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ATimes: Keunggulan M'sia Semakin Menghilang
By Kapal Berita
11/4/2001 7:05 pm Wed
KEUNGGULAN MALAYSIA SEMAKIN MENGHILANG
Masalah kawalan matawang kini menggugat ekspot dan prestasi saham di
Malaysia - atau dengan kata lain - ekonomi Malaysia. Kesemua matawang
serantau merosot negatif kecuali Taiwan akibat pergolakkan ekonomi Amerika
dan kemelut politik dan ekonomi di Jepun. Malaysia yang menetapkan nilai
matawang sedang terumbang tetapi Cina masih dapat bertahan kerana kos
tenaga buruhnya yang lebih murah serta permintaan domestiknya yang amat
tinggi itu dapat mengimbangi.
Tetapi jika nilai yen merosot ke paras 130, negara Cina mungkin akan
menilai semula matawang yuan. Jika ini berlaku ia akan menyebabkan
ekonomi di sini terjejas lebih teruk lagi. Krisis ini menunjukkan bukan
Soros yang menjadi penentu sebagaimana yang sering dituduh berkali,
tetapi negara Cinalah yang amat berpengaruh sekali. Ia sudah menjadi
satu kuasa ekonomi yang disegani kerana Jepun kini sudah tersungkur
oleh kancah politik dan ekonomi yang teramat kronik.
Cina akan menyedut semua FDI dari rantau ini kerana kelebihannya yang
tersendiri seperti sikap keterbukaan kepada WTO, nilai yuan yang kompetetif,
tenaga buruh mahir yang murah dan iklim pelaburan yang stabil.
Bagaimana dengan Malaysia? Mahathir terlalu berdegil mahu menjaga kroni
walaupun sektor industri sudah sakit sehingga FMM dan wakil peniaga Cina
mencadangkan agar ringgit dinilai semula. Ekspot negara dan saham syarikat
menjadi lebih mahal dan tidak kompetetif. Kewibawaan Malaysia kini sudah
semakin terpudar pada kacamata pelabur luar. Ringgit kini amat tertekan
kerana tidak dapat bersaing dengan baik di pasaran. Yen sudah mencecah
paras krisis ekonomi dua tahun sudah, Baht mencecah paras 3 tahun
terendah, manakala $Singapura di paras tahun 1990. Mungkin akan sampai
ketika ringgit sudah tidak tahan kerana tiada sesiapa pun akan mahu membeli
sesuatu yang mahal tetapi tak sepadan.
Mahathir sedang terjerat oleh kedegilannya. Jika ringgit dinilai semula
dia akan malu tidak terhingga kerana wawasannya tidak bertahan lama
dan kredibilitinya hancur berkecai jadinya.
Tetapi jika ringgit dikekalkan, negara akan muflis lebih segera kerana
kuasa wang semakin tiada. Sebab itulah Mahathir mahu memesatkan industri
perlancungan ketika ini untuk mendapatkan tukaran wang. Tetapi setakat
manakah beliau akan dapat bertahan kerana tidak ramai orang yang
kesusahan akan berjalan..... lihat sahaja litar Sepang - lebih banyak
kerusi daripada orang!
Asean: No swaps, no nothing
It must have been quite a scene when the finance ministers of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) met with finance
officials from China, Japan, and South Korea in Kuala Lumpur over the
weekend to work out details of a proposed network of bilateral swap
arrangements and repurchase pacts - the Chiang Mai Initiative, named
after the Thai city where it was mooted last May.
After a two-year respite, the East Asian currencies - with the
exception of the Taiwan dollar and those enjoying fixed-rate
protection - are once again in deep trouble (see table below).
Percentage losses against US dollar since January 1 (as of April 5)
So, yes, there was some reason for the "Asean plus 3" officials to see
what could be done to agree to mechanisms to put to work to fend off
possible speculative attacks and to carry out short-term stabilization
maneuvers, especially making use of the massive foreign exchange
reserves of China, Japan and Korea. But after two days of haggling,
ministers were little nearer to agreement than when they started their
sessions. As had been the case in the run-up to the meetings, the
issue of whether the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should
supervise disbursements proved the stumbling block. Speaking to
reporters when it was all over, Malaysian Finance Minister Daim
Zainuddin said, "We are not under IMF. Our view is that the facilities
must be better than IMF. If it is the same as IMF, then we might as
well go to IMF."
In the end, ministers agreed only that there should be an agreement,
but saying individual countries should be left to negotiate their own
terms with each other.
We can't disagree with Daim; but we disagree with the tenor of the
whole Chiang Mai Initiative. Its underlying assumption that currency
crises are caused by speculators (the old Mahathir saw) is just plain
wrong and temporary stabilization efforts are only as good as
accompanying commitments to address underlying causes. And, indeed, if
the political will had existed to do so, there was plenty of time over
the past two years to get on with it.
The reason why currency markets have knocked the yen back down to
levels of the crisis year of 1998 accurately reflects the miserable
state of the Japanese economy and lack of political will to fix it.
And as the yen has gone, so have most other Asian currencies - and for
the same reasons. The ministers and central bankers convening in the
Malaysian capital might rather more usefully have concentrated their
combined efforts on agreeing policy measures capable of dealing with
the root causes of the regional financial woes than in chasing George
The most imminent danger now is that political uncertainties in
leaderless Japan and failure to rid the banking system of its bad loan
mess will drive the Japanese yen down further against the dollar.
Chatri Sophonpanich, the chairman of Bangkok Bank, Southeast Asia's
largest, warned last week that if the slide of the yen reached 130 to
the dollar, China might have to devalue to protect its export
competitiveness, and that this would send new shockwaves throughout
the region's economies.
As we wrote a few weeks back [Asian Crisis Diary, Vol 2], our bet now
is that this (yuan devaluation) won't happen unless the yen goes into
free fall. Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz, addressing the
opening session of the Pacific Basin Economic Council's (PBEB) annual
international general meeting in Tokyo on Sunday, observed that, "Over
the longer term, an economically weak Japan will be hampered in
assuming a leadership role to provide the impetus for regional
economic growth. The 21st Century will in all probability see China
taking over the leadership mantle from Japan and wielding influence in
the region." China will protect that strategic opportunity.
Emerging Market Risks:
Malaysia's Political Risks Threaten USD Peg
Location: New York Author: Prerak Zaveri, RiskCenter Legal
Correspondent Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2001
That is the issue faced by risk managers dealing with South East
Asia's volatility. The problem is that it will be psychological, as
opposed to economic, information that will drive the decision. The
Malaysian government has pledged support for the peg, which
means it could lose credibility on both domestic and international
fronts, if it changes its policy.
While, officially, Malaysia has recently repeated pledges to stand
by its USD/MYR peg, installed over 2-1/2 years ago,
widespread regional currency weakness and especially the
Japanese yen's 2-1/2-year low against the U.S. dollar, have
increased the competitive pressure for the Malaysian currency
and put strains on Malaysia's export-oriented economy. As a
result, growth in manufacturing output eased to a 23-month low
of 4.3 percent year-over-year in February, fueling concern it
could get worse in the coming months. That fact could ignite
domestic unrest against government policies.
"However, the future of the peg is tied up as much in politics as
in economics," said a risk analyst in Frankfurt. "The peg was and
is part of the Malaysian prime minister's economic-policy
strategy. Although Malaysia could now blame it (change of the
currency regime) on further devaluations in the region and the US
recession, we, on balance, still expect the MYR peg to hold in
the current year. However, the situation has to be monitored
KL reserves hit by $1.6b paper loss in first quarter
Deficit reflects the volatility of international currencies in recent
weeks, says Bank Negara
By Reme Ahmad
MALAYSIA says it has suffered a paper loss of US$900 million (S$1.64
billion) in its international reserves during the first three months
of this year, which reduced total reserves to US$27.2 billion.
The paper loss for the quarter compared with a total for the whole of
last year of US$1.4 billion. The reserves have declined in the last 10
months and at the end of March were US$7 billion lower than at the end
of May last year.
Bank Negara said in a statement yesterday that the deficit reflected
'the volatility of international currencies in recent weeks'.
The US$27.2 billion reserves at the end of last month showed a drop of
US$1.5 billion when compared to reserves of US$28.7 billion a
The level of reserves is adequate to finance about four months of
retained imports and is 5.9 times the short-term external debt.
The reserves remain 'usable and unencumbered', it said.
Against the level in mid-March, reserves at end-March were affected by
the unrealised revaluation loss following the quarterly exchange rate
revaluation of the central bank's reserves, Bank Negara said.
In the light of the appreciation of the US dollar and the diversified
currency composition of the international reserves of Bank Negara, the
value of the quarterly reserves revaluation resulted in a decline in
reserves of US$900 million, it added.
Economists in Kuala Lumpur said they were not too worried by the
decline as the Malaysian central bank was simply 'marking-to-market'
its holdings. The revaluation of reserves is carried out every
They were, however, more concerned about the resilience of the economy
and the stability of the ringgit peg to the US dollar in the light of
the continued fall in reserves. The ratio of foreign currencies that make up the reserves are known
only to the central bank. But economists expect a big portion of the holdings to be in yen,
based on trade patterns.
The ratio of foreign currencies that make up the reserves are known
only to the central bank.
But economists expect a big portion of the holdings to be in yen, based on trade patterns.
So, if the yen depreciated it would be a loss when the holdings were
translated into dollars, said Mayban Securities economist Zulkifli
The yen is trading around its lowest level to the US dollar in 2 1/2
Bank Negara said the shortfall of another US$600 million was caused by
higher import payments for goods, services and transfers and portfolio
Taking up the cudgels against the doomsayers who see the fall of the
reserves as negative for the economy, Bank Negara said that although
falls in the second quarter of last year were due to the outflow of
funds from stock market investors - a valid point of worry - the
subsequent drops were due to a mix of factors.
These included higher overseas investments by Malaysian companies,
repayment of external loans, payments for services and transfers as
well as revaluation losses.
Last year, overseas investments by Malaysians amounted to US$2
billion. The amount is estimated at US$200 million in the first
quarter of this year.
The central bank argued that rather than being a sign of weakness, the
international forays of local companies represented foreign assets
still owned by Malaysians.