- The Coffee Break
- ☕️ Malaysian students are below average across all three skills tested in PISA
☕️ Malaysian students are below average across all three skills tested in PISA
Total approved investments in Malaysia hit RM225 bil in 2023, the most in a decade. Fukushima water dump - Malaysia seawater is safe, test shows. TIME’s Person of the Year - Taylor Swift.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢: EDUCATION SPECIAL
While Covid-19 seems to be a thing of the past, its effects continue to haunt the world — teenagers’ proficiency seems to be at risk, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Based on OECD’s triennial tests of 15-year-olds’ reading, mathematic and science skills, the organisation is seeing some of the steepest decline in performance since the introduction of the tests in 2000. Here are some interesting statistics:
OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2022 had nearly 700,000 youths taking the two-hour test. The youths were from OECD’s 38 mostly developed country members and 44-non members.
Compared to the last tests conducted in 2018, reading performance in OECD countries has seen a decline of 10 points on average, and mathematics performance has dropped by 15 points. This loss is equivalent to three-quarters of a year's worth of learning. On average, reading and science trajectories had been falling for a decade, though math had remained stable between 2003-2018.
One out of four 15-year-olds have been graded as a low performer in math, reading and science, which means they could not use basic algorithms or interpret simple texts, the study found.
Socio-economically disadvantaged students in OECD countries are 7x more likely, on average, than advantaged students not to achieve basic mathematics proficiency.
While the study did not specifically blame Covid-19, it did state that countries that provided extra teacher support during COVID school closures scored better and results were generally better in places where easy teacher access to special help was high.
Malaysian students are below average across all three skills.
#52 in Science (416 vs OECD average 485)
#54 in Mathematics (409 vs OECD average 472)
#60 in Reading (388 vs OECD average 476)
Guess which country ranks #1 across all three categories? Singapore. Earlier this year, our Education Minister, Fadhlina Sidek, said that the school curriculum in Malaysia is comparable to the curriculum of other countries such as Singapore and Japan. The situation in Malaysia is looking gloomy, as the education minister previously reported that almost half of SPM leavers from the 2021 session chose not to further their education.
View infographics: PISA 2022 Results: Factsheets of Malaysia
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Johor MB furious over blackout at Causeway checkpoint
Johor Bahru’s Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ), the main gateway between Johor and Singapore, experienced an outage that went on for at least 11 hours from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning. The situation resulted in heavy departure traffic at Woodlands Checkpoint due to backlogs from Malaysia. Travellers stood in the dark while waiting for clear immigration in Johor Bahru. Some even waited for five hours to clear immigration. The power outages were expected at the Sultan Iskandar Building (BSI) and the CIQ, but only for approximately eight hours.
Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) explained it was carrying work stoppages for scheduled maintenance and installation work at the Gerbang Perdana 33/11kV main distribution substation (PPU). During the work, a temporary electricity supply was supplied through 10 generators belonging to BSI. However, there was repeated damage to one of the generators in question, disrupting the supply to the premises of the CIQ building.
Tengku Zafrul: Malaysia’s service sector is the biggest contributor to total approved investmentsIn 2023, Malaysia's service sector played a significant role in the country's approved investments, contributing 52.3% of the total. The service sector attracted RM117.7 bil in investments out of the total approved investment of RM225 bil for the year — Information and communications technology (ICT) takes the biggest chunk. This reflects a 6.6% increase compared to the previous year's approved investments of RM211 bil, as stated by Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, the Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI). Malaysia’s foreign direct investments (FDI) accounted for 55.9% while the remaining 44.1% is domestic direct investment (DDI). These approved projects are poised to generate 89,495 new jobs in the country.
The country’s top five sources of FDI:
Netherlands (RM35 bil)
Singapore (RM20.4 bil)
United States (RM18.9 bil)
China (RM11.6 bil)
Japan (RM11.2 bil)
Gamuda Bhd’s Singapore outfit has been awarded a SGD510 mil (RM1.77 bil) project by the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) for the design and construction of the West Coast Station and Tunnels (known as Contract CR209). The project is the construction conglomerate’s first independent venture in Singapore without joint venture partners. The commencement date for the West Coast station and tunnels project is scheduled within the first quarter of 2024, with completion expected by 2032, according to Gamuda.
Tropicana Corporation Bhd finally found a buyer for W Kuala Lumpur, its five-star hotel right smack in the Golden Triangle. Tropicana Residences Sdn Bhd (TRSB), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tropicana Corporation Bhd, has signed a sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with IOI PFCC Hotel Sdn Bhd (IOI PFCC) and Flora Development Sdn Bhd (Flora Development) for the sale of the W Kuala Lumpur hotel and its assets (W KL) for RM270 mil. The sales proceeds will be used to fully repay the existing bank borrowings of W KL, as well as partially repay the existing bank borrowings of Tropicana Group.
Ever wondered how much it costs to lease a plane? Approximately RM2.54 mil per month — based on AirAsia X Bhd’s filing with Bursa Malaysia. In a bid to streamline its fleet, AirAsia X Bhd (AAX) entered into a one-year lease agreement of an A330-300 aircraft with sister company Asia Aviation Capital Ltd (AACL), in a contract valued at RM30.5mil. The widebody A330-300 suits AirAsia X’s long-haul flights and it is of the same cabin configuration as AAX’s existing fleet.
Swiss-based multinational investment bank UBS Group sees something Malaysians aren’t. Boustead Plantations Bhd (BPlant), which is in the midst of being privatised, found a new substantial shareholder — UBS. The investment bank has a 5.36% stake in BPlant, with 120.06 mil shares. UBS had initially acquired 20.71 mil shares in BPlant, equivalent to a 0.92% stake, on Nov 10, 2023 — the same day that the Armed Forces pension fund made an unconditional mandatory takeover offer for the BPlant shares that it does not own, at RM1.55 per share
Malaysia seawater is safeFollowing the Japanese authorities’ release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, people were cautious and worried about the “radioactive” water reaching our shores. The Gamma Spectrum Water Monitoring System (GSWMS) monitored Malaysian waters from Oct 1 to Nov 30 and found that there is no increase in radioactivity levels. No Godzilla spotted on our shores so far. Btw, Warner Bros just dropped its latest Godzilla x Kong trailer - watch here.
New school curriculum in 2027Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek said the new curriculum aims to produce students who practice a balanced lifestyle in all aspects, can cultivate lifelong learning, value racial unity and harmony and can develop healthy social relationships. One key element is character education. The upcoming curriculum will integrate elements from the current standards-based curriculum with a competency-oriented approach utilised in countries like Singapore, Finland, and Canada.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
The Gaza FrontIsrael is considering the option of flushing Hamas out of its network of tunnels by literally flushing them out. The plan involves a system of at least five large pumps to flood the tunnel network with seawater. The desired result would be that Hamas militants and potentially any hostages, would be forced out onto Gaza’s streets.
Meanwhile, the Israeli bombardment on Gaza has further intensified since the truce ended last Friday, with Israeli forces reaching the heart of Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis. Palestinian medics said hospitals were overflowing with dead and wounded, with the UN saying it was impossible to deliver aid through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt. The soaring death toll from Israel’s renewed offensive has led the Biden administration to try pressuring its ally to minimise civilian deaths. However, actions have not been suited to words since the US remains unlikely to withhold weapon deliveries or harshly criticise Israel, instead believing in its current strategy of “privately negotiating”.
Biden also spoke up at a political fundraiser, accusing Hamas of committing acts of sexual violence during its October 7 attack, citing survivors and witnesses. He called on international organisations, civil societies, and individuals alike to condemn sexual violence “without exception”. However, Hamas denounced Biden’s accusation as false, with the US joining Israel’s effort to “cover up war crimes in Gaza” committed with US support”.
BAT takes USD31.5 bil hit as tougher regulations and weakening futures take their tollBritish American Tobacco is taking the hit as it writes down the value of some US cigarette brands as an acknowledgement that its traditional market has no long-term future. This follows stricter regulations and growing health awareness, driving declines in cigarette sales volumes. BAT also pointed to economic challenges where inflation-weary consumers are downgrading to cheaper brands, with additional pressure on the industry coming from the rise of illicit disposable vapes.
ByteDance makes share buyback offer at USD268 bil valuationThe parent company of TikTok is offering to buy back up to USD5 bil in shares from investors at USD160 per share; the same offer was made to employees in November. This values the company at USD268 bil, a valuation 11% lower than the price ByteDance offered investors in 2022. However, the valuation is high enough that the firm will still be placed among the 40 most valuable public companies in the world, with its revenue surging 30% to surpass USD80 bil in 2022.
Musk AI firm xAI looks to raise USD1 bil in equity offeringThe AI firm has already raised USD134.7 mil in equity financing from a total offering amount of USD1 bil. Elon Musk’s startup AI firm is what he calls a “maximum truth-seeking AI” to rival Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Bing AI. The firm launched Grok as a rival to OpenAI’s ChatGPT last month. Musk was a co-founder of OpenAI but left the board in 2018.
Today in Entertainment
Premier League sells UK rights to Sky and TNT for USD8.4 bilEurope’s most lucrative sports franchise sold four years of UK broadcast rights for USD8.4 bil to its biggest existing partners, Sky Sports and TNT Sports. This marks a 4% increase from the previous cycle, just for the live events. Sky secured pay-TV rights to at least 215 matches, while TNT acquired rights to 52 matches, including Saturday afternoon matches. The Premier League called the deal the largest sports media rights package ever sold in the UK, with the rights to run from the 2025 to 2028 seasons. Amazon, which holds rights to 20 matches around Christmas, decided not to bid. BBC was awarded highlights rights for all 380 matches.
Blackpink renews contracts, agency company shares see 29% skyrocketAfter drama between the K-pop band and its agency took YG Entertainment’s shares through its ups and downs, the confirmation that the group of four have renewed exclusive group contracts with YG has led to the company’s shares spiking as much as 29% following the announcement for an intra-day high of 61,900 won (USD47.08) per share with a market cap of USD1.48 bil. However, the terms of the deal remain unclear. Blackpink is one of YG’s most successful groups, with the recent world tour reportedly attracting 2.11 mil people worldwide through 66 performances in 34 cities.
Taylor Swift named TIME’s Person of the YearSwifties rejoice, as the singer has been crowned Person of the Year by TIME Magazine. The star’s Eras tour saw such a high demand for tickets that it crashed Ticketmaster’s website, which led to a hearing into its business practices by the US Senate. According to TIME editor-in-chief Sam Jacobs called Swift “the rare person who is both the writer and hero of her own story”. Read TIME’s cover of Swift here.
China fires up world’s first 4th-gen nuclear reactor – The Asian nation has begun commercial operations at the Shidaowan plant in northern Shandong, with the 4th-gen reactor designed to use fuel more efficiently with improved economics, safety, and environmental footprints compared to its predecessors. The 200-megawatt high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor plant was jointly developed by state-run utility Huaneng, Tsinghua University, and the China National Nuclear Corporation.
French bank issues stablecoin on European exchange – Societe Generale, France’s third-largest listed bank, is the first to have its digital asset arm list its stablecoin. The listing is on the European crypto exchange Bitstamp, one of the oldest crypto exchanges around, which is currently seeking a licence in Singapore. The stablecoin, pegged to the euro, is called the EUR CoinVertible.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
Fun fact — Malaysia is amongst the top 10 electronics exporters. We are also ranked 7th in the world as the largest exporter of semiconductors, with a market share of 7%. Sounds amazing, but we have to move up the value chain instead of dominating the low-value-add part of the supply chain. Over to you Tengku Zafrul.View infographics: Where Malaysian players are in the semiconductor value chain.
If you’re working from home and need some tunes to chill out to, here’s a great set I’ve been repeating over the past week.
Don’t let 10 seconds of negativity ruin the remaining 86,390 seconds of your day.