Monday, 16 September 2019

(The Star) Have facilities in place to attract foreign investors, Johor told

JOHOR BARU: Johor is likely to benefit from the United States investments in the country which are on the rise as the state has the right ecosystem to continue attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

Johor South SME adviser Teh Kee Sin hoped the state government would act fast and put in more efforts to attract more investments from the United States.

“Johor is strategically located and its close proximity to Singapore gives it top priority position, ’’ he said.

Teh said many multinational corporations (MNCs) were keen to set up core operations such as factories, warehouses and data centres (Microsoft) in Johor while maintaining their sales regional office in Singapore.

He said since Malaysia’s industrialisation in the 1980s, the United States used to be one of its giant FDI. However, over the last 10 years, this status has been taken over by Japan, Singapore and lately by China.

“We welcome more US companies back to Malaysia in view of the weakening investments by the Japanese and European Union firms due to their domestic challenges, ’’ said Teh.

He said in view of this, both the federal and Johor governments must develop the state’s infrastructure, including highway interchanges.Teh said traffic congestion in Johor Baru was becoming worse and urgently required a sustainable plan for new highway expansion projects and a sound public transport system.

“We need to improve connectivity and accessibility between the Johor Causeway and Woodlands in Singapore which will benefit both Johor and Singapore, ’’ added Teh.

He said the Government should increase the Tebrau Shuttle train service which runs between JB Sentral and Woodlands in Singapore from 31 daily to 36 a day to ease congestion at the Causeway.

“We also hope the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit Link (RTS) project will proceed despite delays as it is more viable and will benefit Johor and Singapore, ’’ said Teh.

He said apart from easing congestion at the Johor Causeway and the Second Link Crossing in Tanjung Kupang, Gelang Patah, there was also a need to improve and upgrade Internet connectivity in the state.“Seamless connectivity is vital for Johor to attract more high-tech investments, apart from uninterrupted water and power supply.

“We cannot risk losing investors to other countries in the region, ” said Teh.

A survey by the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) on American electrical and electronics companies based in Malaysia found that 76% of the companies intend to invest further in the country over the next five years.

The 12th edition of the Malaysian American Electronics Industry Economic Impact Survey, conducted on 37 of Amcham’s members, also found that more than two thirds, or 68%, of the surveyed companies were expecting their businesses to expand in the coming years.

(The Star) Cashless shopping at more pasar tani soon

If you run out of cash while shopping at the pasar tani in Taman Guar Perahu, near Bukit Mertajam, fret not, as you can opt to use eWallet service to pay for your purchases.

Some 19 traders out of a total 26 there have signed up to use Touch ‘n Go eWallet.

Penang agriculture and agro-based industries, rural development and health committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said the registration for eWallet would be simple and free.

“You do not have to pay any charges and there is no hidden costs in using the system.

“This will hopefully encourage others to register for eWallet. It is a matter of time that traders in markets and hawker centres will go cashless.

“No need for cash or even cards, since your smartphone can easily be used to pay for your purchases just by scanning the QR code of the traders using the eWallet.

“Traders too do not have to worry as nobody can copy their QR code and it is very safe, ” he said after launching the eWallet at the Taman Guar Perahu pasar tani on Wednesday.

Dr Afif said the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) started the initiative after engaging with Touch ‘n Go eWallet about three months ago.

Also present was Penang Fama director Habibah Sulaiman.

Dr Afif, who is also Seberang Jaya assemblyman, said small entrepreneurs who are interested in the eWallet system, could engage seek help from Fama and his office.

“We will assist them to register the Touch ‘n Go eWallet to make them adapt to the cashless platform.

“The digital platform is introduced not only in urban areas but also in the rural areas with the availability of a smart- phone.

“I am confident this will attract the younger groups who will be more interested in this transaction, ” he added.

There are six active pasar tani in the state, he said, adding that the eWallet system would be introduced to the other five pasar tani soon.

He said for the coming Fiesta Seberang Prai, to be held from Sept 25 to Sept 29, all traders would be using the eWallet transaction with help provided to assist them in registering with the system.


(The Star) New funding round boosts Thai fashion startup

Omnichannel fashion company Pomelo has secured US$52mil (RM216mil) in funding from a group of investors, making it the first Thai startup to raise a Series C funding round.

The investment came from Central Group, Provident Growth Fund, InterVest Star SEA Growth Fund, Andre Hoffman, Toivo Annus, Lombard Private Equity, Ambient Sound Investments OU and The Luxembourg Company Deverel.

After raising US$19mil in their Series B round in November 2017, Pomelo has expanded to Hong Kong and Malaysia and has launched eight physical stores in Thailand and as well as a flagship store in the heart of Singapore’s shopping district of Orchard Road.

The brand has expanded its product offering further with categories like Purpose, an eco-friendly collection, Beet cosmetics and Pomelo Man, its menswear label.

“This is a disruptive time for omnichannel in Asia. Pomelo is in a unique position because of its vertically integrated model and innovative technical abilities. We are confident they will lead the way in fashion across South-East Asia and beyond, ” says Michael Aw, founding partner at Provident Growth Fund.

Leveraging its direct to consumer fashion technology, Pomelo has proven itself a trailblazer in omnichannel fashion since its launch in 2013.

Receiving close to 30% of orders through its Pomelo Pick-Up channel which allows customers to try before they buy, Pomelo continues to innovate and respond to the needs of its loyal customers.

“Pomelo is much more than an online fashion brand. As a fashion-tech company, we are developing a proprietary catalogue of innovative technologies that will allow us to unlock significant hidden value that exists in the branded fashion business today.

Everywhere we look we see opportunities for innovation to reinvent how things are done to create better products, better serve customers, and maximise omnichannel productivity and efficiency.

“Fashion is as relevant today as ever and we are excited to chart a unique path forward in an effort to reinvent what it means to be a fashion brand, ” says Pomelo chief executive officer David Jou.

“Technology has always been a big focus for us, we will be looking at big data and artificial intelligence for pricing and design, as well as e-commerce personalisation.

“We want to integrate the omnichannel experience even deeper by connecting the Pomelo universe with the customer through a proprietary tech stack. Additionally, we would like to

further expand our supply chain automation platform, Henry, ” adds the company’s co-founder Casey Liang.

With this round, Pomelo has now raised a total of US$83mil from leading investors globally, including JD, Start Today Ventures and Jungle Ventures, who participated in their former funding rounds.

(The Star) Move to hold rates may attract foreign inflows into Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: The move to hold the key benchmark rate unchanged may attract foreign capital flows into Malaysian bonds but much will be dictated by external headwinds after the latest data showed lower foreign holdings of local bonds.

Economists and bond analysts concurred that global monetary easing would see capital flows into emerging markets, including Malaysia, as investors seek higher yields across regional markets. They agreed that the global environment and local developments in the market may impact foreign holdings of Malaysian bonds, particularly the Malaysian Government Securities (MGS).

In August, foreign holdings of local bonds eased slightly, breaking the upward trend in foreign ownership seen in the last two months (June and July).

The local bond market recorded a total net foreign outflow of RM0.9bil (July: +RM5.8 bil). Meanwhile, total foreign holdings of local bonds stood at RM188.2bil (July: RM188.3bil), representing 12.6% of total outstanding, according to Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) in its latest Monthly Bond Market & Rating Snapshot.

Year-to-date (YTD), cumulative flows into local bonds for the first eight months remained positive at RM3.4bil (2018 YTD: -RM19.3 bil), better than the full-year figures reported for 2016,2017 and 2018. By instrument, cumulative foreign flows into MGS stood at RM7.6bil (2018YTD: -RM10.6bil while other instrument types continued to be in negative territory.

The local bond market registered heavy foreign outflows in April and May due to possible exclusion of Malaysia from the World Government Bond Index (WGBI) and US-China trade tensions.

The trend reversed in June and July due to monetary easing by global and regional central banks which drove investors to hunt for higher yields across regional markets, including Malaysia.

Bank Negara in its latest Monetary Policy Statement issued on Thursday maintained the overnight policy rate (OPR) at 3% in line with market consensus amid rate cuts by key central bank in Asia-Pacific.

AmBank Group chief economist Anthony Dass told StarBiz that the appetite for capital to flow into this region remains and should benefit Malaysia.

Global monetary easing is expected to continue given the dynamics of the global business and economic climate which is pointing towards the downside, he noted.

“It should result to capital outflow which is expected to benefit emerging market, including Malaysia, simply because the advance economies have been sitting in a low interest rate environment since 2008 global financial crisis. Further monetary easing is more likely to have moderate impact.

“Nonetheless, the potential flow will be impacted by global adverse noises. Exacerbating the situation is the inversion of the 2-year and 10-year US Treasury yield curve, which sent a strong signal that a recession could be on the horizon.

“It is increasingly of the view that the US Federal Reserve will be forced to embark on a series of rate cuts, besides issues like trade tension, financial and political tensions, ” Dass noted.

On the local scene, he said the focus would be on domestic challenges like the September 26 decision by FTSE Russell decision whether to exclude Malaysian bonds from its WGBI, the outcome of the Budget 2020 and potential key incoming macro data.

These issues coupled with the political scenario would influence the foreign flow of funds, he added.

Dass said the carry trade theme did not resume. Gains in the MGS market were mostly contributed by local institutional investors as foreign appetite for MGS had lost traction in August, he said. Foreign holdings of MGS dipped by RM1bil to RM153.7bil amid the re-escalation of US-China trade tensions, Dass pointed out.

“Our forecast for the three-year, five-year and 10-year MGS is at 2.8%, 3%, and 3.3% with room for yields to test lower, ” he said. Malaysia’s 10-year bond yields were up by 0.45% to 3.36% from its close of 3.34% as at press time.

Meanwhile, Maybank Kim Eng head of fixed income research Winson Phoon, who is taking a defensive stance on the Malaysian Government Securities (MGS), had last month in a report said it was assigning a 55% probability for Malaysia to stay in WGBI following Bank Negara’s initiatives to enhance onshore forex and bond market liquidity. Nontheless, he noted that the risk of exclusion from the index should not be underestimated.

OCBC Bank (M) Bhd head of global treasury Stantley Tan felt with the backdrop of the global hunt for yield, he dependency of the WGBI is less of an issue taking cognisance that countries like Thailand and Indonesia remain clearly on the radar of foreign investors despite not being in the index.

RAM Ratings head of research Kristina Fong in responding to queries from this publication recently said that the upcoming announcement by FTSE Russell could be one of three things – for Malaysia to be taken off or retained on the watchlist or for Malaysia’s weight to be gradually pared down in the WGBI.

“We expect the former two scenarios to be more likely given the increased liberalisation introduced and reinforced by the central bank pertaining to onshore hedging rules for foreign investors, ” she noted.

In April, FTSE Russell said it would review the government bonds’ participation in the WGBI due to market liquidity issues. It has placed Malaysia on its fixed-income watch list for six months until September.

(The Star) Aeon transforming with the times

KUALA LUMPUR: Recognising that Asia is set to become a global economy centre, Aeon is transforming itself to move with the times, says Aeon Japan vice-president Soichi Okazaki.

Okazaki said Asia’s gross domestic product (GDP) has surpassed that of the United States since 2017, making it the largest market in the world. Aeon Group is currently working on the transformation that would lead to growth, he said.

“It involves transformation towards a shift to regional markets, to digital markets, to Asian markets and investment, ” he said, adding that it would invest more on e-commerce, IT and logistics.

Aeon has refurbished existing stores, refreshed product line-ups and introduced new concepts and sections within stores to suit modern lifestyles, said Okazaki during Aeon’s 35th anniversary dinner here on Saturday.

He said Aeon Japan would continue to provide support to Aeon Malaysia towards this direction but Aeon Malaysia too needs to develop its own product and brand.

It should also take digitalisation more seriously and increase sales of e-commerce and supermarket online, he said.

Okazaki said the story of Aeon Malaysia began in 1984 when Prime Minister (in the previous administration) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad invited Aeon to help develop Malaysia’s retail industry.

“Even back then, your homeland was full of potential and excitement for the business.

“The first branch of Jaya Jusco Stores opened in 1985, and Aeon Malaysia has hit several milestones since then, ” he said, adding that this has led to the development of Aeon Group and its many subsidiaries.

Aeon Co (M) chairman Datuk Iskandar Sarudin said Aeon Malaysia established 28 shopping malls, 34 stores, six MaxValu Prime outlets, 68 AEON Wellness pharmacies and 40 Daiso outlets spread all across Malaysia.

It has more than 10,000 employees; 5,437 female employees and 4,065 males were employed last year, he said.

It has also trained and employed 123 (1.3%) Person With Disability (PWD) and aims to recruit at least 200 PWDs or 2% from a total number of AEON staff members as well as increase the number of female employees, he said, adding these initiatives are also supported by its sister company, Aeon BiG.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said for the first quarter of this year, the service sector contributed 57% to the GDP, with wholesale and retail subsector being the main contributor.

The subsector recorded RM321.8bil in sales and employed 1.8 million workers, said Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar who represented and read out Dr Wan Azizah’s speech during the launch.

As at May 31,457 foreign and local departmental stores operated in Malaysia. Foreign departmental stores contributed to 26,829 job opportunities to locals and generated about RM110.3mil in tax collected for the country last year, she said.

The Department of Statistics Malaysia showed that the service sector recorded RM441.3bil in revenue for the second quarter of this year, an increase of 6.5% compared with the same period last year, and the highest contributor was from the wholesale and retail, food and beverage and lodging trade segment, she said.

During the dinner, Aeon Business Partner Alliance (ABPA) Awards were also presented and popular jazz singer Datuk Sheila Majid entertained the 600 guests and staff.

Star Media Group (M) Bhd CEO Andreas Vogiatzakis was also present at the dinner.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

(NST) Govt to focus on creating jobs, improving income to realise Shared Prosperity Vision

BUTTERWORTH: The Finance Ministry will look into creating more jobs and improving the people's income to realise the Shared Prosperity Vision goal of achieving a decent standard of living for all Malaysians by 2030.

Its Minister Lim Guan Eng said the two important aspects would increase the purchasing power among the people, and bridge the socio-economy gap and promote the country's economic growth further.

He said more details involving both initiatives would be made at the tabling of the 2020 Budget on Oct 11.

"For me, the important aspect is to create more jobs with reasonable salaries. This is to increase the purchasing power among the people, especially the lower income group. This will also contribute positively towards reducing the dependency on foreign workers.

"These two aspects would be given priority as it would not only bridge the socio-economy gap, but would also improve the income and ensure prosperity is generated to be shared by the people.

"For Malaysia, our priority is still economic growth. In order for shared prosperity to be successful, we must first have prosperity. Only if we have prosperity, then we can share with the people. That is why we want to stress on growth so that everyone can benefit," he said here today.

He was met at the launch of the "Kampungku Sihat" programme by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad chaired a special cabinet meeting on the Shared Prosperity Vision, stressing that the government would focus on poorer states, reducing the wealth disparity with richer ones, as well as the gap between the urban and rural areas.

He had said a programme would be established to increase the income of those living in rural areas.

Dr Mahathir also listed Kelantan, Perlis and Kedah as the three poorest states in the country.

Lim said efforts to realise the Shared Prosperity Vision was not his ministry's alone, but also involves the participation of all in a holistic approach.

He said in the aspect of development, while they adhered to recommendations and plans set out, they could not however escape from negative impacts due to global forces.

Lim cited yesterday's attack on two Saudi Arabia's oil facilities by Yemen's Houthi group, which knockied out more than half of the Kingdom’s petroleum output, which is expected to send oil prices soaring and increase tensions in the Middle East.

"So, that is the challenge we face," he said..

Asked if priority would be given to strengthening the ringgit, Lim said based on global trend, many countries wanted their currencies to weaken.

"This is seen as a counter measure towards the position of tariff. For example, when you say the ringgit or any currency for the matter go down by five per cent, this will counter-act the increase in tariff .

"Malaysia’s largest trading partner is China. So, when China's Renminbi goes down, and you know the United States has labeled China as a currency manipulator, ours also go down.

"Another instance is other neighbouring countries may have lesser growth than Malaysia in the second quarter, yet their currencies strenghtened by five per cent. Why? Because they are tied to the US

"So, we are all determined by global factors and not so much what is happening locally. And when we talk about strengthening the ringgit, there are pros and cons," he said, adding that there was no clear cut yes or no answer or black and white answer.

Some, Lim said, claimed that stronger currency was good because it would bring down the costs, but noted that Malaysia's costs were already low

"Look at our inflation rate, it 1.5 per cent, which is already low. Recently, we managed to contain cost of living

"On the other hand, you look at those who say that 'if you have a weaker currency, it also helps to generate economic growth because things are cheaper, so there are both pros and cons.," he added.

(The Star) A holistic approach to ageing needed in Malaysia

Today Malaysia appears to be a victim of its own success.

When we gained independence in 1957, the average life expectancy was 57 years, by 1976 it was 68.8 years and now it is 72.7 years for males and 77.4 years for females.

This increase in life expectancy has been brought about by major improvements in the delivery of healthcare, and today, Malaysia can say to a great extent we have provided Universal Health Coverage for the population.

Apart from this, the living conditions of Malaysians have met remarkable targets: 96% of households have clean water, 96% have sanitation, 66% have sullage disposal and 70% have sewage disposal.

However, we have now come to a situation of diminishing returns – the Government will need to spend a great deal more in healthcare to see similarly impressive increase in life expectancy.

Economic success has brought about an increased prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease and with increasing age, more cancers.

Worse, we are the most obese in Asean!

Existing health data shows that many adult Malaysian are not only unfit but also have low levels of awareness of NCDs, including if they are suffering from one.

As such we now have an ageing population which is unhealthy – statistics show 61.3% of Malaysian adults suffer from one NCD, 26.3% from two NCDs and 7.2% from three NCDs and with time, the number will rise.

It is no surprise that NCDs account for an estimated 73% of deaths in the country.

Changing demography

The WHO definition of an ageing nation is when more than 7% are above 65 years of age and we are classified as an aged nation when we have more than 14% above the age of 65.

In 2017, Malaysia had 6.3% above the age of 65, compared to below 3% in 1970; in 2020 we are projected to have 7.2% above the age of 65. We are expected to cross the barrier in 2040 when we will have 14.5% above the age of 65 years.

Data shows there is also a steady and progressive decrease in the below-14 age group – it is predicted that by 2030-2035 the number of Malaysians below the age of 14 years will be less than those above the age of 65 years.

This is worrying because this means that there may not be sufficient people to provide care for our ageing population or provide an adequate workforce in the future.

With a smaller number of working adults, a smaller amount of tax revenue will be collected and this reduced revenue has to be used to look after the elderly. All of this will put strains on the national economy.

Price of ageing

Although for statistical purposes we have clear definitions of an ageing and aged nation, for an individual, ageing is a process that creeps up upon us in a very slow and subtle manner.

One does not get up one morning and say I am now 65 years old and so I am an aged person. We all know of friends and relatives whose chronological ages are

the same but in terms of physical and mental capacities are grossly different. This inequality in ageing is because of their genetics, lifestyles and the level at which they have taken care of their health.

The OECD nations and the US took an average of between 120– 150 years to see the increase in the life expectancy of their population from the mid 50s to the mid 70s of age, but most Asian nations have achieved similar increases of life expectancy within the last 60 years – almost half the time!

This has resulted in a variety of challenges for Asian nations, from insufficient infrastructure, inadequate healthcare personnel to insufficient funds or strains on existing pension funds to keep paying for the longer than envisaged periods.

This needs to be addressed, because in Malaysia for those who reach the age of 65 years in 2017, the males can expect to live another 15 years and the females another 17.1 years.

How many of today’s Malaysians have sufficient funds to see to their basic needs in the coming years let alone to deal with any critical illness? These are major challenges not only for the individual but also for the nation as a whole.

As can be seen from the table above there is a wide disparity between the healthcare cost in the developed and developing nations and in the developing Asean nations the CAGR is significantly higher than the more developed Asean countries.

As such in nations without a comprehensive healthcare system a large part of healthcare will be an out-of-pocket expenditure (OPE) which will rapidly erode any saving that an individual has accumulated during his/her working life.

In Malaysia healthcare seeking behaviour shows that for minor illness almost 75% of the population will seek treatment from private doctors, but when it involves hospitalisation, it is reversed, only 25% use private hospitals, primarily due to cost and insufficient insurance coverage.

As such most of the OPE in Malaysia is for primary care or for over the counter medications and supplements.

Financial sustainability

The reality is that with increasing life expectancy, many will live as long if not longer in their retirement phase of life than their working life. This will put a massive strain on what little saving that they had accumulated.

In Malaysia studies have shown that on an average most retirees who have a lump sum payment on retirement run out of savings within a period of five to six years.

Those who are fortunate to have a regular pension also face the challenge of the shrinking ringgit due to inflation. It is hence crucial that we explore various methods of wealth preservation and wealth growth to face the longer life span.

To address the needs of the B40 in our nation, the Government has started as a pilot project the PeKa 40 health scheme which aims to provide a safety net for citizens within this bracket when they fall ill or when they need certain forms of medical equipment and also mySalam which is an insurance scheme.

Several years ago, the Selangor State government started Peduli Sihat which is a scheme for the B40 in the state to have access to private primary care doctors for common minor ailments, the scheme has caps on payment per visit and total annual payment, this is a win-win situation where both the public and the private doctors are both satisfied.

The possibility of extending such schemes to cover management of NCDs should be studied for cost efficiency and health outcomes.

Faced with the prospects of longer life expectancy, young Malaysian must seriously consider some form of pension or retirement saving.

The World Bank has suggested the five pillars of retirement income which are: state pension funds, mandatory saving (EPF/CPF), voluntary saving, family support and community support. One must try and have at least one or more of these retirement incomes, it recommends.

On the other hand, those who are already in the 50s and 60s have to look at their current saving and see how best to make it last at least another 15 to 25 years.

Ageing gracefully

Anti-ageing is a myth, but graceful aging is a reality which is within the reach of everyone. As one ages, one passes through the various stages of ageing:

* active ageing (55- 70 years) or the process of ageing by optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as a person ages.

* passive ageing (65-80 years) where a person goes into a semi-retirement phase of life.

Irrespective of our age, remaining healthy by exercising, optimising weight and ensuring optimal control of any NCD will ensure that one will have an opportunity to age gracefully.

The WHO Brasilia Declaration on Ageing and Health in 1996, stated that a healthy older person remains a resource to their families, communities and the economy.

A good example is seen in many countries which have reached the status of an aged nation, where the elderly is actively and gainfully employed in a variety of jobs suitable to their physical capacities.

If we have been fortunate to have saved enough or are lucky to have a regular pension, then it is likely that we will age with grace and dignity.

For the young, they must take active steps of looking seriously at both health and wealth preservation, so that when they reach the stages of ageing they are able to age comfortably.

The real challenge is for those who don’t have the financial means to have an adequate disposable income as they age. It is a social issue which needs to be addressed not only by the Government but also by

society at large, this where homes for the aged run by charities and religious bodies, fill the need.

Today in Malaysia, many of these homes for the elderly are registered under Act 506, the Care Center Act (1993), which is under the purview of the Social Welfare Department, and not under Act 586, the Private Healthcare Services and Facilities Act (2006).

As Malaysia moves to achieve the status of a developed nation, these facilities for the aged will be regulated under Act 802 the Private Aged Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (2018), which will address the many issues and challenges of caring for an ageing society in a developed nation.

However, these Acts don’t address the issue of “ageing in place” that many of the elderly want, which is staying in their homes for as long as they can, as they want to age in familiar surroundings.

In a neighbouring country, for a nominal fee, the Government makes the home aged-friendly.

Ageing is inevitable, but it is possible to age healthy. Apart from a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating habits and the right nutrition is essential. It is heartening to note that many Malaysians are already taking proactive steps towards healthy ageing: In a 2018 Asia Pacific Healthy ageing survey which interviewed 5,500 individuals aged 40 and above, including 500 Malaysians, it showed that 94% agreed that they can take steps to age healthily while 59% of those between the ages of 40-45 years felt that was the right age for them to start taking steps towards ageing healthily.

Still, we need to address the issue of ageing in a holistic manner – covering the current immediate, intermediate and long term needs of the Malaysian population.

Not only must one age healthy but also with grace and dignity, for which one has to have adequate finances.

For those who are not so fortunate, then it should be the responsibility of the Government to find cost-efficient and practical solutions to address this looming challenge.

This is one of the last articles written by the late Datuk Seri Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai.

The views expressed here were solely the writer’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those of The Star.

(The Star) RM31mil Saloma footbridge to open end of November

KUALA LUMPUR: There’s a new attraction about to be unveiled in Kuala Lumpur which prioritises pedestrian safety and will attract tourists in search of different angles to photograph the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

Called Saloma Link, it is a 370m footbridge that is being built at a cost of RM31mil. It will be ready for use by the end of November.

The 70%-ready bridge has a 69m-long portion with a roof inspired by the sirih junjung, an essential element in Malay wedding and royal installation ceremonies which is made from betel leaves.

Saloma Link starts near the Kampung Baru LRT station, goes across the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (Akleh) and ends at Jalan Saloma near Menara Public Bank, which is a skip-and-jump away from KLCC and the Twin Towers.

Kampong Bharu Development Corporation chief executive officer, Zulkurnain Hassan, told Bernama it was intended to attract people to explore Kampung Baru.

“On foot, it normally takes more than 30 minutes to get from KLCC to Kampung Baru, and one must cross busy roads.

“With the bridge, it will take pedestrians about seven minutes to get from Jalan Saloma to Jalan Raja Muda Musa 3,” he said.

The roofed portion will have coloured lighting at night to draw more attention, Zulkurnain added. — Bernama

(The Star) CEO: Brush up on digital economy

KUALA LUMPUR: Parents need to learn about developments in the digital economy to help guide their children in an evolving educational environment, urges Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

This will help parents not only to aid their children in their studies but also guide them in choosing courses that would best fit them at university, said its chief executive officer Surina Shukri.

“As parents, we have to prepare our kids for the future but we have to be prepared as well,” she said.

“Therefore, we need to take this opportunity to educate ourselves.”

Surina added that there was a growing demand for digital skills, making an education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects essential.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018, among the Top 10 emerging jobs were data analyst, artificial intelligence and machine learning specialist as well as general managers.

Speaking at the launch of the #mydigitalmaker Fair, Surina said it was a positive sign that some 20,000 parents and teachers were expected to attend the event over the weekend.

She said the fair, now in its third year, had sparked an interest in STEM among 700,000 students and trained 80,000 teachers.

During the fair, MDEC ran its platform, an AI profiling tool that helps students identify courses and scholarships in digital-related courses.

Many parents and student groups were seen checking out the various booths run by universities like University Technology Malaysia, Asia Pacific University and Multimedia University.

Engineer-turned-teacher Yeong Sue Ann said inculcating digital literacy for students was a holistic effort needing the participation of all parties.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” she said while speaking at the Teacher’s Paradigm for the Industrial Revolution 4.0 forum.

She gave an example of how in SMK Taman Megah Ria in Johor where she teaches, she could run programming classes with the support of the school and MDEC, as well as several other parties which provided funding and internship opportunities.

Microsoft Innovative educator Wan Azrina Mohd Zuki said another helpful digital tool was gamification – making a game of work to engage students in novel ways.

At her school, SMK Kubang Kerian in Kelantan, she had students play the video game Minecraft to help them learn about design and architecture in a fun and interactive way.

(The Star) Plan to bridge rich-poor gap

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s “Shared Prosperity Vision 2021-2030” will set its sights on bridging the rich-poor disparity within the next few years, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“We acknowledge there is a disparity in the country. The first is a disparity between states. Some states are very rich while some are poor, so we need to reduce this gap.

“Another is a disparity between people in the urban and rural areas. Therefore, we need to come up with programmes to increase the income of those in rural areas,” he said.

The third kind of disparity is between the rich and poor people in the country.

“A top executive in a company can earn up to RM2mil or RM3mil in a year while a lower-ranked staff would earn a lot less than that.

“We must help them increase their income, but not by simply raising their salaries.

“We need to increase their abilities by providing training so that they can be more productive,” said Dr Mahathir at a press conference after a special Cabinet meeting at Perdana Putra here yesterday.

In the meeting unusually held on a Saturday, the ministers discussed and debated for three hours on the best way to fulfil this aspiration to bridge the financial divide.

Dr Mahathir said in the coming years, there will be more emphasis on skills development as well as Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

“TVET will play an important role in realising this vision because it can help increase the skills of our workers. There will be more priority towards TVET in our national budget allocation,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said the Shared Prosperity Vision has been approved in principle, and a working paper will be tabled in Cabinet soon.

The vision was introduced in May this year during Pakatan Harapan’s first anniversary as the Federal Government.

It is a new economic model which focuses on providing a decent living standard for all Malaysians, as opposed to past models which were more development and mega-project centric.

On another matter, the Prime Minister said the issuing of government contracts, licences and approved permits (APs) will no longer be a practice.

He said the government should only award such contracts to those who are qualified.

“Our government prioritises result over opportunity. In the past, the government created a lot of opportunities which end up being wasted. For example, contracts were sold to those who do not have the skills or qualifications.

“Now, we do not allow any government contracts, licences or APs to be sold to anyone,” he said.

“We make sure that those who are awarded these contracts are those who are qualified.”

In a statement, Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said the vision was to have all Malaysians enjoy a prosperous life by the year 2030.

“This commitment will lead to unity among the people and strengthen political stability. Focus will be given to new sources of growth, encompassing digital economy, aeronautics industry, intelligent agriculture and support services for Industrial Revolution 4.0.

“At the same time, existing industries which have contributed to the economy will be given new boosts,” he said.