Highlights:

  1. Malaysia will not rectify ICERD
  2. Malaysian economy to gain RM20 billion from direct selling industry
  3. Government to further improve country’s digital infrastructure
  4. UOB remains positive on Malaysia’s economic resilience in 2019
  5. China and Russia look to ditch dollar with new payments system in move to avoid sanctions
  6. 8 companies and individuals receive Europa Awards for Sustainability
  7. Xero revolutionises cash flow management for small businesses

Government will not ratify ICERD
The Pakatan Harapan government will not ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the Prime Minister’s Office said today. “The government will continue to defend the Federal Constitution in which is enshrined the social contract that was agreed upon by the representatives of all the races during the formation of the country,” it said in a statement. The ICERD issue had elicited various reactions from the people, including ministers, MPs, representatives of NGOs and the man in the street.

Malaysian economy to gain RM20 billion from direct selling industry
The direct selling industry is expected to contribute RM20 billion to the growth of the Malaysian economy in 2020. Minister of Domestic Trade & Consumer Affairs (MDTCA), Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said in 2017, the industry contributed more than RM13 billion sales revenue with involvement from over four million of Malaysians from different society and status. “Malaysia is listed in the top 10 of global direct selling industry and fourth rank in Asia with China on top, followed by South Korea and Japan,” he said. He added that the Malaysian Direct Distribution Association (MDDA) also worked closely with the government to minimize cases of scams related to Pyramid Scheme or Ponzi Scheme that affected the reputation of multi-level marketing companies in Malaysia.

Government to further improve country’s digital infrastructure
The government is developing a plan to invest and further improve the country’s digital infrastructure to ensure greater availability of broadband services by promoting competition. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), said in a statement that it focused on digital infrastructure improvement and right-of-way issues that would continue to be discussed with the state governments and local authorities. “Addressing these issues effectively will help in reducing the cost of infrastructure implementation and enabling wider coverage for high-speed broadband. “The availability of digital infrastructure is a key factor in bringing about economic benefits and equitable growth that can be enjoyed by all states and not just a few selected areas within the country,” said MCMC. Other measures to consider would include liberalising activities in the key strategic areas that lack competition, as well as using all existing regulatory tools within its purview to ensure the availability of world-class infrastructure in Malaysia, it said. “Studies are underway to ensure optimum spectrum usage and 5G planning in 2019,” it said.

UOB Malaysia: Malaysia’s economy to remain resilient in 2019 despite expectations for moderating global growth
United Overseas Bank (Malaysia) remains positive on Malaysia’s economic outlook for 2019, despite expectations for greater external risks arising from global trade disputes and heightened market volatility. Ms Julia Goh, Senior Economist at UOB Malaysia, said intensifying trade disputes and policy uncertainty may result in slower global growth in 2019. The ongoing US-China trade tensions and the quantum of US Federal Reserve interest rate rises will continue to have an impact on global growth and market volatility. Ms Goh said that although Malaysia is not immune to the global headwinds, its economy will find support from robust domestic private consumption and investments. “The recent 2019 Malaysia Budget announcement delivered some positive fiscal measures to reinforce consumer spending, to promote inclusiveness and to boost growth. Private consumption is expected to be supported by higher minimum wages, targeted cash aid and petrol subsidies. The repayment of tax refunds is also likely to improve cash flows for the private sector and to encourage domestic spending. “In addition, the government is placing emphasis on advancing high value-added sectors such as technology-intensive industries, accelerating the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector through its Industry 4.0 initiative and on targeted infrastructure spending. These are right steps to ensure that Malaysia stays competitive in the region and across the world. We project real Gross Domestic Product to expand 4.8 per cent in 2018 and 2019,” Ms Goh said. Over the long term, Malaysia’s economy stands to benefit from the government’s ongoing efforts to improve transparency and accountability, which will strengthen investor confidence over time. The country is also likely to benefit from regional and multilateral trade initiatives that will boost development of, trade with and investment in the country and across ASEAN. These strategies will help enhance the country’s resilience against risk from rising global trade protectionism. Over the medium term, UOB Malaysia expects the economy to continue on its growth path given its strong fundamentals and ongoing policy reforms to stimulate growth.

China and Russia look to ditch dollar with new payments system in move to avoid sanctions
China and Russia are drafting a pact to boost the use of their national currencies in bilateral and international trade, underscoring their intent to cut their reliance on the US dollar. The development of a new international financial payments system aims to address rising concerns over additional US sanctions and trade tariffs. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, during his visit to China earlier this month, said the two nations were discussing the launch of a new cross-border system for direct payment of trade invoices in the yuan and the rouble. He also said discussions were underway to allow the use of China’s UnionPay credit card in Russia and Russia’s Mir card in China. The impetus for creating a new financial infrastructure is the continued deterioration in both countries’ relations with the United States and the threat that Washington will impose more economic sanctions on one or both of them. “The Chinese should protect their system while Russia should protect its own system,” Medvedev said earlier this month, ahead of the 22nd regular meeting of Russian and Chinese heads of government.

8 companies and individuals receive Europa Awards for Sustainability
The Europa Awards for Sustainability 2018 were conferred on 8 organisations and individuals in recognition of their exemplary excellence in sustainability. The awards were organised by the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce & Industry (EUMCCI). Accorded for the second year following the overwhelming response it received last year, the winners were selected after months of stringent evaluation from over 140 nominees – from 95 local and international business – throughout Malaysia for the award categories. Approximately 35 per cent of the nominations came from large companies, 60 per cent from SMEs and the other 5 per cent from NGOs. The categories of the awards include Best Sustainability Reporting, Best Innovation in Sustainability, Best Social Impact (to large and SME), Best Environmental Impact (to large and SME), Best Sustainability Leader (awarded to individual) and a new category which has been introduced this year; Best Sustainable Palm Oil Leader (awarded to individual).

Xero revolutionises cash flow management for small businesses with 100% local SME bank feed coverage
Xero, the global small business platform, today announced API-driven integrations with OCBC, NETS and Alternative Lenders at the Xero Roadshow Asia, driving business transformations by first revolutionising cash flow management for small businesses. Speaking at the Roadshow in Singapore, Xero’s Regional Director – Asia, Kevin Fitzgerald said, “By focusing on small businesses and their trusted advisors – accountants and bookkeepers, we aim to help increase SMEs’ economic resilience and competitiveness. In our interactions with SMEs, late payments was flagged as a main pain point, with 9 out of 10 small business owners saying they have clients who do not pay on time. Our expanding partnership with banks and financial institutions is part of our strategy to diversify our platform’s services and allow businesses to run more seamlessly, from gaining oversight of their financial status, managing cash flow to obtaining quicker access to capital.” By the end of 2018, Xero’s platform will have the ability to offer its customers and partners bank feed integrations with all the local SME banks in Singapore – DBS, OCBC and UOB. With these bank feed integrations, SME owners will be able to receive automatic daily statements and transactions flowing from their banks directly into Xero, making it easier to access their true daily cash flow position and eradicate the need to wait till the end of the month to reconcile their statements. According to The Singapore Working Capital Study 2017, medium-sized companies (with turnover of S$10 million to S$100 million) struggle the most in managing their working capital. Getting access to capital at the right time is a huge pain point for small businesses, with the unmet financing gap that SMEs face to be estimated at S$20 billion.