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Ichi the Killer

Bursa Malaysia stock trading portfolio of nobody really important.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Harassment forces Arab women to cover up

Published Dec 15 2009

The sexual harassment of women in the streets, schools and work places of the Arab World is driving them to cover up and confine themselves to their homes, said activists at the first-ever regional conference addressing the once taboo topic.

Activists from 17 countries across the region met in Cairo for a two-day conference ending Monday and concluded that harassment was unchecked across the region because laws don't punish it, women don't report it and the authorities ignore it.

The harassment, including groping and verbal abuse, appears to be designed to drive women out of public spaces and seems to happen regardless of what they are wearing, they said.

Amal Madbouli, who wears the conservative face veil or niqab, told AP that despite her dress, she is harassed and described how a man came after her in the streets of her neighborhood.

"He hissed at me and kept asking me if I wanted to go with him to a quieter area, and to give him my phone number," said Madbouli, a mother of two.

"This is a national security issue. I am a mother, and I want to be reassured when my daughters go out on the streets."

This file photo shows an Egyptian girl in Cairo wearing a hijab, right, which covers the hair but leaves the face uncovered, as others in the background wear the niqab
Statistics on harassment in the region have until recently been nonexistent, but a series of studies presented at the conference hinted at the widespread nature of the problem.

As many as 90 percent of Yemeni women say they have been harassed, while in Egypt, out of a sample of 1,000, 83 percent reported being verbally or physically abused.

A study in Lebanon reported that more than 30 percent of women said they had been harassed there.

"We are facing a phenomena that is limiting women's right to move ... and is threatening women's participation in all walks of life," said Nehad Abul Komsan, an Egyptian activist who organized the event with funding from the U.N. and the Swedish development agency.

Open discussion of the harassment issue first emerged in Egypt three years ago, after blogs gave broad publicity to amateur videos showing men assaulting women in downtown Cairo during a major Muslim holiday.

The public outcry sparked an unprecedented public acknowledgment of the problem and drove the Egyptian government to consider two draft bills addressing sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment, including verbal and physical assault, has been specifically criminalized in only half a dozen Arab countries. Most of the 22 Arab states only outlaw overtly violent acts like rape, according to a study by Abul Komsan.

Participants at the conference said men are threatened by an increasingly active female labour force, with conservatives laying the blame for harassment on women's dress and behavior.

In Syria, men from traditional homes go shopping in the market place instead of female family members to spare them harassment, said Sherifa Zuhur, a Lebanese-American academic at the conference.

Abul Komsan described how one of the victims of harassment she interviewed told her she had taken on the full-face veil to stave off the hassle.

"She told me 'I have put on the niqab. By God, what more can I do so they leave me alone,"' she said, quoting the woman.

Some even said they were reconsidering going to work or school because of the constant harassment in the streets and on public transpiration.

But even in Yemen, where nearly all women are covered from head to toe, activist Amal Basha said 90 percent of women in a published study she conducted reported harassment, specifically pinching.

"The religious leaders are always blaming the women, making them live in a constant state of fear because out there, someone is following them," she said.

If a harassment case is reported in Yemen, Basha added, traditional leaders interfere to cover it up, remove the evidence or terrorize the victim.

In Saudi Arabia, another country where women cover themselves completely and are nearly totally segregated from men in public life, women report harassment as well, according to Saudi activist Majid al-Eissa.

His organization, the National Family Safety Programme, has been helping draft a law criminalizing violence against women in the conservative kingdom, where flirting can often cross the line into outright assault.

Discussion of the law begins Tuesday.

"It will take time especially in this part of the world to absorb the gender mixture and the role each gender can play in society," he said.

"We are coping with changes (of modern life), except in our minds."
- AP

Have not updated for a long time. Below are last few transactions.

Latest purchases:

OPCOM: +6,000 (0.72) ... Total 24,200

Latest disposals:

SEG: -5,000 (0.925) ... Balance 5,000

MUHIBAH: -5,000 (1.15) ... Balance 21,000

KFIMA: -10,000 (0.795) ... Balance 0

CAROTEC-OR: -5,000 (0.05) ... Balance 0

Friday, October 30, 2009

CAP stance on minimum price for cigarettes

The President of Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has lauded the Government’s move to impose a minimum price on cigarettes but hopes it would be higher -- about RM30 per pack -- to seriously deter people from smoking. (See Star article below).

Such a statement shows that this so-called President is really a mediocre, simple-minded fellow. To me, his statement lacks logic. Indeed it shows he is not really interested in the welfare of smokers at all. Under the pretense of helping smokers quit, he is instead just showing his utter prejudice and intolerance towards smokers.

If he is so concerned about other people's health, why does he not apply the same stupid logic to other things? Has he seen the statistics for deaths from road accidents? From heart disease? From high cholesterol and blocked arteries? I think these are all much higher than smoking-related deaths.

I'm no doctor. But I have read that smoking contributes no more than 20% to deaths resulting from heart disease. And heart disease is the most common cause of illness related deaths. What contributes the other 80%? Some other factors are high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), high blood pressure, obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

So following this stupid logic, CAP should call on prices of fatty foods to be increased 300% at least. Same thing for sugar. Minimum charge for one packet of santan-packed nasi lemak with chicken rendang should be RM30 too. One 2-piece KFC meal should not be cheaper than RM30. One cup of regular Coke (approx. 9 tablespoons of sugar) should be at least RM15. Satay RM5 per stick. Want peanut sauce, RM20 per plate. Chendol, ais kacang RM25 per bowl. Why let overweight people die unnecessarily? We must be fair to fat or unhealthy people too.

However, the best thing to do would be to increase the price of cars and motorbikes by 300-500%. Make the cheapest crappy Kancil cost at least RM120,000. Want a BMW 320i? Pay lah RM1million at least. Make a taxi ride from SS2 Old Town kopitiam to Damansara Uptown cost at least RM75. Masuk saja meter show RM30 minimum. Go to KL minimum charge RM150. Now, we're talking. Bus ride minimum RM25 per ticket for maximum 5 stops.

Then use all the additional money made by the government to produce and sell bicycles for RM50 each. Everyone would have to start walking or cycling everywhere. Not only would we reduce the number of road deaths, everyone would become way fitter too, leading to less deaths from heart disease. Presto! Kill two birds with one stone. Actually, three. Because air pollution from vehicle emissions would be cut drastically as well. Why never propose this? Never thought of it? Well, what excuse does he have now?

It is always easy to pick on others when it doesn’t affect yourself. That’s why so many non-smokers support such silly ideas. Once at a kenduri, I walked away from the table to have a cigarette. When I returned, this fat makcik, in between stuffing her face with food, started lecturing me and her two small children about smoking. I looked at her and her two chubby kids and thought it is not natural for a human being to look like Jabba the Hutt. In fact, I thought she probably would die from a heart attack before me.

In my personal opinion, people like this CAP fella are really insensitive, prejudiced people. They do not think about the effects on the poor. There are many smokers in the lower income group. For some, having a smoke once in a while is a welcome relief from the daily grind. It is respite from the harshness of life. You think they are stupid? That they do not know it is bad for their health? Maybe they have sacrificed many other things and pursuits just to put aside a little money for their children's education, for their family's future. And such idiots with their holier-than-thou attitude want to take away their last form of enjoyment? What if they cannot quit and keep smoking anyway? RM30 a pack, 1 pack a day... RM210 a week, RM840 a month. You can say bye-bye maybe to the children's education fund, maybe the book the daughter wanted to read, the shoes the son needed for football. Maybe the parent will steal or cheat, just to continue smoking. Who will be responsible for what happens? The CAP President?

His intentions may be good. Even that I doubt, but still it may be good. But the method is totally wrong. Unfortunately, intentions do not equate to results. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. No matter how good your intentions, if you plant a cactus seed, it will not grow to be a rosebush.

Latest purchase:

KPS: +5,000 (1.83) ... Total 5,000 (first toe in, about time to add now).


Original aricle link: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/10/30/nation/20091030153241&sec=nation

Published: Friday October 30, 2009 MYT 3:29:00 PM
CAP wants higher price for ciggies, RM30 for pack of 20


GEORGE TOWN: The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has lauded the Government’s move to impose a minimum price on cigarettes but hopes it would be higher -- about RM30 per pack -- to seriously deter people from smoking.

CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said a proposed price of RM6.20 for a pack of 20 cigarettes was “disappointingly low” and the Government needed to severely stem the sale of cheaper brands in the market for the move to have any effect.

“While CAP lauds the move mooted by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to set a minimum price for cigarettes effective from Jan 1 2010, it is disappointing to note that the price fixed is so low that it would be a futile move,” Mohamed Idris said in a press conference on Friday.

Liow had announced on Wednesday that a minimum price for packs of cigarettes would be implemented from next year in an effort to check the availability of cheaper cigarettes in the market.

Mohamed Idris suggested that a pack of 20 should be priced closer to RM30 to make an impact.

“The price of premier brand cigarettes here are significantly cheaper than those in other countries.

“For example, premier packs of 20s in Singapore are priced between RM27 to RM80 (S$11 to S$32.80),” he said.

Mohamed Idris said premium cigarettes sold in Malaysia for about RM9.30 per pack of 20 while cheaper brands were widely available from RM2.20 to RM2.50.

“In a recent survey carried out by CAP, we found that the sale of so-called ‘value brand’ cigarettes, which are actually cheap cigarette brands, have increased.

“Various brands, some of which are sold duty free in Langkawi, are easily available in places that sell cigarettes and most of these do not even carry a picture warning (of the effects of smoking) on the box,” he added.

Mohamed Idris also called for a quick halt of the sale of packs containing fewer than 20 cigarettes, as well as the sale of loose cigarettes.

“To better enforce this, a licensing system that limits the number and location of outlets allowed to sell tobacco products should be introduced, with licences that are subjected to yearly renewal.

“It is difficult to ban cigarettes altogether, but serious deterrents need to be introduced to stop people from getting cigarettes so easily,” he said, renewing CAP’s call to raise the minimum legal age of purchase of tobacco products from 18 to 21 to match the legal voting age.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Butterfly Lovers

Let's see western ballet beat this ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


24hb Ogos 2009


Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat mengutuk sekeras–kerasnya tindakan jemaah menteri meluluskan konsert Michael Learns to Rock - eternity tour 2009 : live in malaysia yang bakal berlangsung di Arena of Stars, Genting Highlands pada 5 september 2009 ini.

Konsert ini adalah suatu penghinaan besar kepada negara Malaysia dan umat Islam yang sedang menyambut bulan Ramadhan al Mubarak kini.

Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat sekali lagi mengutuk sekeras-kerasnya jemaah menteri yang membuat keputusan ini. Dimana ia adalah suatu tindakan yang kurang ajar dan penghinaan besar terhadap ummat Islam di Malaysia.

Ini menunjukkan tidak ada sedikit pun rasa hormat dan sensitiviti kerajaan UMNO/BN terhadap perasaan majoriti umat Islam dan warga pribumi di negara ini. Tarikh 05 September 2009 adalah suasana penting bagi negara ini khasnya ummat Islam yang sedang menyambut bulan ramadhan.

Pertama, ummat Islam sedang menghadapi bulan ibadah yang penuh kemuliaan dan keberkatan. Sepatutnya ia tidak dicemari oleh konsert seperti ini yang membawa masuk sekumpulan artis luar negara yang tentunya tidak mempunyai langsung sensitiviti terhadap masyarakat tempatan. Pastinya konsert ini akan membawa ummat leka dan lalai malah merosakkan moral dan akhlak mereka.

Kedua, berhadapan pula dengan ulangtahun kemerdekaan negara pada 31 Ogos. Lazimnya pihak kerajaan menganjurkan majlis tahlil di seluruh negara dan forum untuk motivasi rakyat khasnya anak–anak muda supaya mewarisi semangat patriotisme. Konsert seperti ini sekali lagi tidak akan membantu motivasi rakyat untuk menjadi rakyat yang baik, bermoral dan berdaya saing, sebaliknya hanya melemahkan moral dan mental mereka sekaligus mengheret mereka tenggelam dibawah gelora nafsu.

Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat mempersoalkan tindakan Kerajaan UMNO/BN, di mana pemimpin-pemimpin UMNO yang kononnya hendak memperjuangkan nasib umat Islam dan kaum Melayu di negara ini. Khasnya, di mana peranan dan keperihatinan Pemuda UMNO terhadap isu ini, sedangkan ini juga adalah satu penghinaan besar terhadap agama Islam.

Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat tegas menyatakan sikap, bahawa konsert seperti ini mesti dibatalkan segera dan ini adalah amaran keras kepada pihak penganjur agar tidak mencabar sensitiviti ummat Islam. Andai mereka tidak peduli amaran ini, Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat tidak teragak–agak akan mengerahkan seluruh pemuda Islam agar turun membantah Konsert tersebut daripada terus berlangsung.

Di sini, kami Pemuda PAS mencabar Pemuda UMNO untuk sama-sama membantah penganjuran konsert maksiat ini.

Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat juga menyeru dan mengajak NGO-NGO Islam seperti GPMS, PPIM, PEKIDA, ABIM, JIM, TERAS dan GAMIS turut bersama-sama membantah konsert tersebut. Ini bukan untuk kepentingan politik tetapi melibatkan maruah dan harga diri ummat Islam. Jika begini terus menerus sikap kerajaan UMNO/BN, mereka bukan sahaja jauh dari rahmat dan berkat Ilahi tetapi InsyaAllah akan terus dibuang dan dihumban oleh rakyat yang semakin hari semakin jelak dan muak dengan sikap berpura–pura Islam mereka.

Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat juga turut menggesa agar majlis fatwa dan para mufti menunjuk sikap dan menyuarakan bantahan mereka terhadap kerajaan Pusat yang membenarkan penganjuran pesta maksiat ini agar mereka tidak hanya responsif terhadap isu seperti kenyataan di manipulasi pihak media terhadap YAB Dato Tuan Guru Nik Aziz tempuh hari, tetapi diharap turut menunjuk peranan majlis fatwa itu sendiri bagi membersihkan bumi Malaysia ini dari maksiat dan mungkar tajaan kerajaan UMNO/BN.

Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat (DPPP)

Link: http://pemuda.pas.org.my/v2/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=820:bantah-konsert-michael-learns-to-rock-eternity-tour-2009-live-in-malaysia-pada-5-september-ini-di-arena-of-stars-genting-highlands&catid=15:kenyataan-media&Itemid=41


1. The above is the official media statement by Pemuda PAS, signed off by its new head. There is a lot of mention of menghina negara Malaysia dan umat Islam, mencabar sensitiviti, etc. but no explanation whatsoever as to how a concert by a group which largely sings love songs, to be held in a closed venue way up in Genting Highlands manages to achieve all that.

2. It is alright if they issue a statement to discourage Muslims from attending, but to call for a straight out ban and threaten to disrupt it? Since when did people like this Nasrudin speak for all of us? Who appointed him as our moral guardian? At least have the decency to offer some logical arguments to support your points rather than just spewing forth baseless rhetoric suited only for low-IQ people like yourself.

3. In Selangor, Hassan Ali is on a crusade against alcohol. PAS is saying others should not be worried and should not object as the new measures he is trying to implement only apply to Muslims. All right-thinking moderate Malaysians (especially those who have been vocally supporting PAS of late) should ask themselves, how far a step is it from something which only applies to Muslims to something which eventually mencabar sensitiviti somebody or other?

4. Prominent bloggers like RPK (Raja Petra) and Haris Ibrahim have been telling the previously skeptical public to give PAS a chance, since they would never control enough seats to call the shots in the event PR does form the Federal Government. Undoubtedly, this has led to a rather prominent increase in support for PAS across the board. They now owe it to the same people they so handily convinced earlier to ask, in the event PR did win the next GE, would PR risk losing their hold on power or just give in to whatever PAS demands for political expediency? This question should be asked now rather than later, before it's too late.

5. Since Pemuda PAS likes to cabar people so much, let's cabar them to come out and block the right of free Malaysians to attend this concert. Yes, come in the thousands or even better, tens of thousands ... we want to see just how many of you narrow-minded people there are out there. Now I finally get what "PAS FOR ALL" means ... it means PAS PUNYA POLICY FOR ALL ... and don't you dare complain, lest you pijak on my sensitivities.

Latest disposal:

TOMYPAK: -4,900 (1.38) ... Balance 5,000


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Latest Update

Have not updated for a while ... not really comfortable with rising market, which is kind of against personal expectations. Still, no point arguing with it. Better to trade cautiously and avoid chasing those which have run far ahead. At this point, slow gain but lower downside is better than fast gain accompanied by risk of substantial loss.

TOMYPAK has doubled recently, I still have no idea why, but thanks anyway... net asset per share is > RM1.50 (if I remember correctly based on the last quarterly disclosure), so at the 50c-60c it was prior to this move it was seriously undervalued... might still have some way to go. Coming down on miniscule volume today. Pity I sold half my position when the crisis hit, but who would've known anyway.

All recent buys below, no sells:

Latest purchases:

APB: +8,000 (0.91) ... Total 30,000

OPCOM: +18,200 (Avg 0.707) ... Total 18,200

KFIMA: +10,000 (0.62) ... Total 10,000

Was waiting and hoping to pick up more KFIMA below 60c but doesn't look like that'll happen now. Will likely not chase.


Friday, July 10, 2009

The next revolution

Another interesting article from Xie Guozhong...


Andy Xie: The next revolution

Another information revolution is unfolding. Possibly in two to three years how we access and use information will change fundamentally, which would affect the IT industry dramatically as well as the broad economy. PC still dominates information storage and processing at present. The new world is likely to shift data processing and storage to the net. New mobile technologies will allow users to remain online anytime and anywhere. All knowledge will become available instantaneously. There will be no distinctions in processing voice, video or text data. The advances in mobile phone technology are making this always-on world possible.

The speculation about arrival of this new world has been around for a long time. It is one of the competing visions on the future. In my recent visit to Taiwan I visited several major IT companies and realized how soon this world was coming and how it was impacting Taiwan’s IT businesses. One of the major implications is that PC will lose its importance in the IT world. It has far reaching consequences for East Asian economies that have invested heavily in PC related manufacturing activities.

Taiwan’s economy has benefited heavily from three factors in the past two decades: (1) China’s opening made cheap labor available to its manufacturers, (2) outsourcing trend due to the rise of big-box retailers in the US created a big market for its manufacturers, and (3) the rapid growth of the PC industry gave its tech companies room to grow fast. Taiwan’s strength in taking advantage of the three was its factory management expertise and its extensive connections in China and the US. In particular, Taiwan has assumed an important role in the PC supply chain. From components, assembly and even branding Taiwan’s PC industry has risen to global prominence. It is now a sun-setting industry.

In the new paradigm the most important function for a consumer device is connectivity and interactivity. It makes PC just one of the numerous existing and future devices. PC has two distinct disadvantages in competing against other products. First, Microsoft and Intel charge high prices for their proprietary products essential to a PC. The so-called WinTel standard served to increase competition in downstream industries. It led to declining PC prices and rising sales. However, WinTel’s monopoly charges limit how far PC prices. Also, as a PC was designed to be a self-containing device, it is loaded with expensive functions that are not valuable in a web-based world. In summary, a PC is no longer the best value for money in a web-based world.

The PC industry is already suffering from the market evolution. The DRAM industry is experiencing terrible hemorrhaging. When DRAM demand was strong, so many DRAM factories were set up, especially in East Asia. It appears that most won’t survive. One industry veteran in Taiwan told me that only three would survive. The notebook industry that has seen rapid growth in the past decade seems destined for stagnation or even declining. In a stagnant industry profit margin shrinks to the thinnest possible level.

Taiwan is suffering a terrible recession now. Its GDP shrank by over 10% in the first quarter from one year ago. The trade collapse due to the global economic collapse is the main reason. The structural changes like in the PC industry would hold Taiwan’s economy back even when the global economy recovers. In addition, the OEM trend has saturated. It will pressure profit margins on most Taiwanese factories in Mainland China. As far as I can tell, only a few Taiwanese businesses in the smartphone industry are prospering. Even there, lack of key intellectual properties relating to 3G and 4G standards could limit their prospects.

Taiwan’s economy is likely to stagnate for a long time to come. The structural problems will hold back its exports. The profitability of its export factories in the mainland will shrink. Even though some Taiwanese businesses are succeeding in China’s domestic demand, they are too small to lift Taiwan’s economy alone. Taiwan’s household wealth level is still high, which could support its consumption for the foreseeable future. But this is a stagnation story. Taiwan hasn’t really grown much in the past decade. Its living standard is stuck around $15 thousand per capita. It seems that Taiwan’s living standard will remain so for the next decade.

The same forces will also limit China’s rebound in exports. Most Taiwanese factories are in the Mainland. In addition, numerous local businesses are either suppliers to Taiwanese businesses or competing against them for export markets. Half of China’s exports are IT related products. As China is a factory for the world, what’s at stake is the relative value of hardware vs. software or service. It seems that the importance of hardware in the new world is declining. Many products that are still considered hi-tech are commoditized and losing growth. I am deeply concerned that China’s policies are still geared towards promoting such industries. Some local governments are throwing billions of dollars at attracting such commodity industries. The money may be bringing in sunset industries with few benefits for economic development.

Network contractors like China’s Huawai and ZTE are winners in this revolution. Mobile connectivity is the most important factor in contributing to the rise of this new world. The demand for networking equipment will be strong in the next few years. Network operators need to spend heavily to upgrade their networks to compete for consumers.

Even software companies may not win in this world. As the connectivity is anytime, anywhere and network is the computer, consumers can rent software on the net for temporary use and won’t have to buy it for installation on a personal or company computer. This will increase the competition among software producers as it decreases their market power from the lock-in effect. When software is no longer a fixed cost, users have more incentive to switch. Software production has a high profit margin so far precisely for this reason. In the emerging new world software producers may see their profit margins declining to the average among all industries.

Microsoft and Oracle, for example, command massive market capitalization in stock market. But they are hardly the most innovative or best quality companies. Their consumers usually complain about their products. Still they have been earning high profit margins. The reason is that their consumers have sunk huge fixed costs into their products and have low incentives to switch. The new world puts their business model into doubt. I suspect that their market capitalization will decline dramatically over the next five years.

In theory the biggest winners are the network providers like mobile phone operators. They have the best chance to control users. But, they will also have a hard time. The differences among voice, video and text services will vanish. Service providers maximize their profit margins through price discrimination against high value customers. For example, even though Chinese mobile phone operators have vast numbers of customers, a relatively small number of customers, mainly those that use their services for business purpose, contribute to most of their profits. The merging of voice, video and text will make such discrimination impossible. The service providers can only collect a simple rental fee from their customers.

The content providers should be big winners in the net world with a bigger market and less marketing cost. But they are already losing big and could lose more in the always-on world. The problem is that the existing content providers don’t know how to sell their products. Technology companies like Google have taken advantage of that and collect advertizing dollars by locating the content for its users through their search service. In the end, as content providers are starved of money, they will exit the business. The destruction of the content providers is already unfolding. Newspaper companies are struggling around the world. The always-on world will accelerate the process. Newspaper production will probably vanish in its current form.

Magazines and books could also vanish in their paper forms in the foreseeable future. Electronic paper technologies are sufficiently developed that electronic paper works as well as printed paper. They can’t change to electronic publishing easily. Books and magazines exist because the fixed cost for printing is high. They generate economies of scale in disseminating information. In the electronic paper information can be transmitted at zero cost. The justification for information aggregation with large fixed costs isn’t there. In the future people won’t get their information from fixed cost operators like newspapers, magazines and book publishers.

Of course, the above story implies that the demand for paper will collapse in the future. Paper and pulp production requires massive fixed costs. The existing capacity is probably more than enough for the foreseeable future. It would be hard to justify any new investment in this business.

One big positive of the always-on world is that it makes all the knowledge in the world available to everyone anytime. Not everyone will know how to use this advantage. Enough people will. The world will change for that. For example, education can be carried out outside of schools. Education is the biggest government monopoly allover the world. It works due to the economies of scale from the government imposing uniform standards that offset the inherent inefficiency from government control.

Healthcare is another big business to be affected by the revolution. Healthcare accounts for over one tenth of GDP. Its impact is hard to quantify. Its size and the difficulties in quantifying its effectiveness reflect information asymmetry between doctors and patients. Developed countries protect patients by giving them legal rights for ex-post legal actions against healthcare providers. That in turn causes the healthcare providers to overkill in treatment to avoid bad legal consequences. The always-on world will dramatically decrease the information asymmetry between patients and doctors. This allows people to obtain information instantaneously to verify healthcare professionals’ opinions and prescriptions. It improves the market efficiency in two ways. Patients have less need to sue doctors ex post. It decreases healthcare insurance cost and the amount of care. Hence, it reduces the need for doctors to overprescribe medicine or procedures.

This flattening of the knowledge world has profound implications for how societies will be organized and governed. Human societies are governed by elite who control information and are capable of processing it. Inflation collection, processing, and dissemination are always costly. The existence of elite reflects the need for economies of scale in handling information, which gives advantages and privileges to those who happen to handle information. This advantage often turns hereditary and leads to the formation of a permanent ruling class. The declining cost of obtaining information has already led to dramatic social changes in the past century. The final collapse of information cost to zero will accelerate the trend.

How the information revolution is destroying businesses is a classic example of Schumpeterian creative destruction. The new technology renders a significant share of the economy obsolete. Even though the technology improves efficiency overall, the unemployment that results from business destruction could keep the economy weak for an extended period of time. However, it would be wrong for governments to stop the technology. Overtime market will find alternative uses for the unemployed workers. For owners of the obsolete businesses this is an unmitigated disaster. Their capital stock would have only scrap value.

As old businesses are destroyed, new ones will emerge. The internet isn’t just a tool. It has become a world of its own. When human beings have enough food and shelter, all other activities are entertainment or earning money for buying entertainment. The cheapest entertainment is for people to amuse each other. This may be happening. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc., are mainly platforms for people to entertain each other. One can work hard to earn enough money for buying a Mercedes car. Driving it would give one certain satisfaction. Or one could spend time on the net getting entertained for free. Hence, there is no need to work hard anymore. I suspect that in the always-on world internet will decrease rather than increase productivity in traditional sense. But, people may get more satisfaction out of it.

Original link: http://www.realizechina.com/archives/241


Monday, June 29, 2009

Latest Update

1. Last week's mid-week purchase below. Rallied slightly after entry to day high of 1.82, but seemed to falter after that. Today still weak, currently down 3c to 1.75, but volume is almost non-existent at a mere 10,900 shares traded.

2. Overall (+)factors favouring purchase include i) steel price and demand recovery ii) local stimulus packages rollout picking up pace.

3. Overall (-)factors include i) global market correction ii) global economy not really recovering as expected iii) what local stimulus packages?? where??

4. Got to watch this one a bit.

Latest purchase:

SSTEEL: +10,000 (1.68) ... Total 12,000 (The other 2,000 are leftovers bought yonks ago at 1.09).

More bearish views from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard below, largely reinforcing Andy Xie's negative views on the recent surge in commodities prices and Chinese bank lending. Give it some thought...

China's banks are an accident waiting to happen to every one of us
Fitch Ratings has been warning for some time that China's lenders are wading into dangerous water

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Published: 5:38PM BST 28 Jun 2009

China's banks are veering out of control. The half-reformed economy of the People's Republic cannot absorb the $1,000bn (£600bn) blitz of new lending issued since December. Money is leaking instead into Shanghai's stock casino, or being used to keep bankrupt builders on life support. It is doing very little to help lift the world economy out of slump.

Fitch Ratings has been warning for some time that China's lenders are wading into dangerous waters, but its latest report is even grimmer than bears had suspected. "With much of the world immersed in crisis, China appears to be one of the few countries where the financial system continues to function largely without a glitch, but Fitch is growing increasingly wary," it said. "Future losses on stimulus could turn out to be larger than expected, and it is unclear what share the central and/or local governments ultimately will be willing or able to bear."

Note the phrase "able to bear". Fitch's "macro-prudential risk" indicator for China threatens to jump from category 1 (safe) to category 3 (Iceland, et al). This is a surprise to me but Michael Pettis from Beijing University says China's public debt may be as high as 50pc-70pc of GDP when "correctly counted". The regime is so hellbent on meeting its growth target of 8pc that it has given banks an implicit guarantee for what Fitch calls a "massive lending spree". Bank exposure to corporate debt has reached $4,200bn. It is rising at a 30pc rate, even as profits contract at a 35pc rate.

Fitch traces the 2009 bubble to the central bank's decision to cut interest on reserves to 0.72pc. Bankers responded to this "margin squeeze" by ramping up the volume of lending instead. Over half the new debt is short-term. Roll-over risk is rocketing. China's monetary stimulus since November is arguably more extreme than the post-Lehman printing of the US Federal Reserve, though less obvious to the untrained eye.

Under the Taylor Rule, US policy remains tight (for the US). China's policy is loose (for China). New loans doubled in May from a year earlier, almost entirely to companies. China's Banking Regulatory Commission fired a warning shot last week. "The top priority at the moment is to stop explosive lending. Banks should carefully monitor the process of credit approval and allocation, and make sure that loans flow into the real economy," it said. Unfortunately, 40pc of the "real economy" consists of exports, mostly to the US and Europe, the consequence of a mercantilist export model that has crashed and burned. Chinese exports were down 26pc in May.

World trade may be stabilizing at last after contracting at faster rate than during the early Great Depression. But it will not rebound fast in a world where the US savings rate has risen to a 15-year high of 6.9pc. A trade policy based on the assumption that debtors in the Anglosphere and Europe's Club Med can ruin themselves for ever is absurd.

Andy Xie, a Sino-bear and commentator for Caijing, said Western analysts are in for a rude shock if they think that China's surging demand for raw materials implies genuine recovery. Commodity speculators have been using cheap credit to play the arbitrage spread between futures and spot on the oil markets. They have even found ways to trade lumber to iron ore by sheer scale of leverage. "They've made everything open to speculation," he said. Mr Xie thinks the spring recovery is an inventory spike, to be followed a double-dip downturn into next year as stimulus wears off.

Reformers know what must be done to boost consumption. China needs a welfare revolution. But creating a social security net takes time, and right now Beijing is facing a social crisis as 20m jobless workers retreat to the rural hinterland. So the regime is resorting to hazardous methods to keep excess factories humming: issuing a "Buy China" decree: using a plethora of export subsidies; holding down the price of coke, bauxite, zinc and other resources to lower production costs (prompting a complaint from America and Europe); and suppressing the yuan, again.

Protectionism is a risky game for a country that lives off global trade and runs a surplus near 10pc of GDP. Mr Pettis said he fears China is nearing its "Smoot-Hawley moment", repeating the US tariff blunder of 1930 that brought the world crashing down on Washington's head. Two facts stand out about China's green shoots. While the Shanghai composite index is up 70pc since November, Chinese imports are down 25pc from a year ago. China is still draining real stimulus from the global economy.

If the world's biggest surplus state ($400bn) is too structurally deformed to help offset the demand shock as Western debtors retrench, we are trapped in a long deflation slump.

Article link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/5675198/Chinas-banks-are-an-accident-waiting-to-happen-to-every-one-of-us.html