Monday, January 22, 2007

Rich-Poor Divide Widens in Singapore

In a grim paradox, many of Singapore's middle and lower classes have been unable to reap the benefits of three years of growth and that the nation's poorest 30% are in fact worse off than they were 5 years ago.

This can't be good news for a government determined to pursue its drive of attracting foreign talent to its shores if its own people can't even benefit.

And it can't be helped by the fact that the government will increase its GST to 7% sometime this year.

I bet someone's hoping those new casinos will help to boost domestic consumption somewhat and create the multiplier economic benefits they have been touted to bring.

Technorati: Singapore, GST.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

BusinessWeek: Proton & GM - An Ungainly Union?

It seems that even the international media are wondering what GM is doing courting Proton. According to BusinessWeek, GM has troubles of its own in its own homeland and they wonder what the heck they are doing flirting with another troubled carmarker with neglible global market share.

An analyst is quoted as saying that Volkswagen is a better bet.

One thing's for sure is that if GM does get its way, we'll see more Daewoo-rebadged-as-Chevy platforms in this dear little dumping ground we call home.

Technorati: Proton, Malaysia, business, GM

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lack of Investment & Financial Freedom drags down Malaysia's "Freest Economy" Ranking

The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal's annual index of Economic Freedom has once again placed Hong Kong at the top of the list followed by Singapore.

Malaysia has shown some improvement to climb to 48th place from 68th position last year. As usual, we fared badly in terms of Investment Freedom & Financial Freedom (which should come as no surprise to us).
Restrictive Foreign Investment guidelines, bumiputera equity rulings as well as restrictions on foreign involvemment in the financial industry are cited as the main reasons for the low scores.
Our Corruption index doesn't score well either and with so little being done to police this in the corporate world, don't hold your breath for much improvements in the near future.
At least we can say we are the 8th freest economy in Asia!
Technorati: economy, Malaysia , business

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

GM interested in Proton: The longer we delay, the less attractive Proton becomes

So now GM, the world's largest automobile company is apparently interested in Proton. And the main thing going for our beleaguered and overprotected national car is its share of the local market say analysts.

Which means the longer our government and concerned parties twiddle their thumbs and procrastinate over Proton's fate, the less valuable it will be. Perodua, with its more focused marketing and arguably better leadership, has already assumed the mantle of market leader.

For many Malaysians who have been forced to buy aging japanese and french platforms remodelled as new protons, this is poetic justice. But as we have discovered, years of protectionism have now made it extremely difficult to reduce the price of cars overnight without destroying the value of the millions of existing cars on the roads now.

Get with it Pak Lah. Sell Proton before nobody wants it.

Technorati: Proton, Malaysia, GM

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Friday, January 12, 2007

The difference between local and foreign banks in Malaysia

A recent attempt to send some money back for my maid by Telegraphic Transfer via a local bank, illustrates the negative effects of protecting a market too much (in this case the banks.)

Local Bank:

Ask counter officer if you can apply for T/T online
Officer answers No.
Ask for T/T application form.
Indicate you want to pay from your account.
Officer checks and says you can only do that from your Branch!
However she says you can pay by cheque or cash
Chequebook in office.
Drive back to office.
Pick up Chequebook
Drive back to bank.
Write cheque for payment for T/T
Bank officer tells you have to pay RM5 extra for cash cheque due to the extra handling
Look blankly at officer.
Quietly pay up.
Wait for officer to look up the Indon bank branch on her computer
Officer gives up after 10 minutes of looking and suggests she just posts it to the Jakarta Main branch.
Look blankly at officer and agree.
Wait for signature from bank officer
Transaction is processed
Pick up copy of receipt.

Foreign Bank:

Go Online
Click on Transfers
Click on T/T
Fill up online form and indicate amount of transfer
Click ok
Choose whether to pick up T/T at the branch or have it sent to you via Registered Post.

Of late, Bank Negara appears to be delivering on its promise of liberalising the banking sector, with banks like HSBC jostling to open new branches. All I can say is, it can't come any sooner.

If a consumer like myself struggles for a relatively simple personal transaction, I shudder to think the experiences business owners go through.

Technorati: banks, malaysia

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fernandes: Air Asia to be bigger than Singapore Airlines

AirAsia head honcho Tony Fernandes has been quoted as saying that Air Asia will carry more passengers than the likes of Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific by next year and be the largest asian airline by 2013 or 2014!

The IHT hasn't yet been able to confirm the statement with Tony Fernandes but it does sound like the man would say something like that.

I would imagine if his AirAsia X takes off in the same spectacular way as the original, he would seriously not have any problems achieving that. As it is, AirAsia already trumps SIA in a recent brand survey.

Have you queued up for your free tickets yet by the way?

Technorati: AirAsia, Tony Fernandes, Malaysia

BBC: Will Mandarin change the status of English as a global language?

The BBC reports that in just 5 years, the number of non-Chinese learning Mandarin has soared to 30 million and wonders aloud whether it will effect the position of English as the Global Language.

While we know this isn't likely to happen in the next year or two, it should still be good fodder for local chinese educationists to continue their lonely struggle for vernacular schools and may throw a spanner into the works of kris-waving Education Minister Hishammudin Hussein Onn in his search for a cohesive national education agenda.

It should also give some meaning to MCA's continued existence as they seek to keep themselves relevant in a country where their demographic interest shrinks by the day.

For me, a self-confessed banana (yellow on the outside but white on the inside) who is at best fluent in reading chinese menus, this sort of news does make me think ever more seriously about sending my two young sons to chinese schools when the time comes.

As the BBC report says:

"A thousand years ago, people would have said it would be absurd that Latin would not be spoken in 1,000 years' time. But we know that has happened. It can only take 100 years or so for the language balance of power to shift.

Zai Jian.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple enters the mobile phone market

At last the rumours have come true - Apple with its iPhone is entering a savagely competitive market where many have tried and died.

By all accounts the Apple brand should be able to attract a diehard loyalist crowd but one wonders how the rest of the world will take to entering SMS's with a virtual QWERTY keyboard. Certainly not one that can be used for sms whilst driving that's for sure which is probably what Malaysians are most notorious for!

And by the time the iPhone reaches Malaysia, I'm sure the other big guys would have caught up with similar devices.

Technorati: Apple iPhone, Malaysia

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