Headlines:

  1. SME Bank targets higher financing
  2. Malaysia names three new DFTZ locations
  3. Malaysia’s estimated population in 2019 is 32.6 million
  4. Thailand declares end of military rule
  5. China says will freeze out US companies that sell arms to Taiwan
  6. Tech tax set to dominate G7 finance ministers meeting

SME Bank targets higher financing
SME Bank Malaysia Bhd, which is embarking on a two-year transformation programme, is targeting to approve RM3.5bil in financing to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) this year. Group president and CEO Aria Putera Ismail said the amount is higher than last year’s figure of RM1.8bil. Since its establishment in 2005, SME Bank had assisted 17,000 SMEs in various sectors with financing of more than RM30bil. Despite some slowdown in the applications, the bank has rolled out various initiatives and conducted relevant engagements with SME entrepreneurs to ensure robust lending. In terms of SME financing, the biggest exposure was the services sector which formed 56% of total financing, followed by construction and manufacturing. On whether the bank was exercising stringent lending, Aria Putera said SME Bank was different from other commercial banks in that it has been mandated by the government to assist the unserved and underserved SMEs to obtain financing. Towards this end, he said the bank reviewed loan applications objectively. Business viability, market opportunity and compliance with financial terms and agreements were the criteria when approving loans.

Malaysia names three new DFTZ locations
Two airports and a port are the three latest locations under the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) 2019 initiative to make Malaysia a regional e-commerce e-fulfillment hub. Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo told the Dewan Rakyat today that the airports are the Penang International Airport and the Subang Airport and the port is Port Klang. He said the DFTZ is a national initiative to drive cross-border e-commerce through digitalisation by generating an increase in the exports of local small and medium enterprises (SMEs). He explained that the DFTZ was introduced to help local SMEs to penetrate the world market and to attract global brands and e-marketplace to make Malaysia a global market gateway. “In the 2017-2018 period, major developments were achieved under the DFTZ initiative through the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and SME Corporation. “Malaysia has facilitated more than 6,200 SMEs to be trained in cross-border e-commerce,” he said.

Malaysia’s estimated population in 2019 is 32.6 million
Malaysia’s population this year is estimated at 32.6 million, from 32.4 million last year, according to the Malaysian Statistics Department. Chief Statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said 29.4 million are Malaysian citizens and 3.2 million are non-citizens. On the sex ratio, there are 107 males per 100 females, with the male population at 16.8 million, while the female population is 15.8 million, he said. He said the statistics for this year showed a rise in the percentage of those aged 60 and above, at 10.3 per cent, compared with 10 per cent last year. “Malaysia is expected to experience an aging population in 2030 with the percentage of people aged 60 and above at 15.3 per cent,” he added.

Thailand declares end of military rule
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has formally resigned as the head of the military government, saying the country would function as a normal democracy after five years of military rule. Prayuth stays on as prime minister with the backing of pro-military parties in parliament and a military-appointed upper house under a constitution that critics say stifles democracy and enshrines a political role for the military. Prayuth, in a televised address to the nation, said, “Thailand is now fully a democratic country with a constitutional monarchy, with a parliament whose members are elected,” Prayuth said. “All problems will be addressed normally based on a democratic system with no use of special powers,” he said, referring to sweeping powers the military government wielded.

China says will freeze out US companies that sell arms to Taiwan
China’s government and Chinese companies will cut business ties with US firms selling arms to Taiwan, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, declining to give details of the sanctions. China claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control. Last week, the Pentagon said the US State Department had approved the sale of the weapons requested by Taiwan, including 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, which are manufactured by Raytheon. China said on Friday it would sanction US companies selling weapons to Taiwan but did not elaborate. The latest deal involves $2.2 billion worth of tanks, missiles and related equipment for Taiwan. China was also angry with the US for allowing Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to visit last week, on her way to diplomatic allies in the Caribbean. She is due to transit the United States again at the end of her trip next week.

Tech tax set to dominate G7 finance ministers meeting
A row over taxing tech giants is set to dominate a meeting of G7 finance ministers near Paris this week, with the world’s leading industrialised nations already riven by disruptive US trade policies. During the meetings in Chantilly, ministers are set to discuss making taxation fairer as part of wider plans by G7 leaders to address rising inequality when they gather next month in the southern French city of Biarritz. An international effort to update rules so as to rein in multinationals gaming the system by paying in low-tax rate countries has been plodding along. But France and Britain gave the process a jolt last week when they moved forward with plans to apply sales taxes to digital giants, mostly American companies. France became the first major economy to impose such a tax when legislators gave their final approval while Britain unveiled legislation. The ministers are also expected to discuss who will take over at the International Monetary Fund after Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde was named to head the European Central Bank.

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