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  • ☕️ The biggest devil behind MYR's drop - decades-long decline in competitiveness

☕️ The biggest devil behind MYR's drop - decades-long decline in competitiveness

Foreigners owe RM100 mil unpaid bills to govt. healthcare facilities. Yakuza boss caught selling nuclear fuel by US undercover agents. Luckin Coffee > Starbucks in sales, outlets in China.

CNY is over. The next public holiday will be — nah, we didn’t bother checking. Get back to work and bring up the productivity of the nation!

Source: Whatsapp


Information as of 0720 UTC+8 on Feb 26, 2024.


RM100 mil — the amount of outstanding medical bills owed by foreigners, especially illegal immigrants, to public health care facilities as of the end of 2023. This cost includes childbirth, emergencies, outpatient services and medications, which is a perk enjoyed by Malaysians. How did it balloon to this amount? Based on a promise that they will pay later — they are taking advantage of the sympathy extended by our healthcare workers.

In 2019, Deep Trace's study "The State of Deepfakes" revealed that 96% of deepfake videos were pornographic. Henry Ajder, a co-author of the study, noted that while the percentage might have shifted, the issue remains significant. With AI tools like Dall-E and Stable Diffusion becoming more accessible, even those with limited technical skills can create deepfakes. Ajder highlighted that while the overall percentage of pornographic deepfakes might be lower now, the sheer volume has surged, potentially impacting millions of individuals worldwide.

Travelling somewhere this year? If you’re looking for a punctual airline — defined as arriving within 15 minutes of that scheduled arrival — you need to check out this listing by Cirium. This aviation analytics company studies data on more than 35 mil flights a year. In the Asia Pacific region, AirAsia scored the top spot! Psyched! On a serious note, here’s the listing of the top five in the APAC region — Thai AirAsia actually ranked 3rd.

Credits: Screenshot of Cirium’s website.

Together with Antler

If you’re currently building at pre-launch or pre-seed stage, you need to meet Antler — the world’s most active early-stage VC that recently expanded to Malaysia. As the earliest capital provider, they also have a global platform of founders, investors and advisors. Founders can expect to find a co-founder, validate their ideas, launch their startup and get funded - all in 10 weeks. Find out more and connect with them here.


PM: “Do not politicise the decline of the Ringgit”
PM Anwar Ibrahim has gently reminded all parties not to politicise the decline of the Ringgit as a tool to fit their own respective narrative. PM Anwar reiterated that despite the bottoming Ringgit against the US Dollar, the country recorded the highest number of investment amounts last year. Additionally, he added that Malaysia is not fully dependent on the US Dollar for its international trade.

“Malaysia’s biggest trade is with China, which is 25% of our trade, using the Ringgit and Renminbi. Also, 18% of our trade is with Indonesia, using the Ringgit and Rupiah, while 20% is with Thailand using the Ringgit and Baht. So, the dollar issue has no effect.” 
— Anwar Ibrahim

So, PM Anwar is telling others not to use Ringgit as a political tool, but is he consistent in this stance? The joke’s on you, as during PM Anwar’s then tenure as the opposition leader in 2022, he capitalised on the declining Ringgit as one of his tools to throw mud towards the previous administration. I guess all politicians are the same. Their statement changes depending on which side of Dewan Rakyat they are situated.

Okay, let’s push politics aside and really know why the Ringgit is dropping. According to the World Bank lead economist for Malaysia, Apurva Sanghi, he said that although external factors do play a role in the Ringgit’s decline, as Bank Negara governor Abdul Rasheed Ghaffour had stated previously, the bigger devil is the country’s low competitiveness. Since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Malaysia has not yet introduced a significant reform to its economic model. As a result, the once stronger currency against Thailand’s Baht and South Korea’s Won, the Ringgit, has now become a shadow of its former might.

Internal feud within the Tourism Ministry
Tourism Minister Tiong King Sing announced that Tourism Malaysia director-general (DG) Ammar Abd Ghapar will be demoted to the deputy role due to Ammar’s failure to perform to the expected standards. Tiong said that Ammar was not the top target to be the DG back then, but he was given the role due to his doctorate in tourism. However, Tiong claimed that Ammar’s performance does not reflect his qualifications. Ammar confirmed that he received the notice from the minister’s office on February 22 and his last day will be February 26. The director of international promotion (Asia & Africa), P Manoharan, will replace Ammar. Btw, dear minister, education qualification is not a true reflection of real-world experience.

Ammar did not sit idle and kept quiet on his demotion. The now-former DG of Tourism Malaysia called out the Government to prove his mistakes as he claimed that he did nothing wrong and has always been a ‘saya yang menurut perintah’ kind of public servant. Ammar has served in various capacities under Tourism Malaysia since 2005 and is slated to retire in February next year.

Responding to the nature of Ammar’s demotion and the short notice given, Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Zuki Ali confirmed that the Tourism Minister does have the prerogative to appoint and terminate the services of the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) director-general, in accordance to the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board Act 1992 (Act 481).

Is Malaysia shedding crocodile tears regarding the Palestinian plight?
In a landmark ‘middle finger’ to Israel and its supporters, Foreign Minister Mohamad Hasan delivered Malaysia’s oral submission during public hearings over Israel's actions at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Netherlands. During the oral submission, Mohamad told the court that “Israel must cease all its relevant policies and practices' in Palestine and withdraw immediately from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).” Malaysia is one of the 50 countries that will be presenting their respective arguments on the legal consequences of Israel’s alleged ‘holocaust’ in Palestine. So far, more than 29,000 Palestinians have perished since October 7.

While Malaysia is the David against the Goliath of Israel on the international stage, back home, Malaysia is more like Robin to the Batman of Israel. A Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) activist was handcuffed by plainclothes police at a pro-Palestine rally outside the US Embassy on Saturday, which was attended by about 50 people. PSM secretary-general A. Sivarajan claimed that the police were aware of the rally, which was organised to hand a memorandum to the US Embassy. The United States is a staunch supporter of the state of Israel, as the latter received the highest amount of military assistance from the former compared to any other nation since World War II, amounting to more than USD124 bil.

In unrelated news, another rally will be happening on Tuesday (Feb 27, 2024) as Bersih will march towards the Parliament to demand legislative reforms from Putrajaya. Based on their social media postings, Bersih has three wishlists:

  1. Better protection for whistleblowers;

  2. Term limits for the PM as promised by Pakatan Harapan previously; and

  3. Reforms to the Sedition Act.


  1. MR DIY keeps giving
    Home improvement retailer MR DIY Group (M) Bhd recorded an impressive 16.6% increase in its net profit to RM158.6 mil for 4QFY2023 compared to a year earlier. The company attributed this performance mainly to the expiration of the one-off corporate windfall tax. Moving forward, MR DIY plans to add 180 new stores in 2024, inching closer to its 2,000 total stores target by 2028. The company had 1,255 stores at the end of FY2023. View its earnings here.

  2. Process improvement at JPJ
    Starting in April, used car dealers will no longer need to physically go to the Road Transport Department (JPJ) to temporarily transfer the ownership of vehicles they buy from sellers, thanks to Transport Minister Anthony Loke. A trial period of one year will be initiated and used car dealers can just access JPJ's MySikap system online to change the ownership of the purchased cars temporarily.

  3. A slew of incentives to relocate to TRX
    PM Anwar Ibrahim announced a slew of incentives — industrial building allowance, 70% tax exemption for property developers and stamp duty exemption for loan and service agreements - for any companies that relocate their shops to Malaysia’s new International Financial Centre (IFC), the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX). Is Putrajaya working extra hard to prevent TRX from becoming another white elephant?


Crime thriller movies in real life

  • Yakuza boss selling nuclear fuel
    Court documents unsealed last week showed how US agents tricked a Japanese crime lord into handing over nuclear fuel in a sting operation that took two years. Takeshi Ebisawa is described by US prosecutors as a leading figure amongst Japanese gangsters, also known as yakuza. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) fooled Ebisawa into believing that he was selling them a shipment of plutonium and uranium to help Iran build nuclear weapons. Undercovered US agents posing as narcotics and weapons traffickers met Ebisawa in Thailand, who brought a sample of the nuclear fuel, which was then seized and confirmed to be genuine, the court documents say. Read the court documents here

  • Former Honduras president protecting druglords
    Former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, was charged in the US, accused of protecting drug traffickers. The president of the Central American nation (view on the map here) allegedly accepted millions in bribes from cocaine traffickers in exchange for tipping them off about planned raids and even ordered the army to protect them. US prosecutors accused him of partnering with some of the world’s most prolific narcotics traffickers to traffic tonnes of cocaine to the US. One of these prominent individuals is Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, whom US prosecutors alleged has given a bribe of USD1 mil to Juan. There’s a Netflix series on El Chapo — watch the trailer here.
    Watch: El Chapo vs Pablo Escobar - How Do They Compare?

Financial results: Luckin Coffee, Berkshire Hathaway

  • Luckin Coffee has become China’s coffee champion as its annual sales last year outpaced Starbucks for the first time. Its latest quarterly revenue came in at RMB7.06 bil (USD993.5 mil), a 91% year-on-year increase and net income rose over 4x to RMB296.4 mil (USD41.7 mil). For the full year, Luckin’s total sales amounted to USD3.45 bil, surpassing Starbucks’ China annual sales of USD3.16 bil. Its earnings also include revenue from international operations, including 30 stores that opened in Singapore last year. 

    Luckin opened more than 8,000 new stores last year and now has over 16,200 stores in China as of the end of Dec 2023. As for Starbucks, it has nearly 7,000 stores in China. China has the most branded coffee shops globally, with nearly 50,000 outlets, overtaking the US after a boom in the past year. 

    View: Luckin Coffee Q4 2023 Earnings Deck.

  • Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway released its highly anticipated annual letter and financial performance. We won’t dwell on it, but in short, its performance last year was decent. Instead, we share more on three meaningful highlights:

    • Firstly, this is the first-ever report after the death of his partner and Berkshire’s vice-chairman Charlie Munger, who passed away at 99 in Nov last year. Buffett wrote a tribute (view here) to Munger, crediting him as the “architect” of Berkshire and Buffett calling himself the “general contractor” that carried out the day-to-day operation of Munger’s vision. 

    • Buffett said Berkshire now has the largest GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) net worth recorded by any American business. Berkshire’s net worth stood at USD561 bil. As for the remaining 499 S&P 500 companies, their total GAAP net worth was USD8.9 tril in 2022. 
      Learn: What is GAAP?

    • Berkshire’s cash pile keeps growing, now at a record USD167.6 bil, as the company struggles to find any meaningful investments that move the needle at this scale. 

    Read the annual letter and financial statements here. Berkshire Class A share price now stands at USD628,930 (RM3 mil) — that’s right, for a SINGLE share. Meanwhile, check out this USD905.8 bil company’s corporate website — stuck in the 1990s. 


  1. Reddit going for IPO
    Reddit has finally filed for its IPO after a two years delay and is the last among the traditional social media companies to go public after Pinterest in 2019. The company was advised to seek a valuation of USD5 bil. The timing could be opportunistic as it rides on the AI wave - Reddit announced last Wednesday it inked a USD60 mil-per-year deal with Google to license its content for AI training. The IPO filing also disclosed OpenAI CEO Sam Altman as its third-largest shareholder with an 8.97% stake. Read its IPO filing here

  2. Thailand Travel PSA: Have THB15,000 or risk being denied entry
    All foreign tourists coming into Thailand, regardless of country of origin, are required to carry a minimum cash on hand of THB15,000 (RM1,992). The source, however, came from the Indonesian embassy in Bangkok following complaints from many Indonesians who were denied entry to Thailand. Thai Immigration did not specify how much money visitors must bring, but the range of THB15-20k was based on open source. We are still trying to search for direct info on this.

  3. Taylor Swift’s spillover economic impact in Singapore
    The Singapore government might have spent USD10 mil+ to get Taylor Swift to perform in Singapore in Southeast Asia exclusively, but this is expected to generate an economic value of USD787 mil from an increase in tourist spending, flights and hotel bookings during her 6-day sold-out shows in Singapore. Hotels and airlines said that demand for flights and accommodations around these six days has increased up to 30%.


  1. If you have cardboard boxes lying around and some clothes, this may save you a few seconds for each piece of clothing.

  1. Comedian Douglas Lim delivered some interesting insights into English and Bahasa Malaysia vocabulary. Funny, at the same time, quite deep.

  1. Here are some tips to avoid conflict this week at work.

  1. Ed Sheeran was in town. If you didn’t have enough of him, watch him lou sang here on Chap Goh Mei together with Jinnyboy.