Highlights:

  1. Malaysia can post 4.8-4.9% GDP growth for 2018
  2. EAC will allow MITI to contribute views on economic policies
  3. Chinese President Xi to meet top US delegation on Friday in pursuit of trade war deal
  4. Tokyo to ban parents from physically punishing children
  5. Singapore visitor arrivals hit record high in 2018

Malaysia can post 4.8-4.9% GDP growth for 2018
Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Dr Ong Kian Ming (pic) said that Malaysia is capable of achieving gross domestic product (GDP) growth of between 4.8 per cent and 4.9 per cent in 2018 on the back of stronger economic figures recently. He said the manufacturing sector would continue to drive the country’s exports and economy despite the current challenges in the US-China trade dispute.   “We also take note of the recent industrial production index figures. Some banks such as Standard Chartered have shown some optimism towards the GDP growth figure for 2019 as well,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. Bank Negara Malaysia will announce the fourth quarter of 2018 GDP data tomorrow. Dr Ong said the country would be able to weather challenges and grow further this year with good policies in place.  He was asked to comment on the dip in business sentiment index in December 2018, as announced by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) recently. According to MIER, the consumer sentiment index fell 10.7 points to 96.8 in October to December 2018 from 107.5 in the preceding quarter. The business condition index, which tracks domestic manufacturing activity, dropped to 95.3 points, 13.5 points lower than in the previous quarter.

EAC will allow MITI to contribute views on economic policies
Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry, Dr Ong Kian Ming said the setting up of the Economic Action Council (EAC) will allow the Ministry to contribute views on the country’s economic policies. Dr Ong said MITI’s involvement in the council would contribute to better jobs offerings in the country especially for the B40 segment. “This is the area where the government wants to focus on, perhaps (we) may not have been given enough attention in the past,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Chinese President Xi to meet top US delegation on Friday in pursuit of trade war deal
China’s President Xi Jinping is scheduled to meet key members of the US trade talks delegation, including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in Beijing on Friday. “Xi is scheduled to meet both Lighthizer and Mnuchin on Friday,” one source briefed on the arrangements told the South China Morning Post. A second source said Xi was expected to meet the US delegation in Beijing this week, although the specific time had not been confirmed. Chinese Vice-Premier, who is China’s top trade negotiator, met US President Donald Trump in the White House at the end of January. Officials at the trade talks in Beijing this week aim to produce a pact that could be finalised at a yet-to-be-confirmed summit between Xi and Trump. China and US at odds over place and time for next Xi-Trump summit.

Tokyo to ban parents from physically punishing children
The Tokyo government said it is set to introduce an ordinance on child abuse prevention, banning parents and other guardians from physically punishing and verbally abusing children following a high-profile fatal abuse case last year. The draft of the new ordinance, which also requires child welfare centres to share information among themselves, will be submitted to the regular meeting of the metropolitan assembly starting February 20 under the aim of implementation in April, it said. Despite the “ban”, the planned ordinance lacks punitive clauses. The Metropolitan Government decided to compile the ordinance on child abuse prevention after five-year-old Yua Funato died in March last year in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, revealing shocking details of abuse and neglect she had suffered by her parents despite her desperate pleas for them to “forgive” her and stop mistreating her. Nine of Japan’s 47 prefectures already have ordinances on child abuse prevention. Tokyo’s envisioned ordinance bans physical punishment and other actions by guardians that inflict physical and mental suffering on children. It also urges parents to go through medical check-ups for pregnant women and children.

Singapore visitor arrivals hit record high in 2018
Visitor arrivals to Singapore last year hit a record high that far exceeded targets, while preliminary estimates of tourism spending showed a modest increase. In its Year-In-Review for 2018, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said total visitor arrivals for 2018 hit 18.5 million, up 6.2 per cent from 2017. This was driven by double-digit growth in visitor arrivals from India, US, Vietnam and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, preliminary estimates for tourism receipts for last year showed a 1 per cent increase from 2017 to S$27.1 billion, as a drop in shopping, accommodation and food and beverage spending was offset by higher spending in sightseeing, entertainment and gaming. The STB said this is the third consecutive year of strong growth for the tourism sector. The STB said, for 2019 it is targeting visitor arrivals of 18.7 million, up 1 to 4 percent from 2018. It has set tourism receipts of S$27.3 to S$27.9 billion, up 1 to 3 per cent from 2018. The STB noted that Asia-Pacific tourism is growing, with increased air connectivity, but challenges remain, such as geopolitical risks, which could result in a slowdown in China visitor arrivals, an uncertain global economic outlook and regional competition.