Review Category : English

Alibaba A real life example of what DFTZ can do for our SMEs



SHANGHAI: A week ago, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and e-commerce mogul Jack Ma were in Sepang, launching the start of operations for the long-awaited Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ).

In typical Alibaba fashion, the event was loaded with pomp, glamour and gimmicks – ranging from the old-fashioned shovel-in-the-ground groundbreaking to a ‘live’ auction where real-time bids were displayed on a huge screen on stage, to the end of that auction with a strike of a gong.

Such grandeur is perhaps fitting for the hype that the DFTZ has brought since it was first announced in March 2017.

DFTZ said it will increase Malaysian SMEs’ export of goods to USD38 billion and create over 60,000 by 2025.

“Malaysia is set to make it easier for SMEs to do cross-border trade. This is the primary purpose of DFTZ.

“It is simplifying e-commerce by bringing together government agencies, eMarketplaces, logistic and payment providers all on one platform,” said Najib at the launch.

On top of enabling Malaysian SMEs to promote and market their products on Alibaba’s huge platforms, the DFTZ will also improve and streamline logistics, delivery, payment and customs clearance processes for the said products.

Their ultimate goal? To deliver any products from any Malaysian SMEs to a buyer within three days of ordering.

A total of 1,972 local SMEs have been selected as the first batch to participate.

But, nevertheless, a large portion of our SMEs still can’t really see the actual, tangible benefits they will enjoy from the DFTZ since their exposure would have been limited to press releases and media reports.

As with e-commerce and buying things online, most people need to see, hear or perhaps touch it, to truly understand and believe in it.

Maybe our SMEs need to see real-life examples of what the DFTZ can offer them and how it can elevate their businesses to epic proportions.

And for that, there’s one place they can look to.

Alibaba’s “11.11” Singles Day

Originally, Singles’ Day is an festival for single people in China to celebrate their singledom.

Over the past eight years, it has evolved to become the biggest 24-hour online shopping event on the planet.

Undeniably, Alibaba has been at the forefront of this evolution of Singles’ Day.

“Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival” started in 2009, achieving sales of USD7.6 million in a day.

Today, “11.11” as it’s come to be called, is more than 18 times the size of Amazon Prime Day and 2.5 times bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Last year, the festival generated USD17.8 billion in Gross Merchandising Volume (GDV), a 32 per cent increase from 2015.

To put in context, that’s bigger than the GDP of Laos and Brunei, and almost four times the GDP of Fiji.

On the day, Alibaba Cloud processed 175,000 orders every second, and its payment hub Alipay processed more than 120,000 transactions per second. Alibaba’s logistic arm, Cainiao processed more than 657 million delivery orders.

Singles’ Day 2017

After a record-breaking 2016, Alibaba has its sights set on the greatness, yet again.

The e-commerce giant said that this year, over 140,000 brands will participate in Singles’ Day, more than 60,000 of them are international brands.

Over 1 million merchants will take part, and Alibaba said its targeting 100 million Chinese consumers outside of China alone – not including the 1 billion or so in China and citizens of other countries (they’re big in Russia, for example).

The Cainiao Network expects over 3 million logistics personnel to handle all the packages that are going to come through. It has invested over USD200 mil to upgrade its facilities and services in anticipation of this.

A glimpse of our future?

It may take time our own SMEs to reach the scales of Alibaba’s Singles’ Day – the e-commerce giant took a good seven or eight years themselves to achieve such proportions.

But the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and as far as future prospects are concerned, we are on the right track.

Back to DFTZ, examples of this “improving, streamlining and digitalising of services” have been seen – from upgraded facilities, to little robots that are handling packages in the KLIA Aeropolis right now as we speak.

So for a majority of our SMEs, especially those who were not part of the 1,972 that have been selected so far, they have good reasons to be optimistic about the future.

In a challenging and unpredictable global economy, Malaysia is indeed taking steps to evolve, and in fact, step ahead of the curve (the DFTZ is the first of its kind in the world). The day when sales of our companies will be bigger than the GDP of some countries may come sooner than you think.

And it’s going to start with our SMEs and small businesses who make up some 90 percent of our economy – and with the DFTZ, it starts now.

Just watch Alibaba’s Singles’ Day Festival this 11.11 (11 Nov) – and I will be there in Shanghai to cover it.

So, stay tu



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Ceritalah ASEAN – Boring is good ASEAN at 50


ASEAN; meet Donald Trump.

Donald Trump; meet ASEAN.

Who will prevail in an encounter between the Great Disruptor and the world’s most boring and protocol-conscious regional grouping?

I’m not betting on Trump.

Attending an ASEAN meeting is like trying to walk backwards through molten palm sugar.

After a while, you just give up and go with the flow… even Rodrigo “Dirty Harry” Duterte has had to behave in the face of ASEAN’s endless, sleep-inducing meetings.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte looking bored at the plenary session of ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos, Sept 6, 2016. REUTERS

Just over a year ago, I came up with the idea of relaunching my column – the one you’re reading now – as “Ceritalah ASEAN” (or “Tell Me a Story, ASEAN”).

The concept – meeting and interviewing ordinary people from across this region of 650 million – seemed really exciting.

However, as I got to work hitting the ground, listening to farmers, migrant workers, tourist guides, day-labourers and school teachers from Bassein, to Nam Dinh, Manado and Bacolod, I began to realize that I’d made a little mistake.

Southeast Asia is vibrant, sexy and alive.

ASEAN – as a supranational organisation – is turgid, pompous and comatose at best.

Essentially, ASEAN is the antithesis to everything that makes Southeast Asia interesting.

Its streets are raucous. Its unpredictable.

By comparison, ASEAN is elitist. It’s most comfortable in luxury hotels, resorts and convention centres. Its meetings are well-choregraphed talk-fests.

So while I’m still deeply fascinated, indeed in love with our region, its people and their stories, I find it extremely difficult to muster much enthusiasm for rooms full of bureaucrats.

I still think Southeast Asia’s huge, growing economy (which in 2013 had a combined GDP of USD2.4 trillion) – destined to be the fourth-largest in the world by 2050 according to McKinsey – has boundless potential.

But I gotta be honest: ASEAN has no poetry.

Zero. Zilch.

 The audience attending the 47th ASEAN economic ministers’ meeting in Malaysia, August 2015. REUTERS

There’s no shared emotional connection – unless you can count durian-eating as a form of bonding.

Even our so-called “disagreements” – mostly over the South China Sea – have become predictable as China’s geopolitical and economic influence in our region grows.

Indeed, I would recommend any book (and a great many columns) on ASEAN as a sure-fire cure for insomnia.

More seriously: ASEAN has not really helped to provide the infrastructure as well as jobs that many of its 650 million people desperately need. That task is still very much on the shoulders of individual nation states.

And it has done even less to protect the most vulnerable of that 650 million (several of whom I encountered via this column) from abuse, exploitation and impunity – particularly the region’s migrant workers.

Again, zero.

This is why I can’t conjure up any excitement for the upcoming gathering in Manila – even though it’s the 50th anniversary and Trump is apparently staying for the whole event.

Yawn.

Given what snore-fests these ASEAN meetings are – one has a feeling he will regret even showing up at all.

Obama yawns during plenary session of 21st ASEAN and East Asia summits in Phnom Penh, Nov 2012. - REUTERS

Quite frankly – it really doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things, whether he’s there or not.

Foreign policy pundits will argue that his attendance is to reassure the region that America isn’t “retreating from the Asia-Pacific/the World” – but is this really the case?

The barometer of American (and for that matter, Chinese) power and influence in the region – is hardly dependent on whether its leaders attend a boring round of speeches as well as an awkward “family photo” in the host nation’s traditional garb.

People cry “but it’s the optics.”

Trust me: this is one case where optics really, really does not matter – at least in the long run.

Perhaps it’s time we stop believing that our region’s peace, prosperity and reputation is at stake at every Summit.

But maybe I am being too hard on ASEAN.

It did, after all, achieve its purpose of keeping Southeast Asia relatively peaceful and neutral in the decades since its formation via the 1967 Bangkok Declaration.

And maybe boring IS good – at least with regards to ASEAN’s diplomatic agenda?

When the grouping was first conceived in the height of the Cold War, Southeast Asia was a cauldron with distrust, suspicion and outright violence at every corner – from Vietnam to Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.

ASEAN provided a neutral platform to bring states together, to build trust and familiarity.

It’s been a long, arduous process with, arguably, the normalization of Indonesia and the Indochinese states at the core of its agenda.

The sheer, grinding tedium and rigidity of the ASEAN process – the communiques and set-piece speeches—exhausts all our leaders to such an extent that they often don’t have the energy or interest to scheme and plot against one another.

Instead, all they want to do is escape.

And maybe, just maybe: that should be enough for us in the region?

We can and certainly should focus on building business-to-business, media-to-media and people-to-people ties regardless of what happens in ASEAN.

Regional integration – especially in Southeast Asia – must be driven from the ground-up.

So Donald, don’t even try to be too clever.

ASEAN is structured and crafted to defeat and subsume grand-standing and point-scoring.

Grab a durian and head for the corner seat.



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Hartalega innovates glove industry | Astro Awani



KUALA LUMPUR: Hartalega jointly developed the patented technology with United Kingdom-based Antimicrobial R&D specialists Chemical Intelligence Limited. They are making a world-first process for incorporating antimicrobial activity in medical examination gloves.

The antimicrobial activity is concentrated at the outer surface of the gloves and does not leach out.

Bacteria coming into contact with the glove surface will be exposed to the antimicrobial activity which, in independent testing, has achieved up to a 5-log (99.999%) kill within five minutes of contact.

Tests of the efficacy of the antimicrobial medical examination gloves against important viruses and fungi that causes infections are underway.

The antimicrobial medical examination gloves can provide an additional layer of protection against hospital-acquired infections.

Hartalega has been manufacturing latex gloves since 1988 and has a current available capacity of producing over 29 billion gloves annually.

They are currently the largest producer of nitrile gloves in the world and exports to over 60 countries across five continents.

Mr Kuan Mun Leong, Managing Director of Hartalega Holdings Berhad, said, “Once again demonstrating Hartalega’s passion for innovation, this is a game-changer that is set to elevate Malaysia’s glove manufacturing industry and have potentially far-reaching effects on the global healthcare sector.

Traditionally, medical examination gloves are a passive barrier to reduce the risks of transmission of infection in healthcare settings. With this state-of-the-art technology, we are able to develop gloves that provide active protection.”

Hospital-acquired infections are frequently transmitted to patients by the hands of healthcare practitioners, as contamination can occur when taking a patient’s pulse, blood pressure, or temperature, or from contact with surfaces near patients.

Research has found that on an annual basis, hospital-acquired infections affect approximately 2 million hospital patients in the United States, resulting in 90,000 deaths and additional costs of USD28 to USD45 billion.

In the European Union, hospital-acquired infections affect 4.1 million patients per year, resulting in 37,000 deaths and additional costs of 7 billion euros, as reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Many hospital-acquired infections are resistant to multiple antibiotics which makes them difficult to treat.



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Penang floods Learn from HK Taiwan and Japan – ex-councillor



GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government should come up with a proper and detailed standard operating procedures (SOP) when facing with flood incidents or any natural disasters, said a former Penang Island City Council (MBPP) councillor.

Dr Lim Mah Hui said such environmental challenges are expected to occur more often in future, while admitting that the state government was caught unprepared for the severity of the November storm after experiencing the September floods.

“We need to learn a few lessons as the old data on rainfall and temperature are no longer suitable with climate change, as attested by the frequency and severity of rainfall and drought in other countries,” he said when contacted.

He said, not only Penang, but Malaysia as a whole should come up with a proper and detailed SOP to meet such challenges which are expected to occur more often now.

“Malaysia has been spared the ravages of typhoons and hurricanes thus far, while countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan have good SOP and systems of preparedness. We should learn from them,” he said.

Lim said the existing infrastructure in Penang, as well as planning policies and guidelines, are no longer adequate to deal with new challenges of climate change.

“Both the state and federal governments need to listen to what many professionals have been saying, that our planning system has to change and take into account challenges of climate change,” he added.

Penang experienced massive flood after a cylone hit the island state and parts of Kedah on Saturday.

In a statement, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said, there was no early warning or alert from the Malaysian Meteorological Department until at 9.30pm Saturday while heavy winds were already gushing into the island.

Seven dead and 100,000 homes were affected by the flood.



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Heres why we need a cyclone warning system


THE recent floods in Penang, reportedly the worst in 30 years, was also the result of a rare weather phenomenon known as a cyclone, a rotating large-scale air mass. However, this cyclone was still small and in the developing stages of becoming a tropical storm, a full-blown cyclone.

Unlike thunderstorms and monsoon storms, a tropical storm is a large rotating storm that creates a swirling rainfall pattern which can be seen on the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) rainfall detecting radar screen. In the Pacific Ocean, the weakest form of a tropical storm is called a tropical depression while the strongest form is called a typhoon. A typhoon is also known as a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean and a cyclone in the Indian Ocean.

The Penang cyclone was not the first cyclone to hit Peninsula Malaysia since another cyclone, Typhoon Vamei, struck Johor in December 2001. The Johor cyclone was extraordinary since it was created in the South China Sea just 12 hours before it made landfall in Desaru. Fortunately, it immediately weakened to become a tropical depression as it crossed the state towards the Straits of Malacca but many people were killed and properties damaged in the floods and landslides created in its path.

Fortunately, the Penang cyclone did not strengthen into a tropical depression and remained in that weak state until the next day. But, the cyclone remained almost stationary over the Island for more than 12 hours and dumped more heavy rain on the island than normal. At the same time, the cyclone pounded the island with a sustained gale force wind which resulted in many trees being uprooted and many landslides. Had the Penang cyclone continued moving on its original trek, the island would only suffer a few hours of extraordinary heavy rain and that would not have resulted in the worst flood in 30 years.

The Typhoon Vamei incident already taught us that a full-blown cyclone can and do strike this country with serious consequences even though it is small in size. Hence, the National Security Council (NSC) must have a separate standard operating procedure (SOP) when it comes to dealing with a cyclone where it should be fully monitored as it approaches and enters the country. The SOP must make it mandatory to issue a warning to warn the public of any approaching cyclone before it makes a landfall so that people living in its path in flood-prone areas and on the hill slopes can evacuate or take evasive actions. The cyclone warning is crucial since they are more dangerous than the heavy thunderstorms or monsoon rain due to the presence of a rotating gale force wind.

The cyclone that struck Penang could be seen making landfall on the east coast of southern Thailand on Friday morning.

However, by Saturday morning, this system had moved into Kedah with a well-defined swirl in the rainfall pattern.

By evening, the cyclone was already over Penang Island and the rain had intensified

Instead of moving onwards across the straits, the cyclone lingered over the island for more than 12 hours before moving back inland over Perak and later Kelantan.

Had a cyclone warning been issued by the relevant authorities on Friday morning or earlier, some of the reported deaths could have been avoided since care givers of the elderly would have taken precautionary measures to move them to much safer locations. Many important and valuable assets could also have been saved since there will be ample time to move them to higher floors or grounds.

In fact, calls to set up a cyclone warning system had been made repeatedly since 1998 but they seemed to have been ignored by relevant authorities. Had the Penang cyclone been as strong as the one that struck Johor, the devastation would have been much worse and more people might have died as a consequence.

So perhaps the NSC should seriously consider setting up the cyclone warning system before a more powerful cyclone strikes the country with a higher number of casualties and more property losses.

*The author, Hartono Zainal Abidin is an expert in extreme weathers. He won United States Annual Lightning Safety Recognition Award in 2003. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.



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New Zealands Prime Moggy Paddles the six-toed cat meets an untimely end



WELLINGTON: Paddles, the New Zealand prime minister’s ginger cat, may have had six toes and a wide social media following but she has run out of lives.

Jacinda Ardern, the charismatic new leader of New Zealand, announced the death of the Prime Moggy on Wednesday after Paddles was hit by a car the previous evening, prompting an outpouring of grief on social media.

Paddles’ rise to social media fame matched her 37-year-old owner’s meteoric ascent to the prime ministership after only taking over as leader of her Labour Party in August.

A “First Cat of NZ” Twitter account was set up by an anonymous user last month, featuring regular tweets about the photogenic cat’s famous “mummy”, Ardern, and quickly attracted 11,000 followers.

People from around the world posted messages such as “rest in peace” and “gone too soon” with the hashtag “#paddles”.

Paddles the polydactyl cat’s feats included being able to hold a pair of glasses with her opposable thumb and she featured regularly in photos of Ardern at work.

“To anyone who has ever lost a pet, you’ll know how sad we feel. Paddles was much loved, and not just by us. Thanks for everyone’s thoughts,” Ardern wrote on Facebook.

Ardern’s rise to power has generated intense interest in her personal life and drew comparisons with other youthful trailblazers such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

And, according to Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford, Paddles often played her part in affairs of state, even interrupting the premier’s first call with U.S. President Donald Trump in October.

“As the call was transferred our cat (yes that bloody cat) came flying through the cat-flap,” Gayford, a television presenter, wrote in a column for the Spinoff news website.

“She leapt up onto the chair next to Jacinda and began announcing her very squawky arrival,” he wrote.



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How interconnected is Lazada with DFTZ



KUALA LUMPUR: The launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Alibaba’s Jack Ma last week is set to take Malaysia’s digital economy on an exciting path.

The DFTZ aspires to double the growth rate of small-and-medium enterprises’ goods exports to reach US$38 billion, create some 60,000 jobs and facilitate US$65 billion of goods movement via its platform, all by the year 2025.

One key player that is set on leveraging this platform is e-commerce giant Lazada, which is 83 percent owned by the Alibaba Group – one of the main actors in DFTZ besides Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

A HUB FOR ASEAN

Lazada hopes to cater to the 625 million population of ASEAN once DFTZ takes full effect in 2019.

The company has integrated its process and systems into the DFTZ ecosystem as it will become one of the distributing points for the ASEAN network.

“DFTZ is very exciting for us. By opening up the DFTZ, we will enable local Malaysian brands, sellers and SMEs to expand their reach beyond Malaysian borders,” said Lazada Malaysia CEO Hans-Peter Ressel.

“We will also be able to bring in both regional and global brands into DFTZ, have their operations based here and then do cross ASEAN-wide business. This will make Malaysia a true operations and eFulfilment hub for these brands,” he told Astro AWANI’s Market Talk.

READ: Najib, Jack Ma flag off 1,972 export-ready SMEs onboard DFTZ

Despite Lazada having operations in various ASEAN countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, its remit remain in Malaysia.

In explaining this, Ressel said one has to just look at the export figures.

“Within Southeast Asia and ASEAN, there’s a lot of import-export happening between the member countries and Malaysia is a major trade partner. So, we need to enable these local SMEs to tap into the B2C (business-to-consumer) opportunity, allowing them to sell to the end consumer directly to their house via integrated logistics from Malaysia.”

Ressel said currently, Malaysia is the most supportive government in the ASEAN region in the cause towards e-commerce growth and digitalisation of the economy.

TYING UP LOOSE ENDS

Recently, there has been a lot of noise and chatter online on Lazada’s services, particularly on the last mile fulfilment process. Errors in delivery, problems with product orders and a poor search engine were only some of the complaints reported by customers.

But Ressel is confident that all will be in order in time for China’s Single’s Day on Nov 11 – also the biggest shopping day for Alibaba.

“There are always challenges, especially in a market that is growing very fast and with a company like Lazada that is growing triple digits annually.

“In the payment and logistics side, there is always a bottleneck that we have to face. But we have been working very closely with payment and logistics providers to really help them understand the volume increase and help them ramp up their capacities.

“Nov 11 is Alibaba’s biggest campaign and we’ve done a lot of preparations. We migrated to a new data centre, we expanded our service, we are ready,” he said.

Unfortunately, the rantings by consumers usually end up with sellers receiving a bad rating instead of Lazada.

But Ressel believes all is not lost on both the consumers’ and sellers’ end.

“I believe if you continue to strive to provide consumers with a great assortment, genuine products and brands, there”s always hope that people will trust you again.

“On the sellers’ side, if you can really show to them how they can grow their business despite several hiccups here and there, we can still work together. The industry is still young, people will understand,” he said.

Ressel said with not many e-commerce players being bigger than Lazada, it has somewhat become their social responsibility to boost sellers, particularly SMEs, following the DFTZ launch.

“The DFTZ is one of our biggest opportunities. SMEs make up 80 to 90 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in Malaysia. There are thousands of SMEs that are not even thinking of going online. We’re working with SME Corp, SSM (Companies Commission of Malaysia) and MDEC to educate them, train them, bring them online, help them grow their business not just nationwide but beyond Malaysian borders,” he said.

“That’s where DFTZ will come into play for us.”



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Would women truck drivers solve shortages in truck drivers



TOKYO: The average qualified “Heavy Duty” truck driver in Japan are in their 50s, said UD Trucks.

In Malaysia, the figures aren’t that promising either.

In fact, in Asia, young men are not queuing up to become highly-trained truck operators, resorting to find less laborious and less physically intensive occupations.

Some truck manufacturers have changed their built design of their trucks to cater for physically smaller truck drivers, and this includes designing the interior of trucks to be built for women drivers.

At the Tokyo Motor Show, UD Trucks showcased women truck drivers during their product launch. Hino and Scania did the same in mentioning to the press that women in general should at least consider being a heavy duty truck driver when choosing a career.

But taking things back to the present situation, the shortages of skilled truck drivers are growing year on year as present drivers continue to age, with no replacement of younger drivers joining this occupation.

This trend is worrying truck manufacturers around the globe.

The managing director of Scania Malaysia, Marie Sjödin Enström has been quoted on Astro AWANI’s Market Talk as saying that Scania is training truck drivers and rewarding the best of them through competitions to signify Scania’s commitment in improving the quality of drivers around the country.

In Japan, medium-sized and heavy-duty truck manufacturer, UD Trucks is doing the same through their “Extra Mile Challenge”. The Extra Mile Challenge is an international competition that pits champions from various countries against each other.

UD Trucks is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volvo Trucks after the latter acquired the former in 2007.

For Malaysia, the champion is 45 year old Anuar Bin Ahmad, a 20-year veteran with Gardenia Bakeries Sdn Bhd.

He will compete against champions among others, from South Africa, Indonesia and Thailand in the Extra Mile Challenge taking place here on 7 November.

The President of UD Trucks, Yoshihiro Murakami says that “UD wants ‘smart logistics’ to be our culture”.

“Smart logistics mean that we create not just ‘smart products and services’, but also ‘smart drivers’ as well” he added.

Nobuhiko Kishi, the Senior Vice President of UD Trucks complemented Murakami-San’s statement by saying that UD Trucks is committed in creating better drivers through their “Gemba Spirit” culture.

Asked on what is ‘Gemba Spirit’, Kishi-San explained “Gemba loosely means ‘Action Taken’, and it is an understanding of what our customer’s point-of-view is. It is our way of work and how we introduce our culture to deliver the best for our customers. Everything we do goes back to the ‘gemba’” he explains.

UD Trucks and Scania are just a handful of truck manufacturers spending a lot of resources in training and retraining truck drivers around the world.

The shortages of this occupation may lead to distorting the economic progress that many countries are pursuing.


Note: Watch the full coverage of UID Trucks ad their extra mile challenges on ‘Market Talk’ this Monday (Nov 13, 2017) on Astro AWANI



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Concept cars dominates Tokyo Motor Show



TOKYO: The Japanese car industry is poised to again after a series of scandals hitting several car makers in 2017. Unlike other motor shows, the Tokyo Motor Show has always been a concept-car driven exhibition. And this year, it did not stray away from the theme of presenting concept cars to the public.

But the need for Japanese car makers to look ahead to the future is more pertinent now, since currently, a host of Japanese car makers are under hot water due to the various scandals hitting the industry. Nissan Motor Co. has announced plans to suspend local car production and is under regulatory scrutiny after admitting it has used unauthorized safety inspectors to sell cars in the country.

Kobe Steel lost billions in market share after reports emerged that the steel strength it provided to its customers do not match up to the bill. Toyota is a customer of Kobe Steel and doubts on whether their cars are as strong as advertised are now rife amongst consumers.

Even periphery industries, like airbags and brakes have had their shares in 2017 auto-scandals. Takata airbags are famously under fire due to their safety feature failures and is up for debate on whether the company will survive next year.

So the need for the Japanese auto industry to stay above the scandals are clear.

Hence the Tokyo Motor Show 2017 is predominantly focused on the future, with plenty of concept cars, and newer models of famous brands are taking center stage. Mitsubishi is focusing its new Evo line, Subaru is looking towards its Impreza series, and Toyota is losing its voice shouting about the virtues of its latest Yaris assembly.

In an industry billions, plenty are at stake.

CHINA RIVAL

As China is ramping up production of auto vehicles by the year, and improving sales distribution by the month, it becomes clear that Japanese auto makers are sweating it out trying to gain back the trust it has lost amongst consumers.

A November 2017 report by Global Insight marks electric motors industry is worth RM 100 billion (USD 36 billion) by 2024. And with China superceding other markets in supplying electric cars at lowest prices to the public, the demand and growth is clear that the Chinese are really upping their game in trying to wrestle market dominance away from the Japanese.

Germany too is making a comeback to earn the passenger market. And so are the Americans. The fight will be tough, but the resistance amongst Japanese car makers are strong too.

Can the Japanese car industry set itself for another renaissance in the auto industry? The cars displayed at the Motor Show exhibits their clear desire to achieve just that.

Watch the full coverage of the Tokyo Motor Show on Smart Money and Viva with Ibrahim Sani, next week on November 12th onwards. Only on 501 Astro AWANI.



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Paradise Papers U.S. Commerce chief Ross kept holdings in Russian-tied firm – reports



WASHINGTON: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has kept investments in a shipping firm with significant business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, U.S. media reported on Sunday, citing leaked documents from an offshore law firm.

Partnerships used by Ross, a billionaire investor helping to shape President Donald Trump’s trade policy, have a 31 percent stake in Navigator Holdings, which the New York Times said earns millions of dollars a year transporting gas for Russian petrochemical firm Sibur.

Gennady Timchenko, a Russian oligarch and Putin associate subject to U.S. sanctions, and Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, are Sibur stakeholders, said the Times, which based its report on files from Appleby, a prominent offshore law firm.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the findings.In an emailed statement, a Department of Commerce spokesman said Ross “was not involved in Navigator’s decision to engage in business with Sibur … has never met the Sibur shareholders referenced in this story and, until now, did not know of their relationship.”

He added that Sibur had not been under sanctions when Navigator began its relationship with the publicly-traded firm and still was not.

According to the Times, Sibur said in a statement that any negotiations with Navigator over the years were carried out by its executives, not its major shareholders, and that “no meetings were held with Mr. Ross.”

Neither Navigator nor Appleby were immediately available for comment Sunday evening. Reuters could not immediately reach Timchenko and Shamalov for comment.

The Appleby files are part of the so-called Paradise Papers, a trove of leaked offshore investment documents. They were obtained by Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and some media outlets.

NBC also used the documents to report on Ross’s investments.

Scrutiny of Trump administration officials’ possible ties to Russia has intensified as a result of probes into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Moscow. Putin’s government has denied interfering in the election and Trump has denied any collusion with Russia.

In its report, the Times said Ross had kept the investment in Navigator, which increased its business dealings with Sibur even as Western nations sought to punish Russia’s energy sector over Putin’s incursions into Ukraine.

Navigator was mentioned in Ross’s 57-page public financial disclosure report filed in December, before he officially joined the Trump administration. The Times said the latest batch of documents provided more insight into his financial holdings.

“The Secretary recuses himself from matters focused on transoceanic shipping vessels,” the Commerce Department spokesman’s statement said, adding that Ross works closely with officials to ensure the “highest ethical standards.”

QUEEN’S TAXES

Citing the Appleby documents, Britain’s Guardian newspaper said millions of pounds from Queen Elizabeth’s private estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, had been invested in a Cayman Islands fund as part of an offshore portfolio never before disclosed.

Reuters could not independently confirm the Guardian report.

The newspaper said the Duchy had used offshore private equity funds designed to shield investors in the United Kingdom from having to pay U.S. tax on their holdings.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Duchy of Lancaster said: “We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds. All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate.”

The spokeswoman also said the Queen voluntarily pays tax on any income received from the Duchy.



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