Sunday, 27 November 2011

5 Things to Consider before Marriage

Do you noticed that many people are getting married lately? How many wedding invitations have you received this year? Or, are you planning to form your own family now? Yes. I had 4 wedding dinners to attend to next month. Good month indeed?

During good times, many couples decided to tied their knot as they feel that their situation became better, especially financially. Not only Government may consider to hold general election, love birds are joining the bandwagon due to the feel good factor. When consumer confidence is rising, people tends to spend and hold events or celebrations. All of this involves money. Marriage, depending on how grand you want it to be, can be very costly. What an interesting topic to discuss here!!!

First, I must congratulates those love birds. But, we must be realistic that there is some issues that must be dealt with differently before and after marriage. What are they?

What kind of Lifestyle?
Too simplified ones lifestyle, it viewed as toning down our social status. In contrast, we should not spend lavishly just to show off our social status. The question here is, how simplified or comfortable your lifestyle should be after getting married? Discuss with you partner now.

I think that we should practiced the so called "gratitude", by spending and living in a more discipline way, instead of by emotion. If you and your partner differs in the way of living, troubles may set in. By being thankful for what we already have, we would not need to satisfy our material wants or even develop any. This help us save money in the process. Then, we can utilized the money saved for other better purposes, such as investments.

Time allocation?
Now, you're not alone anymore. You have another person waiting for you to come back home everyday. Many people think that by buying expensive gifts, they can fulfill their love towards their partner. But, does it what they really want? Why do your partner marry you at the first place? Gifts or Loves?

If gifts, that's not true love. What if another guy giving her a better and more expensive gifts one day? On the other hand, if the answer is love (I hope this is the answer most of the time), how are you going to enhance the longevity of love? Utilize your energy towards quality time and enhancing relationships with loved ones. Not every kind of enjoyment requires money to be spent. All we need is a change of attitude towards wastage and ensuring money grows out of money. I think this would be a better and long-lasting relationship. Since young, our teachers taught us that time is priceless. Still remember?

Women are more brave after marriage?
Emm... Maybe because married women have another person to rely on, they tend to be "more brave" financially. Example, they may not care much about their job because there is always another job waiting - housewife. If there is anything financial crisis, they can tap into the other's income. And most of the time, men are reluctant to discuss their financial standings with his loved one. But, what if he lose his job? It is important to be honest to each other about one another financial situation to avoid any unfortunate surprises relating to money.

Does child a happy gift or burden?
A child is a wonderful addition to the family. Planned or unexpected, a pregnancy requires additional budget which a married couple must be prepared for. Did you figure out how much is the additional costs involved? Regular medical checkups, surgical fees, baby items and baby sitter need to be prepared. Even if you don't eat, your child still need to. Then, how about baby's education, insurance, savings account and other needs? If you already planned for it, a child is actually a happy addition to a family.

Marriage debt?
Many people resorted to seek help from financial institutions. Personal loan is one of the most common way to finance a marriage event. Because of "face", many new couple borrow from banks and pay installments after that. Meaning, they are in debt (or more debts) because of marriage. Does it worth it? I don't know because love can be blind sometime. Agreed?

Anyway, I do not encourage anyone to take out a loan for this supposedly happy marriage. Delay or postpone the once in a lifetime event until you and your partner is ready (unless unexpected pregnancy occurs). At the end of the day, realistically speaking, there is an old saying that goes: "You can't live on love alone, you need money to survive". With this, I end writing here and Finance Malaysia wishes all of you have a wonderful and blissful marriage.

Do you think that this article is useful and interesting? Please share this out. Thank you.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Why GOLD is a different asset class?

Today, gold is becoming an ever important asset class in the world. Banks nationwide is offering investors the opportunity to invest in gold, whether it is for capital preservation or capital gain. How well you diversify without investing in gold? This is the question being asked by those already investing in gold, and most of them already making profit out of it. But, is it really so different? Is it really a must have asset class?

History of Gold
Gold has been used for numerous monetary functions long long time ago, especially in China. Ancient people used gold as a form of currency and storage of wealth. By using gold as a medium to which paper currency was pegged, most modern international monetary systems were created since then.

What drives up Gold price?

The modern gold rush scenario happened since 2008 global financial crisis, driven by extremely low deposits rate on cash, very volatile equity markets and surging inflation. Negative real value of money is the key factor why many people rushing to gold since then. And of course, the wealth generated by India and China sparked the demand for gold too. Both Indians and Chinese are buying gold as a status they long-been dreaming of.

More people are flocking to Gold
Because of the bad loss-making experience in equity investments during 2008 financial crisis, investors exited the capital markets and were holding record amounts of cash then. However, the low yields on cash and other safer instruments left investors searching for better yield elsewhere. Low volatility, safe asset class, and storage of wealth naturally makes gold investment popular. This is when "Gold rush" sets in, with or without your attention. Yes, we're in the midst of gold rush currently and could persist for few years more.

Emerging Markets is the main drivers
In 2010, 54% of total global demand for gold were for the purposes of making jewelry. Who are these rich people? Yup, Asians were the regular jewelry supporters. Indian demand alone was responsible for around 1/3 of total global demand. This trend is expected to continue as more Indians make their way into the middle class and have the ability to spend their income on gold jewelry.

Following closely was Chinese, whom is beginning to display a trend that could see it overtake the ultimate title in the near future. Traditionally, Chinese cannot runaway from buying gold during Chinese New Year, marriages, new born or even birthdays. This reasons ensure the sustainability of Chinese demand for gold. In total, 40% of global jewelry demand is contributed by Indians and Chinese.

China is the largest gold producing country?
Despite record high gold prices, total mine production was fairly unchanged and remain below levels seen earlier in the decade. This was due to rising production costs and tighter legislation in certain gold producing countries. The latest was in Peru, where protesters were staging a rally for past few days against environment damaged resulted from gold mining activities there.

South Africa, once the largest gold producing country, was overtaken by China since 2007. Hence, China is going to dominate both demand and supply of gold and is expected to continue its pattern of growth going forward.

US and Western Central Banks are largest gold holders?
To re-balance currency reserves, liquidation of gold by central banks globally was a routine procedure. Despite the fact that most western central banks are, for all effects and purposes, over-allocated to gold, annual sales trends began to gradually slow as the effects of financial crisis is not over yet. Obviously, European Central Banks (ECB), have been very hesitant to sell gold from their external reserves back into the marketplace because they view gold as a currency proxy and a way to diversify their holdings. European, from banks to people, prefer to hold gold rather than currency at risk of continue devaluation.

Meanwhile, Emerging countries with particularly small gold holdings as a percentage of reserves currently are diversifying from US dollars. Instead, emerging economies are regular buyers of gold now. As these economies continue its speed to grow bigger, a paradigm shift appears to be unavoidable.

The above factors explained why gold is a different asset class. We cannot simply read the historical trends and using technical analysis tools to predict the gold price directions. Yet, we invest into gold to protect and create wealth, amid the looming economy crisis.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A False Choice

It's President Obama's favorite expression -- "a false choice" -- but it seems like the right expression for what pundits are describing as the Eurozone's only alternatives at this point: issue eurobonds or face chaotic default. But, are these really the only choices?

What about a workout -- Argentina style? Why won't that work? A debt workout would likely be a win-win for the Eurozone debtors and their creditors.

The market has already set the stage for such a workout for Greece, whose outstanding debt is now trading at a fraction of its originally issued value. Why not go the rest of the way by offering creditors repayment with a substantial haircut? That would then set the stage for similar "workouts" across Europe.

This would reduce Eurozone debt, force creditors to absorb some of the impact of their poor investment decisions, and avoid the austerity measures that can only lead to political upheaval.

No need to abandon the Euro. All that is needed is a touch of realism

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

New IPO: Pavilion REIT

Are you bored of the current small market capitalization of REITs in Malaysia? I think Sunway REIT (the largest REIT right now) is by far sitting there very lonely without anyone closer to it. Come 7th December 2011, we will witnessed a new contender - Pavilion REIT, to challenge the title. Although it may started-off in 2nd place, the new REIT may grows to clinch the first place from SunREIT. Below is some info taken from RHB Research report on the IPO;

Pavilion REIT (PavREIT) has an asset size of RM3.5bn, just after the largest MREIT - Sunway REIT’s RM4.5bn. PavREIT has two assets – Pavilion KL Mall which is worth RM3.4bn and Pavilion Tower (office) RM128m.

The Prime Asset

Pavilion Mall is one of the only four premium retail malls in KL. It is designed to complement the malls along Jalan Bukit Bintang, developing the street to a key shopping destination in the region. Located at the “Golden Triangle”, which is the business, shopping, entertainment and tourism district, the mall enjoys massive catchment of population. It has an NLA of 1.33m sqf.

Since it commenced its operations in late 2007, occupancy has consistently stayed above 96%, with a 3-year CAGR of 4% in average rental rate. With such a short operating history, the mall has recorded 31m visits in 2010, comparable to Suria KLCC’s 40m footfalls. Over the longer term, Pavilion Mall is poised to enjoy higher number of visits as it will sit near to the upcoming MRT station, which is less than 300m away. The covered skybridge currently under construction that connects Pavilion Mall and KL Convention Centre which in turn adjoins Suria KLCC and the Petronas Twin Towers, will also pull in more shopper traffic between the two tourist spots.

The Pavilion Tower (NLA of 167k sqf) is an office tower connected to Pavilion Mall. It currently has an occupancy rate of 41.4% (expected to achieve 80% by year end), housing Malton roup, Mrail International, Clever Eagle and Aker Engineering (from 1st July). As the office tower only contributes about 2% to total rental income, coupled with the oversupply of office space in KL city centre, we are neutral on this commercial asset.

Future Growth Potential

Three other retail assets can potentially be injected in future for growth. PavREIT has been granted rights of first refusals (ROFR) by its sponsor and a 3rd party to purchase fahrenheit88, Pavilion Mall extension and an upcoming community mall in USJ Subang. These assets are estimated to have a combined value of about RM1.5-2bn. We believe the injection of assets will take 2-3 years, as only farenheit88 is still in the early stage of operation, and the other two malls will only be completed in three years’ time.

How to Value?

We benchmark PavREIT against KLCCP. Although KLCCP includes non-retail assets such as office towers and hotel apart from Suria KLCC, all these assets are of Grade A class. To reflect its prime status, we value PavREIT at a target yield of 5%, which is close to the average yield of 4.72% for KLCCP over the past 5 years (we gross up to exclude the impact of corporate tax – as REITs do not have corporate tax component). This translates to a fair value of RM1.14, based on our FY12 DPU estimate.

Source: RHB Research report

Monday, 21 November 2011

Sequestration is a Better Solution

The Super Committee, at best, would have ended up with a variety of tricks that would not reduce the burgeoning size of government, so we should all celebrate the failure of the Super Committee. Bring on sequestration. The US cannot afford it's current path and whatever reduces the size of the mountain is a plus. We should resist any and all efforts to restore any of the cuts that are mandated under sequestration.

Time to include entitlements in the sequestration.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Why The Young Have a "European" Future

Young people in America face much less opportunity than their parents. Why? Corporate greed?

Is greed something new that just burst on the scenes in the past ten years or so and has squashed the hopes of our young folks? Is greed the reason that young folks increasingly can't find jobs and are forced to take the European way -- live at home with your parents until you are in your late 30s? So, if no one is greedy, then jobs will magically appear and all will be well? Is that the thinking of the OWS crowd?

For starters, absent greed, there would be no jobs. Someone has to be greedy enough to want to make a profit and thus hire employees. The more profit they want to make, the more they have to expand their business and the more employees they will have to hire. Greed creates jobs. The absence of greed means there is no motive to hire anyone.

Those who push the "greed" thesis believe that an economy is a fixed pie that is available for everyone to take a slice and that politics is about who gets the biggest slice. If that view of the economy is correct, then the OWS people are right. That would simplify things a lot. That would mean that some of the poorest nations in the world have figured it out. Everyone is on the brink of starvation. The pie is fixed, not growing, and the only political issues are how to divide it in countries like that. OWS folks would like that, I suppose.

"Greed" has taken over in China and pushed it to nearly 10 percent economic growth year after year. The result is nearly 300 million people have moved from a standard of living of $ 200 per year to a standard of living of $ 20,000 per year in the newly prosperous cities of China. Where there is no apparent greed, in the Chinese countryside, the standard of living remains stuck at $ 200 per year. The OWS folks would like this because there is no 1 %. 100 % of folks in rural China live badly, but the pie is certainly sliced fairly....everyone gets virtually nothing.

What has happened to America that young people don't have the opportunities that were available to their parents? First and foremost, our parents were not saddled with modern employment laws that dramatically raise the cost of labor. Our parents got to keep most of what the employer paid in labor costs. Not anymore. What an employee gets is a fraction of what an employer must pay in modern America. This means that employers that want workers are becoming a vanishing breed. Minimum wage laws, family leave acts, OSHA, discrimination laws. growing legal liabilities for things both in the workplace and outside of the workplace, health care costs (why are health care costs an expense to be borne by employers?). All of these "good" things make labor too expensive in modern America and those who will suffer the most will be the least skilled amongst us -- minorities, youth, the unemployed. These are the victims of the big government agenda.

Second, social security and medicare have provided benefits to the older folks that are paid for by young workers and future young workers. That's a bad deal for young workers and future young workers to be saddled with a monstrous debt load that arose by providing benefits to people that never earned them (in any actuarial sense). But they have to paid for. The youth do that. What do they get for this? Nothing.

So young folks are prisoners of bad government policy. What the country needs is for those who want to get rich to have the opportunity to do so by hiring workers. If you don't like rich people, you probably don't mind high levels of unemployment (as long as it's not you) and young people increasingly forced to return home to their parents. That's been the European way for generations. It is now becoming the American way and for pretty much the same set of reasons.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Property prices to Come Down after BNM's latest guidelines? (Nov 2011)

Like it or not, Bank Negara Malaysia announced that effective 1 Jan 2012, financial institutions must make appropriate enquiries into a prospective borrower's income after statutory eductions for tax and EPF, and consider all debt obligations, in assessing affordability.

Aimed at promoting prudent, responsible and transparent retail financing practices, the new guidelines require financial institutions to make assessments of a borrower's ability to afford financing facilities based on a prudent debt service ratio as inputs to their credit decisions.

On top of that, a new guideline was stipulated that the maximum tenure for vehicle financing should not exceed 9 years, with immediate effect (18 November 2011). Right now, there are only 2 banks which offers vehicle financing up to 11 years, and less than 2% of car buyers now opted for tenures beyond 9 years. The changes was neglect-able.

Are you an Informed Borrower?
The guidelines additionally hope to ensure that consumers are treated fairly in the sales, marketing and administration of financing facilities. As such, financial institutions are required to provide consumers with specific information on the following:

  • total repayment amount
  • total interest cost as well
  • impact of an increase in the financing rate

The BIGgest Impact will be on Property sector?
Since that the banks are required to assess the affordability of borrowers based on net income, many people may not have the capital needed to pay for down payment. Although automobile industry will be affected, the biggest victim will be on property sector. This is because property purchasing needs more capital outlay.

On top of that, the value of property went up so high currently where the market value does not match the seller's asking price. To meet the short-fall, buyers are forced to fill-in with cash. This had already slowing down property prices lately. But, after the new guideline, would it be worst? Definitely.

The numbers of affordable buyers will became lesser. Hence, demand for property will be softened. What if supply more than demand? Simple economic theory told us that prices have to come down in order to strike a balance. I think this is true and will materialize next year.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Key Highlights of BNM 3Q11 Report

Titled as "ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL DEVELOPMENTS IN MALAYSIA IN THE THIRD QUARTER OF 2011", Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) review some interesting facts on the status of our economy and the market outlook going forward. The announcement was chaired by Central Bank's governor to address the media after the closing of Bursa Malaysia.

Growth improved in the third quarter

Despite the challenging environment, Malaysian economy registered a higher growth of 5.8% (2Q11: 4.3%), due to stronger domestic demand. The robust  domestic demand was driven by an expansion in both household and business spending as well as higher public sector expenditure. Manufacturing sector recording a significantly better performance supported by firm regional  demand for resource-based products, coupled with the normalisation in supply chain disruptions arising from the Japan natural disaster.

The headline inflation rate, as measured by the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), rose to 3.4% on an annual  basis in the third quarter (2Q 11: 3.3%). The increase in consumer prices was largely the result of higher prices in the food and non-alcoholic beverages category.

Current  account recorded a larger surplus of RM26.6 billion, equivalent to 12.5% of GNI due to a higher goods surplus and lower income deficits. As at 31 October 2011, International Reserves position had increased to RM429.1 billion, equivalent  to USD134.8 billion, sufficient to finance 9.9 months of retained imports and is 4.1 times the short-term external debt.

Monetary policy is supportive of economic activity
The Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) was  left unchanged at 3.00% in the third quarter of 2011, following a 25 basis points increase in May. The stance of monetary policy is consistent with the assessment of heightened uncertainties arising from global developments that have created greater downside risks to growth.

The ringgit depreciated against the US dollar in the third quarter, in line with other regional currencies. The depreciation, mostly in September 2011, reflected mounting concerns over the European sovereign debt crisis and the sustainability of global economic recovery, which led to higher risk aversion and prompted some investors to unwind holdings of emerging market assets.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

5 Reasons Why Malaysians Overspend to stay TrenDy?

This is a timely posts to answer the "hot-debate" on TheStar article saying that "Malaysians spend to stay trendy". How much does a young adults earning? Being trendy is very costly because all the luxury brands are expensive. How about techno-trendy? How are you going to chase after the fast changing technology gadgets? Please take note that you are still a young adults, new to workforce, and have a long way to go in the future. Without saving, how are you going to live?

No wonder 60% of Malaysians young adults were in debts, and they overspend by average 15% of their salary. Example, Eric earn RM2,500 and he spend RM2,875. After cracking our head, Finance Malaysia comes with the following 5 Reasons to explain the main contributing factors:

1. Lacks of Self Discipline.

Before blaming other, we did better to blame ourselves for all the overspending stuffs. Self-discipline is an issue for young adults nowadays. They tend to spend on what they "wants" instead of what they "needs". Example, they prefer to buy an iPad rather than a computer for work. No doubt iPad is more convenient, but its functionality is somewhat limited if compare to a laptop. Why not choosing a laptop which is more comfortable to work and better eye-sight?

2. Friends.
We all know friends is important in our life. Without friends, we feel lonely. But, does it mean that we need to stay trendy just to get more friends and avoid being alone? True friends do not care about what brand are you using. True relationship does not build on "trends", that's why it didn't follow the fast changing trends and bonding strongly till the end. Those friends who care too much on trends may one day left you, once you're "expired".

3. Parents.
Yes. Sometimes we have to blame our parents for feeding us all the best things since young. These had instill the "trendy" elements into our behavior, habit, and mindset without ourselves knowing it. When these "infected" young adults join the workforce with low starting salary, parents close the water tap, everything comes back to reality. So, these young adults keeps feeding themselves with credits and overspend. Blame your parents!

4. Social.
We can't deny that the social circle we are in right now is very materialistic. They emphasis on brand names, items that may boost their image or reputation or status, and things that appeared "cool" and "glamorous". We should change the perception of live now. Trends is not everything. Cash-rich is "cooler" than trend-rich.

5. Facebook.
Interesting, right? Because of the power of Facebook, we can view a lot of photos and get attracted by the way other people spend and enjoy. Example, glamour vacation, expensive gifts, latest smartphone, promotion... In order to encourage consumers to make instant decision, promoters set a timeline on their campaign or special limited-time offers. At the same time, many people wanted to show-off their stuffs thanks to Facebook.

Year End Sales is around the corner, Good Luck, Spenders!!!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

New Fund: PB Growth Sequel Fund

Public Bank is launching a new fund, PB Growth Sequel Fund (PBGSQF) on 15 November 2011. PBGSQF is an equity fund that invests in a diversified portfolio of primarily Malaysian equities to achieve capital growth over the medium- to long-term period. PBGSQF is managed by Public Bank’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Public Mutual.

Fund Specific Benefits
PBGSQF provides investors the opportunity to participate in the medium- to long term growth potential of the equity market through investments in a diversified portfolio of  index-linked companies, blue chip stocks and companies with healthy growth prospects that are listed on Bursa Securities.

PBGSQF will invest in companies with reasonable earnings growth prospect over the medium- to long-term to maximize the growth potential of the fund. Some of the sectors that the fund would focus on include financial, communications, industrial and consumer sectors.

What is the Asset Allocation?

To achieve increased diversification, PBGSQF may invest up to 30% of its net asset value (NAV) in selected foreign markets which include Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Luxembourg and other permitted markets. 

The equity exposure of PBGSQF will generally range from 70% to 98% of its NAV. PBGSQF is suitable for investors who wish to participate in the medium to long-term growth potential of companies listed on Bursa Securities.

What else should I know?

The Fund may also invest in equity linked Participation Notes for selected regional stocks listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. Equity linked Participation Notes are instruments designed to track designated securities. The movement of these notes are similar to the underlying shares listed in their respective markets. These Notes are issued by international foreign broking houses for investment by investors who are not able to invest directly in the underlying foreign shares.

Other than that, the Fund may also invest in:

  • listed warrants and options (if any) to enhance its returns.
  • unlisted equities with attractive potential returns, particularly in companies that are expected to seek listing on the Bursa Securities or selected regional markets within a time frame of two years.
  • collective investment schemes both in the domestic or selected regional markets.
  • fixed income securities such as sovereign bonds, corporate debt and money market instruments to generate returns.

Source: Public Mutual

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

OWS: Gimme, Gimme

Occupy Wall Street is not about a political argument really. It is simply the idea that some folks are entitled and others are not. The protestors are "demanding" various things that they claim are theirs by right -- mostly they want things other people have worked hard to obtain.

Instead of putting their shoulder to the wheel and working to accomplish things in life, the protestors want others -- the rich, they say -- to fund them. College graduates after four years of fun frequenting the local bar scene on government (taxpayer) loan funding, now, with sociology degree in hand, want high paying jobs for which they have no qualifications.

None of this is really about politics. This is merely the anthem of the entitlement -- give me what others have because I am me and I am entitled. Not much else going on.

People with real responsibilities do not have time for this. They are busy out working hard either at their job or they are working hard looking for a job. Only the entitled need to do neither. Hopefully, the "entitled" are not 99 percent, but a much smaller percentage of our society.

Eventually as more and more people join the "entitled," you arrive at the situation Europe finds itself in. Everyone wants free this and free that. Unfortunately, there aren't enough "rich" people or naive bondholders to permit this situation to go on indefinitely.

Monday, 14 November 2011

What About the US?

With Europe heading for massive defaults and economic contraction, what is the future for the US?

Weakness in Europe will not be a plus, but more fundamental problems await the US. Our debt situation is worse than the situation currently plaguing the Eurozone. Yes, our situation is worse.

The various "states" of Europe have unsustainable levels of debt, just as most of the larger states in the US have unsustainable levels of debt (Illinois, California, New York, New Jersey, etc.). But Europe does not have a federal debt problem. The Eurozone does not issue it's own debt. The US does. So, the US has sovereign debt at two levels -- the federal level and the state level, while the Eurozone has sovereign debt only at the "state" level.

No amount of cuts and tax increases will have any impact whatever on the dynamics of US debt. Thus, the current discussion about the Supercommittee is largely irrelevant. (Democrats have pretty much admitted that by listing as $ 1 Trillion in cuts the cuts from "not fighting future undeclared wars!)"

The problem of US federal debt is an entitlement problem and has an easy solution -- a very easy solution, an almost trivial solution. Moving the age of eligibility out a few years for both social security and medicare is the one and only solution that will have any impact whatsoever on our national debt problems (and scaling back medicaid). Nothing else really moves the (long term) needle at all.

As for the states, the states' problem is a problem of the benefits or "entitlements" that they provide for their public employees. Moving the age of "eligibility" out and substantially reducing the benefits for those not currently retired is the only way of moving the needle for the problems of the states (and municipalities). Nothing else really matters at all.

All the talk about tax increases and reducing (discretionary) spending is largely beside the point. Whatever virtues or vices there may be in altering the tax system and reducing the levels of discretionary spending, such tinkering does not make any difference at all in the long run debt dynamics of the US.

The numbers are the numbers.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Budget 2012: Another interesting debate --- RPGT

Property prices had been skyrocketing since 2009, creating more millionaires in Malaysia. The key factors behind the increasing properties prices were low interest-rate environment, attractive housing loan packages and ample of liquidity in financial system. These had prompt investors ,and general public too, to invest into properties searching for better return among all the investment instruments. Oppss... Favorable Real Property Gain Tax (RPGT) is one of the factor too.

While creating millionaires, many middle and low income groups are facing difficulties to come out the higher capital required to purchase their homes. Genuine buyers, who are first-time house buyers, were being forced to delay their buying and ended up renting. This will resulted in widening wealth gaps between Malaysians. As such, government had proposed to increase the quantum of RPGT to counter the potential socioeconomic backlash. (see attachment)

Curbing speculations?

Traditionally, there are two important tools available to government to curb excessive properties speculations and they are interest rate and RPGT. Since 2008 global financial crisis, central banks globally including Malaysia had slashed their interest rate to all time low in order to spur economic activities.

Picture taken from Business Times

On top of that, RPGT stayed low at a flat 5% for properties sold within 5 years. "5% only?" you may ask. Yes, and this is a contributing factor on why properties prices remain elevated.

Is it enough?
However, economists are saying that the latest announcement made on RPGT was relatively "too soft" in contain the problem. Anyway, this is a good news though for property speculators or investors as 10% RPGT within 2 years can be easily absorbed. Then, how much is enough?
     Genuine buyers said: "Higher is better".
     Property developers said: "Current rate is enough".

Finance Malaysia reckons that 10% is definitely not enough. The marginal increments looks like government is only "entertain" the perception of general public, while protecting property developers, we think. As such, we are suggesting a higher rate as below:

By imposing a higher RPGT, that could possibly boosted government tax revenue, thus lowering down the over-optimism budget deficit target. Why don't government implement that way?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Goodbye Italy

Look at the numbers: $ 2.6 Trillion national debt which amounts to 120 percent of GDP. Nearly 15 percent of that debt comes due within the next twelve months. Yields on 10 year bonds now north of 7 percent. That's Italy.

The Italian political leader Berlusconi has resigned, joining his pal Papandreou. It's over for Italy. All that is left to speculate about is when Italy will recognize the necessity to do a planned workout -- commonly known as a (partial) default.

Before this is over, the leadership in Germany, France, and Spain will also step down, either voluntarily or by action of the voters.

This game has only one end. Either these countries sit down with their bondholders and work out a partial default plan or total chaos will be the end result when they simply can no longer sell debt at all and can't pay their day to day bills.

The unreality of the approach of European leaders is almost comic, except for the tragic implications that their foolishness may lead to.

There is no harm in a partial default. The bondholders already know they are in deep, deep trouble. A partial default only recognizes what markets have already accomplished -- major losses for bondholders. The bondholders are already there -- time for a workout.

Of course, this means that the entitlement systems can no longer function as they have in the past. There are simply no funds available for these systems. No one is willing to lend money to support other people in a grand lifestyle -- not anymore.

The countries of Europe will be forced, after a debt workout, to dismantle the entitlement systems that have undermined the work ethic in Europe and saddled their countries and much of the rest of the world with bonds that cannot be repaid.

Next up on the docket is the US. It's just a matter of time, but it is basically the same scenario.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Failed PPSMI: What is the impact to our Economy?

Yes. Another U-turn from our government. This is called my beloved Malaysia. But, this time it involve our students (innocent future voters) who had to bear the uncertainties between studying Science and Maths in English and Bahasa Malaysia (BM). The new education policy was mooted by then Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir in 2003 in order to raise our competitiveness especially in Science matters.

However, everything can be changed and the government said that it had abolished the teaching of Science and Maths in English (PPSMI) citing poor command of English language deter students from excelling in these two subjects. And, the education ministries said that they already consulted all the schools nationwide, and concluded that majority of them doesn't want to continue with PPSMI for the benefits of students.

Why PPSMI failed in Malaysia?

I would said that the only reason is the lack of commitment from Government. If there is not enough qualified English educated teachers, train them or hire them. If the students are not capable, train them or even make the subject compulsory to pass. If we believes that the PPSMI is crucial for our nation to excel, we must not give up after merely few years of trying. Instead, we should find the solutions to the problems we faced. Every changes on policies will be difficult at the beginning, no need to mention education policies. I believe the 54 years old government should know this better.

What is the impact to our economy?
  1. Credibility of the government had lost. How would foreign countries looking at us? At first, they're happy by the move, but settled with disappointment now.
  2. Most of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that pouring into R&D and science related industries were westerners. Like it or not, their preferred language is English simply because it is the original language of innovation.
  3. Poor commanding of English language is one of the main reason why Malaysia losing out to SIngapore in attracting multi-national companies. We can't deny this. Otherwise, we will continue to lose out.
To end this post, let's understand the following statements by Dr. M:
“You never know, the people who are calling for both subjects to be taught in Bahasa Malaysia may be sending their children to English schools”

Greek Political Turmoil

According to the news media, what Greek politicians do next will determine whether or not the current Euro crisis can be "resolved." Not really.

The main significance of the past week of Greek political back and forth is that political leaders throughout Europe are in trouble -- big trouble.

Countries forced into austerity measures will, in the end, replace their political leadership. That process is already under way in Greece and Spain and is surfacing in Italy as well.

Countries who are putting their taxpayers on the line to support the bailout of the profligate countries will also soon begin the process of replacing their political leaders -- Germany and France.

Neither side of this grand scheme, the bailors or the bailees, have the support of their voters. Why is this a surprise? The effort to bail out the sovereign debt problems of Greece, Spain, Italy (Portugal, Ireland) is a "lose-lose" policy and voters can see clearly that it is not in their interest, no matter what country they live in.

What works is a recognition that the debts are unsustainable and that it is time to sit down with creditors and do a workout -- a planned default.

It might take changing the political leadership in all major European countries, not just in Greece, to get the focus on the real solution to the European debt crisis.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Corzine Bets and Loses

John Corzine, former Senator and Governor of New Jersey and former Chairman of Goldman Sachs, stepped down today as Chairman of MFGlobal, as MFGlobal remained in the headlines for its bankruptcy filing two days ago. Corzine presided over the firm as it made huge bets on European sovereign debt, thinking that the worst of that crisis had passed. Unfortunately for Corzine and MFGlobal, the worst of the crisis is yet to come and MFGlobal and its leader are no more.

To Corzine's credit, he has always espoused the view that sovereign debt problems are imaginary and not real problems. He never had much interest in measures that might tame the growth in US national debt or the debt problems in New Jersey. So, at least, Corzine is consistent.

The blind spot that poisoned Corzine's reign at MFGlobal is the same blindspot that pervades current attitudes on the US's national debt (and the obligations of a number of state governments). These huge debt loads are not sustainable, blind spots notwithstanding.

One good thing worth noting is that there was no rescue for MFGlobal, which is good. Second, Corzine took no severance as he fell on his sword today. That is also good.

There is a whiff in the air that there might be a problem in customer accounts, but I suspect that that is probably not the case, but we shall see. Assuming no mingling of customer accounts, this seems to be a case where markets worked properly and the outcome is the proper one. The company made a big bad bet and it didn't work. The result -- bankruptcy. That is as it should be. Firms will learn if we let them.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Unraveling of a Dumb Idea

The proposed "deal" that has been crafted by France and Germany for the EU to "save" the Euro is one of the most absurd plans that has ever been concocted. It should be obvious that neither the bailors nor the bailees are going to go along with this (even if their leaders continue to pursue such foolishness).

It's time to say: "we're broke" and be done with all of this obfuscation. None of the deals make any sense and none will survive past the self-congratulatory posturing deal-announcements of Merkel and Sarcozy. Give it up.

It isn't clear on the basis of the data that the sovereign debt of France and Germany has any real hope of survival, much less the southern periphery of Europe. (Is the US really in a position to "bail out" Illinois, California and New York, when the inevitable time of their impending defaults arrive?).

The problem is not "confidence" or "liquidity." When your house is burning to the ground, a cup of water isn't going to help. The problem in Europe is identical to the problem in the US and Japan. Promises have been made to people that cannot be kept. There is no way to shift the chairs around on the deck. No one can afford all the free and subsidized stuff that Europe and America have promised. The party is over.

Two generations have lived high on the hog until the ponzi-scheme nature of the funding of retirement and health care have been exposed. Now, the party is over. There isn't some group of future bondholders out there willing to throw good money after bad. Let's face it. It's time for Greece, Spain, Italy, etc (probably Germany and France as well within two or three years) to throw in the towel and began to sit down with their creditors and fashion a realistic deal (meaning default).

A lot of newsprint and stock market gyrations have been wasted on the continuing political sideshow going on in Europe. It will lead nowhere and defaults are inevitable.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Greeks Should Vote No

Why should the Greeks agree to the bailout terms of the EU? If I were a Greek citizen, I would vote no. There is simply no way that generations of Greeks should buy in to austerity to support bad decisions by Greek bondholders. Default is the right answer -- for everyone -- not just for Greece.

If Greece defaults, and that doesn't necessarily mean leaving the Euro (any more than when Illinois defaults, which it will, that it means Illinois will leave the US dollar zone), then and only then can Greece, on its own, begin to correct the absurd government policies that have wrecked their economy. They have to reach this realization on their own. It cannot be forced from outside.

Greece is just the first gong in a series of bells that will ring of default through the Western world. No one, no one, can afford the economic policies that Europe has adopted over the past half century. Why the present US administration wants to emulate this disastrous course is not clear.

The idea that health care, retirement, education, housing, minimum wages, right to sue for virtually any absurd reason that one can dream up are all rights that must be provided to every citizen free of charge is so absurd as to hardly call for discussion. But these are the very policies that the Western world has adopted. Now, Europe and the US will have to live with the consequences and they are not pretty.

Again, Asia (ex-Japan), has not adopted the foolish policies of the West. Asia will achieve economic supremacy and fairly quickly as the West descends into the economic chaos that it has brought upon itself by the foolish view that government can provide all things to all people free of charge.