Monday, 26 August 2019

Trade war salvos singe Singapore’s chipmakers

Falling electronics exports and rising retrenchments could soon drag the trade-reliant city-state into recession


Ly Chong, chief operating officer at Hybrionic Pte Ltd, a Singaporean hybrid microcircuit producer which employs nearly 300 people, says his business has been “drastically” impacted by the US-China trade war.

The company builds electronic circuits and modules used in automobiles, healthcare devices such as hearing aids and telecommunication electronics. Ninety-five percent of the firm’s products are exported to the US market but its supply chain is linked to China.

“Because of the trade war and our end-customers, we were asked to hold back our shipments of an automotive product that represented 40% of our total sales,” Chong told Asia Times in an interview.

That product, Chong said, has traditionally been sent by his firm to China for assembly into a module which is then shipped to Mexico and the US. Sales volumes of the device have recently drop by some 60% because of US tariffs, he said.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Radical Indian preacher rocks and roils Malaysia

Zakir Naik, a fugitive Islamic televangelist wanted by New Delhi, could lose his safe haven in Malaysia for inflaming racial tensions


Malaysian authorities are under pressure to act against Zakir Naik, a fugitive Islamic televangelist wanted in India on radicalization and money laundering charges who recently suggested that Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese minority community should be expelled.

Speaking at an event in Kelantan state on August 8, Zakir claimed that Malaysia’s minority Hindus have “100 times more rights” than Muslim minorities in India but are more supportive of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Naik then mentioned Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese community, which represents around 21% of the national population as he addressed rising calls for him to leave Malaysia, where he now holds permanent residency despite India’s calls for his extradition.

“You know, someone called me a guest. So, I said, before me, the Chinese were the guests. If you want the new guest to go first, ask the old guest to go back,” he said. “The Chinese aren’t born here, most of them. Maybe the new generations, yes,” Naik added.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Goldman’s 1MDB troubles grow deep and wide

Wall Street bank’s legal liability in Malaysia’s multibillion dollar financial scandal is likely much larger than markets and analysts recognize


Goldman Sachs is under potentially punitive new legal pressure after Malaysian prosecutors filed criminal charges against 17 of its current and ex-executives, raising the stakes and new questions of institutional culpability in the multibillion dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption and money-laundering scandal.

Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas said last week that custodial sentences and criminal fines would be sought against the accused, all of whom held key leadership positions across three of the bank’s subsidiaries. The charges were filed under a Malaysian law that holds senior executives responsible for any offenses that may have been committed during their tenure.

Those indicted “occupied the highest executive positions in those three Goldman Sachs subsidiaries, and exercised or ought to have exercised decision-making authority over the transactions of those corporate bodies,” which, Thomas said, were involved in the “fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds.”

The newly accused include Richard Gnodde, chief executive of the US investment bank’s international subsidiary, Michael Evans, an ex-Goldman executive who is now president of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and 15 other current and former directors from the bank’s international divisions including in London and Singapore.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Singapore’s Lee family feud gets political

New Progress Singapore Party could pit members of the long-ruling Lee family against each other at elections expected in 2020


Tan Cheng Bock, a 79-year-old veteran politician and retired medical doctor, believes the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) he was a member of for over two decades has “changed” for the worse. Speaking at a launch event on August 3, the charismatic septuagenarian explained why his newly formed opposition party is pushing for political change in Singapore.

“The style of government has changed, the processes of government have gone astray, because there has been an erosion of the three pillars of good governance: transparency, independence, and accountability,” he said at the new Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) official launch.

Analysts believe the new political outfit could make an impact at the ballot box amid talk of Singapore’s fragmented opposition parties organizing a loose alliance. Among the PSP’s several hundred members are former ruling party cadres, an apparent indication of rising elite dissatisfaction with the direction of the current PAP government.

Tan described an “underlying disquiet” in the country, claiming that Singaporeans are fearful of publicly criticizing their government, the longest-governing incumbent party in Southeast Asia. “People fear for their jobs, their promotions, their grants, their rental premises, and getting sued,” he said.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Singapore slings a trade war antidote

Newly inked UN-backed Singapore Convention on Mediation promises neutral settlement of trade and commercial disputes. China and US are among treaty’s first signatories


Singapore became the first of 46 countries to sign a new United Nations (UN) treaty on commercial mediation on August 7, when officials from 70 nations convened in the city-state to officiate an agreement designed to facilitate global trade and resolve cross-border disputes.

The Singapore Convention on Mediation, the first treaty concluded under UN auspices to be named after the city-state, aims to give businesses greater confidence to settle international disputes through mediation, which involves a neutral party working with different sides to come to an agreement rather than resort to costly court proceedings.

While both the United States and China remain at loggerheads in an escalating trade war, the world’s two largest economies were among the convention’s first signatories, an outcome that observers see as a small coup for Singapore, a staunch free trade advocate that has cautioned against an unravelling of multilateral institutions.

Once ratified, the treaty’s provisions establish a framework for commercial parties in a dispute to enter a mediated negotiation with the ability to enforce the terms of a settlement in any of the convention’s signatory jurisdictions. Parties to the treaty are obliged to ensure that the terms of any settlement are enforced by their courts.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Hong Kong’s economic loss is Singapore’s capital gain

Businesses and investors are starting to look to Singapore as an exit strategy from Hong Kong’s civil unrest and economic decline


With civil unrest threatening to drag Hong Kong’s economy into recession, businesses and investors are beginning to look for exit strategies. Singapore, a rival Asian commercial hub and financial center, appears to be atop their list.

In her first press conference in more than two weeks, the territory’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on August 5 that the city was on the verge of “a very dangerous situation” amid unprecedented scenes of chaos during a citywide strike.

The Beijing-backed leader, who asserted the city’s “stability and prosperity” were now at stake, claimed the protest movement was “trying to topple Hong Kong” and that her government would be “resolute in maintaining law and order…and restoring confidence.”

Recent data indicates that confidence is crumbling with the ongoing unrest and no end to the turmoil in sight.

Private sector business activity in Hong Kong has dropped to its lowest level in a decade according to Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) indicators, weighed down by weeks of mass demonstrations and a US-China trade war that has disrupted global supply chains and rattled some of the region’s trade-reliant economies.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.