Monday, May 28, 2018

Malaysia's Debt - Deconstructed

Nobody is spooking anyone by revealing the level of debt the country is facing. Before we can properly address the debt, we have to be honest and come clean. No point pussyfooting here. Some said that that jolted the markets. While the stock market is an important aspect for a open trading country like Malaysia, volatility in the market cannot be minimised at the expense of the greater good. I believe most Malaysians would not mind suffering over the short term as long as the good of the country is being prioritised.

There are rules in placed where federal government’s debt-to-GDP ratio should be lower than the 55% self-imposed debt limit. If the previous government deliberately misled or went over that limit, as it appears to be so, there should be "censures" and a deliberation on possible legal consequences for the mismanagement and misinformation.

(not trying to trivialise the matter, but have a look at our current standing among the rest of the world, while I balked at 80% of GDP figure, it is nowhere near critical or unmanageable)

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng put the ratio at 80.3% of GDP, or about RM1.09 trillion in debt as at end-2017. There are just too much off balance sheet items. Not all of the debt is bad. The majority based on viable and economically beneficial projects. Nonetheless, you don't want to be servicing RM70b a year in interest year in year out (assuming an estimate of 6%p.a.).

One, must reduce the overall commitments. 
$Hypothetically - Plugging leakages, eliminating wastage, better revenue collection ~ RM30b.
$Renegotiation or cancellation of certain big projects ~ RM100bn

$Reclaiming Stolen Funds/Assets - Again, the figures could be fluid ~ RM20bn.
Listing of Petronas - This is a brilliant idea. Last year's profit was RM45bn. Using 20x = RM900bn market cap. Government sells 25% = RM225bn. Although I am against selling vital resources, but we can get local funds to take up 7%, and let retailers to take up another 3%. The company pays decent dividends. When our country's balance sheet is better, we may even consider buying back and taking Petronas private later on. ~ RM225bn
$ indicates plausible figures, that may vary substantially, one way or another; nonetheless, these are all "positive" newsflow to come in the months ahead. The new government is right to get all the bad news out first. Then only we know what we are dealing with. So far, the figures are not good but in my view, much more manageable, and trust me when I say it could have been a lot worse.

 (the key is to look at the colour representing each country)

There are plenty of ways to raise funds, some of the less popular ones include a temporary tax on palm oil and log exports. Reintroduction of SST. 
Basically, a country has just 3 ways to raise funds: Taxation, Borrowing and Printing of money. Without going into details, none of the 3 can be considered as options as things stand now.
EPF/KWAP - The best "net cash flow" entity in the country are EPF, KWAP and the like. EPF alone has about RM800bn in investible funds and that figure has a net growth in contributions alone of around RM15bn a year. If you factor in the compounded growth rate from returns, it should be a RM1 trillion vehicle in 2-3 years.

As things stand, EPF already has a problem finding sufficient investible local currency assets. There are a lot of companies under Ministry of Finance.

To date, MOF (Inc.) holds direct majority shareholding in 66 companies as below:
MOF (Inc.) Majority Shareholding Companies
1.1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)
2.Amanah Raya Berhad (ARB)
3.Astronautic Technology (M) Sdn Bhd (ATSB)
4.Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad
5.Bank Pertanian Malaysia (Agrobank)
6.Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd
7.Cyberview Sdn Bhd
8.Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Berhad (EXIM Bank)
9.FELCRA Berhad
10.Halal Industry Development Corporation Sdn Bhd (HDC)
11.IJN Holdings Sdn Bhd
12.Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK)
13.Inno Bio Ventures Sdn Bhd (IBV)
14.Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia Bhd (ITBM)
15.Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd (JKSB)
16.JKP Sdn Bhd
17.Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB)
18.Khazanah Nasional Berhad
19.Kumpulan Modal Perdana Sdn Bhd (KMP)
20.Malaysia Debt Ventures Berhad (MDV)
21.Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Sdn Bhd (MDeC)
22.Malaysia Kuwaiti Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd (MKIC)
23.Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd
24.Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corporation Sdn Bhd
25.Malaysian Venture Capital Management Bhd (MAVCAP)
26.Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT)
27.MIMOS Berhad
28.MyCreative Ventures Sdn. Bhd.
29.MyHSR Corporation Sdn Bhd
30.Pembinaan BLT Sdn Bhd (PBLT)
31.Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (PAAB)
32.Perbadanan Nasional Berhad (PNS)
33.Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS)
34.Prasarana Malaysia Berhad
35.Prokhas Sdn Bhd
36.Rangkaian Hotel Seri Malaysia Sdn Bhd
37.Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd
38.Sepang International Circuit Sdn Bhd (SIC)
39.SIRIM Berhad
40.Small Medium Enterprise Development Bank Malaysia Berhad (SME Bank)
41.SRC International Sdn Bhd
42.Suria Strategic Energy Resources Sdn Bhd
43.Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd (SPNB)
44.Technology Park Malaysia Corporation Sdn Bhd (TPM)
45.UDA Holdings Bhd
46.1Malaysia Sukuk Global Berhad
47.AES Solutions Sdn Bhd
48.Aset Tanah Nasional Bhd
49.Assets Global Network Sdn Bhd
50.DanaInfra Nasional Berhad
51.East Coast Rail Link Sdn Bhd
52.GovCo Holdings Berhad
53.K.L. International Airport Bhd (KLIAB)
54.Malaysia Development Holding Sdn Bhd
55.Malaysian Sovereign Sukuk Sdn Bhd
56.Pembinaan PFI Sdn Bhd
57.Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Berhad
58.Perwaja Terengganu Sdn Bhd
59.Piramid Pertama Sdn Bhd
60.Pyrotechnical Managers Holding Sdn Bhd
61.SDE Solutions Sdn Bhd
62.Syarikat Jaminan Kredit Perumahan Berhad
63.Syarikat Jaminan Pembiayaan Perniagaan Berhad
64.Syarikat Tanah & Harta Sdn Bhd
65.Turus Pesawat Sdn Bhd
66.Wakala Global Sukuk Berhad
  Subsidiaries owned by MOF (Inc.) companies such as Khazanah and PETRONAS are also considered MOF (Inc.) companies through indirect ownership.

A study should be made of the companies to see which are generating decent returns, that are steady and predictable. Looking at the list, MOF will probably have to restructure some of the companies to come up with a vehicle or two that are investible by EPF and the like. 
Sell those assets to EPF/KWAP/PNB. It kills two birds with one stone. We will raise funds to pay down debts, while our local pension/savings funds get an asset that gives a decent return back to Malaysians.

Legalising Sports Betting - This will be seen as an unpopular vote but it is the right time to bring this up in the new era of transparency and social pragmatism. You can choose to ignore it but a substantive portion of the grey/hidden economy involves illegal betting. We have legalised gaming with Genting, 4D, lotto and horse racing. The country has taken up archaice and greedy taxation laws to those legal units - thereby bringing about the rise of illegal gaming outfits. 

If you tax the revenue at 30%, the remaining pool will have a lot less to offer the winners. Its this gap that gives the illegals a huge edge. They can offer 10%-20% discount on your bets and still come out ahead.

A revamp of betting rules, taxation on revenues, and bringing to legality sports betting is needed. Currently the service tax from legalised gaming runs between RM3-6bn a year. While it is hard to estimate the illegal markets, suffice to say it is at least double or triple the legal size. Hence we could be talking an additional revenue of RM6-15bn a year. It is definitely worth studying further. Like it or not, the gambling is already happening, the country might as well benefit from it.

Conclusion: It is not a debilitating task to whittle down our debt figure. The 80% figure while monstrous, is nowhere what many other countries are already facing, and for most of them the outlook is much bleaker. Bad news first, flow of good news will come later.

Recharging The Economy: Paying down debt is one thing. Cutting spending does not help. Does it means that the government will be curtailing investment into the economy? Short answer is NO. Here are just a few suggestions and there could be hundreds of ways to do this.
a. Luring long term foreign investment in specific industries, in specific locales.(Hint: eco-tourism).
b. Improve the velocity of money by energising the small caps market with a RM4bn fund (please read previous post).
c. Increase re-participation of insolvent members of country by adopting a better insolvency laws platform, such as the ones in Singapore/HK where bankruptcy is canceled after 4-5 years (please read previous post).
d. Encourage start ups from the region to locate their HQ in Malaysia via incentives, ease in visa requirements, support from local start up funds, etc.


hong said...

legalize sports betting is a good for government side income,but 1st pdrm had to do their job to close all the illegal 4d gaming and online football bet.If pdrm can do this then its a success for government to had this revenue.FYI illegal 4d is more then 2.5time then legal turnover.And sports betting around rm1-rm1.5 billion per year.And world cup around the corner that mean more bet on WC 2018.

TSH said...

You forgot how other countries calculate their debt, when you mentioned about the official debt to GDP ratio and commented on it, are they including the contingent liabilities and lease expenses into the public debt figure, as what our beloved LGE did??

TSH said...

May I know, how other countries in the world calculate their debt amount in the official dept to gdp ratio as mentioned in your writing? are they including contingent liabilities and lease expenses for their debt figure as well??? As i know there are international standard guidelines on this. So, if Malaysia debt to GDP ratio shoot up to 80% level by using LGE method, how about the rest of world debt to GDP ratio if the same method is used? If only the same method of calculation is used for all countries, the comparison result as per your writing is flawed.

john said...

Legalising betting? This is not Singapore where the majority are godless gamblers whom only worships money.

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