IMF Article IV Consultations with Malaysia

March 11, 2018

IMF Article IV Consultations with Malaysia

The Economic News is not bad for Malaysia.  But the politics is something we as Malaysians must worry about. The regime in power is playing with race and religion to keep Malay votes and retain power. As a result, Malaysia is today a divided nation. Corruption is also at an all time high. Understandably the IMF scrupulously avoids commenting on  the state of politics –Din Merican

A New Landmark  under construction in Kuala Lumpur

The IMF Executive Board has recently concluded the Annual Article IV consultations with Malaysia. The Fund has issued a number of documents relating to the consultations. These highly nuanced documents are in a sense a report card on the performance of the Malaysian economy. They also highlight areas in which policy reforms are recommended. In the current round, there were a few issues on which there was no convergence of views.


International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Publication Date: March 7, 2018

Electronic Access:

Free Full Text. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file

The full report and related documents can be downloaded from the above site.  Additional documents are listed below:


MF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with Malaysia

March 7, 2018

On February 9, 2018, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation[1] with Malaysia.

 The Malaysian economy has shown resilience in recent years despite external shocks and has continued to perform well. Progress was made toward achieving high income status and improving inclusion. Median household income has risen further and the already-low national poverty ratio declined. Real GDP growth has surprised on the upside in 2017, and is estimated at 5.8 percent for the year, driven by domestic demand and robust exports. While headline consumer price inflation went up to 3.8 percent in 2017 due to higher oil prices, core inflation and credit growth are contained. On the external side, the current account surplus is estimated to increase to 2.8 percent of GDP, helped by strong exports.

Growth is projected to start to decelerate from its 2017 peak, remaining above potential at 5.3 percent in 2018, and converging to its potential rate of close to 5 percent in the medium term. In 2018, headline inflation is expected to moderate to 3.2 percent, as the response of core inflation to a positive output gap is partly offset by lower contribution from oil prices. The current account surplus is expected to soften to 2.4 percent of GDP in 2018, as export growth normalizes.

Risks to the growth outlook are balanced. On the external side, downside risks include a global retreat from cross-border integration, structurally weak growth in advanced economies, and a significant China slowdown, while a speedy approval and implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and possibly lingering strong global demand for electronics are upside risks. Domestically, the confidence effects related to the cyclical upturn could be stronger than anticipated, while exposures in the real estate sector pose a downside risk.

Executive Board Assessment[2]

Executive Directors commended the authorities for the strong and resilient performance of the Malaysian economy, underpinned by accommodative monetary policy and gradual fiscal consolidation. While growth will likely remain above potential in 2018, inflationary pressures appear contained, and risks to the outlook are balanced. Going forward, Directors emphasized the importance of supporting economic growth while maintaining stability, as well as raising productivity through structural reform.

Directors agreed with the planned pace of fiscal consolidation in 2018, noting that it will help build buffers while maintaining financial market confidence. Going forward, they supported a gradual consolidation path consistent with the authorities’ fiscal anchor, which would help build additional fiscal space. Directors advised that fiscal consolidation should prioritize higher revenue, to facilitate the adoption of fiscal measures to support external rebalancing. They encouraged further progress on the fiscal structural agenda, including efforts to strengthen fiscal transparency and risk management.

Directors supported the January increase in the monetary policy rate, and agreed that the current policy stance is appropriately biased toward less accommodation while remaining supportive of demand. Noting that Bank Negara Malaysia’s monetary policy framework has served the country well, Directors recommended that monetary policy and exchange rate flexibility remain the first line of defense against shocks.

Directors welcomed improvements in the depth and liquidity of onshore financial markets during 2017 following the Financial Markets Committee (FMC) measures that liberalized and increased the flexibility of onshore hedging instruments, as well as a general rebound of capital inflows to emerging markets. They supported the consultative and inclusive approach adopted by the FMC in developing these measures, and encouraged the authorities to build on these successes to address any further gaps in financial market development. Some Directors urged the authorities to phase out—in a manner that preserves financial stability—the measures assessed by staff as capital flow management measures. A few other Directors, however, were of the view that there should be a greater openness to other approaches to promoting the authorities’ development objectives. Directors urged the authorities to continue a constructive dialogue with staff on these issues.

Directors agreed that financial sector risks appear contained, with sound bank profitability and liquidity, and low nonperforming loans. Nonetheless, they noted that vulnerabilities in household mortgages and the property development sector require vigilance, and recommended taking any necessary steps to mitigate risks. They encouraged the development of a rental real estate market. Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to take further actions to address deficiencies in Malaysia’s AML/CFT framework.

Directors commended the authorities’ emphasis on raising productivity and investment and encouraged further labor market reforms. Priority should be given to measures that encourage female labor force participation, improve the quality of education, reduce skills mismatches, and bolster public infrastructure and the regulatory framework to further encourage private investment.

How is the economy doing?

Image result for Malaysia: Selected Economic and Financial Indicators

Malaysia’s economy is showing resilience and is performing strongly. Growth is running above potential, driven by strong global demand for electronics and improved terms of trade for commodities, such as oil and gas. On the domestic front, Malaysia’s strong employment is boosting private consumption, and investment is also helping to drive growth.


Has Trumphoria Finally Hit a Wall?

February 6, 2018

Has Trumphoria Hit a Wall?Paul Krugman

When talking about stock markets, there are three rules you have to remember. First, the stock market is not the economy. Second, the stock market is not the economy. Third, the stock market is not the economy.

So the market plunge of the past few days might mean nothing at all. On one side, don’t assume that there was a good reason for the slide (although the fact that the Dow fell 666 points on Friday hints either at satanic forces or at some mystical link with the Kushner family’s bum investment at 666 Fifth Avenue). When stocks crashed in 1987, the economist Robert Shiller carried out a real-time survey of investor motivations; it turned out that the crash was essentially a pure self-fulfilling panic. People weren’t selling because some news item caused them to revise their views about stock values; they sold because they saw that other people were selling.

Image result for Donald Trump and Wall Street

And on the other side, don’t assume that the stock price decline tells us much about the economic future, either. The great economist Paul Samuelson famously quipped that the stock market had predicted nine of the past five recessions. That 1987 crash, for example, was followed not by a recession, but by solid growth.

Still, market turmoil should make us take a hard look at the economy’s prospects. And what the data say, I’d argue, is that at the very least America is heading for a downshift in its growth rate; the available evidence suggests that growth over the next decade will be something like 1.5 percent a year, not the 3 percent Donald Trump and his minions keep promising.

There are also suggestions in the data that risky assets in general — stocks, but also long-term bonds and real estate — may be overpriced. Leaving Bitcoin madness aside, we’re not talking dot-coms in 2000 or houses in 2006. But standard indicators are well above historically normal levels, and a reversion toward those norms could be painful.

About that plummet: If there was any news item behind it, it was Friday’s employment report, which showed a significant although not huge rise in wages. Now, rising wages are a good thing. In fact, the failure of wages to rise much until now has been a deeply frustrating deficiency in the otherwise impressively durable economic recovery that began early in the Obama administration.

But we’re now seeing fairly strong evidence that the U.S. economy is nearing full employment. The low measured unemployment rate is only part of the story. There’s also the growing willingness of workers to quit their jobs, something they don’t do unless they’re confident of finding new employment. And now wages are finally rising, suggesting that workers are gaining bargaining power, too.

Again, this is all good news. But it does mean that future U.S. growth can’t come from putting the unemployed back to work. It has to come either from growth in the pool of potential workers or from rising productivity, that is, more output per worker.

Image result for Trump and the Ostrich

Did the markets believe Trump? At the very least, they’ve been acting as if the U.S. economy still had lots of room to run; throwing cold water on that belief should mean both higher interest rates and lower stock prices, which is what we’re seeing.

But should we be worried about something worse than a mere downshift in growth? Well, asset prices do look high: A widely used gauge of stock valuations puts them at a 15-year high, while a conceptually similar measure says that housing prices have retraced a bit less than half the rise that culminated in the great housing bust.

Individually, these numbers aren’t that alarming: Stocks, as I said, don’t look nearly as overvalued as they did in 2000, housing not nearly as overvalued as it was in 2006. On the other hand, this time both markets look overvalued at the same time, at least raising the possibility of a double-bubble burst like the one that hit Japan at the end of the 1980s.

Image result for Fed Chairman Jay Powell

Fed Chairman Jerome ‘Jay’ Powell– How well he would handle a crisis if one developed, asks Dr. Krugman

And if asset prices take a hit, we might expect consumers — who have been spending heavily and saving very little — to pull back. Still, all of this would be manageable if key policymakers could be counted on to act effectively. Which is where I get worried.

It’s surely not a good thing that Trump got rid of one of the most distinguished Federal Reserve chairs in history just before markets started to flash some warning signs. Jerome Powell, Janet Yellen’s replacement, seems like a reasonable guy. But we have no idea how well he would handle a crisis if one developed.

Image result for Donald Trump and Wall Street

Secretary of the Treasury–Steven Mnuchin

Meanwhile, the current Secretary of the Treasury — who declared of Davos, “I don’t think it’s a hangout for globalists” — may be the least distinguished, least informed individual ever to hold that position.

So are we heading for trouble? Too soon to tell. But if we are, rest assured that we’ll have the worst possible people on the case.

Image result for Paul KrugmanDr. Paul Krugman


Cut PMO spending, mega-projects to curb ballooning public debt, says Dr Jomo

February 4, 2018

Cut PMO spending, mega-projects to curb ballooning public debt, says  Dr Jomo

by Bede Hong

Cut PMO spending, mega-projects to curb ballooning public debt, says economist

Economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram says there is urgent need for greater transparency and accountability in ‘off-budget’ infrastructure spending, which is not part of the federal government budget and is thereby unaccountable to Parliament. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, February 4, 2018.

UNCHECKED overspending by the Prime Minister’s Office and disproportionate allocation of development funds have led to the official government debt fast approaching RM700 billion, said a prominent economist.

Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram said there was an urgent need for greater transparency and accountability in “off-budget” infrastructure spending, which is not part of the federal government budget and is thereby unaccountable to Parliament.

“What Malaysia needs now is more appropriate development expenditure, not yet more operating expenditure, especially for the PMO, which has grown more than tenfold and has centralised power like never before,” Jomo told The Malaysian Insight in a telephone interview recently.

“Meanwhile, most infrastructure spending is not on the federal budget, and often involves dubious public-private partnerships, further reducing transparency and accountability, as (witnessed in) the recent rush to start the ECRL (East Coast Rail Line).”

Jomo recommended that allocations to the PMO be slashed to lower rising debt. The PMO was allocated RM17.43 billion in Budget 2018, almost double the RM8.938 billion it received in 2008.

Image result for tun razak exchangeTun Razak Exchange

Mega-projects such as the ECRL, Tun Razak Exchange, and Bandar Malaysia should also be scrutinised by an independent bipartisan parliamentary committee chaired by a member of the opposition party, said Jomo.

In the case of the 688km ECRL, should the rail system, which costs RM55 billion, nearly 8% of Malaysia’s public debt, fail to generate the expected level of demand and return on investment, it can put the government highly in debt to China.

Image result for ecrl project malaysia

“ECRL would never pay for itself. Right now, the estimated government debt is large and it is growing very fast. When you talk about debt, you have to consider both the official debt as well as the government guaranteed debt.

“And because there’s no accountability for the government guaranteed debt, there’s a lot of room for hanky-panky. There’s hardly any reporting and so on.”

Jomo said there was also a need to prevent abuse of public-private partnerships, as “ultimately it is the public that bears the costs or the bulk of the risks, while the profits mainly accrue to the private partner”.

Jomo, a Visiting Fellow at the Khazanah Research Institute, has been a vocal critic of the government’s rising operation expenditure, which has grown an average 6% yearly for the last 10 years.

Operations spending grew from RM123.10 billion in 2007 to RM219.91 billion in 2017, exceeding Malaysia’s revenue which grew at an average of 4.9% yearly since 2007, when revenue stood at RM139.9 billion to RM225.34 billion in 2017.

Federal debt during the same period rose 10% annually from RM123 billion in 2007 to RM687.43 billion as at September 2017.

A recent report by The Edge Markets revealed that going by an annual growth rate of 10.7%, Malaysia’s debt could reach RM1 trillion by 2021 on excessive spending.

By the same projection, Malaysia’s debt could reach RM2 trillion in 2028 and RM3 trillion in 2032.

Funds diverted to service debt*

View story at


Jomo said high public debt, if left unaddressed long-term, would put the country at risk of default.  “Taking on debt for productive uses is generally desirable. However, much of the recent debt is not being used productively. Also, the government should be paying down debt or reducing debt when the economy is growing and incurring debt when there is a slowdown. However, for the last 10 years or more, we have just been taking on more and more debt, even when we claim the economy is growing well, which is usually seen as fiscally irresponsible,” he said.

Jomo said servicing the interest for high public debt diverted funds from other sectors, which would benefit the people, such as healthcare or education.

“Apparently that is the case in Malaysia where, allocations to public universities have been cut by more than half in the last two years,” he said.

While he acknowledged the need for development expenditure for the economy to progress, Jomo said the funding should be more targeted and “appropriate”.

“They should fund research, for example, to increase the productivity of oil palm by increasing its productive life span to 90 years from the current 25 years.Malaysia’s most successful industrialisation story is not electronics, which is controlled by foreign companies but palm oil, which is controlled by Malaysia,” he said.


View story at

Fareed Zakaria looks back at President Trump in Davos 2018

January 2, 2018

Fareed Zakaria looks back at President Trump in Davos 2018

Image result for Fareed Zakaria in Davos 2018

“I don’t seek to normalize Trump. But I do believe that, given the stakes, the United States and the world are better off for these moments when he behaves more like a normal President.”–Fareed Zakaria

by Dr.Fareed Zakaria

Image result for Fareed Zakaria in Davos 2018

Ever since Donald Trump was elected President, I have said that when he did something right, I would say so. That’s gotten me into trouble with some readers, but I’m going to do it again. On Friday at the World Economic Forum, Trump gave a good speech that was forthright, intelligent and conciliatory, embracing the world rather than condemning it. The address was extremely well received here at the World Economic Forum by both American business leaders and even non-American attendees, who are overwhelmingly skeptical of Trump overall.

If the speech represents a new approach for the President, it will be a huge step forward. But of course, the problem with Trump is that, by tomorrow morning, he might veer off in an entirely different direction.

The Trump Presidency has been composed of three parts. Trump I is the circus — the tweets, the outlandish claims, the reality-TV-like show. Trump II is the dark populism and the demagogic assaults on minorities, the press and the judiciary. Trump III is the conventional Republican president, following a fairly standard GOP agenda — tax cuts, deregulation and a hawkish foreign policy, guided by mainstream advisers such as National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

We could be entertained by the circus, and we should be appalled by the demagogue, but we have to be encouraged by Trump the Republican. That’s not because I agree with all the ideas he has put forth in his agenda. I continue to think the tax cut is fiscally irresponsible, blowing a huge hole in the deficit that will starve public investment and effectively transfer government resources from the poor to the rich. On the other hand, his deregulatory push could be an important reform of an administrative state that has grown burdensome and overly complex. Trump’s policies and cheerleading rhetoric have undoubtedly boosted business confidence, which, as former Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers has often noted, is the cheapest economic stimulus.

But whatever you think of the policies, the larger point is that Trump the conventional Republican is working within the American system rather than trying to destroy it.

It’s possible that the weight of the Presidency and the challenges of the job have pushed Trump toward a more sober and responsible path. But it is also possible that Trump simply decided, for now, to side with his moderate advisers. He often seems to be an unstable compound of Trumps I, II and III, in a single day tweeting out juvenile absurdities and lashing out at democratic institutions but then also promoting some sensible policy. Even at Davos, he couldn’t stop himself from attacking the news media and repeatedly making false or misleading claims.

The mood at the World Economic Forum is often an interesting indicator because, while it is an elite gathering of business leaders, it also involves lots of people from nonprofits, social enterprises, politics and the media. The forum is also genuinely global, drawing people from around the world, far more than any other conference I have attended.

The mood this year in Davos was upbeat. The world is experiencing synchronous global growth, something very rare. The U.S. economy is humming, Europe is having a solid recovery and Japan has (utterly unexpectedly) had seven consecutive quarters of growth. China continues to power along, India is rising, and Latin America has many success stories, as does Africa. Markets reflect this. They are almost all up at the same time — stocks, bonds, real estate, oil.

But underneath this good cheer, there is disquiet. Partly this is because people remember the optimistic mood just before the global recession hit. But there is also unease that while global economies look reasonably stable, global politics are in turmoil. The old world order created and led by the United States is eroding, and new great powers are entering the stage, most of them illiberal, mercantilist and narrow-minded. What will the world look like when China, Russia, Turkey and India have much more weight in global affairs?


US President Donald J. Trump’s First State of the Union Address to US Congress

February 1, 2018

US President Donald J. Trump’s First State of the Union Address to US Congress

Image result for trump  in Congress state of the Union

(CNN)–President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address on Tuesday. Read the President’s speech as prepared for delivery and released by the White House:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and my fellow Americans:

Less than 1 year has passed since I first stood at this podium, in this majestic chamber, to speak on behalf of the American People — and to address their concerns, their hopes, and their dreams. That night, our new Administration had already taken swift action. A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land.

Each day since, we have gone forward with a clear vision and a righteous mission — to make America great again for all Americans

Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success. We have faced challenges we expected, and others we could never have imagined. We have shared in the heights of victory and the pains of hardship. We endured floods and fires and storms. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul, and the steel in America’s spine.

Each test has forged new American heroes to remind us who we are, and show us what we can be.

We saw the volunteers of the “Cajun Navy,” racing to the rescue with their fishing boats to save people in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane.We saw strangers shielding strangers from a hail of gunfire on the Las Vegas strip.

We heard tales of Americans like Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashlee Leppert, who is here tonight in the gallery with Melania. Ashlee was aboard one of the first helicopters on the scene in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. Through 18 hours of wind and rain, Ashlee braved live power lines and deep water, to help save more than 40 lives. Thank you, Ashlee.

We heard about Americans like firefighter David Dahlberg. He is here with us too. David faced down walls of flame to rescue almost 60 children trapped at a California summer camp threatened by wildfires.

To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.

Some trials over the past year touched this chamber very personally. With us tonight is one of the toughest people ever to serve in this House — a guy who took a bullet, almost died, and was back to work three and a half months later: the legend from Louisiana, Congressman Steve Scalise.

We are incredibly grateful for the heroic efforts of the Capitol Police Officers, the Alexandria Police, and the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who saved his life, and the lives of many others in this room.

In the aftermath of that terrible shooting, we came together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the people. But it is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy. Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.

Over the last year, the world has seen what we always knew: that no people on Earth are so fearless, or daring, or determined as Americans. If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there is a frontier, we cross it. If there is a challenge, we tame it. If there is an opportunity, we seize it.

So let us begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our Union is strong because our people are strong. And together, we are building a safe, strong, and proud America.

Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone. After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.

Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low. African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded, and Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history.

Small business confidence is at an all-time high. The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts.

And just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.  Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.

To lower tax rates for hardworking Americans, we nearly doubled the standard deduction for everyone. Now, the first $24,000 earned by a married couple is completely tax-free. We also doubled the child tax credit.

A typical family of four making $75,000 will see their tax bill reduced by $2,000 — slashing their tax bill in half.

This April will be the last time you ever file under the old broken system — and millions of Americans will have more take-home pay starting next month.

We eliminated an especially cruel tax that fell mostly on Americans making less than $50,000 a year — forcing them to pay tremendous penalties simply because they could not afford government-ordered health plans. We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare — the individual mandate is now gone.

We slashed the business tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent, so American companies can compete and win against anyone in the world. These changes alone are estimated to increase average family income by more than $4,000. Small businesses have also received a massive tax cut, and can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.

Here tonight are Steve Staub and Sandy Keplinger of Staub Manufacturing — a small business in Ohio. They have just finished the best year in their 20-year history. Because of tax reform, they are handing out raises, hiring an additional 14 people, and expanding into the building next door.

One of Staub’s employees, Corey Adams, is also with us tonight. Corey is an all-American worker. He supported himself through high school, lost his job during the 2008 recession, and was later hired by Staub, where he trained to become a welder. Like many hardworking Americans, Corey plans to invest his tax‑cut raise into his new home and his two daughters’ education. Please join me in congratulating Corey.

Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands of dollars per worker. Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.

This is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream. So to every citizen watching at home tonight — no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.

Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of Nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family.

We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag. Together, we are rediscovering the American way.

In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of the American life. Our motto is “in God we trust.” And we celebrate our police, our military, and our amazing veterans as heroes who deserve our total and unwavering support.

Here tonight is Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old boy from Redding, California, who noticed that veterans’ graves were not marked with flags on Veterans Day. He decided to change that, and started a movement that has now placed 40,000 flags at the graves of our great heroes. Preston: a job well done.

Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans. Preston’s reverence for those who have served our Nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.

Americans love their country. And they deserve a Government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return.For the last year we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their Government.

Working with the Senate, we are appointing judges who will interpret the Constitution as written, including a great new Supreme Court Justice, and more circuit court judges than any new administration in the history of our country.

We are defending our Second Amendment, and have taken historic actions to protect religious liberty.

And we are serving our brave veterans, including giving our veterans choice in their healthcare decisions. Last year, the Congress passed, and I signed, the landmark VA Accountability Act. Since its passage, my Administration has already removed more than 1,500 VA employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve — and we are hiring talented people who love our vets as much as we do.

I will not stop until our veterans are properly taken care of, which has been my promise to them from the very beginning of this great journey.

All Americans deserve accountability and respect — and that is what we are giving them. So tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good workers — and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.

In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history. We have ended the war on American Energy — and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.

In Detroit, I halted Government mandates that crippled America’s autoworkers — so we can get the Motor City revving its engines once again.

Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we have not seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan; Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama. Soon, plants will be opening up all over the country. This is all news Americans are unaccustomed to hearing — for many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us. But now they are coming back.

Exciting progress is happening every day.

To speed access to breakthrough cures and affordable generic drugs, last year the FDA approved more new and generic drugs and medical devices than ever before in our history.

We also believe that patients with terminal conditions should have access to experimental treatments that could potentially save their lives.

People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure — I want to give them a chance right here at home. It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the “right to try.”

One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my Administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down.

America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our Nation’s wealth.

Image result for Trump The era of economic surrender is over

The era of economic surrender is over.  From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal.

We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones. And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules. As we rebuild our industries, it is also time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just 1 year — is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?

I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.

Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.

Every Federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment — to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.

Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process — getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one. Together, we can reclaim our building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.

We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work. We want every child to be safe in their home at night. And we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we love. We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity.

As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential. And let us support working families by supporting paid family leave.

As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.

Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families.

For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.

Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens. Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th Birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders. Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors ‑- and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school.

Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy, and Robert: Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you. And 320 million hearts are breaking for you. We cannot imagine the depth of your sorrow, but we can make sure that other families never have to endure this pain.

Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country. We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol Agents, so that this cannot ever happen again.

The United States is a compassionate nation. We are proud that we do more than any other country to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world. But as President of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, and my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities. I want our youth to grow up to achieve great things. I want our poor to have their chance to rise.

So tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties — Democrats and Republicans — to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed. My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.

Here tonight is one leader in the effort to defend our country: Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez — he goes by CJ. CJ served 15 years in the Air Force before becoming an ICE agent and spending the last 15 years fighting gang violence and getting dangerous criminals off our streets. At one point, MS-13 leaders ordered CJ’s murder. But he did not cave to threats or fear. Last May, he commanded an operation to track down gang members on Long Island. His team has arrested nearly 400, including more than 220 from MS-13. CJ: Great work.

Now let us get the Congress to send you some reinforcements. Over the next few weeks, the House and Senate will be voting on an immigration reform package.

In recent months, my Administration has met extensively with both Democrats and Republicans to craft a bipartisan approach to immigration reform. Based on these discussions, we presented the Congress with a detailed proposal that should be supported by both parties as a fair compromise — one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs.

Here are the four pillars of our plan:

The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age — that covers almost three times more people than the previous administration. Under our plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States.

The second pillar fully secures the border. That means building a wall on the Southern border, and it means hiring more heroes like CJ to keep our communities safe. Crucially, our plan closes the terrible loopholes exploited by criminals and terrorists to enter our country — and it finally ends the dangerous practice of “catch and release.”

The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people. It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system — one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.

The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future.

In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration. In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we can no longer afford. It is time to reform these outdated immigration rules, and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century.

These four pillars represent a down-the-middle compromise, and one that will create a safe, modern, and lawful immigration system. For over 30 years, Washington has tried and failed to solve this problem. This Congress can be the one that finally makes it happen.

Most importantly, these four pillars will produce legislation that fulfills my ironclad pledge to only sign a bill that puts America first. So let us come together, set politics aside, and finally get the job done.

These reforms will also support our response to the terrible crisis of opioid and drug addiction. In 2016, we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses: 174 deaths per day. Seven per hour. We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge.

My Administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need. The struggle will be long and difficult — but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.

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As we have seen tonight, the most difficult challenges bring out the best in America. We see a vivid expression of this truth in the story of the Holets family of New Mexico. Ryan Holets is 27 years old, and an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department. He is here tonight with his wife Rebecca. Last year, Ryan was on duty when he saw a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin. When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep. She told him she did not know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby.

In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him: “You will do it — because you can.” He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids. Then, he went home to tell his wife Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new daughter Hope.

Ryan and Rebecca: You embody the goodness of our Nation. Thank you, and congratulations.

As we rebuild America’s strength and confidence at home, we are also restoring our strength and standing abroad.

Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values.

In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense. For this reason, I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military.

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As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression. Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.

Last year, I also pledged that we would work with our allies to extinguish ISIS from the face of the Earth. One year later, I am proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria. But there is much more work to be done. We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated.

Army Staff Sergeant Justin Peck is here tonight. Near Raqqa last November, Justin and his comrade, Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy, were on a mission to clear buildings that ISIS had rigged with explosives so that civilians could return to the city.

Clearing the second floor of a vital hospital, Kenton Stacy was severely wounded by an explosion. Immediately, Justin bounded into the booby-trapped building and found Kenton in bad shape. He applied pressure to the wound and inserted a tube to reopen an airway. He then performed CPR for 20 straight minutes during the ground transport and maintained artificial respiration through 2 hours of emergency surgery.

Kenton Stacy would have died if not for Justin’s selfless love for a fellow warrior. Tonight, Kenton is recovering in Texas. Raqqa is liberated. And Justin is wearing his new Bronze Star, with a “V” for “Valor.” Staff Sergeant Peck: All of America salutes you.

Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil. When possible, we annihilate them. When necessary, we must be able to detain and question them. But we must be clear: Terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful enemy combatants. And when captured overseas, they should be treated like the terrorists they are.

In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi. So today, I am keeping another promise. I just signed an order directing Secretary Mattis to reexamine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay.

I am also asking the Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al-Qa’ida, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists — wherever we chase them down.

Our warriors in Afghanistan also have new rules of engagement. Along with their heroic Afghan partners, our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies our plans.

Last month, I also took an action endorsed unanimously by the Senate just months before: I recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Shortly afterwards, dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America’s sovereign right to make this recognition. American taxpayers generously send those same countries billions of dollars in aid every year.

That is why, tonight, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to America’s friends. As we strengthen friendships around the world, we are also restoring clarity about our adversaries.

When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.

I am asking the Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal.

My Administration has also imposed tough sanctions on the communist and socialist dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela. But no regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea.

North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening.

Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.

We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies.

Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia. On his way to study abroad in Asia, Otto joined a tour to North Korea. At its conclusion, this wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state. After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June — horribly injured and on the verge of death. He passed away just days after his return.

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Fred and Cindy Warmbier– “Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.”–Donald Trump

Otto’s Parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are with us tonight — along with Otto’s brother and sister, Austin and Greta. You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all.  Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.

Finally, we are joined by one more witness to the ominous nature of this regime. His name is Mr. Ji Seong-ho.

In 1996, Seong-ho was a starving boy in North Korea. One day, he tried to steal coal from a railroad car to barter for a few scraps of food. In the process, he passed out on the train tracks, exhausted from hunger. He woke up as a train ran over his limbs. He then endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain. His brother and sister gave what little food they had to help him recover and ate dirt themselves — permanently stunting their own growth. Later, he was tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a brief visit to China. His tormentors wanted to know if he had met any Christians. He had — and he resolved to be free.


Seong-ho traveled thousands of miles on crutches across China and Southeast Asia to freedom. Most of his family followed. His father was caught trying to escape, and was tortured to death.

Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears the most ‑- the truth.

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Today he has a new leg, but Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come. Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all. Seong-ho’s story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom.

It was that same yearning for freedom that nearly 250 years ago gave birth to a special place called America. It was a small cluster of colonies caught between a great ocean and a vast wilderness. But it was home to an incredible people with a revolutionary idea: that they could rule themselves. That they could chart their own destiny. And that, together, they could light up the world.

That is what our country has always been about. That is what Americans have always stood for, always strived for, and always done.

Atop the dome of this Capitol stands the Statue of Freedom. She stands tall and dignified among the monuments to our ancestors who fought and lived and died to protect her. Monuments to Washington and Jefferson — to Lincoln and King. Memorials to the heroes of Yorktown and Saratoga — to young Americans who shed their blood on the shores of Normandy, and the fields beyond. And others, who went down in the waters of the Pacific and the skies over Asia.

And freedom stands tall over one more monument: this one. This Capitol. This living monument to the American people. A people whose heroes live not only in the past, but all around us — defending hope, pride, and the American way.

They work in every trade. They sacrifice to raise a family. They care for our children at home. They defend our flag abroad. They are strong moms and brave kids. They are firefighters, police officers, border agents, medics, and Marines.

But above all else, they are Americans. And this Capitol, this city, and this Nation, belong to them. Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to protect them, and to always be worthy of them.

Americans fill the world with art and music. They push the bounds of science and discovery. And they forever remind us of what we should never forget: The people dreamed this country. The people built this country. And it is the people who are making America great again.

As long as we are proud of who we are, and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve. As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail. Our families will thrive. Our people will prosper. And our Nation will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and free.

Thank you, and God bless America.

Wealth Concentration Continues to Increase

January 23, 2018

Wealth Concentration Continues to Increase

SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, January 23, 2018 (IPS) – As the ‘masters of the universe’ gather for their annual retreat at Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has just published its Inclusive Development Index (IDI) for the second time.

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After moderating from the 1920s until the 1970s, inequality has grown with a vengeance from the 1980s as neoliberal ascendance unleashing regressive reforms on various fronts.

Sensing the growing outrage at earlier neo-liberal reforms and their consequences, as well as the financial sector bail-outs and fiscal austerity after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, politicians and business leaders have expressed concerns about inequality’s resurgence.

The record is more nuanced. While national level inequalities have grown in most economies over the last four decades, international income disparities between North and South have actually narrowed, largely due to growth accelerations in much of the latter.

But while income inequality trends have been mixed, wealth concentration has picked up steam, recently enabled by the low cost of credit, thanks to ‘unconventional monetary policies’ in the North.

According to the World Inequality Report 2018, the top 1% in the world had twice as much income growth as the bottom half since 1980. Meanwhile, income growth has been sluggish or even flat for those with incomes between the bottom half and the top 1%. Oxfam’s new Reward Work, Not Wealth report reveals that the world’s wealthiest 1% got 82% of the wealth generated in 2017, while the bottom 50% saw no increase at all!

The world’s 500 richest, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, became US$1 trillion richer during 2017, “more than four times” the gain in 2016, as their wealth increased by 23%, taking their combined fortunes to US$5.3 trillion. According to the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017, there are now 1,542 US dollar billionaires in the world, after 145 more joined their ranks in 2016.

Worsening wealth inequality

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Meanwhile, the latest Credit Suisse Report found that the world’s richest 1% increased their share of total wealth from 42.5% at the height of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017, or US$140 trillion.

It shows that the bottom half together owned less than 1% of global wealth, while the richest 10% owned 88% of all wealth, and the top 1% alone accounted for half of all assets. Thus, global household debt rose by nearly 5% in 2017 despite total wealth increasing by US$16.7 trillion, or 6.4%.

The Report attributes this to uneven asset price inflation with financial asset prices growing much faster than non-financial asset values. Recent unconventional monetary policies of the world’s major central banks contributed to such asset price inflation.

The European Central Bank has acknowledged that quantitative easing (QE) has fuelled asset price inflation. Kevin Warsh, a former US Federal Reserve Board member, has argued that QE has only worked through the ‘asset price channel’, enriching those who own financial assets, not the 96% who mainly rely on income from labour.

An IMF study found that ‘fiscal consolidation’, typically involving austerity, has significantly worsened inequality, depressed labour income shares and increased long-term unemployment.

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MOZAMBIQUE, Beira, Grande Hotel, opened 1955 during portuguese colonial time, today some thousand homeless people living here.

Another IMF research report shows that capital account liberalization — typically recommended to attract foreign capital inflows without due attention to the consequences of sudden outflows — has generally significantly and persistently increased national-level inequalities.

The World Inequality Report 2018 also observed that rising income inequality has largely been driven by unequal wealth ownership. Privatization in most countries since the 1980s has resulted in negative ‘public wealth’ — public assets minus public debt — in rich countries, even as national wealth has grown substantially. Over recent decades, countries have become richer as governments have become poorer, constraining governments’ ability to address inequality by increasing public provisioning of essential services.

An earlier IMF study also noted that the neoliberal reforms — promoting privatization, cutting government spending, and strictly limiting fiscal deficits and government debt — have also increased economic inequality.

On average, net private wealth in most rich countries rose from 200–350% of national income in 1970 to 400-700% recently as marginal tax rates for the rich and super-rich have fallen. The Oxfam report identifies tax evasion, corporate capture of public policy, erosion of workers’ rights and cost cutting as major contributors to widening inequalities.

The IMF’s recent Fiscal Monitor acknowledges that regressive tax reforms have caused tax incidence to be far less progressive, if not regressive, while failure to tax the rich more has increased inequality. Besides new tax evasion opportunities and much lower marginal income tax rates, capital gains are hardly taxed, encouraging top executives to pay themselves with stock options.


It is quite remarkable how increasing wealth concentration has been described and presented to the public. For example, the Allianz Global Wealth Report 2016 has described the trends as ‘inclusive inequality’, claiming a growing global middle class even as inequality has been rising.

Similarly, the Credit Suisse Report argues that wealth distribution is shifting as the world becomes wealthier, thus lowering barriers to wealth acquisition. Increasing wealth and income inequality are thus merely reflecting faster asset accumulation, including the pace at which new millionaires are being created.

Josef Stadler, UBS head of global ultra-high net worth and lead author of the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017, decries “the perception that billionaires make money for themselves at the expense of the wider population” as incorrect, attributing billionaires’ fortunes to the strong performance of their companies and investments.

Besides their philanthropic contributions and patronage of the arts, culture and sports, 98% of billionaires’ wealth are said by him to contribute to society as the world’s super-rich employed 27.7 million people. Rather than making money from their employees’ efforts, billionaires apparently make private welfare payments to them out of the goodness of their hearts!