Sarawak Report: 1MDB Settlement CONFIRMS DOJ’s Case


April 26, 2017

1MDB Settlement CONFIRMS DOJ’s Case

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The Relentless  and Fearless Crusader–Sarawak Report Founder Clare Rewcastle Brown

The settlement between 1MDB and the Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Corporation (IPIC) has derailed the US Department of Justice (DOJ) civil suit to seize more than US$1 billion in assets allegedly purchased using funds siphoned from 1MDB, said an Umno leader.“This arbitration settlement has weakened the US DOJ civil suit and claims that 1MDB’s funds were stolen,” said UMNO Supreme Council Member Mohd Puad Zakarshi in a statement today.

Mohd Puad is also the Director-General of the Information Ministry’s Special Affairs Division (Jasa).

The settlement announced yesterday will see 1MDB pay IPIC US$1.2 billion, as repayment after IPIC covered interest payments on 1MDB bonds in June 2015. The bonds, valued at US$3.5 billion, were issued in 2012 to finance 1MDB’s energy unit – 1MDB Energy (Langat) Limited and 1MDB Energy Limited. Both bonds are due by 2022.

MDB was supposed to pay IPIC US$3.5 billion for guaranteeing the bonds but IPIC said it never received payment. 1MDB said it had paid Aabar BVI, a British Virgin Island registered entity with an almost identical name as IPIC’s subsidiary. IPIC said it is not linked to Aabar BVI

Won’t touch taxpayer’s funds

This portion of the dispute will be further negotiated in “good faith” between the parties, IPIC said in its filing to the London Stock Exchange yesterday. “The parties have also agreed to enter into good faith discussions in relation to payments made by 1MDB Group to certain entities,” it said.

Meanwhile, Puad said the settlement shows that 1MDB will be able to pay its debts without touching taxpayers’ funds.This is through monetising the “investment units” redemeed from the Cayman Islands and held in a Singapore bank via 1MDB’s subsidiary Brazen Sky Limited, which is reported to be worth US$940 billion.

“These obligations will be met by 1MDB, primarily via monetisation of 1MDB-owned investment fund units. 1MDB is pleased to confirm that a first tranche monetisation of approximately US$50 million has been received, in cash,” 1MDB said yesterday.

The Prime Minister’s Office said 1MDB will cash out all of its “investment fund units”. Fuad said this shows that the “investment units” have value, and are not worthless as earlier claimed by the opposition.

Sarawak Report comments:

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 Mohd Puad Zakarshi

Whatever qualifications were achieved by Mohd Puad Zakarshi, they plainly did not demand logic. Because, the settlement by 1MDB doesn’t undermine the DOJ case, to the contrary it confirms it. Period.

If 1MDB had really paid $3.5 billion in ‘guarantee deposits’ to IPIC, as Najib continues to laughably claim, then Malaysia would never have lost the arbitration case and been forced to pay back the $1.2 billion that IPIC later bailed them out with.

Instead, the court would have pointed out that the bail out was just a third of the up-front deposit and IPIC would actually still have over $2 billion of 1MDB’s money left.

This is not what has happened.  The settlement involves an agreement by 1MDB to pay back the bail out money and to take over the responsibility for the remainder of its debts.

It is therefore a concrete admission by Malaysia that it could not prove its claims that it had deposited a single cent let alone billions with IPIC.And that means that the money trails supplied by the DOJ investigations, showing instead that all the money was siphoned off into a bogus BVI account to pay for Jho Low, Rosmah and Khadem Al Qubaisi’s fun and frolics, has been confirmed by the settlement and not weakened.

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Najib Razak and Bull Buddies

It is plain as daylight, yet this Minister of Disinformation is attempting to say the opposite. How stupid does he think people are in Malaysia? He is also asking people to believe that the payment is going to come from the ‘monetisation’ of non-existant ‘units’ that 1MDB also doesnt have, because all the PetroSaudi money was funnelled into another off-shore company (Good Star Limited) and stolen as well.

Puad says we should believe his story because the PM’s office said it (just like they said IPIC received money which it didn’t). So, who is going to believe this illogical and mendacious fellow when he goes on to say that Najib won’t be touching taxpayer’s funds to repay the debt? Is there a single voter who believes that?


April 21, 2017

 

Criticism of Beijing’s North Korea Policy ComesFrom Unlikely Place: China

by  Chris Buckley
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BEIJING — When China’s best-known historian of the Korean War, Shen Zhihua, recently laid out his views on North Korea, astonishment rippled through the audience. China, he said with a bluntness that is rare here, had fundamentally botched its policy on the divided Korean Peninsula.

China’s bond with North Korea’s Communist leaders formed even before Mao Zedong’s decision in 1950 to send People’s Liberation Army soldiers to fight alongside them in the Korean War. Mao famously said the two sides were “as close as lips and teeth.”

But China should abandon the stale myths of fraternity that have propped up its support for North Korea and turn to South Korea, Mr. Shen said at a university lecture last month in Dalian, a northeastern Chinese port city.

“Judging by the current situation, North Korea is China’s latent enemy and South Korea could be China’s friend,” Mr. Shen said, according to a transcript he published online. “We must see clearly that China and North Korea are no longer brothers in arms, and in the short term there’s no possibility of an improvement in Chinese-North Korean relations.” READ ON:

 

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/world/asia/china-north-korea-war.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com

GWSB Dean Linda Livingstone named President, Baylor University, Waco, Texas


April 19, 2017

GWSB Dean Linda Livingstone named President of Baylor University

https://gwtoday.gwu.edu/gwsb-dean-named-president-baylor-university

Linda Livingstone returns to the Waco, Texas, university where her professional academic career began.

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Dean LInda Livingstone and Din Merican met in June, 2016 at George Washington School of Business, The George Washington University, Washington D.C.

April 18, 2017

George Washington University School of Business Dean Linda Livingstone was named Tuesday as president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Dr. Livingstone will leave GW after the end of the spring 2017 semester.

Dr. Livingstone will be the first female president of Baylor, the largest Baptist university in the world. She is returning to the institution where she began her academic career in 1991, first as an assistant professor then associate professor and associate dean for graduate programs—all in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

Dr. Livingstone came to GW in fall 2014. She presides over a school with more than 3,600 students enrolled: about 1,600 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students and 1,050 in specialized master’s and doctoral degree programs.

“I want to thank the Board of Trustees and President Knapp for the tremendous opportunity to serve as dean of the School of Business,” she said. “It was an honor to be a part of the GW community, and I will carry it with me always.

“I would also like to thank the School of Business faculty, staff, students and alumni for an amazing experience leading such committed and passionate educators,” Dr. Livingstone said.

George Washington President Steven Knapp called Dr. Livingstone “a stellar dean and an excellent colleague.”

“I am sure that our entire GW community joins me in wishing her all success in her important new role,” Dr. Knapp said.

After arriving at GWSB, Dr. Livingstone embarked on a collaborative effort to identify and develop the school’s strategic plan. Titled “Engaging the World from the Nation’s Capital,” the plan incorporated the feedback and priorities of faculty, staff and members of the school’s board of advisors.

The plan broadly called for the GWSB to leverage its location in Washington, D.C., to enhance its global focus and encourage prosperity globally by building on the school’s significant global reputation and to serve as a catalyst for multidisciplinary opportunities across GW.

As a result, GWSB initiated new and innovative programs like the Capital Markets Certificate with the International Finance Corporation and Milken Institute; a health care master’s of business administration in partnership with the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences; 15 graduate certificate programs; a bachelor’s of business administration (BBA) curriculum requiring a minor outside of the business school; BBA concentrations in business analytics, innovation and entrepreneurship, and real estate; a bachelor’s of science in finance requiring a major outside of the business school; and more.

Under her leadership, GWSB expanded career services to enhance support for international students. With the generous support of alumni, Dr. Livingstone led the effort to improve and renovate student study and communal areas in Duques Hall.

GWSB also introduced several new research initiatives under her guidance, including the Korean Management Institute and the recruitment of top research faculty including the Avram S. Tucker Professor of Leadership and Strategy.

She oversaw the recruitment and hiring of several notable research faculty and a 24 percent increase in the number of faculty publications in top academic journals. Doctoral program funding during her tenure increased by more than 22 percent. A fund was created to support faculty presenting at top academic conferences.

Provost Forrest Maltzman said that an interim dean will be appointed, and information about a search will be forthcoming. He said Dr. Livingstone “has been a great partner and will be missed.”

“As a participant on the search committee that selected Dean Livingstone, I knew we had found the right person to move the School of Business forward,” Dr. Maltzman said.

Dr. Livingstone noted GWSB’s history of attracting leaders from academia, government and business and that those leaders’ entrepreneurial spirit, commitment to success and contributions to the global community inspired her work as dean.

“For 75 years, we’ve stood on the cutting edge of bold new ideas,” she said. “Today, that’s where you’ll find us, still creating and building for a better world.”

Najib Razak has no interest in Electoral Reform


April 16, 2017

Najib Razak has no interest in Electoral Reform–Should he?

by Teck Chi Wong

http://www.newmandala.org

Mr. Teck Chi Wong, a former journalist and editor with Malaysiakini.com, is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy.

Malaysia’s enthusiasm for electoral reform is arguably at its lowest point, after being high on the tide in the past 10 years as reflected by successive Bersih gatherings from 2007 to 2016.

But electoral reform is now more important than ever, particularly after the 1MDB scandal. If the authoritarian and corrupt political system is not overhauled, it will seriously impede the country’s ability to achieve high-income status in the long run.

In Malaysia, growth is never purely about the market. The state has been, and still is, playing important roles in steering and managing the economy. In fact, Malaysia was regarded in the 1990s as one of the successful models of the ‘development state’ in East Asia, which through learning and transferring resources to productive sectors had successfully industrialised the country and lifted many of its citizens out of poverty.

These East Asian developmental states, including Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, shared some common characteristics. Many of them (except Japan) were authoritarian regimes in the 1970s and 1980s. But all of them were strong in facilitating policies and learning from others for growth.

On top of that, being authoritarian also helped these countries to stabilise their political landscape and therefore create a business environment which encouraged foreign investment to flow in. However, in Malaysia, it came at a tremendous and bloody price: the racial riots of 1969.

Key to this development model is the quality of the state. But it is difficult for these authoritarian regimes to maintain or improve their quality in the long run. Authoritarian order means that a lack of appropriate checks and balances for those in power leaves the system susceptible to corruption. At the same time, social and economic development gives rise to new needs and demands of accountability and integrity from the publics. As a result, political and social tensions emerge.

The East Asian developmental states approached this problem differently. Both South Korea and Taiwan had since democratised in 1980s and 1990s. Intense political competitions subjected those in power to greater checks and balances, and therefore reduced the most blatant forms of corruption.

Singapore, meanwhile, is an outlier. Despite not much progress in terms of democratisation, the city state has been outstanding in eliminating corruption. Many would point to the tough law and the high salaries of politicians and civil servants for the reason behind low corruption in the country. But exactly how Singaporean leaders could be disciplined despite no strong institutional checks and balances is still subject to debate, although this could possibly relate to their strong desire to guarantee Singapore’s survival in the international market and the region.

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Zahid Hamidi, Keruak and Najib Razak–Patronage and Corruption is rampant in Malaysia today

Malaysia is stuck in the middle. Not only is it in the middle-income trap, but it is also wrestling between authoritarianism and democracy. The quality of its institutions, including its cabinet system, parliament and judiciary, has been on the decline and they cannot mount any effective checks and balances against UMNO, the dominant ruling party. Resultantly, corruption and patronage are widespread in the government.

This has serious implications for the economy, particularly when the country is seeking to leave the middle-income trap. To entrepreneurs, rent-seeking is simply more profitable, as reflected by the fact that most of the wealth of Malaysian billionaires is created in rent-heavy industries, like banking, construction, housing development and resources.

All of these forces are embodied in the recent 1MDB scandal. Although Prime Minister Najib Razak is accused of embezzling billions of public funds and the scandal has rocked investor confidence, no institutions can hold him accountable and no amount of public pressure can force him to step down. As long as Najib is controlling UMNO, his position is solid, as opponents are eliminated from the government and the party. Zahid Hamidi knows this well since Hishamuddin Tun Hussein has been appointed as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to hold him in check.

If there is one lesson we can learn from South Korea and Taiwan, that would be democratisation can help to change the underlying political structure and strengthen the quality of the state. Through intensified political competition and appropriate checks and balances, the public can put more pressure on those in power to be more accountable and focus on economic development.

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In fact, the difference between South Korea and Malaysia is particularly stark now that Park Guen-hye, the former President of South Korea, was impeached. This happened just within months after the corruption scandal involving Park’s best friend erupted in October last year.

In Malaysia, the overhaul in political structure over the long run must be achieved through electoral reform, which includes making the Election Commission independent and reducing gerrymandering and malapportionment. As long as the electoral system is not changed, UMNO can remain in power by holding onto its support bases in rural areas. The recent controversies surrounding redelineation process just again highlight the need for reform.

To many, for Malaysia to regain its shine after the 1MDB scandal, Najib must go. But that would be just a tiny first step on a long journey to reform and democratise its political and administrative institutions.

 

The Insecurity of Inequality


April 12, 2017

The Insecurity of Inequality

by Kaushik Basu

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/rising-inequality-globalization-by-kaushik-basu-2017-04

Image result for kaushik basuKasuhik Basu

“In our globalized world, inequality cannot be left to markets and local communities to solve any more than climate change can. As the consequences of rising domestic inequality feed through to geopolitics, eroding stability, the need to devise new rules, re-distribution systems, and even global agreements is no longer a matter of morals; increasingly, it is a matter of survival”.–Kaushik Basu

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Global inequality today is at a level last seen in the late nineteenth century – and it is continuing to rise. With it has come a surging sense of disenfranchisement that has fueled alienation and anger, and even bred nationalism and xenophobia. As people struggle to hold on to their shrinking share of the pie, their anxiety has created a political opening for opportunistic populists, shaking the world order in the process.

The gap between rich and poor nowadays is mind-boggling. Oxfam has observed that the world’s eight richest people now own as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion. As US Senator Bernie Sanders recently pointed out, the Walton family, which owns Walmart, now owns more wealth than the bottom 42% of the US population.

I can offer my own jarring comparison. Using Credit Suisse’s wealth database, I found that the total wealth of the world’s three richest people exceeds that of all the people in three countries – Angola, Burkina Faso, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – which together have a population of 122 million.

To be sure, great progress on reducing extreme poverty – defined as consumption of less than $1.90 per day – has been achieved in recent decades. In 1981, 42% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. By 2013 – the last year for which we have comprehensive data – that share had dropped to below 11%. Piecemeal evidence suggests that extreme poverty now stands just above 9%.

That is certainly something to celebrate. But our work is far from finished. And, contrary to popular belief, that work must not be confined to the developing world.

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As Angus Deaton recently pointed out, extreme poverty remains a serious problem in rich countries, too. “Several million Americans – black, white, and Hispanic – now live in households with per capita income of less than $2 per day,” he points out. Given the much higher cost of living (including shelter), he notes, such an income can pose an even greater challenge in a country like the US than it does in, say, India.

This constraint is apparent in New York City, where the number of known homeless people has risen from 31,000 in 2002 to 63,000 today. (The true figure, including those who have never used shelters, is about 5% higher.) This trend has coincided with a steep rise in the price of housing: over the last decade, rents have been rising more than three times as fast as wages.

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There’s Poverty and  Increasing Income Inequality in America too–A Failure of Market Economics

Ironically, the wealthy pay less, per unit, for many goods and services. A stark example is flying. Thanks to frequent flier programs, wealthy travelers pay less for each mile they fly. While this makes sense for airlines, which want to foster loyalty among frequent fliers, it represents yet another way in which wealth is rewarded in the marketplace.

This phenomenon is also apparent in poor economies. A study of Indian villages showed that the poor face systematic price discrimination, exacerbating inequality. In fact, correcting for differences in prices paid by the rich and the poor improves the Gini coefficient (a common measure of inequality) by 12-23%.

The better off also get a whole host of goods for free. To name one seemingly trivial example, I can’t remember when I last bought a pen. They often simply appear on my desk, unintentionally left behind by people who stopped by my office. They vanish just as often, as people inadvertently pick them up. The late Khushwant Singh, a renowned Indian journalist, once said that he attended conferences only to stock up on pens and paper.

A non-trivial example is taxation. Rather than paying the most in taxes, the wealthiest people are often able to take advantage of loopholes and deductions that are not available to those earning less. Without having to break any rules, the wealthy receive what amount to subsidies, which would have a far larger positive impact if they were allocated to the poorest people.

Beyond these concrete inequities, there are less obvious – but equally damaging – imbalances. In any situation where, legally, one’s rights are not enforced or even specified, the outcome will probably depend on custom, which is heavily skewed in favor of the rich. Wealthy citizens can not only vote; they can influence elections through donations and other means. In this sense, excessive wealth inequality can undermine democracy.

Of course, in any well-run economy, a certain amount of inequality is inevitable and even needed, to create incentives and power the economy. But, nowadays, disparities of income and wealth have become so extreme and entrenched that they cross generations, with family wealth and inheritance having a far greater impact on one’s economic prospects than talent and hard work. And it works both ways: just as children from wealthy families are significantly more likely to be wealthy in adulthood, children of, say, former child laborers are more likely to work during their childhood.

None of this is any individual’s fault. Many wealthy citizens have contributed to society and played by the rules. The problem is that the rules are often skewed in their favor. In other words, income inequality stems from systemic flaws.

In our globalized world, inequality cannot be left to markets and local communities to solve any more than climate change can. As the consequences of rising domestic inequality feed through to geopolitics, eroding stability, the need to devise new rules, re-distribution systems, and even global agreements is no longer a matter of morals; increasingly, it is a matter of survival.

Timor Leste–The Easy to Forget 11th ASEAN Member


April 6, 2017

Timor Leste–The Easy to Forget 11th ASEAN Member

by Khoo Ying Hooi@www.newmandala.org

The longer Timor-Leste’s membership is delayed,it will only reflect negatively on ASEAN’s decision-making process, writes Khoo Ying Hooi.

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2017 is a pivotal year for the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) as it celebrates its 50 years since its founding in 1967. Among the puzzles that need to be solved is whether Timor Leste will be formally accepted as the regional bloc’s 11th member.

As the newest country in Southeast Asia, Timor Leste and its place in the region is often overlooked. Timor-Leste is vulnerable not only as a small and relatively young state. The fact that it has suffered an Indonesian occupation that destroyed its economy and infrastructure prior to the restoration of independence in May 2002, means it faces various post-conflict challenges, including having its voice heard in regional and international forums.

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Cristo Rei of Dili

Timor-Leste expressed its desire to be part of ASEAN right after the restoration of independence in 2002. In July 2005, it became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and it signed the ASEAN Treaty on Amity and Cooperation in 2007. As outlined in its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030, Timor-Leste’s aspiration to join ASEAN is based on geographical location, the wishes of the country’s leaders and people, and its cultural affinity with its neighbours.

Timor-Leste officially applied for ASEAN membership in March 2011 during Indonesia’s chairmanship after a number of years as an ASEAN observer. An ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group (ACCWG) was then set up and tasked to assess Timor-Leste’s readiness to be part of the regional grouping, and the implications for ASEAN if it did join. It has been almost six years now since its official application in 2011.

With its domestic challenges, some questioned Timor-Leste’s aspiration for ASEAN membership, as well as the benefits and costs of membership.  For Timor-Leste’s part, ASEAN membership is hoped to provide access to an established forum where important issues such as security, economic development and integration, and socio-cultural matters can be pursued.

Timor-Leste has indeed come a long way. The nation’s independence came at a high price. Now, the country is gradually moving from fragility to a country that is consolidating and strengthening the necessary foundations of a state. But that is not without obstacles.

In ASEAN’s 50th year, many are hoping that the Philippines will use its chairmanship to accelerate  Timor-Leste’s formal membership to  the regional bloc. Under the theme of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” as announced by President Rodrigo Duterte last September 2016 in Laos, it is hoped that ASEAN could live up to its inspiration as a model of greater regional integration when it comes to Timor-Leste.

The longer Timor-Leste’s membership is delayed, it will only reflect negatively on ASEAN’s decision-making process that has often being criticised. It is time to demonstrate ASEAN’s commitment to a region made prosperous through the spirit of cooperation and integration, and most importantly, as a people-centred organisation.

Khoo Ying Hooi (PhD) is Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya, Malaysia.