Thursday, 22 January 2009

Lightning Quick

DC's The FlashI am really envious of the folks down south.

Singapore would be unveiling her 2009 budget today (Jan 22) with Bloomberg hinting of the government “announc(ing) record spending in its budget today to help companies hurt by the global slowdown and preserve jobs” .

It seems that things can really move at lightning, quick speed in the Republic.

Over at The Edge, I came across this news:
"Singapore, facing its worst economic slump in four decades, changed its law to help people avoid bankruptcy as job losses and loan defaults rise."

In a word: Wow.

The closest WE are getting over here is Bank Negara’s benchmark interest rate cut , something which – going from reports on similar moves over in the US and the UK – doesn’t really work to prop up the economy where it matters: Confidence.

At least we are getting some fair measure of “truth” here:

“The sharper deterioration of the global economy is expected to have a greater impact on the Malaysian economy. The large decline in external demand has already led to a contraction in exports and a moderation in the pace of private investment activity.”

BNM speaks of “urgent implementation of policy measures”.


Hasn’t the global slowdown been with us for the last half year or so, if not more?

Marvel's QuicksilverMeanwhile, our lame duck government is “gathering views, looking into things, waiting for the right time and believes that RM7 billion will spur a 1% growth” even as exports figure diminishes, factories go on long holidays and projects get cancelled.

For God’s sakes, what exactly are we waiting for?

Speak to any economist and they would tell you that it’s this first quarter of the year that delivers all the BAD news in statistics of whatever drops, losses and what not, incurred last year.

This period would be the one where we hoped our projections were wrong, but nevertheless ready for the worse case scenario.

We might not want to talk ourselves into a recession , but surely some urgency when it looms clear wouldn’t hurt one bit.

Truly, we are in need of someone with balls of steel.

The two-toed Sloth

Monday, 19 January 2009

Rolling Stimulus

Now that the euphoria and the excitement of the KT by-election are over and done with, perhaps someone can take charge in galvanizing the country to face the economic storm that is brewing all over.

Two quotes (long ones, in fact) from two economists played in my mind even as I type this posting.

The first is from Herald Tribune’s columnist Thomas L. Friedman:
A stimulus package that does not also unclog the arteries of our banking system will never stimulate sufficiently. Obama should take the pain early, blame it all on George Bush and then reap the benefits down the road. Postpone the pain, postpone the recovery.”

Friedman is talking of the billions handed out so far to the US financial institutions, which has had zilch impact on its economy, or even its consumers’ confidence.
Small carrot?
Talk is rife that all those funding just goes into their balance sheet, hence to continuing dismal outlook for 2009.

A quick look at external trade statistics shows that electrical items is easily our main export (at 39%) while commodities palm oil and crude oil second (at around 17%).

It doesn’t take brains to deduce that the dismal commodity prices and lukewarm (or has it gone icy cold now?) demand combined means trouble for the country.

The pressure is for us to sustain some growth until America (and with it, the world) heals, something their new president is saying that it would take some time (years?)

Alas, America has dug itself quite a deep, deep hole to climb out from. You can check out yourself how much debt they are in, here .

Surreal isn’t a word I would use in this instance.

Back here, we are expecting the roll out of some RM7 billion in stimulus package, an amount so small to be spoken in the same breath as that of the US US$700 billion or China US$586 billion package.

The country still seems like its on auto-pilot – something which had been the case for sometime now, ever since Abdullah took the rein of Premiership, and now with a so-called power transition being in place, the pace is even more arduous.

It’s like we are literally sleepwalking even as the world crumbles about us.

Zzzzz Nothing concrete is anywhere to be seen to push the economy to at least hold out for the next two years (taking the pessimistic view that the global economic slowdown would tide out in 2011).

There’re a whole lot of assurances, but words are pretty useless when the deeds show otherwise.

Pump priming when the country’s finances are already in deep deficit is dangerous.

In the words of MIER executive director Mohamed Ariff Abdul Kareem:
“We may be sowing the seeds of the next crisis right now. We’re pumping in so much money and we’re creating so much debt, which is the reason why we are experiencing a severe financial crisis in the world economy.”

The good Professor is nonetheless looking to the government for a further fiscal stimulus of between RM7 to 10 billion.

Where should this go to? That's is for our economic brains to decide on.

I was listening to Business FM Breakfast Grill this morning on the way to work, and one of the two speakers (who were debating each other) said something about the country missing out on the push for high value instead of low cost factors in production.

Instead of pushing the envelope of competition to a higher level, we were basically stuck with protectionists policies aimed at keeping costs at low levels.

Perhaps this is something we can work on now especially with the slowdown and everyone willing to cut back and sacrifice as to ride out the economic storm.

Bio-technology sounded like a good bet, but thus far, success stories are too few and far in between to really make a difference.

If there is ever a second stimulus package, it should not go to balancing sheets without any impact on the masses in terms of jobs creation or opportunities.

It’s painful to start from scratch but there is no better time to do so than right now.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Psycho Babble

Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people."

I received my first “knowledge” of the Jewish psyche from Leon Uris highly readable Mila 18.

Those who are well read would know for a fact that Jews take on the role of being the victims with much relish.

Unfortunately, the Second World War reinforced this notion with the community’s systematic genocide at the hands of the megalomaniac Adolf Hitler.

An estimated six million died in concentration camps, from being subjects to harrowing “scientific” tests, mass executions during what was termed “The Holocaust”.

It is a fact that Hitler despised Jews, something he made clear in his autobiography Mein Kampf (1925).

His alleged statement on Jews is a chilling read:

Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows – at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example – as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.

Read Mila 18, and you will see this hatred being translated into a power pack play of words that strikes deep into the Jewish psyche of being ever the victimised.

The quote at this start of this posting was taken from IHT and is from Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia.

Reading it recall me the contents of Uris’ Mila 18, and how the notion of being victims was over and over again inculcated into the reader.

It is a strong propaganda that would lead one to be sympathetic to the Jewish cause.

The same notion is being played out in the latest excursion of the Israeli forces into Gaza.

It is subtle, but the “We are the victims” psychology is still being played out, hinting of a society being besieged by arrogant neighbors who could do much damage to the small kid in the block should they set themselves to do such an affront.

You may just asked why Israel - whose armed forces is clearly far superior to the pathetic armed response of the so-called militant Hamas (see the play of words) – even needed to invade Gaza and the answer lie in the abovementioned quote.

They have to show defiance and even thumb their noses to the world’s indignation in such a lopsided war. (if you could even call it that in the first place.)

The Jewish people’s psyche of being “the” victims demands their being brutish towards the Palestinians.

Doesn’t matter that it is no longer the truth.

The continued existence and survival of the Jewish community rely on this powerful notion.

You can read this message right at the end of Mila 18.