1. Maszlee Malik resigns as Education Minister
  2. Over RM170,000 fines imposed on smokers and eatery owners
  3. Proton sales up 55.7 per cent in 2019
  4. Singapore economy grew 0.7per cent in 2019
  5. China’s central bank frees up US$115 billion to support growth
  6. China suspends Shanghai-London stock plan

Maszlee Malik resigns as Education Minister
Dr Maszlee Malik announced his resignation as Education Minister at a media conference in Putrajaya today. Dr Maszlee met Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad before the announcement this afternoon. Dr Maszlee told the media that despite his achievements in the 20 months as the Education Minister, he continued to be criticised in the public over issues that were played up. “I have been seen to be the cause of many crises, including the Jawi calligraphy issue, Internet at schools and the free breakfast programme. However, I believe I have placed a foundation and a clear framework for the ministry to follow.” A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said Tun Dr Mahathir has accepted Dr Maszlee’s resignation with effect from 3 January 2020. The statement added that Dr Maszlee’s replacement will be announced soon.

Over RM170,000 fines imposed on smokers and eatery owners
Over 700 fines, amounting to RM170,200, have been issued to smokers – including minors – as well as owners of food premises following enforcement of the smoking ban at eateries from 1 January 2020. Enforcement personnel from the Health Ministry checked over 6,100 food premises. “Those found smoking in eateries were given the RM250 fine and first time offenders can get it lowered to RM150 if the payment is made at any health district office within one month from the date the fine was issued,” said Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in a statement Thursday. For the second offence, no reduction will be given and for the third and subsequent offences, the fine is RM350. Meanwhile, eatery owners who committed offence for the first or second time are fined RM250, while for third and subsequent offences the fine is RM350. The Health Ministry carried out the smoking ban enforcement on all eateries including open-air dining areas as required under Regulation 11(1) Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 (Amendment) Regulations 2018 since Jan 1, said Dr Noor Hisham. The latest regulations prohibit smoking within a three-metre radius from any table or chair at an eating place.

Proton sales up 55.7 per cent in 2019
Proton has sold 100,821 units of vehicles in 2019, a 55.7 per cent increase over sales in 2018, mainly contributed by Proton X70 and Proton Saga models. This is the first time the national car maker crossed the 100,000-unit threshold since 2015. “Powering Proton’s sales growth last year were Proton X70, along with double-digit percentage increase in sales for its four updated models launched in 2019. Proton Saga was again the most popular A-segment sedan with 3,892 units sold in December. Total sales for 2019 closed at 38,144 units, equivalent to a 36 per cent increase in volume,” it said in a statement today. Proton said sales during December were the highest for the whole of 2019, growing by 112 per cent to 11,117 units over the corresponding month in 2018. This is equivalent to a 20.5 per cent share of the total industry volume in December and also the first time the company had sold more than 11,000 cars in a month since July 2014, it said.

Singapore economy grew 0.7per cent in 2019
Singapore’s economy grew just 0.7 per cent last year as the US-China trade war hammered global markets. The city-state has traditionally been the first among Asia’s economies to be affected during a downturn, and the country narrowly escaped tipping into recession in the third quarter. The trade ministry said in a statement today that based on advance estimates, the economy expanded by 0.8 per cent year-on-year in the fourth quarter to December. This puts the overall growth for 2019 at just 0.7 per cent, down from 3.2 per cent expansion in 2018. “This marks the worst growth performance for Singapore since the global financial crisis,” DBS Bank economist Irvin Seah said in a note, referring to the downturn that began in late 2008 and lasted well into 2009. He added, however, that “despite the lacklustre growth performance, the economy is slowly getting out of the woods” as there are “emerging signs of bottoming in the external environment”. “Barring any unforeseen negative shocks, growth momentum is expected to pick up gradually in the coming quarters,” he said.

China’s central bank frees up US$115 billion to support growth
China’s central bank has announced a move to unleash 800 billion yuan (US$115 billion) from the banking system to support the economy, sending a pro-growth message on the first day of 2020. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) will reduce the deposit reserve ratio in financial institutions by 0.5 percentage points from January 6, mainly to offer sufficient funding to the real economy, according to a notice published on the bank’s website. The announcement on Wednesday came after growth continued to weaken while China and the United States prepared to sign an interim trade deal in mid-January. The central bank said this round of funding was partially to offset cash withdrawals before the Lunar New Year, and would not change its stance on monetary policy.

China suspends Shanghai-London stock plan
China has temporarily blocked a link between the Shanghai and London stock exchanges, Reuters reported. Politics, including Britain’s stance on Hong Kong protests, was behind the suspension of the Shanghai-London Stock Connect plan, according to the report, which cited five unidentified people involved in talks with Chinese officials. The China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Shanghai Stock Exchange did not immediately respond to Bloomberg requests for comment. “The London-Shanghai link was designed to allow companies listed on one venue to issue shares on the other. While an agreement for some sort of connection has been in the works since at least September 2015, the London end of the link only started in June last year — and only a few companies have expressed interest. Time zones and rule differences made it difficult to attempt a trading link similar to those that mainland exchanged have with Hong Kong.

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