CARI Captures 327
Singapore to develop cyber-security professionals
(20 September 2017) Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA) will create its first academy to boost the skills of cyber-security professionals working in government and critical sectors in Singapore such as energy, healthcare and transport. CSA chief executive David Koh said that the CSA Academy will plug gaps in the skills of cyber-security professionals, as current programmes in universities and polytechnics cannot meet market needs. Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean said that the academy will play a vital role in ensuring a more secure and resilient digital community.
ASEAN countries fare poorly in workforce preparedness for the digital future
(20 September 2017) ASEAN countries, except Singapore, ranked at the bottom half of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Educating for the Future Index. The preparedness gauge, which targets input into youth education rather than output such as test scores, carries a 50% weighting for the teaching environment, 30% for policy environment and 20% for socioeconomic environment. While Singapore came in fifth out of 35 countries surveyed, other ASEAN countries namely the Philippines (25th), Vietnam (28th) and Indonesia (34th) demonstrated a severe need for improvement.
Thailand’s central bank and government clash over interest rates
(19 September 2017) The Thai Finance Ministry is hoping that its central bank, Bank of Thailand (BOT), will cut interest rates to stimulate growth, in light of the strength of the currency and low inflation. This is in direct contrast to the central bank’s aim of keeping the rate steady to minimise financial instability and curb household debt levels. The BOT has so far pushed back against calls to cut its benchmark interest rate from a near record-low of 1.5%, where it’s been since 2015, intervening in the currency market instead and curbing the supply of short-term bonds to limit the Thai baht’s gains, up more than 8% against the US dollar. The next interest-rate decision will be made on 27 September.
Strong export growth comes with currency appreciation
(19 September 2017) According to data from NLI Research Institute, the combined export volume of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam grew 18.5% on the year in July. The export growth is causing strong currency appreciation; the Malaysian ringgit has climbed around 5% against the greenback, while the Thai baht and Singaporean dollar have appreciated nearly 4% since April. If a currency becomes too strong against the US dollar, it can erode exporters’ earnings and drag down economic growth. V. Ramakrishnan, chief financial officer of Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest IT service provider, said that sharp Indian rupee appreciation against the US dollar resulted in a US$100 million loss in reported revenues for the April-June period.
ASEAN needs to address forex volatility
(15 September 2017) Thailand Development Research Institute president Chalongphob Sussangkarn said ASEAN countries need a mechanism to reduce volatility and address non-standardised foreign currency exchange rate in the region. He stated that non-standardised exchange rates make cross-border businesses more expensive due to the uncertainty of rate changes. Chalongphob further suggested having similar inflation targets across the region would implicitly minimise volatility in the foreign currency exchange rate.
Indonesia getting serious on tax enforcement
(20 September 2017) Indonesia’s government has implemented new regulations that will target tracing and targeting the wealth of taxpayers who were not pardoned in the nine-month tax amnesty that ended in March 2017. The regulations call for all assets that were not reported or misreported in the amnesty programme, and which were obtained between Jan 1, 1985 and Dec 31, 2015, to be treated as untaxed income. The estimated value of the undeclared assets has not been made public. The new regulations is the fulfillment of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s last year vow of strict tax law enforcement after the amnesty period ended.
Japan looking for progress in Trans-Pacific Partnership with remaining countries
(16 September 2017) Chief negotiators from the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) remaining participants will meet in Tokyo starting 21 September, as the participants seek progress on the trade deal sans the US. The meeting will focus on debating which rules in the TPP will be suspended in order to accelerate progress. The Tokyo meeting would be considered a success if all 11 participants submit their proposals and agree on concrete items to be frozen. Clearing this hurdle would let negotiators focus on tough issues at a meeting expected in October, such as a review of the rules for the removal of tariffs on apparel products.
The Philippines only candidate for rate hike in ASEAN
(21 September 2017) Economists surveyed at Bloomberg predict Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Philippines central bank, will increase its benchmark rate by the fourth quarter. Governor Nestor Espenilla said in August the central bank is prepared to raise rates if it sees signs the economy is growing too fast, while it’s tolerating a weaker currency for now. The peso is among the few Asian currencies to have fallen this year, dropping 2.7 percent against the dollar. Indonesia and Vietnam have seen interest rate cuts in the past two months, while Thailand’s central bank is adamant on holding its rate.
JD.com to invest US$500 million in Thailand
(18 September 2017) Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com announced a US$500 million investment that will create e-commerce and fintech businesses in Thailand. Chinese e-commerce giants have been flocking to Southeast Asia as the region’s internet economy is forecasted to grow to US$200 billion by 2025. The deal is JD.com’s first in Thailand, and second in Southeast Asia after setting up in Indonesia in 2015.
CPI in Malaysia at 3.7 percent
(21 September 2017) The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Malaysia experienced a sharp increase to 3.7 percent, compared to a year ago in August, driven by rising domestic retail petrol pump prices. MIDF research said that the increase in prices in August were mainly impacted by fuel prices’ pass-through effects. Nomura Global Market Research expects the inflation to rise further to about 4.2 percent year-on-year in September as the daily average RON95 petrol price is 3.3 percent higher in September than in August. Affin Hwang Investment Bank Bhd chief economist Alan Tan believes the central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) will maintain its overnight policy rate at 3 percent.