I have spoken on this in the past. We have about 1,100 listed companies and the majority are the market capitalisation of RM500m. We already have a situation whereby local pension funds are finding it tough to investable vehicles locally. Hence the need to invest an increasing amount overseas. Thats all fine. However most funds cannot invest in small caps, hence you find many decent small caps not having the support of long term funds on their register. Yes, there are plenty of under performing and even dubious small cap counters. But we are not helping matters by ignoring the small caps.
Part of the reason why so many small caps have to resort to "manipulative" share price activities to "make money" is due to a lack of genuine long term funds participating in small caps. If the situation is remedied, we can see an explosion of interest in good small caps. In the longer term, small caps will alter their behaviour to pursue good financial management goals to attract these long term funds.
We don't even need a huge fund. EPF can allocate RM4 billion for a small caps local fund unit, targeting listed companies below RM500m market cap. Say there are 600-700 listed vehicles that qualify to be investable. Assuming 200 are "performers" .. we are talking roughly RM20m position in each. the flow on effects will be enormous. Retail investors will be better persuaded to follow "good" small caps. Small caps with a decent growth story will find it easier to seek for more capital for growth and expansion. Velocity of money will translate to a more robust small caps market. In turn, the appetite among other small caps yet unlisted, will find Bursa to be a better location to get listed. This will go a long way to losing good potential listings to other jurisdictions such as HK's GEM.
AG: A most important post. A shoo-in by most would see Ambiga as a popular choice. However, the real world is not so simple. As much as we would like to see all things transparent, and all things above board. we have to be mindful that the real world involves personalities and politics. There are plenty of gray areas. While we need somebody who is respected and capable, we also need someone is able to move us gradually from gray to not to gray, and to white or shades of white. Being too idealistic may show us up as a growing nation not so prepared for the full truth. I can see somebody who is more politically astute while holding the rightful credentials assuming the post. Do we take baby steps or do we have the political will to take the plunge. Hence I would understand if Ambiga is not chosen, but I wish she will be the final choice.
Rafizi Ramli to head EPU. Enough said.
Old Habits Die Hard
Can we eradicate corruption and cronyism outright in a flash. Again, idealistically impossible. Even in the case for Hongkong, which was a grand beacon for eradicating corruption via the establishment of ICAC and the spring cleaning of the police force - eventually it took more than 5-10 years for things to take root before anti-corruption became part of the larger business culture.
To that end, to facilitate culture change: MACC must be one armed with teeth; needless to say the judiciary/AG must be free from influence; the Whistleblower Act must be revamped to protect whistleblowers. Once the machinery and laws are in place, it will permeate itself into the workings of all dealings. Full eradication will still be years away but we need to set it on the right path.
Safety Nets 1
As a caring nation, we must have some sort of unemployment benefits or unemployment insurance. As things stand, once we lose our employment, we are left to fend for ourselves. Unemployment can arise when there are structural changes to the industries a country can support. We cannot and should never be locked in a low cost exporting country.
Employer and employees can contribute a small sum to fund the Unemployment Benefits fund. Simple workable rules can be adopted from proven schemes in other countries. One should at least have worked more than 1 year to qualify and benefits if suddenly unemployed, 3 months full salary, 3 months half salary. It is important that safety nets not be a crutch but a helping hand to ease the burdens somewhat.
To that end, we must limit the number of foreign workers and start them at a higher basic pay, say RM1,500-1,800 a month. Enough about protecting our low cost production industries, or else we will never move up the economic transformation curve for higher wages and higher value add industries. No point producing graduates if the better jobs are not forthcoming.
Of course, there will be those who argue that graduates we are producing do not measure up - its a chicken and egg thing. Now that we can evolve, with a renewed perspective on education, parallel changes must be enacted across other spectrums such as industries, workforce composition and attracting the "right type of foreign investments".
Safety Nets 2
Our bankruptcy laws are archaic, and unnecessarily favours the banks/finance companies.The trouble with our system is that bankruptcy runs in perpetuity (i.e. almost never ending till you die). Unlike in HK, Singapore and many forward thinking economies where you only have 4 or 5 years to pay down your debt and after that you are free from the debts.
Why is it so important to implement a limited period for bankruptcy?
1) Being bankrupt means you are also literally removing around 5-8% of the working public and 5-8% of households from participating in the real economy. Cannot do business, cannot get loans, even job hunting may be a problem every now and then.
2) The Malaysian archaic system overly favours the banks and financial lending institutions. When its in perpetuity, the banks can clamp down on you for the rest of your life. We have to make banks and other lenders also responsible for their part in giving out the loans. Look, even creditors to EU give haircut once Greece is in trouble. That is why banks in Malaysia can be so bloody aggressive with credit cards, they know they have a very long recourse to make your life a living hell.
3) The 250,000 figure (back in 2013, the present figure could be around 400,000) will jump soon. Why? Just look at the way they are dishing out the study loans under PTPTN. Look at the surge in personal loans by non bank institutions, look at the aggressive credit card schemes. When you give out RM30,000 or RM40,000 or RM50,000 to someone and their job is only likely to pay them RM2,000-2,500 when they graduate, if they graduate, and if they can find a job then, ... you are going to have huge problems. Plus, we haven't got to the credit card users yet.
4) Even people who end up in jail for a few years and come out, they are free ... not if you are a bankrupt, man, they will drag you till you go to your grave.
5) The onus needs to shift back to the banks and other institutional lenders for a more balanced and equitable solution. For far too long have the banks been operating giddily under such a protective umbrella in their favour. There has to be a fairer distribution of risk for lending and borrowing. I am not suggesting that debtors need not pay, I am saying you need to give them a limited timeline.
6) When you take out 5-8% of the household from the real economy in perpetuity, it has a lot of indirect repercussions: cannot get study loans for children, making it very difficult to reverse their position as their job prospects may be affected as some companies frown on their status, etc. Needless to say, these 5-8% will also NOT play a part in the real economy in an effective manner - talk about dropping an anchor on the economy, it weighs heavily especially if its in perpetuity.
To that end, I would suggest to make the threshold for making a person bankrupt to be raised to RM50,000, and that automatic cancellation be enforced after 4 years.
Safety Nets 3
Is our civil service bloated? Probably. However I would suggest that we slow the hiring of new people for civil service and adopt a redeployment and retraining of existing civil servants to rectify the problem. as a caring nation, we cannot just effect changes with a swift cut without giving due recognition to the consequences. It is also the past governments' fault that they are in such a situation, not the people working there.
It is a known fact that it is "easy" for civil servants to obtain loans from certain banks/finance companies. Unfortunately, instead of helping them, this has more often than not, burdened them further. The on-going automatic deduction from salary to pay down loans has to be revamped.
Easy peasy. Make everyone who is 21 and over automatically registered as voters. Redraw boundary lines using population sizing - each Parliamentary seat to make up between 50,000 to 100,000 voters. Less than 50,000 will be merged to nearest constituency, more than that spillover to nearest constituency. Same for state seats. Plus all the other Bersih proposals for improvements in the electoral system.
Sabah & Sarawak
Needs better autonomy. Better sharing of oil royalties. A special investing committee to look into bringing the right industries and value-add industries to East Malaysia. A more cohesive approach to build up eco-tourism there as there are plenty of opportunities to harness economic activity from that.
Malaysia is not in a twilight zone. Things cannot happen without good reason, and people cannot just disappear without the truth being uncovered. The high profile deaths/murders over the past 10 years cannot just be swept under the carpet.