Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Expert advice on investing

Property Vs Shares : Discover your knock out investment strategy 

Author : Peter Koulizos and Zac Zacharia Genre : Business, Finance and Law Publisher : Wrightbooks >>

ABOUT three to four years ago, a friend in his 20s bought his first property. Prior to this, he was trading in stocks. His interest in the property sector came about when he saw the double-digit price increase during the run-up in the property sector in 2009/2010.

While his interest in shares continues, it was the property sector which became the main focus of his attention. His intention was to sell the serviced apartment once it was completed at a profit, a strategy taken by many during those heady days, and today. He has the same principle when it came to stocks. If he has read this book Property Vs Shares, he may have taken a different strategy for his investments.

This book serves as a guide for those who are interested in either or both forms of investments. While it was written with beginners in mind, it provides useful reference to readers on higher rungs of the investment ladder.

In Malaysia, the two most common investments are properties and stocks. While there are unit trusts, these are, at the end of the day, also linked to stocks. The last several years, a number of books on property investments have appeared on the shelves of our local book stores. Most, if not all of them, are focused on property investments alone and therein lies the difference.

Property Vs Shares compares one asset class against another. It has two authors. Peter Koulizos is the author of The Property Professor’s Top Australian Suburbs and lectures on the subject. Zac Zacharia lectures on share investment at TAFE SA and is a founder of a wealth management group.

Both of them provide some ground rules for investment decisions in today’s volatile economic climate. They look at how property and shares have performed historically and give pointers on research.

In today’s search for yield, all sorts of schemes have entered the market. They highlight some of these scams and schemes. In short, they look at investments much more broadly, and takes into cosideration the many who keep their money in time deposits.

Using the analogy of two boxers in a boxing ring, one representing real estate and the other shares, they begin with that all pertinent question Why Invest? and explains the importance of being a shrewd steward of one’s finances if one wants to retire early and richer.

They outline from the start that saving and investing are two different things. In order to invest, one must first of all, begin a journey in savings. But while saving, as in keeping money in a time deposit may be “safe” and “risk-free”, the returns are minimal. On this premise, the authors suggest other forms of investments which, if prudently selected and managed, and depending on when one enters and exits, may provide a better yield.

My 20-something friend could have just kept his money in a fixed deposit account but with the cost of living escalating, he figured he would be earning negative interest rates in no time. And therein lies the value in property and stock investments – they provide a regular income and have the potential for capital appreciation.

However, there are caveats to this and the authors explain the perils of both clearly and succintly, without diminishing the importance of diversification.

Although this book is based on the Australian property sector and the Australian stock market, it holds within its covers very insightful information and suggestions about property and stocks that are universal.

The last several years, there has been a great interest in property investments on a global scale with Malaysians buying real estate at home and abroad, and with it comes currency risks. The Malaysian stock market has generated both interest and returns for investors. What and where one buys, or feels most comfortable with, depends on many personal and individual factors as well as global and national events.

Investment markets are inter-related, like a big jigsaw puzzle. When property prices dip, the shares of property companies may dip. When interest rate goes up, there may be less application for housing mortgages, which in turn affects bank revenue and bank stocks.

The importance of having some knowledge of economic and investment cycles are clearly spelt out with graphs and tables. But these details are used sparringly.

As mentioned earlier, my 20-something friend may have taken a different route had he read this book because in the middle of this reference guide, the authors draw the distinction between trading, investing and speculating.

The main difference is the investment timeframe. Trading on the stock market can occur within seconds whereas speculating on property can occur within weeks or months. They suggest taking a longer time frame with both.

Only you can decide why you are in the game – is it for capital growth, or for income, or both? Do you want to fund a certain lifestyle, or are you hoping to retire richer and earlier? If you are able to answer the above, you will be guided as to what suits you best. This book will set you on the road to investing with some insightful information in hand.
 
There are many nuggets of gold to be found in this book. Whether your preference is for stocks, properties, or both, there is a place in your book shelf for this slim volume.

 - Contributed by Thean Lee Cheng The Star/Asia News Network

Monday, 24 February 2014

Show times: confused of Ibrahims & satay in Kajang; who will be MB Selangor Malaysia?



Lately, whether by design, fate or plain coincidence, we have been seeing, reading or hearing about people or issues that involve the name Ibrahim.

THERE is something odd going on lately in Malaysia. For some seriously strange reasons, whether by design, fate or plain coincidence, Malaysians are seeing, reading or hearing about people or issues that involve the name Ibrahim. So let us go through the current hot list.

Anwar Ibrahim

He sure knows how to confuse us. We all thought he wanted to be Prime Minister. Then he said he would retire from politics and take up a teaching career if Pakatan Rakyat failed to capture Putrajaya in the general election.

Well, many of us, being the confused lot that we are, actually believe him, or at least believe in the many things that he has been saying, anyway.

Then, following the decision of the Kajang state assemblyman to vacate the seat, Anwar confused us further by saying he would not be contesting the seat. But he finally announced, after much charade, that he would be contesting after all.

Now, he says that even if he wins the seat, he does not aim to be the Mentri Besar of Selangor. Well, the whole world seems to think otherwise.

He has already confused us enough with his answers on why he is forcing a by-election in Kajang. Until now, no one, including his diehard supporters, can give us a convincing explanation.

Seriously, all of us should really ask him what it is he really wants. This man has to be the master of surprises. No one can beat him at that.

No one can remember him having a liking for football. Horses and jet ski, yes. Suddenly he has donned the colours of the Selangor football team.

If Penang plays against Selangor, we are not sure if he will be wearing anything, given that he is an MP from Penang, which is also a Pakatan-controlled state. That’s pretty confusing.

Well, for sure, he has really given us a few good lessons in politics!

Khalid Ibrahim

This is one sorry Ibrahim. His hair has become more dishevelled lately. He murmurs to himself most of the time and he is doing this even more.

Who can blame him? He has to be careful who he talks to now with his party boss wanting to take over his job. His fellow ADUNs – who all claim they are in politics for the sake of the people – must be having a tough time deciding who they should stand behind now to further their political ambitions.

They have to decide which horse they should back – this mumbling corporate figure or the real political animal, Anwar Ibrahim, who has the magic of getting people to believe what he wants them to believe.

If it’s me, it’s me. If he says it isn’t him, all will nod in agreement, as if under a spell, and repeat that it isn’t him. It’s just a lookalike of me, a body double, a Siamese twin.

Poor Khalid. The only one he can trust is himself. He can only talk to himself.

We all hope he will just hang in there because he is actually a likeable bloke. What you see is what you get from this Ibrahim.

Zaid Ibrahim

Now, this one is tricky. We are just as confused because he has either joined or formed almost every political party in town. And we, being the terribly naïve Malaysians, thought that this sort of thing only happens to Sabahan politicians.

No one is quite sure why he is declaring his candidacy for the Kajang by-election. It can’t be his love for the satay there, for sure. We are not even sure if he knows his way around Kajang or if he even has friends there.

But this Ibrahim can be assured that he will get his 15 minutes of fame every night on prime time TV. Our advice is he should not attempt to sound too philosophical or intellectual during his campaign rounds in Kajang.

That’s because we are already confused. We are not sure if he is seeking the support of Barisan or Pakatan Rakyat supporters. We are not too sure there are enough fence sitters like him. But we are sure he will confuse us during the entire campaign period.

Ibrahim Ali

We can assume that he will be there. He and his gang of merry men never let us down when it comes to providing the comic relief. But he has been saying that he is actually the one who has been delivering the Malay votes for Umno and that without him, Umno would have been in serious trouble.

But the best line from him recently is that there are many troublemakers impersonating Perkasa members! Fuyoh!

Now, that’s interesting! And we, being the confused Malaysians, thought that Malaysian politicians have confused us sufficiently and endlessly but this is the ultimate confusion! Imitation Perkasa members, wow.

Haris Ibrahim

He has been unusually quiet since being initially denied entry into Australia last September. The outspoken activist and lawyer shows up everywhere. He is a permanent fixture in all protests and demonstra­tions. A specialist in this sort of things, we may say. We are not sure if he will add some colour and excitement in Kajang. But he’s definitely another Ibrahim that we can welcome to the Kajang polls, to confuse many of us further.

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh

He may not be a household name in Malaysia but he would probably get a recognition from the Malaysia Book of Records for being involved in the most number of non-­government organisations. This Ibrahim is involved in every NGO – from Bersih to Gabungan Mansuh ISA to Pemantau to Independent Monitoring Election Commission.

He has served notice that he will be in Kajang in his capacity as chief of the Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel). Are there any hats he is not wearing? Hasn’t he been confused himself before?
We won’t be surprised if he will soon head a Gabungan Cinta Satay Kajang or Stick It Up for Kajang Voters movements.

Rahim Thamby Chik

Well, not quite Ibrahim but close enough. This veteran politician can’t stand the sight of Anwar Ibrahim. Or for that matter anything about Anwar Ibrahim. He is his sworn enemy. Well, Enemy Forever. Not BFF, for sure.

We are not sure whether he will turn up in Kajang with Ummi Hafilda, another sworn enemy of Anwar. She seems to have gone into political oblivion since her marriage to a Pakistani doctor. It seems to be like an extended honeymoon, perhaps to make up for lost time. But we hope to hear from her soon. Looks like she has discovered that there’s more to life than her obsession – Anwar Ibrahim. It’s never too late. All these players hate one another but they can’t stay away from one another either. Isn’t that confusing?

Ibrahim Ahmad Badawi

Brahim LSG Skychef Sdn Bhd, formerly known as MAS Catering, belongs to Datuk Ibrahim Haji Ahmad Badawi, the younger brother of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. This company has been in the news lately.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to travel on business class on MAS will find the airline’s satay simply irresistible. Having lost the nasi lemak fight, we hope MAS will now redeem its image and go to Kajang for a satay war soon.

No one would have thought that there is such a thing as a “very naked” nasi lemak! Chef Wan Ismail took a picture of the very bare nasi lemak that was served in economy class on the route to Bangkok.

To the horror of this melodramatic chef, he claimed there were no nuts! Chef Wan may seem lembut (soft) at times but no one messes around with his food.

He was terribly pissed off. He whipped out his smart phone and took pictures of the nasi lemak missing the nuts. Err, sorry, I meant groundnuts.

And for Chef Wan, that’s a helluva of a telanjang (naked)! The essential ikan bilis or fried anchovies were not there either.

Well, following a full investigation, just short of a Royal Commission, it was finally revealed that the nuts had to be removed because they had gone stale. Blame the supplier who had gone on Chinese New Year break. Well, someone has to be the scapegoat in the great Malaysian tradition.

Poor Ibrahim, we never thought this would become an issue. This whole thing may seem a little nutty but the moral of the lesson here is, please don’t take economy class passengers for granted. We are not any ikan bilis, okay? We can strip anyone, Datuk or no Datuk, naked.

Well, things are going to get more interesting because the nomination and campaigning for Kajang have not even started yet!

And we still say the Election Commission should extend the campaigning period.

Contributed  by Wong Chun Wai
The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.
  
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group's managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

 

Quandary over who will be MB

Political drama: (clockwise from right) Khalid is refusing to resign even as Anwar campaigns in Kajang to be the next Mentri Besar; Rafizi has been unable to justify the Kajang Move while Azmin is in Mecca to perform the umrah.
Selangorians are getting mixed signals. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is acting like he is the next Mentri Besar of Selangor while MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is behaving like he is here to stay.

TAN Sri Khalid Ibrahim has looked rather well groomed of late. The Selangor Mentri Besar has been keeping his hair neatly combed and was even seen sporting an Elvis-like pompadour on a few occasions.

Khalid can be rather moody when he is over-worked or if things are not going well, and reporters covering him have learnt to use his hair as a “mood meter”.

If his naturally wavy hair is nicely groomed, it means he is in a good mood and everything is under control. But if his hair is all over the place, it is best to keep the questions short and sweet and not try to be funny with him.

But hair and “mood meter” aside, Khalid has been in an upbeat mood.

He has granted press interviews to one publication after another, talking about a variety of issues from the state water situation to the upcoming Kajang by-election.

It is evident that something big is looming on the water front. Khalid has been dropping hints of a solution over the long-standing water restructuring saga in Selangor.Earlier last week, he made headlines when he said that if the water restructuring exercise were successful, there could be free water not only in Selangor but also for those residing in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

And all this was happening even as PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was busy positioning himself to be the next Mentri Besar via the Kajang by-election.

Khalid’s demeanour and action over the last couple of weeks are not that of a man who is preparing to bow out. All the signs are that Khalid is here to stay and earlier last week, he confirmed that he is not resigning as Mentri Besar while side-stepping questions of whether Anwar will take over.

Khalid’s upbeat mood seems to be premised on two factors. The first factor is the unequivocal support he is getting from PAS in Selangor and the young Turks in the party’s Youth wing who have been critical of the Kajang Move.

Selangor PAS is standing by him and in the event that he is pushed out by his own party, PAS will nominate someone from their own party as the Mentri Besar.

PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang put it a little more diplomatically: PAS will help Anwar win in Kajang, but the Mentri Besar post will be discussed after the by-election.

A PAS politician in Selangor indicated that PAS will welcome Khalid into the party if PKR decides to sack him. That is how far PAS in Selangor is prepared to go for Khalid.

The second reason for Khalid’s buoyant mood is believed to have come about after his weekly audience with the Sultan of Selangor two Wednesdays ago. He got the assurance that the Palace will not interfere in the political situation. The Palace will adhere strictly to its constitutional role and will follow the letter of the law.

A huge load was lifted from his shoulders and he left the royal audience walking on air.

Neutrality on the part of the Palace is crucial to Khalid because he is aware that Anwar and his backers have been trying to establish communications with the Palace.

There was talk that they had attempted to get through to the Palace via a Selangor princess.

For instance, Pakatan Rakyat supporters were shocked when Anwar said that former Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib would be able to advise him on the state’s rural development. They could not understand why Pakatan wanted to be linked with Umno’s “Gold Coast sensation” whom they used to mock as “me no speaking English”.

Mat Taib, as he is known, was briefly married to the Sultan’s younger sister Tengku Zahariah and some claimed that Anwar’s advisors were hoping to capitalise on that.

Unfortunately, Mat Taib has been persona non grata to the Palace ever since the day he eloped with the Princess known as Ku Yah and with whom he has a son who is now grown up with movie star looks to boot.

About a week ago, the PKR newsletter Suara Keadilan splashed a picture of Anwar alongside an uncle of the Sultan on its front page. Inside was another photograph of Anwar seated at the same dining table as Tengku Sulaiman Jalil Shah. The pair were guests at the wedding reception of the son of a Terengganu-based PAS politician.

The Palace wasted no time in clearing the air. On Wednesday, the Sultan’s private secretary Datuk Mohamad Munir Bani issued a statement on behalf of Tuanku advising political parties and politicians not to associate the Selangor Palace with their campaign in the Kajang by-election.

The statement also advised members of the Selangor royalty against being involved or allowing their name to be used by political parties in the by-election.

It is understood that the Sultan’s uncle had never met Anwar until the wedding event. Sources said he was seated at the VIP table when Anwar appeared at his side and joined him. Suddenly, three photographers appeared and started taking pictures of them.

It is learnt that Anwar’s group had also approached a family friend of the Sultan but he told them that as a member of the Royal Selangor Council, he couldn’t be associated with any political party.

The clumsy and amateurish attempts to get through to the Palace do not speak well of whoever is advising Anwar.

It is no secret that the Palace is comfortable with Khalid but, basically, the Palace wants to keep a clear distance from the big time politics taking place out there.

Several days ago, Rafizi Ramli, the man credited with the Kajang Move, said that a party survey showed that only 17% of Kajang voters were critical of the reason for the by-election compared to 25% who approved of it.

He dismissed the critical group as mainly Barisan Nasional supporters.

“This means that only a small number of Kajang voters are against the by-election,” Rafizi Ramli said at a press conference earlier last week.

Of the remaining group, 21% wanted to know more before deciding, 26% could not care less while 10% pleaded ignorance. Those who wished to know more and those who did not care added up to 47% and they are the undecided voters. It is an unusually big number of undecided voters for a highly-urbanised seat but it also means that candidates have a good chance to canvass for support.

Everyone tells Anwar he will win but he is not taking anything for granted. He has kept a punishing schedule in Kajang. He tried his hand at Chinese calligraphy at a Chinese new village dinner, he went to a church where he received a standing ovation and he attended a futsal game to touch base with the youth. By polling day, he would have covered every housing estate at least twice over.

The Penang born and bred Anwar wants to present himself as somebody who cares for Selangor.

In fact, he had kicked off his campaign by attending a Selangor Football Association event wearing the yellow and red jersey of the state. A witty commentator labelled him “pemain import baru (latest imported player)” for Selangor.

The internal dynamics in PKR has almost eclipsed the by-election as well as the other candidates in the race, namely Barisan’s Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun and independent Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.


The tight and loyal circle around Khalid claimed that their boss has the numbers to survive. Rafizi, on his part, has said that the Mentri Besar issue will not be put to the vote in the State Legislative Assembly.

“Khalid knows that no one can really do anything if he refuses to resign,” said a political insider.
Rafizi has been talking about an Umno plot to topple Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak but the real plot is within PKR to topple Khalid.

The Anwar for MB camp had been bending over backwards for Khalid because they needed him to go without making a scene. They even gave in to his demand to be made the director of election over the party’s deputy president Azmin Ali.

By-elections are normally led by the deputy president of a party and Azmin, who is also the Selangor chief, is a seasoned organiser with a good grasp of the Selangor ground. But he was pressured to back off for Khalid. Azmin has since left for Mecca to perform the umrah.

It is evident by now that Khalid is not interested in any move by Anwar’s advisors to have him sign a post-dated letter of resignation. That was the original plan for a smooth transition.

Khalid was supposed to resign effective March 23 and Anwar, fresh from victory, would be nominated and sworn in as the new Mentri Besar. In hindsight, it was wishful thinking on their part and yet more proof of the lack of experience among Anwar’s advisors.

Anwar is now trapped in a situation where the man he is trying to dislodge refuses to go and is in charge of his election campaign.

There is no denying it – the Kajang Move has become a hot mess.

Some are expecting the Pakatan Rakyat convention on March 8 to involve some kind of call for Anwar to lead in Selangor. It will be tricky but who would object if it is presented as the road to Putrajaya?

The Anwar side sees Anwar, with his charisma and oratory skills, as the catalyst for the Putrajaya dream.

But the Khalid side says that the best advertisement for the Putrajaya dream is the Selangor model under Khalid’s leadership.

 In the meantime, they have to tackle the road to Kajang.



Contributed by Joceline Tan
> Joceline Tan can be reached at joceline@thestar.com.my

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Chinese President Xi's carton an online hit

 
For the original cartoon, check Where has President Xi’s time gone? 

Cartoon of hard-working Xi moves Chinese netizens

An online cartoon entitled "Where Has Chinese President Xi Jinping's Time Gone?" has hit the headlines, depicting the leader's hard work via cute animation.

It portrays Xi in a gray jacket and blue trousers with maps and charts featuring his busy schedules, including both domestic and foreign travels, the meetings he has presided over and his hobbies.

The cartoon, released by Beijing-based qianlong.com on Wednesday, has been much discussed in online forums, with "President Xi works too hard" and "the cartoon figure is so cute" typifying the comments.

Yang Mingxing, who is responsible for the cartoon, told Beijing News that her team was inspired to make the cartoon by comments Xi made at the Winter Olympic Games.

During his visit to Sochi for the opening ceremony of the Games, the president said in an interview with Russian media that he devoted most of his time to work while quoting a song named "Where Has Time Gone?" that was performed at this year's Spring Festival gala.

According to the cartoon, since Xi was elected general secretary of the Communist party of China (CPC) Central Committee in November 2012, he has made 12 research trips throughout China, covering 11 provincial-level regions.

The cartoon also shows that Xi has spent 39 days on five trips overseas, covering 14 countries on five continents, since he took the helm as Chinese president in March 2013.

In 2013, Xi attended meetings on a monthly basis, with the number of such commitments peaking at six. The most important meetings have been the annual gatherings of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body.

Xi chaired the group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on 12 occasions, covering topics including anti-corruption drives, deepening reform and "cultural soft power."

During his tiny amount of spare time, Xi is a big reader and loves sports, turning his hand to swimming, climbing, ball games and martial arts, according to the cartoon.

In order to create a vivid image of the president, Yang's team gathered a number of his pictures to "grasp his expressions and features."

The clothes were based on his daily wear, and the cartoon figure stands with his feet pointing to different sides, an illustrators' technique designed to make the image more cute and friendly.

A netizen with the screen name "Xiaodipanwuxianda" suggested on Twitter-like Weibo.com that the comic maker should make a series of such animations.

"Guduqiudan" wrote, "President Xi works really hard and I should be introspective about where my own time has gone."

Zhu Lijia, professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that such cartoon imagery breaks the conventional mystery surrounding leaders of China and creates closer ties with the Chinese people.

It is a sign for Chinese society to be more open and confident, Zhu added.

In October last year, Xi appeared in cartoon form for the first time in a five-minute animation that compared China's government system with that of the United States and Britain.

The video, produced by a studio called "On the road to revival," featured stories about Xi, U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The animation surprised Internet users with its frankness on leaders with both Chinese and English versions, and has been viewed over two million times online. - Xinhua

 Drawn together: Xi Jinping cartoon puts people over politics

Animated cartoon – The makings of a Chinese leader



The five-minute animation introduced the tough promotion process through which Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power from the grassroots. It is the first time a Chinese leader has appeared in cartoon images. The animation, with both Chinese and English versions, was produced by a studio called "On the road to revival," about which no more details are available. [Read more]

【视频:【喜大普奔】领导人是怎样炼成的】 (分享自 @优酷网http://t.cn/zRtxajI


● Weibo posts

Public eats up Xi’s trip to steamed buns shop
President Xi Jinping's surprise visit to a fast food eatery on last December 28 in Beijing has drawn unprecedented attention, which shored up his everyman image that had rarely been seen among top-level Chinese officials in the past.

Blurred photos of Xi queuing at a restaurant, holding his own plates and dining at a table were posted online by Net users first in the afternoon. The photos were forwarded by Xinhuashidian, an official Weibo account run by the Xinhua News Agency.

Given no official media accompanied the president during his surprise visit to the eatery, all the photos and videos were taken by diners with their cellphones.

'Fan club to learn from Xi' welcomed by the public
A Sina Weibo account called Xuexifensituan, which means "Fan club to learn from Xi," became quite popular online for its real-time reports of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's inspection tour of Gansu Province in 2013.

The account published the details of Xi's Gansu tour starting on February 3, 2013 and set itself apart by publishing close-up photos of the leader, some of which are exclusive. The man behind the account identified himself as an ordinary netizen when responding to the public's queries about his true identity, according to a report from the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post on February 5, 2013.

Having first been registered on November 21, 2012, this account had over 480,000 followers as of 4 pm, February 6, 2013.          Editor's Note

Previously, a video titled The makings of a Chinese leader went viral online in October last year via popular video website Youku, in which China's top leadership was presented in animation.

          Latest News 

Xi’s cartoon depiction breaks taboo
A cartoon depiction of President Xi Jinping in an infographic, the first such image of him carried by a State-run media outlet, has triggered much discussion of the new attitude toward publicizing China's top leadership.

Leader cartoon screened
A video depicting China's top leadership in an animated cartoon has been played during the five-day visit of a Chinese delegation sent to Laos to promote the spirit of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) since December 18, cpc.people.com.cn reported on December 20, 2013.           Drawing the People Together
          Comments

Chinese media:
Zhengzhou Evening Post
Cartoons are a good way to present officials as everyday people. Politics are a serious subject, but politicians are regular people. China’s grassroots officials should learn from the President and try to better connect with the people.

The Beijing News
Cartoons of China’s top leaderships not only bring them closer to the common people, but also help the public better understand their political views.

Chengdu Business Daily
Cartoons of top leaders are a modern and effective way to connect with the public. They help people learn about their leader’s schedules and activities through humor. The Party and the government are seeking new ways to connect with the public, such as through Weibo and WeChat, and this will increase in the future.

Weibo voices:
@小地盘无限大: The cartoon is very cute. Hope to see more.

@一零六点一: I like President Xi very much. He doesn’t use a lot of official jargon during his speeches and is easy to understand.

 - Web editor: guwei@globaltimes.com.cn 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A booming WhatsApp posts mixed message as strong rivals emerge in Asia; War of the Apps heats up in China

 
 What's inside WhatsApp? 

WhatsApp: A booming smartphone message service

SAN FRANCISCO - WhatsApp was launched five years ago as a shot at doing to text messaging what Skype did to telephone calls.

If Facebook's move to buy the startup in a cash-and-stock deal valued as high as US$19 billion (S$24 billion) is any indication, the California-based WhatsApp may have hit the mark.

The firm founded by former Yahoo employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum in 2009 took its name from a play on the phrase "What's Up," according to its website.

They also devoted themselves to a credo of "No Ads. No Games. No Gimmicks."

A note stating just that and signed by Acton remains taped to Koum's desk, according to venture capital firm Sequoia, which invested in the startup early and stands to cash in big time on the Facebook take-over.

The "contrarian approach" of gathering no information about users for targeting ads was shaped by Ukraine-born Koum's aversion to tactics of secret police in communist countries, Sequoia partner Jim Goetz said in an online note.

"Jan's childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped," Goetz said.
"When he arrived in the US as a 16-year-old immigrant living on food stamps, he had the extra incentive of wanting to stay in touch with his family in Russia and the Ukraine."

Koum remained true to those ideas when, after working at Yahoo with his "mentor" Acton, he turned to building WhatsApp, according to Goetz.

The stated mission was to build a better alternative to traditional SMS messaging in a world where smartphones were clearly becoming ubiquitous.

The founders jokingly described themselves at the website as "two guys who spent combined 20 years doing geeky stuff at Yahoo! Inc."

WhatsApp is a platform for sending images, video, audio, or text messages for free over the Internet using data connections of smartphones.

The application is free, but after using it for a year, there is an annual subscription fee of 99 US cents.

"We feel that this model will allow us to become the communications service of the 21st century, and provide you the best way to stay in touch with your friends and family with no ads getting in the way," the startup said in a blog post discussing pricing.

WhatsApp is reported to have grown stunningly fast to more than 450 million users and said to handle 50 billion messages daily.

As of the start of this year, WhatsApp had 50 employees, more than 30 of them engineers. While the company has its headquarters in the California city of Mountain View, where Google has its main campus, most of the engineering work is reportedly done in Russia. - AFP

In Asia, WhatsApp posts mixed message for Facebook


Singapore: WhatsApp may be hugely popular but its forays into Asia, the world's biggest mobile market, have had mixed success, raising questions about whether it can sustain the explosive growth Facebook Inc cited to justify its $19 billion price tag.

Data from app metric company App Annie, for example, shows that WhatsApp ranks as the top communications app in only three of 13 Asian countries tracked - Hong Kong, India and Singapore.

"WhatsApp has been a strong player in Asia, but in the past year has faced strong competition from LINE and WeChat," said Neha Dharia, India-based analyst for Ovum, a technology consultancy. "WhatsApp has not been displaced by these players, but has seen stiff competition in growing its market share."

Facebook said on Wednesday it would buy WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, in a deal worth more than Facebook raised in its own IPO. [ID:nL3N0LO52J]

For sure, WhatsApp has been phenomenally successful. For many users it has replaced sending costly texts, or SMS messages. Since its launch in 2009 it has built an active monthly user base of 450 million users.

A survey by marketing and research company Jana found WhatsApp to be the most used messaging app in all the countries it surveyed - India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico - beating competitors by a huge margin. 

The reason: users most prize the basic functions it offers - ad-free chat and photo sharing.

WhatsApp subscribers sent 18 billion messages a day in January. The overall market is growing rapidly: According to Ovum, 27.4 trillion such messages were sent last year; this year that figure will be close to 69 trillion.

CHINA CALLING

By hooking up, Facebook and WhatsApp may be able to take on those markets that have been elusive to Facebook so far. With Facebook blocked in China, and lagging Twitter Inc and Naver Corp's LINE in Japan, WhatsApp "is a potential avenue for Facebook" into those markets, said Vincent Stevens, a senior manager for telecoms consultancy Delta Partners.

Forrester, a consultancy, forecasts that China will have more than 500 million smartphones this year.

And in the fast growing smartphone market of India, says Neil Shah, research director of devices and ecosystems at Counterpoint Research, local users now account for almost 9 percent of total active WhatsApp users around the world - some 40 million of them.

But Facebook and WhatsApp face formidable foes. Where once messaging apps were simply about messaging, now Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat, LINE and KakaoTalk offer a slew of additional services, from icons and games to buying goods and services.

"LINE and the others are very different to WhatsApp. They're much more innovative in the business models they engage in," says Michael Vakulenko of VisionMobile, a UK-based consultancy. "They are innovating much faster than WhatsApp and going in a different direction."

This could prove decisive in Asia - the biggest battleground for social messaging apps - where no single player dominates.

Data from market research company Nielsen, for example, showed BlackBerry Messenger as the most downloaded messaging app in Indonesia last October, the latest data available, while Viber, bought by Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc for $900 million last week, was the most popular in the Philippines, and LINE in Thailand.

WhatsApp was third in Indonesia, second in Malaysia and not in the top-10 in the Philippines or Thailand. And while locals say WhatsApp remains the default messaging app in Indonesia, some notice a shift.

FICKLE FORTUNES

Jerry Justianto, who runs a radio station network in Jakarta, says he's noticing fewer of his friends using WhatsApp than before. "I think it's reached a plateau in Indonesia," he said. "I see a lot of WhatsApp accounts in my list are inactive."

A survey by market research firm On Device Research late last year found that while nearly two thirds of Indonesians surveyed had installed WhatsApp, less than half used it at least once a week, compared to three quarters of Brazilians who had installed it.

Part of the problem, Justianto says, is that WhatsApp's approach of linking accounts to a phone number doesn't suit Indonesians who change their SIM card frequently. "Some of my early adopter friends are moving to Telegram messenger, where you can activate multiple devices with one number."

Telegram, which offers much the same features as WhatsApp, is evidence of the fickleness of users. The app is free and heavily encrypted, and is popular in some countries. In Spain, for example, it has risen from its launch last year to be the No.1 communications app in Google's Play store, at the expense of WhatsApp, according to App Annie data.

This, said one executive at a handset company in Spain, was partly because of a viral campaign among users to switch, and partly because many users dumped WhatsApp before they were charged at the end of their first, free year.

GETTING USERS TO USE MORE

Across Asia, the fragmentation is evident to users such as Martin Tomlinson, Asia Pacific director for On Device Research, who says he has installed at least six messaging apps for work: "I need to have at least three of these on my phone because that's how my clients communicate."

LINE, for example, considers its top markets as not only Japan but also Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Now, says Simeon Cho, general manager at LINE Plus, which handles LINE's ex-Japan business, the goal is less about winning new users than getting existing ones to use the app more frequently.

Kakao, which started the KakaoTalk messenger service in 2010 and has since grown rapidly to 130 million users, said it was also focusing heavily on Southeast Asia, where there is relatively low smartphone penetration and no dominant messenger service.

And for China's Tencent, KakaoTalk and LINE are more of a threat overseas than WhatsApp, as the company's WeChat expansion is focused on Southeast Asia.

WhatsApp would only pose a serious threat if the likes of Tencent were to expand farther west. "This means it's now going to be more difficult for LINE to win in North America and Europe," said Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based technology consultant.

 - By Jeremy Wagstaff Reuters

Facebook deal sends message to WhatsApp's Asia rivals


HONG KONG - Facebook's stunning US$19 billion (S$24 billion) deal for messaging service WhatsApp places the social network in an arena where competition is fierce, particularly in Asia, where fast-growing chat rivals dominate their home markets.

The multi-billion dollar valuation of WhatsApp is based on expectations that its 450 million monthly users will eventually pass one billion, powering the social network's drive into the fast- growing mobile space - particularly in emerging markets, where the simplicity of the messaging app can thrive on less expensive phones.

But it is not the only service gaining traction around the world, particularly in parts of Asia, where players such as WeChat in China, Kakao Talk in South Korea and Line in Japan dominate - and, according to analysts, show greater potential for making money given their different products and strategies.

While WhatsApp, which is free to download but charges users US$1 per year, is popular in some Asian markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore, services such as Line, WeChat and Kakao have also expanded around the region and beyond.

"Mobile-messaging apps are growing fast in Asia," noted Elinor Leung and Seung-Joo Ro in a report for regional brokerage CLSA.

"While Facebook dominates the US, mobile-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line and WeChat have rapidly taken over Asian SNS (social networking service) markets, especially in the emerging markets."

WhatsApp currently has a larger base than each of the three Asian services but they are growing fast, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, where smartphones or less expensive "feature" phones are seeing explosive growth.

CLSA noted that "Asian mobile-messaging apps like Tencent's WeChat and Naver Corp.'s Line should be valued at a premium to WhatsApp with their wider service offerings and higher revenue potential from games to e-commerce and payment."

WeChat is currently valued by CLSA at US$35 billion and Line at US$14 billion.

Global social messaging volumes are expected to reach 69 trillion and subscribers to such services 1.8 billion by the end of 2014, according to data from market research firm Ovum.

"In SouthEast Asia there is a huge tussle for market share," Neha Dharia of Ovum told AFP.

"WhatsApp will be able to claim the Facebook share of those markets as well, making it hard for these other guys to grow."

WeChat

WeChat, or "Weixin" in Chinese, is a free instant messaging and social media mobile application developed by Chinese Internet giant Tencent and officially launched in January 2011.

It has not only become a popular mobile communications tool in China - where Facebook is mostly blocked and WhatsApp usage is comparatively low - but has also attracted tens of millions of users in overseas markets.

The Facebook deal values active WhatsApp users at US$42 a piece. According to analysts with Japan's Mizuho bank, WeChat is worth twice that amount "on the back of its gaming, [commerce] and mobile payment potential".

WeChat's number of monthly active users worldwide reached 272 million by the end of September last year, more than doubling from a year earlier amid a drive to attract more users in countries such as India, Spain and South Africa.

WeChat provides text, photo, video and voice messaging services on major mobile platforms. It also offers games, online payments and taxi booking.

Line

Launched in 2011 as an instant message and free voice call app, Line - whose parent company is South Korea's Naver Corp. - has grown to 350 million users worldwide and aims to hit 500 million this year.

Its user-friendly interface and voice communication capacity have helped it become one of most successful apps in Japan, while also seeing popularity in Thailand, Taiwan, Spain and Latin America.

The app is best known for "stickers" - cartoon-like images purchased by users, sales of which are core to Line's revenues.

Kakao Talk

Launched in 2010, Kakao Talk is used by 95 per cent of South Korea's smartphone users and boasts 130 million users worldwide. It is reported to be preparing for an initial public offering next year that could value it at US$2 billion.

The free app allows users to send messages, pictures, soundbites and video via the Internet, either on WiFi or through cellphone networks.

Gifts can be bought using Kakao's online shopping facilities, a feature that helped push revenue last year to 230 billion won (US$215 million) from 46 billion won a year ago.

It is eyeing Southeast Asian markets including Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia where it is fighting for market share against Line and WeChat.

Viber

Developed by Cyprus-based Viber Media, which was founded in 2010, the service boasts 280 million users and was recently purchased by Japanese IT firm Rakuten for US$900 million - or roughly US$3 per user. It allows free text messages and phone calls as well as video messaging. It recently launched a service allowing desktop users to call non-Viber users' mobile phones, in a challenge to Skype, owned by Microsoft.

Analysts have questioned whether it can make more money from customers in the same way that the likes of Line and WeChat have, leading to Rakuten's share price plunging as much as 13 per cent on the first trading day after it announced the deal.

- AFP

War of the apps heats up in China

In the Battle between the two Chinese Internet giants Alibaba and Tencent, the consumers are the real winners.

 
RAISING a hand to flag down a taxi by the streets could be passé in China, or at least in the eyes of the taxi booking app developers.

Two popular mobile apps, Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache (“dache” means taking the taxi), make it possible for passengers to hail a cab without flailing an arm, but just tapping on their smart phones.

The war between the two apps, which are backed by Chinese Internet giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd respectively, has gotten more intense this week.

On Monday, Didi Dache announced that it was going to revive its 10-yuan (RM5.42) rebate programme for users who book a cab and pay via Tencent’s instant messaging app Wechat.

Every passenger is entitled to receive a subsidy of 10 yuan each trip, for up to three trips a day.

For taxi drivers in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, a reward of 10 yuan awaits for up to 10 bookings they successfully respond to through Didi Dache.

Cabbies in other cities will receive 5 yuan (RM2.71) for the first five trips and 10 yuan for the next five trips.

To prevent users from cheating, Didi Dache said it would block passengers and drivers who reach mutual agreements to use the app only after the passengers get into the cabs, with the motive of earning the rebates.

Didi Dache reportedly poured in 1bil yuan (RM542.18mil) for this round of subsidy.

Kuaidi Dache was quick to follow up with an “always-one-yuan-more” reward.

Users who hail a cab through its app and pay via Alibaba’s mobile payment service Alipay Wallet were promised that they would always enjoy one yuan more than users of its competitor.

It is not the first time these two apps are using these tactics to entice users.

In January, Didi Dache rolled out the 10-yuan rebate promotion, prompting Kuaidi Dache to offer the same rebate in response.

When Didi Dache reduced the 10-yuan incentive by half on Feb 10, Kuaidi Dache seized the chance to announce that it would retain the 10-yuan offer.

Now that Didi Dache has readjusted the rebate back to 10 yuan, Kuaidi Dache has decided to have the upper hand by pledging “always-one-yuan-more”.

However, just a day after these announcements were made, Didi Dache upped the rebate once again. Passengers would now receive between 12 yuan and 20 yuan (RM6.51 and RM10.84) per trip.

Kuaidi Dache followed suit to offer a subsidy of at least 13 yuan (RM7.05) per trip.

While Didi Dache offered 10,000 free trips a day to lucky passengers, Kuaidi Dache pledged 15,000 free trips a day.

It appeared that there was no end to this intense price war.

This “war” between the two apps is only one segment of the fierce rivalry between the two Internet companies, Tencent and Alibaba.

Tencent owns Wechat while Alibaba has developed a similar app known as “Laiwang”.

Alibaba bought 18% stake of the popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo last year, which is the contender of Tencent’s Wechat.

Last week, Alibaba offered to purchase mobile mapping app AutoNavi. Tencent, meanwhile, already has a mapping service that boasts a similar function to Google’s Street View.

This latest contest in the taxi-booking app was seen as a tactic to encourage smart phone users to adopt the habit of using mobile payments.

During the just-concluded Chinese New Year holiday, Wechat users went gaga over the electronic angpao.

They had to first link their bank accounts to Wechat before they could give or receive money among their circle of friends.

According to Beijing Times, from the eve until the eighth day of Chinese New Year, more than 40 million angpao were handed out in the activity participated by more than eight million people.

Even Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma described the phenomenon as a “Pearl Harbour attack”.

In a poll on finance.ifeng.com, 70.42% of some 5,600 respondents felt that the war of taxi booking apps between Tencent and Alibaba was not a vicious competition.

Almost half of them believed that what mattered most at the end of the day was the product experience.

They were of the opinion that the company with the better service would prevail, in contrast to only 23.38% of the respondents who predicted that the one with bigger financial capability would eventually be declared the winner.

With the two giants locking horns and trying to outdo each other, many believed that the consumers are the biggest beneficiaries.

The rebates did not have a reported deadline. Until the cash rewards are withdrawn, users can continue to enjoy the subsidies to save some pennies.

Contributed  by Tho Xin Yi The Star/Asia News Network

Related posts:
1. WhatsApp deal dwarfs other high-profile Tech acquisitions 
2. Tech players race to widen reach !

Friday, 21 February 2014

Tech players race to widen reach !



Facebook goes the distance to widen reach 

IN the age of connectivity, what sells a technology company is not its system nor its employees, but the reach it has throughout the world.

Making news over the past few days has been the Facebook-WhatsApp deal, sealed at a whopping offer of US$19bil.

It is the biggest deal year-to-date and has set yet another stratospheric benchmark in the arena of tech deals. The deal pushed 2014’s total tech deals to US$50bil, the highest since 2000.

Google, which contended for WhatsApp as well, lost the acquisition battle with an offer about half the amount Facebook was willing to fork out – US$10bil.

Facebook is hungry for reach, and it has proven in the tech arena that it is willing to go the distance to get it.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was reported to have told a conference call that it was Facebook’s explicit strategy to focus on growing and connecting everyone in the world over the next several years.

“And then we believe that once we get to being a service that has one billion, two billion, maybe even three billion people one day, there are many clear ways that we can monetise.

“But the right strategy we believe, is to continue focusing on growth and the product and succeeding in building the best communication tools in the world.”

Yes, pay for your customers first, then ease them into paying you.

To depict how valuable a company’s reach or user base is, take a look at Viber’s valuations when it was sold to global Internet services company Rakuten just a week ago.

With 105 million monthly active users, the messaging app company got acquired at US$900mil or US$8.57 per user.

In comparison, WhatsApp was bought at the price of US$42 per user for its big pool of 450 million monthly active users. And this number is expected to grow over the next few years.

As tech website CNet puts it: Facebook (has) demonstrated (that) valuations can rise or fall dramatically based on how large a base of users you command.

In the meantime, game company King Digital Entertainment is also looking to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company behind addictive mobile game, Candy Crush, said on Tuesday it planned to raise US$500mil from an initial public offering. In the last quarter of 2013, the game had 12.2 million monthly unique players.

Going public is said to be gainful for the company’s founders, as they only raised US$9mil of funding since it was founded in 2002.

Some tech deals have been bungled too, such as in social game company Zynga’s case.

Zynga, which is also listed, rose with meteoric success in its first years of business buying as many as 11 companies when it turned a profit in 2010. However, its success fizzled out as it failed to move into the mobile gaming space, even with its acquisition of the once-popular Draw Something game app.

While Zynga focused on developing games for Facebook (names like Farmville and Mafia Wars come to mind) and the desktop, games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush outran them on mobile devices.

There are also older examples of missed and misused opportunities like Yahoo! overlooking the competition from Google or MySpace losing its appeal under the wings of NewsCorp.

An extensive reach or user base creates the pulse in the economy of the virtual world, and the pulse is sustained by being in touch with user experience and trends.

As the entrepreneur spirit demands a courage to take on risks, technoprenuers like Zuckerberg have to surely keep an eye out for competitors worth bagging to expand their social network empires.

The race for reach continues.

Contributed by Liz Lee The Star/Asia News Network

Related post:
WhatsApp deal dwarfs other high-profile Tech acquisitions

WhatsApp deal dwarfs other high-profile Tech acquisitions

WhatsApp with Facebook's $19B offer?

 http://money.cnn.com/video/technology/2014/02/19/t-facebook-whatsapp-19-billion.cnnmoney/


In a play to dominate messaging on phones and the Web, Facebook has acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion.

That's a stunning sum for the five-year old company. But WhatsApp has been able to hold its weight against messaging heavyweights like Twitter (TWTR), Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) and Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) Skype. WhatsApp has upwards of 450 million users, and it is adding an additional million users every day.

Referring to WhatsApp's soaring growth, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call, "No one in the history of the world has done anything like that."

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app for smartphones, according to OnDevice Research.

Buying WhatsApp will only bolster Facebook's already strong position in the crowded messaging world. Messenger, Facebook's a standalone messaging app for mobile devices, is second only to WhatsApp in its share of the smartphone market.

Related: 5 key moments that changed Facebook
 
Similar to traditional text messaging, WhatsApp allows people to connect via their cellphone numbers. But instead of racking up texting fees, WhatsApp sends the actual messages over mobile broadband. That makes WhatsApp particularly cost effective for communicating with people overseas.

That kind of mobile messaging services have become wildly popular, with twice as many messages sent over the mobile Internet than via traditional texts, according to Deloitte. But most of the messaging industry's revenue is still driven by text messaging.

On the conference call, Facebook said it is not looking to drive revenue from WhatsApp in the near term, instead focusing on growth. Zuckerberg said he doesn't anticipate trying to aggressively grow WhatsApp's revenue until the service reaches "billions" of users.

WhatsApp currently charges a dollar a year after giving customers their first year of use for free. WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said on the conference call that WhatsApp's business model is already successful.

That indicates Facebook bought WhatsApp to add value to its existing messaging services, as well as for the long-term potential of the company.

Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 for similar reasons: As young social network users gravitated towards photo-sharing, Facebook wanted to scoop up what could have eventually become a big rival.

Like Instagram, WhatsApp will function as an autonomous unit within Facebook, with all the existing employees coming in as part of the deal.

Facebook (FB, Fortune 500) said it will pay WhatsApp $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock.

WhatsApp's founders and staff will be eligible for for another $3 billion in stock grants to be paid out if they remain employed by Facebook for four years. Koum will also join Facebook's board of directors.

-     @CNNMoneyTech

Beware of Cheque scams, banks take responsibility

Senior citizens' cheques were intercepted and stampered with in separate incidents
 
PETALING JAYA: Two senior citizens nearly lost thousands of ringgit when their cheques were intercepted and tampered with in separate incidents.

In the first incident, a man who paid his utility bills through cheques sent via mail was shocked to find that the amount deducted from his account was 10 times what he had written on one of the cheques.

The foreign national, who only wanted to be known as Richard, owns a home in Malaysia.

He issued a cheque for RM200 to pay his electricity bill in November last year.

“When I received the bank statement, I was shocked to see that the amount deducted was more than RM2,000,” he said.

When the bank gave him a copy of the cheque that was deposited, he realised that the cheque had been replaced with a fake one.

“The cheque was a different one altogether and it was made to one Alan Lim @ Lim Sze Wei. Only the serial number was the same as the one I had issued and there was a forged version of my signature,” he said, adding that the design on the cheque was also different as he was still using an older version.

“I only issue cheques once or twice a month and have not changed the cheque book for years. The old version had the bank logo in the centre. The fake cheque had a completely different design without the logo in the centre,” said Richard, who is in his 80s. Richard then lodged a police report.

In the second case, an 87-year-old pensioner’s cheque was believed to be intercepted and the name of the payee and amount altered, said his daughter K.L. Wong.

She said her father routinely paid his insurance policy premiums by cheque sent via mail, which was what he did on Jan 31.

He wrote a cheque for RM169 payable to a bank’s card centre to pay for his policy and posted it the next day.

On Feb 13, Wong, who handles most her father’s accounts because he is wheelchair-bound, called the bank to check if the cheque had been cleared.

“I was told the card centre had not received it and there was no payment for the December and January premiums,” she said.

Upon checking the account balance, she discovered that RM4,600 had been deducted.

“At first, the bank thought the cheque might have been processed and paid to the wrong person.”

When she requested for a scanned image of the cheque from the bank, she discovered all the payment details had been altered.

“It was the same cheque but the original details were somehow ‘washed out’. Only my father’s signature remained. The cheque was altered to pay someone by the name of Lim Teng Yong,” she said, adding that the person was unknown to her father.

Wong said the bank admitted that it was not the first complaint it had received involving the same name being used to cash fraudulent cheques.

She added that the bank promised to investigate the matter and she lodged a police report the next day.

Richard and Wong’s father’s cheques were issued by the same bank. After internal investigations, the bank reimbursed both men.

“It was good the bank was willing to take responsibility but there is obviously a scam going on. The public should be aware of how cheques are being tampered with or forged,” said Wong.

The bank declined to comment.

- Contributed by Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi The Star/Asia News Network

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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Do You need jabs, antibiotics?


OUR population is getting more and more educated and knowledgeable. With the convenience of internet and smart phone, information can be assessed anytime and anywhere.

Facebook and Google have become the source of reference for most people. Many can now be “experts” in many specialised fields, including engineering, law and even medicine.

Nowadays, the medical practitioners enounter some patients who are so-called internet savvy, and refuse antibiotics and vaccines.

This issue arose due to the spread of such information in the internet, claiming antibiotics could lead to “superbug” and are associated with many adverse effects, while vaccines could cause autism or death.

Well, the risks of administration of both drugs are certainly debatable.

What we know for a fact is that since Alexander Flemming discovered penicillin and the pox vaccine, many lives were saved.

Nevertheless, I am not in the position to comment on the good and bad of both antibiotics and vaccines. But, it is more important for the general public to understand more about the need for antibiotics and vaccines.

Antibiotics or more specifically antibacterial, is a medicine indicated to kill (bactericidal) or inhibit the growth (bacteriostatic) of the bacteria.

There are various types of antibiotics with different mode of actions and indications. Strictly speaking, the mechanism of action for antibiotics is rather complicated.

However, it works mainly to counter attack the rapid reproduction of bacterial colonies, so that our immune system has enough time to defeat the illness.

Thus, the usage of antibiotics is strictly limited to the bacterial infection. In common clinical conditions, like acute exudative tonsillitis, abscess formation and urinary tract infection, antibiotics are strongly prescribed.

It must be understood that antibiotics have no role in curing diseases caused by fungus, virus or other parasites.

Therefore, it should not be overprescribed in cases like common cough and cold, flu and fungal infection of skin.

As for vaccines, they are biological preparations that help to boost immunity. Its primary focus is on disease prevention. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it.

Vaccines work by introducing the weakened form of “disease germ” into the body. The body will respond by producing antibodies to fight these invaders. At this stage, technically, the immune system is being sensitised. If the actual disease germ attacks the body, more antibodies will be produced to destroy the real enemy.

Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Many patients question the need for further vaccination as diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis are very rare these days.

Furthermore, there are people that do not get vaccination, yet able to live healthily until old age. This is the myth behind “herd immunity”.

Herd immunity serves as a preventive barrier as most of the population had been vaccinated, thus, the disease is contained from spreading. If herd immunity is compromised, the widespread of the disease may occur.

A piece of advice to all, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Before you start to tell doctors about the negative effects of antibiotics and vaccines, why not, give them a chance to explain to you before you make a decision.

Contributed by DR H.B. CHEE, Muar, Johor The Star/Asia News Network

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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A Malaysian household needs monthly income of RM14,580 (US$4,486) to buy a home in Malaysia


Klang Valley still affordable 

KUALA LUMPUR: You must have an average household income of RM14,580 a month to afford a home in the Klang Valley, according to a recent study.

The study – spearheaded by Sime Darby Property Bhd in collaboration with the Faculty of Built Environment of Universiti Malaya – takes into account the current household spending trend, price of homes and mortgage rates.

It found that certain groups of buyers interested in strategic areas can have access to houses that are priced at 56 times their household income.

The study also found that this same group can afford to spend up to 26% of their monthly household income to service a mortgage.

It identified strategic areas in the Klang Valley that are considered not only accessible but have the potential to appreciate in value. They include Nilai, Denai Alam, Bukit Jelutong and Bukit Subang.

A report of the study said that houses in selected areas in the Klang Valley remain accessible to homeowners who may be looking to invest in a second home.

The Housing-Income Index which was launched here yesterday by Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who said the survey results would be useful for potential house buyers.

“The Index and its key findings had been reviewed by the ministry, and we find that the information is valuable as it can help policy makers and developers work hand-in-hand to build more houses that are not only accessible. but which can appreciate in value,” he said.

Abdul Rahman hoped that other property developers and the academia can carry out similar surveys in the country.

Based on the findings, Sime Darby said that 68% ofplanned housing schemes in the Klang Valley were in the accessible range.

“We intend to utilise the results to develop innovative, high quality products that are accessible and meet market needs,” said Sime darby Property managing director Datuk Seri Abd Wahab Maskan.


The Housing-Income Index was developed to gain a better understanding of home-owner profiles, specifically household incomes and spending patterns in relation to owning a home.

The study covered 1,529 respondents, of whom 1,183 were home owners at 12 locations: Bukit Jelutong, Denai Alam, Bukit Subang, Bandar Bukit Raja, Subang Jaya, USJ, Putra Heights, Ara Damansara, Mont Kiara, Melawati, Kajang and Nilai.

Purchasers want affordable homes but in safe neighbourhoods - However, Cheaper areas but few buyers

PETALING JAYA: Affordable homes are still available in the Klang Valley but many areas with houses priced around RM400,000 and below are not preferable to buyers.

Real-estate agent Michael Edward said areas such as Taman Sentosa and Taman Seri Andalas in Klang are examples where the houses are affordable but there are few pickers because it lacked security facilities and gated community features.

“Buyers want affordable pricing, safety and location when they buy a house. But most affordable houses that are available are usually under the older projects and may have a high crime rate. This puts off potential buyers,” said the Klang-based agent with Rina Properties.

Responding to recently-released Sime Darby Housing-Income Index, which said that one must have an average income of RM14,580 a month to afford a home in the Klang Valley, Edward said the survey probably interviewed respondents who owned properties in Sime Darby’s housing projects where prices were much higher compared to other areas.

“If other housing projects besides Sime Darby’s are taken under the survey, the average household income should be lower,” he added.

Describing the survey as “putting the bar too high”, real estate agent Jeremy Jones said the average household income of RM14,580 per month in the Klang Valley could be applicable to properties valued at RM950,000 to RM1.3mil in strategic locations.

“This is probably to purchase a double-storey house in areas such as Ara Damansara, USJ Heights and Glenmarie, Shah Alam where Sime Darby has developed its housing projects,” said Jones, who is attached to Ramdar Properties.

On whether selected areas in the Klang Valley remain accessible to potential house buyers, Jones said although there was affordable housing in various pockets within the Klang Valley, new buyers tended to look for a new environment and preferred to have their home within a gated-community.

“Therefore, choices for such housing become available to affluent buyers only,” he said.

On Monday, Sime Darby Property Bhd in collaboration with the Faculty of Built Environment of Universiti Malaya released the finding of a study that indicated that house buyers must have an average household income of RM14,580 a month to afford a home in the Klang Valley.

The study was conducted on 1,529 respondents aged between 21 and 60. Ninety-four per cent of them were married and 59% of them worked in the private sector.

Contributed by  G. Surach The Star/Asian News Network

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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Malaysia's healthcare system is one of the best in the world


 Country is third best and practioners 'equal to or better than most Western countries'

PETALING JAYA: The country’s achievement at being rated third best in the world for healthcare services is something to be proud of, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

He also gave credit to the boom in the country’s medical tourism sector through strategic investments on good medical facilities and competitive rates compared to other parts of the world.

“Medical tourism has benefited the Government in terms of foreign direct investments and also spin-off effects in the hotel and shopping sectors,” he said yesterday.

The Star Online reported yesterday that a study by the American publication International Living rated Malaysia’s healthcare system as the third best out of 24 countries in its 2014 Global Retirement Index, beating Spain, Italy, Ireland and New Zealand, among other countries.

The index, which was recently released by the Baltimore-based magazine, praised Malaysia’s healthcare, which scored 95 out of a possible 100 points, as the medical expertise of Malaysian healthcare practitioners is “equal to or better than what it is in most Western countries”, according to InternationalLiving.com’s Asia correspondent Keith Hockton.

The top two countries, France and Uruguay, scored 97 and 96 points, respectively.

On the methodology of the index’s ratings, the magazine said both the cost and quality of healthcare were evaluated.

Another report in International Medical Travel Journal News reported that medical tourism receipts in Malaysia from foreign patients totalled RM509.77mil in 2011 involving 578,403 patients.

Dr Subramaniam added that Malaysia remained competitive with players like Singapore and Thailand and the focus was to consolidate the country’s position.

He said the key towards improving the overall healthcare sector would be to focus on the preventive and primary healthcare divisions.

Malaysia Medical Association (MMA) president Datuk Dr N.K.S Tharmaseelan also acknowledged the findings, saying that the country has one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

“The Health Ministry has become a massive seamless service provider in healthcare that has produced magnificent results over the years. Our statistics prove it,” he said, adding that this was despite general practitioners being the lowest paid in the world with their fees being regulated.

He added that impressive figures such as life expectancy for women reaching 80 years and about 72 years for men were reflective of the excellent healthcare provided by the ministry and the private sector.

By G. Surach The Star/Asia News Network