Impact of manifestos policy lead from Malaysia’s General Electioon (GE14)


Market impact: The reaction of investors following the past two GEs is an example of how investors value certainty and how Bursa will be affected in the event of a Pakatan victory this time around.

 

Policy directions from political pledges have business and economic consequences.

EVER since Parliament was dissolved ahead of polling for the 14th general election (GE14), the combustible campaigning period has been mirrored by the volatile stock market.

The FBM KLCI hit an all-time high of 1,895 points on April 19, just a week after the dissolution of Parliament, but has since tracked lower as election day nears.

With the market edgy prior to polling day, UOB KayHian in a note on the election says that the election factor is a short-term sway phenomenon.

“While unexpected election results can be a significant market sway factor in the near term, such market reactions have been short-lived in the past.

“For example, when the Barisan Nasional’s control of parliamentary seats surprisingly slipped below two-thirds during GE12, the FBM KLCI plunged by as much as 9.5% in a day, triggering a trading circuit breaker at the worst level,” it says.

The research house notes that the FBM KLCI recouped most of the losses within a couple of weeks, once investors were assured of the continuity of political stability and business-friendly policies.

Both Barisan and Pakatan Harapan are mindful of maintaining business-friendly policies, it says. “Pakatan has on various occasions highlighted that it will generally uphold the sanctity of government contracts should it win the election. Eventually, equity markets will be dictated by external and domestic economic fundamentals and liquidity considerations.”

Market volatility and fierce campaigning do go hand-in-hand, given the uncertainties the outcome of the GE will bear on the stock market and businesses. Experts have said that the direction of the ringgit and also the economy will be determined after polling day as the country charts its political, along with economic and business, direction for the next five years.

“If Barisan wins, it will be seen as a vote for continuity. It will be business as usual, given the various plans and policies the Barisan government has laid out in the past and for the future,” says an economist.

“For businessmen, that mindset of what to expect is important for future planning and direction and they will like not to have any anxiety on what to expect in the future.”

The economic and business direction

The Barisan government, which has been in power since independence, has a track record of what it has done and will do for the country when it comes to business and economic planning.

The various Malaysia plans, budgets and policies announced over the decades have plotted the economic direction of the country. But in recent times, some will look at its manifesto as to the future policy direction the country will adopt should it retain power.

Policy promises are something more voters pay attention to these days, and judging by the manifestos of Barisan and even the Opposition, their documents are detailed with measures they will carry out in the impending five years.

For the Barisan government, the launch of its manifesto was done with much pomp, with it even detailing how it has fulfilled 99.4% of its 2013 manifesto pledges. Much of the focus of its latest manifesto is on the people, in order to lift their incomes and well-being.

These promises include raising the minimum wage in phases to at least RM1,500 within five years to setting up a Fair Works Commission to ensure that the salary levels of private-sector workers are more equitable.

BR1M recipients who enrol in higher education institutes will, meanwhile, receive a one-off assistance of RM1,500 plus there are a slew of measures for the country’s Felda settlers and their family members who are spread out over 317 settlements in 54 parliamentary seats nationwide in the manifesto.

Barisan is also promising to create three million jobs, and among the measures promised to help achieve this is by speeding up the development of the Malaysian Vision Valley, a 150,000ha area that is projected to create 1.3 million job opportunities.

On housing, the manifesto pledges a number of measures including setting up a special bank to facilitate loans for affordable and low-cost housing priced RM300,000 and below.

In addition, tax incentives or development funds will be provided to encourage banks and housing developers to offer rent-to-own schemes.

CIMB Research in a note on Barisan manifesto points out the key pledges which include low-income households, Felda settlers, females, the elderly and farmers.

It points out that the key promises include a top-up on the BR1M payments, raising the minimum wage to RM1,500 within five years, potential revisions in personal and corporate income taxes, expansion of affordable housing aid, special incentives and funds for Felda settlers, and subsidised public transport passes, broadband and other consumer goods/services.

It says that the additional BR1M payments will amount to at least RM3.71bil or 0.25% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, which comes on top of the prior week’s civil servant pay hikes of RM1.46bil effective July 1.

“New spending commitments imply that the budget deficit is unlikely to improve significantly from the target of 2.8% of GDP despite windfalls from higher oil prices and GDP growth,” CIMB says.

It believes the market is expecting the ruling coalition, Barisan, to win the majority of the Parliament seats.

“We view Barisan’s widely expected win as neutral to positive for the market. The stock market’s performance post-election will depend on the degree of selling pressure during the campaigning period and the poll results.”

What the additional cash injection to households will mean is a lift in consumer spending. Consumption is a big driver of the economy and the BR1M payments have been one of the reasons for the steady performance of domestic demand.

“Furthermore, the economy will get a lift from the lift-off from projects that have already been identified for construction. The MRT, the high-speed rail between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and the construction of Bandar Malaysia will be some of the projects that will lift the construction sector and also the economy,” an economist says.

During the years when pledges from the past Barisan manifesto were being carried out, the economy had its ups and downs given the crunch felt by the collapse in crude oil prices.

The GDP, nonetheless, during the past five years has been positive, given the rollout of projects during that period. Growth came in at 5.9% in 2017 and was 4.2% in 2016, 5% in 2015, 6% in 2014 and 4.7% in 2013.

There have been concerns that spending pledges contained in the manifesto would leave a hole in government finances, but indicators so far do not point to that being a problem.

The government’s debt-to-GDP ratio has fallen below the self-prescribed ceiling of 55% to 51% and going by what the data shows in the first quarter, government finances seem to be holding up.

Nomura in a note says that Malaysia’s fiscal deficit was RM11.2bil in the first quarter of 2018, or 3.3% of GDP, which was below its forecast of 6%.

“This is smaller than any of the first-quarter deficits in the previous five years,” it says.

Nomura says revenue collection appears to have exceeded expectations significantly, surging by 16.5% year-on-year in the first quarter and was likely boosted by higher oil prices and possibly some lagged effect from strong GDP growth last year.

“However, more surprisingly, spending appears to have been quite restrained, falling by 2% despite the GE on May 9. Spending details have yet to be released but such restraint may prove temporary with the government likely concentrating the use of its fiscal firepower closer to election day,” it says.

“This likely explains the government’s confidence in maintaining its 2018 deficit target of 2.8% of GDP despite announcements of additional cash handouts around the election.

“While we continue to expect government spending to spike in the second quarter, the surprising outturn in the first quarter suggests that fiscal tightening in the second half may be less severe than we currently forecast,” it says. By Jagdev Singh Sidhu The Star

Election a short-term market sway phenomenon

THE consensus is for the Barisan Nasional to win the upcoming general election (GE) to be held next Wednesday. But what if Pakatan Harapan were to win?

The immediate implications of a Pakatan win will be on the financial markets. The other implication is the impact in the mid to long-term of a Pakatan win on the economy.

The financial markets

There is no precedence for a win by the parliamentary Opposition in Malaysian history, and because investors prefer certainty, the financial markets are sure to be volatile.

The reaction of investors following the past two GEs is example of how investors value certainty and how Bursa Malaysia will be affected in the event of a Pakatan victory this time around.

The local bourse’s benchmark, the FBM KLCI, slipped 9.5% on the first day of trading after the 2008 election, which was held on a Saturday. This was after Barisan lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time and also lost control of five state legislatures.

In 2013, the stock market fell the week before the election on speculation of an Opposition victory at the federal level. That was the year when many felt sure that Barisan would lose. The Barisan clung on to power but lost the popular vote. The stock market rallied.

While there certainly was a reaction by investors, it must be noted that the Malaysian financial markets, including the stock market, do not act in isolation.

In 2008, fund flows were also influenced by broader movements in the global markets made volatile by the global financial crisis.

“Don’t forget that news flow from the US markets was bad on a daily basis,” a fund manager with an emerging-market portfolio points out.

Shortly after the 2008 election, Bear Stearns Companies Inc, an investment bank, was taken over by another investment bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, in an operation largely directed by the US Federal Reserve (Fed), which was afraid of what the failure of a Wall Street institution would do to market confidence.

The fund manager tells StarBizWeek that investors just took the opportunity to offload riskier emerging-market assets following the outcome of the election.

“It’s normal to point to market swings either way to domestic factors but in reality, for the index to move, institutional shareholders must react and they rarely do so on just domestic factors, especially in that period of time,” he says.

The same reasoning goes for currency movements. The ringgit’s weakness in the past month has been blamed on investor jitters prior to the upcoming election, but pressure on the currency is really coming from rising US bond yields.

Investors are repositioning on market speculation of four instead of three US interest rate hikes and this has had an impact on emerging-market currencies as well as equity markets.

Although the Fed left the benchmark interest rate unchanged in a recent meeting, officials say that inflation is close to the 2% target. The market expects the Fed to raise the federal funds rate a second time in June when it next meets.

How this works is that investors are anticipating that new US government bonds will now be issued with a higher coupon rate, which is the interest that is paid out annually on the bonds because of the higher interest rates. Also, because of the anticipation, the earlier issued bonds, with a lower coupon rate, will now be traded at a lower price, and because there is an inverse relationship between bond prices and yields, there is a rise in bond yields.

This is why the benchmark 10-year US Treasuries yield is now higher, because the price has dropped, causing US bond yields to narrow against the yields of similar-tenor bonds of foreign government issuers.

For example, the yields between the 10-year Malaysian Government Securities and the 10-year Treasuries have narrowed, making Treasuries – because of its safe-haven status and underlying currency strength – a more attractive asset.

An interest rate hike also means that inflationary pressure is picking up because of economic growth and that will attract investors too.

The steady US economic outlook, US dollar strength and safe-haven status at a time of much geopolitical uncertainty are also attractive factors. Currency strategists point to US dollar movements as more important when taking into account the US dollar/ringgit pairing. The decisions of US policymakers as well as other external factors such as trade will have more weight on the ringgit’s direction rather than purely domestic factors.

Even the rising oil price has not been able to stem the weakness in the ringgit, and that is because of the investors repositioning rather than any inherent political risks.

However, a political analyst did say that without the higher oil price, the ringgit could have seen a steeper fall. “It could be that rising US bond yields is the reason for the ringgit’s weakness but I believe that political factors are at play too and that without the higher oil price, the ringgit would have fallen even more,” he says.

The economy

A Pakatan government will have to find a middle path in unravelling some of the more unpopular policies, while ensuring policy continuity and assuaging the concerns of investors.

Both Barisan and Pakatan claim to have the people’s welfare at heart, and both claim they want to alleviate the cost-of-living issue that Malaysians have been grappling with in recent years. The Pakatan coalition is also calling for the shaping of the nation’s economy in a fair and just manner.

The Pakatan promises must take into account the urgent need for the economy to move up the value chain. In one respect, a focus on high-end manufacturing will have a positive spillover effect, as such initiatives will attract high-end service jobs including banking and financial services as well as research and development opportunities.

The Pakatan manifesto launched in early March includes 10 promises to be implemented within 100 days of winning the election. Among the promises are the abolishment of the goods and services tax, reintroducing the petrol subsidy and increasing the minimum wage to RM1,500 by their first term in office.

Moody’s Investor Service analysts say in a report released yesterday that the implications on the country’s credit standing will be determined by the impact of the election results on existing government policies, with particular regard to fiscal consolidation and debt trend.

“Ahead of the election, Barisan and the key opposition, Pakatan, have both unveiled their manifestos and specific spending programmes targeted at key voter bases. These measures include raising the minimum wage, greater cash handouts and relief for Federal Land Development Authority settlers, among others,” they say.

The rating agency, which has maintained the country’s A3 credit profile with a “stable” outlook, says the impact of these programmes on the sovereign credit will depend on how they are funded and whether they have a negative effect by delaying the government’s ongoing efforts at fiscal consolidation.

“Economically, these programmes are likely to boost consumption over the near term but against the backdrop of Malaysia’s export-driven growth, the impact is not likely to be material and could be offset by inflation,” they note.

Another crucial promise is to launch detailed studies of multi-billion-ringgit projects awarded to foreign countries. This particular promise is likely aimed at China, which has become a major investor, if not the largest in recent years, with not only infrastructure projects but also property development.

Pakatan will have to tread carefully where reviewing contracts is concerned, as the sanctity of contracts is crucial to investor confidence.

“Any review of the mega-projects will have to be done in a tactful manner. Malaysia is not the United States, we don’t have the heft, so we need to be careful,” an analyst says.- by Fintan Ng The Star

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BN loss will see bad future ?


Towering achievement: The Tun Razak Exchange is one of the projects Ng says will be halted if the Opposition wins the polls. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: An analyst has warned of a bleak economic future for Malaysia if the Opposition is voted into power in GE14.

About – CREATE – Centre for Research, Advisory & Technology

Ng Yeen Seen | 世界经济论坛

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Centre for Research, Advisory and Technology chief executive officer Ng Yeen Seen (pic) said Malaysia will be sidelined by China from the Belt and Road Initiative.

She said the Opposition will cease all China-linked projects such as the East Coast Rail Link, Tun Razak Exchange and the Country Garden Forest City development.

Malaysia’s palm oil industry problems will then be compounded with a boycott by China, she said.

She said many will be expected to lose their jobs if China decides to use another route to bypass Port Klang.

The abolition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will also result in a huge loss in revenue for the Government, she said.

According to her, government employees will be expected to lose their jobs as Petronas is no longer a formidable force like it was in the 80s, 90s and in the first decade of 2000.

“The Government will have to find alternative sources,” she said in a statement yesterday.

She added that this will result in national debt rising as it did in the 80s and 90s as privatisation will see a significant increase to sell more assets to “friendly parties” via cheap loans guaranteed by the Govern­ment.

Furthermore, as the Opposition has vowed to abolish tolls, Ng said the Government will have to borrow money from the United States, for example, in its plans to buy back these assets.

Ng said this was because the Government no longer had the oil money it once had in the past, coupled with China and the Middle East not being as strong as they were due to falling oil prices.

Although the abolition of BR1M will result in the B40 group being encouraged to work in newly privatised companies, she said this will hamper the nation’s dreams of becoming a high-income nation.

“To be globally competitive, these privatised companies will have to keep costs low and our high-income nation dreams will be destroyed,” she said, adding that foreign workers will return to compete with locals.

She pointed out that this will result in Industry 4.0 modernisation not happening and the country falling behind nations such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia by 2023.- The Star

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Malaysia needs structural reforms says global investor


Middle-income trap, brain drain and high public service spending among Malaysia’s risks

Cheah(pic) thinks the local stock market could go up by between 5% to 10% this year while the ringgit, which has mostly been on an uptrend in recent times, is “still down quite a lot”, against the US dollar.

 

 
Middle-income trap, brain drain and high public service spending among Malaysia’s risks

KUALA LUMPUR: A renowned global investor has called for structural reforms in Malaysia, saying that the country faces “very real” structural issues.

Penang-born Datuk Seri Cheah Cheng Hye (pic) who left Malaysia decades ago counts the middle-income trap, brain drain and high public service spending as current risks to the country.

Based in Hong Kong as the chairman and co-chief investment officer of fund and asset management group Value Partners Group for over two decades now, Cheah who helps manage over US$16bil in funds, however concedes that Malaysia remains a country with huge potential and opportunities.

“I don’t think we should underestimate the importance and attractiveness of Malaysia but what I am saying is that if we don’t want to be stuck forever (being) a so-called middle-income country, we need structural reforms,” he told StarBiz in a recent interview.

“Or maybe… we do want to be stuck because it is a comfortable position and because then, we can make a lot of compromises.”

“ (If that’s the case), we should be frank and say it, don’t pretend that we want to be an advanced country because that requires certain sacrifices.”

“The reality is that we are getting less and less competitive, we ranked number 23 in the latest Global Competitiveness report ,behind France and Australia which are developed countries. (Number 23) is not good enough for a developing country,” said Cheah, who recently made it to the top 40 richest Malaysians list.

Emphasising the issue of brain drain, Cheah, a former financial journalist and equities analyst said Malaysia could perhaps emulate India in this area where the concept of an Indian national overseas card has been introduced.

“I am told there are more than one million Malaysians overseas – (people like) entrepreneurs, these are exactly the type of people we want to stay here but they are not.

“We could introduce a new type of card called the Malaysian national overseas card for Malaysians who have chosen to leave the country and become citizens elsewhere.”

This card will give these Malaysian-born individuals no voting rights but will allow them to come back to work and invest here like everyone else, he said.

Cheah said this could help re-attract talent and there will be no political price to pay, because these people cannot vote here nor transfer this card to their children who would likely be foreigners.

“Some may actually come back, because it is not always greener on the other side… but you must make it easy enough (for them to come back).”

Cheah also pointed out that the amount Malaysia spends on public service is “very high” by any standards.

“Quoting from memory, about 30% of government spending is on civil service salaries and 16.5% of all employment in this country comprise civil servant jobs.

“No matter how you explain it, this is abnormally high ; something that I have learnt from my stay in Hong Kong is, keep the government as small as possible.”

He said although the civil service segment here appears to be bloated, it would be “unrealistic” to fire civil servants.

“Instead, maybe we can consider freezing and redeploying resources.

“Like any corporation, if you have too high a headcount, you freeze hiring and you redeploy people to where they are needed,” Cheah said.

Separately, Cheah, whose investments are mostly China-centric believes that Myanmar could be the next big thing.

“Nowadays, I like Myanmar because it is still cheap.

“It has about 55 million people but its gross domestic product (GDP) is only about US$65bil, Malaysia’s GDP is probably about US$320bil.

“Myanmar has enormous potential, at last they are emerging , gradually reconnecting with the world, they have (a lot of ) raw materials and are in a good position as one of the significant Belt and Road countries, China will go out of its way to invest there.”

Cheah said he would like to set up a Myanmar fund to invest in the country and is in the process of studying this possibility.

Among markets in Asia, Malaysia to Cheah, is “moderately attractive”.

He said consumer sentiment here was finally improving after it took a beating largely due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) back in 2015 plus there are some “interesting corporate restructuring taking place.”

Also, it is General Election year which going by history, tends to send the market higher, he said.

“I think there are good arguments why the Malaysian market is good this year but the arguments are not strong enough to result in a very strong market – and there’s also a global environment that’s not as good as last year.”

“I think the US administration is now focusing on globalisation and world trade and it seems to be moving in the direction of conflict with China over trade.

“If there is a China-US trade war, Malaysia will suffer collateral damage because we are a medium-sized player in a global supply chain, so it will be very disruptive,” Cheah said.

Upside for the Malaysian market could also be limited this year, he said, because its current valuation is relatively high at over 16 times price to earnings.

Cheah thinks the local stock market could go up by between 5% to 10% this year while the ringgit, which has mostly been on an uptrend in recent times, is “still down quite a lot”, against the US dollar.

The local unit appreciated by 8.6% against the dollar last year after losing some 4.5%, a year earlier.

At last look, it was traded at 3.9395 against the greenback.

By Yvonne Tan The Staronline
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Malaysia to end cronyism?


https://youtu.be/vmqElJnDURI

//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5717349859001

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has vowed to end “crony capitalists” whose wealth came at the cost of ordinary Malaysians, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister said lessons had been learnt from past mistakes in planning Malaysia’s economic transformation, after confronting many “legacy issues” along the way.

“Some of the country’s development under a former leader came with an unnecessary price tag, in the form of a class of crony capitalists,” he said in his keynote address at Invest Malaysia 2018 yesterday.

Citing public transport as an example, Najib said massive overhauls had to be done to rectify the issue.

“For decades, public transport was neglected. It was incoherent, with different owners, different systems and certainly no integration

“One man’s obsession with the idea of a national car – which is now being turned around under international joint ownership – led to Malaysia lacking an efficient public transport system.

“This was a serious obstacle to achieve high-income status and for Kuala Lumpur to be a world-class capital,” he said.

Although no name was mentioned throughout his speech, it was an apparent dig at former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib also said that during this time, the Government had signed independent power producer concessions that were lopsided.

“Consumers had to pay far more for energy than they should have, even for energy they were not using.

“This was a real burden to the people, so we renegotiated these concessions – and determined that in the future, we would not allow private companies to earn excessively at the expense of ordinary Malaysians,” he said.

Najib also pointed out that the ringgit had been pegged against the US dollar for “far too long”.

“Investors and global markets lost confidence in us, and it took a long time to win that back. That was a very heavy cost to the country,” he said, stressing that the Government would never repeat that measure.

He also spoke on the challenges at state-owned institutions, such as 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which were amplified and used as a tool to suggest that Malaysia’s economy was collapsing.

“I’m not going to brush over this issue. There were indeed failings at the company, there were lapses of governance. There was a valid cause for concern.

“This is why I ordered one of the most comprehensive and detailed investigations in Malaysia’s corporate history, one that involved multiple lawful authorities, including a bipartisan parliamentary body.

“Their findings were taken on board and the company’s board was dissolved, its management team changed and its operations reviewed,” he said.

On another note, Najib rubbished claims that Malaysia was welcoming foreign direct investments (FDIs) by selling out the nation’s sovereignty.

“My Government will never sacrifice an inch of our sovereignty,” he said, adding that while RM63bil in FDI stock came from China and Hong Kong, there was more from Japan at RM70bil.

“You don’t hear anyone warning that we are selling our country to the Japanese.

“Of course not. They are most welcome here. So are investors from Africa, the Americas, China, the European Union, India, Saudi Arabia and around the world,” he said.

Malaysia continues to improve in three key areas

Moving forward: Najib attending the Invest Malaysia 2018 launch together with (from left) Bursa Malaysia Bhd CEO Datuk Seri Tajuddin Atan, Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Chief Secretary Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, Bursa Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Amirsham Abdul Aziz and Malayan Banking Bhd chairman Datuk Mohaiyani Shamsudin in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will continue to develop three key areas – transparency, accountability and efficiency – to attract more investments, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister observed that the country’s excellent economic and financial fundamentals had greatly benefitted local and foreign investors, providing them with stability, strength and certainty.

“We will continue to make our country even more business- and market-friendly, which means we are always working to improve transparency, accountability and efficiency.

“The Securities Commission, Bursa Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Finance Ministry have continuously introduced and supported measures to increase the dynamism of our capital market.

“Towards this objective, I can assure you that we can expect further measures in the near future,” he said in his keynote address at Invest Malaysia 2018 here yesterday.

The two-day annual event is jointly organised by Bursa Malaysia Bhd and Maybank. A total of 61 local companies, with a combined market capitalisation of RM767.6bil were featured in the event.

The Prime Minister also cited figures that justified the confidence in Malaysia shown by investors and global institutions.

“Our total trade grew strongly by 20.8% between January and November last year, while in November alone, gross exports reached double-digit growth of 14.4%, with the highest receipts ever recorded, at RM83.5bil.

“Last year, foreign net fund inflow recorded a positive RM10.8bil, the highest since 2012, while corporate bond and new sukuk issuance reached RM111.2bil for 11 months of the year, close to 30% higher than the whole of 2016,” he said.

Najib also observed that Malaysia has enjoyed years of strong growth, with figures that most developed economies “could only dream of”, even during times of economic uncertainty.

“In fact, last year Malaysia exceeded all expectations, with the World Bank having to revise its estimate for our growth upwards not once, not twice, but three times – to 5.8%,” he said.

Najib added the World Economic Global Competitiveness index for 2017 and 2018 rate Malaysia very highly out of 137 countries.

The country is ranked third for Strength of Investor Protection, fifth for Pay and Productivity, fifth for the low Burden of Government Regulation and 14th for the Quality of Education System.

“The International Monetary Fund has also praised our sound macroeconomic policy responses in the face of significant headwinds and risks.

“The World Bank also recently confirmed that it believes Malaysia is on track, and that we are expected to achieve high-income status in the next few years,” he said.

Source: The Staronline

 

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Chinese are the unsung heroes of South East Asia: Robert Kuok Memoirs


They are the most amazing economic ants on Earth, ‘Sugar King’ writes in memoir

Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70year career. Robert Kuok

The overseas Chinese were the unsung heroes of the region, having helped to build South East Asia to what it is today, said Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok (pic).

He said that it was the Chinese immigrants who tackled difficult task such as planting and tapping rubber, opening up tin mines, and ran small retail shops which eventually created a new economy around them.

“It was the Chinese who helped build up Southeast Asia. The Indians also played a big role, but the Chinese were the dominant force in helping to build the economy.

“They came very hungry and eager as immigrants, often barefooted and wearing only singlets and trousers. They would do any work available, as an honest income meant they could have food and shelter.

“I will concede that if they are totally penniless, they will do almost anything to get their first seed capital. But once they have some capital, they try very hard to rise above their past and advance their reputations as totally moral, ethical businessmen,” Kuok said based on excerpts of his memoir reported in the South China Morning Post .

“Robert Kuok, A Memoir’ is set to be released in Malaysia on Dec 1.

Kuok said the Chinese immigrants were willing to work harder than anyone else and were willing to “eat bitterness”, hence, were the most amazing economic ants on earth.

In the extracted memoir published by the South China Morning Post, Kuok, pointed out that if there were any businesses to be done on earth, one can be sure that a Chinese will be there.

“They will know whom to see, what to order, how best to save, how to make money. They don’t need expensive equipment or the trappings of office; they just deliver.

“I can tell you that Chinese businessmen compare notes every waking moment of their lives. There are no true weekends or holidays for them. That’s how they work. Every moment, they are listening, and they have skilfully developed in their own minds – each and every one of them – mental sieves to filter out rubbish and let through valuable information.

“Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70-year career,” he said.

“They flourish without the national, political and financial sponsorship or backing of their host countries. In Southeast Asia, the Chinese are often maltreated and looked down upon. Whether you go to Malaysia, Sumatra or Java, the locals call you Cina – pronounced Chee-na – in a derogatory way,” he said.

He added that the Chinese had no “fairy godmothers” financial backers.

“Yet, despite facing these odds, the overseas Chinese, through hard work, endeavour and business shrewdness, are able to produce profits of a type that no other ethnic group operating in the same environment could produce,” he said.

Kuok ultimately attributed the Chinese survivability in Southeast Asia to its cultural strength.

“They knew what was right and what was wrong. Even the most uneducated Chinese, through family education, upbringing and social environment, understands the ingredients and consequences of behaviour such as refinement, humility, understatement, coarseness, bragging and arrogance,” he said.

 

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Malaysia’s economy: stronger but eroding purchasing power


The story is the same everywhere – the rising cost of living has not been accompanied by an increase in wages.

HERE we go again – another set of impressive growth figures. Bank Negara has announced Malaysia’s latest economic growth at a commendable 6.2% in the third quarter of 2017.

The pace of economic growth for the three months up to September was faster than the 5.8% registered in the second quarter of the year.

This growth rate was the fastest since June 2014.

On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted basis, the Malaysian economy posted a growth of 1.8% against 1.3% in the preceding quarter, according to the Statistics Department.

Malaysia’s robust economic growth has been attributed to private-sector spending and a continued strong performance in exports.

To quote Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim last Friday: “Expansion was seen across all economic sectors.”

But try explaining this impressive economic growth rate to the average salaried worker struggling to pay his monthly household bills.

Stretching the ringgit is especially great for those living in urban areas, and Malaysia is increasingly becoming urbanised.

The story is the same everywhere – the rising cost of living has not been accompanied by an increase in wages.

Compounding matters is the depreciation of the ringgit, reducing the purchasing power of the ordinary folk. They can’t buy the same amount of food as they used to previously.

Employers are being forced to cut operating costs to match declining profits.

Job security is becoming paramount. Many are fearful of losing their jobs, as companies cut cost to cope with the challenging business landscape.

And the reality is that many companies are not hiring, as evident from the unemployment rate of 3.4%.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has cautioned that more people would be out of a job this year due to the current economic challenges.

Apart from the challenging landscape, technology has disrupted several brick-and-mortar businesses, forcing them to change their way of doing business.

According to MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, economic challenges will compel bosses to review their workers’ requirements.

While official statistics show that the economy is charting a strong growth path, the trickle-down effect is not being felt.

Why is the sentiment on the ground different from what the politicians and officials are telling us? Why is there a disconnect in the economy?

Are the figures released by the government officials more accurate and authoritative compared with the loud grumblings on the ground that are anecdotical in nature devoid of proper findings?

We hear reports of supermarkets and hypermarkets closing down, but could that be because their business model no longer works as more Malaysians turn to online shopping, with e-commerce companies announcing huge jumps in traffic?

It is the same with the malls – retail outlets are reporting lower sales and this is compounded by the fact that there is an oversupply of malls.

International restaurant chains such as Hong Kong’s dim sum outlet Tim Ho Wan and South Korean bakery Tous Les Jours and South Korean barbeque restaurant Bulgogi Brothers have ceased operations.

But then again, it could be that their offerings and prices had failed to compete effectively against the local choices.

According to the central bank, demand is anchored in private-sector spending.

“On the supply side, the services and manufacturing sectors remain the key drivers of growth,” Muhammad said.

Looking ahead, the governor said that the economy this year is poised to register strong growth and likely to hit the upper end of the official target of 5.2%-5.7%.

The trickle-down effect is not being felt simply because there is uneven growth in the various sectors of the economy.

The property sector, which provides the biggest multiplier effect, continues to be in the doldrums.

The weak ringgit has had a big impact on the price of food, especially processed food and beverages that make up 74.3% of Malaysian household spending.

It was reported that Malaysia had imported a whopping RM38bil worth of food between January and October last year.

In recent weeks, the ringgit has strengthened to about RM4.16 against the US dollar. But it is still far from RM3.80 to the dollar and the outlook of the currency remains uncertain.

We can’t even hold our heads up against the Thai baht and Indonesian rupiah – two currencies that have appreciated against the ringgit.

The headline economic numbers are showing good growth, but Malaysians’ purchasing power has dropped and our living standards have eroded. That is the bottom line. We are living in denial if we do not admit this.

This column first appeared in StarBiz Premium.
Source: On the beat by Wong Chun Hai, TheStaronline

 

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Bitcoin must not in your retirement financial planning portfolio


Bitcoin investments have undeniably become a trend among savvy investors in search of the golden goose, but one financial planner is against the use of it as part of the financial planning portfolio for retirement.

Max Growth Wealth Education Sdn Bhd managing director Nicholas Chu said one should not use bitcoin as part of the retirement portfolio and the public must be well aware of the risk in bitcoin trading before getting in.

“It is not asset-backed, it is very unsecure. It is, basically, you want to participate in the future changes. It’s not a proper financial planning way. It is just an experimental thing that you want to go through in this era, but it is not a proper investment product,” he told SunBiz.

“I definitely don’t agree if they use this for their financial planning. But for those who are able to try new ventures, they can go ahead provided they have extra money. If this doesn’t affect their existing financial planning, then I’ll leave it to them. We need to tell them the pros and cons of this investment. It’s up to the clients to do the final decision,” he said.

Chu cautioned on the uncertainties of bitcoin trading, which is driven by market forces.
“It is beyond anybody’s control, all the participants contribute to the bitcoin value. From that, I can say that there are a lot of uncertainties in the future,” he said.

Nonetheless, with the setting up of a few bitcoin exchanges, Chu noted that there will be demand and supply with tradeable markets available.

Bitcoin was the best-performing currency in 2015 and 2016, with a rise of 35.8% and 126.2% respectively.

Year to date, bitcoin prices have leaped more than three times. It stood at US$2,840 (RM12,140) as at 5pm last Friday.

Bitcoins are by the far the most popular cryptocurrency, which exists almost wholly in the digital realm and has no asset backing it. Bitcoin generation, known as mining, while open to anyone with a “mining application” on their computer, needs a great deal of computing power to solve complex algorithms which are later verified with the entire bitcoin network.

Colbert Low, founder of bitcoinmalaysia.com, said the recent spike in bitcoin prices could be partly due to the legalisation of bitcoin by the Japanese government.

He is unsure if the sharp rise in bitcoin prices will create a price bubble, but stressed that one cannot judge its price movement based on the “old economic theory”.

“This is a new economy based on a different model. It’s very hard to say,” Low opined, noting that there has been a growing number of retail outlets that accept bitcoin.

He foresees the usage of bitcoin propagating, especially in different types of payment methods.

However, Low opined that there will not be any “big movement” in the local market if the regulators do not regulate bitcoin.

“Our new Bank Negara governor is forward thinking and he is very much into fintech, technology and innovation. So there would definitely be improvement,” Low said.

The positive development of blockchain will be a catalyst for the growth of bitcoin, he added.

“Blockchain is a real thing that will change the way the IP system is architectured. We need to go down to a deeper level to see how blockchain can change the current problem and solve it.

“There are a lot of projects right now, over 500 companies are looking at this (blockchain) right now. Even IBM, HP and Microsoft are looking at it.”

Blockchain refers to distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, secure from tampering and revision. Bitcoin is just an application or software that runs on blockchain technology.

“If you look at blockchain technology, government agencies like the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are looking at it. This is the best way to secure your data,” Low said, noting that the usage of bitcoin will help reduce operating cost.

Currently, there are about 16 million bitcoins in the market and the number is capped at 21 million.

Bank Negara has said that it does not regulate the cryptocurrency and advised the public to be cautious of the risks associated with the usage of such digital currency.

Source: By Lee Weng Khuen sunbiz@thesundaily.com

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