China-Hong Kong union needs sense of inclusion


Hong Kong. -Bloomberg pic

China is a different global power

The Chinese way of ruling

While the China-Hong Kong union still sits uncomfortably at times two decades on, the road ahead is slowly but surely being paved.

IT’S lunch time in Hong Kong, but the soya sauce chicken rice seller at Queen’s Road in Shek Tong Tsui is looking distressed as the crowd isn’t up to expectations.

Rental is high in Hong Kong and customers are obliged to share tables in small eateries like the one I was in.

Once eagle-eyed restaurant owners spot the conclusion of a meal, patrons are swiftly handed their bills, subtly suggesting they leave the premises to make way for incoming customers. Otherwise, they’d earn short shrift from irate staff.

Life is hard in HK and most residents feel that it has become much harder.

The older ones are more tolerant and patient because they have lived through the country’s high and low points. They include those born in China who came to the island with their parents.

Retired civil servants complain of promotions bypassing them because the top posts were reserved for the whites under British colonial rule. They felt humiliated and have never forgotten this marginalised treatment.

The young ones are becoming angrier now. They see HK deteriorating, reflected in their inability to buy a flat the size of a car park lot, because something even that small would probably cost millions of ringgit.

HK is a crowded city where space is at a premium. Space, meaning a hole in the sky. Landed properties are for the super rich in a land where being rich alone isn’t enough.

Regular visitors to HK will tell you that the streets are filled with people for a simple reason: it can be claustrophobic living in a 400sq foot – or less – flat.

HK residents sometimes joke that they need to leave their flat to provide “privacy” for newly married children who sometimes can’t afford their own homes and still need to live with their parents.

“The walls are too thin, and it is best we give them some space, you understand what I am saying, right?” said my HK friend as we chuckled about the reference while dining on dim sum.

The waiting period for public housing is five years, if you are lucky, and it’s not uncommon to see an entire family living in one room in many parts of downtown HK. Apparently, more than 200,000 people live in subdivided homes.

Forget politics for a minute and let’s talk facts. An international survey reportedly showed HK sliding 12 places to an embarrassing 41 as a liveable city for Asian expats, its worst ranking in a decade.

“We call ourselves Asia’s world city, but Asians have given us the thumbs down as a liveable city. That’s a paradox that should shame us,” the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper reported.

Over the last two decades, HK people have found themselves priced out of the home market. The cost of living has gone up, but the standard of living has dropped sharply.

The smog has worsened and there are regular reports of hospitals overflowing in the winter months every year, ushering in the routine flu outbreak.

The competition for space is a serious concern in HK. The resentment towards China is simply because people in HK have found it hard to compete with the deluge of mainlanders.

Each time I go to HK, I can’t get past the sight of long queues of people from China – with deep pockets – at luxury goods outlets at Central.

“Last year, 65 million tourists flooded Hong Kong. That’s only about 10 million fewer than for the whole of the United States. Almost 80% who came were mainlanders, most of them day trippers who swarmed residential areas to buy groceries, ruining the quality of life for locals.

“How can life quality improve if you add the four million mainlanders who come monthly, on average, effectively raising Hong Kong’s population to well over 11 million?” pondered columnist Michael Chugani in the SCMP.

Milk powder is a favourite item of the mainlanders when it comes to groceries because of food safety concerns back home. Every mum and pop shop in HK seems to share a similar inventory.

HK people are loud and opinionated. And often crude and crass even, especially, when speaking in Cantonese.

This is a city of very hardworking and motivated people. It’s commonplace for a person to be doing two or three jobs to ensure ends are met, but these people also acknowledge the city has long passed its prime, with stats indicating its lost position as one of Asia’s top cities.

It has surrendered its edge as a financial hub to Shanghai and even nearby Shenzhen.

Chronicling the events of the last two decades reveals how those fortunes changed. Imagine that in 1997, China was very much reliant on HK, largely because the global superpower had not yet made it into the ranks of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which was stunting and limiting its export trade.

So HK’s position as a channel for entrepôt trade was exploited to deliver mainland-made goods to the rest of the world via its ports, and crucially, by circumventing the WTO’s trade restrictions. But that all changed when China entered the organisation in 2001, and from then HK began to play a diminishing role. The island went from handling half the republic’s trade in 1997 to a measly 12% today.

“In terms of total size and wealth, Hong Kong has also shrunk relative to China, which has experienced more than three decades of astoundingly high economic growth. In 1997, Hong Kong’s economy was one-fifth the size of China’s, and its per capita income was 35 times higher. By 2018, Hong Kong’s economy was barely one-thirtieth the size of China’s. Hong Kong is still richer, but the gap is narrowing, with its per capita income now five times higher than China’s,” claimed the New York Times International.

And to exemplify China’s newly accrued wealth, on a trip to Guangzhou, my jaw dropped when I saw the homes of the mainland Chinese in a sprawling gated property built by Forest City.

The HK film industry has nearly collapsed. With only the TV dramas in Cantonese keeping some actors home, most HK movie stars and singers have moved to China, where they are better paid and command bigger audiences.

Some still struggle to speak fluent Mandarin and drop their Cantonese accent, but most have successfully made the transition.

Knowing the realities of the huge China market, and not wanting to offend their audience, most of these big names opted to stay away from the recent HK protests. Pro-Beijing Jackie Chan was lambasted for pleading ignorance of the protest march.

Still, HK has its assets, though. It has an efficient administration system and remains an important channel. In China, tighter capital control measures are making it increasingly difficult to access outside money, the SCMP said.

“Hong Kong is also a top offshore yuan trading centre, leading the way for wider use of the Chinese currency in trade and finance – a priority for Beijing as it pushes for the yuan’s internationalization.

“… Hong Kong can also do more down the road. It can foster an ecosystem for the yuan currency, developing derivatives and indexes to convince people to hold the yuan in larger amounts,” Oliver Rui, a professor of finance and accounting in China, was quoted.

But China needs to do more to secure the faith of the islanders.

HK people understand and accept they are a part of China. There is no turning back and nothing is going to change that.

Hoisting British flags may be the manifestation of frustration for the idealistic young, but it won’t change their destiny.

At the same time, China needs to wake up to the fact that only 3.1% of those aged between 18 and 29 in HK see themselves as broadly Chinese (China nationality). This compares to 31% in 1997, according to a report based on a survey by the University of Hong Kong.

And we know that many of those who took part in the recent street protests included secondary school children, some not yet even 18 years old.

Even though China has overtaken HK, particularly from an economic standpoint, Beijing needs to foster and maintain a sense of inclusion, especially when the islanders don’t feel they are a part of China.

There was a time when HK residents laughed at mainlanders, calling them the disparaging “Ah Chan”, or village simpletons. However, mainlanders are growing richer and more powerful now. But like all good “bosses”, China needs to treat the island’s residents with respect, and it needs to motivate and win over their hearts and minds. China must make them proud to be Chinese citizens.

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Impractical move: China is generally aware that the Hong Kong people cannot sustain any form of protest because rent and bills need to…

 

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A destiny tied to China – Tackling it the British way


Impractical move: China is generally aware that the Hong Kong people cannot sustain any form of protest because rent and bills need to be paid and protests don’t gain a voice, neither by yellow shirts nor umbrellas. — AFP

The future of the Hong Kong people lies with China but the challenge for Beijing is to make Hong Kongers feel that they are a fundamental part of the Middle Kingdom.

If there is a history lesson that the Chinese can learn from British Malaya in handling the Hong Kong protests, it’s that the British administered their colonies well and without the need for any heavy-handed approaches, even they robbed these colonies of their rich minerals.

YOU’VE got to hand it to the British because they are really the masters at the game. Anyone who has studied basic Malayan history would know that officials during colonial times merely identified themselves as advisers.

They were British civil servants, but they called the shots.

Adding insult to injury, the Malay Rulers – as the Sultans were called then – were “led” to believe they still ran the states.

Under British Malaya – a set of states on the Malay peninsula and Singapore under British rule between the 18th and 20th centuries – British colonial officials had the last say on almost everything except religion and customary matters, which they cleverly left to the palaces.

So, in theory, the Rulers held their positions, kept their perks and all royal protocols befitting royalty, but their wings were clipped.

These were the federated states, but in the case of Straits Settlement states, British governors were appointed.

So, the famous Malacca Sultanate, with its rich lineage of Sultans, found itself having a governor, a Caucasian, as did Penang and Singapore.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad put it aptly when he said last week in his speech in Britain that “Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth, but there is nothing much in common with the wealth dominated by certain countries”.

“The British acknowledged the Malay Sultans as Rulers, but the Sultans never ruled. Therefore, when they criticised us as dictators, I don’t think they really meant it,” he said.

There was more. Under British rule in the 20th century, the British introduced repressive laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), used against communist insurgents.

Under the ISA, a person could be held for 60 days in solitary confinement and up to two years’ extension without trial.

Despite this, the British told the world, with a straight face, that they taught us, the natives, principles of justice, democracy and fairness, and that we all cried when they abandoned us when the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1941, and when we gained independence in 1957.

Our first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, kept the law when the Union Jack was lowered in 1957, which marked our independence.

Not many Malaysians are aware that the British imposed the ISA. Of course, during that era, only the radical left-wingers, with communist tendencies, were detained.

One ISA detainee, who was imprisoned under the British and then under the Malaysian government, said: “With the British guards, they would cheerily come every morning and wished the detainees a good day.” That was the difference.

Fast forward to 2019 and the massive turnout in Hong Kong against the controversial extradition Bill, with proposed amendments allowing for criminal suspects to be sent to China, has made international news.

It has prompted concern in Hong Kong and elsewhere that anyone from the city’s residents to foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling through the international financial hub could be at risk if they were wanted by Beijing.

Basically, Hong Kong residents would rather face HK courts than be deported to mainland China.

Many have no faith in China’s judicial system compared to the British-style HK courts, which inherited the British legal system, and where most of the judges and lawyers are also British-trained.

The HK people can’t be blamed for their anger and suspicion since the international community has read of Chinese nationals being short-changed, or even neglected by the courts in the pursuit of justice.

And we can even read of income tax defaulters, under investigation, being hauled off to undisclosed locations, while dissidents have been taken away, and disappeared without a trace.

This bad press, verified or otherwise, would have scared many people, even though one wonders how many of these HK protesters believe, in their hearts of hearts, that they would ever get arrested and sent to China.

But the irony is that under British rule in HK, like many governments, the British widely used the law as a tool to consolidate control of Hong Kong in the hands of a privileged minority.

Legal expert Richard Daniel Klien wrote that “the British enacted legislation which in some respects instituted two sets of laws – one for the Europeans and another for the Chinese. Laws were passed to ensure no Chinese would live in the most desirable parts of Hong Kong, which the British wished to preserve as their exclusive enclaves.

“In a land in which ninety-eight per cent of the population were Chinese, English was the official language.

“The Chinese language was not permitted to be used in government offices.

“Laws regulating conduct were written exclusively in English, a language which the vast majority of the population could not understand.

“The astonishing truth of the failure of the Hong Kong Chinese to develop a significant pro-democracy or pro-independence movement, while other British colonies obtained independence long ago, testifies to the success of the British laws in accomplishing the goal of continued colonial rule over this land of six million inhabitants.”

MK Chan wrote in a law review report that “to most people in Hong Kong, the preservation of the existing legal system is of crucial importance to the high degree of autonomy the post-colonial Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is supposed to enjoy under Chinese sovereignty according to the “One Country, Two Systems” formula.

“However, this widely shared perception is flawed for one simple reason: the legal system in Hong Kong today has its own serious defects. It is not only alien in origin,” and “markedly different from the legal system in the People’s Republic of China but also defective and inadequate”.

No protest has gained voice, neither through yellow shirts nor umbrellas. And no protests were staged because the British didn’t allow elections during the colonial rule from over a century and a half.

The 1995 Hong Kong Legislative Council election for members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong was only finally held that year – it was the first and last fully elected legislative election in the colonial period before the nation was returned to China two years later. So much for democracy and freedom.

No HK resident protested that only the white men could hold top posts in government bodies, places where there were many qualified HK civil servants who could speak and write in English better than their superiors.

To put it bluntly, there was not even a squeak – and we know how corrupt the HK police were in the 1970s – about the force being headed by Britons.

To be fair, the British transformed HK from a barren island to an international hub, with a working administration system that has won the confidence of the international community.

However, the responsibility of the British ended in 1997 when HK was handed over to the Chinese. It has lost its right to tell the Chinese what to do.

But what has brought this resentment towards China, from HK Chinese people, and perhaps, even a yearning, for British rule?

Not long ago, it was reported that some localists had taken to thumbing their nose at “China’s heavy-handed meddling” by waving the British flag at football matches, booing the Chinese anthem and chanting “We are Hong Kong! Hong Kong is not China!” in English.

Reports have also surfaced about a small Hong Kong-United Kingdom Reunification Campaign, which angled for a return to British rule but ultimately dismissed as quirky.

Then there are HK people who talk about the “good times” under British rule.

If there is a history lesson which the Chinese can learn from British Malaya, it’s that the Brits administered their colonies well and without the need for any heavy-handed approaches, even as they robbed these colonies of their rich minerals.

Reports of Beijing’s transgressions in the territory, such as the kidnapping by mainland agents of local booksellers, or the National People’s Congress purportedly stepping into local judicial cases, won’t win the hearts of the HK people.

Beijing must put on a softer face and display plenty of patience in dealing with HK. There is really no rush for China, especially with risking an international black eye at a time when it can ill afford to do so.

Yes, China is concerned about how its billion people will react if they see these hot-headed HK protesters abusing policemen.

The lessons from the breakup of the Soviet Union – and the wounded pride and dignity that follows – are always etched in the minds of Chinese leaders.

When CNN and BBC reporters talk about individual rights, they have no idea what Beijing or even the Chinese diaspora think.

But the people of HK must also accept the harsh reality – HK is now China’s sovereignty, and more and more of its independence, or even importance, will slowly fade away.

China doesn’t need HK as much as it used to as a strategic financial hub, because Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have even eclipsed the former island nation. No matter how big or how long these protests run for, China knows the HK people don’t have the stamina, because rent and bills need to be paid, and protest sittings on streets don’t last anyway.

And the other blow is the British government’s refusal to grant citizenship to the 3.5 million Hongkongers born there under the British flag.

China needs to work harder on winning hearts and minds, and to make the HK people feel they are a fundamental part of China, and Chinese culture and pride.

HK people have always been independent because they were brought up differently and under different sets of political and legal systems, and that must be understood. There is no need to ramp through any laws, indicating that the HK people are unhappy.

The destiny of the HK people lies with China, and not Britain, but the challenge for Beijing is to make the people of HK feel those sentiments and be proud of it.

And speaking of extradition, let’s not forget that the US is also seeking to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited from the UK for alleged crimes under the Espionage Act 1917, of which remains unclear.

He is the first journalist to have the book thrown at him for whistleblowing.

That’s not all. The US wants Huawei chief financial office Sabrina Meng Wanzhou to be extradited from Canada over charges which smell suspiciously like trumped up accusations. – by wong chun wai

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How to make living more affordable?


 

 

IN my previous article I asked the question, Do you earn enough to sustain your lifestyle?

The feedback received was consistent. People told me that they worry about the situation, some even wrote in to share their concern.

A reader by the name of Yap wrote me an email about his observation after reading my article.

“I always doubt how a family with a median household income can survive in KL. Based on my calculation, there is no way a family with two children can survive in KL with RM6,275 without accumulating bad debt or spending 4.5 hours to travel on the road. Housing is one of the factors, but not the only one,” he wrote in his email.

Belanjawanku, an expenditure guide launched by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) in early March states that a married couple with two children spend about RM6,620 per month on food, transport, housing, childcare, utilities, healthcare, etc.

However, the median household income for Malaysians in 2016 was RM5,228. While the median income of M40 group (Middle 40%) was RM6,275, which means five out of 10 households in this category received RM6,275 per month or less. This is far below the RM6,620 required for a family with two children to stay in the Klang Valley.

Another alarming fact is… Belanjawanku compiles only core living expenses without including long-term financial planning tools such as education funds or investments. The actual budget constraint can be more severe if we take them into account.

The living cost in major cities is inevitably higher than in small towns or suburb areas.

As such, when we discuss housing affordability in the cities such as Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley, we shouldn’t impose the same benchmark of RM300,000 as everything else is more expensive in the city. Affordable housing should benchmark against the cost of living of the area.

Based on the research for Belanjawanku, even if housing was provided for free, a household of four would still need RM5,750 to sustain their lifestyle.

The transportation cost alone is RM1,040 for a family, higher than the RM870 allocated for housing.

Therefore, if a family is looking to lower their cost of living, moving to suburb areas would allow them to have a more affordable budget.

According to a news report which quoted information from brickz.my, the housing prices in KL are five times higher than in Seremban, with median housing price of RM1mil (RM940 psf) in the KL city centre, versus RM200,000 (RM210 psf) in Seremban.

Suburbs which are nearer to KL such as Klang and Shah Alam also offer attractive housing prices with a median price of RM340,000.

For families who stay in the city centre and plan to reduce their cost of living, they can consider moving to suburbs to enjoy a better quality of life, and leverage on the improved public transportation which offer hassle-free travelling from suburbs to city centre.

Although high living cost is a concern for many Malaysians, KL is ironically found to be the cheapest city to live out of the 11 major cities in Asia, according to the 2018 Wealth Report Asia.

We are “cheaper” or ranked lower than our neighbouring cities, including Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta. KL, Manila, and Jakarta are also the most price competitive cities when it comes to the residential properties segment.

Why are we still facing the challenge of high living costs despite being the “cheapest” city in the region? The underlying factor is because of the low household income earned by most Malaysians, as the previous government failed to transit us to a higher income nation.

In his email, Yap mentioned that “I always imagine what Malaysia can be if there were no leakages. Hundreds of billions could be spent to stimulate various industries. Our GDP per capita could be close to if not similar to Singapore’s”.

That is the vision and sentiment shared by a majority of Malaysians. With the new government that promises to be more transparent and efficient, we hope that one day, we can afford to live comfortably in any city we wish to, with a higher household income.

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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Pakatan Harapan government plunges in popularity


 

 

The Pakatan government has little choice nor time to check the slide on its popularity and goodwill from voters.

WHAT a difference a year makes. In a week, the Pakatan Harapan government will mark its first year in power but in stark contrast to the height of popularity it enjoyed then, support for the coalition has plunged.

A recent poll by the Merdeka Centre showed that the administration’s approval rating sank to 39% in March, a drastic drop from 79% recorded in May 31 last year.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s performance approval rating as Prime Minister declined too – from 71% in August 2018 to 46% last month.

The survey firm polled 1,204 registered voters in March to gauge their opinions on the country’s economy, leadership and current issues.

Pakatan’s descent in popularity was attributed to the state of the economy as felt by consumers, the perceived strength of the government, anxieties over Malay rights and privileges and the treatment of other races in the country.

According to the findings, public satisfaction in Pakatan’s administration of the economy fell from 60% to 40% with voters largely unhappy with the rise in the cost of living.

The majority of respondents also disagreed with policies such as the move to abolish the death penalty while many were also against the scrapping of exams for Primary 1 to 3 and the plan to impose taxes on sugary drinks. Only 34% of voters polled were of the view that the country was headed in the right direction, with Malay respondents weighing in lower at 24%.

The survey showed that the main concern of Malaysians was the economy at 63%, followed by race-related issues and the flip-flop on decisions such as the government’s decision to withdraw from ratifying the International Conven­tion on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).

On the plus side, worries over corruption declined to 23% from 33% while 67% of respondents agreed that the government should be given more time to fulfil its election promises.

Its support rating may have dropped but to be fair, the Pakatan government has not done too badly since taking over, considering the state of the economy and the massive debts that it inherited from the previous disgraced administration.

Of course, there is much more to do, like addressing the cost of living, fulfilling housing needs and providing sustainable healthcare but the government has already fulfilled nearly a third of its pledges, im­p­roved its overall financial position and has made significant moves to tackle corruption in the civil service.

Ironically, the freer media landscape today is contributing to the perception that the Pakatan government is performing poorly or unable to handle issues raised by the opposition, especially those related to race and religion.

Malaysia has risen 22 places to rank 123 out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). It now tops countries in South-East Asia – above Indonesia (124), the Philippines (134), Thailand (136), Myanmar (138), Cambodia (143), Singapore (151), Brunei (152), Laos (171) and Vietnam (176).

Unlike in the past, opposition parties now get unfettered coverage in the media and the welcome change has led to the diffusion of a more diverse range of views.

However, the new government has been rather inept in conveying its message on a wide range of issues in the print, online and social media since taking over Putrajaya.

It is also guilty of being sluggish in countering negative reactions or stemming news designed to elicit racial or religious sentiments, as could be seen in the cases of ratification of the Icerd, the Rome Statute and the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple riots.

Opposition politicians and their supporters have been quick to exploit this weakness to manipulate opinion in the freer media environment.

A recent example is lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s briefings to the media in the ongoing trial of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over funds worth RM42mil from SRC International Sdn Bhd. It is clear that he is using the media to advocate the defence’s contention that Najib’s bank account was misused by people who were unauthorised, including Jho Low, as well as some rogue bankers.

In statements designed to strike a chord with those who may find it tedious to follow the proceedings, he claimed that the former PM would most likely turn out as a “victim” in the end.

As for getting away with untrue claims in the media, one such example was a supposedly secret “side agreement” for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to enable a trade-off of 4,500 acres of land to China Com­munications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC). It was based on a non-legally binding Memoran­dum of Understanding (MoU) under which the Malaysian Investment Develop­ment Authority (Mida) was supposed to assist local companies to cooperate with CCCC to create special purpose companies for development of the economic accelerator projects worth RM10bil over 10 years.

Instead of clarifying the matter immediately, the media handlers of the Transport Ministry and Mida left it to Dr Mahathir’s special envoy to China, Tun Daim Zainuddin, to respond instead.

Ineffective communication teams in the various ministries and the lack of media coordination among them are the main reasons why Pakatan appears to be losing control of its narratives on performance and service.

What Pakatan needs is expertise and a clear media strategy to re-establish political credibility and trust among the people, especially the now disillusioned voters who had pinned their hopes on a better “New Malaysia”. Instead of just leaving the ministries to handle their own issues, the approach should be on keeping to the same page, through synchronisation of information and making better use of social media to enable agencies to engage directly with citizens.

With Malaysians having higher expectations and lower levels of patience, the Pakatan government has little choice nor time to check the slide on its popularity and improve on its public relations.

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Yes to Belt and Road – Everyone will benefit from BRI


Centre of attraction: China’s President Xi Jinping greeting Dr Mahathir as he leaves with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the opening ceremony of the Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China.

Dr M endorses the BRI – ‘Many countries are going to benefit from initiative’

With help from Chinese firms, Malaysia will have an AI park soon. That’s not all the good news that came from the Prime Minister’s trip to China. Businessmen are pleased that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has given the thumbs up to the Belt and Road Initiative. He says countries in its route will be the beneficiaries. And that means Malaysia too. WITH all of China as his stage, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad gave a massive endorsement to the country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying all will benefit from the ease of travel and communication the development strategy will bring.

The Prime Minister said that with trade driving the world, it was only natural that land and sea passages be better developed.

“The Silk Road, the land passage between East and West, has not received much attention. Yet it must be obvious that with modern technologies the passage can be improved.

“Without a doubt, the utilisation of these passages will enrich all the littoral states along the way, as much as the great nations of the East and West. I am fully in support of the Belt and Road Initiative. I am sure my country, Malaysia, will benefit from the project,” he said in his speech at the High-Level Meeting of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held at the China National Convention Centre here yesterday.

The forum attracted over 5,000 participants from 150 countries including leaders from around the world, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Rodrigo Duterte (Philippine), President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (Egypt) and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

The BRI, also known as the One Belt One Road (OBOR) or the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, is a strategy adopted by the Chinese government involving infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and international organisations in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Africa.

Dr Mahathir said just as massive trade by ships helped spawn the development of huge bulk carriers, the land passage should also “respond” to the increased trade between East and West. He also suggested that bigger trains be built for the purpose.

“If ships can be built bigger, why can’t trains be equally big to carry more goods and raw material and people? Have we reached the limit in terms of the size and length of trains? I think not,” he pointed out.

Dr Mahathir, who is on his second visit to China since becoming the 7th Prime Minister last May, said the world has the technology and funds to bring about such improvements.

He said freedom of passage along these routes was important and warned against bureaucratic hassles slowing down the speed of travel.

“It is essential therefore for these passages to be free and open to all,” he said, adding that the passages must be made safe as terrorism and wars would render the modern marvels and also delivering the benefits promised.

“Yes, the Belt and Road idea is a great. It can bring the landlocked countries of Central Asia closer to the sea. They can grow in wealth and their poverty reduced.

“As the sea routes and land routes improve, trade and travel will grow, and with this, the wealth of the world will increase for the betterment of everyone.

Dr M in Beijing: Everyone will benefit from Belt and Road initiative

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has endorsed the Belt and Road initiative by China, saying everyone would benefit from the ease of travel and communication that it would bring about.

He said this in his speech at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on Friday (April 26).

“Today, trade drives the world. It is only natural that the land and sea passages have to be better developed.

“The Silk Road, the land passage between East and West, has not received much attention. Yet it must be obvious that with modern technologies, the passage can be improved.

“Without doubt, the utilisation of these passages will enrich all the littoral states along the way, as much as the great nations of the East and West,” said Dr Mahathir..

According to the Prime Minister, just as the massive trade by ships helped spawn the development of huge bulk carriers, the land passage should also respond to the need from the increased trade between East and West.

He suggested that bigger trains be built towards this end.

“Although trains can now connect China with Eastern Europe, current trains are not designed for the increases in goods and people needing to travel along this passageway.

If ships can be built bigger, why can’t trains be equally big to carry more goods and raw materials and people?

“Have we reached the limit in terms of the size and length of trains? I think not,” he added.

The Prime Minister said the world had the technology and money to bring about such improvements.

He said freedom of passage along these routes, which pass through many countries via both sea and land, was important and warned against bureaucratic hassles slowing down the speed of travel.

“It is essential therefore for these passages to be free and open to all,” said Dr Mahathir.

He added that the passages must be made safe as terrorism and wars would render the modern marvels that enabled the Belt and Road incapable of delivering the benefits they promised.

“Yes, the Belt and Road idea is great.

“It can bring the landlocked countries of Central Asia closer to the sea. They can grow in wealth and their poverty reduced.

“As the sea routes and land routes improve, trade and travel will grow, and with this, the wealth of the world will increase for the betterment of everyone.

“Everyone will benefit from the ease of travel and communication that the development of the Belt and Road project will bring.

“I am fully in support of the Belt and Road initiative. I am sure my country, Malaysia, will benefit from the project,” said Dr Mahathir.

PM’s BRI backing allays fears over KL-Beijing ties

KUALA LUMPUR: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s full endorsement of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will allay concerns over Malaysia-China relations and lead to greater cooperation between both countries, according to China watchers here.

RHB Research Institute Sdn Bhd vice-president and head of Economic Research Peck Boon Soon said Malaysia was trying to mend its relations with China.

“It is safe to conclude that relations between our two countries are back to normal,” he said, referring to the suspension and cancellation of several China-linked projects last year.

Peck said the revival of East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and Bandar Malaysia projects and the Prime Minister’s presence at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing yesterday would help restore confidence among businessmen from China.

He said it made perfect sense to have warm ties with China as the country was the largest export market for Malaysia.

ACCIM SERC Sdn Bhd executive director Lee Heng Guie said Malaysia’s expressed support of the BRI opened up mutual consultation, increased cooperation and connectivity benefits between both sides.

“With this strong endorsement, we expect the relationship to further deepen bilateral ties and enhanced economic relations based on the principles of mutual benefit,” he said.

Lee said Malaysia and its private sector could gain from the enlarged trade and investment opportunities along the passage and gateway of BRI, if the countries could adopt the freedom of passage along these routes through the easing of bureaucratic hassles.

National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia president Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap, who attended the Belt and Road CEO conference which was the first such conference at the forum, said the conference provided huge business opportunities for many companies in the region.

“This is a timely boost for the global economy,” he said, adding that there were nearly 1,000 participants from 90 of the world’s Top 500 companies, 78 of China’s Top 500 companies, more than 100 state-owned enterprises and 200 private companies at the conference.

Businessman Datuk Liu Thim Soon, who is vice-chairman to the United Nations Maritime-Continental Silk Road Cities Alliance, said the BRI was a visionary, long range direction by Chinese President Xi Jinping. “It is an enabler and platform for many developing smaller countries to be linked to investments, trade and tourism.

“With about 140 million China tourists travelling yearly, smaller developing countries can benefit and derive great economic potential if they can tap into this market,” he said. – By Yimie Yong

Who should you believe about BRI?

https://youtu.be/uK3-dhLp2yU

Deal inked to develop M’sia’s first AI park

MALAYSIA is to develop its first artificial intelligence (AI) park.

The park will serve as a platform for the development of AI solutions such as speech recognition, robotics and smart city technology.

It is also planned to be a regional epicentre for data management, research and development and commercial ecosystem.

An agreement was signed yesterday between Malaysian company G3 Global Bhd (G3) and its Chinese partners SenseTime Group Ltd and China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd (CHEC) on the setting up of the AI park, with the total investment at US$500mil (RM2.07bil).

The location of the park has yet to be identified.

The agreement was signed between G3 executive chairman Wan Khalik Wan Muhammad, SenseTime president for Asia-Pacific Business Group Jeff Shi, and CHEC chairman Lin Yi Chong.

The ceremony was held after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to SenseTime’s office here.

The Prime Minister also tried his hands on the self-driving car system at the company, which specialises in AI technology.

G3 Global banks on AI 



Driven by technology: SenseTime Group Ltd founder Prof Tang Xiaoou with Dr Mahathir during the premier’s visit to SenseTime’s Beijing office.
Driven by technology: SenseTime Group Ltd founder Prof Tang Xiaoou with Dr Mahathir during the premier’s visit to SenseTime’s Beijing office.

From jeanswear maker to one of Malaysia’s rising artificial intelligence (AI) companies. That is the interesting story ofG3 Global Bhd that is unravelling today.

While many companies can attempt to boast the AI buzzword as a business focus, it is not an easy area to venture into.

First you need super computers. Then you need the AI software or algorithms.

And then you need to use that software on vast amounts of data in order to build the AI applications for real use.

While G3 Global may have made some inroads into building its own Internet of Things (IoT) platform, it has yet to achieve anything big by itself in the AI space. That was until it signed a deal with China-based SenseTime Group Ltd, touted as the world’s most valuable AI startup.

On April 11, G3 Global told Bursa Malaysia that it will partner with SenseTime to set up Malaysia’s first AI park, in collaboration with China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC).

The AI park is expected to see more than US$1bil (RM4.13bil) in investments over the next five years.

According to G3 Global executive chairman Wan Khalik Wan Muhammad, the AI park is vital in order to build AI research-related public service infrastructure as the base to promote AI technology in Malaysia.

“In addition, this becomes a place for talent to be trained on AI and machine learning,” he said.

On Friday, the culmination of the relationship between G3 Global and SenseTime took place, following Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s ongoing official visit to China.

Dr Mahathir, accompanied by several Malaysian ministers, visited SenseTime’s Beijing office where they got a first-hand experience of the latest AI technologies and its application in smart city solutions, autonomous driving technology and remote sensing, among others.

During this visit, G3 Global had inked memorandums of understanding (MoU) with SenseTime and CHEC in relation to the AI park project.

G3 Global said in a statement that as the local partner, it will coordinate efforts with the Malaysian authorities and regulators, form local partnerships as well as promote and develop the AI park project.

Meanwhile, SenseTime will serve as the AI technology provider for the partnership while CHEC will provide infrastructure engineering and construction services as well as management and maintenance of the park.

Valued at over US$4.5bil (RM18.67bil), SenseTime is the fifth national AI platform in China and is also the country’s largest AI algorithm provider.

Although it is only less than five years old, the company now serves over 700 customers and partners globally, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Honda, Alibaba, vivo and Xiaomi, among others.

Based on SenseTime’s website, the startup leads the AI market in “almost all vertical industries” such as smart city, smartphone, mobile Internet, online entertainment, automobile, finance and retail.

“SenseTime has independently developed a deep learning platform, supercomputing centers, and a range of AI technologies such as face recognition, image recognition, object recognition, text recognition, medical image analysis, video analysis, autonomous driving and remote sensing,” it says.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, SenseTime has been profitable for two years and the company has recorded triple digit revenue growth for the past four years.

The collaboration between G3 Global and SenseTime aptly serves what both companies need. By setting up an AI park in Malaysia, SenseTime will be able to expand its global presence further while G3 Global gets to go big into the booming AI scene.

Overall, the AI hub in Malaysia is a nice sounding plan. But how real will it be and how extensive will it be?

Speaking with StarBizWeek over the telephone, Wan Khalik says that the move into AI has been a natural progression of the company.

“With IoT as our core business, the only logical next move was to get into the field of AI. We had been in search for a good partner to fast-track out entry into AI, which has a high entry barrier.

“That’s how we got to do a deal with Sensetime, which took much effort on our part, considering how successful Sensetime already is,” he says.

Perfect partner

Wan Khalik: With IoT as our core business, the only logical next move was to get into the field of AI

Wan Khalik adds that SenseTime is the perfect partner, considering that they are one of the biggest AI companies in the world and have their own AI algorithm as well as products and services.

“Their products are already deployed in the commercial world,” he points out.

While acknowledging that AI is still nascent in its growth in Malaysia and still suffers from a lack of understanding and appreciation, Wan Khalik points out two important aspects that the deal with Sensetime will bring about.

“First is that the lab will become an education tool to showcase what AI is all about and the benefits it brings. Second is the fact that we intend to address the issue of developing talent in Malaysia in the AI space.”

In the press release announcing the strategic partnership between G3 and SenseTime, it was revealed that SenseTime will be assisting in the development and deployment of training syllabus for universities in Malaysia.

Wan Khalik says that SenseTime has designed and developed part of the AI syllabus that is currently being taught in schools across China.

“The good news is that the Malaysian government has expressed strong interest in AI and it wants industry to get involved in AI. But we need to invest in buidling up the talent in this field,” he adds.

The little-known G3 Global’s journey is an impressive one.

Its diversification into the information technology scene began less than four years ago after G3 Global (formerly known as Yen Global Bhd) acquired IoT solution provider Atilze Digital Sdn Bhd in December 2015.

Green Packet Bhd , image: https://cdn.thestar.com.my/Themes/img/chart.png , a mobile broadband and networking solutions provider, emerged as a major shareholder in G3 Global after it acquired a 22% stake in August 2016.

A year later, Green Packet boosted its equity interest in G3 Global to 32%.

The G3 Global stock’s trend has been rather flattish since mid-2017. However, since the start of April this year, shares of G3 Global surged by 106% to its record-breaking high of RM1.62.

On April 25, the company hit limit-up and was issued with an unusual market activity query from Bursa Malaysia, in relation to the rapid advances in its share price.

While the reasons behind the sharp increase in G3 Global’s share price were unclear, it seems to have some correlation with G3 Global’s partnership with SenseTime.

G3 Global also saw the entry of Wan Khalik as shareholder, after he assumed control of private vehicle Global Man Capital Sdn Bhd, which currently has the largest stake in G3. Global Man Capital increased its holdings of G3 Global to a 32.04% stake following an acquisition of 32.15 million shares in April, edging out Green Packet’s 32% stake.

On April 5, G3 Global appointed Wan Khalik as its new executive chairman.

Wan Khalik, who is also a substantial shareholder in DWL Resources Bhd, has some notable Sarawak connections, having been the principal private secretary to the Sarawak State government between 2013 until July 2018.

Wan Khalik’s background also includes experiences in corporate planning, public administration, IT strategic planning, and business development.

When asked on why did he pick DWL and G3 Global as companies to invest into, he says, “For DWL we see opportunities in project management of jobs of major infrastructure projects that the country is embarking on. That is why we have teamed up with the likes of Gadang to prepare to jointly bid for such jobs. As for G3 Global, it is even more interesting because of the future of AI. As you probably already know, AI is the world’s next great technological revolution. It is changing the way information is gathered, stored and used. We will not be able to do without it, whether as individuals, organisations, companies and governments. We believe our deal with Sensetime puts G3 Global on solid footing to bring AI to Malaysia and the Asian market.”

G3 Global recorded a net loss of RM17.15mil in the financial year of 2018 ended Dec 31, against a turnover of RM29.4mil. Both of its apparel and ICT business segments were in the red for the 12-month period.

“The ICT business continues to show growth potential despite incurring losses due to business development costs and we hope to see better contribution to sales from this division in the new financial year.

“The setting up of various new subsidiaries will drive the growth in the ICT business including the provision of IoT solutions and services like connected commercial vehicles and sensor hubs, and AI smart cameras. The group will be well positioned to take advantage of improving prospects of the ICT industry for the current financial year,” G3 Global said in a filing.

Moving forward, with the AI venture with SenseTime, the company is clearly on a new trajectory, especially considering the way AI is going to flood all our lives.

According to a recent study by Microsoft and IDC Asia Pacific, only 26% of organisations in Malaysia have embarked on their AI journeys, although about 70% of the business leaders polled agreed that AI is instrumental for their organisations’ competitiveness.

The immense untapped potential in the domestic AI market offers promising opportunities for local AI companies, including G3 Global.

With a strong backing from SenseTime, G3 Global could rise to become a leading AI solutions provider in the region.

By ganeshwaran kana The Star

Related post:

Deal inked to develop M’sia’s first AI park

MALAYSIA is to develop its first artificial intelligence (AI) park.

The park will serve as a platform for the development of AI solutions such as speech recognition, robotics and smart city technology.

It is also planned to be a regional epicentre for data management, research and development and commercial ecosystem.

An agreement was signed yesterday between Malaysian company G3 Global Bhd (G3) and its Chinese partners SenseTime Group Ltd and China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd (CHEC) on the setting up of the AI park, with the total investment at US$500mil (RM2.07bil).

The location of the park has yet to be identified.

The agreement was signed between G3 executive chairman Wan Khalik Wan Muhammad, SenseTime president for Asia-Pacific Business Group Jeff Shi, and CHEC chairman Lin Yi Chong.

The ceremony was held after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to SenseTime’s office here.

The Prime Minister also tried his hands on the self-driving car system at the company, which specialises in AI technology.

G3 Global banks on AI

Driven by technology: SenseTime Group Ltd founder Prof Tang Xiaoou with Dr Mahathir during the premier’s visit to SenseTime’s Beijing office.
Driven by technology: SenseTime Group Ltd founder Prof Tang Xiaoou with Dr Mahathir during the premier’s visit to SenseTime’s Beijing office.
From jeanswear maker to one of Malaysia’s rising artificial intelligence (AI) companies. That is the interesting story ofG3 Global Bhd that is unravelling today.

While many companies can attempt to boast the AI buzzword as a business focus, it is not an easy area to venture into.

First you need super computers. Then you need the AI software or algorithms.

And then you need to use that software on vast amounts of data in order to build the AI applications for real use.

While G3 Global may have made some inroads into building its own Internet of Things (IoT) platform, it has yet to achieve anything big by itself in the AI space. That was until it signed a deal with China-based SenseTime Group Ltd, touted as the world’s most valuable AI startup.

On April 11, G3 Global told Bursa Malaysia that it will partner with SenseTime to set up Malaysia’s first AI park, in collaboration with China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC).

The AI park is expected to see more than US$1bil (RM4.13bil) in investments over the next five years.

According to G3 Global executive chairman Wan Khalik Wan Muhammad, the AI park is vital in order to build AI research-related public service infrastructure as the base to promote AI technology in Malaysia.

“In addition, this becomes a place for talent to be trained on AI and machine learning,” he said.

On Friday, the culmination of the relationship between G3 Global and SenseTime took place, following Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s ongoing official visit to China.

Dr Mahathir, accompanied by several Malaysian ministers, visited SenseTime’s Beijing office where they got a first-hand experience of the latest AI technologies and its application in smart city solutions, autonomous driving technology and remote sensing, among others.

During this visit, G3 Global had inked memorandums of understanding (MoU) with SenseTime and CHEC in relation to the AI park project.

G3 Global said in a statement that as the local partner, it will coordinate efforts with the Malaysian authorities and regulators, form local partnerships as well as promote and develop the AI park project.

Meanwhile, SenseTime will serve as the AI technology provider for the partnership while CHEC will provide infrastructure engineering and construction services as well as management and maintenance of the park.

Valued at over US$4.5bil (RM18.67bil), SenseTime is the fifth national AI platform in China and is also the country’s largest AI algorithm provider.

Although it is only less than five years old, the company now serves over 700 customers and partners globally, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Honda, Alibaba, vivo and Xiaomi, among others.

Based on SenseTime’s website, the startup leads the AI market in “almost all vertical industries” such as smart city, smartphone, mobile Internet, online entertainment, automobile, finance and retail.

“SenseTime has independently developed a deep learning platform, supercomputing centers, and a range of AI technologies such as face recognition, image recognition, object recognition, text recognition, medical image analysis, video analysis, autonomous driving and remote sensing,” it says.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, SenseTime has been profitable for two years and the company has recorded triple digit revenue growth for the past four years.

The collaboration between G3 Global and SenseTime aptly serves what both companies need. By setting up an AI park in Malaysia, SenseTime will be able to expand its global presence further while G3 Global gets to go big into the booming AI scene.

Overall, the AI hub in Malaysia is a nice sounding plan. But how real will it be and how extensive will it be?

Speaking with StarBizWeek over the telephone, Wan Khalik says that the move into AI has been a natural progression of the company.

“With IoT as our core business, the only logical next move was to get into the field of AI. We had been in search for a good partner to fast-track out entry into AI, which has a high entry barrier.

“That’s how we got to do a deal with Sensetime, which took much effort on our part, considering how successful Sensetime already is,” he says.

Perfect partner

Wan Khalik: With IoT as our core business, the only logical next move was to get into the field of AI
Wan Khalik adds that SenseTime is the perfect partner, considering that they are one of the biggest AI companies in the world and have their own AI algorithm as well as products and services.

“Their products are already deployed in the commercial world,” he points out.

While acknowledging that AI is still nascent in its growth in Malaysia and still suffers from a lack of understanding and appreciation, Wan Khalik points out two important aspects that the deal with Sensetime will bring about.

“First is that the lab will become an education tool to showcase what AI is all about and the benefits it brings. Second is the fact that we intend to address the issue of developing talent in Malaysia in the AI space.”

In the press release announcing the strategic partnership between G3 and SenseTime, it was revealed that SenseTime will be assisting in the development and deployment of training syllabus for universities in Malaysia.

Wan Khalik says that SenseTime has designed and developed part of the AI syllabus that is currently being taught in schools across China.

“The good news is that the Malaysian government has expressed strong interest in AI and it wants industry to get involved in AI. But we need to invest in buidling up the talent in this field,” he adds.

The little-known G3 Global’s journey is an impressive one.

Its diversification into the information technology scene began less than four years ago after G3 Global (formerly known as Yen Global Bhd) acquired IoT solution provider Atilze Digital Sdn Bhd in December 2015.

Green Packet Bhd , image: https://cdn.thestar.com.my/Themes/img/chart.png , a mobile broadband and networking solutions provider, emerged as a major shareholder in G3 Global after it acquired a 22% stake in August 2016.

A year later, Green Packet boosted its equity interest in G3 Global to 32%.

The G3 Global stock’s trend has been rather flattish since mid-2017. However, since the start of April this year, shares of G3 Global surged by 106% to its record-breaking high of RM1.62.

On April 25, the company hit limit-up and was issued with an unusual market activity query from Bursa Malaysia, in relation to the rapid advances in its share price.

While the reasons behind the sharp increase in G3 Global’s share price were unclear, it seems to have some correlation with G3 Global’s partnership with SenseTime.

G3 Global also saw the entry of Wan Khalik as shareholder, after he assumed control of private vehicle Global Man Capital Sdn Bhd, which currently has the largest stake in G3. Global Man Capital increased its holdings of G3 Global to a 32.04% stake following an acquisition of 32.15 million shares in April, edging out Green Packet’s 32% stake.

On April 5, G3 Global appointed Wan Khalik as its new executive chairman.

Wan Khalik, who is also a substantial shareholder in DWL Resources Bhd, has some notable Sarawak connections, having been the principal private secretary to the Sarawak State government between 2013 until July 2018.

Wan Khalik’s background also includes experiences in corporate planning, public administration, IT strategic planning, and business development.

When asked on why did he pick DWL and G3 Global as companies to invest into, he says, “For DWL we see opportunities in project management of jobs of major infrastructure projects that the country is embarking on. That is why we have teamed up with the likes of Gadang to prepare to jointly bid for such jobs. As for G3 Global, it is even more interesting because of the future of AI. As you probably already know, AI is the world’s next great technological revolution. It is changing the way information is gathered, stored and used. We will not be able to do without it, whether as individuals, organisations, companies and governments. We believe our deal with Sensetime puts G3 Global on solid footing to bring AI to Malaysia and the Asian market.”

G3 Global recorded a net loss of RM17.15mil in the financial year of 2018 ended Dec 31, against a turnover of RM29.4mil. Both of its apparel and ICT business segments were in the red for the 12-month period.

“The ICT business continues to show growth potential despite incurring losses due to business development costs and we hope to see better contribution to sales from this division in the new financial year.

“The setting up of various new subsidiaries will drive the growth in the ICT business including the provision of IoT solutions and services like connected commercial vehicles and sensor hubs, and AI smart cameras. The group will be well positioned to take advantage of improving prospects of the ICT industry for the current financial year,” G3 Global said in a filing.

Moving forward, with the AI venture with SenseTime, the company is clearly on a new trajectory, especially considering the way AI is going to flood all our lives.

According to a recent study by Microsoft and IDC Asia Pacific, only 26% of organisations in Malaysia have embarked on their AI journeys, although about 70% of the business leaders polled agreed that AI is instrumental for their organisations’ competitiveness.

The immense untapped potential in the domestic AI market offers promising opportunities for local AI companies, including G3 Global.

With a strong backing from SenseTime, G3 Global could rise to become a leading AI solutions provider in the region.

By ganeshwaran kana The Star

Related post:

Highlights of Xi’s keynote speech at second Belt and Road Forum
https://youtu.be/qB80PG8C-I0 https://youtu.be/VWid1poNGuk https://youtu.be/L67WJiO_CQk https://youtu.be/eWOMhvTrrOg C

The ‘Tiger Woods’ act is not for Malaysia


 It’s a long road towards being a tiger economy again

A month before the one-year anniversary of Pakatan Harapan’s ruling the government, Malaysia has earned the accolades of being a “boring” and under-performing stock market. The ringgit, which is the thermometer to gauge the economy, has weakened after the initial euphoria of appreciating as high as RM4 against the US dollar.

An economist had said that Malaysia without the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is too dependent on oil revenue. Budget 2019 was based on crude oil at US$70 and considering that the year-to-date average is lower, the country would not be able to keep to spending limits.

Ironically, the story of Malaysia’s being a “boring and under-performing” stock came as golfer Tiger Woods made a remarkable comeback to win his first major tournament since 2008. That was the time when the golfer’s on-course performance started to go downhill due to injuries and “off-course” affairs that led to a broken-marriage.

Sponsors stayed away from Tiger Woods and he lived with a tag as a great golfing talent that never made it. Now he is seen as a role model in the story of triumph against adversity. Woods US Masters win is now repeated as a story of why one must never give up and the fruits of labour will finally pay off.

Sadly, it only applies in the world of sports. In the sporting world, there are clear rules and everybody play within the rules or they are disqualified. Sports world is based on meritocracy. If you good and talented, you would be found – some way or other – even if you live in Borneo.

Sarawak has produced amongst Malaysia’s best sprinter and diver in Watson Nyambek and Pandelela Rinong who proved their worth based on merit.

Running a government to please people with different demands is not so easy. Meritocracy is only a slogan. It reality, it is hard to implement.

For instance, the government’s bail-out of Felda and Tabung Haji are seen as further straining the country’s balance sheet.

The fear that the of Budget 2019 objective of keeping fiscal deficit at 3.4% cannot be achieved considering that the government has to fork out RM6bil to rescue Felda.

However, what investors fail to realise is that the government cannot afford not to bail out the likes of Felda and Tabung Haji. It cannot operate completely on meritocracy and go by the book strictly because there are political considerations to weigh on.

Felda needs to be rescued because of the massive mismanagement of funds. It involves the lives of 120,000 settlers and many more, if their families are taken into account. The Felda settlers are important voter bank and determine 52 parliament seats.

Most of them are Malays who form the bulk of the voting population of the country as a whole.

Whether we like or not, issues that Felda and Tabung Haji face has to be resolved if there is to be any political stability.

The only consolation is that those who are responsible for the mismanagement of Felda, Tabung Haji, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) would eventually pay a price.

In communist China, these people would have faced the firing squad.

In Malaysia, it takes time to penalise those responsible under the law. Pakatan Harapan’s messaging to investors is that it provides accountability, transparency and discipline in running the government. It revealed the total debts and a bigger budget deficit for 2019 and left it to investors to decide if they are prepared to put money in the country.

That it does not tolerate corruption is a message that is being drummed countless times.

Is there is a premium in being transparent, accountable and standing firm against corruption? Yes there is. But as a fund manager says, it does not tell investors where to put their money.

It does not tell investors if there is going to be a continuity to the government’s policies and who the next Prime Minister is going to be after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The fund manager says that Malaysia needs to tell another story, apart from governance and transparency.

Towards this end, a good line of messaging would be on addressing the political transition after Dr Mahathir.

The fund manager is right in his argument because long term capital needs political stability and leadership certainty.

Dr Mahathir, who is named as among the most powerful persons by Time Magazine, probably knows best why he is delaying in setting a firm time table to hand over power to the only person who has been named so far, which is Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Probably because the minute Dr Mahathir announces the time-table to handover, he would be a lame duck Prime Minister, a role the 93-year veteran politician would not relish.

Apart from politics, the other matter bogging investors is the slowing Malaysian economy.

The concern is that the economic growth of 4.5% would not be met and that Bank Negara would be forced to bring down the interest rates.

When interest rates are down because of a slowing economy, it dampens sentiments on the ringgit and puts yields of bonds under pressure.

The prospects of a lower yield and weakening currency are just the catalysts needed for bond investors to take some money off the table.

The unfavourable rating by little known Russel Fund Index earlier this week did not help matters. The end result is that the government bonds are under pressure and so is the ringgit.

The government should keep up with doing the things it can best do, which are enhancing transparency, governance and being more careful in handling public funds. Investors will view with scepticism until they see hard numbers on the economy and consistency in growth.

The Malaysian stock market was among the world’s best in 1993 on the back of a roaring economy that started its growth path some four years earlier.

The economy over-heated, the government got carried away with spending and we paid a heavy price by the ringgit and stock market crashing. It all came down with a thud in 1997.

The Pakatan Harapan government wants to see Malaysia be a “tiger economy” once again.

But it would not be easy. The road ahead is treacherous with lots of obstacles – balancing the demands of the political and social agenda.

We cannot do it the Tiger Woods way because there is no meritocracy when it comes to governing a country. But we will get there eventually as long as we stay the course.


PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and China Communications Construction Company Ltd have signed a supplementary agreement that will pave the way for the resumption of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.

The signing was achieved after months of negotiations between the companies involved as well as the governments of Malaysia and China, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

“We are pleased to announce that the construction cost of Phases 1 and 2 of the ECRL has now been reduced to RM44bil.

“This is a reduction of RM21.5bil from the original cost of RM65.5bil.

“This reduction will surely benefit Malaysia and lighten the burden of the country’s financial position,” said the PMO in a statement Friday (April 12).

The supplementary agreement covers the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning aspects of the ECRL, it added.

The PMO also said that further details of the improved deal will be made known at a press conference next Monday (April 15).

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is expected to give the press conference.

According to earlier reports, Phase 1 of the 688km rail line will be from Klang Valley to Kuantan while Phase 2 will cover Kuantan to Kuala Terengganu.

The project’s Phase 3 will see the rail line connecting Kuala Terengganu to Kota Baru and Tumpat. – Star, NST, MM


Read more:

ECRL is up and running again

Less tunnelling work lowers ECRL cost – Nation

 

China welcome, but priority to local firms for mega projects

 

New ECRL deal may become a case study for others

 

Putrajaya to be rail hub – Nation

Malaysia to ‘take advantage’ of ECRL deal to sell China more palm oil …

ECRL project revival to benefit many sectors – Business News

ECRL deal to include commitment from China to buy palm oil …

Improved ECRL deal a ‘solution’ to debt trap concerns

BERNAMA.com – New ECRL deal a big win for Dr Mahathir, says US

Related posts:

The price we pay to axe East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)

Rail link a huge economic boost, big news for small towns in Malaysia

The rail economics of East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)

The world’s oldest PM, Dr. Mahathir must now walk the talk

Keep China’s faith in us; Relationship with China is crucial, says expert

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