A new breed of sovereign wealth fund – without the wealth

Source: FMT News | Reuters

They are more like sovereign holding companies.

Image taken from FMT News

Image taken from FMT News

LONDON: Once the preserve of rich oil exporters or nations with trade surpluses, like Norway, Kuwait and Singapore, an unlikely new breed of sovereign wealth fund is emerging – in countries with large deficits and deep debt.

Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), which first emerged in the 1950s, are traditionally associated with huge financial firepower. They control about $6.5 trillion, according to data provider Preqin, and have transformed the global investment landscape by snapping up stakes in multinational companies and landmark real estate in cities from London to Melbourne.

Now Turkey, Romania, India and Bangladesh are launching sovereign funds – but for very different reasons than usual, and with very different methods.

Traditionally, wealthy nations use SWFs to invest their surplus billions overseas to prevent inflation at home, diversify income streams and accumulate savings for the day when commodity revenues run out.

In stark contrast, the countries launching the new funds, burdened by large current account deficits or external debt, are using them as vehicles to get their economies moving in the face of a global slowdown and lower trade volumes. And rather than splashing cash abroad, the plan is to attract finance from overseas and invest it at home to stimulate growth.

“Sovereign wealth fund is a term that’s used very loosely in the labelling of some of these new entities, they are more like sovereign holding companies,” said Elliot Hentov, head of research for official institutions at asset management firm SSgA. “They need to lever up – they need private sector co-investment to work.”

There are both potential benefits and risks to this strategy – and only time will tell whether it will be effective. Read more

Behind closed doors: A tale of ongoing domestic servitude in Malaysia

Source: Asian Correspondent

Stock image via Multi-share / Shutterstock

Stock image via Multi-share / Shutterstock

SOK Nay still vividly remembers the two weeks she suffered with second-degree burns from kneeling on the hot asphalt outside her employer’s home. She was being punished for incorrectly cleaning a couch.

It was 2009 and she was working for an ethnic Chinese family in the suburbs of Sungai Buloh. It was January and nearing Chinese New Year, so “Madam” was rightfully angry with her error that might have caused embarrassment when family came to visit, she believed.

But she never expected the punishment.

“The couch wasn’t spoilt at all, it was just wet but she didn’t like it, she was very angry so she had me kneel down in front of the house, outside the gate,” Nay, a Cambodian domestic worker in Malaysia at the time, says in a recent interview. Read more

Bersih: Voter registration challenges open to abuse

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Bersih 2.0’s chairman Maria Chin Abdullah— Picture by Saw Siow Feng, taken from Malay Mail Online.

Bersih 2.0’s chairman Maria Chin Abdullah— Picture by Saw Siow Feng, taken from Malay Mail Online.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — The Election Commission’s (EC) system to object against dubious registrants can be exploited to disenfranchise new voters, said a polls watchdog group following claims that specific communities were currently being targeted.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah pointed out the system was vulnerable to abuse as there is currently no threshold to lodge an objection against new voters beyond plain “suspicion”.

“You just stand in front of the judge and he will ask why are you objecting, and then you say ‘Oh, I think this person is not staying at that address,’” Maria explained, adding no other information beyond that was required.

A complainant only has to pay RM10 to lodge each objection and may file up to 20 such complaints under the Elections (Registration Of Electors) Regulations 2002. None of the complaints need to be accompanied by any form of evidence.

Although the process to strike out unfounded objections is straightforward, it still requires the person flagged as a dubious registrant to take the time and attend the proceedings. Those who do not are struck from the rolls and may not take part in elections until they are restored.

Maria said the authorities should at least perform some rudimentary vetting of the objection filings to ensure those that do reach the Elections Court are of some substance.

“There should be more safeguards to scrutinise this. The regulations need to be tightened,” she told Malay Mail Online. Read more

Abused workers kept in jungles, says Tenaganita

Source: FMT News

PETALING JAYA: Most cases involving the abuse of migrant workers occur deep in jungles and in plantations located far from towns, the human rights organisation Tenaganita has alleged.

According to Tenaganita executive director Glorene Das, the abused workers, including those with families, are kept in “absolute isolation” from the outside world.

“Many don’t even know where they are and are too afraid to leave or run away because they have been threatened by the employers and agents, who use local gangsters to control them,” she told FMT.

She said Tenaganita was also aware of families brought into Malaysia on tourist visas and then sent to work deep in the jungles. She said they would remain in employment after the expiry of their visas.

“The agents and employers practise this form of exploitation and violation because there is no clear comprehensive policy for recruitment, placement and employment of migrant workers,” she added.

She was responding to a recent news report about human trafficking and the abuse of eighteen people at an oil palm plantation in Pengkalan Hulu.

According to The Star daily, the victims, including five children, were lured to the isolated plantation, accessible only by four-wheel drive along dirt roads. After their rescue, they told police they were made to work long hours, with the children forced to carry the harvested fruits. Read more

Abuse of domestic workers in Malaysia

Source: BFM

We’ve read the stories – maid starved to death; maid tortured and sexually assaulted by employers; abused maid recounts eight months in torture chamber. Even if domestic workers aren’t physically abused by their employers, many of their lives resemble that of a modern day slave – unfair wages, no days off, no telephones, having their passports withheld, and so on. Joining us to discuss the troubling issue of domestic worker abuse and how we should address this, are Aegile Fernandez and Katrina Maliamauv from Tenaganita.