Good time to invest in property now


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: BY EUGENE MAHALINGAM The Star/ANN

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Malaysian start-up CO3 plans to set up Google-like offices in the region


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Star by tho xin yi

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Rich Gen-Y kids making their own success


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer camp

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

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

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

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

They decided their common trait was investing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Investing in property to let may not be a good idea


Buying to rent may not be a good idea

RENTING out a house or apartment used to be a source of income that would help to pay back the loan instalment or increase one’s available income.

Today, this is no longer a good idea, particularly for those whose income is just enough to meet their needs in the near- or short-term. This is because many people have become less honest.

Those who buy a property with the idea of renting it out may find themselves dealing with a delinquent tenant. To illustrate the situation, I reproduce part of a letter from a reader who is having sleepless nights.

“I have rented an apartment to a Bangladeshi family for a monthly rent of RM900 for several years without a written tenancy agreement. The rental payment went on smoothly until roughly nine months ago, when the tenant started delaying payment of both rental and water.

The rental and water payment was owed several months. Every time he said he would pay, but ended up not paying. He now owes me more than three months rent and more than six months water and has refused to move out, saying he needs time to find a place.

What can I do to get him out, if he continues staying without payment? People have advised me to lodge a police report and get the Rela to forcibly move him out. Is it legal to cut off the water and/or force the tenant out?”

To start with, it is legally wrong to disconnect the electricity or water. Once rented out, the tenant acquires a special kind of right to be on the premises.

A breach by him allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy. Thereafter the tenant becomes liable to pay double rent. The landlord should get a court order to evict him. I don’t think making a police report or approaching Rela will help.

This does not go very far in hel­ping the reader, but what I have to say could help readers who are renting out their property of the type referred to, or who are planning to do so.

Such a person should consider carefully whether he has sufficient spare funds if he is taking a loan. If he is a cash buyer or has resources to pay the instalments then it is fine.

This is because rent will not roll in immediately once the property is ready. There will be a need to spend time and money on putting in some basic fixtures. Time may be required to find a tenant.

In the meantime, the loan instalments will become payable and if he is unable to pay, these will add up and attract penalty interest, increasing the amount of the loan. There will be an added problem if the tenant is only able to pay rent which is less than the instalment.

So what could a landlord do to safeguard himself? The landlord should have a written agreement, and should require at least three months’ deposit at the outset and one month’s rental in advance, with the rental to be paid on or before the seventh day of each month, if not earlier.

Breach of these requirements would entitle the landlord to terminate the tenancy forthwith and require vacant possession.

Once the landlord has put himself in this position, he must monitor the payment of the rent. The tenant may pay late, but the landlord must not keep quiet. When there is a delay in payment but he pays within the month, you must give him a warning that the late payment is a breach.

The need to do this every month is important, because if the landlord allows the tenant to do this repeatedly, the law may regard this as acquiescence and a waiver by the landlord of the obligation to pay on the stipulated date.

If the tenant has not paid for two months the landlord should, by the middle of the second month, terminate tenancy and ask him to vacate the premises. At this stage the landlord has one and half month’s deposit, which allows him to have time to take meaningful action against the Tenant.

Chances are that if the landlord proceeds with such promptness, the tenant will come forward and resolve the matter.

As a term for allowing the tenant to stay on, the landlord could require the tenant to pay the legal costs. In such an event, the tenant would in future pay the rent regularly or he would leave, allowing the landlord to let the premises to another tenant.

Going to court can be costly, but the landlord should not just give up. He should approach a lawyer who can help him with the problem. Not all lawyers are out to make big profits from every client. Some lawyers will even do it for a very low fee, just to help the tenant.

Going to court will look harsh and is something that the owner may not like to do. This is because, at the point of renting, tenants project themselves as very decent and nice people who have every intention of paying the rent promptly. The issue here is: does the owner want his rent to be paid?

If the owner wants to be kind, then the tenant is likely to take advantage of him and drag on the non-payment. Of course, if the landlord is so inclined, he must be prepared to pay the price for being nice.

Law For Everyone By Bhag Singh The star

Any comments or suggestions for points of discussion can be sent to mavico7@yahoo.com. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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What Trump means for Asian investors?


In the lead-up to January 20 when Donald Trump becomes US president, Asians are guessing about the outlook for their savings.

Trump is particularly difficult to read because he made so many wild statements on the campaign trail. Everyone accepts that campaigning politicians promise heaven and deliver mostly hell, but when they win elections, most become much more sober. So far, it looks like Trump’s policy will follow his campaign threats.

The Trump presidency will be bi-polar – either highly successful if he reboots American dynamism, or one that may bankrupt the country trying, including getting involved in another war.

His rise to power has been accompanied by wild swings in investor mood as markets yo-yo from hesitation to rally, with the Dow currently peaking.

So far, Trump family members appear to have more clout than was the case with any previous , with perhaps the exception of President Bill Clinton.

Disappointingly, the favourite to be Trump’s treasury secretary is ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, which means Wall Street would have another insider running the status quo. It remains to be seen whether he can simultaneously deliver the promised spending on infrastructure, tax cuts for the rich and containment of effects of a stronger dollar.

All signs are that the dollar will strengthen, bringing echoes of the famous phrase, “my dollar, your problem”. In its latest health check on the US economy, the International Monetary Fund reported in June that “the current level of the US dollar is assessed to be overvalued by 10-20 per cent and the current account deficit is around 1.5-2 per cent larger than the level implied by medium term fundamentals and desirable policies”. The IMF thinks that the risk of the dollar surging in value is high, and estimates a 10 per cent appreciation would reduce American GDP by 0.5 per cent in the first year and 0.5-0.8 per cent in the second year.

Trump is likely to be highly expansionary in his first year because the Republicans, having control of the Congress, Senate and the White House, must revive growth and jobs to ensure voters give them a second term. Note carefully that Trump’s election promises of stopping immigration, scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, imposing sanctions on China and cancelling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are all inflationary in nature.

This is why if the Fed does not raise interest rates in December this year, it may be under pressure next year not to take any action to slow a Trump economic recovery. The Fed’s independence will be called into question, since Trump’s expansionary policy will put pressure on his budget deficit and national debt, already running at 3 per cent and 76 per cent of GDP respectively. A 1-per-cent increase in nominal interest rates would add roughly 0.7 per cent to the fiscal deficit, making it unsustainable in the long run.

Those who think that recovery in US growth would be good for trade are likely to be disappointed. So far, the recovery (which is stronger than in either Europe or Japan) has led to little increase in imports, due to three effects – lower oil prices, the increase in domestic shale oil production and more onshoring of manufacturing. The US current account deficit may worsen somewhat to around 4 per cent of GDP, but this will not improve unless sanctions are imposed on both China and Mexico, which would in turn hurt global trade.

Why is a strong dollar risky for the global economy?

The answer is that the global growth model would be too dependent on the US, while the other economies are still struggling. Europe used to be broadly balanced in terms of current account, but has moved to become a major surplus zone of around 3.4 per cent of GDP. Germany alone is running a current account surplus of 8.6 per cent of GDP in 2016, benefiting hugely from the weak euro.

Japan has moved back again to a current surplus of 3.7 per cent of GDP, but the yen remains weak at current levels of 107 to the dollar. I interpret the Bank of Japan’s QQE (qualitative and quantitative easing) as both a financial stability tool and also one aimed at ensuring that the capital outflows by Japanese funds would outweigh the inflows from foreigners punting on a yen appreciation.

The Bank of Japan’s unlimited buying of Japanese government bonds at fixed rates would put a cap on losses for pension and insurance funds holding long-term bonds if the yield curve were to steepen (bond prices fall when interest rates rise). Japanese pension and insurance funds have been large investors in US Treasuries and securities for the higher yield and possible currency appreciation.

In short, the capital outflow from Japan to the dollar is helpful to US-Japan relations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to call on Trump and likely dangled a carrot: Tokyo will fund Trump’s expansionary policies so long as Japan is allowed to re-arm.

From 2007 to 2015, US securities held by foreigners increased by $7.3 trillion to $17.1 trillion, bringing its gross amount to 94 per cent of GDP, official figures show. Japan already holds just under $2 trillion of US securities and, as a surplus saver, has lots of room to buy more.

The bottom line for Asia? Don’t expect great trade recovery from any US expansion. On the other hand, Asian investors will continue to buy US dollars on the prospects of higher interest rates and better recovery. This puts pressure on Asian exchange rates.

Of course, it’s possible that US fund managers will start investing back in Asia, but with trade sanctions and frosty relations between US-China in the short-term, US investors will stay home. If interest rates do go up in Asia in response to Fed rate increases, don’t expect the bond markets to improve. The equity outlook would depend on individual country responses to these global uncertainty threats.

In short, expect more Trump tantrums in financial markets.

Think Asian By Andrew Sheng, a former central banker, writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

 

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The new China Syndrome: don’t tell Chinese balik Tongsan, Tongsan coming to Malaysia


May the goodwill generated from the Middle Kingdom’s investments coming our way be infectious.

NO doubt about it – the love is back. MCA is basking in its renewed affection and appreciation as a useful partner to Barisan Nasional.

That was supremely obvious in Prime Minister and BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s glowing speech at MCA’s annual general assembly on Sunday.

In the three years since the devastating general election in 2013, MCA has worked hard at rebuilding itself and has regained some of its mojo.

And it showed at this year’s assembly, which was very different from the mood and tone of the AGM post-GE13, when the party was still smarting from the anger and disappointment of its coalition partner.

Najib, feeling terribly let down by the lack of Chinese support, had lashed out at the community, calling their massive support for the Opposition a “Chinese tsunami”.

Not only that, he defended a Ma­lay newspaper’s front-page head­line: Apa lagi Cina mahu? (What else do the Chinese want?).

That year at its annual general assembly, he pointedly told MCA, whose parliamentary seats had been reduced to a mere seven and state seats to 11, half of what it won in the 2008 general election, that it needed “political Viagra” to raise its flagging spirit.

It was indeed a horribly low point for MCA. There were calls for the party to leave BN, but the leadership soldiered on, refusing to give up a long-established partnership.

A year later, at the MCA AGM, Najib did not mince his words again when he urged the party delegates to stop fighting among themselves because he found the factions confusing and tiresome.

All that has changed. On Sunday, he declared that there was no more Team A or B, only Team MCA, in recognition of Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai’s leadership in bringing unity and transforming the party.

But there was another feel-good factor at work at the AGM: the afterglow from Najib’s successful visit to Beijing a week earlier.

The Chinese government really rolled out the red carpet for Najib and his delegation, which included Liow, MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong and other MCA leaders, during a six-day visit that netted investment deals amounting to RM144bil, covering bilateral trade, education, culture and defence.

Beijing’s warm relationship with Putrajaya and China’s position as Malaysia’s largest trading partner did not happen overnight.

China has always remembered Malaysia for being the first Asean country to establish diplomatic relations with it when communism was still seen as a threat to the region.

That was thanks to Najib’s father, second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who made that historic visit in 1974.

But it was the Malaysian Chinese community that went on to deepen and strengthen those ties. Again, this is something China remembers and is grateful for: Malaysian Chi­nese businessmen who invested in China in the late 1970s when Deng Xiaoping had just opened its doors to foreign investment.

Among them is the stellar tycoon Robert Kuok, said to wield great influence with the Chinese leadership, whose long-standing admiration for him culminated in CCTV, Chi­na’s state TV broadcaster, bestowing on him the China Econo­mic Per­son of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

Among the stories told include how Kuok earned the Chinese government’s trust and affection after he, the renowned Sugar King, secretly helped China overcome a severe sugar shortage in the early 1970s.

Interestingly, when Chinese leaders visit Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, they invariably choose to stay at Kuok’s Shangri-La hotel and that includes former president Hu Jintao and his successor, Xi Jinping, which is surely a measure of their continuing esteem for Kuok.

While the magnitude of the new investment deals raised eyebrows, China’s getting involved in building and funding major infrastructure projects isn’t new. After all, it was a Chinese construction company, CHEC, and a cheap Chinese government loan that helped build the second Penang bridge.

Granted, people have the right to be cautious and demand to know the details of such deals, and that should be respected. But there is no doubt that China has come to the rescue of Malaysia at a time when our economy needed a huge boost.

More importantly, Najib’s administration knows the role MCA leaders played in helping seal the deals.

After all, many of the MoUs signed concerned the development of transport infrastructure like the East Coast Rail Link and ports, which are under Liow’s portfolio as Transport Minister.

As reported, Liow made frequent trips to Beijing for meetings and wooed the Chinese to invest in Port Klang. Not only that, he was always on hand to host visiting Chinese dignitaries, like his counterpart Yang Chuantang, and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

All the hard work came to fruition with the huge investments and the affirmation of trusted friendship between the two nations.

As Najib said, he continued to look east, like former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Look East policy, because China was the world’s biggest economy. But frankly, there isn’t any other direction to look for big investment.

The realisation of China’s importance to Malaysia is fast taking root; so much so, the Red Shirts which, just a year ago tried to storm Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, have stopped their outright anti-Chinese attacks after Ambassador Dr Huang Huikang made it clear that Beijing would not stand for “incidents which threaten the interests of the country, infringe upon the rights of its citizens in doing business, or disrupt the relationship between Malaysia and China”.

But now that Najib has warmed up again to MCA and the Chinese from China are all the rage, it would really, really be nice if that love and goodwill could be spread around to Malaysian Chinese who have long invested in this place they call home and helped build it into a modern, progressive, successful nation.

It is time to stop making the Chinese community the convenient whipping boy and the bogeyman to frighten the Malays for political expediency. And no more allowing groups and individuals to spew hate speech and dangle the threat of another May 13.

This type of divisive politics has gone so bad that Liow reiterated his call for a National Reconciliation Council to strengthen the two pillars of national unity and cultural diversity, which he said had come under attack.

That is what is sorely needed to improve MCA’s chances of winning back the Chinese vote in the next general election, which is Najib’s ultimate challenge to the party.

As the joke that is going around now: no point telling the Chinese to balik Tongsan (go back to China) because Tongsan is coming to Malaysia.

By June H.L. Wong, So Aunty, So What? The Star/Asian News Network

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Stop bitting the helping hand


Many of the negative responses over the deals with China seem to be politically motivated, stemming from ignorance and, in some cases, ethnic prejudice against all things Chinese.

 

YOU can be angry with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak but let’s not lose our objectivity. The Prime Minister brought in RM144bil worth of deals signed between Malaysia and China.

Many Asean countries are eyeing that kind of money from China but strangely, some Malaysians’ sense of rationality is becoming warped, even perverted, and they feel it is prudent to go into senseless name-calling and mindless smearing of China.

We have to be careful here – remarks like Malaysia indulging in yellow culture, selling our soul to China and comments which smacks of racism are surely not the way to treat a friendly superpower nation like China.

Those making such disparaging remarks are doing a disservice to Malaysia. It’s akin to throwing sand into our rice bowl.

Hate the PM as much as you want as this is how democracy works. But do some of us need to lash out with political rhetoric against China?

It is one thing to score points against our political rivals but surely, there must be a line drawn – let’s not bite the hand that is trying to help us at a time when Malaysia needs to secure more foreign investment to shore up our flagging revenue from oil and gas.

Many of the negative responses over these deals with China seem to be politically motivated, stemming from ignorance and, in some cases, ethnic prejudice against all things Chinese, whether it has to do with mainland China or Chinese Malaysians.

Let’s look at the numbers – foreign investors (including the US) are net sellers of stocks in Bursa Malaysia and have reportedly dumped RM948.1mil in stocks although some have said it is even more.

Malaysia can no longer depend on traditional foreign direct investments from the US and other Western countries.

The reality is that China invested as much as US$84bil (RM370bil) in 2012, establishing it as the world’s third largest outward investor after the US and Japan. China has aggressively eclipsed other nations.

The shift towards China, according to one study, is obvious as the republic emerged as Malaysia’s largest trading partner, enjoying a 13.8% share of Malaysian trade since 2012.

Malaysian firms (especially those owned and managed by Malaysians of Chinese descent) have also been actively investing in China since it liberalised its economy in 1979. Some of these firms played a crucial role in attracting mainland Chinese firms to invest in Malaysia, according to studies.

Everyone knows that China has the money. And Malaysia has an edge over other Asean countries because of the link between Chinese Malaysians and China that has given us an advantageous position, especially when China increasingly sees Singapore as a US ally.

There are some who are unhappy with China’s purchase of 1MDB’s energy assets in Edra Global Energy Bhd for RM9.83bil by the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp recently, suggesting that the republic was only helping Najib out in the 1MDB controversy.

But let’s look at other investments – even before the recent trip by the PM. China has put in a multi-billion ringgit purchase of a substantial equity stake in Bandar Malaysia via China Railway Construction Corporation.

China Railway Engineering Corporation has announced plans to set up its multi-billion regional headquarters in Bandar Malaysia, which will host the main terminal for the proposed KL-Singapore High Speed Rail project.

It has been reported that the Chinese government has started buying more Malaysian Government Securities (MGS) and this inflow of new money could possibly rise to RMB50bil (about RM30bil) in total or 8.5% of Malaysia’s total outstanding MGS as of early April.

Those who have been grumbling should answer if there’s any big money coming from the US, Australia or Britain.

And many of us are also wary about money coming in from the Saudis – some are alleging that they are exporting radical Islamic values to Malaysia. Do we need this?

Like it or not, China, apart from being Malaysia’s largest trading partner which takes up 19% of its exports, is presently one of the top five foreign investors in the country.

Investments from China in the manufacturing, construction, infrastructure and property sectors are at significant levels now.

According to official data, China’s investments in the manufacturing sector here from 2009 to 2015 totalled RM13.6bil, creating 24,786 jobs.

Malaysia also needs more Chinese tourists to visit our country and we hope to attract two million Chinese tourists by the end of the year. Our tourism industry has seen a growth of 23% in arrivals from China since the e-visa entry programme was introduced in March this year.

China is the third largest source of tourists for us after Singapore and Indonesia. Malaysia targets eight million Chinese tourists by 2020.

Only 10% of China’s population travelled out of their country and yet they have spent US$229bil (RM1tril) globally last year. They easily beat the number of many Western countries put together!

They spend more than other tourists and they travel in bigger numbers. We all know that in Western countries, Chinese-speaking shop assistants are specifically hired to engage with this segment of customers.

Malaysia is not on the radar of Chinese tourists but more young Chinese tourists have chosen to visit Sabah because of its beautiful sea and lush forests.

Chinese tourists spent US$215bil (RM948bil) abroad last year, 53% more than in 2014, according to a World Travel & Tourism Council report, a figure which is more than the annual economic output of Qatar. Chinese tourists are now spending way more than anyone else, including the Americans.

The number of Chinese tourists travelling globally has more than doubled to 120 million over the last five years, according to data from the China National Tourist Office and WTTC. That means one in every 10 international traveller now is from China.

Malaysia is missing out on this action, unfortunately. For a start, we can make travelling into Malaysia easier for them and having more direct flights will help.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Najib has done well, from his recent trip to China.

It will even be better if our own Air Asia gets to fly into more Chinese cities as this will surely help boost Chinese tourist arrivals.

Let’s get real, all of us.

Certainly we have the right to express our concerns over the terms of some projects, and to seek clearer details, but let’s not drag in unnecessary elements which strain bilateral ties.

By Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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