China buyers eyeing Penang property in growing tourism


Worthy investment: Mah Sing sales executive Victor Cheah (left) introducing the M Vista project to visitors at StarProperty.my Fair in Queensbay Mall, Penang.
Visitors checking out MTT Properties &  Development Sdn Bhd’s Botanica CT Centre during the StarProperty.my Fair in Queensbay Mall, Penang.

PENANG recently come under the radar of investors from China, said Property Talk principal Steven Cheah.

“It used to be Australia that attracted their interests, but now it is Penang. So, we can expect to see potential house buyers from China at the fair,” he said.

Cheah was speaking at the sideline of the StarProperty.my Fair 2018 which opened at Queensbay Mall yesterday and will end on Sunday.

He said the China investors were interested in high-rise properties near the sea priced at around RM1mil to RM2mil.

Cheah added that house buyers were now more selective due to higher interest rates.

“Most of them will be paying attention to the new launches in the southwest district and in Seberang Prai, where it is still possible to find properties priced below RM500,000,” he said.

Cheah said with the right location, good road connectivity, product type and concept, demand for properties in Penang would still be strong.

Potential house buyers checking out BinWan Development Sdn Bhd’s Gelugor Heights during StarProperty.my Fair in Queensbay Mall, Penang. Potential house buyers checking out BinWan Development Sdn Bhd’s Gelugor Heights during StarProperty.my Fair in Queensbay Mall, Penang.

“Malaysia’s strong fundamentals augur well for the outlook going forward.

“Malaysia’s population is young with an average age of 30 to 31 years old, and many people are still looking to start a family. This is a good sign for the property market.

“There will be weaknesses in between as the market is adjusting to the supply and demand situation.

“From the medium to long term perspective, property is still one of the choice investments preferred by investors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yew Chor Hian, who hails from Kedah, said he was interested in a high-rise property priced at around RM600,000.

“I work in Bayan Baru, so I am interested to stay on the island.

Visitors renewing The Star newspaper subscription at The Star info counter at the fair.
Visitors renewing The Star newspaper subscription at The Star info counter at the fair.

“The size and location are important to me,” he added.

Australian Ray Stubb said he was looking for a high-rise condominium.

“We are interested in getting a unit near the sea,” he said.

A total of 17 exhibitors are displaying their products at the fair, of which 15 are developers.

The developers are SPNB Aspirasi Sdn Bhd, Mah Sing Group Bhd, Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd, Iconic Land Sdn Bhd, Regata Maju Sdn Bhd, JKP Sdn Bhd, SP Setia Bhd, MTT Properties & Development, Galeri Tropika Sdn Bhd, Devoteshens Sdn Bhd, Binwan Development Sdn Bhd, Bertam Properties Sdn Bhd, Corfield Development Sdn Bhd, Penang Development Corporation and Pembangunan Rasa Sempurna Sdn Bhd.

The other two exhibitors are Property Talk, a Penang-based real estate agency, and East West One Marketing Sdn Bhd, which is an oil palm investment company.

The Star by David Tanby david Tan

Related News 

A place to thrive for millennials – Metro News

The crowd checking out a scale model of The Zen project that is part of Parcel 3 of Penang World City in Bayan Mutiara. – Photos: GARY CHEN/The Star

The crowd checking out a scale model of The Zen project that is part of Parcel 3 of Penang World City in Bayan Mutiara. – Photos: GARY CHEN/The Star

 

Residential property sales improves, but overhang situation 

“The market is still soft, but things are improving following the strong economic growth in 2017,” Nordin(inset picture) told reporters after the launch of the Property Market Report 2017 here yesterday

“The market is still soft, but things are improving following the strong economic growth in 2017,” Nordin(inset picture) told reporters after the launch of the Property Market Report 2017 here yesterday

 How good is property as an asset class today? – Business News 

 

Seeking viable options – Business News

Our cities should adopt ‘8-80’ concept – Business News 

 Bringing smiles to house buyers

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MCA launches its general election manifesto – a plan for better future


KUALA LUMPUR: MCA has unveiled the party’s manifesto for the general election, just some 12 hours after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak revealed Barisan Nasional’s manifesto on Saturday (April 7) night.

Party president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai outlined MCA’s 10 promises and 10 initiatives for the next five years, which will complement Barisan’s manifesto.

He said MCA will become the key driver of various initiatives targeting the masses with its main pillar being youth empowerment.

Liow also stressed on the party’s commitment towards transforming MCA-established education institutions into a global education hub, the second pillar of MCA’s 14th General Election manifesto.

“As MCA’s roots still rest with the lower income groups, we must also continue to look after the well being of the people requiring assistance. This is the third pillar, social economic well-being.

“In order for this agenda to succeed, a multi-racial approach must be adopted to tackle various issues that confront the community.

“The party will continue to reach out to understand their needs through active stakeholder engagements,” Liow said during the unveiling ceremony at Wisma MCA here on Sunday morning.

This is the first time MCA is having its own manifesto for the general election.

MCA’s 10 promises are:

1. Safeguard moderation

– Uphold the Federal Constitution and Rukun Negara

2. Ensure checks and balances

– Represent the constitutional rights of Malaysian Chinese and other communities

3. Youth and women empowerment

– New businesses, jobs and training opportunities

– Appoint

youth and women into key positions

– Reskilling youths for digital revolution

4. Enhance the quality of Chinese education

– Committed towards recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC)

– Systematic approach in construction of new SJK(C)s and allocations

5. Setting forth education in the world stage

– Modernise and globalise education through UTAR, TARUC and Vtar

6. Harnessing the Belt and Road Initiative

– Connectivity with China and Asean

– Open up trade opportunities in China

7. Digital economy and innovation

– Help SMEs ride on wave of e-commerce

8. Quantum leap in business and finance

– Establish the Kojadi Co-operative Bank

– Enhance the functions of the Secretariat For the Advancement Of Malaysian Entrepreneurs (SAME)

9. Neo-urbanised townships

– Transforming new villages

10. Accessible healthcare

– Establish UTAR Hospital with Western and complementary medicine

MCA’s 10 initiatives are: 

 

1. Establish a Central Monitoring Unit

– monitor fair and effective implementation of government policies

2. Global and regional connectivity

– MCA Belt and Road Centre to strengthen ties with China

– make Malaysia a gateway to China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Asean

3. Establish a Digital Economy and Innovation Council

– gather feedback for formulation of policies and legislation

4. World class tertiary education

– UTAR to set up teaching hospital in Kampar

5. Developing the next generation

– transform TARUC into full-fledged technical university

6. Technical and vocational education training

– expand Vtar Institute into a well-equipped TVET development and training institution

7. Wealth generation for SMEs and lower and middle income groups

– introduce an investment scheme for Malaysian Chinese

8. Neo-urbanised townships

– stimulate and modernise new villages

9. Protecting welfare of women, children and the elderly

– champion the progress of women in Malaysia

– help stateless Malaysians get citizenship

– ensure enforcement of legislation against paedophiles

10. Continue outreach services for the community through the:

– Public Services and Complaints Bureau

– Chang Ming Thien Foundation

– 1MCA Medical Foundation

– Legal Advisory and Women’s Aid Centre

A plan for better future

Manifesto aims to lessen burdens the community faces now

KUALA LUMPUR: The rising cost of living and the widening income gap are what the public is most concerned about these days, says Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The MCA president said the urgency of the situation prompted MCA to come out with specific actions to address it in the next five years.

These actions are listed out in MCA’s 14th General Election Manifesto with 10 promises and 10 initiatives which the party must implement, he added.

Ready for battle: Liow, MCA deputy
president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong and other senior party leaders at
the launch of the manifesto at Wisma MCA in Kuala Lumpur. — SAM THAM/The
Star

“This also needs the support of the Government, including allocations for execution.

“The MCA’s performance in this election will have a direct impact on the party’s efforts to help the people,” Liow said when launching the manifesto at Wisma MCA here yesterday.

On GE14, Liow said voters aged between 21 and 35 made up 45% of total voters.

“The youth play an important role in the country’s economic development and democracy,” he said when outlining the manifesto, which focuses on steps to help the people, especially youth, to progress.

Full turnout: MCA members listening to
Liow’s presentation of the manifesto for GE14 during the launch at the
Wisma MCA in Kuala Lumpur.

 

It spans education, training, jobs, business and investment opportunities.

Saying that the MCA’s political struggle is for the long haul, Liow assured the people that the party would not make empty promises to fish for votes.

On that note, Liow said it was important to not only address current issues but also to create favourable conditions for the Chinese community’s youth to face new challenges.

“There will be major changes in the global economy, labour market and business.

“The digital revolution will not only encourage the growth of a new economy but also change the lifestyle of future generations.

“The youth of today will dominate in this major change,” he said.

Saying that education is the foundation of every nation, he pointed out that the 69-year-old MCA’s role in the sector has evolved to meet changing times, from pre-school to primary school, vocational training to tertiary education.

Liow and MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (left) with the manifesto booklet.

Singling out the party’s 16-year-old Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), which is ranked second in Malaysia after Universiti Malaya by Times Higher Education, he said it is in the process of setting up its teaching hospital in Kampar, Perak.

“UTAR Hospital is set to be a premier healthcare institution that combines modern and complementary medicine like traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda,” he said of the party’s promise to provide accessible and quality healthcare to the rakyat.

In confronting global competition and pressure from the rising cost of living, Liow said MCA promises to open up more economic opportunities, including setting up Kojadi Co-operative Bank with branches in various states to provide financing for young entrepreneurs and small to medium enterprises.

“Times have changed. While we face more challenges, we also encounter more development opportunities,” he said of how the party consistently works hard to help the community brave the changing times.

On the country’s 465 new villages set up by the British colonial government with MCA’s help during the Emergency (1948-1960) to cut contacts between the Chinese community and communists of the era, Liow said those “barbed-wire” settlements have evolved over the decades.

He said MCA has drawn up plans for a digital revolution in these villages to rejuvenate them.

 

Sources: The Star, by foong pek yee, tho xin yi, and royce tan

Trapped in US-China trade war when 2 elephantine economices fight …


Tit for tat: The trade scuffle between US and China threatened to escalate to a full-scale war when Beijing fired back with punitive taxes on a wide range of US goods entering China – Reuters

The dispute between the two countries is real and has escalated. Malaysia is feeling the heat, but its palm oil sector is set to shine in this conflict.

THE US-China trade war drummed up by Washington last month threatened to escalate to a fullscale confrontation when Beijing fired back last week with punitive taxes on a wide range of US goods entering China.

And Malaysia, being an open economy with huge exports to China and the United States, is feeling the heat of the tit-for-tat measures rolled out by the two largest economies in the world.

President Donald Trump has given several reasons to act against China. A key reason is trade imbalance and US large trade deficit, which he attributed to China.

In 2017, China exported US$505bil (RM1.95 trillion) in goods to the United States, which in turn exported US$135bil (RM522.4bil) in goods to China.

The Trump administration has also alleged that China sought to misappropriate US intellectual property through joint venture requirements, unfair technology licensing rules, purchases of US technology firms with state funding and outright theft.

Last month, Trump slapped Beijing with punishing tariffs on the import of steel and aluminium products, and warned that there would be higher taxes on about 1,300 Chinese products worth US$50bil (RM193.5bil).

China, which has often stated that it does not want a trade war as it would hurt all, retaliated last Monday by imposing additional duties of 15% to 25% on 128 US products worth up to US$3bil (RM11.6bil). Pork, recycled aluminium, steel pipes, wine and fruits are on the list.

After being criticised by its own elites that it was too soft in its retaliation, China’s State Council announced on Wednesday that it planned to impose additional tariffs of 25% on 106 US products into the country, including soybeans, aircraft and cars. The import value of the goods on the list in 2017 was US$50bil.

Beijing’s Wednesday response came soon after the US Trade Representative Office released details of 1,333 Chinese imports worth about US$50bil that it planned to hit with 25% tariffs, with emphasis on industrial and hi-tech goods.

Global Times, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said in an editorial on Wednesday before its State Council’s statement: “China’s countermeasures should deal a heavy blow, hitting what the United States fears most. We strongly recommend starting with US soybeans and corn products. The ruling GOP will pay a huge price.”

It noted that nervous US soybean farmers, who were big supporters of Trump during the presidential campaign in 2016, had run advertisements to oppose launching a trade war against China.

China’s former finance minister Lou Jiwei reportedly said at a recent forum: “If I were in the government, I would hit soybeans first, and then cars and planes.”

By imposing punishing tariffs on US soybeans, Beijing will hurt US major farmers, given that China was the second largest importer of US agricultural products last year, buying US$19.6bil (RM73.5bil) of goods with 63% spent on soybeans.

As reducing US soybean imports would leave a shortfall for Chinese edible oil consumption and animal feed, this would need to be filled by imports from other countries. One source could be palm oil from Malaysia.

“Malaysia’s palm oil growers would stand to enjoy a windfall gain if China reduces the intake of soybeans from the United States, though our competitors like Indonesia also hope to sell more to China,” says economist Lee Heng Guie, executive director of SocioEconomic Research Centre (SERC).

In fact, the futures contracts of Malaysian crude palm oil (CPO) rose on Wednesday after China’s announcement. The positive impact on CPO prices continued on Thursday.

However, the local stock market – like other markets in the region – plummeted, as many investors believed more tit-for-tat measures covering more industries would be unveiled in this spat. The FBM KLCI lost 1.88% to close at its nineweek low of 1,815.94 points.

The local stock market has been weakening due to fear of this trade war. The technology stocks are particularly jittery as the US tariffs are seen as targeting mainly the Chinese electrical and electronic (E&E) and machinery sectors.

“In our view, the sectors that could be affected by the US-China trade war due to recently proposed import tariffs are semiconductors, building materials and ports in Malaysia,” said CIMB Research in a report on Thursday.

As Malaysia exports many E&E products and parts to China, local players within this supply chain are likely to feel the heat.

“We estimate Malaysia’s ultimate exposure to the United States – including via intermediate goods to China for assembly into final products destined for the United States – at 10% of GDP, about half of which is in electronics products,” Nomura Research says, adding that another 8% is exposed to China’s final demand.

While exports to China account for 13.5% of total annual exports of Malaysia, exports to the United

States make up 9.5%. And E&E products form the biggest export item to both countries.

Nomura sees US trade protectionism and a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China as posing risks to the Malaysian economy, as exports account for 71% of its GDP.

This trade conflict has been listed by Moody’s as a global risk this year.

Consultancy Oxford Economics says the escalation of the trade war could knock 0.5% off global growth in 2019.

Although earlier this year many analysts and business groups in the United States had warned that Washington would not win in this trade war, Trump charged ahead nevertheless.

The modern and economically mighty China, under President Xi Jinping, will punch back decisively and swiftly, many have warned.

The pain points of China are not easy to find. Over a decade ago, Beijing had realised it could not rely on the low value-adding export processing industries.

The country is now focusing on developing its high-technology sector and expanding the domestic consumer market to cut down on reliance on exports.

With so many odds against America, why would Trump insist on taking on China?

According to an analysis by Hong Kong-based International Chinese Newsweekly, the rise of American nationalism and Trump’s gearing up for the mid-term elections is the key reason for the president’s plunge into a trade war.

His focus is on midterm elections and keeping a Republican majority in Senate and Congress. But he will have to deal with the possible backlash from the first round of USChina trade war once it goes full on.

Apart from the soybean sector, the United States’ aircraft and automobile sectors will be hit.

According to South China Morning Post, Boeing Corporation delivered 202 planes to China in 2017, or 26% of its global total. The company has projected that in the next 20 years, China will need 7,240 new planes valued at about US$1.1 trillion (RM4.26 trillion).

On the auto sector, the United States sold more than US$10bil (RM38.7bil) worth of vehicles to China. Last year, General Motors sold 3.9 million cars to China, or almost 39% of its global total. The company expects sales in China to grow to five million by 2020.

The Hong Kong newspaper also warned that if China discourages its nationals from visiting the United States, the impact on US tourism will be painful.

In 2016, three million Chinese visitors and students spent US$33bil (RM127.7bil) while in the United States. The US Department of Commerce expects Chinese visitors rise to 5.7 million by 2021.

The other weapon China could weild against Washington is off-loading its US treasury bonds. This will have an impact on the dollar and US interest rate.

Bejing’s holding of US treasury bonds was close to US$1.2 trillion (RM4.6 trillion) at end-2017.

How long the current trade tension will last is anybody’s guess, given Trump’s unpredictable character. The world still remembers that he showered Xi with praises before turning his back on China.

But one thing is certain: if US protectionism and the trade war escalates, it will hurt not only the two major economies, but also countries which have trade links with the two powers.

“The global repercussions will be highly disruptive and damaging on trade and economy if the US-China trade war deepens and impacts more products and countries. In such widespread trade conflicts, Malaysia’s trade will be significantly dampened,” says Lee from SERC.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star


When 2 elephantine economies fight

Upping the stakes: Trump has ordered his
administration to consider imposing tariffs on an additional US100bil of
Chinese imports. Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier hit back with
US50bil worth of tariffs on US imports.

Will Malaysia be caught in the middle?

The trade war between the world’s two largest economies is not showing any sign of stopping just yet.

US president Donald Trump initiated the trade confrontation by announcing additional 25% tariffs on Chinese imports worth US$50bil, citing China’s unfair trade advantage. In retaliation, China initially announced higher tariffs on US$3bil imports from the US, but later raised it to US$50bil.

Now, Trump has ordered his administration to consider imposing tariffs on an additional US$100bil of Chinese imports.

While it remains to be seen whether these tit-for-tat announcements will materialise or eventually fizzle out, economists and fund managers generally agree that the US-China trade fight will affect Malaysia’s local industries and several stocks on Bursa Malaysia.

However, they differ on the extent of the impct from the escalating trade war.

In an email interview with StarBizWeek, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute research and business development director Lau Zheng Zhou says that Malaysia will be hit with losses in trade opportunities, as both the US and China constitute 25% of Malaysia’s total trade.

He points out that investors may adopt a “wait-and-see” approach, which could cause certain sectors to slow down and hence disrupt manufacturers’ resource planning and projection.

“As opposed to exporting finished goods, Malaysian exports have footprints along an extensive supply chains across sectors in Asia such as automobiles, electronics, oil and gas, and machinery.

“With heavy tariffs being imposed by the US, Malaysian firms will be slapped with rising input costs and therefore falling demand for their value-added component products.

“Our logistics sector may also be affected if global trade slows down.

“But China’s tariffs imposed on the US may not directly impact Malaysia as it is strategically designed to cause damage to the US agricultural producers,” he says.

On the other hand, Malayan Banking Bhd group chief economist Suhaimi Ilias indicates that the potential impact from the US-China trade spat is small, or only 0.3% of total trade value, at this juncture

However, greater risks could arise if the additional tariffs spill into services trade and investment.

“In any case, US tariffs on solar panels, steel and aluminum will have some impact on Malaysia but we understand that the International Trade and Industry Ministry is seeking exemptions for these since Malaysia is in talk with the US on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as an alternative following the US pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Meanwhile, China’s tariffs on US products may result in some trade diversions or substitutions that may result in increase demand for Malaysian products from China, and one potential area is chemical or petrochemical products which is a major industry and export for Malaysia,” states Suhaimi.

Currently, the Trump administration has proposed a long list of 1,333 items, which would see the imposition of an additional 25% tariff.

These items include robotics, aircraft seats, machine parts, semiconductors, communication satellites and television components, among others.

It is worth noting that there will be 60 days of public review before the tariffs take effect. Observers believe both China and the US will re-negotiate their trade terms during this period in order to prevent a full-fledged trade war.

More items affected

In the event of the US government imposing tariffs on the additional US$100bil worth of Chinese imports as per Trump’s suggestion, more items will be affected.

China, on its part, has announced that it will slap a similar 25% additional tariff on 106 products from the US, which include soybean, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft.

According to Lau, China’s tariffs are well-targeted to hurt rural, agriculture-dependent communities who were big supporters of Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Many companies in Malaysia have been involved in the export of raw materials and intermediate goods to China and the US, which are later re-packaged or used in the production of other finished goods.

These finished goods, in turn, are exported by both China and the US to one another as well as to other countries.

Indirectly, the Sino-US trade spat will affect these exporting companies from Malaysia.

Suhaimi calls for accommodative monetary policy and the implementations of major investment and infrastructure projects to buttress Malaysia’s economic activities, if the trade dispute continues to worsen.


Fund managers’ take

Fortress Capital chief executive officer Thomas Yong says that the Malaysian semiconductor sector will be most negatively affected due to the trade spat.

“This is because most semiconductor companies in Malaysia export intermediate semi-conductor components to end-product manufactures in the US, and a tariff on these end-products could indirectly lower the demand from these component players,” he says.

He cautions investors to monitor the ongoing trade war between the US and China closely.

“If the tariffs are implemented, the impact will be very detrimental to the ongoing global growth recovery.

“A trade war will negatively affect stock valuations all around the world,” he says.

Similar to Yong’s perspective, Areca Capital chief executive officer Danny Wong also reckons that export-based Malaysian businesses in the electrical and electronics domain could be affected, especially if their exposure to both China and the US is significantly large.

However, both fund managers believe that the Sino-US trade spat may not be entirely bad for companies in Malaysia.

Wong tells StarBizWeek that the US’ Federal Reserve (Fed) may take necessary actions to remedy any unwarranted implications to the economy.

“If the trade war continues to prolong and ultimately weigh down global growth and trade, it could affect the Fed’s future actions.

“Hence, there is a likelihood for the Fed to put the expected interest rate hikes on hold.

“In the event of such decision, dividend stocks in Bursa Malaysia will definitely benefit.

“On top of that, the real estate investment trust (REIT) stocks will also benefit from the situation, as Reits thrive in the low interest rate environment,” he says.

Meanwhile, Fortress Capital’s Yong adds that stocks related to palm oil production may also benefit from the trade spat.

“Since crude palm oil (CPO) is a substitute for soybean oil, the Chinese tariff on American soybeans can potentially allow China to substitute to CPO to meet their vegetable oil consumption needs, in turn supporting the demand and prices for CPO.

“As Malaysia and Indonesia both account for more than 80% of global palm oil supply, oil plantation companies from these two countries could potentially benefit from the much needed price boost amid the current soft CPO price.

“However, it remains uncertain if China will substitute all of the current soybean oil consumption to CPO, as there are quite a number of other vegetable oils available in the market,” he says.

Earlier, StarBiz reported that the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) believes Malaysia may see an increased amount of foreign investments, particularly from the US, if the brewing trade war between the US and China escalates further.

Businesses from the US and other countries could make Malaysia an alternative regional production hub for several goods instead of China, to avoid the additional tariffs imposed by the US on products imported from China.

The additional 25% tariff levied on the imports from China would likely make Chinese goods pricier. Under such circumstances, global manufacturers may opt to establish their operations in Malaysia or outsource their production to a domestic company.

Commenting on whether the Sino-US trade war will place Malaysia as an alternative to China in the eyes of investors, Lau says it is not reasonable for investors to do so.

“However, the trade spat may rather increase foreign direct investments, especially from China, in industries with heavy use of steel and aluminium or value-added manufacturing of innovative consumer products.

“This can avoid a ban, restrictions or high tariffs on products which are associated with China,” he says.

By Ganeshwaran Kana The Star

 

Related news:

Xi Takes Center Stage to Defend China’s Trade From … – Bloomberg

 

All ears for Xi’s crucial speech at Boao Forum, East Asia News & Top …

China forex reserves rise slightly as U.S. dollar weakness continues

China should remain cautious over softened Trump trade tone

China should fight the trade war as it did the Korean War

China won’t submit to US trade intimidation

Trade counterstrikes give US painful lessons to learn

Washington must pay a dear price for a trade war

US attempt to coerce China too perilous

Export numbers blind over US company branches in China

Washington suffers from IP-theft paranoia

Lost cause: An employee arranging imported American apples for sale at a grocery store in Beijing, President Donald Trump says the US lost a trade war with China ‘years ago’. In a tweet Wednesday after China announced a list of US products that might be subject to a 25 tariff, Trump said: ‘We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the US.’ — Bloomberg
Trade war – more of letting off hot air so far – Business News

China to fight back US trade tariffs ‘at any cost’ – Business New

China vows to fight US ‘at any cost’ after Donald Trump threatens $100B ..

 China’s import tariff on US soybean can support CPO prices – Business News

 

 

Sign of good faith: Mustapa receiving the Amcham survey report from Wong (right) and Das at the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce Summit.US-China trade spat good for Malaysia – Business News

US tariff to have little impact on global economy

Related post:

Did Trump just launch a trade war? 

Trade War! US Trade Protectionism

China’s plan to lead the globe?

Malaysia’s low wages: low-skilled, low productivity, low quality, reliance on cheap foreign workers! Need to manage!


Survey: Most workers not paid enough to achieve minimum acceptable living standard

 

Wages too low, says Bank Negara – Survey: most workers not paid enough to achieve minimum acceptable living standard

ALTHOUGH the income levels of Malaysians have increased significantly over the years, voices of discontent are mounting over the decline in purchasing power.

Low and depressed salaries are among the grouses of executives and non-executives amid the apparent lifestyle changes of Malaysians.

With the rising cost of living, they lament that there is now less room for long-term savings and investments.

According to the Employees Job Happiness Index 2017 survey by JobStreet.com, one in three Malaysian employees want a pay rise, with rewards constituting 52% of the domestic workforce’s motivation to work.

In its 2017 Annual Report, Bank Negara points out that the expenditure of the bottom 40% (B40) of Malaysian households has expanded at a faster pace compared with their income.

From 2014 to 2016, the average B40 income level grew by 5.8% annually, marginally lower than the 6% growth in the B40 household spending in the same period.

It is also worth noting that half of working Malaysians only earned less than the national median of RM1,703 in 2016.

The central bank, in consideration of the low-wage conundrum, has recently recommended that employers use a “living wage” as a guideline to compensate their employees for their labour.

Essentially, the living wage refers to the income level needed to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living, depending on the geographical location.

Citing Kuala Lumpur as an example, Bank Negara estimates that the living wage in the city two years ago was about RM2,700 for a single adult. The living wage estimate for a couple without a child was RM4,500, while for a couple with two children, the living wage was RM6,500.

As much as Malaysians support higher wages, which can outgrow escalating living cost, the bigger question is whether their employers are willing to increase wages significantly.

Also, is it realistic for employers to pay higher salaries in line with the suggested living wage?

Speaking to StarBizWeek, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan says that the living wage is unsuitable for adoption in Malaysia – for now.

He believes that the living wage will turn out to be damaging to the domestic labour market, given the rising cost of doing business in recent times.

Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs. << Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.
Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.

“The living wage concept is unrealistic in Malaysia for the time being. While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.

“However, if the workers are proactive and upskill themselves to increase their productivity, then I do not see any reason for employers to refrain from offering higher pay packages.

“The Government on its part, should not micro-manage the economy to the extent of telling the employers how much to pay their workers. Instead, the Government can provide various incentives to the employers to bring down costs, which will translate into higher salaries or even exempt the employees’ bonuses from tax,” he says.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie welcomes Bank Negara’s living wage guideline “to prevent a wage employee from the deprivation of a decent standard of living”.

In order to push for the acceptance of a living wage in Malaysia, Lee recommends that government-linked companies (GLCs) adopt the concept gradually.

“The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.

“This would require extensive consultations and engagements with the stakeholders.

“Perhaps, as one of the largest employers in the country, GLCs can incorporate the living wage clause in their suppliers’ procurement contracts,” he says.

Concerns about Malaysia’s low-wage environment are not only centred on the low-skilled workers but across-the-board, as even executives lament about being lowly-compensated.

Are Malaysians being paid enough?

Based on data from the Statistics Department’s Salaries and Wages Survey Report 2016, most Malaysian workers are still paid significantly lower than the desired amount to achieve “minimum acceptable living standard”, at least in Kuala Lumpur.

Nearly 50% of working adults in Kuala Lumpur earned less than RM2,500 per month in 2016, notably lower than the RM2,700 living wage as suggested by Bank Negara.

In fact, up to 27% of households in Kuala Lumpur earned below the estimated living wage in 2016.

While wage growth has exceeded inflation over the years, real wage growth has been largely subtle. Real wage refers to income adjusted for inflation.

According to the MEF’s website, the salaries of executives were expected to grow by 5.55% in 2017, compared with 6.31% in 2013. As for non-executives, the average salary was anticipated to increase by 5.44% in 2017, down from 6.78% in 2013.

Given the 3.7% headline inflation registered in 2017, executives’ salaries may have just inched up by 1.85% on average, after factoring in inflation.

As for non-executives, their real wage could have grown by 1.74%, lesser than the executives in Malaysia.

While a slight moderation in headline inflation is expected this year, the purchasing power of Malaysians is unlikely to improve significantly.

In an earlier report by StarBiz, Shamsuddin described 2018 as a “bad year for employees and employers”, and projected Malaysians’ average salary increment to be lower than last year.

He blamed several new policies and measures introduced by the government such as the mandatory requirement for employers to defray levy for their foreign workers and the introduction of the Employment Insurance System, which would increase the costs borne by domestic businesses.

“It will be difficult for employers to raise salaries after this, given such dampeners,” he was reported as saying.

The biggest challenge now is to strike a balance between the market’s ability to compensate a worker and the worker’s required income level to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living.

Sunway University Business School professor of economics Yeah Kim Leng says that more efforts have to be made to enhance the business and investment climate, in order to entice existing firms to expand and upgrade while new firms and start-ups emerge to create more high-paying jobs.

Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth. << Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth.
Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth
.

He also calls upon business owners and employees to forge appropriate wage-setting mechanisms, which are benchmarked against the productivity of the workers.

“The Government should consider additional fiscal incentives for firms that provide worker benefits to meet the living wage standard. For example, double tax deduction for transport allowance and other cost of living adjustments for the lower-salaried employees,” states Yeah.

Meanwhile, Lee opines that employees should be given a higher share of the profit generated by their employers moving forward, in line with the practice in many high-income nations abroad.
 

“It is actually reasonable for Malaysian employers to allocate a larger chunk of their profits to reward their workers and motivate them,” he says. 

In 2016, the compensation of employees to gross domestic product (CE-to-GDP) ratio in Malaysia improved to 35.3%. The CE-to-GDP ratio shows the workers’ share in the profits made by business owners.

For every RM1 generated in 2016, 35.3 sen was paid to the employee and 59.5 sen went to corporate earnings, while five sen was given to the government in the form of taxes.

In its 11th Malaysia Plan, the Government aspires to increase the CE-to-GDP ratio substantially to 40%, from 34% in 2013.

While Malaysia’s CE-to-GDP ratio has continued to improve over the years, it is notably lower than several other high and middle-income countries.

The 11th Malaysia Plan document stated that the country’s CE-to-GDP ratio was lower than Australia (47.8%), South Korea (43.2%) and even South Africa (45.9%).

In an earlier media report, however, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research executive director Zakariah Abdul Rashid hinted that Malaysia was unlikely to reach its CE-to-GDP ratio target by 2020.

This was mainly as a result of Malaysia’s lower-than-expected productivity growth.


Low-wage conundrum

 According to Bank Negara, the main underlying cause of Malaysia’s low-wage environment is the high numbers of cheap foreign workers.

Governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim says that the country should cut back on its foreign worker dependency to drive higher wages for Malaysians across-the-board.

“In Malaysia, our salaries and wages are low, as half of the working Malaysians earn less than RM1,700 per month and the average starting salary of a diploma graduate is only about RM350 above the minimum wage.

“It is high time to reform our labour market by creating high-quality, good-paying jobs for Malaysians,” he says.

Echoing a similar stance, Yeah says that the continuing reliance on foreign workers has resulted in a predominantly low wage-low productivity-low value economy, with many features of a middle-income trap.

“On one end of the wage-skill spectrum, the low-skilled jobs are being substituted by easy availability of unskilled foreign workers, thereby keeping the blue-collar wages from rising.

“At the other end, skilled job wages are being depressed by insufficient high-wage job creation, weak firm profitability amid rising market competition and excess capacity, industry consolidations and other factors resulting in a slack labour market,” he says.

Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers. << Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.
Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.

It is worth noting that the share of high-skilled jobs has reduced to 37% in the period from 2011 to 2017, as compared to 45% from 2002 to 2010.

Malaysia has come a long way since its independence, transforming itself from a largely rural agragrian country to a regional economic powerhouse, which is driven by its strong services and manufacturing sectors.


While industrialisation and automation have grown robustly since the 1990s, economists feel that the country has not managed to substantially move up the value chain compared with other countries such as Singapore.

The lack of a high-skilled workforce, low productivity, employment opportunities to cater to high-skilled professionals and the presence of cheap foreign workers have all weighed down on the Malaysian economy, particularly the income levels of Malaysians.

Citing the examples of Singapore and Australia, which are successful in raising wages historically, Yeah says that structural reforms should be undertaken in Malaysia to reverse the low-wage conundrum.

“A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth, raise productivity and wages and shift to higher-value activities,” he says.

Sources: by Ganeshwaran Kana, The Star

Economist: Manage labour issues to achieve high-income economy

Cheap manpower: While Malaysia has clearly
benefitted from the presence of foreign workers, the role that foreign
workers play in the Malaysian economy must keep up with the times.

WHY are wages still low in Malaysia?

Well, there are six words to describe the main reason for this – “high dependence on low-skilled foreign workers”.

The issue of Malaysia’s huge reliance on low-skilled foreign labour has been raised time and again, but only moderate progress has been made in alleviating the situation.

Low-skilled foreign labour remains a prevalent feature of Malaysia’s economy, and according to Bank Negara, it is a major factor suppressing local wages and impeding the country’s progress towards a high-productivity nation.

As the central bank governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim puts it, Malaysia is currently weighed down by a low-wage, low-productivity trap, with the contributing factor being the prolonged reliance on low-skilled foreign workers.

While their existence may benefit individual firms in the short term, they could impose high macroeconomic costs to the economy over the longer term.

“Easy availability of cheap low-skilled foreign workers blunts the need for productivity improvement and automation. Employers keep wages low to maintain margins,” Muhammad says.

“Unfortunately, this depresses wages for local workers. The hiring of low-skilled foreign workers also promotes the creation of low-skilled jobs,” he adds.

From 2011 to 2017, the share of low-skilled jobs in Malaysia increased significantly to 16%, compared with only 8% in the period of 2002 to 2010. Apart from that, local economic sectors that rely on foreign workers such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing also suffer from low productivity.

Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that foreign workers do contribute somewhat to Malaysia’s economic growth.

The World Bank, in its study about three years ago noted that immigrant labour both high and low-skilled, continued to play a crucial role in Malaysia’s economic development, and would still be needed for the country to achieve high-income status by 2020.

The global institution’s econometric modeling suggested that a 10% net increase in low-skilled foreign workers could increase Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 1.1%. For every 10 new immigrant workers in a given state and sector, up to five new jobs may be created for Malaysians in that state and sector, it said.

Even so, the World Bank acknowledged that the influx of foreign labour did have a negative impact on the wages of some groups.

Its study found a 10% increase in immigration flow would reduce wages of the least-educated Malaysians, which represents 14% of the total labour force, by 0.74%. Overall, a 10% increase in immigration flow would slightly increase the wages of Malaysians by 0.14%.

According to Muhammad, while some argue that foreign employment creates economic activities, which consequently create jobs for local employment, it is neither the most efficient nor the desired route to create more mid-to-high-skilled jobs.

“Compared with local employment, foreign workers repatriate a large share of their incomes, which limits the spillover or multiplier effect on the domestic economy,” he explains.

Total outward remittances in 2017 stood at RM35.3bil, of which the bulk was accounted for by foreign workers.

In addition, Muhammad says high dependence on low-skilled foreign workers will also have an adverse effect of shaping Malaysia’s reputation as a low-skilled, labour-intensive destination.

Bank Negara says while Malaysia has clearly benefitted from the presence of foreign workers, the role that foreign workers play in the Malaysian economy must keep up with the times.

The central bank believes critical reforms to the country’s labour market are very much within its reach, and it should continue to gradually wean its dependence on foreign workers.

Malaysia should seize the opportunity now to set itself on a more productive, sophisticated and sustainable economic growth path, it says.

According to Muhammad, cutting back on foreign worker dependency can help to drive higher wages for Malaysians across-the-board.

The Government’s efforts in reducing the country’s dependency on low-skilled foreign workers have been ongoing since the implementation of the 8th Malaysia Plan (2001-2005), with greater clarity and a renewed focus to resolve the issue at hand upon the implementation of the 11th Malaysia Plan.

This has resulted in the steady decline in the share of documented foreign workers from 16.1% in 2013 to 12.0% of the labour force in 2017.

More can be done to build on the progress made, Bank Negara says, while proposing a five-pronged approach to managing foreign workers in Malaysia.

Firstly, it says, there must be a clear stance on the role of low-skilled foreign workers in Malaysia’s economic narrative. Secondly, policy implementation and changes must be gradual and clearly communicated to the industry.

Thirdly, existing demand-management tools (such as quotas, dependency ceilings and levies) can be reformed to be more market-driven, while incentivising the outcomes that are in line with Malaysia’s economic objectives.

Fourthly, there is room to ensure better treatment of foreign workers, be it improvements in working conditions or ensuring that foreign workers are paid as agreed. Lastly, it is also important to note that the proposed reforms must be complemented with effective monitoring and enforcement on the ground, particularly with respect to undocumented foreign workers.

An economist tells StarBizWeek that addressing the high reliance on foreign workers is pertinent for Malaysia’s transition into a high-income economy.

“Malaysia needs to shift its focus from importing cheap labour to managing labour flow that can maximise growth and facilitate its structural adjustment towards a higher income economy,” he says.

“It has been far too long for our economy to be swamped with foreign workers who are unskilled, or have low skill sets that could not contribute meaningfully to Malaysia’s aspiration of becoming a high-income economy,” he adds.

By Cecilia Kok, The Star

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Silicon Valley faces tech backlash: maybe needs to be taken down to size


Polarising content and Russian manipulation of social media are fuelling calls for greater regulation of firms like Google and FB. — 123rf.com

 

Demonstrators at a rally in opposition to white supremacists and the postponed right-wing “March on Google” protest of James Damore’s firing that was originally planned the same day. — Bay Area News Group/TNS

Once a darling, tech hub Silicon Valley is under attack for its technologies which are damaging our lives.

ONCE upon a time, there was a beautiful land filled with bright minds and gleaming prospects.

People called it Silicon Valley, and out of it flowed knowledge, ideas and innovations that gave us almost-unthinkable powers to learn, to communicate, to transform our lives into exactly what we wanted them to be. The region’s denizens toiled happily at the cutting edge, and day by day, they were making the world a better place.

But today, this beautiful land is under attack from within and without. The products and services it sends out into the world are being called addictive, divisive and even damaging, raising the cry that instead of making the world better, they are making it worse.

As technology plays a deeper and more pervasive role in nearly every aspect of our lives, the industry that has upended everything from shopping and travel to education and human relationships is facing a backlash the likes of which Silicon Valley has never seen.

Polarising online content and Russian manipulation of social media platforms have fuelled calls from the right and the left for greater regulation of firms like Google, Facebook and Twitter. World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Republican US Senator John McCain, leftist billionaire George Soros, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson have all joined the chorus demanding the government take action.


Terrific or terrible?

Critics argue that the big tech firms have become too economically dominant, intruded too far into our lives and have too much control over what gets seen and shared online. At the same time, critics contend, those same companies have failed to take responsibility for the misuse of their services by malevolent actors, for the spread of fake news and for the way their platforms and algorithms can be gamed.

Stanford computer science students are protesting Apple, demanding it make less addictive devices.

The #MeToo movement has amplified a debate over sexual harassment and diversity in Silicon Valley. And conservatives have attacked the whole region as a liberal echo chamber that stifles precisely the open debate it claims to embrace.

Thus the backlash.

“What makes it categorically different now is that this is the first time I have seen that people are saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe Silicon Valley needs to be taken down to size,’ said Leslie Berlin, project historian for Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives. “This notion that what Silicon Valley represents actually threatens rather than embodies what makes the country great, that is new.”

Berners-Lee in an open letter recently called the tech giants “a new set of gatekeepers” whose platforms can be “weaponised” to widen social rifts and interfere in elections. Benioff told CNBC in January that social media was “addictive” and should be regulated like cigarettes.

Carlson wants Google treated like a public utility because it “shuts down free speech for political reasons”.

Former president Barack Obama, at a February conference at MIT, said social media was Balkanizing public discourse, creating “entirely different realities” that contribute to “gridlock and venom and polarisation in politics”.

Even Facebook has jumped in with an unusual mea culpa, issuing a news release in February admitting it was “far too slow to recognise how bad actors were abusing our platform”.

Raking in the money

Despite its critics, Silicon Valley remains hugely successful and influential, with 21% of employed people working in tech, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve Bank report. Though the region’s economy has shown some signs of slowing, job growth in Silicon Valley has been more than double the national rate since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2010.

And the region remains home to the two most valuable public companies in the world, Apple and Google’s parent firm Alphabet, as well as world-class universities. Every day, people around the world benefit from Silicon Valley-built tools that have transformed communication, opened access to information, and made life easier.

The notion that Silicon Valley’s best days are over is far from new – people have been predicting its demise ever since the advent of the microprocessor, said Berlin.

“It was going to be the oil shocks of the 1970s that were going to take it down, and then competition from Japan, India and China, the Dot Com bust, Y2K – it’s just been one thing after another, the 2008 crash,” Berlin said. “Time and again, Silicon Valley has bounced back from these perceived threats. Silicon Valley has always been sort of the golden child of the Golden State.”

But this time, Berlin and others see something shifting.

“It is unprecedented,” UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Abhishek Nagaraj, said of the backlash. “I think this is because of how deeply penetrated tech is in people’s lives.”

Nagaraj, who studies the tech industry, compared the demonisation of Silicon Valley to the outcry against Wall Street after deceptive investment banking practices knocked the United States into the Great Recession.

“It appears as if, basically, tech is the new finance,” Nagaraj said.

Overwhelming force

Increasingly, the public views the tech industry as a force against which they are powerless, said San Jose State University anthropology professor Jan English-Lueck, who researches Silicon Valley’s culture.

“It’s now on people’s radar screen to be a place of the elite, where they’re changing the world in a way that ordinary people don’t have an influence on that change,” EnglishLueck said.

While the devices and social media platforms created by hugely successful Silicon Valley tech firms have given us new ways to connect, they’ve also thrown the worst of human nature into our faces, said English-Lueck.

“You don’t have to look in somebody’s eyes when you’re telling someone something ugly,” English-Lueck said. “That’s really exaggerated people’s ability to hate.”

She believes the optimistic view of technology as the great liberator and connector helped keep major tech firms from building more safeguards into their platforms to prevent vicious online attacks, dissemination of fake news and nation-state intrusions.

“Do we want free speech and free action that’s amplified by the Internet?” she said. “Sometimes we don’t want that.”

Stephen Milligan, CEO of pioneering San Jose data-storage firm Western Digital, doesn’t think technology can solve everything.

But Milligan doesn’t buy the notion that Silicon Valley has lost its bloom. The region’s companies are still trying to solve “real problems” in the world and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

“It’s still cool,” Milligan said. “I actually think it’s more cool.”

Silicon Valley boosters such as Peggy Burke, CEO of Palo Alto branding agency 1185, will tell you the technology industry can fix the problems it creates.

“You have to weigh the good and the bad, and if the bad gets so bad that it outweighs the good, someone will solve for that,” Burke said. “If there’s a problem – traffic, transportation, housing, stopping Russians, fake news – someone in the Valley right now is working on solving for that problem. I’ve been in the Valley for 30 years and I’ve seen it happen over and over.”

A reckoning for the region is likely, but it won’t be a fatal one, Berkeley’s Nagaraj said. The problems arising from technology will exacerbate the ongoing decentralisation of innovation, as boot camps bring entrepreneurial skills to new regions, and clusters of expertise – in “deep learning” artificial intelligence in Toronto, for example – lead to cooperative projects linking the Valley to other areas, he said.

“It’s going to be a much more collaborative process than one of replacement,” he said. “We are moving to a world where not all the big hits come from Silicon Valley.”

Source: By Ethan Baron – The San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service

 

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 BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin

Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating…

What is Blockchain Technology, its uses and applications?

BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin


Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating fake degrees to being able to track the origin of organic products, blockchain is proving to be a reliable solution in trust.

The underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and ethereum is blockchain.

Creating trust in transactions Varanasi: Blockchain can be used to store verified documents so that users don’t have to keep validating important documents every time it’s submitted to a new party.

While blockchain was confined to finanin cial tech the early days, many organisations are starting to employ it in other industries because the technology is highly secure and even allows for transparency.

This encourages trust and in some cases even eliminates the need for a third party to validate the data, making it valuable to many organisations.

WITH fake doctorates and degrees becoming increasingly common, how are employers and graduates to find an efficient way to bridge the gap in trust?

According to Dr Mohamed Ariff Ameedeen, from University Malaysia Pahang (UMP), the solution could lie with blockchain technology.

As director of IBM’s Centre of excellence, which has been based in the university since 2012, he is continuously exploring novel uses for blockchain beyond cryptocurrency.

he said one of the early ideas the team was working on was a secure database that would prevent students from hacking to change their grades.

however, his team then decided to solve a more pressing issue affecting universities – fake degrees.

Mohamed Ariff said some universities are already integrating QR codes into graduates’ certificates to help validate credentials. however, even QR codes are now easily tampered with.

Taking it one step further, the UMP team created a system called Valid8, a QR code linked to a student profile secured by blockchain, which contains the student’s name, photo, title of degree and the year it was awarded.

This made tampering with the QR code pointless, as it only acted as a key to the information on the blockchain.

“even if someone used another person’s QR code, the data would clearly show it was not the person’s name or photo connected to the certificate,” he said.

he added that all the info placed on the blockchain is already publicly available so it would not compromise the students’ privacy.

Mohamed Ariff said making the data trustworthy meant time savings – as employers don’t have to contact the university to verify the certificate, they can be quicker in deciding if they should hire the job applicant.

So far, UMP has run a pilot programme with Valid8 by issuing supplementary certificates to 180 graduates from the industrial Management Faculty.

Mohamed Ariff said it took a couple of days to configure the blockchain node and a few more days to input the 180 students’ data.

“Although entering the information is relatively straightforward, migrating 15 years of old data (of earlier graduates) that includes more than just the initial four data points is going to take a bit longer,” he said.

The full-scale test for Valid8 will be the students graduating at the year-end convocation, estimated to be around 2,000.

To make the student profiles more useful, Mohamed Ariff said the team is planning to add more information such as grades, attendance, courses and maybe even disciplinary records.

“The beauty of blockchain is that it can grow with time and track a student’s academic life. imagine how much data it would have if a profile was set up for students when they entered kindergarten,” he said.

To encourage such a situation, UMP is open to collaborating with other universities that wanted to adopt blockchain for student iDs.

however, eduValue founder Barry Ew Yong warned that even a secured system has an obvious point of failure – human error.

he added that once errors entered the system there is a chance that it will be perpetuated. “Technology does not increase trust. Systems increase trust, though technology can be a useful tool to do so,” he said.

Like with UMP’s Valid8, the quality assurance startup has adopted blockchain to secure graduate certificates, using the technology to store a softcopy of the degree.

The company serves around 30 private schools, mostly tertiary schools offering up to Masters. Founded in Singapore in December 2012, it only just started employing blockchain.

he said the company uses a two stage system to ensure that only qualified students would be given certificates.

in the first stage it will help set up the standard by which students will be evaluated in order for them to graduate, and the approval process will be audited – schools found lacking will be struck off the system.

in the second stage it will vet all data being uploaded to the platform.

For UMP this is just a start – it’s also testing a blockchain based e-wallet called Xchain that students, lecturers, staff and vendors would eventually use for all transactions in UMP.

Beyond the security benefits, Mohamed Ariff said the open-nature of blockchain’s shared ledger meant the spending patterns could be analysed, making the university a giant data pool.

“With a population of 13,000 users, there’s a lot of potential data. And as a university, we love data,” he said.

Xchain is still in beta as the team is waiting to get Bank Negara to issue it an e-wallet license.

Mohamed Ariff concluded that blockchain is promising, especially for the education field, which relies on data that is open to peer review while also being trustworthy and tamper-evident.

ACADEMICIAN hu Dong, who advises Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Zero Bay incubator, said the supply chain industry could see huge advantages by having a more efficient and transparent data manto agement system.

Blockchain can be used track a product’s origin and determine if the materials were sourced as claimed, which is invaluable to sectors such as organic farming and ethical diamond mining. Also, by tracking the product’s trail along each stop on the supply chain, should an issue arise that requires a product to be recalled, the company could zero in on where the fault occurred.

For example, if a company found that the computer it’s making has a faulty hard drive, it would be able to identify which one of its factories was responsible. it then only needs to recall the computers that originated from the affected factory instead of all its products.

This would save cost as the recall will be smaller

and speed up the process which could help limit damage to the company’s reputation.

Dong, who was in Malaysia for a conference by blockchain incubator WeMerge, said the highlight of blockchain is accountability and transparency so it would create a higher degree of trust, which makes it great for smart contracts.

A smart contract can digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the performance of a contract without the need for third parties. And if executed via blockchain, the transactions are trackable and irreversible.

He said smart contracts could ensure factories, for instance, get paid faster, as the payment can be released once the contract is verified through the blockchain instead of waiting for a third-party to process it.

Startup Eximchain, which has raised US$20mil (rM78.41mil) in funding to continue developing blockchain solutions, is offering Smart Contracts.

Its solution allows banks to verify the validity of orders and provide the necessary financing; and the transaction history can be used by suppliers to prove their reliability to buyers and rating institutions. For banker turned blockchain technologist Bobby Varanasi, limiting the technology’s application to Bitcoin is just shortsighted.

The co-founder of Thynkblynk Technologies, along with partner Parag Jain, have developed ChainTrail, a “trust platform” for storing verified documents, including education certificates, medical records and contracts.

By using ChainTrail, you don’t have to keep verifying a document each time it’s presented to a new party.

However, Varanasi said the company was not in the business of certification and that the onus was on the data provider, be it a university or bank, to ensure that the data is correct.

“A lie, once committed to blockchain, would become an immutable one,” said Jain, referring to how data can only be added but not modified on a blockchain.

To mitigate such risks, ChainTrail vets customers by validating their credentials and ensuring that they are authorised to represent stakeholders.

For instance, it would verify that a lecturer is from the university he or she claims to represent.

It also offers templates for agreements such as contracts and term sheets.

“In today’s world, lack of trust is increasingly permeating the world of trade, both politically and financially… blockchain as a tech has finally presented an opportunity to create trust amongst a variety of parties that transact with each other,” said Varanasi.

Chain of trust:

 

Built for cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain is being used in innovative ways in a number of industries.

  

Basics of blockchain

LIKE a lot of complex technologies, blockchain is easier to understand once you break it down.

A blockchain is made up of a block of “transaction data” which is why it’s also called a ledger. Each block also has a hash – a string of numbers which uniquely identifies the block.

And similar to how a person has their parent’s names added to theirs, a block features a portion of the preceding block’s hash.

Put in terms of family lines, it’s like how you could tell that Amir bin Ali is the son of Ali bin Abu, who is in turn the son of Abu bin Bakar, and so on.

Basically, the hash “chains” the blocks together, by affirming their place in relation to the blocks before and after, hence the term blockchain.

Security in numbers

A key feature of blockchain is security. Blockchain runs on the paraphrased adage that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.

So rather than making it tamper-proof, blockchain is tamper-evident – this is done by making a copy of the blockchain available to all members of the network, which is why blockchain is sometimes referred to as a public ledger.

As members of the network all have a copy of the same blockchain, if anyone’s chain is compromised by a hacker, it would look different from others.

If you have ever tried to organise a movie night with an extended group of friends on a WhatsApp group, you’ll get the idea.

Say, you want to watch Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and get the ball rolling by choosing the day and cinema, and then ask whoever that’s interested to add their names to the list.

The original message can’t be altered as it has been sent to the group. Instead everyone adds to the data by including their names and maybe a request for a specific timeslot. This concept is called “persistence”, wherein the older data cannot be retroactively altered.

Though a cheeky friend could change the date to try to troll the group, he wouldn’t be able to hide the fact that earlier messages will show a different date. This is what makes a public ledger like the blockchain tamper-evident.

Blockchain transaction

The blockchain is stored on computers, also known as nodes, that are connected via a peer-to-peer network.

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Kim Jong-un says he is ‘committed to Korean denuclearisation’ in Beijing talks



North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has promised President Xi Jinping that he will follow through the wishes of his father and grandfather in denuclearising the Korean peninsula, but added he wants assurances from the United States and South Korea.

The leader of the reclusive state made the remarks during a trip to China, his first overseas visit since he became North Korea’s leader, according to the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Kim, the third generation of his family to lead his country, said the situation on the Korean peninsula was improving and that his government has taken steps to ease tensions, Xinhua reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un leaves Beijing after surprise visit >>

Kim added that if the US and South Korea were willing to respond to North Korea’s efforts with sincerity the nuclear issue “can be solved”.

“Our unswerving stance is that we will make efforts towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” Kim was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

President Xi pledged to work with North Korea to achieve denuclearisation.

“China is willing to continue to make a constructive impact on the Korean peninsula problem,” President Xi said. He called upon all sides to solve the problem through dialogue, Xinhua reported.

Tensions have risen on Korean peninsula after North Korea has increased nuclear weapons tests.

The United Nations has enforced a series of sanctions to try to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the crisis have risen since the announcement that North and South Korea’s leaders have agreed to meet.

Beijing is North Korea’s long-standing traditional ally, but ties have been frayed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s support of UN sanctions.

Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, said Kim was securing China’s support ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump, scheduled to be held by May.

“By denuclearisation, Kim actually means the whole Korean peninsula should be denuclearised and that the nuclear weapons deployed by the US in South Korea should be withdrawn,” Pang said. “Can the US really accept that request? The gesture means that the chance of a significant breakthrough between Kim and Trump may be slim.”

Kim’s visit evidence China and North Korea remain allies, analysts say  >>

Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in China, agreed Kim was looking for support from Beijing ahead of his meetings with South Korea’s president and Trump.

”Just as Kim may have felt he had secured some leverage against Xi having independently secured summits with Trump and Moon, he’ll now feel more confident knowing where things stand with Beijing heading into those same meetings,” he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Chinese government had briefed the Trump administration about the visit on Tuesday.

The Trump administration sees the development “as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea”, she said.

Beijing residents left in the dark during Kim Jong-un’s unexpected visit  >>

Kim arrived by train in Beijing on Monday and left the following day, with his trip to China coming just days before a planned meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and ahead of the possible summit with Trump.

Speculation about a visit by Kim to Beijing came earlier this week after a train similar to the one used by Kim’s father was seen in the Chinese capital.

Ri Sol-ju, Kim’s wife, was also part of the delegation to Beijing, Xinhua reported.

China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, Vice-President Wang Qishan and Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning also met the North Korean leader.

The green armoured train carrying the North Korean leader returned to the reclusive state at about 6am on Wednesday across a bridge connecting the two countries in Dandong, Liaoning province.

Chinese police had blocked access to the area around the bridge before the train’s arrival.

Armed police vehicles were also seen in the area.

North Korea agrees to inter-Korean talks to discuss possible April summit  >>

Access to parts of the Yalu River riverbank, which separates North Korea and Dandong, were blocked. Some police officers also stopped people from taking pictures of the bridge before the train’s arrival.

“I can only say that a situation is happening here,” a police officer at one of the blocked roads told the South China Morning Post.

About three minutes after the train passed over the bridge, police officers finally allowed pedestrians to enter the area.
As the Post visited the area in the early hours of Wednesday – before the area was cordoned off – five plainclothes police officers approached and asked staff to leave.

They did not explain why, only saying “it was not safe” to be there so late at night.

Source: South China Morning Post by Phila Siu is reporting from Dandong

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