BP Healthcare: launches Taman Megah Specialist Centre

The Malaysian BP Healthcare Group launched its fifth Specialist Centre in Taman Megah recently on 18th January 2014.

“Originally, we focused on preventive care and our strengths are in diagnostic and laboratory. Over the years, our group expanded so much that we realise that serving patients with only diagnostic and laboratory may not be a comprehensive package,” said the group managing director Datuk Chevy Beh Yen San.

BP Healthcare, he said started about 30 years ago and grew from a humble homegrown brand to a group with more than 70 laboratories, 50 diagnostic centres, 50 dispensaries and pharmacies, 50 hearing aid centres, 50 food and industrial testing centres, five specialist/daycare centres, three dental specialist clinics and an eye specialist clinic.

"We have served more than 35 million customers over the last 30 years and still counting," he said.

Beh said BP Healthcare strives to provide a Wallmart-like experience to the customers and believed that healthcare is a basic needs for everyone.“We are by far the largest healthcare chain in Southeast Asia. Instead of running just like any single outlet that may not have a comprehensive healthcare system, we run as a coordinated healthcare chain," he added.

To meet the current demand for quick and efficient service, Beh said BP Healthcare decided to set up an Online Pharmacy. "A registered pharmacist will be available to communicate with the patients and customers can place orders online. The requested products will then be delivered to their homes," he said.

Source: fzcom 18-01-2014

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MYR at 3.33 against USD by year end: HSBC

Ringgit to hit 3.33 level against US dollar by year-end, says economist  

The Malaysian ringgit is expected to touch the 3.33 level against the US dollar by year-end on the back of the strengthening greenback, said HSBC ASEAN Economist Lim Su Sian. At the end of last year, the local currency was traded at 3.25 against the greenback.

"The ringgit is not the only Asean currency that is weakening against the US dollar as the US Federal Reserve is printing money at a slower pace to strengthen the dollar.
"However, we see the ringgit remaining strong as the underlying fundamentals remain strong," Lim told a media briefing on the Economic Outlook 2014, today.

She said another factor for the weakening of the ringgit was reduced intervention by Bank Negara Malaysia. "The central bank let the market price the currency on their own," she added.      

Source: Bernama 23-01-2014

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The Horse gallops In: 2014

Chinese New Year 2014: the horse gallops in ... the snake exits ...

The year of the horse begins on 31st January 2014 and will last for 15 days. The diaspora Chinese, all over the globe, will welcome the horse and praying for a better new year.
It is also the beginning of the lunar year and begins on a different day each year. Celebrations, stretching over the 15 days, include family dinners, visitations, lion and dragon dances, "ang pows" (red packets with money are given to children and unmarried adults) and feastings.
The New Year is also a time of family reunion. Family members, wherever they are, will attempt to be back at the family paternal home for the significant re-union dinner on the new year's eve. The next 15 days will be visiting each other's homes exchanging best wishes and sharing meals/tidbits and catching up with the events of the past and the future.
The Chinese calendar does not use numbered years but some Chinese scholars date it from the third millennium BC. According to different opinions, this year of the horse is 4712, 4711 or 4651.



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Malaysia CPI & Food Inflation

The latest figures from the statistics department showed that the consumer price index rose 3.2% in December, more than double the 1.2% a year ago, and up from the 2.9% registered in November. This is the highest level since November 2011.

The faster price rises are, partially, a consequence of a series of subsidy cuts introduced by the Government last year, aimed at reducing the country's high debt burden and fiscal deficit. Like a sequence of toppling dominoes, the 10% rise in petrol pump prices and a 15% hike in power tariffs are rippling to prices of other staples such as vegetables and meat.
"This year, 2014 is not going to be as benign as last year," said Nor Zahidi Alias, chief economist at the Malaysian Rating Corporation. "Inflation is going to be a bit hotter, especially in the second half of the year," he added. Hot enough to maybe persuade the central bank to raise its benchmark rate from 3% this year, the first change since mid-2011. Economists are expecting a hike of between 25 and 50 basis points.

A weakening ringgit, down 1.5% since the start of the year and at five-month lows against the dollar, will add to upward pressure on prices through more expensive imports.

Still, most economists expect Malaysia's economy to grow at a robust 5% or more this year, following an expected 4.5-5% growth last year, helped by a brighter global economy that should fuel its vital export sector.
Food and transport prices were among those that rose fastest in December from a year earlier, gaining 4.5% and 5% respectively. 
Two-thirds of Malaysian households earn less than RM5,000 per month. Consumer debt in Malaysia is the among the highest in Asia at around 83% of GDP.

Surging housing prices in major urban centres like Kuala Lumpur, which aren't reflected in inflation figures, have added to middle-class unhappiness over the cost of living. 
Later in the year, the Government is expected to announce a further cut in fuel subsidies, followed at the beginning of 2015 by the introduction of a new consumption tax at 6%.

Source: MalaysianInsider 22-01-2014



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Excellence Award

Should an "Excellence Award" be given out in an annual Event despite that there is no potential candidate qualified for the Award? This is a "million dollar" question and delimma.

I was invited recently to be a party to a Professional Body's Annual Award Committee and there were mixed views.

There is a view which says "YES. An Award MUST be given out in an Award Night otherwise if there is no Award given out, the Professional Body would deem to have no member of calibre. It would be an utter shame for the Professional Body and the profession". Hmm ... it does not sound right as it lacks integrity and transparency.

However, if there is a necessity to give out an Award for the night, the Award should then be rebrand to something else and NOT an "Excellence Award".

To me if there is no candidate meeting the criteria for the "Excellence Award" then it should not be awarded. If it is to be awarded, it would mean that the Excellence Award is given out to the individual who is only the "best of the mediocre" whereas it should be the best among the best of the "crème de la crèmes".

Criteria set for "Excellence Award" must not be compromised neither should be "watered down" unless there are good and valid reasons like unrealistic criteria been set in the first place.

There should not be any unnecessary external influence in the decision making process as well. If the decision had been made, it should be respected by all! However, should an appeal against the decision of the Awards Committee is necessary, the appeal must follow due process and within the stipulated time frame with good and valid reasons. Using "political" influence to change the Awards Committee's decision is a "no-no".

The "unsuccessful" nominee, who did not win the Award, should also have the courage and the humility to accept the decision of the Awards Committee. This is also a desired value of a leader ie humility. Should the individual desires to seek reasons for the failure to win the Award, the individual could approach the Professional Body for the reasons and attempt for the Award again, wiser this time round, for the following year.

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Malaysia: Medical Doctor to Population ratio

The Health Minister, YB Dato Seri Dr Subramaniam said that Malaysia had already achieved the World Health Organisation standard of 1:600 doctor-to-population ratio.

“We have 33 medical schools in the country and we also have a lot of Malaysians who go overseas to study. The number of doctors entering the market is now about 5,000 each year.”

He reiterated that the Government would not allow any more medical schools to be set up here or even for the existing schools to increase their intake of medical students.

“We are also seriously looking at increasing the minimum entry qualification for medical schools. We want to raise the requirement and make this mandatory even for those who want to study abroad to ensure that only those who are truly qualified can take up medicine,” he said.

Source: theSTAR 18-01-2014

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Malaysia: Obesity and Diabetic scoring

Malaysians, besides being weighed down by obesity and diabetes, according to an Oxfam International report on worldwide food quality, also consumed food of poor nutritional diversity.

The just released research by the UK-based poverty and disaster relief group ranked Malaysia 44th out of a list of 125 countries. The higher a score on the index, the worse a country stands.

Titled the Good Enough to Eat Index, it showed that Malaysia scored 76 out of a possible 100 under the diet diversity category, indicating that while food was ample in Malaysia, these food choices however are not nutritionally diverse.

Food affordability also seemed to be a proble­m for Malaysia, with the country scoring a higher than average mark of 57 in terms of price levels. These levels, according to Oxfam, were relative to goods and services. The tendency for food prices to fluctuate was however low, with Malaysia coming in with a score of 14.

Malaysia was also found to be on the lower rung of the obesity and diabetes categories, scoring 29 and 37 respectively. About 2.6 million Malaysians aged 18 and above were diabetics. This number is projected to hit 4.5 million by 2020.

Malaysia has also been ranked the fattest country in South-East Asia and the sixth in the Asia-Pacific Region. Although the research found that Malaysi­ans did not suffer from any undernourishment, it showed a number of children were underweight, with a score of 28.

The country also shared its 44th overall placing with six other countries: Maldives, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Moldova, Russia and Chile.

In South-East Asia, Malaysia came in second behind Thailand, which ranked 42nd worldwide. The Philippines (67th), Vietnam (71st), Indonesia (83rd) and Laos (112nd) followed. Singapore and Myanmar were not included in the list.

In comparison, the Netherlands was ranked first as the country with the most nutritious and healthy food. African nation Chad, on the other hand, at 125th, was found to have had expensive food with little nutritional value.

Source: theSTAR 16-01-2013

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2014 Bonus payout: for performance in 2013

With the national economy showing signs of recovery amid the overall positive trade outlook globally, Malaysian employers are expected to maintain bonus levels this year at the same rate as 2013.

Hay Group’s “Market Remuneration Report for Malaysia” found that top achievers can look forward to getting an average of four months of basic salary and more. “The biggest beneficiaries are staff at major equity investment bodies as returns were strong last year,” said Hay Group Malaysia country head for productivised services Alex Lim in a statement.

Hay Group Malaysia is part of a global organisation that provides management consultancy services and world class solutions to business issues that support clients’ efforts to translate strategies into results.
The report said that apart from stockbroking houses, public bodies involved in equity investments could also reward some of their key staff handsomely with high variable bonuses. The average variable bonus likely to be paid by the 436 outfits which contributed to the Hay Group report is 2.6 months – slightly higher than the 2.5 months in 2013.

“Coming on top of the fixed bonus payments made in December, total bonus payments remain strong for staff employed in Malaysia.” The report had found average fixed bonuses to be 1.6 months, with the top 10% of firms paying two months on average. ”This trend was noted among both local and foreign firms operating here as the split was 47:53 in terms of their submissions for this report,” Lim added.

Ironically, the report found that firms with lower annual revenues are more likely to pay higher variable bonuses – with an average of 4.9 months for the top 10%. “Having a smaller baseline for revenue growth comparisons probably meant these organisations grew faster than their bigger peers,” said Lim.

The top 10% of outfits with annual revenues of over RM1 bil could pay an average four months basic salary as the variable bonus, followed by 3.8 months for firms with annual revenues of RM100mil-RM500mil and 3.6 months for annual revenues of RM500mil to RM1bil.

The pattern was reversed for the bottom 10% with firms with annual revenues of over RM1bil paying an average of 2.4 months variable bonus and only one month for outfits with annual revenues less than RM100mil, while those in-between could pay an average of 1.5 months.

Key criteria for determining the variable bonus was company and individual performances, with business unit or departmental performances coming next.

Overall, the gap between senior management and lower ranking staff variable bonuses won’t be big – an average of half a month, the report found.

And while many firms did pay out the variable bonuses this month, a significant number have also staggered these over the next three months.

Source: theSTAR 15-01-2014

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Arab Health 2014

The international medicine trade fair, Medica 2013, in Germany, saw Malaysian medical devices exporters generate sales totalling RM76.9mil.

Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) said in a statement on 9th December 2013, that Malaysia, with its market leadership in product sectors such as medical latex gloves, surgical instruments and condoms, had attracted much interest from buyers.

“Malaysia accounted for 48.3% of the German market for latex medical gloves in 2012, generating export revenue of over RM600mil,” it said.

Matrade said that Medica 2013, which was held from Nov 20 to 23, had a record number of 42 Malaysian exhibitors.

“... Matrade brought together 13 Malaysian companies at the ‘Malaysia Pavilion’ to introduce their medical products and technologies to the world market,” it said. Matrade added that about 600 business meetings took place between the 13 Malaysian companies and foreign buyers.

The four-day event includes conferences and courses providing training on topics for practitioners, devices and high-level scientific workshops as well as seminars organised by exhibitor organisations and associations giving an update on latest European regulations on the import of medical devices.

“In total, 132,000 trade visitors from more than 120 countries were present at Medica, while 4,641 exhibitors represented 66 countries,” it said.

Matrade’s first event to promote medical devices in 2014 will be the Arab Health 2014 to be held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, from Jan 27 to 30. For domestic manufacturers, Matrade will continue to support and provide incentives to the trade show.

Source: theSTAR 10-12-2013

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Malaysian Rubber Gloves: Global leader

Malaysia’s exports of rubber gloves are projected to increase to RM 11.5bil by end 2013, up 9% from 2012’s RM 10.56bil according to the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association.

The figure, however, was lower than the RM14bil target set by the Association.

Accordingly, the lower increase was due to low raw material prices and the jump in the exports of nitrile gloves. As of September 2013, total glove exports from Malaysia amounted to RM7.9bil.

“Nitrile glove prices are lower compared with rubber gloves,” said the President, Mr Lim Kwee Shyan.

The Association expects exports of synthetic gloves to overtake natural rubber gloves for the first time in 2014.

Speaking to reporters at the Rubber Glove Industry 2013 Media Round Table on 6th December 2013, Kwee Shyan said he expected the global demand for rubber gloves to increase 8% to 10% from 150 billion pieces a year.

“Demand for medical rubber gloves is set to remain robust on the back of population growth and improvement in health quality,” said Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Lim Kuang Sia. He added that demand for nitrile gloves would continue to grow, moving forward.

Malaysia is expected to export 96 billion pieces of gloves in 2013, accounting for 63% of world demand.

Source: theSTAR 07-12-2013

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ASEAN Economy: A Quick-take

GDP of ASEAN - US$2.2 trillion with potential growth of 5%-6% p.a.

Population exceeding 600 million, with relatively young demographics and a per capita income averaging US$3,800.

Young work force (age 15-64) exceeding 310 million viz 115 million in Indonesia, 50 million in Vietnam, 40 million each in the Philippines and Thailand, 27 million in Myanmar and 12 million in Malaysia.

A vast difference in their stages of development and levels of income:
Under rich are Brunei and Singapore, Middle-income ... Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand; and Poor ... Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Rich resources, attracting continuing inflows of foreign direct investment-FDI (US$110bil in 2012).

External trade totalling US$2.5 trillion in 2012; but trade among themselves (intra-Asean trade) remains small – at only 26% of the total, against 75% to 80% in the 28-nation European Union (EU) and 55% under the North America Free Trade Area (Nafta).

Relatively open borders among themselves, allowing vast numbers of workers to move within Asean seeking higher wages and better employment opportunities, helping to level the playing field across the region. But domestic political pressures reflecting growing nationalism and social infrastructure constraints are working against fuller and faster integration anytime soon, limiting progress to only baby-steps.

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... it's being a good break ... Welcome 2014!

Finally ... back to work! It's nothing like a good rest .. catching up with loved ones and friends ... visiting and relaxing with reading and sight seeing ...

Now, for the challenges ahead.

What holds for 2014? Many had asked and the only thing I can say, especially for Malaysia, is uncertainty. Mixed signals have been received from the many economic experts predicting a possible good first half of the year, yet on the ground, many have said that the business sentiment is not that great.

In Malaysia, the year started off unexpectedly, with an event that could derail the optimism for the year. Prayerfully, this would resolve quickly with wisdom by the leadership of the Country. Otherwise, a breakdown in society harmony and political stability would lead to lack of business confidence resulting in economic ruin in the mid to long term.

The Government's withdrawal of subsidies for sugar, petrol, increase in electricity tariff and impending increase of highway toll charges, are some examples, that do not auger well for the commencement of the year. The impact on the common people will definitely slow economic growth as costs increase and the purchasing power reduced. Some expects the economy to be adversely affected unless businesses are able to help turn this situation around.

2014 is the "Visit Malaysia Year" (VMY) and is important that this should have a great start with no hiccups. The tourism industry contributed RM 60.6 billions in tourist receipts and arrivals reaching 25.03 million in 2012. This time around, VMY 2014 will be the biggest and grandest ever tourism celebration with hundreds of events and festivals all lined up to welcome the world. Overall, it is hoped that VMY 2014 will contribute to the Government’s target to receive 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion in receipts by 2020.

In the healthcare sector, the VMY 2014, will definitely help drive Malaysia as a preferred health care destination, regionally and internationally.

The Health Ministry will continue to engage the private sector towards developing a universal healthcare system which co-exists with the private healthcare system. The Pharmacy Act will also be expected to be gazetted. This Act will empower the Senior Director of Pharmacy to carry out "reforms" swiftly eg the "pricing and reimbursements" of pharmaceuticals.

Government budget for pharmaceutical purchases will face constraints and the drive towards generics purchase will continue. Under the "Generic Prescription Policy", the private sector is similarly encouraged to do same.

The domestic Manufacturers, and foreign Companies seeking to invest in Malaysia, will be expected to continue to enjoy Government support in the Economic Transformation Programme.

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