Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Still lot to answer for, too premature for KJ's return

The Tengku Mahkota Johor praised Khairy Jamaluddin last night on Keluar Sekejap podcast and suggested he return back to UMNO. Unfortunately for Khairy, his charm exercise was short-lived and  feel good factor immediately doused.  

It was yesterday that the PAC announced their findings on the over purchase of Sinovac vaccines worth more than half a billion. This was the transaction that resulted in profitable listed company controlled by the armed Forces Retirement Fund, Phamaniaga to turn PN17. 

Already saddled with the losses and debt accumulated by Boustead, LTAT had to be restructured. In August. LTAT annoounced disposing of 33% plus 1 share in Boustead Plantation to KL Kepong Berhad. Early this month, Anwar got cold feet and cancelled it. Government offer a letter of comfort to bridge till relisting of the restructured and new public listed entity.  

Fingers are pointing at Khairy to explain how Phamaniaga could have committed to such huge and undocumented purchases. There must have been an instruction or oral commitment from a high government official. 

He was specifically appointed by Muhyiddin to attend to the vaccine purchases at MOSTI and later at MOH. Was he entrusted for his past "track records" in procurements and ability to protect Muhyiddin's interest?  

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Monday, October 30, 2023

Umech-PDC called off collaboration, but will Koon Yeow survive?

After months of controversy surrounding the collaboration between Umech Construction Sdn Bhd and Penang Development Corporation involving a piece of land in Batu Kawan, CM Chow Koon Yeow called off the deal to develop Batu Kawan Industrial Park 2 last week. 

Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce President, Dato Seri Hong Yeam Wah questioned the  undervalued sales of 558.96 acres of the said land to Umech in early October. Life Honorary President of the PCCC, Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping raised issue with the financial capability of Umech and revealed the deal to flip it to Sunway.  

Talk is Kok Ping had also put up a bid at a higher price but lost out. Koon Yeow should have taken the criticism constructively, said his former Deputy, P Ramasamy, but he chose to respond with a threat to sue Kok Ping

As President of PCCC, it was the influence of Kok Ping that led to the fall of Gerakan-led BN government for DAP to takeover. Since suffering from cancer, he has been reclusive for quite sometime. This issue brought out the fighter in him. 

Kok Ping was heard to have said if he falls, Koon Yeow will fall together. That explains the derogatory remark towards Koon Yeow. Its October 30th, 11 days after he issued the threat, will Koon Yeow dare proceed with it?  

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Friday, October 27, 2023

Supply-focus food security over price-focus subsidy

Letter to Editor from Ahmad Ibrahim to FMT dated October 23rd 2023 blamed price control policy for compromising food security. It emphasised a point this blogger had against the Jihad Inflasi measures by then Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri and executed by Annuar Musa.

Recently in the budget 2024 debate in Parliament, former Agriculture Minister, Dr Ronald Kiandee urged the government not to oppress food producers as done by Annuar Musa. [His speech at 2:33:20 in the video below or the snippet in his FB here.]   

In one sweep, Annuar prejudicially labeled food producers as cartel without understanding the operational issues and taken actions detrimental to the industry and food supply chain.

Malaysians, including Ronald's own party member indirectly, tend to do so and are ever too reliant on subsidy to control prices. Price control made food production not financially viable, the mechanism resulted in supply shortage, and overdependent on import. 

Malaysia's globally competitive chicken industry was killed by the export restriction imposed by populist seeking Ismail and control freak Annuar. They were naive and arrogantly in-denial to acknowledge the larger margin from export provided the financial buffer to sustain the competitive margin of the local market.

The same happened for importer monopolised rice, in which government policy contributed to further shortage of padi, import dependency, and perpetually prolong the high rice price.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Weaker Yen to pit Japan against China

The public attention and concern in Malaysia is on the weakening Ringgit vis-a-vis US dollar. Deputy Minister of Finance, Dato Ahmad Maslan explained the reasons as external in Parliament. Except for this blog's geo-global political take, similar reasons given

Nevertheless, there is a more interesting development on Yen. US dollar rose against Yen to touch the 150.00 level briefly for the second time early this week. It is only the fear of intervention by the Bank of Japan (BOJ) that is holding it from breaking the key psychological level. 

The intervention to tame the volatility is making the short term Yen movement appear unnatural. Early October intervention failed to stem the fall and Yen is still hovering at sub-150.00 level. 

Underpinned by the interest rate differential favouring the US dollar, it is a matter of time for dollar Yen to pierce through.  

US interest rate is expected to move up while Japanese short-term interest rate remain at zero level. It seemed US condoned a weaker Yen and not mind a stronger Japanese export. It was the G7 policy in the 80s that strengthened Yen to address the American twin deficit in trade and current account. 

In view of the rise of China as a new economic power, is there a shift in the political economic policy on Japan?

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Monday, October 23, 2023

The geopolitics of the weakening ringgit

Ringgit level is 4.78 today, the highest level for the past 22 years. The climbing dollar and weakening ringgit have been the conversation in both the financial market and political circle for the past two weeks.  

The opposition narrative will be to use a shallow political argument to blame the Unity Government Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim as incompetence or surprising to come from PN, accusation of corruption. 

The counter argument is the legacy left by the previous administrations of Mahathir, Muhyiddin and Ismail Sabri which saw debt surpassing RM1.0 trillion from the RM688 billion left by Najib.    

Be it inherited or self imposed, there is no denying there are economic issues faced by the Unity Government. And, it is not only Ringgit that is weakening against the US. However, the Ringgit not only weakened against dollar but also against other currencies such as Singapore dollar, Thai Baht, and Japanese Yen. 

The hunch is the bigger impact on Ringgit is geo-global politics in nature. There could be a retaliation  against Malaysia for its strong position on Palestine. 

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Thursday, October 19, 2023

PTD Mafia budget?

Back in March 2021, the parent blog Another Brick in the Wall wrote of the self serving PTD Mafia in the civil service. The link here need a VPN to access.

Since Annuar Musa left the Ministry, the blog remained blocked by MCMC under the block-happy Fahmi Fadzil and still serving the former Minister's self serving interest. Latest victims are  Nuclearbursaman and Corporate Secret blogs and portals. 

Does any critic of MCMC or civil service, especially the PTD, these days will mean online writers to suffer their wrath?

This issue is raised because the current budget 2024, which is going through debate in Parliament, came off below the pre-budget expectation and its neither here nor there economic management to reform and prepare the nation to face the current economic storm. 

Is this a "no change" budget dictated by the PTD Mafia upon the Prime Minister aka Minister of Finance? 

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Thursday, October 12, 2023

Budget 2024: Correcting subsidy misallocation, Staying true to reform agenda?

According to BNM, the top 20% is enjoying 42% of the subsidy and bottom 20% merely benefitting 4%. 

On that score, it justifies for rationalisation of subsidies. In his latest statement, Anwar said the total subsidy bill is expected to surpass RM81 billion

Seldom rationalisation of subsidies is misused to cloud the real intention to merely cut subsidies. Thus Anwar Ibrahim must be true to his words to prioritise correcting the misallocation of subsidies over indiscriminate subsidy cut.

Nevertheless, cutting subsidy remain necessary. The Auditor General reported the Federal debt for late 2022 has reached RM1,079.591 billion. It is an increase of RM99.777 billion or 10.2% increase to the 2021 figure of 979.14 billion. 

It does not leave much room for borrowing to buy time till the economic condition is more stable. At the current juncture, the business of running the country cannot be as usual. 

Malaysia has reached the crossroad to make a decision on the financial burden of subsidies, high opex, and large bureaucracies before it becomes a runaway train. 

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Monday, October 9, 2023

Can Malaysia still afford petrol and diesel subsidy?

This October 13rd, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be presenting the budget for 2024. 

Politically explosive issue will be the rising cost of food and the shortage of certain food items. However, the bigger challenge for Malaysia and the opposition will likely evade or detour the issue is the current fiscal situation and inherited RM1.2 trillion debt from the previous PN governments. 

It limits Anwar's spending options and raise the urgent need to cut current subsidy spending of RM81 billion. That is equivalent to almost 20% of the RM388.1 billion revised government expenditure for 2023 budget and 28% of the operating expenditure

If the subsidy allocated could ideally be reallocated for development, it means the expenditure to expand existing facilities, infrastructure and new initiatives could be raised by more than 80%. 

Some 60% of the subsidy is for energy

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Friday, October 6, 2023

BERNAS role being questioned

The rest of the country was stunned by the announced increase in imported rice but yet local grown rice was kept at the pre-crisis price of RM26 per 10 kg bag.

However, Fahmi Fadzil was elated after the event at the art exhibition in which Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar kissed Anwar's hand and addressed him as "abang".

According to statistics, the average earning of local padi farmer per season is RM2,000 and it comes out to average monthly income of RM500 per month. 

It made no sense that monopolist sole rice importer could raise price by more than 60% and the international price increase hardly benefit farmers or smaller players in the rice supply chain. 

The reasons for the increase is long known to be attributed to drought, missed local planting season during pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war etc. 

However, the price increase was anticipated early in the year. In fact, rice experts had predicted reduced export volume by certain exporting countries 7-8 years ago. 

It is not believable for BERNAS to not be aware and prepared with the stockpile to weather the price increase by the export ban by India and some 16 countries around the world. 

BERNAS is obligated under the agreement to maintain and finance rice stockpile of 3 months for Semenanjong and 6 months for East Malaysia states.  

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Monday, October 2, 2023

Navigating realpolitik


Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

MALAYSIA, a country renowned for its cultural diversity and economic potential, has undergone significant political shifts over the years. As an Opposition leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had long advocated for reforms in Malaysia’s political and socioeconomic landscape. As Prime Minister now, Anwar’s vision for a better Malaysia has captured many hearts but the path to achieving these reforms is full of challenges. While many are impatient to see his reform agenda implemented, Anwar has to grapple with the realpolitik in the country.

As Prime Minster, Anwar’s vision for reform in Malaysia encompasses a wide range of issues, ranging from political and economic to social reforms. He envisions a more inclusive and accountable political system, a fairer distribution of economic benefits, and improved social services for all Malaysians. 

However, translating this vision into reality is a complex and time-consuming process. The full impact of his reform, if implemented, will touch the fundamentals of Malaysian society. Hence, decades entrenched bad habits will be his major opponents.

Unfortunately, every issue in our country has become insanely political because for decades we allowed our politicians to behave like warlords over us. 

Real issues concerning the rakyat have been deflected from deliberation by politicians playing up racial and religious drama.

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