- The Coffee Break
- ☕️ PM Anwar: All schools in the country to have proper, basic infrastructure by October
☕️ PM Anwar: All schools in the country to have proper, basic infrastructure by October
170 prisoners released in conjunction with National Day. BNM analyst: funds in Najib Razak’s account traceable to 1MDB. Africa’s coup-epidemic continues - Gabon, 8th country in 3 years.
Before we start, belated Happy Merdeka to our beloved country Malaysia. Even though some of us contemplate the possibility of migrating out of Malaysia for better opportunities, we surely feel a deep sense of patriotism every time we hear the song Keranamu Malaysia. In conjunction with the 66th National Day Parade, more than 100,000 people flocked to Dataran Putrajaya to witness the joyous occasion. Did you know that Dataran Putrajaya was inspired by the popular Champs-Elysees boulevard in France? Champs-Elysees is the location where the Bastille Day military parade takes place annually.
1. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
RM3,288 — the average spending per capita of an international tourist to Malaysia for the period of January to June this year, +5.3% from RM3,121 in 2019 before the pandemic started, according to Tourism Malaysia. The biggest spenders were made of oil - Middle Easterners spent an average of RM10,502 per person during their holiday this year, followed by tourists from the UK at RM6,139 and Chinese tourists in the third at RM5,721. Although Middle Easterns were the top spenders, they only accounted for just 0.6% or 56,582 visitors of the 9.16 mil arrivals during the first half of the year. Despite higher average spending per capita in 2023, the average length of stay has fallen to 3.2 nights compared to 6.2 nights in 2019.
GBP6.56 bil (RM38.58 bil) — a new record spent by football clubs around the world for a single transfer window this summer, breaking the record set in 2019 of GBP6.51 bil. The English Premier League leads the pack with GBP2.1 bil spent so far, followed by a country made of oil, Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Pro League with GBP728 mil and Italy’s Serie A at GBP682 mil.
USD1.1 tril (RM5.1 tril) — the amount spent on share buybacks in the 10 years to 31 Mar 2023 by the four Big Techs - Apple, Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook parent Meta. Apple alone accounted for USD621 bil or more than half of the total, more than tripled that of second place Alphabet of USD193 bil. Share buybacks, a corporate move espoused by Warren Buffett, reduce outstanding shares, which in theory pushed up the share price and is a more tax-efficient way than dividends to distribute value back to shareholders. Read: 5 reasons why Warren Buffett loves stock buybacks.
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Merdeka day - the tale of two different storiesIn conjunction with the National Day, under the Ihsan Madani Licensed Release of Prisoners (PBSL), 170 prisoners were released early on August 30 in five states, namely Melaka, Perak, Pahang, Penang and Negeri Sembilan. PBSL was created to empower inmates’ rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.
Initially, PBSL was implemented for inmates serving sentences of one year or less. Still, starting in July, the programme was extended to prison inmates serving sentences of three years or less. Year to date, a total of 282 prisoners were released early under the program. Another reason for having PBSL is to mitigate the overcrowding issue in prison. As of February 2023, the capacity of the prisons in Malaysia (39 prison facilities and 3 Henry Gurney schools) is at almost 120%, where we have 78,236 inmates placed at various facilities with a max cap designed for 65,762 people.
While it was a joyous occasion for some 170 prisoners, on the other hand, it was the end of the road for a 36-year-old man laden with 12 criminal records, where he was shot dead in Klang. The police are still investigating the details of the incident and whether the hit was done by one or more assailants.
BNM analyst: Funds in Najib Razak’s account traceable to 1MDBIn Najib Razak’s RM2.28 bil 1MDB-Tanore trial, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) analyst Adam Ariff Mohd Roslan told the court that the RM2.28 bil in the bank accounts of former PM Najib Razak is traceable to four phases of the 1MDB scandal. Najib earlier claimed that these funds were donations from the Saudi Arabia royal family. So what are the four phases?
Phase 1 (Good Star) — RM60.63 mil was credited to Najib’s account in 2011 from an account at Riyad Bank, Saudi Arabia. The money was believed to be sourced from the issuance of 1MDB’s Islamic medium-term notes (IMTN) bond in 2009 and its syndicated term loan in 2010.
Phase 2 (Aabar-BVI) — RM90.90 mil was transferred to Najib Razak’s account in 2012 from a Standard Chartered Bank Singapore account. The sum was linked to the 1MDB Energy (Langat) Ltd’s bond issuance 2012.
Phase 3 (Tanore) — RM2.08 bil was syphoned into Najib’s account in 2013 from an account of Falcon Private Bank Singapore.
Phase 4 (options buy-back) — Two tranches of transactions, which totalled up to a mouth-watering RM49.93 mil, were credited to Najib Razak’s account in 2014. These transactions were traced back to 1MDB Energy Holding Ltd’s USD1.23bil fund that was raised from two different loans in 2014.
Malaysia is not happy with its best buddy China, over a maritime disputeFollowing the controversial ‘China Standard Map Edition 2023’ issued by the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources, Putrajaya will send a diplomatic protest note to China stating that Malaysia does not recognise China’s claims in the South China Sea that overlaps Malaysia’s maritime areas. This will be a follow-up step after Wisma Putra released a statement on Wednesday condemning the map’s publication. In the controversial map, China claims that several exclusive economic zone (EEZ) maritime areas of Malaysia near Sabah and Sarawak, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, as well as several areas in India, are theirs.
Our sole Fortune 500 company, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) will pay RM40 bil in dividends to the Government this year, up from RM35 bil announced earlier. This announcement came against the backdrop of a relatively poor financial performance by the company in the first half of this year. In H1 2023, Petronas’s revenue was flattish, dropping marginally to RM170.3 bil from RM170.4 bil in the same period last year, while its net profit fell by 13%. Petronas Group CEO Tengku Muhammad Taufil blamed the low price of crude oil and the global economy slowdown for the oil giant’s measly performance.View report: Petronas Group Quarterly Report - Q2 ended 30 June 2023
The Malaysia Airlines Bhd — Brahim’s Food Services Sdn Bhd (BFS) breakup is finally official. Both companies had decided not to extend their 26-year partnership beyond August 31. Following this news, Malaysia Airlines will activate its Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for in-flight meal services on its selected domestic and international routes. Its current in-flight provider, Pos Aviation Sdn Bhd, will continue to service the remaining unimpacted routes.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Africa’s coup-epidemic continues - 8th coup in 3 yearsGabon (see on map here) became the eighth African nation to see a military coup in 3 years, five weeks after Niger went through the same. Gabonese military officers announced the coup and detained President Ali Bongo minutes after the state election body declared the winner of Saturday’s general election. Bongo’s family has been in power for more than 50 years — Bongo came to power 14 years ago following the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had monopolised the presidency for more than 40 years.
The recent elections, which lacked transparency (i.e. no international observers), have been accused by the opposition camp as a “fraud orchestrated by Ali Bongo and supporters”, with Bongo securing 64.27% of the votes. The oil-rich Gabon, with just a population of 2.3 mil, is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of GDP per capita. However, a third of the population still lives below the poverty line of USD5.50 per day, according to the World Bank.
The capital of online scams - Southeast AsiaIn a report published this week by the United Nations, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people are being trafficked by criminal gangs and forced to work in scam centres and other illegal operations that have sprung up across SEA in recent years. These criminal enterprises targeted victims from vulnerable situations and tricked them into believing they were offered real jobs. Based on “credible sources”, at least 120,000 people across Myanmar and roughly 100,000 in Cambodia may be trapped in these operations, with others in Laos, the Philippines and Thailand.
Most of the trafficking victims were from SEA countries as well as China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. There were even victims as far away as Africa and Latin America. View report: Online scam operations and trafficking into forced criminality in Southeast Asia
The company and country minting from AI boom
The company: OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, is on course to hit the USD1 bil revenue milestone in the next 12 months, well ahead of internal projections sent to shareholders, The Information reported. In April, the company launched a USD20 monthly subscription and, in recent weeks, rolled out its enterprise version, ChatGPT Enterprise, with enhanced features and privacy protection, which could further accelerate its monetisation. That said, challenges are lying ahead with the deteriorating quality of results, growing competition and lawsuits over copyrights.
The country: A little Caribbean nation, Anguilla (see on the map here), with just 16,000 population, is also benefitting from this AI boom as the country is assigned with the “ai” country code domain. This means whoever wants to use “.ai” in their domain has to pay the Anguilla government. It’s revealed to Bloomberg that the number of .ai registrations has almost doubled in the past year to a total of 287,432, generating about USD30 mil in domain registration fees for the nation, about 10% of Anguilla’s USD288 mil GDP in 2021.
Hong Kong will raise its No. 8 storm warning (no. 10 is the highest level), effectively shutting down the city, including its USD5 tril stock market, in preparation for a possible hit by Super Typhoon Saola, which is looking to be the strongest storm to hit the city in 5 years. At no. 8, sustained winds of 63-117 km/h are expected, with gusts (a sudden strong rush of wind) exceeding 180 km/h.
A new geopolitical tension between Russia and Norway — due to reindeer. Russia is demanding USD4.4 mil in compensation from its neighbour after 42 reindeer crossed into Russia’s national park and grazed its grassland. A sad ending for 40 of the 42 reindeer as they have been returned and slaughtered in fear they would cross again into Russia. The other two will be returned soon, but unsure whether to they will have the same ending.
Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra has submitted a petition for a royal pardon from Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn over his 8-year jail term that was handed down to him upon his 15-year self-imposed exile. Thaksin fled the country in 2008 to avoid corruption charges after he was ousted in a 2006 military coup. After a 3-month deadlock, the Thailand parliament selected a new prime minister — Srettha Travisin, from the populist Pheu Thai party, which is backed and founded by Thaksin.
Weekend read: How hydrogen bomb works, and why it was created after WWII despite being more powerful than atomic bombsWe are still not over Oppenheimer, and there’s still a lot to learn out from the movie. There are two types of nuclear bombs - atomic bombs (dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and hydrogen bombs, aka thermonuclear bombs. The latter can yield explosive force hundreds or even thousands of times greater than an atomic bomb.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
The spillover effects of clean toilets in schools on hygiene and psychology of students and parents are 999x more than mega high-rise buildings and benefit Malaysians across the whole country, not just in KL. The RM5 bil Merdeka 118 development is really an unnecessary project and could have been better spent elsewhere. Yes, it’s not mutually exclusive — but what net benefits can Malaysia derive from mega buildings like this when the most basic of infrastructure couldn’t even be done and delivered properly to rakyat? Watch PM Anwar’s Merdeka speech here on this topic.
Some Merdeka Day Parade videos: