• Minimum Wage increase among proposals for 2018 Budget
  • Bumiputera SMEs must break free of traditional business cocoon
  • IATA says urgent action needed to address challenges in the industry
  • Policy Makers to Contemplate Universal Social Pension
  • It’s still a man’s world at the top of the Chinese government
  • Singapore and Hong Kong bolster FinTech ties

Minimum Wage Increase Among Five MTEM Proposals For 2018 Budget
Minimum wage increase is one of five proposals submitted by the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM) for government consideration in the 2018 Budget. Its chief executive officer, Ahmad Yazid Othman, hoped the government would consider raising the minimum wage to RM1,500 as the low wage was among the main factors contributing to the people being burdened with the rising cost of living. “Based on the Household Income Survey 2016 report issued by the Statistics Department recently, 63 per cent of Malaysians earned their income through paid employment while the rest are through business or self-employed. “Therefore, we hope the minimum wage can be increased, besides the business ecosystem being improved in support of this policy. He said four other proposals were the exemption of goods and services tax (GST) for the agriculture and food industries, tightening the entry and management policies of foreign workers, reviewing foreign investment policies and improving household income imbalances.

Bumiputera SMEs Must Break Free of the Traditional Business Cocoon
Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad has called on Bumiputera entrepreneurs, especially small medium enterprises (SMEs) to break free of the traditional business cocoon which only seeks to sell products already saturated in the market. He noted that Bumiputera entrepreneurs at present are too focused on sales of textiles or products cheaply brought from countries within the region to be resold in the local market. He called on the SMEs to graduate from such businesses and switch to those that are more sophisticated and of high value such as premium value textiles. He said Bumiputera SMEs must also take advantage of the e-commerce platform apart from exploring regional markets towards expanding their businesses.

IATA Calls for Urgent Action to Address Challenges in The Industry
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for urgent action to address the challenges of infrastructure, regulatory harmonisation and sustainability. IATA said the Asia-Pacific region faced a difficult challenge in coping with growth in demand with the latest 20-year air passenger forecast expecting 7.8 billion to travel in 2036, almost twice the four billion passengers expected this year. “More than half the growth will be in the Asia Pacific, with the region accounting for some 2.1 billion new travellers in 2036,” it said. IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac said the 34 million jobs and US$700 billion of economic activity supported by aviation across the Asia-Pacific region is expected to more than double in the next 20 years. “But the realisation of these economic benefits is at risk if the region does not address the big long-term challenges of sustainability, infrastructure and regulatory harmonisation,? he was quoted as saying in an address to delegates attending the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) Assembly of Presidents in Chinese Taipei.

Policy Makers to Contemplate Universal Social Pension
Policy makers should contemplate creating a universal social pension due to rising concerns that Malaysians may not be saving enough for their retirement. University of Malaya’s Director of Social Security Research Centre (SSRC), Professor Datuk Norma Mansor said this is especially true in the case of low-income workers, who, in spite of having saved a portion of their income in the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) throughout their working years, still do not have enough to pull through their retirement years, not to mention the informal and self-employed workers. She pointed out that according to the ‘Savings Adequacy Among EPF Members’ survey conducted by the SSRC, 40 per cent of those surveyed preferred lump-sum withdrawals, and only a small percentage would opt for a monthly withdrawal or an annuity. The survey involved 2,635 contributors from 19 EPF branches nationwide. It showed that most EPF withdrawals (before age 55) were used to buy houses, renovations, children’s education and other expenses. Following the withdrawals, the majority of the respondents aged 55 and above would have an EPF account balance of less than RM50,000, a handful would have more than RM400,000 and a few would have nothing left. “This is a cause for concern, since Malaysia does not have a universal pension that would provide older people with sufficient funds for their retirement,” she said.

A record number of women, but it’s still a man’s world at the top of the Chinese government
Despite official boasts about the record number of women taking part in the Communist Party’s congress over the last week, Chinese women are still being excluded from the country’s top-level politics. Of the 204 people on the party’s Central Committee, just 10 of them are women, a total unchanged from the 18th congress of 2012. Women’s rights activists and female civil servants have painted a gloomy picture about their chances of influencing the decision-making process even as state media highlighted the rising proportion of female delegates at the 19th congress. Women now make up 24.1 per cent of the 2,287 delegates, according to People’s Daily. At the 18th party congress five years ago, 23 per cent of the delegates were women while the figure was 20 per cent at the 17th congress in 2007 and 18 per cent in 2002. State-run media said the increase reflected the great efforts made by the party to give women members a bigger say and improve gender equality and social stability. However, this does not necessarily mean that women are becoming more influential at the top level of the country’s politics. It appears highly unlikely there will be any women among the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the most senior figures in the country. There will only be two women in the wider, 25-member Politburo.

Singapore and Hong Kong bolster FinTech ties with cooperation agreement
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) have signed an agreement to strengthen co-operation on FinTech between the two cities and foster FinTech development within the region. As part of the Agreement, MAS and HKMA have committed to work on a strategic project on trade finance cross-border infrastructure, based on distributed ledger technology, as their first collaborative initiative. More details will be announced by the two authorities next month. Besides joint innovation projects, the two monetary authorities will collaborate on other FinTech initiatives, facilitate referrals of innovative businesses, share information, and exchange expertise, to facilitate financial innovation in Singapore and Hong Kong.