Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year, 2014

Wishing everyone "Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year, 2014"


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Asean investment destination survey

Malaysia ranks high as a destination for investments in the Asean region, the latest survey by the Asean Business Advisory Council (Asean-BAC) shows.

Singapore is ranked the most attractive destination for investment with 45 per cent of survey respondents saying they have plans to invest into the nation, followed by Malaysia (42 per cent), Indonesia (41 per cent) and Thailand (41 per cent). Brunei emerged the least attractive destination for investments, said the survey.

The 2013 Asean-BAC Survey on Asean Competitiveness tracks business sentiments towards the attractiveness of Asean to trade and investments over a three-year horizon and their perception of Asean’s efforts to realise an Asean Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015. It was conducted across Asean between May and August 2013.

Respondents included businesses that participated in the previous two waves of the survey, past nominees of Asean-BAC’s Asean Business Awards, as well as businesses that had been identified by Asean-BAC council members and Secretariat, national business organisations and local research assistants.

In the survey, businessmen said Asean’s potential as a new or growing market for future investments is the region’s main draw for investors. Asean-BAC said that the result was in line with the views of respondents in the Economist Corporate Network report, which picked economic growth rates, and size and spending power of consumer population as the two most attractive features for investing in Asean.

The survey also revealed that 52 per cent of respondents said they would invest or expand investments in the region to supply main or leading customers, while 31 per cent said they would do so because of access low-cost production facilities.

Asean-BAC said observations were consistent across all firm sizes and were consistent with responses in the 2010 survey, the last time the question was asked.

Twenty per cent of those surveyed said that access to natural resources was a reason to invest in the region, while 18 per cent pointed to closeness of research and development and innovation.

Source: theSTAR 13-12-2013

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Towards an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC): 2015

Asean began as a political group 52 years ago. It has evolved since then, embracing the 3 pillars today (1) political-security (2) economic and (3) social-cultural.

Learning from the 1997/98 financial crisis, it highlighted the necessity for closer economic collaboration to protect mutual national interests. This is reinforced by the recent rise of China and India, strengthening Asean’s determination to create a stronger and more cohesive community.

The 1997 Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur brought this into sharper focus with the Asean 2020 Vision Declaration to transform the region into a stable, integrated and competitive region.

In 2003, the Bali Summit committed the group to accelerate the establishment of the AEC from 2020 to 2015. Since then, the 2007 AEC Blueprint sets out clear timelines for Asean members to strive towards an integrated economic community by 2015 with: (1) a single market and production base (2) a competitive economic region (3) an equitable and inclusive economic development and (4) a region integrated into the global economy.

This will finally revolve around (1) a core Asean centre (2) an inclusive Asean (3) an efficient and transparent operational framework (4) harmonised rules and regulations and (5) a strong linkage to the global supply and value chains. These characteristics are inter-related and mutually reinforcing.

At the heart of AEC is the overarching objective to promote the free flow of goods, services, investment and skilled labour; the free flow of capital; and the free and open integration of clearly identified priority sectors as well as in food, agriculture and forestry.

To deepen market integration there are clear commitments to formulate milestones under the Roadmap to Monetary and Financial Integration as well as the "setting-up" of the US$485mil Asean Infrastructure Fund Ltd to facilitate sustained economic growth and address poverty alleviation in the region.

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RM1bil boost: 10 new Healthcare NKEA, EPP3

The Health Ministry has announced 10 new projects under the Healthcare NKEA (National Key Economic Area) with an investment of RM1bil to boost the manufacturing of respiratory products and pharmaceutical drugs along with the supply of renal solutions.

The projects are expected to generate 1,219 job opportunities and contribute RM673.9mil to the Gross National Income (GNI) by 2020, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said.

He said that the ministry had set up a new entry point project (EPP) cluster for renal products in line with its aim to position Malaysia as the regional supplier of products and services for renal solutions.

“The focus will be on the manufacturing of products used for renal replacement therapy such as dialysers, dialysate, filters and solution bags as well as innovative renal replacement therapy services.
“Beyond ensuring potential earnings from exports, this EPP will ensure that quality renal treatment products are accessible to all Malaysians,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Under the Renal Products EPP, another global supplier will manufacture haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis fluids from Negri Sembilan. A local company will offer a home treatment programme while another will invest in a manufacturing facility in Pahang to produce dialysis filters and dialysers.

Dr Subramaniam named four project owners who had come forward with plans to enhance the manufacturing of respiratory products. These included the setting up of three new manufacturing facilities and another to invest more in producing metered dose inhalers from an existing facility in Malacca.

Three foreign companies will also collaborate with local companies under several projects, including a French multinational pharmaceutical company to produce certain patented drugs, a New Zealand company to produce drugs to treat rare diseases and a Saudi Arabian company to set up a vaccine formulations facility in Negri Sembilan.

“The 37 projects we have today under the Healthcare NKEA are expected to bring in a total GNI impact of RM6.43bil by 2020, creating 26,665 jobs and attracting investments of up to RM4.86bil,” Dr Subramaniam said.

Source: theSTAR 13-12-2013

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Peritoneal Dialysis - a viable Treatment Option

In Malaysia, the bulk of chronic and End-Stage-Renal-Disease (ESRD) patients requiring dialysis is driven by Type 2 diabetics. As the number of diabetics increases each year, so does the number of ESRD patients. Chronic kidney disease affects between 9 and 15% of people in West Malaysia, depending on the Study design and disease definition (Kidney Int 2013 Jun 12. doi: 10.1038/ki.2013.220)

As of 2012,  a staggering 28,590 dialysis patients were registered with the National Renal Registry (NRR). Basing on the trend of increase over the last 12 years, the projected number of new dialysis patients is estimated to reach 8,000 per year by 2020.

In 2012, there were 199 new patients on dialysis per million population compared with only 3 undergoing transplant per million population. Transplantation is both expensive and skill intensive. Additionally, the waiting time for a kidney transplant is very long due to the low number of donors.

In Hong Kong, almost 80% of dialysis patients utilise Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) compared to only 8% in Malaysia. The common arguments against PD include the need for a clean room during the exchange, high initial cost and infection.

The reason PD has not taken off in Malaysia is also partly due to the pervasiveness of campaigns publicising haemodialysis (HD) to ESRD patients. However, it is observed that, with the rising cost of manpower and consummables for HD, the best way forward is to increase the use of PD among ESRD patients.

The Ministry of Health, Malaysia  estimated in 2005, that the use of PD would translate into a RM 2000 savings per patient. With increased overhead and management costs and the rise in dialysis patients, this would translate into hefty savings in the long run. Additionally, a local study carried out in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital on patients opting for PD showed that they also stood to save up to 22.7 hours a month on top of savings on transportation.

PD has yet to see widespread use even though it is as effective as HD. Thus the Government is driving PD as a treatment option. PD, compared with HD, also offers patients more freedom, flexibility and mobility.

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Challenges in delivery of Healthcare

The world's population is ageing and the elderly enjoys longer life expectancy. Thus, there is an increasing number of elderly people whose needs and demands differ from the younger generations. The longer life expectancy is due to better provisions of healthcare and technological advancements. At the other end of the spectrum, birth rates are declining. Thus, there is a gap and "an unbalanced age" equation. The replacement numbers do not add up!

Governments, the world over, have the inherent social responsibility to ensure that "every of  their citizens, including the poor and destitute, will have access to medical and healthcare services" ie safety net.
Meanwhile, healthcare costs are escalating rapidly. Thus, inevitably the younger demographic, which are the productive age-group, will be expected to play greater role, towards healthcare financing cost. Thus there is a search for funding mechanisms that will need to meet the social, political and economy of the country.

It is also to be noted that, the demands of the healthcare, with ageing population, will also shift from acute to chronic care which encompass therapeutic to welfare services, wellness, rehabilitative and social support. The "care" component of 'healthcare' will thus become more dominant and will be expected to be embedded in the approach to healthcare policy as we move forward.

The public sector, ie the Government, is typically the largest healthcare provider and will be expected to continue the "de facto" role in healthcare provisions. It also formulates policies and is the guardian, driver and enforcer of the healthcare systems . In short, Government is expected to be responsible for effective universal healthcare coverage of its citizens and ensuring that provisions of technology and services are of quality, safe and effective besides being accessible and affordable.

Moving forward, Governments, the world over, are also introducing new measures to reduce healthcare costs. Policies and programmes like "more generic drugs prescribing" by the medical fraternity, accessibility or sharing of "high-end" diagnostic machines in the private sector to Government hospitals' personnel (and vis-à-vis) and "consumer health and wellness  empowerment" through education are just three examples.

The practice of inclusive partnership and collaboration between the Public and Private sectors, including the insurance fraternity and community, in managing and controlling healthcare costs seem to be the best way forward for Governments. Meanwhile, the search for ideal mechanism for effective healthcare financing in each geography continues ...

Percentage (%) of Government vs Private share of Healthcare Funding (2010):

Vietnam:  37.1 vs  62.9
Thailand:  75 vs  25
Singapore:  31.4 vs  68.6
Philippines:  36.1 vs  63.9
Myanmar:  12.1 vs  87.9
Malaysia:  55.5 vs 44.5
Laos:  46.5 vs  53.5
Indonesia:  36.1 vs  63.9
Cambodia:  21.5 vs  78.5
Brunei:  86.5 vs  13.5
Source: WHO Health Statistics 2013

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Malaysia’s economy to expand 5.3% next year: Standard Chartered bank

Malaysia's economy is expected to expand 5.3% next year from an estimated 4.7% this year, Standard Chartered said today. External demand is expected to pick up next year, mitigating the expected slowdown in domestic demand.Private consumption may moderate next year due to higher inflation, subsidy cuts and high household leverage, said Standard Chartered in its 2014 global focus on "Rising East, Emerging West" report.

Its growth forecast was in line with the government's projection of 5.0-5.5% gross domestic product (GDP) growth for next year. "GDP growth was 4.5% in nine months of 2013 and appears to be on track to meet our full-year forecast of 4.7%," the bank said.

The report said Malaysia's labour market will remain healthy, supporting wage growth and consumption, while the manufacturing sector is likely to strengthen, thanks to the pick-up in external demand. "This should support wage growth in the sector, which accounts for about 17% of total employment and which saw a wage increase of about 7.6% in nine months of this year, despite a softness in manufacturing," said Standard Chartered.

Domestic factors are likely to be more supportive of the ringgit next year, the bank said. However, the local unit is expected to underperform in the first half of next year due to heavy bond inflows in recent years. "This is largely based on our view that the US Federal Reserve will start quantitative easing tapering in June next year. "We expect the ringgit to rally in the second half of next year once tapering is fully priced in and against a backdrop of continued Chinese yuan appreciation," the bank said.

Net external demand is expected to continue to improve in 2014 after subtracting an average 3.5 percentage point from quarterly year-on-year GDP growth between the first quarter of last year and third quarter of this year. The contribution from net external demand is likely to be flat next year while exports are expected to rise and imports may keep pace.

Headline consumer price index inflation should rise to 3.4% in 2014 from a projected 2.1% in 2013, slightly higher than the government's 2.0 to 3.0%, Standard Chartered said. The bank added that fuel price hikes in September 2013 would continue to add to year-on-year inflation readings until September 2014.

"We also expect the government to gradually lower subsidies throughout the year although the exact timing of the cuts is difficult to predict."

Malaysia's credit rating will remain stable next year, as the ratings agencies are looking for further subsidy rationalisation.

The healthy labour market will also add to inflation pressures, as businesses may find it easier to pass on cost increases. "Even with inflation likely to trend higher next year, we think Bank Negara Malaysia may refrain from raising policy rates until a firm growth trend is established. "The central bank may wait until demand-pull inflation emerges and starts to add to supply-driven inflation-driven by subsidy cuts," Standard Chartered said.

Improving external demand should support the current account, the bank added.
Source: Bernama 04-12-2013

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Changing of Guards

Frankly, I do not envy leaders of today. There are so many challenges confronting the competitive eco-system that they compete in. Today, successful leaders have to be very knowledgeable and also very "multi-skilled" and hence "multi-tasked".

Having to "multi-skill" means they have to be hungry to new learning and skills. In other words, they have to be able to perform and have further capacity, energy and time to acquire relevant knowledge and skills. They must always be ahead of the pack if they are to be successful in market dominance.

With the advent of new technology, comes high expectations. Customers demand quality products and services with speedy and accurate, error-free, deliveries. Products are more sophisticated and technologically designed and precise. There is also time contraction as technology utilisation speeds up processes and deliveries along the value supply chain. Business is now "customer centric" and demands high ...

Stress level increases as well. More leaders are harnessing technology resulting in more productivity, efficiency with more manageable and predictable outcomes.

Out of the complexities of these demands and operations, there is an important component that will always remain consistent since the agriculture age to the present ie the human factor.

Today, leaders must invest, build and nurture knowledgeable. There is a challenge for skill human capital for business sustainability. New leaders must be able to manage and steer the changing eco-system with changing demographic population, dwindling resources and rapid technology advancements.

Currently, many "baby boomers" are still on top of the management pyramid, and undeniably, the new generations are expected to replace more of the "baby boomers". To ensure seamless and successful transition into leadership roles, large organisations had taken the initiatives to understand and have programs that meet the behaviour and training needs of the new generations ie Generation X and Y ... not too far away will be millennial babies.

Leaders belonging  to the "baby boomers" era must realise that the mentality and behaviour of the new Generations need to be addressed differently. Thus, "old" leadership style must change or modified accordingly. It must be less of "brick and mortar" but more space, empowerment, knowledge and technology driven leadership.

There are also differences in cultural behaviours between the Gen X and Y. Leaders must be sensitive and learn to hire, manage, lead and integrate them accordingly.

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Ringgit's Performance: Mixed Fortune

While the exodus by the hedge fund managers since May, spooked by the US Federal Reserve tapering talks, the US dollar has pulled the rug from under most Asian currencies.
At 3.224 to the US dollar last Friday, 29th November 2013, the ringgit was down 6% from its peak in May, or 2.9% since the start of the year.

Other regional currencies were hit harder. A quick check on the foreign exchange rates revealed that holiday makers can get better value for the ringgit if they are going for a vacation Down Under, as the Australian dollar had fallen 7.7% against the  ringgit since January.

For a bargain vacation closer to home, a shopping trip to Bandung, Indonesia offers the best value following the12.9% slump in the rupiah against the ringgit this year. India, too, is an interesting travel destination given the sharp decline in the rupee.
According to the forex research team at Maybank Singapore, the key risk for the ringgit and other Asian currencies next year, is the anticipated reduction of the US Federal Reserve bond-buying programme. This could happen in the first quarter of 2014.
The forex team at Maybank expects the ringgit to fall to a low of 3.27 against the US dollar early next
year, but sees the currency climbing to 3.12 by the end of the year.
“Barring no policy slippages and little deterioration, we are bullish on the currency for next year,” head of  forex research at Maybank in Singapore Saktiandi Supaat said in his note to clients. The volatility in the currency market in 2014 would continue to be driven by the developed markets. 
The bank continues to be bearish on the rupiah, given the twin deficit concerns and the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Indonesia in 2014. The rupiah last week fell below the 12,000-level against the US dollar for the first time since March 2009. Supaat and his team believed there could be downside risk for the rupiah in the short-term, but expected the currency to recover to 11,900 by the end of next year.
Supaat and his team also expected the Australian dollar to remain weak, at least in the early part of
2014, with the Reserve Bank of Australia sending out clear messages in recent months that it preferred the Australian dollar to remain soft.
Source: theSTAR 02-12-2013

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