Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Illicit Outflows: Here We Go Again

Another report to add on to the GFI report on global illicit fund flows a year or so back:

Malaysia lost RM893b in illicit outflows, research shows

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 ― A colossal RM893 billion was siphoned out of Malaysia’s economy into tax havens abroad between 1970 and 2010, a London-based research has revealed, placing the country among the top 20 nation in the developing world labelled as “losers” of capital flight.

The sum is more than triple that of Malaysia’s national debt total, which amounted to RM257.2 billion in 2011, according to previous media reports.

In the study commissioned by Tax Justice Network (TJN), a London-based organisation of professionals including economists and tax consultants, Malaysia is now ranked 12th on the list, two rungs above Singapore’s RM533 billion outflow and three below Indonesia’s RM1 trillion.

According to researcher James Henry in UK’s The Guardian today, the “offshore economy” is large enough to leave a major impact on the estimates of inequality of wealth and income in any nation, as well as the estimates of national income and debt ratios.

This time, the number quoted is over a far longer period – the GFI report only covered the last ten years – and doesn’t include the very real losses through trade invoicing that GFI identified (and which I have verified).

I’m not going to diss the researcher here – reading his previous pieces and the accompanying appendices to this report, he’s done his homework and has by all accounts dedicated his life to rooting out the truth about hidden private wealth (for a more balanced view of the report, try this link).

The problem is that the methodology used in this report shares many similarities with GFI’s, at least with regard to identifying which outflows come from which countries. It’s essentially a residual calculation; enumerate the sources of funds, then the uses, and whatever you have left is purported to be “illicit” inflows or outflows.

The problem with that is that in the absence of capital controls, a very liberal approach to global capital flows, and the increasing popularity of floating exchange rate regimes (wherein international reserves do not automatically adjust to changes in the external position), it’s hard to justify labelling any unrecorded outflows automatically as “illicit”.

Tracking assets under management in offshore centres, as this paper does, is a novel and probably more accurate way of approaching the problem, but its difficult to assign ownership this way (i.e. you won’t know where it came from).

It’s also difficult to reconcile stocks with flows – even under the official balance of payments statistics, changes in “flows” doesn’t necessarily mean money actually crosses borders. If you take out a million then make an investment killing and quadruple that amount in a year, it all counts as flows even if only the initial million was an actual capital outflow.

Considering that the RM893 million actually “flowed” out over the course of 40 years, the likelihood that it’s all capital leaving the country is unlikely. Also (for those of you who’ve actually read through the press release and paper), the common mechanism of increased lending to a country which in turn results in increased “illicit” capital outflows appears to be absent in Malaysia’s case, which closes off one potential source of “official” corruption.

Not that I would argue that some portion of it isn’t actually a result of corruption, money laundering, or capital flight – I just don’t think the portion is all that big. It’s not just corrupt politicians and officials who use offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands or (gasp) Singapore – perfectly legitimate companies (including some of our GLCs and listed companies) looking for tax advantages do the same.

That argues for better transparency, not a witch hunt. Can I mention that Singapore is not far behind Malaysia in this report, and that Hong Kong is far higher (and both score considerably better on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index)?

And all this will detract from the substantial tax losses that Malaysia suffers from “creative” trade invoicing, which is very real and responsible for about half of Malaysia’s “illicit” capital flight over the last ten years. Any attempt at investigating and reappropriating ill-gotten gains hidden in bank accounts in offshore centres will require multilateral consensus and action and is likely to take considerable time and resources. While worth the effort, we could achieve greater and quicker tax gains by examining invoicing and transfer pricing practices closer to home.

Technical Notes:

Henry, James S., “The Price of Offshore Revisited”, Tax Justice Network, July 2012 (warning: PDF link)

22 comments:

  1. Jasper BloodstoneJuly 24, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Would it be beneficial for the Malaysian government to table a 1-time "tax amnesty" for Malaysian owners of funds stashed overseas to repatriate these funds back to Malaysia, "no questions asked"?

    Would the country's banking system be able to handle a possible influx of funds and put them to productive use? Would this be condoning "round tripping"?

    A report in the Singapore Business Times paper today said, inter alia: "The figure confirms what has been long suspected. It is a well known fact that immediately after the May, 1969 racial riots and, later on, after the 1971 New Economic Policy...capital flight stemming from the non-Malays began in earnest."

    The report, however, went to say: "Even so, the figure (RM893 billion) could be overstated. Beginning in the 1990s, many Malaysian corporations including government linked firms like Petronas and entertainment firm Tanjong plc began investing abroad to diversify their asset base and to find new sources of growth. These funds are also ranked under outflows in the country's balance of payments."

    In any case, the case for a comprehensive review and reforms of tax policy continues to get stronger.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jasper, I don't see the point of an amnesty - there's no tax implication, and its not like we need the money.

    I'm wondering what the Singaporean reaction is to their ranking - their "illicit" outflows aren't insignificant either.

    Fully agree that we need to relook tax policy and enforcement.

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  3. I don't take the figures being bandied about at face value, rather I am more inclined to believe that the actual figure may roughly be between 20-25% of the claimed leakage, which approximates RM 220-250 billion.

    Imagine if we had a flat 10% exit tax imposed on all LOCAL exiting capital, which would have yielded some 20-30 billion in extra revenue. That is why I have been advocating elsewhere for an exit tax or levy on all migrating capital involving locals which by the way are predominantly from a certain ethnicity as one of the commenters here mentioned in passing.(And I dare say much of this capital leakage had been sequestered in a money laundering tax haven south of the Tebrau).

    Conversely the imposition of either a retrospective wealth tax or a recompensation tax on this ethnic group would have the same effect of yielding revenue while a one off windfall tax also seems an attractive proposition although fraught with complications (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-20/putin-may-copy-u-k-s-5-billion-pound-privatization-windfall-tax.html). The problem in Malaysia is that our own "uniquely homegrown" version of the oligarchs like the Kuoks, the Queks, the Tings, having grown as fat as pigs on government largesse have largely sequestered their wealth beyond the reach of the taxman while a substantial portion of their ethnic brethren have hidden their wealth ala Singapork's 'double bookkeeping scam and squirreled those hoards of cash outta the country guised in different forms of capital outflow. In this regard, outright expropriation of all Chingk wealth seems to be the only logical though unpalatable solution.




    Warrior 231

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  4. Regarding the Singapork financial blackhole, I have this much to say on that mystery:

    1.I have actually been working on reconciling the figures since May when the article came to my knowledge. The fact I could not do so stumped me. Initially I was persuaded by the fact that my approaches may have been at fault (I am cognizant that I am not trained economist but a trained engineer) but having exchanged the contents with friends who are economists and receiving the same perplexing response, it dawned upon me something was not right with the accounting procedures after all. That prompted me to alert you on this conundrum as I often found found your approach to be highly empirical and objective.

    2.I would not quite agree with your assertion that one of the reasons for the differences in credit ratings accorded to Japan and Singapore is due to an ageing population. My take is that ageing is a minor factor as both countries are trapped in an ageing crisis albeit with minor differences in the data between the two.

    However, I am more amenable to your view that the AAA ratings for Singapork partly stems from the absence of serious deflationary pressures. Note that deflationary patterns in the Singaporean economy have been rather muted compared to the more advanced economies but one major underlying cause for deflation lurks in the background:

    a.the asset price bubble - which has the potential of triggering a demand shock that will cascade through the whole Singaporkian economy like a stack of dominoes rather in the same way, the 1989 asset bubble collapse in Japan blighted the Japanese economy. I would rather think that this price collapse is imminent giving the murky external sector outlook which threatens to suffocate Singapork's exports. Additionally, with the Euro crisis yet to recede, the perfect storm fueled by the spectre of falling exports, Euro exposure

    (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/why-stability-stalwart-singapore-should-be-scared-if-feta-truly-accompli)

    and asset price crash is about to feed on each other's undercurrents and whack Singapork beyond recognisable shape.And despite its scandalous money laundering reputation as attested by several sources:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aK7UIXigIxjM

    http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2012/vol2/184112.htm

    nothing is gonna save Singapork this time around.

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  5. warrior,

    I don't like the idea of an exit tax - for one, it's not as if we need the money. Capital flight of this sort would only be dangerous if we were under a gold standard or a global fixed exchange rate regime a'la Bretton Woods. For another, restricting capital outflows will have the same impact on capital inflows. Beware unintended consequences.

    With respect to the credit ratings, I don't believe I ever attributed the AAA ratings to ageing populations, which is more a factor in their lower headline growth rates.

    As to the vulnerability of Singapore to external developments, you're preaching to the converted. I've just completed a report on Singapore's economy - big point of vulnerability is excessive credit growth driving asset acquisition. I suspect it's mainly driven by buying into regional assets (including China) and less domestic, but that's another similarity with 1980s Japan that Singapore can do without.

    Another point is their massive external debt position (400%+ of GDP, about 7.5x forex reserves), largely I think due to their status as an offshore centre. But that heightens Singapore's exposure to global financial market sentiment.

    I'd still consider them a AAA credit, but that's really relative to the government's ability to cover their debts. The private sector is another matter entirely.

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  6. Hisham
    1. I am more inclined to look the exit tax proposal as a punitive measure to compensate for the depredations wrought by the Chink hordes on the Malaysian economy. Note, I stressed the word LOCAL in my earlier comment. Sure, it will plant doubts into potential "in-flowers" as to the freedom of capital movement but that should not deter them when they witness and understand the objectives and mechanics of its application. The contention that we do not need the money is debatable. Sure, we dont need the money due to the financial architecture we operate in but we forget the opportunity costs related to that capital flight as well as the adverse impact such flows on the confidence factor amongst potential "inflowers".


    2. In relation to a query on why the difference for Japan and Singapork's AAA ratings, you cited this:

    "Japan's population is both ageing and shrinking, reducing the available tax base and limiting GDP growth."

    the implied allusion is pretty obvious there (the impact of a reduced tax base (less revenue) + limited GDP growth (less revenue) to offset the debt mountain) although ageing populations and AAA ratings are non-related stuff, obviously. Japan and Singapork are virtually on parity with regard to ageing which brings me to the ratings themselves.


    3. I am inclined to believe there is another reason for such an assignation which I am privy not to disclose (besides to avoid being accused of dabbling in conspiracy theories) but it would be pretty absurd to study the data about the whole AAA ratings and not come to that conclusion.

    However, AAA ratings themselves have been largely discredited since the sub-prime fiasco and the US and Japan's recent downgrades have not impacted on the status of their currencies for reasons the uninitiated might find this 'crash course' informative:

    http://www.etftrends.com/2012/05/safe-haven-currency-etfs-shine-in-euro-crisis/

    This by itself shows that investors pay scant regard to ratings although downgrades do invariably raise borrowing costs.

    Additionally, comparison of 10 year bond yield spreads between Singapork and Japan are pretty self-explanatory:


    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/japan/government-bond-yield vs http://www.tradingeconomics.com/singapore/government-bond-yield

    But that could be accounted by the additional fact that Japan is the world’s largest creditor nation.

    Warrior 231

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  7. 3. Singapork's regional acquisitions do expose them to the vagaries of the world economy but then again that (exposure to the global economy) has always been the case with all export-dependent economies and more so Singapork (ditto Hong Kong which is also an offshore tax haven). Be that as it may, what has been happening in the Singaporkian economy in recent times has been a dramatic surge in property prices attributable partly to capital inflows though increased disposable income do figure as well. But just concentrating on capital inflows alone reveals to what extent a sudden reversal in such inflows will have on the Singaporkian property mart and by default the asset bubble:

    http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb02/makro/forschung/magkspapers/15-2012_tillmann.pdf

    could we be witnessing the demise of another asset bubble beyond the Tebrau with the slow yet steady departure of Euro steroid money, a drop-off in Chingk motherland money, lesser stolen hoards from Ind…… and elsewhere and consequentially a social meltdown of the shameless money laundering sham of a country?

    Add to that diminishing exports and a huge Euro exposure (estimated to be between 40% upwards)...perfect storm on the horizon?

    (note the linked paper also has some pertinent points about the impact of capital inflows on inflation, equity prices etc ancillary to the central discussion but I am pretty sure that is all old kacang putih stuff for you…haha.)

    By the way, Selamat Berpuasa Hisham and sure good to see a pesky ad-homining troll like Gaius Dayus is outta our sights…but one can never be too sure…wink wink..


    Warrior 231

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  8. Warrior,

    1. I disagree that foreign investors would be that understanding, considering that China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are major sources of capital inflows. Given the arbitrary and ethnic targeting of such a policy, I would be very wary of the credibility of such an exit tax.

    A related point is how would you be able to implement such a policy with justice? Much of the outflows are conducted by corporations - can you define a company as Chinese or non-Chinese? If someone transfers money out to pay for their children's education, would that be subject to taxation (this is a capital transaction)? How do you decide if wealth is gained by "depredations" or legitimate business (for example the lady who runs a chain of hair saloons I heard on BFM this morning)? How about people like me who are half-Chinese - do I get a 50% rebate? Then there are bumiputeras with Chinese names, and Chinese muallaf.

    2. That's an argument against the AAA ratings, not for. Perhaps I misunderstood your argument.

    3. Agree that AAA is not what it used to be. Part of that is credit rating agencies getting involved in stuff that they don't understand themselves. However, research into credit ratings suggests that plain vanilla credit ratings (not necessarily sovereign) tend to be pretty accurate.

    4. Again I agree. Growth is awful, external debt is a mind-boggling 400%+ of GDP (and 7.5x international reserves), domestic credit growth is getting out of hand (and interest rates too low), and inflation is too high. Something has to give.

    Still, I think the AAA rating for Singapore is solid, but that's only because I don't think the government will have too much trouble meeting its obligations. The private sector and the people themselves might be in for some tough times though.

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  9. BTW, hope you're having a good Ramadhan too. Me, I've been running around all week trying to get a travel package for the Hajj, fingers crossed I get to go.

    ReplyDelete
  10. A few points of clarification:

    1.The exit tax would be solely designed to capture migrating capital emanating from LOCAL Chingk sources. The question of identification is a minor issue as individuals are IDed by their race via documentations provided whilst the definition of a Chingk company would utilize the Bumiputera holding route (minimum 30%). Of course the complexities would crop up with regard to cross-company shareholdings but that can be ironed out at the procedural stage as any implementation would be preceded by careful planning. It should be cautioned that the proposal may incur additional compliance cost but this can be nullified with the introduction of flat rated exit tax with the absence of loopholes thus discouraging perverse incentives. And of course any pegging of the flat rate would take into account the costs of imposition.


    Proof of purpose would be one way of circumventing transfers guised as educational remittances etc. It should be noted that, for Chinks leaving the country for good (as émigrés), such leeway would not be afforded. As for the tricky issue of half-Chingk Half Malay etc, I would think a discount would be not out of order simply due to the genetic contribution of the Malay half in making the offspring an intelligent person instead of a mongoloid moron…hahahaha (just kidding). But seriously speaking, I think the principle of patri/matrilineal lineage applies as per the law (if I am not mistaken). Simply speaking, if the father/ mother is Malay, the offspring qualifies as one.

    2. In relation to the PRC/HK/Spork/Taiwan inflow, data on FDI inflows taken from the MIDA website is indicative of how erroneous the notion that the said countries are major investors here (Singapork excepting) can be. In 2010, 22% of inflows were from China, Taiwan, HK and Singapork while in 2011 it was 16%. Going back in time it was 6.5% in 2008 and 16% in 2007. Only in 2009 was the share higher due to less total FDI and less inflows from the traditional powerhouses of Japan and the US. In fact, the numbers for 2007, 2010 were also skewed due to less total inflows. Analysed in raw figures, the aggregate investment from these 4 countries were not impressive to say the least, especially the PRC. Take away Singapork, and the numbers get worse.

    In any case capital is “value impervious” or “value neutral”, It goes where it can be maximized to yield the maximum returns/profits. That is why you have the US etc investing in countries with the most abysmal of human rights records and affirmative action does not place Malaysia in the ranks of say Zimbabwe or Congo or does it?

    Warrior 231

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  11. 1.The word “ depredation” is a vague term which need further refinement. I am not equivocating here, but when I used the word it was based on the historicity of pendatang immigration and the socio-economic fallout on the indigenous population from that epochal event. The socio-economic history of Malaysia is filled with data that incontrovertibly highlights the economic displacement and eventual marginalization of the indigenous polity by the chingk hordes in cahoots with the Brits. The seizure of Malay owned tin mines in Perak was the starting point accelerated by the gradual transformation of urban human demographics. Many people swallow unknowingly the notion that the Malays were essentially an agrarian- peasant class community when Joel Khan (1) points out with data that the urban Malay was no more an aberration than his rural counterpart. Many towns on the West Coast of Malaysia were Malay in origin and populace but through gradual colonise and conquer tactics the Chingk hordes with the help of their Brit paramours pushed the hapless Malays into the interior. The rest as they say is history rewritten by the victors as mythmaking like the ones about Yap Ah Loy stick like a sore upraised middle finger against reality in the Malaysian historical narrative. Critical Discourse Analysis will show how such narratives are carefully woven to wrought the maximum psychological impact…but then I digress into another area worthy of analysis elsewhere elsetimes.

    Hence 'depradation' should be seen in the wider context for not only its marginalizing impact on the oppressed native/indigene but its politically empowering and economically enrichment of the interloper. Who can deny that ancestral wealth has not given some goddamn ethnicity a leg up in life? How are we to address the fruits of inequality from that rotting tree if more wealth is ransacked and repatriated elsewhere to earn even more wealth in a never-ending cycle of exploitation and accumulation? What iota of concern should justifiably be raised if a five saloon owner decides to up and run and is exit taxed for her pains? Aren’t her accumulated wealth the end result of having born into a economically privileged community? Could it be that some of that wealth was derivable from tax/bookkeeping scams? Or could it be that the capital outlay for all those saloons were a bequest from a financial heirloom? The counterpoint would be she worked hard for her money which may or may not be true. But then again everything else should be superfluous for the central point of an exit tax is the assertion that the sins of the fathers doeth infect the sons and daughters, that you (to be read as generic in sense) can leave with your wealth after paying, say 10%, for in the end granting your father/grandfather citizenship had cost us much more.

    That may be unpalatably racial to some but economic realities trumps personal squeamishness anytime. For all that moolah aint gonna into my pocket but used to help my bumiputera brethren get their leg up in life which is what justice is all about; an equal playing field is only created when you flatten the mounds and fill the holes on one side so that those playing on that side can get the ball outta their half into the other at equal speed to have an equal chance at goal.

    Warrior 231

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  12. 1.The issue of justice is essentially a moral issue that is entwined with philosophical underpinnings but then again no justice was afforded to the indigenous population when these hordes were the lapdogs of the Brits. In fact, the very essence of ‘justice’ is open to contestation if interpreted within the paradigm of a relativistic moral universe. As such, secular interpretations of justice are at best subjective and at worst, pernicious. But that’s another issue for discussion at more appropriate forums.

    Some pseudo-Islam/pseudo apologists are fond of pulling Islam into the equation when talking about justice but the very same Islam is dissed when Hudud is raised. In fact, the notion of justice for all as propounded by some pro-Chingk pseudo-Islamist and pseudo-Malay lackeys in order to grate the conscience of the majority is a fallacy, a figment of a diseased intellect with a superficial understanding of the Holy Scripture and hadith. Only the Talibanesque and ignorant atheist/liberalist would talk in such uninformed nonsense. I had on numerous times challenged these scum on their interpretation of this in the context of the justice they talk about

    http://www.sunnah.org/aqida/kharijites2.htm

    If Saidina Ali (as) can berate the idiots of his day for their arrogance in talking about justice they know not, what more can we say about the equally illiterate, uneducated, Islamic syariah ignorant pretentious condescending scumbags in our midst who carp about justice without knowing or understanding the full facts? Aren’t they just like the goddamn Kharijite in that bygone era? In fact, if we take time to peruse Seraj Hendricks’s exposition, we come to understand from which dunghole the Turban lollipops from PAS and their ilk crept out from…….again another story…….

    It is NOT unislamic to levy a tax on an infidel to seek recompense for after all he has not contributed in any way to the defense of the realm nor ever used his vast wealth to equalize inequalities. If the notion of such a tax is Islamically reprehensible, then wau nauzubillah (Allah forbid), the notion of zakat on the wealthy would rests on tenuous grounds for what is zakat but an Islamic wealth redistributive mechanism with an inbuilt spiritual resonance designed to iron out inequalities.

    Why, the pendatangs even joined hands with the Brits on numerous occasions to suppress the Muslims. Ask Dol Said, Rentap, Mat Salleh, Tok Janggut, Datuk Bahaman, Mat Kilau, Maharajalela whether they were kaffirs? Or ask the Hai San and Ghee Hin scums who instigated the Brits to move into Larut and disenfranchise Long Jaafar’s and Nagh Ibrahim’s rights to the tin mines whether they were Malay Muslims? Ask the Bintang Tiga who massacred the Malays post 1945 or the Chingks who were in cahoots with the commies during the Emergency whether they were Malay Muslims too.

    The Chingk has accepted the unwritten Social Contract as manifested in the 1957 Malayan Constitution. He has affirmed that Contract in 12 elections by his very participation
    (participation means assent whether one wins or lose). Pray, what right does he have to turn around and abrogate that unwritten convention and precedence of assent? Doesn’t that give us the right of breaking the covenant itself and revoking his citizenship en masse? If our right to do precisely that is denied, may I humbly ask, where is the
    justice?

    Warrior 231

    Warrior 231

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  13. warrior,

    I will only comment on your first post, and parts of your second.

    1. You realise of course the many loopholes in your proposal. If you define a Chinese company as one having less than 30% bumiputera holdings, then magically overnight all companies will have 30% bumiputera shareholdings. How would you handle for instance listed companies where shareholdings are constantly in flux? And companies with both foreign and local shareholders? With respect to IDing Bumi and non-Bumi, it does not always happen that way.

    ...and I don't think my mother would appreciate being called a mongoloid moron. And neither do I...

    2. Don't look at flows, look at stock. While I admit the rest of the Chinese countries have minimal presence in Malaysia, Singapore's stock of FDI exceed both Japan's and the US.

    Capital is only value agnostic with respect to investment in primary sectors (natural resource extraction i.e. where investors have no choice). With secondary (manufacturing and processing) and tertiary (services) it actually does matter.

    3. It is one thing to visit unto a family the sins of the father. It is quite another to visit unto them the sins of the race.

    Further, when talking of a level playing field, why is there no provision for the rich of all races instead of just Chinese? Wealth begets wealth which is very true, but it is true of Bumi as well as non-Bumi.

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  14. Hisham

    Doa that you get that package for the Hajj as the season is pretty close already. Hope you have a blissful Ramadhan too and thanks for the informative exchanges. Here are some links I may have missed out on:

    1.Kahn,. J: Other Malays: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Modern Malay World
    ISBN 0824831071 / 9780824831073 / 0-8248-3107-1

    On the Singaporkian asset bubble:

    1.www.apeaweb.org/confer/sing12/.../S12-183%20Ohno_Shimizu.pdf

    2.www.bis.org/publ/bppdf/bispap64h.pdf

    3.http://www.mof.go.jp/pri/research/discussion_paper/ron220.pdf

    Singaporkian nervousness about Euro is reflected here:

    1.http://www.mas.gov.sg/en/News-and-Publications/Parliamentary-Replies/2012/Reply-to-PQ- on-capital-inflows.aspx

    2.http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/52832

    Seraj Hendricks 6 part historical exposition is a must read for those interested in unraveling PAS’ heretical extremism which by the way is a perversion of Islam and the teachings of the holy Prophet (saw.) (note the similarity in principles, as elaborated in the later half of the series, with Amanat Hadi:

    http://www.sunnah.org/aqida/kharijites1.htm


    Warrior 231

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  15. Hisham H

    My response:

    1.As I stated in the first post, comprehensive procedural planning will streamline the process prior to implementation which in effect means those issues you raised will be addressed before implementation. By default, any policy roll out would take into account those concerns beforehand. I will not belabor the point of exit taxation any further since we are on different planes of thought and the twain shalt never meet..agree to disagree?

    2.My sincere apologies and I unreservedly withdraw that slur. Rest assured it was not directed at your person but it was in bad taste nevertheless, especially during Ramadhan. Totally uncalled for on reflection. I own up.

    3.Nope; capital is value agnostic. In my comment I mentioned this:
    “ That is why you have the US etc investing in countries with the most abysmal of human rights records…..”
    Note that a lot of western capital is now into manufacturing in China. I need not mention Apple et al to stress my point (the who’s who would be endless).

    The prime motivation is simple : market accessibility, huge labour pool, low wages, etc etc all trump human rights violations in Tibet, Tian An Men, Falun Gong etc anytime. Realeconomics like realpolitik works in absurd ways at times but the underlying theme is the same : the maximization of profit whether wealth (economics) or strategic influence (politics).

    Neither is China the sole aberration, as our neighbor down south is another classic example despite its atrocious “freedom” record. The same things applies in varying degrees elsewhere (Indonesia during Suharto) South Korea (under the generals, from Park Chung Hee to Chun Doo Hwan); Taiwan (under the repressive Generalissimo Chiang) Vietnam etc etc etc. If capital had been more value sensitive or "conscience" driven, the world would have been a happier place…… wishful thinking actually as the world is contradiction living personified.

    4.The crux of any social inequality is the amelioration of the plight of the marginalized. That is common sense. The wealthy can always take care of themselves, they have the means to do so. In the Malaysian context, the vast majority of the underprivileged are the indigenous. Any socio-economic policy designed to address this marginalization cannot be a bad one, right? unless we are all Social Darwinists who subscribe to the survival of the fittest maxim in all spheres of life irrespective of circumstance which would be an anomaly, since, unlike in the biological sphere, one species is loaded with an extra dimension , absent in all others : ‘conscience’.

    Maybe used against me with regard to justice/injustice but that is besides the point as the notion of justice was never in the vocabulary of certain ethnics when they were in a position of ascendancy…Karma? You bet, especially in a relativistic moral universe….but then I digress.
    Thanks for the responses again which teaches me new things every day as I love learning and the truth. Salam Ramadhan and Selamat Berbuka.

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  16. Sorry, forgot a few things

    Your 2nd point. Will not comment on FDI stock until I have looked at the data but my initial observation is close proximity, hinterland exploitation, historical ties, mutual dependencies, the port factor, etc would have significant influences. Anyway, 5 year data (from 2007) will probably show Singapork trailing Japan and the US and probably Germany, South Korea and likely Australia as well.

    My apologies goes to your mum as well.

    Warrior 231

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  17. Warrior,

    1. Certainly we can agree to disagree.

    2. Apology accepted. What's a few mistakes among friends.

    3. I wasn't thinking in terms of democracy and civil liberties - in that sense you are absolutely right in that investors don't give a fig (nor is there a proven link with development or economic growth). I was actually thinking more in terms of property rights and equitable legal treatment, which investors would be concerned about. BTW the iPhone is actually assembled by Foxconn (Taiwanese OEM based in China) and the iPad is made by a Singaporean company.

    4. Fully agree - I have no beef with well-designed affirmative action. But arbitrary sequestration of assets based on ethnicity doesn't have a good record (see: Zimbabwe).

    5. With respect to FDI stock over the last few years, Singapore only trails Australia in terms of qunatum, and second to Korea in terms of growth.

    But to undercut bothour arguments, I recently wrote a piece for a local business newspaper on why FDI numbers and rankings aren't terribly meaningful. The flow numbers we actually see are net, not gross, so it's the difference between foreign owned inflows and outflows. The gross numbers could be and are wildly different.

    Second, there are three components of FDI - M&A, greenfield and retained earnings - and only greenfield FDI adds to a country's capital stock. Singapore's massive lead in regional FDI is mostly due to retained earnings (though they still lead us in greenfield investments). In fact, Singapore's retained earnings is very nearly half the global annual total last year (no prizes for guessing why).

    Malaysia's FDI is about equal parts all three e.g. Korea's fast growth in FDI stock in Malaysia is partly due to the takeover of Titan Chemicals Bhd.

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  18. Some final summations on the points you raised:

    1. Point 3 : I doubt that to be the case with regard to property rights, (intellectual proprietary rights included)and equitable legal treatment. Again China surfaces as an example simply because issues relevant to the crux of our discussion are well documented:

    http://www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/2011/157258.htm

    Just in passing; Funny how places like Cayman Island, the British Virgin islands with miniscule economies feature so prominently.......(money laundering...round tripping ...other shenanigans at play....)

    2. Care to share with me the data about Singapork especially greenfield investments so I can cross verify with my data/sources.

    3. I didnt mean it in the Zimbabwean way which by the way is so very blatantly incendiary (but then I can empathise with them as it was a "last resort" move forced upon the authorities there) .In any case, any analysis of migrating capital would invariably point to the disproportionate share of a certain ethnic which inevitably leads to the "race thingy"....unavoidable I suppose.

    Thank you for the generally civil discussion and Allah bless.

    Warrior 231

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  19. Warrior,

    Unctad collects and compiles direct investment data. The latest report is available here. Unctad also makes available the time series (includes amounts and rankings). Check it out here.

    Note the rankings for the Cayman Islands and Virgin Islands :)

    I think in the case of China, market size and potential has blinded investors. I don't think we have that advantage - one of the reasons why Indonesia has overtaken us as an FDI destination.

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  20. Hisham

    1. I just went to the UNCTAD data.Clicked on the relevant zones and gasped. Then, I fiddled around by mapping the tax haven/offshore centres list on four zones with special focus on certain names in each namely Eastern Asia (HK), Southeastern Asia (Singapork), Europe(Switzerland) and the Caribbean (Cayman and British Virgins).

    And I went 'WOW!' holding my crotch lest I squirted out something in my excitement and lose my fast!!

    I came away totally flipped, barely able to mutter "pygmy dwarfs punching above their heights like Goliaths" ;). The folks here can figure that out on their own, i guess.. Meantimes, I am game for some British Virgins!!

    Thank for the data

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  21. correction:

    ...excitement that will cost me my fast!!!

    Warrior 231

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  22. Warrior, glad you enyoed that.

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