Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ The cost of Malaysia's subsidy addiction - >RM81 bil
PN leaders in court: Muhyiddin seeks DNAA, Sanusi's sedition trial starts 18 Jan 24. TMJ recounts family's experience during Bangkok shooting. Corporate money washing, greenwashing and social washing.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
The number of drug addicts in the first half of 2023 increased by 27% to 118,820 compared to 93,534 during the same period last year, according to the National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK). This signals a very worrying trend as more than half, or 65% of them, are youths and teenagers. Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu were among the states that recorded the highest ratio per 100,000 residents involved in the problem of abuse. Guess what are the similarities shared by these four states?
The number of people above 100 in Japan rose by 1,613 year-on-year, surpassing 92,000 for the first time to 92,139, hitting a record high for the 53rd consecutive year. A significant portion of these centenarians, or around 88%, are women. Life expectancy for women in Japan is about 87 years and for men, about 81 years. Partly why women outlive men on average is due to biological differences such as estrogen in women, which helps to combat conditions such as heart diseases.
Electric vehicles (EV) constituted 6.4% of all passenger calls in Southeast Asia in the second quarter, up from 3.8% in the preceding quarter. Dominating the EV market in this region is China’s EV giant automaker BYD, with a market share of 26% due to its affordability as compared to Tesla. Thailand alone contributed 24% of BYD’s overseas sales in Q2, making it the automaker’s largest foreign market. Fewer than 1% of Tesla’s sales are in Southeast Asia.
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The world is split between those who don't know how to start making money and those who don't know when to stop.
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the seminal book, “The Black Swan” - the term ‘black swan event’ was popularised by Taleb.
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
The cost of subsidy addiction → RM81 bil
Subsidies given by the government, including electricity, fuel and food, are expected to exceed RM81 bil this year, says PM Anwar. About RM30-40 bil was spent on subsidies to keep fuel prices low at RM2.05 per litre, making our fuel prices even cheaper than one of the largest black gold producers, Saudi Arabia (RM2.75 per litre), showing the extent of subsidy the government has spent to keep fuel prices low.
With the targeted subsidies expected to be rolled out in Q2 2024, Economy Minister Rafizi Ramly said this would save the government at least USD1 bil to USD2 bil (RM4.7 - RM8.4 bil) per year. Moving away from a blanket subsidy system to a targeted one would help narrow the nation’s budget deficit, giving the government room to avoid resorting to “too many taxes”, Rafizi added. The budget deficit in 2023 is expected to be 5% of GDP. Once it shrinks to 3.5%, the government will leverage the savings from targeted subsidies to reduce the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio to 60% from the current 63%.
Water stuff - of fish and flood
Looks like fish from Japan is safe to consume - that is, according to the government. The government is not restricting the import of agricultural and fish products from Japan, says Agriculture and Food Security Minister Mat Sabu. The Health Ministry has confirmed fish products imported from Japan is safe for consumption. Fish products from Japan are currently rated at level four, where items are most closely monitored.
What happens without fail every year-end? Flood, flood and flood. The Selangor government, through the Social Welfare Department, has prepared flood relief aid for about 10,000 estimated victims, an increase in preparations made in 2021. Good thing the government is thinking ahead as well. Instead of preparing to address the floods, it’s always better to prevent or at least mitigate it. Local government authorities have been instructed to clean retention ponds, drains and canals, especially in areas of high risk of flooding.
PN leaders in court
PN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin is seeking a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) on three counts of money laundering involving RM195 mil linked to the Jana Wibawa programme following his acquittal of 4 power abuse charges back in August. These charges now are “baseless” following the High Court's decision to strike out the four power abuse charges. He contended that the money laundering charges depend on the existence of predicate criminal charges, such as abuse of power, which have been quashed.
Kedah Menteri Besar Sanusi Md Nor’s trial for alleged seditious remarks made about the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and Sultan Selangor will commence on 18 Jan 2024. He was earlier charged with two counts of sedition — the first for allegedly belittling Sultan Selangor for having appointed Amiruddin Shari as the state’s menteri besar and that the Kedah sultanate would not have appointed Amirudin. Sanusi also alleged that the Kedah ruler’s lineage was the only one which was uninterrupted. The second charge is over alleged questioning of the YDPA’s move to have a unity government under PM Anwar. He faces a fine of not more than RM5,000 or a jail term of not more than three years or both for each charge.
It’s official — the Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) x Boustead Plantations Bhd (BPlant) was terminated effective yesterday as the condition precedent could not be satisfied by the cut-off date of 6 Oct 2023 and KLK will get back its deposit of RM229.15 mil. To recap, Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera and Boustead Holdings would dispose of a 33% stake in BPlant for RM1.15 bil.
Tycoon Syed Mokhtar Albukhary’s group of companies is going heavy into renewable energy as Malakoff Corp Bhd announced that it will invest RM2.5 bil to develop 500 megawatts of solar projects within the Albukhary group over five years. Some of these entities include MMC Group, DRB-Hicom and Tradewinds Plantations. These initiatives are not limited to solar power generation and will consist of the installation of EV charging stations and cold ironing or shore-to-ship power, where electricity is supplied to the ship at berth without the need for the engines to run, hence significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
The police force took down a syndicate faking bank loan application documents with the arrest of 10 locals. The syndicate offered their services through social media. During the raid, several documents of banks, SSM, CTOS and salary statements of customers suspected of using fake documents were confiscated.
Tengku Mahkota Johor (TMJ) recounted his family’s experience during the Bangkok shooting as they were in the hotel lobby near Bangkok’s Siam Paragon Mall, where the incident occurred. People fled into the hotel from the mall. TMJ, his family and his were all safe as they sought refuge at the nearby Singapore embassy.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Three scientists win Nobel Chemistry prize for "bringing colour to nanotechnology"
Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus, and Alexei Ekimov won the prestigious award worth USD1 mil) for their discovery of quantum dots, clusters of atoms now used to create colour in flat screens, LED lamps, and devices that help surgeons see blood vessels in tumours. The discovery could contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells, and encrypted quantum communication in the future.
However, this follows a blunder by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prizes, accidentally publishing the names of the aforementioned scientists as winners although the decision was still “hours away”. A copy of the email publishing the names was published in two Swedish newspapers, with Johan Aqvist, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, informing the media that it was a mistake by the academy.
Ripple wins, then wins harder
Crypto payment firm Ripple is ramping up hiring outside the US, with Singapore identified as a key market. The firm managed to secure a full licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to offer digital token payment services in the city-state. The licence comes four months after Ripple secured in-principle approval. Currently, 85% of the firm’s open roles are based outside the US - check out their careers page here.
In the US, Ripple secured another victory when a federal judge refused to let the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) appeal a ruling that Ripple’s XRP token on public exchanges complied with federal securities laws. The SEC previously alleged that Ripple illegally raised over USD1.3 bil in an unregistered securities offering by selling XRP. The token was ruled earlier this year as compliant with laws as “purchasers had no reasonable expectation of profit based on Ripple’s efforts”.
European financial institutions to blame for 70% jump in greenwashing in 2023
A report by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data firm RepRisk recorded 148 cases of greenwashing in the 12 months up to the end of September 2023, up from 86 cases in the 12 months prior. Greenwashing is the act of creating a false impression or misleading information about how green a company is, usually to boost its bottom line or reputation. The majority of these companies were banks - they expanded their washing operations — 106 of the 148 cases were by European financial institutions, with over 50% of climate-specific risk incidents mentioning fossil fuels or linking a financial institution to an oil and gas company.
Not done with washing money and greenwashing, 1 in 3 of these companies tied to greenwashing was also embroiled in so-called “social washing”, where companies present themselves positively by “obscuring underlying social issues” such as human rights abuses or impacts on communities.
Spotify to make 150k audiobooks available to Spotify Premium subscribers
The service has no additional charge and will launch in the UK and Australia starting October 4th, with the US to follow later this year before other launches across more markets. The move is powered by the platform’s USD123 mil acquisition of digital audiobook distributor Findaway, with Spotify featuring an initial catalogue of 300k titles. The platform first offered its audiobook services in the US in September 2022.
Pakistan orders 1.7 mil Afghans out of the country by November
The order, targeted at the 1.7 mil unauthorised asylum seekers, comes amid escalated tensions this year following a series of attacks along the shared border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As it stands, there are 1.3 mil Afghans already registered as refugees in Pakistan, with a further 880k given the legal status to remain. There will also be tighter restrictions for Afghans entering Pakistan from November 1, with only visa and passport holders allowed in.
Paris panics as bedbug infestations soar ahead of 2024 Olympics
A number of French cities are seeing an increase in bedbug infestations, raising concerns about health and safety ahead of the 2024 Olympics. However, the increase is actually part of an upward trend that goes back several years. Late summer is when a lot of people move about, and bedbugs are brought along in luggage, according to entomologist Jean-Michel Berger.
Kevin McCarthy no longer the House Speaker
Representative McCarthy was ousted in a historic vote due to party infighting days after Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown. This is the first time in history that the House removed its leader, and McCarthy has announced he will not make another run for the role. The last time the House tried to remove a speaker was in 1910 and that attempt was not successful.