Sunday, January 25, 2009

100 Trillion Thrilling Note

Zimbabwe will introduce a 100 trillion dollar note as the once prosperous country battles to keep pace with hyperinflation that has caused many to abandon the country's currency.

The new 100 trillion dollar bill would be worth about $300 in U.S. currency. A loaf of bread in Zimbabwe now costs about 300 billion Zimbabwean dollars! Like most commodities, the price increases every day.

The country is fighting cash shortages, stemming from the world's highest inflation rate. As of July, the official rate was 231 million %. The currency is in free fall, forcing traders to peg their prices to international currency to hedge against losses.

Most traders and workers demand their pays in foreign currency. Doctors and nurses have been on strike since last September, demanding salaries in U.S. dollars. The strike coincided with a cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 2,000 lives. Teachers had left their jobs. The end-of-year examinations taken in November are yet to be graded and thus schools are yet to re-open.

What a mess! Could not imagine buying a loaf of bread using a suitcase full of money! Wallets are of no use, gotta bring the huge hiking haversacks wherever we go! Another interesting and chaotic scene expected when giving angpow to the kids! The kids would be overwhelmed to receive suitcase after suitcase of angpow. So the new trillion notes are supposed to solve the problem. However these kids would face another dilemma – probably could not take their eyes of so many zeroes!

Wishing everyone a very Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year. Keep our fingers cross that it is going to be a bullish Ox!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Knowing Me Knowing You, KAKA

“Knowing me, knowing you Kaka
There is nothing we can do
Knowing me, knowing you Kaka
We just have to face it, this time were through” – Abba

Manchester City Football Club, failed in its astounding 100 million pound ($147 million) bid to buy Brazilian Kaka from AC Milan. On top of the signing fee, he could easily have earned well over 1 million pounds a month. Wow! This move could have damaged the sport image at a time when many clubs and fans are in debt.

The bid was made possible after a consortium from Abu Dhabi bought the club from Thaksin in August. Yes, that 'assets frozen' Thaksin, who was associated with the mayhem in Bangkok, that showed little sign of ending!

In investment point of view, how do we justify this amount? Assuming he stays injury free and is to play 5 years for the club, are there enough time to recoup such a high single investment? Wouldn't it be a better bet to diversify and spend on 5 different high quality players?

Agreed, the calculation of return of investment in football business is very different as there are many spillovers. In addition to increase in gates collection, his glamour boy appeal could translate into millions of pounds in replica jersey and other merchandises sales. Then there are the television and image rights, branding and other intangible like new supporters’ base all over the world.

This formula had been proven but at a very much lower cost. The first few Asian imports (Korean, Chinese and Japanese footballers) to English league were signed primarily for commercial reason instead of footballing reason. They get their wages warming their rears but the revenues generated were multifold. The Asians especially the proud countrymen started supporting these clubs. Some flew over to watch the games; all dressed up in the team colours. Summer tours to these countries were arranged as more money was milked from Asians. Not forgetting increased in cable TV subscription! It was a commercial masterstroke.

In purely football point of view, there could untold damages. Spending such a huge amount on one player could trigger angry reactions from players and supporters. The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening. As unemployment is growing across Europe, spending so lavishly would have been nothing short of outrageous; enough to make some followers of the game simply turn off.

Personally, this model does not work. Are these rich investors prepared to stay for the long haul? They might have unlimited funds but do they have unlimited passion and patience? If they were tired of these toys, they could just go on another spending spree and dump the oldies. Look at Chelsea. Just like US government, the club is in spending deficit and heavily in debt! The moment the Russian walks out, there is a real danger all the pounds and ruble will turn to rubble!

To put into perspective, Kaka’s fee could be used for the following :

It could buy almost three F16 fighters which were priced at $US55 million dollars each in 2008.

It could cover the GDP of a host of nations. For example, in 2005, the Marshall Islands estimated GDP was $US115,000,000 and Anguilla $US108 million.

It would fund 20 million family-sized mosquito nets for sub-Saharan Africans, who lose 800,000 children under age five to malaria each year.

It could buy roughly 588 million meals for the World Food Programme. More than 10 million deaths were related to malnutrition each year.

It could buy himself Malaysia's Premiership. Not the football premiership as it had long gone to the dogs but the other almost going to the dogs premiership.

In the end, the four Liverpool lads were right to sing Money Can’t Buy Me Love. To add salt to injury, Mancunians could only shed Holding Back The Tears.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another One Bites The Dust

The recycling industry has not been spared from the global economic downturn. There is a shortage of buyers from all over the world. The slump has caused the prices to drop 80% to 90%. Plastic scraps, sold at RM1.30 per kg before the slump, are now a paltry 30 sen, while the price of waste paper has halved.

The slump in the scrap business may cause some collectors and traders to go out of business as they cannot cover their operating costs. Those who have holding power may resort to keep the scraps, hoping to sell when the prices go north. Hedging the bet as they reckon what goes down, will come up.

However many charitable organization may resort to other form of fund raising. Many sell recyclables as their primary revenue to run the activities. They have to work harder to collect more as they have to cover their operating funds.

Consumers and small time collectors, too, felt the pinch. Nevertheless the plunging prices should not change the consumers’ attitude towards recycling. No matter what, we should be committed to recycling our trash and preserve the environment.
At the very least, separate paper and plastics from the rest of the waste! If you do not know where to dispose them, kindly contact this charitable organization for pick up :
Lovely Disabled Home, No.1 Jln SS2/5, 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel 603-78739622 or 013-3409622 email . This home provides shelter to the physically challenged and at the same time creates job opportunities to them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Money Politics

Transparency International-Malaysia has launched a project called “Money In Politics, People’s Concern” to encourage transparency and accountability in the financing of political parties, especially during elections. The project would research existing legislation and evaluate actual local and foreign financing of political parties.

We are aware that during elections, all political parties seemed to have ample money to spend. We know that money does not grow from trees and obviously there are many willing and even unwilling (in local term – ‘kena pow’) ‘sponsors’ out there. Some of the likely sources could be the deserved and undeserved individual Datuks (maybe Datuk Shah Rukh Khan or Datuk Lee Chong Wei had to chip in during the just concluded KT by election?), the cronies who benefited from the awards of contracts (payback time?) and foreigners who wanted to have their puppet masters (Wanted : Deputy Sheriff?).

We sincerely hope the above question marks will be answered in this project.

I scratch your back, you scratch my back. Now you know why there are handing out Datukship so freely! No free lunch baby!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't Touch My Cookie Jar!

The Human Resources Ministry is looking into setting up a pension scheme for private sector employees so that their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings can last a lifetime. Through the scheme, the employees would receive a monthly pension instead of withdrawing all their savings upon retirement.

(Findings showed that many EPF contributors used up all their savings within two years and were left without any source of income).

However Malaysian Trades Union Congress felt that it was not viable as individual savings are too small. On average, savings upon retirement of the majority of the seven million contributors was less than RM50,000. Assuming the retiree lives for the next 20 years, he would receive about RM214 monthly as pension. This amount would probably feed him for only a week!

Malaysian Employers Federation said such a scheme should not be forced on EPF contributors. To make it viable, the employees are to be given an option either to withdraw their savings in a lump sum or on a monthly instalment basis. The savings rightly belonged to the employees and they had a right to decide on the options.
As a contributor, I would prefer to be given the option. I would use the option to withdraw lump sum as I believe there are many better managed investment opportunities in the market (high risk high gain la!).

Anyway, the authority has been flip flop and inconsistent in managing EPF for the past year. On one hand, it encourages the contributors to contribute less and withdraw more from its various schemes. On the other hand, it wants to retain the savings of the retirees. C’mon guys, make up your mind!

What say you? Trust these guys with your savings or ‘I’m an Accountant - Get Me Out Of Here’?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wrong Song, Mr DJ

Many of us use music as an outlet for our deepest feelings. There is always a song for any mood! Happily in love, badly hurt in break-up, grieving, releasing tension etc. However how many songs were dedicated just based on the title or a sample of the song? Be warned, better start learning the whole songs instead of being ended up red faced as the songs could be misinterpreted.

Here are some classic samples :

1. “Born in the U.S.A.” Bruce Springsteen
Thought the Boss was very patriotic. I would shout along with him “I was born in the U.S.A.” (Seriously - I was born in KL!) and did not bother to checkout the rest of the lyrics. Surprise, it is not a patriotic proclamation. It is about veterans returning from the Vietnam War and facing the harsh realities of how they are treated post-war.

2. “Losing My Religion” R.E.M.
Literally, thought Stipe was renouncing his faith. To “lose one’s religion” is a Southern phrase that means to run out of patience or frustrated by a person or situation. This song is about having a crush on somebody and constantly looking for assurances that the love is not unrequited.

3. “Every Breath You Take” The Police
A classic that took our breath away. Is it a love song? “Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you,” creepy huh! It is a definite stalker anthem that Sting the romance out!

4. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” The Beatles
Made in Liverpool. Many assume that this song refers to drug use. However, John Lennon stated that he liked these words that were depicted on his son drawing. (Son was drawing a friend named Lucy!) The title is not meant to refer to an LSD trip.

5. “The One I Love” R.E.M.
Another Stipe’s rapid eyes movement! “This one goes out to the one I love.” So far so good until the line about the one he loves being “a simple prop to occupy my time.” Ouch! A Romeo or a jerk?

6. “Crash into Me” Dave Matthews Band
A beautiful love song or a peeping tom anthem? Listen to these lines “Oh I watch you there through the window and I stare at you. You wear nothing but you wear it so well.”

Posting was inspired by an article by Vicki Santillano. In fact the song facts were by her!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Be Happy

Be happy right here, right now. Be thankful with what we have instead of moaning about what we lack. Be satisfied with what we have when we are in pursuit of what we want. Be thankful every day for simple but important things such as healthy body, a job, family and friends. Even grateful for the fact that we have time to moan and complain because that means we are not starving or too sick to do that.

Happiness is a choice we make every day. This is the best kept secret – our conscious decision to be happy. We choose to be happy or miserable. Our action or reaction is determined by how we choose to perceive a situation. Happy people realize that bad things happen and instead of getting upset and react badly towards a situation, we take stock of our emotions and keep them in check. Make an effort to stay happy no matter what.

Happiness is to understand the things we can’t change and working on those we can. Some things are hard to change overnight. Happiness is about knowing and accepting that some things take more time and get encouraged with progress made.

We do not always get what we want in life and that is where disappointment and bitterness seep into our lives. It is not all about the destination. Journey matters too. It is how we learn to handle the disappointment and grow from it. In other words, we can’t control the world but we can certainly control ourselves.

Our happiness is our own responsibility. Sure the loved ones enhance it but ultimately we take stock of our own happiness.

Source – Andrew Mathews, the author of Being Happy. A value that many take for granted and poorly executed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Money Money Money

Money is option. With money, you have many options. Without money, you have very few options. Without money, you are in the hope business. Hope the kids don’t get sick. Hope your friends don’t invite you to their wedding dinners! This negative hope is a miserable way to live!

Start the habit of savings and investing, especially in current gloomy environment. Avoid indiscriminate use of credit card. If you don’t have savings, you are going to be an economic slave to the boss. Additionally, the borrower is servant to the lender.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Perfect Storm

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy – Martin Luther King

This is it - the perfect storm! Chain of global events for the past year – bankers’ greed sparked sub-prime and financial crisis, commodity speculators’ twist and turn, high profile fraudsters (Madoff and Satyam), Middle East war criminals plus the unimpressive domestic politicians’ antics have aggravated the situation drastically.

For those in the mid thirty to early forty, it is the once in a life time chance to capitalize on the storm. The next perfect storm might hit our shore in 10 to 12 years time and by then; most probably we would not have the energy to come out of it alive! In brief, we will be too old! The previous big wave, post 97-98 Asian financial crisis – most of us had just joined the workforce – too ‘young’ to gain the most benefits.

It is the moment to stand up and be counted. Personally, I believe the storm is still heading south until middle of the year. So start arming ourselves with the surfboard and be prepared to ride the upward wave! Look around for bargain in property and share market! It is now or never!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Hello 2009. Set your goals and work toward realizing them. Do not procrastinate, start now! As we know, time does fly and before long, it’s hello 2010!

Here is my wish list for the year :

1) Home front - Charity begins at home, so gotta continue to allocate the time and effort to build the loving home. Applicable to friends too, can count on me when you need a hand or two. Or wanna borrow money? Can but….!

2) Lifestyle – Health is wealth, so vow to stay healthy. Step up the exercises and games, let go and not to cling on to things that eventually cause stress and eat and sleep well!

3) Career news – Global downturn but surely there is opportunity. Anticipating a busy schedule as there is a new project in the pipeline.

4) Politics front-page - Change of government – whoever the new PM has no time for honeymoon. There are many ailing things to be sorted out immediately and bring back the feel good factor.

5) Malaysia Today – We are losing our sense of humour. Please bring back the days where we could laugh at ourselves. Please don’t be super sensitive and jump on every word or statement that is deemed politically incorrect!

6) Sports page – We are the Champions. Liverpool FC to win the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. YNWA!