Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Historical Revisionism: The MYR and SGD in the 1980s

I came across this a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t have time to address it then (excerpt):

A kleptocracy premium for the ringgit
P Gunasegaram

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS | Without a doubt the ringgit is historically rather weak even if the economy still continues to grow at a relatively healthy pace – the latest figures show a good growth of 5.8% for the second quarter of the year….

…So why does the ringgit remain weak, trading at levels which are weaker than at the height of the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis? What is it that is happening that keeps the ringgit level depressed? Perhaps it is due to a risk premium on the ringgit following the emergence of kleptocracy (re: 1MDB where as much as RM40 billion could be at risk, as thieves dip their fingers into money borrowed by a government company via bond issues) or apprehension over the ongoing spate of mega projects (re: the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link whose cost may go to over RM100 billion….

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Housing, Inflation and the Cost of Living

I came across a couple of really good articles over the last couple of days on the subject of housing, inflation and GDP that I wanted to share (jump to the end for a summary of both articles).

First, the treatment of housing in the construction of the Consumer Price Index, which is commonly used to measure inflation (excerpt):

Headline inflation measures shouldn’t ignore costs of home ownership
Mojmir Hampl, Tomas Havranek 12 September 2017

Statistical offices of many countries measure the costs of home ownership by computing imputed rents, which are then included in headline inflation measures. This is the case for the US, Japan, and Switzerland, among others. In contrast, the harmonised index of consumer prices (HICP) – the EU’s most important inflation statistic – excludes owner-occupied housing, for the technical reason that imputed transactions are inconsistent with the definition of the HICP, and a more complex approach based on net acquisitions would be required (Eurostat 2012, 2013).….

…Because house purchases involve a substantial investment component, their inclusion in headline inflation makes many statisticians uneasy. Conceptually, however, homes are a special case of durable goods, because they provide a claim on a stream of future services. Cecchetti (2007), for example, showed the long-term capital gain from home ownership is very small….

Friday, September 8, 2017

Effective Exchange Rate Indexes: August 2017 Update

The NEER and REER page has been updated, as has the Google Docs version.


August was not a good month for the Ringgit, with drops posted across all six indices. Most of the losses were due to safe haven buying of the JPY and EUR, along with skepticism over the trajectory of US policy, both fiscal and monetary. The result was a -1.21% mom decline in the Narrow Nominal Index and a –1.17% drop in the Real Narrow Index.

On a bilateral basis it was a mixed bag, with gains recorded against 7 out of 15 currencies. The biggest drops were against the EUR (-2.31%), the JPY (-2.21%), the CNY (-1.42%), the AUD (-1.30%), and the THB (-1.26%). The largest gains were against the PHP (+0.84%) and the GBP (+0.47%).



  1. Indexes have been updated to August 2017
  2. CPI deflators and forecasts have been updated for July/August 2017
  3. Trade weights have been updated to 2Q2017, which entails revisions for Mar-Jul 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Guys, This Argument Is A Total Waste Of Time

YB Rafizi Ramli is claiming that income tax collection has exceeded the rate of growth of the economy (excerpt, emphasis added):


…Maknanya, dalam tahun 2017 ini pentadbiran Dato’ Seri Najib dijangka akan mengutip hampir sekali ganda lebih banyak cukai pendapatan (pada jumlah RM112 bilion) berbanding kutipan tujuh tahun lalu iaitu 2010 semasa beliau mula-mula menjadi Perdana Menteri (pada jumlah RM60.3 bilion).

Malah, kenaikan purata tahunan sepanjang tempoh 2010 ke 2017 (disebut cumulative annual growth rate atau CAGR) adalah 11%, iaitu kadar bertambahnya kutipan cukai tahunan secara purata di antara 2010 ke 2017 sebanyak 11% setiap tahun….

…1. Pertumbuhan ekonomi negara hanyalah sekitar 5% sahaja dalam tempoh yang sama. Jika ekonomi tumbuh hanya 5%, maknanya rakyat tidak merasa kenaikan gaji yang mendadak dan peniaga juga tidak merasa keuntungan yang mendadak yang membolehkan LHDN mengutip cukai yang lebih tinggi

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Teaching Moments

Angst over GST seems to be rising, or at least being more deliberately aired. I’m feeling like a broken record (for those under the age of 40, this is what that phrase means).

First up (except):

On Bruce Gale’s Najibnomics
By TK Chua

…The author wrote as if 1MDB, FGV and the controversial Arab donation are trivial matters. Are these not matters closely related to the poor governance, malfeasance and lack of confidence that the country is facing now? How else is the management of an economy perceived to be in good hands if not through the manner in which public finance is managed?

The author talked about “inherited” problems, such as public debt, which is strictly not the fault of the current administration. It was due to a single year’s pump priming in 2009 when the present prime minister first assumed office.

Perhaps it is time for the author to look further afield – at off budget agencies, public enterprises and GLCs, the massive loans of which are guaranteed by the federal government. Perhaps he should also look at new loans to be disbursed soon on new mega projects such as the ECRL and other gateways, the viability of which are deemed doubtful by many….