Sunday, August 30, 2015

And the Real Bersih Hero is ...

The silent majority is not always silent. 
This gutsy lady is an example.
Some BERSIH4 supporters (or "Bershit species", as she calls them) thought they could intimidate her because they got the numbers and she was a lone tudung-ed woman in the train
Well, I say they ended up with shit (pardon the pun) on their faces!
Brutal. Funny. MUST SEE!

The day Tun M joins the "mules' and "fools"

"They said a fool is born every second. In this country, scores of fools are born every second." - Dr M after the Bersih 2 

Like most, I was shocked by Dr M's decision to join the Bersih 4 rally at the Dataran Merdeka yesterday. Shocked because this was so unlike the man I thought I knew. For years, Dr M had been consistent in his stand that street demonstrations were not our culture, not the way forward. He even called Bersih supporters "keldai" (mules or donkeys) and "bodoh". 

I wouldn't put words into the Tun's mouth. Never.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Restrain. Restrain. Restrain.

Bersih4, don't do this to our cops, please
"Perhaps the most marked finding was that the rally was supported by 81% of the ethnic Chinese respondents and 51% of the ethnic Indian respondents but only favoured by 23% of the ethnic Malay voters interviewed," Merdeka Center survey - Malaysians split over Bersih rally
We will provoke you. Some 5,000 police officers have been deployed for today's Bersih4 in Kuala Lumpur, touted to be far bigger than the three previous Bersih protests. If 50,000 DAP members and their sympathisers come out and paint the town yellow today (and tomorrow), we are looking at 1 cop to every 10 protester. If 100,000 turns up? Do your math. The odds are heavily against these cops if the crowd were to get violent. I hope that does not happen but the fact is not everyone who will be wearing the yellow t-shirt today will be happy if nothing untoward happens. And Bersih4 is, like it or not, an illegal rally. Why it's deemed illegal has been explained h e r e. Not everyone who attends today's rally wants to clash with the police, I'm sure, but they all know that by attending the rally today know they are breaking the law.

Outnumbered and closely watched, the cops - most of them on the frontline are in their youths - have also to exercise restrain at all times throughout Bersih4. That's the order that has been given to them and they have to follow orders. Unlike riot police in western countries, ours are not seasoned or used to handling protesters. Ours aren't brutal. 

During Bersih2 in April 2012, some protesters initiated trouble by provoking the cops on duty. We remember what happened, don't we?

Or this ...

Or this ...
And this.

But cops are only human, and some of them reacted when provoked. And when that happened, the entire police department was accused of police violence, police brutality, and so on (although in 2012 even the WSJ had to be a little fair to our police because of the obvious: Malaysians split over violence at Bersih rally)

This time around, three Catholic churches in KL have offered "sanctuary" for the protesters. Is that supposed to be good? Or are they doing it to spite the government that denied them their "right" to use Allah in their publications? I'm sorry I had to ask, but some things are beyond good manners. 

To the cops, no sanctuary and no salvation for you. But this is what you signed up for. Keep safe, all the same. 
Restrain, restrain, restrain: Sabar itu separuh dari iman
For as Freddie said, they will rock you.

Peace not war: Do this instead - Bersih 3, the "legal" Bersih rally

Interesting links:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Special Economic Committee: The need to be transparent, inclusive and mindful of saying stupid things

Nazir Razak: National service call-up 
“What's important now is there's got to be focus. We need a dedicated team, 24/7, to monitor what's going on," says MITI minister Mustafa Mohamad, former exec director of NEAC, welcoming the setting up of the SEC. Critics remain unconvinced, with one Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist describing the absence of Bank Negara governor from the SEC "disturbing". (SEC will do little to soothe markets, MMO)

When Dr Mahathir Mohamad set up the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) in Jan 1997 as part of the goverment's response to the currency crisis then, a lot of people said stupid things about him, his administration and the country (ie all of us). Those stupid remarks were made by our own people, too: bankers who took out money and parked it in Singapore, punters betting against their own currency, politicians who said Mahathir was taking us on a short cut to hell, even wealthy editors (there were not many of them then but still more than today) who openly and unashamedly blamed the prime minister each time the ringgit dropped against the dollar or their shares took another beating. 

These were not stupid people; they were just saying stupid things. Even the deputy prime minister was trying to convince some of us that his boss was growing senile and that we should be running to the International Monetary Fund for help.

We went through all that, and more, then. With the benefit of hindsight, we should stop making stupid remarks about the setting up of the Special Economic Committee. Yes, I mean we - you and I - and not just the power people that Nazir Razak was referring to the other day, just before he was called in my his brother the prime minister to do national service via the SEC. This is the time to show support for Minister in the Prime Minister's Department AWO and his committee of extraordinary Malaysians, including Nazir, Khazanah's Amok, and Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

AWO: Right man for the job
AWO's SEC has got to be transparent from the start about what it's planning to do in order to minimise the impact of the current economic crisis. In this day and age, including the people online would be as crucial as engaging them face to face, and excluding them is a sure recipe for disaster and failure. This alone makes the SEC's tasks already more challenging than the NEAC of the 1997/1998 era. 

And not just the central bank's governor, the absence of politicians from the Opposition will also be seen as disturbing to some people. Good thing - I think - that the ex-banker AWO is not your typical politician so he will pick the best brains regardless of race and political affiliation to strengthen the SEC. 

To AWO and team, I wish you all the best.

Revision exercise

"Two weeks after the floatation of the Thai baht on July 2, 1997, the ringgit was allowed to find its own level. By January 1, 1998, the ringgit had depreciated by 35% and the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index fell by half. The currency depreciation and falling stock market worsened in 1998. Meanwhile, the rising number of corporate failures and non-performing loans affected the willingness of banks to lend. The country was in the grip of a severe credit squeeze, and the full impact of shrinking demand and rising corporate distress were felt by the entire economy ...."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Three gentlemen to watch

"We are facing the triple threat of economic, political and - still remote but possibly - security [offensives]."

Got this in my message box this morning. If that's the case, I was thinking, we will be banking on extraordinary men to help us weather the overwhelming challenges. 

Economic. Political. Security. Three names came immediately to my mind:

1. Abdul Wahid Omar 

Soros with AWO's predecessor, NMY

I hear AWO, the banker-turned-Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, will set up and head a think tank to help us deal with the extraordinary challenges facing the nation in the face of the world's current currency, primary commodity and stock market fears. Details are sketchy but it looks like PM Najib Razak has decided to adopt some lessons from the 1997/98 currency crisis when the National Economic Advisory Council was formed to help restore confidence, both the investors and the public's, and formulate measures to deal with the free-falling ringgit back then. Tun Daim Zainuddin had featured prominently at first when the NEAC was formed on 7 Jan 1998 but the man who had Tun Dr Mahathir's complete trust as time went by was AWO's predecessor at PMO,  Nor Mohamed Yakcop. NMY, now 68, was largely credited to be the man behind Dr M's IMF-defying capital controls that bascially got us out of the crisis relatively unscathed. AWO has a good working relationship with the man they called the Top Cat.

2. Tengku Putra Harun Aminurrashid Jumat

Described by a prominent blogger as "one brave soul in the Johor State Assembly", the 52-year old TPJ's latest FB/blog entry as highlighted by Malaysiakini yesterday Umno rep: TMJ's warning must apply to Johor tycoons  has captured many people's imagination, especially in the face of an increasingly chatty prince from Johor. People who didn't know better would be forgiven if they thought this Kempas assemblyman was against the Palace. If you read his entire posting yesterday [Leave The Palace Out of Politics - The Patriot], it it clear that his allegiance is with the Royalty. But if you read the TPJ's posting as a subtle message to his beloved Sultan and the TMJ to Leave Politics -and Business - Out of the Palace", you wouldn't be wrong, either.  

Excerpts from TPJ's latest bravery:
We highly respect the stand taken by HRH the Crown Prince of Johor and the caution to those who seek to "become friends or be close with HRH The Sultan" for personal gains or political capital. 

As we are in no position whatsoever to speak on HRH's behalf, we hope that HRH's caution applies not only to the politicians but also to the unscrupulous businessmen with the intent of "printing money" in fast track motion in this robust and fast developing economy of the Great State of Johor, who do not observe the sensitivities and the wellbeing of the Rakyat, namely the Malays.

It is primarily the Malays, who are for now, the most loyal of subjects to the Royal Palace; based on our observation of the actions of non-Malay shop operators and factories, who during the recent Coronation, remained operating despite it being a public holiday and the Chinese dailies prefering news of the death of Lee Kuan Yew over our Sultan's Coronation on their front pages, just to name a few.

3.  Khalid Abu Bakar

Not our girl, says Bersih 4 organisers

The Inspector-general of Police has said that Bersih 4's main aim is to topple the Government so people will be watching with great interest how Khalid, 59, will deal with the alleged topplers. In the past, the police have used force, sometimes unnecessarily, on Bersih demonstrators. Likewise, the demonstrators have also shown their not-so-bersih tendency for violence and running amok. This will be Khalid's first Bersih as IGP, and as IGP he will be responsible either way (police and demonstrators' violence) when the topplers-to-be take to the streets of KL, KK and Kuching this weekend. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

From RM42 billion to RM42 million

Under Swiss law, authorities say they are looking into "unknown persons" when they are unsure about who was involved. - Swiss 1MDB probe targets two execs and unknowns persons 

Now the Swiss knives are out for 1MDB! We are all against Malaysians running to foreign powers to help deal with our own problems, badmouthing their own country in the process. But the case of our hero Khairuddin Abu Hassan taking the 1MDB issue to the Swiss authorities, just like when Hindraf took the discrimination against Malaysian Hindus' case to Her Majesty the Queen of England, may actually be a blessing in disguise for all os us. 

Maybe the Swiss will be able to shed light on the matter, which has been muddled further by fresh allegations and new developments. Latest is by the Sarawak Report that RM42 million of money from KWAP, the retirement fund, had gone to PM Najib Razak's personal account(s).

RM42 million (see links at the end of posting)? Typo, kot. or that was my first thought, because all along the story was Najib had stolen RM42 billion - not million - from 1MDB! 

In any case, that's how far the 1MDB has been derailed. Good news is Arul Kanda and Co didn't hesitate to say h e r e they are happy to help. I hope the Swiss get in touch with them without hesitation, for the goalposts will surely shift again  ...


I met donor, says Zahid
MalayMail Online Aug 22
Explain how you concluded RM42 million KWAP funds not involved, Tony Pua to Zahid
MalayMail Online, Aug 23

Previous link:
RM2.6 b a donation, not 1MDB funds, says MACC
Malaysiakini, Aug 4

Monday, August 24, 2015

Oops, the TMJ has done it again!

So, the Johor Crown Prince did not let DPM Zahid Hamidi get away with Friday's statement in Kota Tinggi (read my previous posting, here). Well, whether you admire the Tengku Ismail for his outspokenness or you think it's unbecoming, the TMJ has at least been consistent with regards to politicians speaking on behalf of the Johor Istana, so far.

Tengku Ismail tries to stake out central role of influence, says FMT

What's not so consistent are the reports on what he actually said.

Now TMJ puts down Zahid in Johor power play by the online portal Free Malaysia Today and

JOHOR BAHRU: The Tunku Mahkota of Johor, Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, has intervened again in Umno politicking with a put-down of deputy prime minister and home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, his second recent criticism of an Umno leader, as he continues to manoeuvre for a central position in the Johor power play. 
In a Facebook posting, he reminded politicians that he was the sultan’s heir and that, blood being thicker than water, his voice would be “the last one heard” after everything had reached his father.

PETALING JAYA: The Johor Crown Prince has warned political leaders against giving "counsel" to the Sultan for personal interests. 
Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (pic) reminded them that he was the heir to the Johor throne and that "his voice will be the last one heard before anything else reaches his majesty".

Big difference, if you ask me. But all the same, just to be safe and to avoid embarrassment  AFTER this Zahid or any of the UMNO politicians, including PM Najib Razak, may want to check with Tunku Ismail BEFORE making any statement on behalf of his father the Sultan of Johor.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Sultan and Zahid Hamidi

NO PROBLEM-O. As these pictures show, Tuanku Yem, the people-centric Sultan of Johor, certainly has no problems with Zahid Hamidi, our new Deputy Prime Minister.

Unless you don't believe that a picture tells a thousand words ...

And I don't think even the TMJ, who ticked off a Najib loyalist just the other day (read Intrigues ...), will protest that the DPM has spoken on behalf of his Sultan dad:

Zahid: Johor Sultan believes only Umno for Malays

KOTA TINGGI: Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi believes that the Sultan of Johor is of the opinion that only Umno can unite the Malays.
The Deputy Prime Minister told delegates at the Kota Tinggi Umno annual meeting that in his audience at the palace on Friday, the Ruler reminded that Umno was born at Johor’s Istana Besar.
“I know the Sultan is not a politician and he is above politics.
“Even though the Sultan didn’t say it, I know he hopes that the Malays will stay united and that he is confident that only Umno can unite the Malays,” Zahid said. - The Star, 20/8/15

But former Cabinet Minister Zainuddin Maidin doesn't think the Sultan's support will be enough to save UMNO the party from destruction under Najib Razak's watch.  That's because "... orang Umno ... telah berajakan wang," Zam says in his latest blog Sokongan Sultan Johor tak akan pulihkan UMNO.

Malaysia, a failed state?

Najib: Let the facts speak for themselves 

Leadership in Challenging Times. The following are excerpts from Najib Razak's speech at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Lecture in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, 20/8/15. I have selected these bits to underscore some of the facts the naysayers do not want us to ignore: that the fundamentals have indeed improved during the last half a decade and that we are a long way from being a failed state. Even Ambiga has stopped likening us to Myanmar, if you hadn't noticed. To read the PM's entire speech, please click H E R E.
19. Some are so desperate to cast our record in a bad light, that they have even said that Malaysia is on its way to becoming a failed state. 
20. This is ludicrous. But let the facts speak for themselves. 
21. From 2009 to 2014, Malaysia’s Gross National Income grew by 47.7 percent. 
22. 1.8 million jobs have been created since we established the Economic Transformation Programme in 2010. 
23. We have reduced the deficit for six years running, and in each of the last five years, total investments have reached new records. 
24. Since 2009, the income of the bottom 40 percent households has increased by a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent, even higher than the national average of 8 percent. 
25. Through the implementation of minimum wage legislation, the government has lifted 2.9 million people immediately out of absolute poverty. 
26. Unemployment has declined to under 3 percent – from 3.7 percent in 2009. 
27. We have increased women’s participation in the workforce, with a higher percentage of management positions in Malaysia being held by women than in Hong Kong and Singapore. 
28. And we have maintained the reforms necessary for Malaysia to reach the goal of becoming a high income status nation by 2020. Some of these reforms have not been popular, like the introduction of GST and the removal of subsidies. But I am here not to make popular decisions; I am here to make the right decisions. Saying we could achieve strong growth without hard choices would be to make empty promises. 
29. We had to broaden our tax base and reduce our dependency on oil and gas revenues. Every serious economist around the world agrees that these reforms were necessary and will benefit Malaysia in the long run
30. The IMF recognised our progress in a report this March, titled: “Favourable Prospects for Malaysia’s Diversified Economy”. Its key conclusions were:
 Growth likely to remain healthy in 2015, despite lower energy prices – and it has. Growth for the second quarter was a strong 4.9 percent.
 End of fuel subsidies and start of Goods and Services tax is timely, and good for efficiency, equity, and the environment.
 Exchange rate flexibility will help non-energy exports. 
31. The IMF does not hand out compliments lightly. Nor do the ratings agencies. Yet in January, Moody’s maintained Malaysia’s A3 rating with a positive outlook. In February Standard and Poor’s maintained Malaysia’s A- rating with a stable outlook. More recently, Fitch maintained Malaysia’s A- rating – and actually upgraded its outlook from negative to stable. 
32. Despite the volatility of the world economy, other organisations, including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum have placed us high in their rankings for ease of doing business and competitiveness. Bloomberg rated Malaysia as the world’s 5th most promising emerging market in 2015. 
33. And an independent study, which has nothing to do with us, recently declared Malaysia to be the top country for the Global Islamic Economy Indicator 2014-2015. Malaysia led by a large margin. Does that sound like a failed state to you?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why the DEIG scandal should be a walk in the park for Azmin

KL, 20/8/15. Darul Ehsan Investment Group is Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali's brainchild that was supposed to drive his noble Agenda Makmur Selangor. Incorporated in May this year, DEIG should "generate income from its holdings of state-governemnt linked companies (GLCs) , and reduce state income dependency on taxes and Federal funding" [Selangor launch new investment arm, The Sun 21/5/15]. The DEIG and the Agenda Makmur Selangor would "strengthen the middle class, provide high income and improve the quality of life and create more meaningful jobs in the state". 
But after former MB Khalid Ibrahim's exposè two days ago [read h e r e], DEIG has joined the list of Malaysians' four-letter words. Mr Liew Tan is just one of scores of online people hitting out at Azmin and pro-DEIG politicians like Selangor State Assembly Speaker Hannah Yeoh after it's been made known the new entity is just a RM2 company with two shareholders, "hiding" suspiciously behind the MB Inc., etc.  
Read Malaysia Digest's Is a scandal brewing in DEIG?  
Me, I don't think YAB Azmin will be losing much sleep over this. If Arul Kanda, the 1MDB boss, can turn public perception towards 1MDB around in such a short period by  tirelessly engaging the various stakeholders and remaining focused on the rationalisation plan, the DEIG will be akin to a walk in the park for the seasoned and savvy Azmin.
Just make sure of two things, YAB: 1. that YB Tony Pua, the rabid critic of 1MDB, does not bark at the DEIG or tries to bite him; and 2. the pro-Opposition media toe the line, i.e. turn the other way, focus on 1MDB, the ringgit slide, USD700 million "donation", etc.
As for Khalid, lucky you, he's no Tun Mahathir ...

Read also:  Arul vs Tony Pua: What is the limit to transparency? by ABITW 20/8

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Oh no, where's our Ringgit?!

With updates 19/8 3.30pm

19/8 DAMNED! The Ringgit is NOT even on this list of "troubled currencies" at all! Our naysayers, of course, will find it very hard to accept the exclusion of the Ringgit in Morgan Stanley's latest Troubled Ten Currencies. But Morgan Stanley was right about their Fragile Five currencies before!
The fact is, WE ARE LOOKING OK.
The key to our being OK is the current account deficit and our current account deficit has been well managed by the government over these few years and has been consistently coming down. 

Morgan Stanley's Fragile Five Swells to Troubled 10 in Selloff

FORGET the “Fragile Five.” These days, strategists at Morgan Stanley are worried about what could be called the “Troubled Ten.”
That’s how many nations they say are particularly at risk since China devalued the yuan. While the analysts haven’t used the term themselves, it’s as good a description as any for the currencies -- from the Brazilian real to Peru’s sol and South Korea’s won -- which have trading ties making them susceptible to a slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy.
“It’s all about vulnerability,” said Hans Redeker, the London-based global head of foreign-exchange strategy at Morgan Stanley. “Major victims of the policy change this time are currencies of countries with high export exposure and export competitiveness with China.”
Morgan Stanley was right about the Fragile Five. Those currencies include four of the developing world’s eight worst performers since the phrase was coined in 2013. The real, together with Turkey’s lira, South Africa’s rand, the Indian rupee and Indonesian rupiah, have suffered as rising global interest rates make it more difficult for the countries to finance their current-account deficits.

No Growth

For Redeker, the biggest challenge now is a lack of global growth. While central banks in Japan, Europe and the U.S. have rolled out record stimulus, the world’s economy will expand at the slowest pace since 2009 this year, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts.
That “lukewarm” recovery means China won’t be able to rely on exports to drive expansion, said the strategist, whose firm was the second-highest ranked forecaster of the dollar versus the yuan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg for the four quarters ended June 30. In turn, the slower growth will also put China’s trading partners in the crosshairs.
There’s some overlap between the Fragile Five and the new at-risk list, with the rand and real to be found in both. Also vulnerable to China’s slowdown are the Thai baht, the Singapore and Taiwan dollars, the Chilean and Colombian pesos, Russia’s ruble and the won and the sol, according to Redeker.
China is the top export destination for most of the countries on the troubled 10 list, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The nation accounted for 37 percent of South Africa’s exports and 30 percent of South Korea’s in 2014.
Investors were jolted last week as China implemented the biggest depreciation of the yuan since 1994, raising concern that authorities plan to use a lower exchange rate to shore up the weakest growth in more two decades.

Global Repercussions

The move rippled through global markets, weakening the currencies of the Asian countries that compete with China for exports and sending developing-nation stocks into a bear market. A Bloomberg index tracking major emerging-market currencies, already under pressure from slowing growth and a slump in commodity prices, fell 0.9 percent last week to a record low.
“The move by China has introduced further concerns on foreign-exchange valuations in emerging markets,” said Chris Chapman, a London-based fixed-income trader at Manulife Asset Management, which oversees $302 billion. “We have reduced our EM positions over time as the risk-reward profiles have changed, and will continue to monitor.”
Even with the yuan roiling markets, investors still see the Federal Reserve sticking to its plan to raise interest rates for the first time in nine years, threatening to lure capital away from emerging markets. Futures contracts show traders see a 75 percent chance the U.S. central bank will move by year-end.
It will take a sizable fiscal package to boost China’s economy and reverse the selloff in emerging markets, according to Redeker -- and it’s not clear that will be forthcoming.
“The biggest concern is that we are not going to turn the corner and the economic performance in China will continue to disappoint,” he said. “Investors will watch China data closely and trade the yuan accordingly.” - Bloomberg Business, 17 Aug


"And to strengthen this allegation there are even efforts to attack the Ringgit to ‘prove’ that the world has totally lost confidence in Malaysia. The picture being presented is that a lower Ringgit means that Malaysia is headed for doom. "

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Johor palace intrigue gets more intriguing

The outspoken prince
I haven't blogged about my favourite Royal family for what seems like years now but the statements coming out from the palaces in Johor are getting more curious by the day, I must say. 
The fighting fit politician
The latest, where the TMJ pulverised Umno psy-war chief Puad Zarkashi's attempt to downplay rumours of a rift between the Palace and the Prime Minister's Office, is most intriguing. 
As I see it, Puad was saying that his Boss, the Prime Minister, had no problem with the Istana.
Yet the Crown Prince wishes it be known by all and sundry that there is actually a problem between him, his father, the Sultan, and Prime Minister Najib Razak. Why?
What is this "whole story" underscored by the TMJ? 

Problem, no problem?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Justo gets three years in Thai prison

Tong, 3 others to be hauled up following Justo's conviction - TRP, 18/8
AG gets Thai help, closing in on SR's Clare Rewcastle Brown - TMI, 18/8

Original Piece: 
Pleaded guilty
17/8: Swiss national Xavier Justo was arrested on June 22. Today, just 56 days later, he pleads guilty and is sentenced to three years in Thai jail by a Thai court to blackmailing his former employer, PetroSaudi. I don't know about you, but I'm totally floored by how justice is done and seen to be done by our northern neighbours. The speed, the cold efficiency, the clinical execution of it all. 
Now, remember, Justo's blackmail attempts have been linked by the Thai authorities to several individuals in Malaysia and at least one in the UK said to be in cahoot to topple the Malaysian Government or/and Prime Minister Najib Razak. None of these individuals have been arrested, let alone charged. We have heard of a warrant of arrest, volumes about co-conspirators and a mysterious, elderly master plotter in UMNO, etc. but that's about all.

Tony told to stop his Oooh Oooh Aaah Aaah

Such “monkey business” by YB Tony Pua does not benefit anyone. Malaysia is not a jungle – we have due process, procedures and laws to be followed. Accordingly, the lawful authorities must be allowed to carry on with their investigations. - Arul Kanda on Tony Pua's Monkey Business, 17 Aug

Chicken and Monkey
In case any of you were wondering, I just got out of a 2-night stay in the jungles of Selai, which is part of our Endau-Rompin national park. Where I met tourists and students of nature from as far as Switzerland and Portugal, and as near as Singapore and PJ. A wonderful break from our crazy politics and mad politicians. 

But all good things must pass, and so I rode home and ended up straight into DAP's YB Tony Pua's war of words with 1MDB president Mr Arul Kanda. Today, "chicken" Arul calls YB Pua "monkey" albeit indirectly. Now, is that why I didn't see any monkey in Selai? We saw giant millipedes and ants and we had barbecued chicken, but no monkeys!

Seriously, though, Pua is a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that is investigating the 1MDB's affairs. Common sense and professional courtesy would tell him that in order for the PAC to be and be seen as fair, members of the Committee must behave rationally and without prejudice towards the entity that's being investigated, especially towards the people who helm that entity (in this case, the 1MDB). 

What Pua's doing is the opposite. From the very start YB Pua has been exceedingly critical  and rabidly unprofessional in his comments on the 1MDB and on the person of Arul Kanda, who has actually done quite a bit in reviving confidence in 1MDB since taking over in January.

It does make you wonder if YB Tony Pua is not attempting to undermine  the various ongoing investigations into the 1`MDB, including his own and the PAC's, to paraphrase Arul Kanda in his latest response to Pua's Oooh Oooh Aaaah Aaaah ...


August 17, 2015
We refer to a press statement today by YB Tony Pua, further to his “chicken challenge” issued yesterday. We note that today, YB Tony Pua refers to himself as a “monkey”.
1MDB is glad that YB Tony Pua is the “monkey on our back” and not one that “sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil”. Such public scrutiny and questioning by YB Tony Pua is important to establish the truth. Hence despite his repeatedly unproven, recycled and reused allegations, we share below past clarifications issued by 1MDB, on the items rehashed yet again today by YB Tony Pua: 
On 16 January 2015, Arul Kanda, in good faith, offered to engage with YB Tony Pua and share with him facts on 1MDB. However, as evidenced by YB Tony Pua’s subsequent and ongoing conduct, it is clear he is not interested in the truth. Rather, his aim is to score political points, undermine ongoing investigations and negatively impact 1MDB’s rationalisation plan. 
Ongoing Investigations 
YB Tony Pua is wrong to state that “there’s hardly anyone left investigating the company”. He has conveniently forgotten to highlight that lawful authorities such as the Attorney-General, Auditor-General, PDRM, BNM, MACC and PAC, are all currently pursuing investigations on 1MDB, in a thorough, professional and independent manner.

Fund Units 
On 30 June 2015, 1MDB shared the following facts:

•          Further to an earlier joint venture arrangement in 2009, 1MDB invested US$1.83 billion cash in murabaha notes issued by JV Co, a company that, by then, was 100% owned by PetroSaudi following the termination of the joint venture in March 2010.

•          In June 2012, this entire amount was repaid by way of conversion into shares of PetroSaudi Oil Services Limited for a value of US$2.22 billion.
•          Subsequently, in September 2012, 1MDB sold its shares in PetroSaudi Oil Services Limited for US$2.318 billion and received fund units in a Cayman registered fund. These fund units were owned by 1MDB via its 100% subsidiary, Brazen Sky, and held through BSI Bank Singapore as custodian.
•          Accordingly, 1MDB invested a total of US$1.83 billion with PetroSaudi as murabaha notes, and ultimately received US$2.318 billion of fund units, representing a gain over time of US$488 million.
•          The valuation of the fund units was undertaken by the fund administrator and is clearly described in 1MDB’s audited financial statements.
Further information referred to above can be found in the notes to 1MDB’s financial statements. Accordingly, contrary to Tony Pua’s claim, 1MDB has clearly provided detailed information on this – as above – on a number of occasions. 
Such “monkey business” by YB Tony Pua does not benefit anyone. Malaysia is not a jungle – we have due process, procedures and laws to be followed. Accordingly, the lawful authorities must be allowed to carry on with their investigations. 
1MDB is very much focused on the implementation of our rationalisation plan to stabilise the company and reduce our debts to a sustainable level. Please let us carry on with our job. 

Read also:
Tony Pua trying to be judge, jury and executor Letter to the Editor, Rakyat Post, 16 Aug
Stop "chicken challenge", 1MDB tells Pua, 16 Aug

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Arul Kanda, up close and personal

updated with full video of the "live" interview
No problem wooing investors. In his very first "live" tv3 interview, Arul Kanda is frank, honest and all smiles. The president and group executive director of 1MDB comes across as confident and not arrogant, a good listener, very articulate in his analyses, totally engaging. And, yes, that smile. How some people would love to wipe that smile from his face. Call it the RM42billion-that-never-vanished smile!

There will always be cynics, but one viewer, cynical before watching the question-and-answer on 1MDB, was moved to write in and admit:

Apabila mendengar penerangan Arul Kanda dan mengikuti penjelasannya dengan riak muka yang yakin dan tenang, ini rumusannya:

1. Cara dia (Arul) memandang dua wartawan tv3 itu nampak dia tidak bimbang atau nampak menyanggah, tetapi telah menerangkan dengan baik.
2. Ketika rata-rata melihat 1MDB seakan sudah 'kalah' , Arul dengan penjelasannya yang tenang, meyakinkan dengan sesekali diselangi dengan ungkapan Alhamdulillah dan  InsyaAllah, telah mengubah persepsi negatif tentang 1MDB (sekurang kurangnya waktu terdekat ini).
3. Arul menerusi penjelasannya agak berjaya mewujudkan empati kepada sesiapa yang menonton tv3 malam ini.

1MDB has been the subject of incessant and sometimes insane attacks in the last 8-9 months by interested parties (who basically want PM Najib Razak to step down). But after the RM42 billion claim turned out to be not true (accusers later adjusted the figure to RM26 billion before revising it further to just over RM2 billion) and Swiss national Andre Justo was arrested (the former PetroSaudi employee will be facing blackmailing charges in Thailand very soon), much of the political ploy against Najib has shifted away from 1MDB and landed on the US$700 million "political donation" that found its way to the PM's accounts. There was a brief attempt to link even that money indirectly to 1MDB but that, too, gained no traction because it was a lie.

Arul Kanda said that "we are the most investigated company in Malaysia". Understatement. As I see it, 1MDB is also the most maligned Malaysian company ever. And none of the earth-shattering allegations and claims made against it has ever been substantiated or proven. So far nobody has apologised for the maligning but I doubt Arul's interested in getting one, either. He's always maintained that without the politics, the 1MDB would have been there already. With the politics, it's just going to take a little bit more time to get there.

 I hope to upload the interview's video for you when it's available on YouTube, Inshallah. In the meantime, I will let Arul Kanda speak for himself and the future of 1MDB through this morning's headlines:

"In 1MBD, every major decision whether strategic assessment or rationalization plan, will go through our board of directors, shareholders and the Ministry of Finance.
"We have debates and discussions, and that is not an intervention... it is how we implement governance within the company through its three stages."
“The PAC is very professional ... is the best among the investigators because it is made up of members of parliament from both the government and the opposition. 
“(The suspension) made it hard for us as we want to explain ourselves and counter all these allegations.”
“We have acquired Edra Global Energy Berhad which we can raise RM16 billion.
“In June, we signed a deal with  Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) that can raise another RM16 billion. 
“We are trying to bring development partners into Bandar Malaysia in which the project will be valued at RM11-12 billion.” 
“When we see the challenges, we have to take action. That is important. When things do not go according to plan, we have to make corrections and that is what the rationalisation plan is for,” he said. 
“When you look back in hindsight it is easy to point out what should have been done. Hindsight is 20-20."

The 1MDB debt rationalisation plan would not be affected by the depreciation of the ringgit as it owns US dollar assets, said Arul Kanda.
He said this would enable the company to pay its external debts denominated in the US dollar.
“We have power companies in foreign countries such as Bangladesh and Egypt.
“1MDB is the largest independent power producer in both countries.
“We also have assets in Abu Dhabi and Pakistan. All these assets are funds in the form of US dollars,” he said.
This means 1MDB has a natural hedge for which cash flow is accepted in US dollars to pay off debts, he said, adding 1MDB also has many other assets that could be pledged against the US dollar.
A calm and eloquent Arul Kanda also said 1MDB was on the right track to meet its strategic development objectives.
“Alhamdulillah (thank God), for 1MDB, there is no problem in wooing investors, the problems are (dealing with) political accusations and allegations,” he said.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

To peg or not to peg, and why some of us should stop bitching about the ringgit

Meanwhile, the greenback has been rising in anticipation of a US interest rate hike ... [in other words, not because of Najib Razak] - Australian dollar falls, The Guardina, 11/8

12/8/2015: The other night, a learned YB from an Opposition party told a group of us that Najib Razak should be pegging the ringgit already. "Dr Mahathir would have done it by now," said the YB. I stifled a chuckle. Until Dr M started making demands for Najib to step down as Prime Minister, the YB had no love whatsoever for the Old Man. I'll bet my bottom ringgit (sorry, I don't have any dollar) that once the Prime Minister has quit, Mr YB will go back to his Mahathir-bashing days.

Dr M announced the "unthinkable" move of pegging the ringgit at 3.80 to the dollar on 1 Sept 1998, the same day he sacked Anwar Ibrahim as his deputy. By then, our currency had fallen to 4.8 to the dollar. Yesterday the ringgit hit 3.96 against the US dollar [The Star, 11/8], lowest since the peg but long way to go to 4.80.

Thumbs-up to fundamentals
And that's not the only reason why pegging isn't necessary right now,  ex-banker Abdul Wahid Omar (pic), now Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, says in this Whatsapp message. The circumstances are very different back in 1998 compared with now. The fundamentals have changed. In a nutshell, AWO sums it up:

- Back in 1997/98, Malaysia had international reserves below USD30b sufficient to cover only 3.2mths of retained imports. 
- We had trade deficit (1994-1997); corporates were highly geared with many borrowing in USD when their income/assets were in MYR. 
- Now even after the recent outflows, our international reserves is more than 3 times larger at USD96.7b as at 31 July 2015 sufficient to cover 7.6 mths of retained imports. 
- Our trade surplus reached RM41b for 1st half 2015 notwithstanding the lower oil; commodity prices.
- Corporates' balance sheets are much healthier with minimal USD borrowings for those without matching USD asssets / revenue stream. 
- Our labour market conditions are stable with low unemployment rate of 3%. 
- Our banks are well capitalised with core Tier1 capital ratios of 12.5%, liquid; with good asset quality where net impaired loans ratio is at a low of 1.2%. 
- Banks, financial system are well regulated; supervised by BNM. 
- Our fiscal position continues to improve with budget deficit reducing from 3.4% of GDP in 2014 to a target of 3.2% in 2015. 
- We are still on track to achieve GDP growth of between 4.5% and 5.5% this year.
Rogue currency traders were the culprits in 1998 but what we are seeing now is the strengthening of the dollar against the world, not just the ringgit, we were told last night over sushi and sukiyaki by a former international bond trader whose clients were so filthy rich that USD700 million is what they might spend on stuff like converting their private airliners into their flying palaces. (Talk about Japanese, the ringgit has strengthened against the yen by a whopping 14 per cent! Read Malaysians are now currency experts? Goh Wei Lang, 11/8)

Once the US increases interest rates next month, the ringgit, along with other currencies, should stabilize, Mr Bond Trader says. He went on the explain how currency trading works and why bonds drive currency rates up or down. Do read up about US zero interest rate policy in Gross: Fed slowly recognising ZIRP has downside consequences, July 30; also Wiki on ZIRP].

Complicated, right? But some Malaysians, even though they can't manage their own finances properly, are experts in everything, from DNA to currency and back. As Mr Goh Wei Lang observes:

"... in just the past month, I saw how Malaysians transform from being constitutional experts, to aviation analysts and now economics.
Some even went as far as pushing the blame on UMNO and Najib. There's this group called Suara Rakyat who likes to say "other countries are doing better because UMNO is not there in their country".
Of course, when you have a narrow, myopic view, you will tend to miss out the fact that over the 5 year period,
•    Russian Roubles lost 114% against USD
•    Indonesian Rupiah lost 51% against USD
•    Indian Rupees lost 38% against USD
•    Norwegian Krone lost 37% against USD
•    Australian Dollars lost 24% against USD
•    Euro lost 20% against USD
•    Thai Baht lost 10% against USD"

I can understand where Mr YB from the Opposition is coming from: the Opposition wants Najib kicked out because that will create the perfect crisis that could very well spell BN's end in the next general election. At the same time, he also wants Najib to peg the ringgit because he's personally affected by the lower value of our currency against the dollar. But the rest of us who don't have children studying in America, don't travel regularly to the US, don't import goods from the US to re-sell here, and don't plan to buy a Harley any time soon ... should stop bitching. 

p.s. Mr Goh's A Piece of My Mind is back on my Other Blogs That Rock! I think he should be blogging more regularly.