Monday, February 4, 2008

My Wonderful trip: The rise of Asia

My dear friends,

I just get back to the US on 1st Feb 2008. As soon as I got back here, I have dealt with Mid-west snow shitty windy weather. I did really miss the weather where I recently came from. I have spent my first night at Chicago airport because a lot of flights have been cancelled, and I could not reach to my hometown Fort Wayne, Indiana on same day.

Oh! Well…”Life is a song, I have to sing it at Chicago airport.”

It was very wonderful oversea trip, and that was the first time of long traveling experience in my life. I was in Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia during my long trip. I would like to thank your hospitality during my trip.

“Life is an opportunity, avail it. Life is bliss, taste it.”

Of course, Thailand is my favorite country that I always wish to visit.

I love this place, I’ve been to Thailand lots of times, I usually go to the islands they are very beautiful. This time I went to Phu Ket, Phi Phi and Samed Islands. Thai people are so kind; also Thai food is very delicious. The amazing Thailand drove me to the fascinating traveling. I love their smiles, their patient on the driving road, their life style, and culture.

Experience the art of the Thai Living was so amazing. Thailand is a land of endless surprises; a truly amazing destination rich with a wide array of unforgettable experiences that each can enjoy to the extent of his or her own discretion. Even though 3000 tourists had lost their lives during Tsunami, Pathon beach was very crowded. Many tourists are still living in there, and 90 % of people on the streets and at beach are crowded with all tourists.

I was also at Karon beach. It is one of Phuket's longer beaches, very popular because of its fine white sand. Being so long the sunbeds are well spaced out so it never feels crowded. Now, I know why tourists like to come to there. Unfortunately, I went to local hosipital at Patong beach because of having bad Diarrhea. Fortunately, I had a chance to learn Thailand’s public healthcare system. It was very impressive. Where can you get an emergency treatment at a hospital for $15? “The ‘care’ is as good as any you're going to get in the world; the ‘cost’ is very cheap; the language is all taken care of. Talking with Taxi drivers is good to know about local things, and they are very friendly. I could not make to Surin Beach because of diarrhea I had. I wish, I would be in next time.

It has been very wonderful together with my old friends Joe and Jean. They both are young professionals working in Thailand. We have discussed about our consulting business in Thailand. We had very wealthy discussion with commitments, enthusiasm and visions on our future business. Well, the world is changing and the old way is not working. I see, Thailand is moving forward and, it is wonderful to see changing in Thailand.

What I knew about Thailand before I went:

Thailand is a newly industrialised country. After enjoying the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1996 - averaging almost 9% annually - increased pressure on Thailand's currency, the baht, in 1997, the year in which the economy contracted by 1.9% led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses and forced the government to float the currency. Pegged at 25 to the US dollar from 1978 to 1997, the baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.8% that same year. The collapse prompted a wider Asian financial crisis.

Thailand entered a recovery stage in 1998, expanding 4.2% and 4.4% in 2000, largely due to strong exports - which increased about 20% in 2000. Growth (2.2%) was dampened by a softening of the global economy in 2001, but picked up in the subsequent years due to strong growth in the People's Republic of China, a relatively weak baht encouraging exports and increasing domestic spending as a result of several mega projects and incentives of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known as Thaksinomics. Growth in 2002/03 and 2004 was 5-7% annually.

Thailand exports over $105 billion worth of products annually. Major exports include rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world’s no.1 exporter of rice, exporting 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually. Rice is the most important crop in the country. Thailand has the highest percent of arable land, 27.25%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. About 55% of the available land area is used for rice production.

Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and automobiles, while tourism contributes about 5% of the Thai economy's GDP.

Thailand uses the metric system but traditional units of measurement are still much in use. Years are numbered as B.E. (Buddhist Era) on contracts and newspaper datelines; in banking, however, standard Western year counting prevails.

Traveling to Malaysia is an adventure because I have never been before. But, I had a promise to my friend. The Malay Peninsula has been a center of trade for centuries. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multilingual society. I was lucky that I had a chance to visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is a promise, fulfill it.”
“Life is love, enjoy it. Life is mystery, know it.”

Buildings and structures in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya are so amazing.

Thanks --- Madam tourist Sylvia. ! You took me all around the places in KL. KL tower and KLCC are my favorite places to hang around. Watching to KL from Skybar and walking in the China Town are very remarkable. That was how we met with our friend Leo from Ausi.

What I knew about Malaysia before I went:

The Malay Peninsula and indeed Southeast Asia has been a centre of trade for centuries. Various items such as porcelain and spices were actively traded even before Malacca and Singapore rose to prominence.

In the 17th century, they were found in several Malay states. Later, as the British started to take over as administrators of Malaya, rubber and palm oil trees were introduced for commercial purposes. Over time, Malaya became the world's largest major producer of tin, rubber, and palm oil.These three commodities, along with other raw materials, firmly set Malaysia's economic tempo well into the mid-20th century.

Instead of relying on the local Malays as a source of labour, the British brought in Chinese and Indians to work on the mines and plantations. Although many of them returned to their respective home countries after their agreed tenure ended, some remained in Malaysia and settled permanently.

As Malaya moved towards independence, the government began implementing economic five-year plans, beginning with the First Malayan Five Year Plan in 1955. Upon the establishment of Malaysia, the plans were re-titled and renumbered, beginning with the First Malaysia Plan in 1965.

In 1970s, Malaysia began to imitate Asian Tigers and committed itself to a transition from being reliant on mining and agriculture to an economy that depends more on manufacturing. With Japanese investment, heavy industries flourished and in a matter of years, Malaysian exports became the country's primary growth engine. Malaysia consistently achieved more than 7% GDP growth along with low inflation in the 1980s and the 1990s.

During the same period, the government tried to eradicate poverty with the controversial New Economic Policy (NEP), after the May 13 Incident of racial rioting in 1969. Its main objective was the elimination of the association of race with economic function, and the first five-year plan to begin implementing the NEP was the Second Malaysia Plan. The success or failure of the NEP is the subject of much debate, although it was officially retired in 1990 and replaced by the National Development Policy (NDP). Recently much debate has surfaced once again with regards to the results and relevance of the NEP. Some have argued that the NEP has indeed successfully created a Middle/Upper Class of Malay businessmen and professionals. Despite some improvement in the economic power of Malays in general, the Malaysian government maintains a policy of discrimination that favors ethnic Malays over other races—including preferential treatment in employment, education, scholarships, business, access to cheaper housing and assisted savings. This special treatment has sparked envy and resentment between non-Malays and Malays. The Chinese control of the country's economy meanwhile, has been ceded largely in favour of the Bumiputras/Malays in many essential or strategic industries such as petroleum retailing, transportation, agriculture and etc. The minority of Indian descent has by and large been the most adversely affected by this policy. Indicators point to a higher incidence of crime and gang related activities among the Indians in recent years.

The rapid economic boom led to a variety of supply problems, however. Labour shortages soon resulted in an influx of millions of foreign workers, many illegal. Cash-rich PLCs and consortia of banks eager to benefit from increased and rapid development began large infrastructure projects. This all ended when the Asian Financial Crisis hit in the fall of 1997, delivering a massive shock to Malaysia's economy.

As with other countries affected by the crisis, there was speculative short-selling of the Malaysian currency, the ringgit. Foreign direct investment fell at an alarming rate and, as capital flowed out of the country, the value of the ringgit dropped from MYR 2.50 per USD to, at one point, MYR 4.80 per USD. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's composite index plummeted from approximately 1300 points to around 400 points in a matter of weeks. After the controversial sacking of finance minister Anwar Ibrahim, a National Economic Action Council was formed to deal with the monetary crisis. Bank Negara imposed capital controls and pegged the Malaysian ringgit at 3.80 to the US dollar. Malaysia refused economic aid packages from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, however, surprising many analysts.

In March 2005, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a paper on the sources and pace of Malaysia's recovery, written by Jomo K.S. of the applied economics department, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. The paper concluded that the controls imposed by Malaysia's government neither hurt nor helped recovery. The chief factor was an increase in electronics components exports, which was caused by a large increase in the demand for components in the United States, which was caused, in turn, by a fear of the effects of the arrival of the year 2000 (Y2K) upon older computers and other digital devices.

However, the post Y2K slump of 2001 did not affect Malaysia as much as other countries. This may have been clearer evidence that there are other causes and effects that can be more properly attributable for recovery. One possibility is that the currency speculators had run out of finance after failing in their attack on the Hong Kong dollar in August 1998 and after the Russian ruble collapsed.

Regardless of cause/effect claims, rejuvenation of the economy also coincided with massive government spending and budget deficits in the years that followed the crisis. Later, Malaysia enjoyed faster economic recovery compared to its neighbours. In many ways, however, the country has yet to recover to the levels of the pre-crisis era.

While the pace of development today is not as rapid, it is seen to be more sustainable. Although the controls and economic housekeeping may not have been the principal reason for recovery, there is no doubt that the banking sector has become more resilient to external shocks. The current account has also settled into a structural surplus, providing a cushion to capital flight. Asset prices are now a fraction of their pre-crisis heights.

The fixed exchange rate was abandoned in July 2005 in favour of a managed floating system within an hour of China's announcing of the same move. In the same week, the ringgit strengthened a percent against various major currencies and was expected to appreciate further. As of December 2005, however, expectations of further appreciation were muted as capital flight exceeded USD 10 billion.

In September 2005, Sir Howard J. Davies, director of the London School of Economics, at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, cautioned Malaysian officials that if they want a flexible capital market, they will have to lift the ban on short-selling put into effect during the crisis. In March 2006, Malaysia removed the ban on short selling.[ Currently, alaysia is considered a newly industrialized country.

I won’t forget my last night in KL. It was very fun night. I thought I was in Broadway, NY. Seem like, I got to know with Malaysian singers at Oasis. Dinner at Jalan Ahloh, drinking at Oasis, singing karaoke, and meeting new friends out there made my day remarkable and wonderful. Thanks folks….Tracy, Sylvia, Edmund, Alan Goh from Singapore, my good local friend ..Mustaph at airport, and some others. You guys are so nice. You guys made me to come back again! I wish I could play golf with Mustaph in next time, and will talk more about politics, and business.

Now, I got to deal with reality, and find a new job..

Have a nice day.

Yours truly,
Myat Soe

1 comment:

lwinmoe said...

Wow, long and nice report about your trip :) :)

Take care,
Lwin Moe