Tuesday, 19 September 2017

JPMorgan CEO warns he will fire any employee trading Bitcoin for being “stupid.”

 

 
Tough stand: Dimon has warned that he will fire JPMorgan traders who traded in bitcoin ‘in a second. For two reasons: It’s against our rules, and they’re stupid. And both are dangerous.’ — AFP

NEW YORK: JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive officer Jamie Dimon said he will fire any employee trading bitcoin for being “stupid.”

The cryptocurrency “won’t end well,” he told an investor conference in New York on Tuesday, predicting it will eventually blow up. “It’s a fraud” and “worse than tulip bulbs.”

If a JPMorgan trader began trading in bitcoin, he said: “I’d fire them in a second. For two reasons: It’s against our rules, and they’re stupid. And both are dangerous.”

Bitcoin has soared in recent months, spurred by greater acceptance of the blockchain technology that underpins the exchange method and optimism that faster transaction times will encourage broader use of the cryptocurrency.

Prices have climbed more than four-fold this year – a run that has drawn debate over whether that’s a bubble.

Bitcoin initially slipped after Dimon’s remarks. It was down as much as 2.7% before recovering.

Last week, it slumped after reports that China plans to ban trading of virtual currencies on domestic exchanges, dealing another blow to the US$150bil cryptocurrency market.

Tulips are a reference to the mania that swept Holland in the 17th century, with speculators driving up prices of virtually worthless tulip bulbs to exorbitant levels.

That didn’t end well.

In bitcoin’s case, Dimon said he’s sceptical authorities will allow a currency to exist without state oversight, especially if something goes wrong.

“Someone’s going to get killed and then the government’s going to come down,” he said.

“You just saw in China, governments like to control their money supply.”

Dimon differentiated between the bitcoin currency and the underlying blockchain technology, which he said can be useful.

Still, he said banks’ application of blockchain “won’t be overnight.”

The bank chief said he wouldn’t short bitcoin because there’s no telling how high it will go before it collapses.

The best argument he’s heard, he said, is that it can be useful to people in places with no other options – so long as the supply of coins doesn’t surge.

“If you were in Venezuela or Ecuador or North Korea or a bunch of parts like that, or if you were a drug dealer, a murderer, stuff like that, you are better off doing it in bitcoin than US dollars,” he said.

“So there may be a market for that, but it’d be a limited market.”— Bloomberg


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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Living at the edge of chaos, climate change is not fake science


Nature’s fury: A car dealership is covered by Hurricane Harvey floodwaters near Houston, Texas. The chaos caused by the hurricane proves that climate change is not fake science. — Reuters

THIS month, two Category 4 hurricanes hit the United States within 17 days of each other. In Asia, North Korea is threatening nuclear Armageddon, and floods and famine are putting thousands of lives at risk from Bangladesh to Yemen. How can one survive in this chaotic era?

A first step must be to make sense of the apparent chaos. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have proved that climate change is not fake science, but real threats to home and security. When hailstones the size of golf balls hit Istanbul in the middle of summer, even the agnostics accept that climate change is serious business.

The biggest uncertainty that has hit Asia recently is the shock that North Korea has not only developed possibly a hydrogen bomb, but also the missile capability to deliver it even to the United States. This has changed the geopolitical balance not only in North Asia, but globally because it is no longer possible for the United States alone to contain nuclear proliferation.

Physics teaches us that chaos is often a characteristic of transition from one order to another. Chaos is also a pattern in which there is apparently no discernible pattern.

But there is a seismic transition from a unipolar world led by the United States to a multi-polar world of competing powers and ideology, particularly after the 2007 global financial crisis. As the share of US GDP in the world declines relative to the rest, the rise of China, India and increasing assertion by Russia and non-state players like IS means that the United States’ ability to dominate militarily and ideologically is being challenged.

At the same time, increasing stresses from social inequalities and paranoia of terror, immigration and job loss have tilted the United States to become more inward looking. The Trump administration has dramatically begun to dismantle the neoliberal order of multilateral trade and finance that shaped US foreign policy since the end of the Second World War.

There is a raw open division within the United States in outlook and values. The Democratic Left believes in maintaining the old order of moral leadership on human rights, democracy and multilateral global stability and prosperity. The Republican Right questions these beliefs and prefers America First, negotiating bilaterally to achieve that premier status.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon asked the Rand Corporation to conduct a review on “Alternative Options for US Policy toward the International Order”. The key questions for the New Global Order are: Who sets the rules and how binding are the rules?

The study breaks the future order into two camps of rule-makers – the US and its allies or a concert of great powers. Under such a division, there are two conditions where rules are binding – one dominated by the US camp to enforce rules and the other where the great powers agree to a global constitutional order enforced by institutions. The other two conditions where rules are not binding involve a coalition of states aligned to counteract against revisionism and a new concert of great powers.

The immediate problem with the Rand categorisation of New Order Visions is that the existing liberal, rules-based order is not being challenged by others, but by the US itself.

First, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comment earlier this year that Europe must begin to look after its own interests, it is no longer clear that America’s traditional allies are going to follow the US leadership when there are serious disagreements on trade, climate change and immigration. It is no coincidence that the largest trade imbalances are no longer between China or oil producers with the US, but between Europe and the United States. Germany alone is running a current account surplus equivalent to around 8% of GDP.

Second, within the Middle East, alliances are shifting almost by the day. The quarrel between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has riven the Gulf Cooperation Council, while Turkey is playing an increasingly pivotal role within the shifting alliances.

Third, North Korea’s bid for nuclear power membership, despite being a small state, means that Great Powers may have to accommodate new players whether they like it or not.

Fourth, climate change in the form of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma demonstrate that nature can impose larger and larger economic losses on nations and regions, which will require global public goods that the current order is neither willing to fund, nor able to agree on how to address. The economic losses from Harvey alone is estimated at US$180bil, equivalent to the annual GDP of a middle-income economy. The existing multilateral bodies such as the United Nations and the World Bank are facing serious resource shortages relative to these new global demands.

The bottom line is that the current order has neither the resources nor the collective will to enforce rules when the human population growth puts increasing competition for scarce water, food and territorial spaces. Chaos arises from the breakdown of rules and borderlines.

In short, globalisation of trade, information and human migration has meant that traditional borders in many regions are becoming non-enforceable. For example, it is 101 years since the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement divided up the collapsing Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian spheres of interest and eventual control. These borders were drawn and enforced by the Great Powers through their military superiority.

Seen from the long lens of history, with the Great Powers being unwilling to put troops on the ground to enforce borders drawn up under the colonial era, these artificial borders are failing.

A hallmark of the times is that even the best of think tanks cannot map out how to navigate through this era of disruptive technology, unpredictable climate and shifting alliances and interests. What history teaches us is that the fault lines will be at the borderlands, at the confluence of emerging forces and stresses.

We should therefore be prepared for not only disruption at the borderlands of physical space, but within the realms of cyberspace.

By Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

RM40mil siphoned off from the Malaysian Human Resources, Skills Development Fund Corp !


PETALING JAYA: Some RM40mil from the Skills Development Fund Corp is believed to have been siphoned off by those tasked with utilising it for the benefit of the people, sources revealed.

Anti-graft officers detained the cor­­­poration’s 58-year-old chief execu­­tive, who is a Datuk, over the alleged misappropriation of funds.

Others detained included the corporation’s 34-year-old secretary, a 32-year-old assistant financial officer and a 38-year-old director of a company who goes by the honorific “Dr” title.

All of them were picked up in seve­ral places in Kuala Lumpur between 4.30pm and 6pm yesterday.

One of the suspects is said to be an office-bearer with a state Umno division.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mission deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the arrests.

Sources said the suspects were said to have collaborated with the company director to siphon the allocation provided by the Government.

The corporation is a statutory body under the Human Resources Mi­nistry. It is responsible for provi­ding financial assistance in the form of loans to individuals, such as school­-­leavers, graduates and others who are interested in pursuing Ma­­laysian Skills Certification, Malaysian Skills Diploma and Malaysian Ad­­van­ced Skills Diploma at public or private skills training institutions.

It is learnt that the misappropriation of funds has been going on since last year.

In 2016, the Government allocated RM35mil to the corporation and another RM40mil this year to carry out training programmes.

“Initial investigations showed RM15mil was believed to have been siphoned off last year. Another RM25mil is believed to have been misappropriated this year,” said a source.

It is learnt that three of the suspects had also collaborated with the company director to allow 15 of his registered companies to manage the training programmes.

But none of his companies was said to have been equipped with the expertise to conduct such training.

Azam said the MACC would be calling up several witnesses “very soon and that more arrests could be expected”.

“We will carry out a thorough probe as it involves public funds. Our officers will also be sei­zing relevant documents related to the case,” he said.

Source: By Simon Khoo The Star

'Reward them to curb graft' - It is not wrong to give cash to whistleblowers, says MACC chief




KUALA LUMPUR: Rewarding civil servants with cash for exposing corruption is not wrong but it should not be the sole focus, says Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mis­sion (MACC) chief commissioner pointed out that offering cash incentives to whistleblowers was just one of the many initiatives in tackling corruption.

“There are many more activities and campaigns done by us which should be taken into account. Is it wrong for us to reward those who refuse to accept a bribe? We are showing our appreciation to those who choose to remain clean, and we look up to these people,” he said after launching the MACC’s anti-corruption posters and painted messages on three Mara Liner buses at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan yesterday.

Civil servants who report cases of corruption are entitled to receive an incentive equal to the amount offered in the bribes, with the lowest sum set at RM500.

However, of the 1.6 million civil servants, only 0.01% have reported cases so far.

In acknowledging this, Dzulkifli said it should not be equated to many civil servants on the take or that they were not serious about eradicating corruption.

“As a matter of fact, we do have a number of them coming directly to provide information but they do not want to lodge an official report.

“Some refuse the bribes offered to them but choose to just tip us off without eyeing a reward,” he said.

On another matter, Dzulkifli opined that “sharks” were now fearful of the MACC due to the “aggressive action” against offenders.

“Clearly, we managed to instil a sense of fear. Many people I meet say they can see fewer giving or taking bribes.

“We see this as a positive sign. We will continue with new arrests, probes and charges every week,” he said.

Later in Putrajaya, Dzulkifli said they would wage a war against illegal gambling den operators and put a stop to their illegal business.

He said the time had come for the issue to be looked into seriously and aggressively, including licensed outlets and cybercafes which al­­lowed online gambling in their premises.

“The issue of gambling dens operating illegally is not new. In fact, even the Deputy Prime Minis­ter has spoken about it. But we don’t see the number of these outlets decreasing.

“I think it is about time we take aggressive action against the operators and those who protect them,” he said after a dialogue with NGO Fight Against Illegal Activities Movement or GBAH.- The Star


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