Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stimulus: Funding and First Thrust

The RM60 billion second stimulus package involves a budget deficit in the tune of 7.6% of Malaysia's GDP, up from the earlier forecast of 4.8%. This makes it the 2009 fiscal year, the largest fiscal shortfall that Malaysia has seen in 22 years.

Fitch Ratings had lowered the outlook on Malaysia’s long-term Ringgit credit rating of A+ to “negative” last month, citing an expected worsening of Malaysia's expected deficit budget position this year and next.

The source of funding for the second stimulus package needs to be clarified by the government as soon as possible.

Will the EPF's considerable funds be called upon? Tabung Haji and Tabung Angkatan Tentera also? These local funds must be the obvious candidates since the government has eschewed borrowing from overseas in foreign-currency denominated arrangements due to currency risk.

I hope the government isn't banking on selling government land in Jalan Peel and the Rubber Board's huge land bank in Sungai Buloh to fund the deficit. That sounded quite desperate to me when the Second Finance Minister announced the idea last year.

Back to the local funds. This is likely to mean the issuance of more Malaysian Government Securities or Treasury Bonds. Will the yield be similar to the 5% per annum for the Syariah-compliant Savings Bonds? By the way, the 5% per annum yield sounds pretty good to risk-averse people like me.

Under the so-called First Thrust, the plan is to create a total of 163,000 training and job placement opportunities in the public and private sectors.

Of the 163,000, a total of 100,000 training opportunities and job placements will be undertaken as joint collaboration between the Government and the private sector. This will be implemented through training programmes by various Government agencies, including government-linked companies (GLCs), and the private sector, including private training institutes.

The main objective is to enhance skills to meet industry requirements, as well as employability. The plan will also be to implement job placements and provide incentives to employers to recruit and train local workers.

The target should be employability. No point churning out half-baked workers who are useless to everyone, including themselves.

Double-deduction: A peculiar but inventive way to encourage employment
To encourage the private sector to contribute towards providing jobs to retrenched workers, the plan is for employers who employ workers retrenched from 1 July 2008 to be given double tax deduction on the amount of remuneration paid. The amount of remuneration eligible for this deduction shall not exceed RM10,000 per month and is limited 9 up to 12 months remuneration per employee. This incentive is applicable to workers employed from 10 March 2009 to 31 December 2010.

This double-deduction idea is quite interesting. Employers will prioritise hiring retrenched workers, then...if jobs are available.

Jobs opportunities in the already bloated Civil Service
The plan is to recruit 63,000 staff to fill vacancies and serve as contract officers in various Government agencies.

This one is dodgy. But, in a contracting economy a lucky 63,000 Malaysians will find a safe harbour for a few years....not permanently, I hope.

Opportunities for Post-Graduate Education
The plan is to encourage more Malaysians to pursue Masters and PhD courses. The Government will undertake to finance tuition fees and research grants up to RM20,000 for every student pursuing PhDs locally. For students in the Masters programme, the Government will provide up to RM10,000 per student.

I wonder which agency will undertake this bursary function. Although some other blogs have been cynical about this plan, I, for one, find it quite compelling. The academically-inclined Malaysians itching to write their thesis may just take the 2-year to 4-year sabbatical to pursue this...but not at Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Cambridge and the like. The grants are not for that level. But, it's still good.

Reduction of foreign workers
The steps to reduce the dependence on foreign workers and give priority to hiring local workers is necessary. The measures undertaken will involve:

First: Levy on foreign workers will be doubled for all sectors except construction, plantation and for domestic maids. The levy will be paid by the employers and not by the workers;

Second: In the event the services of foreign workers are prematurely terminated, the levy will be refunded on a pro-rated basis to the employers. In addition, the employers’ bank guarantees will be returned; and,

Third: Freeze the issuance of licences to foreign labour recruitment agencies and tighten the conditions for recruitment of foreign workers by existing agencies.

The property and construction sector have been vocal in their complaints about this. But, really, how long can this sector use the excuse that Malaysian labour is too expensive? How long can they avoid being fined and prosecuted for having kongsi that double-up as cess-pools of Aedes mosquitoes and burglars? It is a social problem that the government is finally addressing, albeit indirectly.

More thrusts to come later....


hishamh said...

"Will the yield be similar to the 5% per annum for the Syariah-compliant Savings Bonds? By the way, the 5% per annum yield sounds pretty good to risk-averse people like me."

I think when all is said and done, yields on MGS are probably going to be quite a bit higher than 5% - but then there's the tax implications.

"Jobs opportunities in the already bloated Civil Service"

TBH, the civil service here is pretty lean. As a proportion of the workforce, it's about half the level of the UK for example.

"Opportunities for Post-Graduate Education"

Places are limited, and the program is only for local U, not foreign. 500 places for PhD - I believe the Ministry of Higher Education is going to be the governing agency.

Raison D'etre said...

Hi DM,

I did say there will be a Kawan Kawan training scheme of RM500 per placement kinda thing. :)

Anyway: Not much on my sector aside from the announced projects: Penang's airport, new LCCT terminal.. Doubt if we could get a hand in on these projects.

Most disappointing would be the lack of multiplier effect allocations. At least on first reading, seems like the SSP is more of a "riding out the impact" that a "let's see a 1% growth".

Doing a Masters?Now that would be good ... :)

Anonymous said...

Civil Service is lean?Emoluments if my maths is right has been increasing 12% compounded over the last 8 years.And the other components of the Opex have shown even more remarkable progress...

This fascination with infra projects needs some moderation..30 % skimmed off thru direct nego instead of open tenders,20% repatriated back to their home country by our foreign labor,15% are imports of plant,parts and some materials.Thus essentially only 35 % is recycled within the local economy.And projects expenditure have this S for first year..u may see only 25% of cost expended...thus net net only 8% of projected infra capex will be in the economy for 2009.And IF on Pak Lah's pet project...the Penang Second Bridge no real progress is made 30 months after his launching...wat hope do we have?

How can the govt fund the stimulus package?...cut govt expenses by having less showy launches,seminars,functions...cheaper travelling ( go air Asia lah Mr Ministers),Ministers and senior govt servants paycuts ..a decent costcutting exercise should save Rm 4 billion per annum.Then review all the direct nego jobs..P2X,EDL,Double tracking,Hospitals,Schools...i reckon there's about 25 b worth of direct nego jobs out there or at LOI 20% and there's another Rm 5b savings

Thus over 2 years all these cost cutting exercises shld yield Rm 13 billion.

If u look at the Mini Budget..the actual outlay of funds i,e minus the guarantees,the PFIs,the kazanah is actually not much more than the Rm 13 b.

Not a finance minister

flyer168 said...

Dear di minimis,

May I share this with you & your readers to back up my take & comments....

Economic Crisis = USA Riots

Posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 at 10:37 am , Filed under Economy, News, Politics, Real News . Follow post comments through the RSS 2.0 feed. Click here to comment, or trackback.

“The riot be the rhyme of the unheard!”

Citizens of the US… Brace for IMPACT!

As the global economy continues its downward spiral, rioting due to this Wall Street led meltdown is spreading through the globe like wildfire. The list of countries experiencing civil unrest is growing by the day, to name some recent hotspots: Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Britain, Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Egypt, France, Greece, Germany, Haiti, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Yemen.

In an article titled “A Planet at the Brink: Will Economic Brushfires Prove Too Virulent to Contain?”

Michael T. Klare explains:

“As people lose confidence in the ability of markets and governments to solve the global crisis, they are likely to erupt into violent protests or to assault others they deem responsible for their plight, including government officials, plant managers, landlords, immigrants, and ethnic minorities. (The list could, in the future, prove long and unnerving.) If the present economic disaster turns into what President Obama has referred to as a ‘lost decade,’ the result could be a global landscape filled with economically-fueled upheavals.”

A UK Guardian news report ran with the headline: “Governments Across Europe Tremble as Angry People Take to the Streets.”

Once stable countries have seen millions of their citizens revolt

- taking to the streets, disrupting public services, blocking roadways, participating in nationwide strikes, seizing shopping malls and engaging in many other forms of civil disobedience

- as entire governments have fallen. Government offices, public facilities, businesses, homes and cars have been vandalized, looted and burnt to the ground. Death tolls and crime rates due to this crisis are reaching epidemic levels.

However, here in the US, we haven’t seen much unrest yet. With the election of Obama we have had a brief reprieve, as HOPE momentarily shined across the USA.

The US presidential election and the rise of Obama came just in time. (Could you imagine what might have happened under another year of Bush-Cheney rule?) The hope-filled Obama is the perfect figurehead casting the perfect illusion. The Obama illusion is one of a new day, one of hope and better times ahead.

As positive an impact as Obama might have on governmental policy and national confidence, we can only escape reality for so long.

In the words of Chris Hedges:

“It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability......”

hishamh said...

Anonymous:10% of the workforce, relative to the level in other countries, is pretty lean. Also, if you want to get a handle on inefficiency and corruption, government wages have to rise to align incentives. That does two things - reduce the need for 'duit kopi' to supplement incomes, as well as attract better qualified people into government. Singapore is a good model to emulate on that score.

Anonymous said...

En hishamh...theoretically better pay less corruptible >> but most times they just drink more expensive itu gaji increase still tak cukup.

S'pore..good model indeed cos there is transparency through out the system...from top to bottom.So thats the first step...hv proper processes that's transparent,open and reduce redtape.
Aiyaa..if bosses is living beyond their means I want that too.

I think the core services hv improved a lot..and pretty productive.But if u benchmark the support group...u will find the unnecessary layers.
As a guide..I think we hv more political appointees in executive posts per rakyat compared to other countries.

I dunno why my district of 70,000 needs 1 MP and 4 Aduns ?And each of them hv a few "govt paid" assistants too...

hishamh said...

Well you have to have the MP ;) he's representing you in Parliament. The ADUN on the other hand represent you at the state level. 4 is excessive though.

I do wish they'd bring back local council elections. The current system of appointments is just promotes cronyism.

de minimis said...

I share your views on local council elections, bro.

flyer168 said...

Dear deminimis,

Very soon with the "Cash Flow" crunch, with the meeting of the Bank Negara Regulators...all Morgtgages, Loans & Credit cards will be reduced to 50% maximum, Credit Limits imposed, etc.... sudden margin calls, etc & banks foreclosures of the citizens, etc, etc....

I want to also share this with you & your readers to "be ready to Fasten their Seatbelts Tight".

How to Blow Your Credit Limit -- Without Spending
by Kelli B. Grant
Thursday, March 12, 2009
provided by

If you haven't had the credit limit cut on your credit card recently, count yourself lucky. Risk-averse card issuers are getting slash happy. And while many cardholders gripe that such cuts slice razor-close to their balance amounts, for an unfortunate few the cuts go far deeper: below what they currently owe.

Under different circumstances, David Chaplin-Loebell wouldn't have minded that American Express cut his unlimited credit line to just $5,000. Except that when AmEx reduced his line in October, he had an outstanding balance of $10,000. "I found out by having a business purchase declined," he says. Repeated calls to AmEx failed to yield an answer about why the cut was made. Chaplin-Loebell, who lives in Philadelphia, is now paying the balance under his regular card terms, and presumes the line will free up for new purchases once he's below the limit. "For now, they've essentially frozen the account," he says, leaving him to juggle business expenses on his personal cards. American Express did not respond to requests for comment.

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Nasty as it may be, the practice of cutting credit lines below the balance is legal -- at least, for now, says Chi Chi Wu, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, a consumer advocacy group. Federal Reserve rules requiring lenders to give cardholders 45 days notice before reducing a credit line to the point that it would trigger penalties won't go into effect until July 2010. "[Until] then, there are no federal protections," says Wu.

Congress is also hoping to rein in unscrupulous credit-card practices. In February, Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Conn.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, reintroduced the Credit CARD Act, which among other things, offers cardholder protections like the ability to pay under the existing terms if an account is closed and requiring issuers to lower penalty rates within six months once a cardholder gets back on track with payments. Earlier this month, the House Committee on Financial Services chairman Barney Frank, announced a series of four hearings that will include discussions about credit card reform. contacted both committees to see if they were aware of issuers' practice of cutting credit lines below balances, and if they planned to address it in upcoming hearings. Neither responded to requests for comment.

The motivation among issuers to make such deep cuts that they plunge below a cardholder's balance amount isn't very clear. Usually, issuers cut credit lines to reduce outstanding liabilities -- they sometimes may even chase the balance on riskier accounts with further limit cuts as cardholders pay down debts, explains Bill Carcache, an analyst with investment bank Fox-Pitt Kelton. But cutting below the balance doesn't reduce an issuer's liability: The cardholder still owes the outstanding debt.

More from Yahoo! Finance:

• The Economy: Why It Feels Even Worse

• The 15-Minute Tip: Fine-Print Pitfalls

• Card Issuers: Our Rewards Cards Aren't So Rewarding

Visit the Banking & Budgeting Center
One possibility is that this is yet another attempt by card issuers to get consumers to close their accounts (while bringing in a little fee income in the short term), says Dennis Moroney, research director and senior analyst for consulting firm Tower Group. "I can't rationalize in my mind what other motivation there would be," he says.

Paul Pensabene of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., received a statement from HSBC on Dec. 8 that said he had a $359.99 balance and remaining available credit of $8,640. But when he went online to pay the bill several days later, his online account showed that same balance put him over his newly-reduced credit line of $300. And that didn't include the $35 over-limit fee. Pensabene grappled with customer service until they agreed to remove the fee, and then paid the balance in full. "All I could think was, 'Good lord, what if this is happening to someone that couldn't pay their balance off in one shot?'" he says. "They'd end up in default with these fees piling up."

HSBC declined to comment on individual cardholder accounts. Spokeswoman Cindy Savio says the issuer has tightened its credit standards based on the economy. "As we have previously stated, in an effort to reduce credit risk and refine strategies for our card business, we have tightened credit standards, reduced or canceled higher risk credit lines, and closed a number of inactive accounts," she says.

While the fees, frozen accounts and default interest rates resulting from credit-line cuts can sting your finances, they can do some serious long-term damage to your credit score. Your credit utilization ratio -- the total amount of debt you owe in relation to the amount of credit available to you -- accounts for roughly 30% of your score. A credit line cut has the potential to decrease your score by 50 points or more if you don't have much other available credit, says Craig Watts, spokesman for FICO, the company that calculates and issues the credit score that most lenders use.

Even cuts that are close to the balance have the potential to devastate if they're not caught quickly. Luckily for Carol Gressett of Decatur, Miss., she noticed the reduction in her Discover-branded Sam's Club card limit just days after it happened. The limit was cut to within $100 of her $3,000 balance. The official letter notifying her of the reduction arrived three weeks later. "We could easily have gone over if I hadn't been paying attention," she says.

(A Discover spokesperson says GE Money issues the cards, and so is responsible for managing credit lines. GE Money did not respond to requests for comment.)

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