• MITI Needs Input for National Industry 4.0 Policy Framework
  • Malaysia, Indonesia & Thailand Launch Local Currency Settlement Framework
  • Currency Frameworks To Complement Close Partnership, Says BNM
  • Malaysia’s Trade Continues Growth Momentum
  • Addressing agricultural pain points with tech
  • Bitcoin futures top US$18,000 on debut on CBOE
  • Restaurant owners in Singapore still feeling the bite

MITI Needs Input for National Industry 4.0 Policy Framework
The Ministry of International Trade and Industry has called for valuable input from the industry players in developing the National Industry 4.0 policy framework, targeted to be completed by the first quarter of next year. Its deputy minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong said enhancing the adoption of Industry 4.0 in emerging economies such as China, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and even Vietnam was largely done through government intervention, compared with some developed countries where the industries were the leaders. He said that the National Policy on Industry 4.0 was being developed through engagements with various quarters within workshops, seminars and outreach programmes since the beginning of this year, which was also aimed at creating awareness of the importance and benefits in adopting Industry 4.0. “The aim is to be as inclusive as possible in gathering feedback from the stakeholders and to increase awareness of Industry 4.0. The role of the government is more of an enabler for Industry 4.0 to be realised. At this juncture, it is ensuring that its intervention is done holistically,” he said. (Bernama)

Malaysia, Indonesia & Thailand Launch Local Currency Settlement Framework
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), Bank Indonesia (BI) and Bank of Thailand (BOT) today jointly announced the launch of three local currency settlement framework, a move aimed at promoting the wider use of local currencies to facilitate and boost trade and investment in these countries. All three frameworks – rupiah-ringgit framework; rupiah-baht framework; and expanded baht-ringgit framework will be effective from 2 January 2018. The establishment of these frameworks marked a key milestone in strengthening regional financial cooperation between BI, BNM and BOT, they said in a joint statement. To operationalise the framework, the central banks have appointed banks that fulfilled key qualifications to facilitate bilateral trade. (Bernama)

Currency Frameworks to Complement Close Partnership, Says Governor
Meanwhile, Bank Negara said the implementation of the Local Currency Trade Settlement Frameworks will complement the existing close partnership and cooperation existing among the three countries which share common objectives and aspirations. BNM Governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim said within the region, Indonesia and Thailand were important partners to Malaysia, both in trade and direct investments, where there was continuous growth propelled by inter-company linkages and cross-border investments. “In 2016, Malaysia shared a bilateral trade volume of US$13.8 billion with Indonesia and US$13 billion with Thailand. “However, only 5.8 per cent and 11.4 per cent of our trade with Indonesia and Thailand, respectively, were settled in local currencies,” he said in a statement. Similarly, on the investment front, the Governor said Malaysia has invested US$13 billion and US$2 billion in direct investments into Indonesia and Thailand, respectively, as at the second quarter of 2017. “This is an enormous business opportunity for the financial sector, which has yet to be realised,” he said. He said with the introduction of the three frameworks, the three nations had reached a new pinnacle of regional initiatives where cross-border settlements using local currencies to settle trade and direct investments have taken shape. (Bernama)

Addressing agricultural pain points with tech
The agricultural sector in Malaysia is not known for its widespread use of technology, but one local company plans to change all that. Braintree Technologies Sdn. Bhd., an IT services company, is using drones, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet-of-Things (IoT) and geographic information systems (GIS) technologies to help the plantations industry in Malaysia progress further. In a recent interview with Digital News Asia, Braintree technical director and chief operations officer Mustaqiim Mohd Abidin said that their main goal is using technology to address the problems that plantations and other industries currently face. Mustaqiim said that while 70% of their clientele are from the oil palm plantations industry, their services can also be customised for the construction, tourism, other agricultural industries such as rubber plantations and paddy growing, as well as conducting environmental impact analysis (EIA). (DNA)

Malaysia’s Trade Continues Growth Momentum
Malaysia continues its growth in trade momentum in October 2017, recording an increase of 19.8% to RM154.3 billion compared with the same month last year. In terms of the year‐on‐year comparison, October exports increased by 18.9% to RM82.4 billion ‐ the third time it has surpassed the RM80 billion mark in 2017. Meanwhile imports grew by 20.9% to RM71.9 billion. The trade surplus of RM10.6 billion recorded is the highest since April 2016. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry said the strong export performance in October 2017 was underpinned by higher exports across major sectors namely E&E products (↑16.9%), petroleum products (↑21.4%), chemicals and chemical products (↑17.5%) as well as palm oil and palm‐oil based agriculture products (↑7.9%). Almost all key markets registered double digit export growth in October 2017, including ASEAN, which grew by 19.5% to RM23.9 billion, China (↑20.5% to RM11.5 billion), the USA (↑13.8% to RM8.0 billion) and Japan (↑20.4% to RM5.9 billion).

Bitcoin futures top US$18,000 on debut on CBOE
Bitcoin futures surged more than 20 per cent to above US$18,000 as they launched on the CBOE futures exchange on Monday, with huge leaps in price triggering several brief suspensions of trading. Prices for contracts expiring in January for the virtual currency briefly jumped to US$18,700 on the Chicago exchange, up 25 per cent from their opening level of US$15,000. As trading started 7am Hong Kong time on Monday, CBOE’s website went down briefly. After trading started, the so-called circuit breaker, designed to reduce price volatility, was triggered several times. Under CBOE rules, a 10 per cent movement in prices triggers a two-minute trading halt, while a 20 per cent move triggers a five-minute halt. (SCMP)

Despite rosier economic outlook, restaurant owners in Singapore still feeling the bite
Apart from oft-heard concerns such as manpower woes and rising costs, restaurant owners in Singapore have had to deal with an additional challenge this year. Chef-owner Willin Low said sales at his restaurant Wild Rocket have dropped around 15 per cent so far this year. Mr Low pointed to lingering concerns about the health of Singapore’s economy which seem to be affecting how often consumers go to restaurants and how much they spend. Restaurant Association of Singapore’s (RSA) executive director Edwin Fong also observed less-than-ideal sales volume among its members this year, compared to 2016, amid “more prudent and conservative” spending among diners. Recently announced third-quarter economic data showed restaurants as the sole laggard in the food services sector. Sales dropped 3.4 per cent year-on-year over the July to September period, after falling 10.1 and 9.3 per cent for the first and second quarter, respectively. This despite Singapore’s economic growth picking up pace over the course of 2017 and storming past expectations to a near four-year high in the third quarter.  On the flipside, fast food operators, as well as owners of cafes, food courts and coffee shops, have had a better year. Fast food sales have been in positive territory so far this year, while takings at other eating places reversed declines for the first six months of 2017 to notch up 1.2 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter. (CNA)