution having over-ridden valour, overall stock markets rallied somewhat, while currency markets moved sideways. Going forward, the futures market think that there is a 60% chance of the Fed raising interest rates in December, after the November Presidential elections.

The key question is whether the dollar will strengthen. So far, the US dollar has been strong against emerging market currencies, flat against the euro and weakened relative to the yen.

There are hoards of analysts trying to forecast short-term and long-term exchange rate movements. Exchange rates are determined by the supply and demand in currency pairs, usually between the dollar and the most traded currencies, such as euro, sterling, yen and other liquid currencies (Australian dollar etc). In turn, the supply and demand for foreign exchange would depend on the current account (trade flows) and capital account (financial flows) of the balance of payments.

If one only looked at trade flows, then exchange rate expectations would depend on whether countries are running large current account surpluses or not, on the basis that a surplus country’s currency would strength. On that basis, one would expect that the Euro should strengthen, because the eurozone is now overall running a current surplus of roughly 3% of GDP. Germany alone is runnng a current account surplus equivalent to 8% of German GDP. However, investor nervousness about the sluggish outlook for the eurozone has keep the euro on the weak side.

One reason is that capital flows are now driving the exchange rate, due to large portfolio flows in search of yield and total returns, as financial assets become more globalised. Theoretically, portfolio flows should be driven by covered interest rate parity, meaning that foreign exchange traders arbitrage in spot, forward and futures markets to equalise risk-adjusted interest rates between countries. Hence, expectations of interest rate differentials between countries matter in shaping exchange rate behaviour.

Interest rate behaviour is determined today largely by monetary policy, which is why global markets are particularly nervous about US Fed interest rate adjustments. Since the US dollar is the world’s benchmark currency, with roughly two thirds of global financial assets measured against the dollar, global financial markets move in expectations of future Fed interest rate increases.

The US remains the dominant military and economic power and is consequently the safe-haven currency. Whenever geo-politics become tense, as is the situation currently, the flight is always towards the dollar.

Furthermore, all signs point towards the US economy performing best amongst the advanced economies, despite overall slower growth post-crisis.

There is enough evidence that the US is already reaching full employment levels at 4.9% unemployment rate, with anecdotal evidence that companies are hiring in anticipation of growing consumer confidence.

There is however a disconnect between US recovery and trade growth. The US consumption pattern has changed from consuming durables towards spending on services, such as new apps and digital entertainment. A partial shift towards manufacturing at home also explains why exports to the US have not increased substantially. With global trade growing slower than GDP, emerging markets are not growing due to the traditional cyclical uptick in exports.

The bad news is that historically, a strong dollar has been associated with slower global growth and vice versa. The explanation is that when the dollar is weak, capital flows out to the emerging markets, stimulating trade and investments. When the dollar is strong, capital flows back to the US and if the US is unable to recycle these flows, global growth weakens.

As the taper tantrum in 2013 showed, when the Fed signalled an increase in interest rates, emerging markets suffered huge turmoil of capital outflows, leading to either interest rate increases or sharp devaluations.

The power of the US to recycle global capital flows is critical to global recovery. Unconventional monetary policy in the US, in the form of near zero interest rates, is not working because the transmission mechanism of cheap money to the real economy is not working. Liquidity remains within the central bank-financial market nexus, with relatively slow lending to finance private sector long-term investments. The private sector is also not confident about the future until there are stronger signs of sustained consumer spending. Furthermore, much-needed public sector investments in infrastructure are being constrained by the large debt overhang and toxic politics.

In short, global capital flight to the dollar, with near zero interest rates, will mean global secular deflation. The reason is that zero interest rate dollar holdings have the same deflationary role as gold in the 1930s. Holding gold was deflationary because spending stops as more and more gold hoarding drained liquidity from the market.

Wait a minute. If the Chinese economy is still growing three times faster than the US in GDP terms (6.7% versus 1.8%), shouldn’t the yuan appreciate? Yes, China is running a current account surplus, but capital outflows are currently running about the same level as trade surpluses, so foreign exchange reserves are flat. Many people think that capital outflows indicate that the yuan will remain weak against the dollar until private sector confidence recovers.

The European and Japanese central banks are running negative interest rate policies precisely because with interest rates relatively lower than the dollar, capital flows will induce lower exchange rates, which will hopefully reflate their economies. The Fed has exactly the same fear as the People’s Bank of China in 2009 when China was growing at more than 10% per year.

Higher Fed interest rates would attract higher capital inflows, pushing up the dollar and inducing even higher asset bubbles, with no inflation in sight.

In sum, much will depend whether the US will use more fiscal stimulative policies and less of unconventional monetary policy to revive productivity growth. It looks as if we will have to wait for a new President to make that strategic call. We will know by November,

By Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is Distinguished Fellow, Asia Global Institute, University of Hong Kong.

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Jun 15, 2016 When bull elephants like Trump trumpet their charge, beware of global consequences. By Andrew Sheng Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered a speech, with the aim of
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Why should an organisation devoted to saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war” make it its business to authorise war?

Global economic order under threat

Coming global economic crash, threat of WWIII, petitioned 2030 Agenda for a One World Global Government under a New World Order.

Need to ‘civilise’ capitalism

THE world economy is in a much worse-off shape than even many who know had expected, or what central bankers have come to understand.

Whatever growth there is remains paltry and uneven. Deflation was viewed as a strictly Japanese phenomenon. Now it’s a global threat, being revived and updated by Harvard’s Lawrence Summers as “secular stagnation.” The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says 2016 will be the fifth straight year of global growth below 3.7%, its average for nearly two decades before the recent great recession.

G-20 economies (representing 85% of the world economy, comprising most rich nations and major emerging economies) are expected to again downgrade their forecast to below 3% global expansion this year. They are likely to miss the target they had set for themselves in 2014 to lift their combined output by 2% over the IMF’s then forecast for 2018.

In early September, G-20 leaders met in Hangzhou, China, in the wake of Brexit and the rise of populist politics on both sides of the Atlantic with a strong sense of urgency to placate public discontent. Indeed, they have to “civilise’’ capitalism (Australian Prime Minister) as they seek to revive economic growth and address growing public scepticism about the benefits of free trade and growing backlash against globalisation. “Growth has been too low, for too long, for too few” (IMF chief Christine Lagarde).

Hangzhou consensus

This time G-20 leaders were on the defensive, amid a welter of familiar complaints back home on frustratingly slow growth, rising social inequalities and the surge of corporate tax avoidance. Looking back, the summer of 2016 is viewed not as a period of respite but as the moment it became clear that policy solutions from G-20, IMF and major central banks aren’t working well.

They have proved woefully inadequate. As a result, businesses are pessimistic about growth prospects, as reflected in low expectations for long-term interest rates. Yield on German 10-year notes is negative 0.116% p.a. What’s needed is a new approach. There has to be more growth and growth must be more inclusive.

At Hangzhou, the G-20 list of remedies rivals the world economy in its complexities, running beyond 7,000 words (excluding several lengthy appendices) addressing many issues, including immigration, terrorism, energy and Zika virus. Indeed, it risks looking “like an X’mas tree”. It was preceded by a surprising display of co-operation between China and US, who together ratified the Paris climate change agreement.

A long list of problems was on the table: including overstretched central banks, trade disputes, corporate tax avoidance, inequality and the populist backlash against globalisation and free trade. In the end, the Hangzhou consensus reflected an “innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive” approach towards its main goals. It adopted a wide-ranging package of policies based on “Vision” (of innovative, new drivers of growth); “Integration” (forge synergy among fiscal, monetary and structural reform policies); “Openness” (build an open world economy, rejecting protectionism); and “Inclusiveness” (ensure growth promotes the role of women and youth, and generates quality jobs, addresses inequality and eradicates poverty).

All these won’t be enough to get us out of the rut. The real setback remains one of credibility. G-20’s sprawling agenda is filled with items that have little chance of success. Many stakeholders and opinion-makers are unlikely to take them really seriously. Experience shows that G-20 is better off when it focuses. Better stick with a limited agenda that has a high chance of achieving an outcome. Sometimes, more is done by doing less.

As host, China promoted innovation as the core of the G-20 agenda. This is sensible because: (i) the use of monetary and fiscal policies can only achieve so much. In the longer-run, real progress has to depend on improved productivity – getting more out of existing resources; and (ii) overcoming anxiety arising from the use of technologies and artificial intelligence that threaten jobs. Getting G-20 to think collectively about the downside of innovation and fintech can only help. There is then the endorsement of a set of non-binding principles designed to guide governments in devising cross-border investment policies in an effort to revive cross-border investment, which is sagging along with global growth and trade. The intention is good – there is a need to foster a more open, transparent global environment for investment, and ensure national and international rules remain clear, coherent and consistent. No investment, no trade, no growth.


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), i.e. the rich nations’ club, warned last week that growth in world trade is set to lag global growth in 2016, i.e. globalisation as measured by trade intensity has stalled. Other signs are just as worrisome: (i) ratio of world trade to output has been flat since 2008; (ii) volume of world trade stagnated between January 2015 and March 2016; (iii) stock of cross-border financial assets peaked at 57% global GDP in 2007, down by 36% over 2015; and (iv) inflows of foreign direct investment remained well below 3.3% of world GDP reached in 2007.

Indeed, the growing backlash against trade liberalisation as well as recessions in some big commodity producers are adding to the slackening of trade flows and is likely to erode already flagging productivity and ultimately global living standards. All this, at a time of poor economic performance in the rich nations, rising inequality and big shifts in the balance of global power.

So much so, failure to deal with the negative consequences of globalisation has surged into the political agenda of several large nations (including the US) facing forthcoming elections. Worse still, growth is too meagre to generate the jobs that youths expect and to fulfil pension promises for the elderly. Indeed, globalisation has stalled. Does it matter?

Yes it does. Recent history witnessed the first fall in global inequality of household incomes since the early 19th century. Average world real income rose by 120% between 1980 and 2015. The opportunities accorded by global integration should not be dismissed. No man is an island. Globalisation’s failure, however, lies in (a) not ensuring that its gains are not better shared, and (b) just as dismal is failure to assist those adversely affected. But, the net impact on jobs and wages from rising productivity and new technologies has far exceeded rising imports.

Globalisation shouldn’t be made the scapegoat. What’s really needed is better management. I recall Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz’s main message in his 2002 book Globalisation and its Discontents: the problem is not globalisation but how the process is being managed. The rules of the game has to include measures to “tame globalisation.” Unfortunately, global management didn’t change. Today, the new discontents are bringing home the same message – only more intensely.


G-20 leaders in Hangzhou were preoccupied with the need to placate public discontent about the unequal distribution of the benefits of free trade and globalisation. Hence, a lot of talk about people. China’s President Xi Jinping set the tone: “Development is for the people. It should be pursued by the people and its outcome should be shared by the people. This is not just a moral responsibility. It also helps unleash immeasurable effective demand.”

In China, Xi said: “We will make the pie bigger and make sure people get a fairer share of it.” The global Gini coefficient – the economist’s measure of inequality, has raced passed (Xi’s) “alarm level of 0.6, and now stood at 0.7” (the closer it approaches 1, the greater the inequality in income distribution). “We need to build a more inclusive world economy.”

Unfortunately, globalisation is today seen naively as a zero-sum-game (I win, you lose), with a US presidential hopeful arguing that China’s rise has come at the expense of US manufacturing heartlands – reflecting a rising disenchantment with the global economic order. It’s spreading. Last week, France publicly called on Brussels to end trade deal talks between US and Europe, citing a globalisation “without rules, where social models are pit against each other and dragged downward, where inequalities grow.”

This “docile of discontent” is best illustrated by Branko Milanovic’s controversial “elephant chart,” which was created (from 196 household surveys worldwide) by ranking world population (from the poorest 10% to the richest 1%) showing growth in income between 1988 and 2008, i.e. from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the fall of Lehman Brothers.

His global chart traced the distribution of growth in real income as first sloping right up, then down sharply and up again steeply, like an elephant raising its trunk: it shows big income gains at the high middle and very top, with the era of globalisation offering very little or nothing for those in between (at the bottom and in the middle and working classes in the rich nations who are poorer than the top 15% but richer than everyone else; this group seemed scarcely better off in 2008 than they were 20 years before).

The stagnant fortunes of these Trumpian and Brexiteer discontents in advanced economies are squeezed between their own countries’ plutocrats and Asia’s rapidly rising middle-class. It is this dangerous sharp dip in the chart to near zero which reflects those who occupy this dangerous docile. Milanovic’s study showed that (a) Chinese middle-class and the world’s 1% rich have gained handsomely in the era of globalisation; (b) lower middle-class in rich countries have fared poorly; and (c) rising income inequality remains a serious problem.

What then, are we to do

Global growth are revised downwards yet again as its traditional engines of trade and investment sputter. OECD now estimates the world economy would muster growth of only 2.9% this year. I consider this to be optimistic. Worse, potential growth has fallen in both advanced and emerging economies. The rise in income and wealth inequalities exacerbates the glut in global savings (reflecting the global investment slump). This can only lead to lower trend growth. Economists call this “hysteresis”: long-term unemployment erodes workers’ skills and human capital; and because innovation is embedded in new capital goods, low investment leads to permanently lower productivity growth. That’s why structural and market reforms are vital to boost potential growth. This has become critical in Asean, especially Malaysia.

There are no politically easy solutions. I know fiscal policy (especially productive public investment that boosts both supply and demand) remains hostage of high debts and misguided austerity. For now, the world is likely to remain as IMF’s new mediocre, or in Summer’s secular stagnation, or China’s new normal.

Make no mistake. There is nothing healthy or normal about rising inequality in the face of continuing slow economic growth. Worse, it leads to rising populist backlash against trade, migration, globalisation, even technological innovation. Following the old road of relying purely on cheap and plentiful money leads to a dead end eventually.

Policymakers’ renewed focus on the need to make capitalism more inclusive is welcome. But rich nations need to ditch austerity in favour of purposeful fiscal support – emphasising structural supply side reforms. There is no other way to unleash effective demand. The tools are already available. Finally, of course, there is innovation.

By Lin See-Yan

Former banker, Harvard educated economist and British Chartered Scientist, Tan Sri Lin See-Yan is the author of “The Global Economy in Turbulent Times” (Wiley, 2015). Feedback is most welcome; email:
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Malaysia’s vernacular schools not the problem

Those who oppose vernacular schools … are driven by their desire to produce a society moulded in a way that they desire. Please keep element of choice for both parents and students.

AMONG those opposing vernacular schools, you can detect one umbrella argument that is continuously used by many parties. They say that the existence of vernacular schools is a threat to national identity and a hindrance to unity. Their fear is that this student segregation will lead to a fracturing of our society.

I disagree with this view. I think they confuse the purpose of education and there is also a lot of hypo­crisy going on.

Let us firstly look at the concept of schooling. Historically, the entity known as a school has its origin in Prussia in the early 1800s.

At that time, Prussians were looking at methods to produce citizens who would loyally work and fight for causes determined by their rulers. So they devised a system where, from a very young age, their citizens were trained to live a regimented life.

It did not matter what your abilities and interests were. As long as you were of the same age, you would be grouped together and forced to learn subjects determined by the elites.

Like the military, there was heavy emphasis on leadership by head teachers and teachers, while students were mere recipients of what was taught to them. That regimentation remains as the nature of modern schools.

After two centuries of bureaucratic evolution, schools these days are not about providing holistic education to support the child’s individual growth anymore. Instead it is about producing cohorts of citizens who can be easily grouped and compartmentalised.

Every one of us who went through the modern school system has been compartmentalised into groups based on our exam results.

And that is also why it has become the norm for those in power to use the school as a tool for social engineering. From day one, since Prussian times, the purpose of a school has always been about social engineering. Yet the vast majority of people today confuse schools with education.

In reality, you can still get an education without going to what have become our traditional schools. Education can be obtained from home, or in informal groups that come together for what is today known as “home-schooling”.

More interestingly, there is also a global interest in concepts such as unschooling, Sudbury schools, and democratic schools.

Those who oppose vernacular schools usually do not argue about the quality of education received by the students. They are not driven by the desire to catalyse social mobility by ensuring everyone has access to quality education. But they are driven by their desire to produce a society moulded in a way that they approve of.

The elites have a concept of what they feel society should be like and they want to use the Prussian factory-like model of schools to produce underlings who behave according to their pre-determined mould. To legitimise their mould, they label it as unity.

Note that their desire for unity has nothing to do with education. Their focus is on schooling. And this is where the hypocrisy creeps in.

Many of the people who want to promote their mould of unity have never attended any of our government schools. They don’t even send their own kids to our schools.

They step into our schools perhaps for a few hours a year for hyped-up visits, yet they speak as if they really know. More amazingly, they speak as if they actually have faith in our school system when their actions show otherwise.

In reality, these elites campaign for something that will never affect them. When it comes to their own families, they send their children for a “better” education elsewhere.

They want to limit our choices on schools because they know that they can always pay their way out and send their own children to a school of their choice.

This is the tragedy of some of the privileged. Instead of looking for ways to make sure everyone can afford school choices like them, they want to kill choice for everyone who cannot afford to pay.

Let me pose a rhetorical question.

If unity can only be achieved by making students from different backgrounds come together in one school, then why do they just want to close vernacular schools?

To be specific, data shows that Chinese schools have higher ethnic diversity than other schools. I can think of many non-Chinese schools that are completely mono-ethnic. If we are objective, it is not the Chinese schools that need to be closed down.

This is why I say that there is a lot of hypocrisy in the debate. Worse, that hypocrisy is clouded by confusion about whether we want to educate or we just want to have factory-like schooling.

The vernacular school debate is a debate of the elite. For us common people, our sole desire is to be able to provide our kids with quality education.

It is possible to provide school choices for the commoners, such as by using school vouchers so that choice is provided but schools are still free for the students.

Of course, it will take time to move towards this choice-based system. Until we get there, I beg the elites to stop trying to kill what few choices remain for us poorer citizens of this country.

By Wan Saiful Wan Jan The Star

Thinking Liberally

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs ( The views expressed here are entirely

the writer’s own.

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