The Asian financial crisis – 20 years later




East Asian Economies Remain Diverse

 

It is useful to reflect on whether lessons have been learnt and if the countries are vulnerable to new crises.

IT’S been 20 years since the Asian financial crisis struck in July 1997. Since then, there has been an even bigger global financial crisis, starting in 2008. Will there be another crisis?

The Asian crisis began when speculators brought down the Thai baht. Within months, the currencies of Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia were also affected. The East Asian Miracle turned into an Asian Financial Nightmare.

Despite the affected countries receiving only praise before the crisis, weaknesses had built up, including current account deficits, low foreign reserves and high external debt.

In particular, the countries had recently liberalised their financial system in line with international advice. This enabled local private companies to freely borrow from abroad, mainly in US dollars. Companies and banks in Korea, Indonesia and Thailand had in each country rapidly accumulated over a hundred billion dollars of external loans. This was the Achilles heel that led their countries to crisis.

These weaknesses made the countries ripe for speculators to bet against their currencies. When the governments used up their reserves in a vain attempt to stem the currency fall, three of the countries ran out of foreign exchange.

They went to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailout loans that carried draconian conditions that worsened their economic situation.

Malaysia was fortunate. It did not seek IMF loans. The foreign reserves had become dangerously low but were just about adequate. If the ringgit had fallen a bit further, the danger line would have been breached.

After a year of self-imposed austerity measures, Malaysia dramatically switched course and introduced a set of unorthodox policies.

These included pegging the ringgit to the dollar, selective capital controls to prevent short-term funds from exiting, lowering interest rates, increasing government spending and rescuing failing companies and banks.

This was the opposite of orthodoxy and the IMF policies. The global establishment predicted the sure collapse of the Malaysian economy.

But surprisingly, the economy recovered even faster and with fewer losses than the other countries. Today, the Malaysian measures are often cited as a successful anti-crisis strategy.

The IMF itself has changed a little. It now includes some capital controls as part of legitimate policy measures.

The Asian countries, vowing never to go to the IMF again, built up strong current account surpluses and foreign reserves to protect against bad years and keep off speculators. The economies recovered, but never back to the spectacular 7% to 10% pre-crisis growth rates.

Then in 2008, the global financial crisis erupted with the United States as its epicentre. The tip of the iceberg was the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the massive loans given out to non-credit-worthy house-buyers.

The underlying cause was the deregulation of US finance and the freedom with which financial institutions could devise all kinds of manipulative schemes and “financial products” to draw in unsuspecting customers. They made billions of dollars but the house of cards came tumbling down.

To fight the crisis, the US, under President Barack Obama, embarked first on expanding government spending and then on financial policies of near-zero interest rates and “quantitative easing”, with the Federal Reserve pumping trillions of dollars into the US banks.

It was hoped the cheap credit would get consumers and businesses to spend and lift the economy. But instead, a significant portion of the trillions went via investors into speculative activities, including abroad to emerging economies.

Europe, on the verge of recession, followed the US with near zero interest rates and large quantitative easing, with limited results.

The US-Europe financial crisis affected Asian countries in a limited way through declines in export growth and commodity prices. The large foreign reserves built up after the Asian crisis, plus the current account surplus situation, acted as buffers against external debt problems and kept speculators at bay.

Just as important, hundreds of billions of funds from the US and Europe poured into Asia yearly in search of higher yields. These massive capital inflows helped to boost Asian countries’ growth, but could cause their own problems.

First, they led to asset bubbles or rapid price increases of houses and the stock markets, and the bubbles may burst when they are over-ripe.

Second, many of the portfolio investors are short-term funds looking for quick profit, and they can be expected to leave when conditions change.

Third, the countries receiving capital inflows become vulnerable to financial volatility and economic instability.

If and when investors pull some or a lot of their money out, there may be price declines, inadequate replenishment of bonds, and a fall in the levels of currency and foreign reserves.

A few countries may face a new financial crisis.

A new vulnerability in many emerging economies is the rapid build-up of external debt in the form of bonds denominated in the local currency.

The Asian crisis two decades ago taught that over-borrowing in foreign currency can create difficulties in debt repayment should the local currency level fall.

To avoid this, many countries sold bonds denominated in the local currency to foreign investors.

However, if the bonds held by foreigners are large in value, the country will still be vulnerable to the effects of a withdrawal.

As an example, almost half of Malaysian government securities, denominated in ringgit, are held by foreigners.

Though the country does not face the risk of having to pay more in ringgit if there is a fall in the local currency, it may have other difficulties if foreigners withdraw their bonds.

What is the state of the world economy, what are the chances of a new financial crisis, and how would the Asian countries like Malaysia fare?

These are big and relevant questions to ponder 20 years after the start of the Asian crisis and nine years after the global crisis.

But we will have to consider them in another article.

By Martin Khor Global Trend

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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Singapore’s PM Lee family feud


A feud between the children of Singapore’s late founder Lee Kuan Yew has intensified. The family dispute first became public last year on the anniversary of Mr Lee’s death, when the prime minister Lee Hsien Loong’s sister, Lee Wei Ling, accused him of exploiting the late leader’s legacy for personal gain.

This time, Lee Wei Ling and another brother have publicly accused Prime Minister Lee of disobeying their father’s last wishes

 Is Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Dishonest?! 

 

 

 

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PETALING JAYA: A public spat between the late Lee Kuan Yew’s children has shattered the usually serene political landscape in Sin…

Singapore PM Lee family feud explodes into open, gets more heated


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PETALING JAYA: A public spat between the late Lee Kuan Yew’s children has shattered the usually serene political landscape in Singapore, with two siblings accusing their brother Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of abusing his powers.

Kuan Yew’s daughter Dr Lee Wei Ling and son Lee Hsien Yang accused their big brother Hsien Loong of, well, acting like “Big Brother”, with Hsien Yang going so far as to say he was fleeing the country.

“We are concerned that the system has few checks and balances to prevent the abuse of government.

“We feel big brother omnipresent. We fear the use of the organs of state against us and Hsien Yang’s wife, Suet Fern,” the two said in a six-page statement that was also posted on Facebook early yesterday morning.

Hsien Yang’s son, Li Shengwu, said the situation had become so bad that the family planned to relocate overseas.

“In the last few years, my immediate family has become increasingly worried about the lack of checks on abuse of power.

“The situation is now such that my parents have made plans to relocate to another country, a painful decision that they have not made lightly,” he said on Facebook.

Wei Ling and Hsien Yang also accused their brother of trying to establish a political dynasty and wanting to “milk” their father’s legacy.

They said Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching – the CEO of state investor Temasek Holdings – harboured political ambitions for their son Li Hongyi, who works at government agency GovTech Singapore.

The heart of the matter seems to be the siblings’ unhappiness that Hsien Loong was not following their father’s wishes in demolishing the family home at 38 Oxley Road.

Before he passed away in March 2015, Kuan Yew had already expressed his desire that the house he moved into and lived in since 1945 be demolished because he did not want it becoming a “political shrine”.

That desire was part of his last will and testament, but the current prime minister has declined to follow through.

His siblings have attributed this refusal to Hsien Loong’s political ambition.

“Indeed, Hsien Loong and Ho Ching expressed plans to move with their family into the house as soon as possible after Kuan Yew’s passing,” said Wei Ling and Hsien Yang.

“This move would have strengthened Hsien Loong’s inherited mandate for himself and his family.

“Moreover, even if Hsien Loong did not live at 38 Oxley Road, the preservation of the house would enhance his political capital,” they said.

Hsien Loong, who is travelling overseas with his family, said he was disappointed and saddened by his siblings for “publicising private family matters”.

“I am deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations that they have made.

“Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son.

“Since my father’s passing in March 2015, as the eldest son I have tried my best to resolve the issues among us within the family, out of respect for our parents.

“My siblings’ statement has hurt our father’s legacy,” Hsien Loong said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Singaporeans seem divided on the matter.

On Hsien Yang’s Facebook page, he was greeted by more criticism than praise, with some accusing him of being the one who had tainted his father’s legacy.

“A family feud that is aired so openly is a sad thing to see,” said Dolpzy Do.

On Hsien Loong’s Facebook, it was generally the opposite.

Pointing out that Kuan Yew had passed away over two years ago, Jacq Low said, “His last will should have been settled by now.”

While such a public spat is rare in Singapore, it is not unprecedented. Last year, as the island-republic commemorated the first anniversary of Kuan Yew’s death, Wei Ling went public with similar concerns.

In a family feud that played out on Facebook, she said the elaborate events were not what her father would have wanted, and that he would have cringed at such “hero worship”.

Wei Ling, a neurosurgeon, also accused Hsien Loong of abusing his power and using the anniversary to try and establish a political dynasty.

Hsien Loong replied via Facebook, saying he was “deeply saddened” by the accusations, describing them as “completely untrue”.

Source: The Star

 

PM Lee’s family feud becomes more heated

 

PETALING JAYA: The public spat between Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (pic) and his siblings became more heated Thursday, with the younger brother accusing the older of not being truthful.

The two younger children of Singapore’s founder and longest-serving premier Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, took to Facebook to air their grievances.

Hsien Yang accused his brother of not being truthful over the issue of their father’s wish to have the family home demolished.

Before he passed away in March, 2015, Lee Kuan Yew had expressed his desire that the house at 38 Oxley Road be demolished because he did not want it becoming a “political shrine.”

He had made that part of his last will and testament.

In a Facebook post, Hsien Yang compared what he said were Hsien Loong’s statements in public and those in private.

Hsien Yang said that despite the prime minister saying in public that the decision to demolish the house did not need to be taken immediately, a “secret committee” of ministers was set up to explore and make recommendations.

When Lee Kuan Yew’s will was recognised as final and legally binding, Hsien Loong did not mount a legal challenge.

However, he privately wrote to the above committee to say that there was no evidence their father knew that the demolition clause “had been reinstated into the last will,” the younger brother alleged.

Hsien Yang also claimed that the prime minister even swore this under oath in a statutory declaration.

Finally, while saying in public that he hoped the government would respect their father’s wish to have the house demolished, Hsien Loong told the committee in private that Lee Kuan Yew would have “accepted any decision to preserve it.”

“The will is final and binding. We have no confidence in Lee Hsien Loong or his secret committee,” Hsien Yang said in his Facebook post.

The tiff between Lee Kuan Yew’s children, simmering since their father’s death, had its lid blown open on Wednesday when the two younger siblings posted an explosive six-page statement saying that they had lost confidence in their elder brother.

Wei Ling and Hsien Yang also accused Hsien Loong of using the state machinery against them.

“We fear the use of the organs of state against us and Hsien Yang’s wife, Suet Fern,” they said.

Hsien Yang, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, said it had got so bad that he and his family intended to move out of the country.

Wei Ling and Hsien Yang also accused their older sibling of trying to establish a political dynasty and wanting to “milk” their father’s legacy.

They said Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching – the chief executive officer of state investor Temasek Holdings – harboured political ambitions for their son Li Hongyi.

In an immediate response on Wednesday, Hsien Loong said he was “deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations that they have made.”

“Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son,” he said, adding that he was disappointed in his siblings for publicising private family matters.

However, in a Facebook post on Thursday, his sister Wei Ling said she and her brother would not have issued a public statement if the dispute over their late father’s house was “merely a family affair”.

Source: The Star/ANN

Related Links:

PM Lee releases summary of statutory declarations over Oxley Road house

Lee Hsien Loong’s son says he is not interested in politics

Dispute with Lee Hsien Loong more than a family affair, says sister

Lee Suet Fern says she and husband Lee Hsien Yang are in process of ‘preparing to leave Singapore’

 

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Singaporeans on buying sprees for Penang prewar houses; Residents see red


Singapore sweep continues

 Republic’s real estate hunters snapping up houses outside Penang’s heritage enclave.

GEORGE TOWN: Singaporean real estate hunters with a taste for prewar properties in Penang are still on buying sprees, says an NGO.

They are snapping up houses that are located just outside the state’s heritage enclave as these properties are not accorded heritage protection by Unesco, according to George Town Heritage Action.

The biggest buyer appears to be World Class Land (WCL), which is building the tallest residential skyscraper in the planet’s southern hemisphere.

Called Australia 108 because of its 108 storeys, the Melbourne development is expected to be completed in 2019.

WCL has since December 2013 reportedly snapped up 236 prewar houses in Penang, totalling more than 250,000sq ft – the equivalent of 26 football fields.

Recently, it applied to build a 46-storey condominium tower in Gurdwara Road, just 200m from Komtar after buying 37 prewar properties in that area.

Its latest block buy appears to be 26 prewar houses on Penang Road and Bertam Lane, also across from Komtar.

The properties were owned by six descendants of Tunku Kudin (1835- 1909), the great grand uncle of the late first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, for nearly 100 years.

The offer from WCL was about RM980 per sq ft, totalling RM21mil.

Tengku Abdullah Tengku Mahadi, 61, who collected the monthly rent from the tenants on behalf of his 92-year-old father, said the deal was sealed in Thailand through one of the six heirs who spoke for all of them.

“All the heirs are in their late 80s and 90s. It will cost too much to develop the land ourselves.

“We didn’t really feel like selling. We know the new owner will change the whole place but we are all old and don’t want to stand in the way of development,” he told The Star.

He said the heirs only earned about RM50 per month from each unit when the Rent Control Act was in force.

After it was repealed in 1997, they raised the rent to about RM600 and it had stayed the same since.

WCL lawyers have sent eviction notices to the 60-odd tenants who have until end November to move out.

A subsidiary of Aspial Corporation Ltd, WCL has completed many projects in the island republic and Australia.

Aspial chief executive officer Koh Wee Seng is listed by Forbes this year as the 43rd richest man in Singapore.

George Town Heritage Action has been vociferously against the state government’s apparent lack of control over the alleged WCL buying sprees.

“This company’s business model is to buy the properties, evict the tenants, renovate or rebuild, and then drastically increase rentals,” said its co-founder Mark Lay.

At a press conference yesterday, he showed a list of 236 properties purportedly bought by WCL through several subsidiaries.

Totalling more than 250,000 sq ft, these include rows of old houses along 19 roads, including Dato Keramat, Macalister, Transfer and much of the Seven Streets precinct (known locally as Chit Tiau Lor) near Komtar.

Lay warned that if the state government allowed “one company to accumulate more than 230 prewar houses, it will kill diversity and people’s moral rights to the city”.

“Our concern is also socio-cultural. Any company can damage the fabric of George Town when they have a monopoly,” he added.

In June, The Star reported that Singaporean companies typically raise rentals by 400% to 500% after sprucing up the old houses.

In response, Penang Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo had said that the state cannot interfere with free enterprise.

By Arnold Loh The Star/ANN

Penang residents see red over Singaporeans snapping up properties

 

GEORGE TOWN: Public anger in the state is on the rise as Singaporeans continue to buy up pre-war houses here by the blocks.

NGOs and netizens are reacting negatively following The Star Online’s Facebook posting of the news yesterday.

Many are calling for stricter measures to limit foreign buying, but Penang Citizens Chant Group legal adviser Yan Lee warned that it would be useless as foreigners could sidestep such restrictions by simply forming Malaysian shell companies with local directors who are proxies or trustees.

“The corporate veil will shield them from these simple stop-gap measures. Instead, these measures end up keeping out individual foreigners who earnestly want to own property here because they just want to live in Penang.

“The Penang government is more concerned about collecting development charges. The more it allows development, the more money it collects,” he lamented.

Yan Lee was commenting on cooling measures here since 2012 that prevent foreigners from buying landed property of less than RM2mil on the island and RM1mil on the mainland.

For stratified property, the cap is not less than RM1mil both on the island and the mainland.

There is also a state approval fee of 3% over the purchase price.

State Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said in a statement yesterday that statistics had shown that these measures had reduced foreign buying of Penang property by about 50% since 2013.

George Town Heritage Action held a press conference on Thursday to reveal that Singapore developer World Class Land (WCL) had acquired 236 pre-war houses in and around the heritage zone totalling about 250,000sq ft, equal to 26 football fields.

According to the annual report of WCL’s parent company, Aspial Corporation Ltd, the properties are held by six Malaysian companies – WCL (George Town) Holdings, WCL (Magazine), WCL (Macallum), WCL (Noordin), WCL (Bertam R) and WCL (Bertam L).

In the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s online portal, there are also company records of WCL (Malaysia) and WCL (Penang).

By Arnold Loh The Star/ANN

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The Zika virus spreading to Malaysia and Singapore


Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys by researchers monitoring yellow fever. The virus got its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda where it was first discovered. It is classified as a flavivirus, which puts it in the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis viruses and dengue. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, Brazil saw 20 times more microcephaly cases in 2015 than usual, following the outbreak of Zika in the country that year.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/H5IbCDebdBM

The Zika virus, explained 

 https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/OILBAbva6QA


First Zika patient getting better

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Video: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/09/02/first-zika-patient-getting-better-doc-womans-last-blood-test-turned-out-negative-but-we-will-retest/

The first Zika patient in the country is recuperating well at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

The hospital’s infectious disease head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said the symptoms that the 58-year-old woman suffered from, including rashes, had also cleared up.

“We will be doing a blood test on her today and if it turns out to be negative, we can let her go home in a few days’ time,” he said yesterday.

He said her mild rashes cleared up in two or three days and the last blood test was negative but the hospital decided to keep her for a little longer just to ensure there would be no transmission to other people.

The blood test today was to reconfirm that she was free of Zika, he said.

The woman and her husband had visited their daughter in Singapore on Aug 19 and returned on Aug 21.

A week later, the woman developed rashes and fever, and sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang.

She was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and on Aug 31, her urine sample tested positive for the Zika virus.

Her daughter, who works and lives in Paya Lebar, Singapore, has also been infected.

The woman’s husband and other family members who lived in the same house in Ambang Botanic have yet to show any symptoms of the infection.

Dr Lee said the most common symptoms of Zika were fever, body aches, rashes and red eyes which would normally clear up within a few days.

He said that if a woman was infected by Zika, the vaginal fluids might contain the virus for up to two months after she had recovered.

“So, if she has sex with a man within the two months, the man can be infected with Zika.

“The virus can also stay in a man’s semen for up to six months after he has recovered.”

Infected pregnant women face the risk of delivering a child with microcephaly, while others might suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition.

According to the American National Institute of Neurological Disorder’s fact sheet, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralysed.

Dr Lee recommended that pregnant women who have travelled to affected countries like Brazil and Singapore go for check-ups at nearby hospitals.

By Loh foon fong, wani muthiah, joseph kaos, tho xin yi, shazni ong, christopher tan, neville spykerman, dina murad, victoria brown, mohd farhaan shah, norbaiti phaharoradzi, nabila ahmad, rebecca rajaendram, edward rajendra The Star/ANN

Take precautions when in Singapore 

 

Personal measure: Bus passenger Naizatul Takiah Ali, 21, spraying mosquito repellent on herself at the Larkin bus terminal in Johor Baru.

It is unrealistic to stop Malaysians from travelling to Singapore, but people must take precautions against mosquito bites, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

There are about 200,000 Malaysians working in Singapore, with some travelling to and fro on a daily basis, so it would be difficult to block people from going to the republic, he said.

“We have to be realistic. The more practical way to prevent the spread of the Zika virus is to take precautions against mosquito bites.

“Apply an adequate amount of mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid being bitten.

“If you can avoid visiting Singapore, then avoid.

“But this is only voluntary and not an instruction from Malaysia. Malaysians visiting the republic should take preventive measures against mosquito bites,” he said at a press conference here yesterday.

He said Malaysians who have visited Singapore and have symptoms of the virus such as fever and rashes should seek immediate attention.

Dr Subramaniam also said vehicles coming into Malaysia from Singapore, especially buses, would be sprayed with insecticide as an additional measure.

“We know this does not prevent the spread of the virus 100%, but is an additional precautionary measure on top of other methods that we have carried out throughout the country,” he added.

The minister also said pregnant women or those planning to have a child should seek advice from their doctors, as there has been a reported link between the Zika virus with microcephaly, which causes deformity in babies.

Those who are infected should abstain from having sex, or use protection, as the virus can be spread through sexual activities.

“The virus can stay in an infected man’s body for six months and for two months inside a woman’s body,” he said.

Singapore battling outbreak of Zika virus

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/WR4Fh3GanhI

Foreigners account for half of Singapore cases

SINGAPORE: Half of the Zika cases in Singapore are foreigners who live or work here, and six of them are Malaysians.

According to a report in TODAYonline.com which quoted the Singapore Ministry of Health, the news portal said that out of 115 cases, 57 are foreigners.

The largest group is 23 people from China, followed by 15 from India and 10 from Bangladesh.

Six cases are Malaysians, and one case each from Indonesia, Myanmar and Taiwan.

“All had mild illnesses. Most have recovered while the rest are recovering well,” a ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, it was reported that a Malaysian woman is believed to be the first patient infected by locally-transmitted Zika virus in Singapore.

As the 47-year-old had not travelled to Zika-affected areas recently, she was likely to have been infected in the republic. She resides at Block 102, Aljunied Crescent and works in Singapore. — Bernama

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Money, culture and the chase for Olympic gold


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https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/63BmkZeq2mo

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/o2h1d6clCeE

Although some countries offer financial incentives to its athletes, a genuine sporting culture may be the best guarantee of success at the Games.

SHOCK and awe just about sums up the stunning achievement of young Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling at the Rio Olympics.

His victory is classic David beating Goliath; he was the underdog from a tiny country that had never won an Olympic gold.

What made it all the sweeter and remarkable is that Schooling beat the mightiest, most decorated Olympian in history – American Michael Phelps who has won 23 gold medals – and set an impressive new record of 50.39 secs for the 100m butterfly event.

When news of Singapore’s first gold medal broke, it quickly overtook other stories emanating from Rio and became the talk of the world.

It eclipsed its Asean neighbours’ own Olympic gold successes: Vietnam’s shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh in the 10m air pistol competition and Thailand’s weightlifters Sopita Tanasan and Sukanya Srisurat in their individual weight classes and certainly overshadowed Malaysian diving duo Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong’s silver in the women’s synchronised 10m platform diving.

All are no small feats but there is a total of 28 sports in the Games, not counting those with multiple disciplines, and the most popular ones for a global audience are gymnastics, track and field and swimming, according to topendsports.com.

Among Asian nations competing in the Games, China and Japan are traditionally strong contenders in gymnastics and swimming although the Chinese gymnasts seem to be doing poorly this time around.

For most other Asian competitors, the sports they excel in tend to be the ones with less mass appeal like archery, shooting, judo, badminton and for some strange reason, women’s weightlifting.

Apart from the Thais, Taiwanese, Filipina and Indonesian female weightlifters have also won medals for their countries.

China remains the sporting powerhouse of Asia, sending its largest delegation of 416 athletes to Rio this year, but they have failed to defend their gold medals in sports they used to dominate like badminton and diving.

As for the glamorous track and field events, there doesn’t seem to be any Asian athlete who can challenge the likes of Usain Bolt.

Meanwhile, the other Asian powerhouse, India, with the second largest population in the world, has never done well at the Olympics, which has been the subject of intense debate among Indian and foreign sports pundits.

India also sent its biggest ever contingent of 118 sportsmen and women, and has so far won only a bronze medal in wrestling.

Winning an Olympic gold medal is the Holy Grail of sports.

The pomp that surrounds the Games gives the gold medallists unparalleled honour and prestige. And the nations they represent go into collective convulsions of ecstasy and nationalistic joy, which make their governments equally happy.

That’s why many nations pour millions into sports programmes to nurture and train promising talents and offer great financial rewards to successful Olympians.

Schooling will get S$1mil (RM3mil) from the Singapore government for his gold medal. Vietnam’s Hoang reportedly will receive US$100,000 (RM400,000), a figure, according to AFP, that is nearly 50 times greater than the country’s average national income, of around US$2,100 (RM8,400).

Malaysia, which is seeing its best ever performance in Rio, thanks to its badminton players and divers, rewards its successful athletes handsomely under its National Sports Council incentive scheme.

An Olympic gold medal winner will receive RM1mil and a monthly pension of RM5,000; a silver medallist, RM600,000 and a RM3,000 pension while a bronze winner gets RM100,000 and a RM2,000 pension.

Taiwan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand have similar monetary reward schemes. North Korea uses a carrot and stick scheme: huge rewards for medal winners and hard labour for the failed ones.

Several western countries have the same financial bait, including the United States, France, Russia and Germany, but at a lower rate.

Does it work?

The Technology Policy Institute looked for a correlation and was mindful of variables like country size and income, “since those are surely the biggest predictor of how many medals a country will win: more populous countries are more likely to have that rare human who is physically built and mentally able to become an Olympic athlete, while richer countries are more likely to be able to invest in training those people.”

The researchers found no correlation between monetary payments and medals and said it was not surprising in some countries. In the United States, for example, a US$25,000 (RM100,000) cash award would be dwarfed by million-dollar endorsements the athlete could get.

The researchers also set out to see if the results were different for countries with lower opportunities for endorsements. Their conclusion: “overall the evidence suggests that these payments don’t increase the medal count” either.

Rather, countries that do well are those with a longstanding sporting culture that values and nurtures their athletes long before they qualify for the Olympics.

That is evident in Western societies where sportsmen, even at the college level, are feted and idolised. In Asia, however, the emphasis is more on book-learning and earning prestigious degrees.

The BBC quotes Indian Olympic Association head Narayana Ramachandran as saying India’s sorry performance is more than just a shortage of cash or organisation.

“Sport has always taken a back seat vis-á-vis education. Most Indian families would prefer their children became dentists or accountants than Olympians,” he says.

But that attitude is surely changing as more Asian sportsmen and women go professional and are able to make a good living.

In Malaysia, its most popular sportsman, badminton star Datuk Lee Chong Wei, is highly successful with a number of endorsements under his belt.

For now, it is still the Western countries that dominate the Olympic medal tally table. But it’s only a matter of time before more Asian nations, once no-hopers at the Games, rise up the charts.

It’s already started. The Rio Games will go down in history as a watershed for Asean, with two member states – Singapore and Vietnam – winning their first gold medals. May it be so for Malaysia, too.

By June H.L Wong Chief Operating Officer (Content Development) The Star, Malaysia.

The writer was the former group chief editor of The Star Media Group Malaysia. This is the eighth article in a series of columns on global affairs written by top editors from members of the Asia News Network and published in newspapers across the region.

Heartbreak again for Chong Wei, Chen Long takes gold

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/63BmkZeq2mo

RIO DE JANEIRO: Lee Chong Wei, the king of Malaysian badminton, will leave the Rio de Janeiro Olympics without the crown – and so will Malaysia without the coveted gold.

The 33-year-old lost his third Olympic final after going down 18-21, 18-21 to Chen Long at the Riocentro Pavilion 4 on Saturday.

It was indeed a painful end for Malaysia as it was the third false dawn. Earlier, Malaysia had also lost in the men’s doubles and mixed doubles finals.

Malaysia thus will return home with a total of four silvers and one bronze.

The other three silvers came from Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles), Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (men’s doubles) and divers Pandelela Rinong-Cheong Jun Hoong (women’s 10m platform synchro). Cyclist Azizulhasni Awang contributed the sole bronze through the men’s keirin.

Both Chong Wei, playing in probably his last Olympics, and Chen Long went onto the court to loud cheers from their countries’ supporters.

Chong Wei, who lost to Lin Dan at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London finals, looked tentative in the beginning to allow Chen Long to open up a 4-0 lead. But he recovered his composure to lead 5-4.

After that, they traded point until it was 7-7 before Chong Wei pulled away for an 11-7 and then 14-10 lead.

But Chen Long refused to go away and managed to level at 14-14.

Twice Chong Wei surged in front but Chen Long capitalised on the Malaysian’s mistakes at the net to lead 20-17. Although world No. 1 Chong Wei managed to save one match point, his failure to return a smash gave Chen Long a 21-18 win in 35 minutes.

Oozing confidence, Chen Long was always in front in the second game – leading 4-1 and 5-2.

But Chong Wei fought back to go 8-5 up. Chen Long then went on a smashing spree, winning six points for an 11-8 advantage.

The 27-year-old world No. 2 never looked back after that as he always had at least a three-point lead.

Everything looked lost for Chong Wei as Chen Long reached 20-16. The Malaysian saved two match points but then sent the shuttle out to lose 18-21 in 38 minutes.

For Chen Long, it was his first Olympic gold to add to his two All-England and World Championships crowns.

Chong Wei can only look in envy as he’s still without a world or Olympic crown. He also lost in three World Championships finals.

Chen Long’s gold was only China’s second at these Games after Fu Haifeng-Zhang Nan triumphed in the men’s doubles.

Earlier, two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan fell from grace in probably his last Olympic outing after losing 21-15, 10-21, 17-21 to Dane Viktor Axelson in the 70-minute bronze medal playoff.

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Wira Dani, son of former Finance Minister Daim, declared a bankrupt


PETALING JAYA: Datuk Md Wira Dani Abdul Daim, who just recently got appointed as Reliance Pacific Bhd executive director, has been declared a bankrupt by the high court of Singapore.

According to reports, the son of former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin failed to settle some S$1.65mil (RM4.9mil) in debts that he owed Maybank Kim Eng Securities.

Following the court order, Wira Dani stepped down as non-independent and non-executive director of Singapore-based gold company LionGold Corp Ltd.

He had also ceased to be the executive chairman of investment and investment advisory firm ISR Capital Ltd since Monday.

In a statement filed with the Singapore Exchange, Wira Dani indicated that he intended to settle personal affairs following the court bankruptcy order, which he intends to resolve within the next 30 days.

Maybank secured a high court judgment against Wira Dani in March to reclaim a debt of $2.459mil (RM7.3mil) that he owed.

This was said to have been borrowed by him to buy LionGold shares on a leveraged account.

Wira Dani, together with Daim’s wife Toh Puan Mahani Idris, emerged as substantial shareholders of Reliance Pacific, which operates the famous Avillion Hotel in Port Dickson, at end-July 2016 through their private vehicle Ibu Kota Developments Sdn Bhd.

Ibu Kota owns a 30.96% stake in the company that has extensive interest in the tourism, property development and hospitality sectors.

Wira Dani was named the executive director of Reliance Pacific on July 27.

At present, he is also a non-executive director of GCM Resources PLC, a company listed on the London Stock Exchange and chairman of Astute Capital Ltd, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

LionGold was among the three companies whose drastic decline in share prices in October 2013 wiped out some S$6.9bil of their market capitalisation in three days.

The event led to an official probe on suspected irregularities, and lawsuits were filed by various parties.

LionGold and the other two companies, namely Blumont Group and Asiasons Capital, claimed they were unaware of the reasons for the plunge of their shares.

LionGold’s market cap stood at S$26.9mil as of June 2015, compared with S$1.59bil at its peak in August 2013.

Wira Dani had reportedly agreed to pay the bank via instalments. However, by August 2014, he had repaid only S$100,000.

Maybank in April accepted the offer from his lawyer, Woo Tchi Chu, to settle the debt, with S$1mil to be paid in two tranches within the month and the rest by end-June.

Maybank’s Allen & Gledhill lawyer Vincent Leow had made clear that bankruptcy was an option in the event of a default by Wira Dani.

In the event, Maybank received only about S$835,950, leaving a shortfall of S$1.65mil and triggering the bankruptcy move.

Wira Dani is said to have property in Singapore, according to court documents filed.

Maybank refused to comment when contacted last night, citing client confidentiality.

– The Star/Asia News Network

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