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Whither Protectionist Measures?

The recent proposed protectionist measures by the US and China raise many potential challenges for not only both countries but also for the world at large.

Currently, both countries are posturing to make their points, negotiate from a presupposed position of strength, and fight for their own interests.

1. While leaders on both sides should have calibrated their moves, however, there is a possibility of misjudgment and it may exacerbate bilateral tensions and other challenges.

If they do not maintain their cool and should protectionist measures escalate, it may result in a lose-lose-lose outcomes for all parties.

2. A tit-for-tat series of reactions may eventually put both countries in a gridlock.

Or worse, it may result in erosion of economic and trading partnership, and start a trade war that may cause protracted geopolitical conflicts.

3. For example, the Smoot-Hawkes Tariff in 1930 was enacted to protect US farmers from agricultural imports from Europe.

By the time the bill made it to Congress, additional tariffs were initiated.

Those tariffs caused many countries to retaliate, resulting in a trade war that deepened the extended severity of the Great Depression.

4. Protectionist measures will increase prices of targeted imported products.

Consumers may have to pay more for their purchases and have less choices, resulting in a decrease in their satisfaction levels.

5. The increase in costs may have a multiplier effect on related industries and eventually, the economy as a whole.

Manufacturers that are dependent on imported goods and raw materials will have to pay more for them.

That will have a negative effect on their competitive edge, productivity and profits.

6. Inflation may drive the Federal Reserve to increase the interest rates and that may have a dampening effect on business growth, and economic welfare and stability.

7. Manufacturers may even relocate their operations to countries that are not affected by the protectionist measures, leading to a loss of jobs and taxes.

8. If those operations are moved to countries with relatively low corporate governance standards, it may result in abuses of labor and destruction of the environment.

9. Once protectionist measures are adopted, it may be difficult to remove them as it will cause hardships on companies that are reliant on such measures to protect them.

10. Over time, these measures may prevent both countries from optimizing their specialization levels and affect efficient allocations of limited resources and thus, put downward pressures on their economies.

11. Exporters that are hit by protectionist measures may have to market and channel their goods to other countries.

The surge in such imported goods may trigger affected countries to introduce their own protectionist measures.

In short, protectionist measures can potentially cause social unrests and hardships, and affect economic growth.

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Uber-Grab Deal: Boon or Bane?

Recently, a fake news that Temasek has made substantial losses when Uber sold its operation to Grab has gone viral.

Many have unwittingly believed in the fake news and shared it with their friends.

1. To put the record straight, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek was an early investor of Grab.

Since then, Grab’s market capitalization should have increased.

https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/taxi-booking-app-gets-least-s125m-temasek-unit

2. From the news release, “Grab will integrate Uber’s ridesharing and food delivery business in the region into Grab’s existing multi-modal transportation and fintech platform.

“With the combined business, Grab will drive towards becoming the #1 online-to-offline (O2O) mobile platform in Southeast Asia and a major player in food delivery.”

https://www.grab.com/sg/press/business/grab-merges-with-uber-in-southeast-asia/

Grab is poised to be a major contender for the Fintech market, starting with providing financial services through GrabPay and moving into providing micro-loans and insurance products.

The Uber-Grab deal will bode well for Temasek’s investment in Grab.

2. While there’s no detailed account of the size of the investment and details of the proposed Uber-Grab deal, Uber has not gone belly up.

Through the deal, Uber will own 27.5 % of Grab.

That share would translate to $1.6 billion as Grab was recently valued at $6 billion according to CB Insights.

Not a bad deal because Uber claimed to have invested about $700 million in Southeast Asia over the past five years.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/grab-uber-deal-competition-watchdog-not-notified-10077256

3. As a result of the Uber-Grab deal, the two companies will not fight each other in the future and as a result, cause more losses.

There’ll be greater economy of scale, resulting in cost savings and improvement in efficiency.

4. Uber will be in a better position to focus on its strengths and in markets where it has dominance or can dominate in due time, including Japan and India.

https://www.google.com.sg/amp/s/venturebeat.com/2018/03/26/ubers-merger-with-grab-in-southeast-asia-lets-it-focus-on-core-markets-elsewhere/amp/

5. Uber will also be able to clean up its balance sheet, expedite its plan to list the company, and potentially raise more funds to strengthen its growth.

https://www.gov.sg/sgdi/ministries?agency_subtype=dept&agency_id=0000004564

6. According to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi: “One of the potential dangers of our global strategy is that we take on too many battles across too many fronts and with too many competitors.

“This transaction now puts us in a position to compete with real focus and weight in the core markets where we operate, while giving us valuable and growing equity stakes in a number of big and important markets where we don’t.”

7. The Uber-Grab deal should bode well for both Uber and Grab and investors of both companies, including Temasek and GIC.

8. Moving forward, the Uber-Grab deal will open up new markets and opportunities for both companies.

9. In the words of columnist Christopher Tan, “The implications extend beyond the point-to-point transport industry. Card companies such as EZ Link and Nets should also be worried, as Grab’s GrabPay mobile payment platform grows in coverage.

“Ditto food delivery players. As well as the emerging fintech industry, which Grab has already dipped its toes into.

“Armed with powerful data garnered in the five years it has been a ride-hailing rival to Uber, Grab is poised to be a serious contender in the financial services arena. Its two-week-old venture with Japan’s Credit Saison to provide micro loans is just a start.

“In the words of a Grab insider, “our new businesses will be 100 times larger than ride-hailing”.”

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/grab-uber-a-deal-which-will-disrupt-more-than-the-ride-sharing-industry

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What Is At The Heart Of True Religion?

Many believers of three major religions are fighting for their spiritual claims on Jerusalem.

They are driven by different motives, rationales, and purposes.

As they battle for their so-called beliefs all these years, we see unnecessary conflicts, challenges, and even bloodsheds.

Meanwhile, the world looks on with bated breath for fear that these battles may trigger the start of a tragic war in that region, and that war may snowball to become a bigger conflict that involves other countries.

While those believers are battling each other, many in that region and the rest of the world are suffering from hunger and thirst, and all forms of malnutrition.

Have those believers look after the poor, the needy and the disadvantaged?

More and more people are hungry for deeper meaning, purpose, and significance.

What have those believers done to feed hungry hearts and minds and help them find fulfillment in life?

Many people out there are suffering from extreme weather and natural crisis.

They are shivering in cold and crying for help.

What have those believers done to give the suffering the warmth that they need, both externally as well as internally?

Many hearts have also become cold out of loneliness, negligence, and abandonment.

Have those believers warm these victims with love, compassion, and kindness?

Brighten their lives with hope and optimism?

And bring healing to those who are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually sick.

In almost every part of the world, many are unjustly imprisoned.

What have those believers done to free those who are suffering and deliver them from oppression?

Fight against social injustice and for fellow humans to have equal opportunity?

Support those who have turned over a new leaf to have a better life?

Just as importantly, many are imprisoned mentally, emotionally and psychologically.

These prisons can be scarier than physical cells with locked doors and strong bars.

What have those believers done to release these prisoners from being entrapped by their past?

Help them recover from pains and sorrows?

And restore them from blockages so that they can start life anew and pursue a better future?

In the process of battling for Jerusalem, have those believers cause many to be hungry, cold, and be imprisoned?

If so, then their faith has been held in vain.

Whatever good they have done for humanity have been negated in eternity.

Perhaps, they need to ask themselves, “What is true religion and are they practicing their faith correctly?”

Reference:

Matthew 25:35-40

https://www.google.com.sg/amp/www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jerusalem-trump-israel-palestine-embassy-city-violence-explained-a8093831.html%3famp

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Bitcoin – Danger Ahead!

I am not an expert in bitcoin but I am deeply concerned about the relatively steep rise and fall in bitcoin’s prices.

As part of my community services, I look after a lot of elderly persons.

When many of them are queuing up in front of bitcoin machines to buy bitcoin without knowing what they are buying, I fear for them.

It is also another sign that dark clouds are looming in the horizon.

The following are my key concerns about bitcoin:

1. Is Bitcoin’s price a true reflection of its value and utility?

Bitcoin’s price can fluctuate by 20-30 per cent in a single day.

It is therefore hard to determine its value and use it as a storage of value.

In addition, as a currency, bitcoin is a comparatively poor medium of exchange and unit for accounting and financial purposes.

The volatility of bitcoin’s market and fluctuation of its price make bitcoin difficult to use in transacting products and services.

As it stands, there is a lack of widespread utility for bitcoin.

Few businesses trade in bitcoin. And hardly anybody price anything in bitcoin.

The generally small marketplace and lack of commercial activities for bitcoin may not be able to support bitcoin’s price, use and growth.

2. Are there strong fundamentals to support growth of bitcoin’s value?

Bitcoin’s prices have not risen in tandem with its functional benefits (if there are any benefit at all) and in line with major economic indicators and other market forces.

Prices have risen comparatively higher than most asset-backed and blue-chip instruments of investment.

Proponents argued that bitcoin can be used to replace fiat currency.

This argument does not make sense because fiat currency is backed by legal tender of a country and it can be used for many purposes, including paying tax.

Furthermore, fiat currency is protected from value debasement by authorities such as central banks.

This is to ensure price stability and prevent socioeconomic upheavals.

If fiat currency loses its credibility due to, for example, a political crisis or a poorly managed monetary system, the fiat currency can be traded for real assets.

It can also be swapped for more stable foreign fiat currencies.

Fiat currency has therefore a higher intrinsic value than bitcoin.

On the other hand, bitcoin has little, if any, intrinsic value at all.

Experts, such as Warren Buffet and economics professor Nouriel Roubini, have commented publicly that bitcoin has no intrinsic value.

Proponents of bitcoin have also propounded that there is a limited supply of 21 million units of bitcoin.

Therefore, it cannot be debased and its values should increase with demand.

This argument is not only baseless and wrong, it may also be fraudulent.

Bitcoin has forked into Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, and Litecoin.

There is no guarantee that there won’t be similar changes in the future.

Besides, there is an increasing number of other cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICO) that can serve similar functions as bitcoin.

The current and future supplies of cryptocurrencies and ICO may create an oversupply and potentially debased bitcoin.

Can the market support an increasing number of cryptocurrencies?

Can all cryptocurrencies survive and justify their ongoing existence?

The argument that there is a limited supply of bitcoin and therefore its price should increase is illogical and ludicrous.

There is no guarantee that with a limited supply of bitcoin, there will always be a demand and for that matter, a growing demand for bitcoin.

To make matters worse, owners of bitcoin may sell some or all of their stock to take out profits.

This may cause the price of bitcoin to drop until the demand picks up – which may or may not happen.

If the buying volume drops or drops significantly, it may affect potential buyers’ sentiment and put downward pressures on bitcoin’s prices.

Even if there is a limited supply of 21 million units of bitcoin – if this number is true – it may not necessarily be an advantage.

First, with such a small number of units, it does not qualify to be a viable fiat currency.

More importantly, if the supply of bitcoin is not in alignment with potential nominal GDP, prices will undergo deflation.

In other words, the price index of all goods and services will decrease continuously.

By the same token, any nominal debt contract that is denominated in bitcoin would increase in value over time.

The convergence of such financial forces, according to Irving Fisher, was one of the causes for the Great Depression.

3. Is the Bitcoin as promising as it is made out to be?

The promises and possibilities about importance and values of bitcoin hinge mainly on opportunities arising from use of blockchain technology.

However, these opportunities may not necessarily involve use of bitcoin, let alone support its value and growth.

There are also other technologies that are playing an important part and if not, a more important part in influencing the future.

These technologies include quantum computing, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, Internet of Things, and automation.

Many companies and applications have been using such technologies to shape the banking and financial landscapes and generate real profits and growth.

Bitcoin has not been able to create a similar impact and may not necessarily make a stronger impact in the future to justify its potential rise in values.

Bitcoin has many downsides, including a lack of basic universal and common protocols to support better availability and accessibility.

With no credible authority and system of governance to manage and control bitcoin, usages of bitcoin can only operate in an untested market and may only continue to exist in an idealist’s paradise.

4. Why the steep increase in Bitcoin’s prices?

Are buyers of bitcoin making an investment decision based on any logical and reasonable basis?

Do they know what they are doing?

Many of them have no clue as to what blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, bitcoin, and other related technologies are all about.

They cannot explain the reasons behind the growing number of bitcoin buyers nor the increase in bitcoin prices.

Mostly, they buy bitcoin NOT because they have any use for it.

They buy bitcoin with the belief that prices will continue to increase and they can sell it in the future for a profit.

They are jumping into the bandwagon for fear of missing out.

Meanwhile, those who have bought bitcoin are preying on potential buyers’ fear and greed.

There are also dark forces playing up the prices and preying on greedy and ignorant buyers of bitcoin.

Many bitcoin miners and owners are fanning increase in demand for bitcoin and increase in bitcoin’s prices for their own interests and benefits.

Fear and greed as we know are the twin terrors of financial collapse.

These two and many other factors that are mainly contributing to the buying of bitcoin are similar precursors to past financial bubbles.

These financial bubbles include the Tulip and Bulb craze in the 1630s, the Dotcom Crash in 2000-2002, and the Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in 2007-2009.

Are we seeing another bubble forming? Will it cause much pain and misery if the bubble burst?

There is a word to describe some of the senseless buying of bitcoin and its euphoria in the market – gambling.

As we all know, gamblers who do not stop will eventually lose all their money and perhaps, even their pants.

5. Are there inherent dangers and problems with Bitcoin?

There is currently a lack of governance and proper control of bitcoin.

Bitcoin has been known to facilitate illegal activities, including illegal vices, tax evasion, avoidance of capital controls, and money laundering.

Hence, there is a growing number of countries, including members of G20 that are working together to regulate cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

They are increasingly eliminating anonymity in the use of cryptocurrency by, for example, making it mandatory to report any income-generating or capital gain-generating activity and transaction.

As there is a growing mass of bitcoin buyers, who have no or little knowledge about bitcoin, the authorities are definitely going to watch bitcoin closely.

If anything untoward happens in the bitcoin market, there is little that the authorities can do, both locally and overseas to mitigate any fallout and respond to a potential financial crisis.

They may not be able to offer a safety net and legal recourse for affected victims.

The authorities can come down hard on bitcoin if social stability is being compromised and the financial market is being negatively threatened.

Do not believe for a moment that many of these and other forces will not be able to crash the bitcoin party and cause its prices to collapse and collapse steeply and quickly.

If you are investing in bitcoin, you may be playing a pyramid game or a game of musical chair.

When the music stops, can you handle the cascade of negative outcomes?

If you are investing without sound evidence, please invest what you can afford to lose.

Don’t overstretch yourself.

Please do not promote investment of bitcoin if you cannot justify its potential returns.

It may cause undue pain and sorrow to people who cannot afford to lose any of their hard-earned money.

Remember the Latin term – caveat emptor.

It means “Let the buyer beware”.

Unknown

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By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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Heil President Donald Trump!

Donald Trump is a great leader for global unity.

No one knows global unity like him. True.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital united the Middle East and the Islamic world like never before in modern times.

Trump’s inflammatory remark on immigration has caused an unprecedented unity of African nations.

Trump’s abrasive comments on the European Union and some developed countries in Europe have forced them to close ranks and reach out to the rest of the world.

Trump’s pulling out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has compelled the countries in the pacific rim to unite and work more closely together to strengthen their regional economy.

Trump’s acerbic remarks on some countries in South America is putting increasing pressures on them to unite against him.

Trump Administration’s controversial association with Russia and Russia’s potential influence in the presidential election have raised pride and unity in Russia and many countries in the Eastern Bloc.

Trump’s undiplomatic disposition and withdrawal from global leadership on trade, climate change, and other matters have catalyze many of the countries to unite against his threats and potential threats and these threats may create a world of disorder.

If the rest of the world decides to move ahead without the U.S., the American people will have to close rank and become more united. Thanks to Trump.

Trump has truly made America great again!

Go4It!

I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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Promoting Budget 2018 Through Social Media Influencers

Recently, it was reported that the Ministry of Finance (MOF) had retained social media influencers to promote Budget 2018.

That initiative has received many online rantings and mudslingings.

I do not pretend or want to pretend to be an expert in marketing.

And neither do I want to make a conclusive judgment on whether the MOF’s initiative was completely right or for that matter, all wrong.

There are imponderables that need to be considered before we know the complete truth.

To be fair to the MOF, there are missing information that prevent us from making the best of judgments.

Therefore, I wish to pose some questions to the supporters as well as to detractors of this initiative.

I believe that by asking appropriate questions, educated and enlightened persons can evaluate the epistemological basis of MOF’s initiative.

In other words, how do people know that the initiative is effective or ineffective?

And how do they know THAT THEY KNOW it is effective or ineffective?

By asking the right questions, they can also find the right information to make better-informed decisions.

After all, the quality of decisions and results oftentimes depends on the quantity of quality questions that are being posed to both the relevant personnel as well as to the other relevant publics.

In the process of doing so, bear in mind that marketing is not foolproof because the world is not made up of fools.

In addition, marketing is both an art and a science.

It is being executed in a fast-changing and an ever-evolving landscape.

Therefore, marketing cannot be fully considered as an evidence-based science.

Here are some questions for your consideration:

1. Which segment of the millennials is the MOF targeting?

Remember, millennials may not be the most interested in something as dry and probably as irrelevant to them as Budget 2018.

What if, for example, the MOF wanted to target millenials that are interested in lifestyle products and services, wouldn’t using social media influencers be a good way to reach out to them as long as it didn’t cost an arm or a leg?

How do you know that this initiative was not just a way to test a different approach to reach a niche group of millenials?

Who’s to say that it was definitely wrong and that there should not be any room for experimentation, especially if the marketer was planning to move into an uncharted territory?

2. Is this initiative a part of an integrated marketing campaign?

In a typical marketing campaign, a marketer would use an integrated approach of communicating different angles of a message to a targeted audience and do it through different channels.

Therefore, using social media influencers could be one of many strategies to reach the targeted market.

Perhaps, social influencers were being used to reach a niche segment of the targeted audience.

How do you know that taking such a novel approach would not attract the attention and interest of a niche segment of the millennials?

3. How much money did the MOF spend on this initiative?

How do you know that the MOF was not getting the best bang for a limited amount of bucks?

How do you know that it was not cost-effective?

Should the MOF reveal details of every initiative to the public and its related expenditures and potentially generate unnecessary polarizations, reactions and repercussions?

4. Was this approach innovative?

We want our government to be creative and innovative to help us survive and succeed in the new economy.

To be innovative, you need to experiment.

And to experiment, you need to try out-of-the-box approaches and potentially make mistakes.

And unfortunately, attract a lot of grumblings, grouses, and gripings.

How can we encourage the MOF to create new breakthroughs if we don’t give them some space and latitude to venture into new territories?

How do you know that the social media influencers and the resulting publicity – both good and bad – did not get the attention of the targeted niche segment?

How do you know that millennials in this segment will not pay closer attention to delivery of Budget 2018 on February 19, 2018?

How do you know that the whole campaign was ineffective and a waste of money?

The true measurement of any marketing campaign is in the results.

The good news is that whether by design or otherwise, the controversy of using social media influencers has generated more publicity for the national budget this year than in previous years.

Hopefully, the millennials will pay more attention to the annual national budgets.

After all, it’s the ruling government’s policy to save and invest about half of its revenue for the benefits of future generations.

There is hardly any government in the world that has taken a more conservative, prudent and effective approach to balance its budgets and prepare the country for a better future.

Go4It!

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Formula For Financial Prosperity

Formula For Financial Prosperity

Financial Prosperity (FP) is the multiplier effect of financial technology (FT) on the sum total of human capital (HC), social capital (SC), and value-creating assets (VA) minus total expenditure (TE)

In short:

FP= FT(HC + SC + VA) – TE

The questions that beg to be answered are as follows:

Financial Technology (FT)

To create and accelerate the growth of your financial assets, you need to be supported by optimal financial technology.

Financial technology helps you achieve ever more wealth with ever less resources.

1. Do you have the requisite financial literacy knowledge and skills to be rich and wealthy?

2. Do you have the required structure, system, processes, infoccommunicatjon technology, and other resources to help you become financially free?

Human Capital (HC)

Wealth creation begins with re-creating yourself. The quality of your wealth depends on the quality of your life, livelihood and lifestyle.

The larger your capacity for creating wealth, the larger the amount of wealth you will attract and multiply in your life.

3. Do you have the appropriate plan, information, knowledge, capacity and expertise and very importantly, the financial habits and actionable steps to achieve financial success?

4. Do you have the wealth-creation wisdom, discipline, grit, tenacity, and resilience to press on until you reach your financial destination?

Social Capital (SC)

In creating wealth, like they say, it’s not just about what you know but also who you know.

Your net worth will tend towards the average net worth of your closest friends.

Therefore, increase your social capital to increase your financial capital.

5. Are you learning from and modeling after the top ranks of the rich and wealthy people?

6. Are you interacting with and building solid relationships with people who will drive you to improve your financial position and assets?

Value-Creating Assets (VA)

I have to state once again that I’m not a believer that you must have money to make money.

The easier and better way to create wealth is to monetize non-financial items and seek to maximize your returns from them.

7. Do you know how to translate what you already have or can develop in your life to become value-creating assets?

They include your focus, personality, mindfulness, vision, beliefs, values, leadership, integrity, passion, discipline, spirituality, capacity and competence, ideas, team, market intelligence, courage, creativity, innovation, learning and improvement process, initiatives, system, technology, productivity, connections, persuasiveness, deal making and management skills etc.

8. How are you going to develop the knowledge, attitude, skills, and habits (KASH) to help you run farther and faster on the financial journey?

Total Expenditure (TE)

It is not much of point to create wealth and then spend it unwisely.

9. Are you disciplined in your spending habits?

11. Have you mastered the skill for delayed gratification?

13. Are you able to find happiness and fulfillment without having to spend money and acquire material possessions?

Go4It!

I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Please ‘Like’ me on https://m.facebook.com/patrickliewsg

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For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at https://hsrpatrickliew.wordpress.com/

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Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!