☕️ 73% of Malaysians aged between 18 to 40 are in debt (n=1,077)
Putrajaya to turn federal territories into smart cities by 2030. After a virus pandemic, is a fungal pandemic next? The irony at Meta - mass layoffs, 'year of efficiency' but USD40 bil share buyback.
Happy Thaipusam to our Hindu readers! We will be off on Monday, embracing our Madani spirit to celebrate Thaipusam.
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1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
Taiwan intends to spend USD19.4 bil on defence in 2023 as it looks to fend off threats from China, but it is paltry compared to China’s USD230 bil spent on defence in 2022. China spent that money expanding its naval, missile and nuclear capabilities. So is Taiwan really facing a threat from China? Chinese planes made over 1,700 incursions into Taiwan’s air-defence-identification zone (adiz), prompting military alerts in 2022.
73% of Malaysians (n = 1,077) aged between 18 to 40 are in debt, according to a survey conducted by the local university UCSI. The primary reasons: financial constraints (42%), inflation (22%) and luxurious lifestyle (21%). Moreover, 30% of the loans were meant for vehicles, which is alarming, given that vehicle loans have been the second causal factor of bankruptcy rate.
Some two million Hindu devotees and visitors are expected to visit Batu Caves for the annual Thaipusam celebration. In Penang, Thanneermalai Shree Balathandayuthabani Temple chairman P. Kuvena Raju is expecting a turnout of 1.5 mil people. Thaipusam is celebrated as a sign of appreciation to Lord Murugan. The celebration is all about faith, endurance and penance.
Read: What is Thaipusam?
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
The Selangor health director said they did their best in tending to the deceased
The Selangor Health Department director, Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman, stated that the Hospital Serdang’s staff did their best to treat a 64-year-old patient, who allegedly died due to the negligence of the hospital’s medical staff. Below is the chain of events according to the Selangor state health director:
The patient came to the emergency department, was given the necessary treatment, and was subsequently referred to the cardiology department for further treatment.
Further surveillance and screening were conducted at the cardiology department.
The medical staff recommended that a heart procedure needs to be done; however, the deceased's health condition at that time did not permit the procedure to be conducted.
Finally, the patient’s condition deteriorated on the same day the procedure was scheduled.
At this point, it is unclear whether the incident was due to staff’s negligence or not. However, one thing is clear. The current healthcare system is unsustainable due to a lack of funds. Currently, the public only pays a nominal fee of RM1 for general outpatient consultation and RM5 for specialist consultation. Social health insurance similar to the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) is mooted as the solution. We need to wait and see for the official announcement by the government via its soon-to-be-released white paper on the healthcare system.
MACC questioned recipients of ‘sedekah’ during the GE15 in Terengganu.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had rounded up to 90 individuals that allegedly received cash handouts in Terengganu during GE15. MACC was struggling to locate all the individuals that received the ‘sedekah’ as shown in the video that went viral on social media because not all of them reside in Terengganu. Previously, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang defended the cash handout distribution as he mentioned that according to existing rules, only contesting candidates and their representatives were prohibited from giving cash to voters.
Nay to deep sea port in Malacca
A group of NGOs and local residents led by Kota Melaka MP Khoo Poay Tiong sent a letter to the environmental department, voicing their concerns against the proposed deep-sea port project in Malacca. The company responsible for the project, Far East (Melaka) Sdn Bhd, aimed to revive Malacca’s glory as the main trading location in the region by building a port city.
However, based on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) submitted by the company, the project involves a 1,190-acre land reclamation which will disrupt the marine ecology. Furthermore, the report said it would impact 13 fishing villages and over 447 registered fisherfolk.
Putrajaya aims to turn federal territories into smart cities by 2030
PM Anwar Ibrahim wants to turn the federal territories into smart cities by 2030, in line with the concept of Madani Malaysia, which emphasizes the importance on sustainability. Various programs had been put into the pipeline, including the use of electric buses in Kuala Lumpur, Wangsa Maju as a pilot low-carbon city, additional installation of CCTV (closed-circuit cameras) in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya and the installation of WiFi in people’s housing and public housing projects in Labuan. Hopefully, the top management is already evident in how they define a smart city. If not, we will see another ‘tin kosong’ smart city initiative for the next few years.
The closure of part of Ampang LRT may take another two weeks
Transport minister Anthony Loke stated that the first phase of the repair works on the alignment near the Bandaraya station will be completed in two weeks. The first phase is meant to ensure that the structure is safe to use, while the second phase will be done to maintain structural stability. The structural damage on the alignment was caused by construction work nearby the area. As a daily public transportation user, Rapid Rail has done an excellent job in managing the whole situation, from constantly communicating new information to users to managing the alternative and temporary bus routes. It makes me wonder if the leader at the top makes any difference.
Unity Package fixed internet broadband plan announced — RM69 per month with unlimited data and up to 30Mbps speed. The plan will be offered to the B40 income group, persons with disabilities (PWD), senior citizens, and army and police veterans starting in March.
After the small win in the Luxembourg court, now the Spanish Constitutional Court dismissed the appeal filed by the self-styled Sulu heirs against the annulment of the appointment of the dispute arbitrator, Gonzalo Stampa. Quoting the law minister Azalina Othman, this decision confirms the legal position of Malaysia that the claims asserted by the Sulu heirs were baseless.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (Bersatu) president Muhyiddin Yassin said the party has written to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to request the latter lift the freeze order on the party’s bank accounts. MACC said the accounts would be frozen for three months, to which Muhyiddin said it would impact the party’s administration. Perikatan Nasional’s press conference below. The body language of Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man is telling.
IHH Healthcare Bhd’s 90%-owned Acibadem Saglik Yatirimlari Holding AS is buying Kent Health Group, the operator of the largest private hospital in Türkiye's third largest city Izmir. The 340-bed Izmir Kent Hospital will be Acibadem’s 19th hospital in Türkiye and 25th globally.
Grab Malaysia has a new managing director — Adelene Foo. As a ten-year veteran at Grab, Foo would oversee the business strategy and operations of Grab’s businesses in Malaysia in her new role. Her predecessor, Sean Goh, will assume the position of regional head of deliveries and mobility.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Meta: Zuckerberg declares 2023 as the ‘year of efficiency’
During Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings call, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors that the management theme for 2023 is the ‘year of efficiency’ and that the organisation will become more nimble. There’s a slightly ominous tone to it as this signals there could be more layoffs on the horizon.
Downsizing and scaling back a company doesn’t come cheap - the company spent USD3.7 bil on restructuring, including severance payouts for employees as well as early termination of some of its office leases. Back in November, Meta laid off more than 11,000 employees, incurring a total cost of USD975 mil or USD88,636 to lay off per employee.
Meta shares popped almost 20% as the company’s revenue topped estimates, coming in at USD32.16 bil and generated income of USD4.65 bil (earnings and performance summary here). With layoffs and declaring ‘year of efficiency’, one would think times are bad. Not for Meta shareholders as the company authorized share buyback of USD40 bil. In 2022, it bought back USD27.9 bil worth of its shares. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to capitalism.
The Adani empire meltdown continues, dragging India’s stock market with it
The stock rout across 7 of Gautam Adani’s listed companies intensified to USD104 bil in a span of a week after US short-seller Hindenburg Research released its investigation report alleging fraud against the conglomerate. Adani’s flagship company Adani Enterprises has decided to withdraw its follow-on share sale of USD2.4 bil, even though it has been fully subscribed by prominent Indian and Gulf investors, including the UAE royals.
The bonds of Adani Enterprises plunged to distressed levels in US trading and has prompted various banks, including Credit Suisse and Citigroup Inc to stop accepting securities of Adani’s group of companies as collateral for margin loans. State Bank of India, the country’s largest lender, has exposure of USD2.6 bil to Adani Group,
At its peak in September, almost one of every USD10 invested in Indian stocks was into Adani’s companies, and its implosion has pushed the MSCI India Index near a technical correction, defined as a fall of 10% from the top. The market is watching closely now on Adani’s actions to reverse course and also what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, widely perceived to have close ties to Adani, will do to address the situation.
Fun fact: short-sellers benefit from the collapse in the share price of a company. Hindenburg Research is poetically named after the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 when an airship filled with hydrogen exploded (watch real footage of the incident here). The incident was completely avoidable as there were dozens of earlier hydrogen-based aircraft meeting the same fate, according to the company.
Major central banks raised interest rates, no signs of ending
The US Federal Reserve, Bank of England (BoE) and the European Cental Bank (ECB) continued with their monetary tightening to battle inflation:
US Fed Reserve: +25 bps (0.25%) to target rate of 4.5-4.75%
BoE: +50 bps to 4%
ECB: +50 bp to 2.5%
Good news for the economy - the Fed and BoE in their statements said that inflation might have already peaked. The Fed noted that inflation “has eased somewhat but remains elevated” and for “the first time the disinflationary process has started”, causing the market to react positively to this comment, recovering from an earlier fall in the wake of the announcement.
Not so good news for markets and investors - it’s still too early to cheer for central banks to stop its rate increase. The Fed provided no such signals in its statement and the ECB said it intends to raise rate again by another 50 bps in March.
Fungal pandemic unlikely, but not impossible
After a virus pandemic, will the world suffer a fungal pandemic? The increased interest in fungal pandemic comes from the latest hit HBO series The Last of Us, based on a video game series of the same name, which involves humans turning into zombies after being infected by a fungus (watch trailer here).
Mycologist Norman Van Rhijn from the University of Manchester states that a fungal pandemic is “definitely possible”. However, no species of fungus currently known to science poses an immediate pandemic threat to humans, especially not in a way that will turn humans into zombies. However, fungal infections are definitely on the rise worldwide, and researchers are concerned that the number of people at risk is growing larger. There are even concerns about new super-pathogens that could arise from fungi. Zombie self-defence - go for their heads.
It’s a different story though in the animal kingdom - a parasitic fungus is known to turn ants into ‘zombie’.
Netflix has started rolling out its test to crack down on password sharing in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru. Users have to define their primary location and they have to access Netflix through this WiFi network once every 31 days.
OpenAI announced ChatGPT Plus - a USD20 paid monthly plan that gives priority and faster access to the AI chatbot whilst free users have to wait, especially during peak periods and also early access to new features and improvements. ChatGPT will not become a paid-only tool - OpenAI says that paid users “will help support free access availability to as many people as possible”.
Police in Norway has banned a planned protest including the burning the copy of the Quran hours after the Turkish foreign ministry has summoned the Norwegian ambassador to complain According to the police statement, “burning the Quran is a legal political statement” but the event can’t go ahead due to security concerns.
Weekend read: Morgan Housel shares Ideas That Changed My (His) Life.
The biggest lesson from the 100 billion people who are no longer alive is that they tried everything we’re trying today. The details were different, but they tried to outwit entrenched competition. They swung from optimism to pessimism at the worst times. They battled unsuccessfully against reversion to the mean.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 👁👁
Here’s what Malaysia Madani’s logo looks like. How the padawan follow its jedi master when PM Anwar's Malaysia Madani looks a bit like Tun Mahathir's Pejuang logo.
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