Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Penang to set up panel to monitor floods, mudflows, soil ersosion, siltation & pollution

Sabri (fourth left) presenting safety vests to Chow (middle) and Lim to symbolically launch the Ops Lumpur enforcement squad at Komtar.

Putting an end to mudflows


THE Penang government has set up a steering committee to launch ‘Ops Lumpur’ to monitor development activities that could contribute to floods and river pollution in the state.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow is the chairman, while his deputies are state exco members Phee Boon Poh and Lim Hock Seng.

The state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) is the secretariat, while committee members comprise those from the local governments, state Economic Planning Unit, state Public Works Department, Department of Environment and district engineers and officers.

Speaking at the launch of the Ops Lumpur enforcement squad yesterday, state DID deputy director S. Ratna Rajah said the committee would make monthly surprise checks at construction sites starting next month.

“Our aim is to ensure that all development comply with the erosion and sediment control plan (ESCP), which is reviewed and approved by the DID.

“The setup of the Ops Lumpur Steering Committee is meant to reduce the risk of flash floods, water pollution and siltation problem,” he said during a briefing at the state DID office in Komtar yesterday.

Ratna Rajah said one of the hotspots was in Paya Terubong, where mudflows and landslips were constantly reported during heavy rain.

He said action could be taken against unregulated project development operators under Section 34 (a) of the Environmental Quality Act, which carries a maximum RM100,000 fine, a jail term not more than five years, or both.

“The authorities can act against developers who have not been given the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) approval, or are caught violating the conditions,” he said.

Ratna Rajah said action could also be taken against the perpetrators under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 (Act 133) by the local councils.

“Under Section 71 of the Act, those who failed to ensure the maintenance on the land, could be slapped with a maximum RM500,000 fine, or five years jail, or both,” he said.

Chow said the steering committee would act as adviser to two Implementation Committees spearheaded by Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail and Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

“We want to tackle problems like soil erosion and siltation at construction sites, which cause floods and river pollution.

“Our focus is to monitor those project developments with approved plans.

“The landowners, developers, engineers, consultants and contractors should play a role in ensuring they comply with ESCP.

“We need their cooperation so that there won’t be mudflows or river siltation whenever there are heavy rains.

“Sometimes, everything looks good on paper. We need to be at the sites to look for ourselves whether there is any violation of rules and regulations.

“We will visit any ongoing development projects,” he said.

Also present was state DID director Sabri Abdul Mulok.

Source: By Tan Sin Chow The Star/ANN

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beware of fake news! Traditional media still the best and credible, says experts


https://youtu.be/AkwWcHekMdo

News outlets have trained staff and trump social media on factual accuracy


Traditional media continues to be a reliable source of information for the public who have grown wary of fake news littering social media.

Paul Glader, an associate professor at the King’s College in New York, pointed out that traditional newsrooms often earn their brand value by their integrity and edito­rial practices.

“This means they have copy editors or copy desks to verify facts. It means they have seasoned journa­lists as editors who question and bullet proof big stories, sometimes running such stories by lawyers. It means they apologise for any errors by running corrections,” he said.

Glader said while social media can disseminate news more quickly at times than traditional media, it does not have the accuracy checks and the principle of verification.

One example of this, he said, was during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. He said everyone in the United States had followed the incident via Twitter and many facts emerged before being reported in mainstream news outlets.

Worse, people in the crowd were accused of being the culprits while the real bombers were at large.

“Those identified by the mob were innocent and could have been badly hurt because of the false information,” he said.

Advertising industry veteran Khoo Kar Khoon said the public is bombarded with information over social media with no way of telling if it’s true or not.

Khoo, who is a non-executive director of publishing conglomerate Media Chinese International Ltd, said traditional media are licensed and had to be accountable, adding that journalists had to verify information with authorities.

Verifying information, he said, was important for issues which could impact public health, safety and the economy.

Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur’s (IUKL) Prof Dr Faridah Ibrahim said established media had a responsibility to sieve out the truth.

“Accuracy should not be compromised for speed, facts must be double and triple checked,” said Dr Faridah, the executive dean for IUKL’s Faculty of Arts, Com­muni­cation and Education.

The Communications and Multi­media Ministry recently advised social media users not to add fuel to fire, following the ongoing diplomatic row with North Korea.

This followed a false claim over Facebook of a massacre of Malay­sians in North Korea.

On Tuesday, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) launched fact-checking website sebenarnya.my for the public to both check the authenticity of information.

Assoc Prof Dr Judith Clarke said that very often, information may go viral before anyone bothered to check it.

“They may quickly become accepted knowledge, whether true or not,” said Clarke, who is with Hong Kong Baptist University’s Department of Journalism.

“Some academics are calling for schools to teach news literacy cour­ses to build up the public’s news judgment,” she said.

Readership and circulation of The Star had increased following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam.

The Star Online saw its number of visitors surge to an all-time-high of 7.9 million.

The website also saw 5.7 million new users while the number of followers on its Twitter account surpassed 1.1 million people.

Source: by Neville Spykerman The Star  


Government launches ‘Tidak Pasti, Jangan Kongsi’ to stop spread of false information


CYBERJAYA: A fact-checking website, sebenarnya.my,, has been launched to curb the spread of fake news.

The website will allow members of the public to both check the authenticity of a news item or a piece of viral information. It will also submit the information if it is found to be false.

Multimedia and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak said the website was much needed as many Malaysians had the habit of spreading information without verifying the news.

“They would share certain information and claim that this is dari group sebelah (from another group) and then say minta pencerahan (seeking clarification).

“They should verify first and only share if it’s true,” said Dr Salleh after launching the website at the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) auditorium here yesterday.

The website’s tagline is Tidak Pasti, Jangan Kongsi (Do not share if unsure).

Asked if it was set up with the general election in mind, Dr Salleh said: “Not at all. In fact, if opposition members find fake news being spread about them, they can submit it to the website, too.

“The website belongs to all Malaysians. It does not belong to the Government.”

Malaysians, said Dr Salleh, should be discerning enough to tell between real and fake news.

“Spreading fake news will not only cause public confusion but can lead to unrest and cause unnecessary threat to the country’s security.”

MCMC, said Dr Salleh, discovered some 1,000 incidences of fake news that had gone viral on the Internet.

“This is also happening outside Malaysia,” he said.

A check on the sebenarnya.my website showed that there were 155 articles that had been uploaded, debunking various “news items” or social media posts.

The latest is that of a Facebook post about a soldier purportedly injured in a bomb explosion by terrorist groups, which the army later clarified to be a re-enactment during a training camp in Negri Sembilan.

Source: by Joseph Kaos Jr The Star

Related:

SEBENARNYA.MY portal launched for checking validity of news

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Turmoil in Korean Peninsula

https://youtu.be/E1wdWN1LBy8

Park Geun-hye - Ousted from office

Park ousted but her policy stays in S.Korea


The South Korean Constitutional Court on Friday upheld the parliament's decision to impeach Park Geun-hye, making her the first democratically elected president in the country to be deposed. Park may also face criminal charges.

A few months back, when Park's close friend Choi Soon-sil was first exposed of wrongdoing, few people thought Park would be impeached. But as her misdeeds including her involvement in Choi's illegal profiteering and graft by herself were disclosed one by one, the true life of Park startled South Korea and the entire world.

The impeachment of Park has no direct connection with its diplomatic policies. However, if the leader of the opposition party is elected president later, South Korea may have a chance to shift diplomatic policies.

During the first half of Park's presidency, China-South Korea relations changed for the better, as Seoul maintained a balance between Beijing and Washington.

Despite South Korea being an ally of the US, its trade volume with China reached more than double that with the US.

There is a strong pro-US political faction in South Korea. Whenever South Korea's relations with North Korea become strained, they would try their best to push the country back to its old route of aligning with the US.

The leader of South Korea's biggest opposition party has been leading a popular poll as a presidential contender. He holds a negative attitude toward THAAD. South Korea may change its diplomacy if he wins the election, though the scale of change is still hard to predict.



South Korea appears to have completely overthrown Park, however, Park's policies, especially her signature work to deploy THAAD in South Korea, are still being 100 percent implemented by the caretaker government.

If Park is only a "princess" lacking the ability of judgment and easily being manipulated, then her presidential decisions should be thoroughly re-examined; if she was truly strategically visionary for the country, then her relationship with Choi would not be so scandalous.

We have to say that South Korean society's attitude toward Park is full of contradictions.

Attacking Park and in the meantime upholding her policy is not a reasonable behavior.

Park's decision to accept THAAD has pushed her country closer to the US, which is a serious geopolitical mistake.

It turned South Korea from as a country benefiting from its proximity to two big countries into a pawn of the US in Asia, making it a miniature Japan instead of an independent country. If South Korea doesn't correct its path, Park's legacy would still be in control of the country, as if she remains in the presidential hall.

Seoul shares fate with Pyongyang, not Washington


The South Korea-US Combined Forces Command kicked off their annual joint Key Resolve military exercise on Monday. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and F-35B stealth fighters will arrive in South Korean waters to conduct the exercise, which will simulate a preemptive strike against North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities when signs of attack are detected. The US military is also deploying a new-type of Gray Eagle drone in South Korea that is capable of striking North Korean targets.

The Yonhap news agency, citing government sources, reported that the drills will include missions that could penetrate Pyongyang and target war command and key military facilities. They send an explicit radical threat to Pyongyang.

To decapitate the North Korean leadership and to punish "the South's imperialist running dogs" with nuclear weapons are both the craziest threat Pyongyang and Seoul have sent to each other. They are equally hysterical, expressing both sides' viciousness to destroy the other.

The US-South Korean joint drills without doubt are a deterrent against North Korea. How can Pyongyang remain indifferent facing a military exercise that includes more than 300,000 military personnel to carry out missions targeting its war command and top leader? In such a case, by no means will both sides be in the mood for negotiations. Even if they sit down, they cannot establish a minimum degree of trust for talks.

By deterring North Korea, the US and South Korea are encouraging the country to take a firm grip on the nuclear capabilities it has acquired so far. They intend to scare Pyongyang, but the actual effect is the opposite. Instead, Pyongyang believes that nuclear weapons are the reason why Washington and Seoul dare not put their plan of subverting the North's regime into practice.

Through joint drills, more and more US strategic weapons are deployed on the Peninsula, posing a greater potential threat to China. Seoul may have more sense of security. But it disregards China's security concern, it may even feel schadenfreude. To the Chinese people, the South Korean government has lost its rationality on the security issue.

China has participated in the tough sanctions the US and South Korea launched against the North, while the two countries rejected China's proposal that the US and South Korea suspend their military exercises in exchange for a halt of North Korea's nuclear activities.

The US and South Korea often accuse China of being uncooperative, but the reality is they are uncooperative over China's mediation.

The US is here to stir up more trouble in Northeast Asia. By hitching itself to the US chariot, South Korea naively thinks it shares a common destiny with the US. However, if war breaks out, the battlefield is bound to be the Korean Peninsula while the US is on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. South Korea and North Korea are the two who really share a common destiny.

Put a break on Peninsula vicious cycle 

 
US and South Korean diplomats gave a negative response to the proposal raised by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Wednesday on the issue of the Korean Peninsula. During a press conference Wednesday on the sidelines of the ongoing annual sessions of the National People's Congress, Wang noted that Pyongyang, which is promoting its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and Washington and Seoul, which are holding large-scale military exercises to pile increasing military pressure on North Korea, are like "two accelerating trains coming towards each other, with neither side willing to give way." Wang stressed that the priority for now is to "flash a red light and apply the brakes on both trains."

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley responded Wednesday local time that the US must see "some sort of positive action" from North Korea before it could take Pyongyang seriously at the negotiation table. Cho Tae-yul, South Korea's UN ambassador was more direct, saying "This is not a time for us to talk about freezing or dialogue with North Korea."

However, those two diplomats' remarks do not mean that the appeal from Beijing only had a life that lasted several hours.

In fact, Wang's solution is the only way out to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue apart from the use of force. It won't be easy for all three sides, the US, South Korea and North Korea, to take a step back, but when warfare is so imminent, if they don't want to fight, they might eventually be forced to choose the path which China suggested.

Of course, if they are so determined to go to war, although China does not wish to see that, still, they are free to go ahead.

In the eyes of the Chinese people, the North Korean nuclear issue was not created by Pyongyang alone. The country's insistence on developing a nuclear program is without doubt a wrong path, yet Washington and Seoul are the main forces that have pushed North Korea to this path.

Now they want to stop Pyongyang from going ahead while refusing to reduce the impetus they are giving to North Korea. In the end, they failed to reach their goal and blame China for not being cooperative enough.

Wang's suggestion aims at stopping the vicious circle on the Peninsula through an abrupt brake.

It must be uncomfortable to do so, nevertheless, it can avoid the worst-case scenario. It is believed that even if Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang refuse to admit it ostensibly, they will consider the option raised by China to avoid war.

China has expressed its willingness to be a "railway switchman" over the Korean Peninsula issue, but what happens next depends on Pyongyang and Seoul, as well as on whether the new US President has the boldness to make a peaceful decision. If the two trains resolve to have a head-on collision, a switchman will be of no use even if he wants to help.

THAAD provides a reason for China to elevate nuclear prowess


According to reports from South Korea and the US Tuesday, the two countries have started deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea. Parts of the shield, including launch vehicles, have already arrived, and service personnel and other equipment will be put in place within two months.

It seems that Washington and Seoul are determined to accomplish the installation of THAAD before the coming South Korean presidential election.

In the end, China has not been able to prevent THAAD from being set up in South Korea, but this was predicted by most observers at the beginning. Therefore, Beijing should keep calm and adopt resolute and efficient measures to minimize its threat toward China. In the subsequent games, Beijing will step by step make South Korea feel the pain and make the US realize its mistake.

We should start from increasing sanctions toward Seoul in an orderly way, comprehensively lower the level of Sino-South Korean exchanges, roll back all the privileges that Seoul has gained from China, and just maintain a normal relationship between the two.

Over the past years, South Korean commodities and cultural products have been particularly popular among Chinese consumers given the close ties between Beijing and Seoul. But we can take the current opportunity to squeeze South Korean cultural products out of the Chinese market. This is the price the country must pay for the THAAD deployment.

China should also focus on military countermeasures and strategically deal with more threats. The deployment of THAAD in South Korea has two consequences - it directly threatens military activities within China, moreover, it sets a precedent that Washington can arbitrarily implement its anti-missile arrangements around China. Both will jeopardize China's security.

Can we neutralize THAAD technically? Research in this field must be enforced. If possible, Beijing must realize it at all costs. One thing is for sure, China's related strategic weapons must target South Korea's Seongju County, where THAAD will be installed.

We must prevent the US from setting up more THAAD batteries to China's southeast or redeploying tactical nuclear weapons on South Korean soil. All that cannot be achieved by simply sanctioning the Lotte Group. The THAAD deployment will become a turning point in the Northeast Asian paradigm. When we take one step forward, we must think two steps, three steps ahead.

The most essential task for China now is to boost its military power. The THAAD installation has offered China a crucial reason to increase and improve its tactical nuclear weapons. It would be worth it if Beijing can comprehensively elevate its strategic nuclear power because of THAAD.

The world has come to a crossroad where Washington is attempting to establish global military hegemony through its anti-missile system, while Beijing and Moscow are trying to smash that plan. This is the essence of the reality.

Sources: Global Times

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Here come the robots; your job is at risk

The new automation revolution is going to disrupt both industry and services, and developing countries need to rethink their development strategies.


A NEWS item caught my eye last week, that Uber has obtained permission in California to test two driverless cars, with human drivers inside to make corrections in case something goes wrong.

Presumably, if the tests go well, Uber will roll out a fleet of cars without drivers in that state. It is already doing that in other states in America.

In Malaysia, some cars can already do automatic parking. Is it a matter of time before Uber, taxis and personal vehicles will all be smart enough to bring us from A to B without our having to do anything ourselves?

But in this application of “artificial intelligence”, in which machines can have human cognitive functions built into them, what will happen to the taxi drivers? The owners of taxis and Uber may make more money but their drivers will most likely lose their jobs.

The driverless car is just one example of the technological revolution taking place that is going to drastically transform the world of work and living.

There is concern that the march of automation tied with digital technology will cause dislocation in many factories and offices, and eventually lead to mass unemployment.

This concern is becoming so pervasive that none other than Bill Gates recently proposed that companies using robots should have to pay taxes on the incomes attributed to the use of robotics, similar to the income tax that employees have to pay.

That proposal has caused an uproar, with mainstream economists like Lawrence Summers, a former United States treasury secretary, condemning it for putting brakes on technological advancement. One of them suggested that the first company to pay taxes for causing automation should be Microsoft.

However, the tax on robots idea is one response to growing fears that the automation revolution will cause uncontrollable disruption and increase the inequalities and job insecurities that have already spurred social and political upheaval in the West, leading to the anti-establishment votes for Brexit and Donald Trump.

Recent studies are showing that deepening use of automation will cause widespread disruption in many sectors and even whole economies. Worse, it is the developing countries that are estimated to lose the most, and this will exacerbate the already great global inequalities.

The risks of job automation to developing countries is estimated to range from 55 to 85%, according to a pioneering study in 2016 by Oxford University’s Martin School and Citi.

Major emerging economies will be at high risk, including China (77%) and India (69%). The risk for Malaysia is estimated at 65-70%. The developed OECD countries’ average risk is only 57%.

From the Oxford-Citi report, “The future is not what it used to be”, one gathers there are at least three reasons why the automation revolution will be particularly disruptive in developing countries.

First, there is “premature deindustrialisation” taking place as manufacturing is becoming less labour-intensive and many developing countries have reached the peak of their manufacturing jobs.

Second, recent developments in robotics and additive manufacturing will enable and could thus lead to relocation of foreign firms back to their home countries.

Seventy per cent of clients surveyed believe automation and 3D printing developments will encourage international companies to move their manufacturing close to home. China, Asean and Latin America have the most to lose from this relocation.

Thirdly, the impact of automation may be more disruptive for developing countries due to lower levels of consumer demand and limited social safety nets.

The report warns that developing countries may even have to rethink their overall development models as the old ones that were successful in generating growth in the past will not work anymore.

Instead of export-led manufacturing growth, developing countries will need to search for new growth models, said the report.

“Service-led growth constitutes one option, but many low-skill services are now becoming equally automatable.”

Another series of reports, by McKinsey Global Institute, found that 49% of present work activities can be automated with currently demonstrated technology, and this translates into US$15.8tril in wages and 1.1 billion jobs globally.

About 60% of all occupations could see 30% or more of their activities automated. But more reassuringly, an author of the report, James Manyika, says the changes will take decades.

Which jobs are most susceptible? The McKinsey study lists accommodations and food services as the most vulnerable sector in the US, followed by manufacturing and retail business.

In accommodations and food, 73% of activities workers perform can be automated, including preparing, cooking or serving food, cleaning food-preparation areas and collecting dirty dishes.

In manufacturing, 59% of all activities can be automated, including packaging, loading, welding and maintaining equipment.

For retailing, 53% of activities are automatable. They include stock management, maintaining sales records, gathering customer and product information, and accounting.

A technology specialist writer and consultant, Shelly Palmer, has also listed elite white-collar jobs that are at risk from robotic technologies.

These include middle managers, commodity salespeople, report writers, journalists, authors and announcers, accountants and bookkeepers, and doctors.

Certainly, the technological trend will improve productivity per worker that remains, and increase the profitability of companies that survive.

But there are adverse effects including loss of jobs and incomes for those who are replaced by the new technologies.

What can be done to slow down automation or at least to cope with its adverse effects?

The Bill Gates proposal to tax robots is one of the most radical. The tax could slow down the technological changes and the funds generated by the tax could be used to mitigate the social effects.

Other proposals, as expected, include training students and present employees to have the new skills needed to work in the new environment.

Overall, however, there is likely to be a significant net loss of employment, and the potential for social discontent is also going to be large.

As for the developing countries, there will have to be much thinking about the implications of the new technologies for their immediate and long-term economic prospects, and a major rethinking of economic and development strategies.



Global Trends by Martin Khor

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.


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China sends out positive signals


CHINA has sent out stabilising messages to the world on its economic, investment and foreign policies since it convened its two most important annual political meetings (“two sessions”) early this month.

The on-going “two sessions” inevitably attract global attention because China’s policies for the year are announced by top leaders at these meetings held in the imposing Great Hall of The People, to the west of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

For this year, it is even more crucial for other nations to scrutinise the policies of China at the sessions, held from March 3 to 15, as US President Donald Trump has injected too much uncertainty into the global dynamics.

The world is weighed down by anxiety as Trump, who took office in January, abandons globalisation and advocates the return of protectionism. Hence, nations are looking for leadership from the world’s second largest economy, according to analysts.

The two sessions or lianghui refer to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that began its session on March 3 and the annual National People’s Congress (NPC, or Parliament) that started on March 5. The CPPCC is China’s top political advisory body set up by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949 after the CPC, led by Mao Zedong then, won the civil war.

Five years later, the legislative NPC was established.  

Steady economic growth

China is expected to grow steadily at 6.5% or higher this year as it continues its restructuring and reforms. Last year, the country achieved growth of 6.7%.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang announced on March 5 that the growth target for this year would be around 6.5%, while he addressed more than 3,000 legislators.

This slower growth target shows China is opting for a steady growth to reduce financial risk from excessive borrowing, according to economists.

Like the rest of the world, China expects to continue to experience global headwinds and uncertainties. Indeed, the premier warned of a far more complicated global picture ahead in light of the threat of protectionism.

Alfred Schipke, an economist from the International Monetary Fund, told the South China Morning Post: “Anything between 6-6.5% will be appropriate. The key is to have sustainable growth.”

For this year, China will have to give its leaders more room to push through some painful reforms to deal with a rapid build-up in debt and over-capacity.

Li said he would tackle state-owned “zombie enterprises” producing more coal and steel than needed. And nationwide pollution, caused largely by heavy industries, has to be addressed to bring back blue skies. His list of China’s difficulties also included laziness of some government officials. But will China’s economy continue to slide?

Global Times, the party mouthpiece of the CPC, has this to say in its frank editorial: “There are many problems in China’s economy at the moment. Given that it is now stable on the whole, we do not fear these problems as they will most likely turn into future opportunities for further development.”

The news portal stated that structural reforms in the Chinese economy had been “comprehensively addressed”.

Many enterprises that are heavy polluters have been shut down. The country no longer helps inefficient enterprises to stay afloat.

The current anti-corruption campaign has curbed improper spending to the extent that businesses in classy restaurants and retail sector are badly hit.

“China’s biggest accomplishments in the past years are that it did not stop to make adjustments in its economic transition. Instead, it adjusted itself while continuing to move forward. Now, society has fully adapted to the new normal in the country’s economy,” said Global Times.

Despite having to tackle its own economic problems, China has sent out a heartening message that it will continue to be the strong engine of global growth. Last year, China contributed about one-third of the world’s economic growth.

“China’s steady growth has brought in greater demand, investment and products to the world economy ... China will help improve global prosperity and regional infrastructure as it pushes its belt and road initiative,” said Wang Guoqing, spokesman for CPPCC on March 3.

More than 100 countries and organisations have joined the belt and road initiative and over 40 of them have cooperation pacts with China, added Wang.

The belt and road initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, aims to build infrastructure and trade network to link Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

Since 2013, China has financed and gotten involved in projects on aviation, power, rail, road and telecommunications in participating belt-road countries. It is planning to host a belt and road Summit in May that could see China announcing more multi-billion dollar projects to benefit its trade partners and its own economy.

Opening up further

China had also told the world it would open up further and liberalise more sectors to promote trade and investment.

After the opening of the NPC session on March 5, core leader President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s commitment to “open up wider”.

“China will open up like never before. China’s opening door will not close,” said Xi in his report.

“China’s door will open wider, and China will keep working to be the most attractive destination for foreign investment.”

Xi made the remarks while joining in a panel discussion with lawmakers from Shanghai last Sunday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Foreign firms will be able to get listed on China’s stock markets and issue bonds. They will also be allowed to participate in national science and technology projects.

Foreign firms will also be treated as domestic firms in license applications and government procurement, and will enjoy preferential policies like locals under the “Made in China 2025” initiative aimed at modernising the manufacturing sector.

Service industries, manufacturing and mining will be more open to foreign investment.

Ian Yoong, a former investment banker in Malaysia, opines that Xi’s vows to open up and liberalise sectors “shows that China is ready to take over the mantle from the US as the dominant superpower”.

He tells Sunday Star: “The key themes of President Xi and Premier Li’s speeches are globalisation and liberalisation of trade, totally countering President Trump’s plans for the US.

“This is a signal to the world that China is ready to move into the trade and political leadership vacuum to be created by the US.”

Easing tension in South China Sea

For South-East Asian nations, there was some relief when the Middle Kingdom appears to have softened its tone in South China Sea disputes.

In remarks made on March 3, Wang, the spokesman for the CPPCC placed emphasis on “navigational freedom”, which the US has often advocated.

“As a major trading nation and the biggest country along the South China Sea, China attaches more importance than any other country to navigational freedom and security in the South China Sea.”

This stance was starkly different from the hard tone of previous months, during which China warned the US and Japan to stay away from its “own sea”.

China’s recent naval force demonstrations in South China Sea had also unnerved Asean nations.

Observed Panos Mourdoukoutas, a contributor to Forbes magazine: “The shift in China’s tone in the South China Sea disputes comes as a relief for investors in Asian equities.”

But what is more comforting for Asean is that last Wednesday (March 8), China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that the first draft of a code of conduct (COC) for behaviour in South China Sea disputes has been completed.

He told a press conference: “Tension in the waterway has eased notably.”

Since 2010, China and the 10-member of Asean have been trying to work out a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflicts among nations laying rival claims over the waters.

China, which lays sovereign claim to over 80% of the resource-rich South China Sea through which US$5tril (RM22tril) worth of trade passes every year, has often stated it prefers to resolve disputes via peaceful talks with rival claimants – the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

Wang vowed China would not allow this new stability in South China Sea to be “disrupted and damaged” by outsiders.

There have been sporadic incidents between US and Chinese ships in the South China Sea. Late last year, a Chinese ship seized a US navy underwater drone off the Philippines, but later returned it.

Korean Peninsula crisis

At his press conference, China’s Foreign Minister also addressed the most pressing issue for the region now – the possibility of a war exploding at Northeast Asia.

North Korea recently launched four short-ranged ballistic missile in response to large-scale military drills held by the US and South Korea. It was reported that these launches were aimed at US military bases in Japan.

Wang proposed “double suspension” to defuse the crisis, urging North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities while the United States and South Korea to cease their war games.

Describing the two parties as “two accelerating trains coming towards each other”, Wang said China was willing to be a “railway switchman” to switch the issue back to the right track.

But US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley promptly responded that the US must see “some sort of positive action” from North Korea, while Cho Tae-yul, South Korea’s UN ambassador, said: “This is not a time for us to talk about freezing or dialogue with North Korea.”

CPC’s Global Times, in its editorial, opined Wang’s solution is “the only way out” to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully.

The North Korean nuclear issue is not created by Pyongyang alone, it argued.

Although North Korea’s development of a nuclear programme is wrong, Washington and Seoul are the main forces that have pushed North Korea to this path, it added.

“Now, they want to stop Pyongyang from going ahead, while refusing to reduce the impetus they are giving to North Korea. When they failed to reach their goal, they blame China for not being cooperative enough,” said the editorial.

Despite the negative response to China’s proposal, Global Times opines Wang’s handling of the press conference “displays confidence of the country”.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Malaysian start-up CO3 plans to set up Google-like offices in the region



KUALA LUMPUR: Taking a cue from the trendy, cool office spaces of Google and the like, a Malaysian start-up aspires to offer a one-of-its-kind co-working space in the region.

Dubbed CO3 Social Office, the venture was launched yesterday and will roll out by June.

Co-founder and CEO Yong Chen Hui said CO3 stood for connectivity, collaboration and community that offered a platform for people from different establishments to work together.

“Cool workplaces like Google make people envy,” he said in his presentation during a media conference here yesterday.

“Such places will inspire people to give their best to the corporation everyday,” Yong said.

The first CO3 Social Office, with a space of 21,000 sq ft for 300 people, will be housed at the shoplots next to IOI Mall in Puchong.

The second, covering 40,000 sq ft for 500 people, will be located at Jalan University in Petaling Jaya, next to Sin Chew Media Corporation Bhd, which is one of CO3’s eight founders.

Three more are planned. These will be situated at the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Sentral and Damansara.

The ambitious expansion plan is to include 40 locations in the Asean region. The spaces will be equipped with meeting rooms, private booths, sleeping pods, mini library, fast wi-fi, etc.

Yong said the company’s target audience was the 90s – “the future” – who value freedom, cool and charming trends, etc.

CO3 aims to respond to the flexibility and fluidity of today’s work environments by transforming offices into hip communal living spaces.

CO3 will also strive to provide entrepreneurs, SMEs and non-pro­fit organisations a unique co-office environment to help grow their businesses.

“We hope to be the next US$2bil ‘unicorn’ by 2022,” Yong said during the presentation.

A “unicorn” is a company with a billion-dollar valuation. The mythical animal is used to emphasis how rare it is to reach that status.

Bruneian artiste Goh Kiat Chun, better known as Wu Zun, is one of the eight founders of CO3 Social Office.

Source: The Star by tho xin yi

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SINGAPORE: One of Rachel Lau’s strongest childhood memories is the smell of newspaper. Her father, driving her to school each day in Kuala Lumpur, would make his sleepy daughter open the paper, go through stock quotes and do mental math.

“He would be, like, How did KLK do today? OK, if it’s up four sen and I’ve got 89,000 shares, how much did I make?” Lau recalled. The daily ritual continued through her teenage years. Her father Lau Boon Ann built his fortune in real estate and by investing in companies like Top Glove Corp Bhd, which became the world’s biggest rubber-glove maker.

Some days, he would stand in front of an empty lot with his young daughter and challenge her to imagine a building there rather than watching the chickens running around.

Lau, now 31, is one of the three millennial co-founders of RHL Ventures, along with Raja Hamzah Abidin, 29, son of prominent Malaysian politician and businessman Datuk Seri Utama Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin and Lionel Leong, also 29, the son of property tycoon Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum.

They set up RHL using the wealth of their families with a plan to attract outside capital and build the firm into South-East Asia’s leading independent investment group.

“We look at South-East Asia and there is no brand that stands out – there is no KKR, there is no Fidelity,” Lau said. “Eventually we want to be a fund house with multiple products. Venture capital is going to be our first step.”

RHL has backed two startups since its debut last year. One is Singapore-based Perx, which has morphed from a retail rewards app to provide corporate clients with data and analysis on consumer behaviour. Lau is a member of Perx’s board, whose chairman is Facebook Inc co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

In January, the firm invested an undisclosed amount in Sidestep, a Los Angeles-based startup that’s also backed by pop-music artists Beyonce and Adele. Sidestep is an app that allows fans to buy concert memorabilia online and either have it shipped to their home or collect it at the show without having to wait in line.

“RHL guys are really smart investors who are taking their family offices to a new play,” said Trevor Thomas who co-founded Cross Culture Ventures – a backer of Sidestep, together with former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter. “What attracted the founders of Sidestep to RHL was their deep network in South-East Asia.”

A lot of startup founders in the United States want to access the Asian market, said Thomas, but they often overlook the huge South-East Asian markets and only focus on China. “Rachel and the team did a great job of explaining the value of that vision and providing really great access to early-stage US companies,” he said.

In South-East Asia, RHL has positioned itself between early-stage venture capitalists and large institutional investors such as Temasek Holdings Pte. Hamzah said they want to fill a gap in the region for the subsequent rounds of funding – series B, C and D. “We want to play in that space because you get to cherry pick,” he said.

RHL’s strategy is to take a chunk of equity and a board seat in a startup that has earned its stripes operationally for at least a year, and see the company through to an initial public offering.

Summer camp

RHL’s partners represent a new generation of wealthy Asians who are breaking away from the traditional family business to make their own mark. They include billionaire palm-oil tycoon Kuok Khoon Hong’s son Kuok Meng Ru, whose BandLab Technologies is building a music business.

RHL’s story begins in 2003 at a summer camp in Melbourne. During a month of activities such as horse riding and playing the stock market, Lau struck up a friendship with Hamzah, unaware that their parents knew each other well.

Their paths crossed again in London, Sydney, New York and Hong Kong as they went to college and forged careers in finance – Lau at NN Investment Partners and Heitman Investment Management, where she currently helps manage a US$4bil equity fund; and Hamzah at Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Guoco Management Co. Together with their mutual childhood friend Leong, the trio would joke about all returning to Malaysia one day to start a business together.

That day came in 2015 when Hamzah called up Lau in Hong Kong and said: “Yo! I’ve moved back. When are you coming back? You haven’t lied to me for 15 years, have you?”

They decided their common trait was investing.

Hamzah shares Lau’s passion for spotting mispriced assets by analysing valuations. Lau says she trawls through 100-page prospectuses for fun and values strong free cash flow – the cash a company generates from its operations after capital expenditures. Leong helped structure debt products at Hong Leong Investment Bank before joining his family’s real-estate business to learn about allocating capital to strategic projects.

In February 2016, they started RHL Ventures – an acronym for Rachel, Hamzah, Lionel – with their own money. When their families found out about the plan, they were eager to jump in, said Lau. Now they aim to raise US$100mil more from outside investors.

The partners have roped in their family and hedge-fund experts as advisers. “We recognise that we are young and still learning,” Lau said. “There is no point pretending otherwise.”

Leong’s father runs Mah Sing Group, Malaysia’s largest non-government-linked property developer. Hamzah’s father, chairman of mechanical and electrical business Rasma Corp, is a former Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister. Top Glove chairman Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai is also an adviser, in place of Lau’s father, who died in 2008.

The other two advisers are Marlon Sanchez, Deutsche Bank’s head of global prime finance distribution in Asia-Pacific, and Francesco Barrai, senior vice-president at DE Shaw, a hedge fund with more than US$40bil in investment capital.

RHL added a fourth partner last month, John Ng Pangilinan, a grandson of billionaire property tycoon Ng Teng Fong, who built Far East Organisation Pte and Sino Group.

Ng, 37, has founded some 10 ventures, including Makan Bus, a service that allows tourists to explore off-the-beaten-track eateries in Singapore.

As well as their family fortunes, the four partners bring experience of upbringings in dynasties that valued hard work, tradition and dedication.

Ng recalls his grandfather, Singapore’s richest man when he died in 2010, would always visit a property he was interested in buying with his wife.

After driving around the area, they would sit on a bench and observe it from a distance. Then they would return to the same spot after dark.

“He said to us, ‘What you see during the day can look very different at night,’” Ng said.

Hamzah, whose great-grandfather Mustapha Albakri was the first chairman of Malaysia’s Election Commission, remembers his father’s lessons in frugality – one time in London he refused to buy a £2 (US$2.50) umbrella when it started raining as they had plenty of umbrellas at home.

Leong, scion of Mah Sing Group, grew up listening to tales of how his family business overcame tough times by consolidating and reinventing itself from its roots as a plastic trader. “It made me realise that we have to be focused,” he said.

“So with every deal we do, we have to put in that same energy and tenacity.”

Lau was a competitive gymnast as a child but quit the sport when she failed to win gold at a championship event.

“It’s one thing I regret. In hindsight, I don’t think I should have given up,” said Lau. “The ultimate champion is the person who doesn’t give up.”

One old habit however remains. When Lau picks up a newspaper, she goes straight to the business section. “It’s still the only thing I read,” she said. – Bloomberg/The Star by Yoolim Yee

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

N Korean envoy declared as 'persona non grata' in Malaysia

Kang Chol



KUALA LUMPUR: North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol, who has accused Malaysia of colluding with foreign powers in the murder of Kim Jong-nam, must leave the country within 48 hours.

Kang Chol, who was summoned to Wisma Putra at 6pm yesterday, failed to turn up.

And in a turn of events, the ministry sent a diplomatic note to the embassy at about 9.30pm to inform the North Korean government that Kang Chol had been declared persona non grata.

Kang Chol has to leave by tomorrow.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the Malaysian Government had demanded a written apology from North Korea for the ambassador’s recent accusations against the country over Jong-nam’s assassination at KLIA2.

That demand, he said, had been made du­ring a meeting between Wisma Putra officials and the North Korean high-level delegation on Tuesday.

“The officials, led by deputy secretary-general for bilateral affairs Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin, met the delegation headed by Kim Song on Tuesday.

“The delegation was informed that should there be no response by 10pm that day, the Malaysian Government would take measures to best protect its interest.

Here you go: A North Korean embassy official (left) accepting a letter from Muhammad Haidas Muhammad Sharif Song, an assistant secretary of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry’s East Asia Division, at the North Korean Embassy in Bukit Damansara. 

“Almost four days have passed.

“No apology has been made and neither has there been any indication that one is forthcoming.

“For this reason, the Ambassador has been declared persona non grata,” said Anifah.

Persona non grata, in Latin, means one who has been declared so by the receiving state and barred from entering or remaining in the country.

It is the most serious form of disapproval that the country can apply to foreign diplomats and is often used to express displeasure at the conduct or policies of the sending state.

In his statement, Anifah also gave details leading to the move.

He said he had instructed his officers to summon Kang Chol, but neither the ambassador nor the embassy’s senior officials came to Wisma Putra.

“For this reason, the ministry – via a diplomatic note sent to the embassy this evening – informed the North Korea government that His Excellency Mr Kang Chol is declared persona non grata by the Malaysian Government.

“He is expected to leave Malaysia within 48 hours from the scheduled time of the meeting, which is 6pm on March 4 (yesterday).”

Malaysia, vowed the minister, would strongly act against any insult made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation.

“It should be recalled that the ambassador has alleged that the conduct of the investigation into the death of a North Korean citizen on Feb 13 indicates that the Malaysian Government had something to hide and that it colluded with outside powers to defame his country,” he said.

However, recent events, including the release of North Korean Ri Jong-chol due to the lack of evidence, was proof that the investigation was carried out in an impartial, fair and transparent manner, said Anifah.

This, he added, as “befits a country that practises the rule of law”.

Kang Chol, 64, began his diplomatic career as an assistant officer in the Middle East Department of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

His previous postings were in Somalia and Ethiopia and he had also served as the ministry’s director-general of administrative affairs.

Kang Chol, an alumnus of the Pyongyang University of Foreign Language (1972-73) and Somalia National University (1973-76), has two children.

Source: The Star by mergawati zulfakar, farik zolkepli, qishin tariq, jo timbuong, neville spykerman, royce tan


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Saturday, March 4, 2017

No dog until neighbours agree

 

IPOH: The Batu Gajah District Council (MDBG) has become the first in Perak to require dog owners to seek consent from their neighbours if they want a dog licence.

It is now running a trial on this, covering residents who want to get a pet dog for the first time.

“This is to ensure better management of the pets and to ensure there are fewer complaints from the people,” said council president Nurdiana Puaadi, adding that the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council had a similar requirement which had been proven to be successful.

Nurdiana cited cases of a household keeping three dogs but only one was licensed, adding that the MDBG had received numerous complaints about dogs that barked non-stop.

“Once the neighbours give their approval, they cannot complain to us,” said Nurdiana, adding existing dog owners should also get their neighbours’ approval.

“This will also help keep stray dog problems in check,” she said.

The application form states that residents staying at terrace lots need the consent from neighbours from both sides.

Those staying in bungalows, semi-detached and cluster homes need the agreement from neighbours on both sides and at the back. Owners also need to put up a sign to show that they have a dog.

The types of dogs not allowed to be kept include Akita, American Bulldog, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Japanese Tosa, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Rottweilers are allowed but owners need to produce health reports from the Veterinary Services Department for new applications. Those who have been keeping Rottweilers can renew the licence until the pet dies.

It also states that those living in bungalows, semi-detached or terrace corner lots can keep a maximum of two dogs, while residents in terrace end lots and terrace intermediate lots can only keep one.

Other stipulations include urging owners to keep their dogs clean and healthy and to ensure pets do not disturb neighbours with incessant barking.

Owners must also ensure their dogs do not roam unsupervised and must be muzzled and leashed when they are out. Dogs three years or older found without a licence can be impounded and put down.

Owners can also be fined a maximum of RM2,000 or jailed not more than a year or both if found guilty under any provisions of the Dog Licensing and Dog Breeding House By-laws.

By Ivan Loh The Star

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Protecting house buyers' interest


I REFER to the reports “Court: No power to grant extension” and “A fair and right judgment, says housing developer” ( The Star, Feb 28 - Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says).

The High Court decision declaring as ultra vires (beyond one’s legal power or authority) the Housing and Local Government Minister’s granting of a one-year extension of time (EOT) to developers to complete a delayed housing project and thus denying house buyers liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD) provided for under the sale and purchase agreement is timely, sound and indeed meritorious. It is hoped that the decision would be maintained should the minister decide to appeal it.

The Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 was enacted for the protection of home buyers.

The long title of the Act (paragraph stating Parliament’s intent for the Act) says: “An Act to provide for the control and licensing of the business of housing development in Peninsular Malaysia, the protection of the interest of purchasers...” This makes clear that the housing development business is regulated to ensure that the protection of home buyers’ interest is paramount.

Two eminent judges, the late Tun Mohamed Suffian, former Lord President of Malaysia, and the late Tan Sri Lee Hun Hoe, the longest serving Chief Justice of Borneo, stated this in two landmark cases respectively.

Suffian LP (Sea Housing Corporation v Lee Poh Chee): “To protect home buyers, most of whom are people of modest means, from rich and powerful developers, Parliament found it necessary to regulate the sale of houses and protect buyers by enacting the Act.”

Lee Hun Hoe CJ (Borneo) (Beca (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd v Tan Choong Kuang & Anor): “The duty of observing the law is firmly placed on the housing developers for the protection of house buyers. Hence, any infringement of the law would render the housing developer liable to penalty on conviction.”

Respectfully, it is submitted that the decision to grant the developer of a housing project extension of time and thus deny the home buyers’ statutory rights to LAD ought to be exercised with diffidence. The decision, if any, ought to be made with the Act’s long title in mind, namely, “for the protection of interest of purchasers”.

In doing so, some aspects to consider are:

> In granting EOT, how will home buyers’ interest be protected?

> LAD is agreed monetary payment for home buyers’ losses for delay in completion of a housing project. Is denying home buyers’ the LAD by the EOT tantamount to protecting their interest?

Although Section 11(3) of the Act states that the developer under “special circumstances” may apply to the Controller of Housing for EOT, it is submitted that Parliament and the long title of the Act surely did not intend LAD to be wiped out by “a stroke of a pen”.

To avoid doubt, “special circumstances” would mean act of God or natural disaster, for example earth quake or tsunami, and not business or economic related challenges or hardship.

The above view would make legal sense of Section 11(3).

Again, the High Court decision is lauded.

Home buyers’ interest is of paramount importance under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966. The Controller of Housing’s or Minister’s decision, although seemingly made “by a stroke of a pen”, must materialise or recognise this intent. Failing to do so would be ultra vires the Act.

May the redeeming light of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) 1966 continue to shine effervescently and protect effectively home buyer’s interest for many years to come.

This letter is dedicated to the National Housebuyers Association, its great team of lawyers, professionals and volunteers for their sterling and pro-bono efforts to speak up for and preserve home buyers’ interest.

Source: ROBERT TAN,  Home buyer and author of Buying Property From Developer: What You Need To Know And Do, Petaling Jaya

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