I TOO WAS AN ADDICT. Easy credit? It is really a contradiction in terms. I got my first taste when I was only 26 years old when a foreign bank operating in Malaysia sent me a pre-approved credit card with a maximum limit of RM20,000.00. I initially ignored their earlier courtship of me when they offered RM25,000.00 pre-approved personal loan. But at 26 and the thought of carrying 20 grand of credit in my wallet was just too tempting. So many girls to chase, so many toys to buy and so little money, you see. The eternal conundrum of a fresh graduate just out of law school.
EASY CREDIT. If easy credit was channeled towards cost of the production of good and services, that is not too bad. I need to increase purchase of noodles for my wantan mee stall, I need the money to tide by my operation because I keep being bothered by the local town council enforcement officers. But to a large extent, easy credit is utilized to finance our never-ending desire for consumer goods and services. A new iPhone. A new handbag. The new PS3. The latest Armani perfume. The new Mont Blanc pen. Beef Burger enlivened with Fois Gras…. The story goes on and on… To infinity and beyond, says Buzz Lightyear.
WALL STREET. The easy access to credit, often non-documented and failing the standard credit review is also reflected in commercial credit and finance. So now everyone can go bankrupt and lose their houses. Oh but wait. I don’t think any of the CEOs in Wall Street have lost their palatial mansion in the Hamptons. Oh no, it’s the poor Joe in Middle America that’s having to pay his rising housing loan instalments while the value of his house is sinking into the quicksand of reality.
AND NOW IN MY BACKYARD. The government of Malaysia has announced an initiative called the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District – which is a multi-agency, multi-billion dollar project to enhance KL as an international financial hub. A large chunk of downtown real estate will be alienated for the purpose of developing an international financial centre, replete with entertainment, residential and travel infrastructure to accommodate the hordes of financial professionals anticipated to flock into the district.
I AM A MALAYSIAN... WHEN THINGS ARE GOOD. If the international banking sector, as well as the commodities and currencies trading have all become essentially an open casino – how will we attract the biggest gamblers if we do not allow them to make the biggest bets. The main problem with trillion dollars bets is that there is also a trillion dollars downside. Can Malaysia cope with the downside? Will the Malaysian authority charged with regulating KLIFD have the expertise and the chutzpah to deal with the silky smooth presentations and goobleedegook chatter of international investment bankers and money managers? Something which even the SEC and the Federal Reserve of USA themselves failed to do. Or has each stakeholder involved in this project already purchased a home somewhere overseas, ready to pack the bags and migrate at the first hint of a financial fiasco?
THE INNOCENT MAJORITY. There are countless tens upon millions of people out there who don’t have a clue about Subprimes, CDOS, 1st Floor and Mezzanine levels of toxic bond towers, and off-balance-sheet liabilities. They are farmers and restaurant owners. They are factory workers, teachers and civil servants. They have nothing to do with the elevated conversations of investment bankers, money managers and commodities and currency traders. But they will be ones to suffer if the monolithic banking / securities / currency / commodities derivatives behemoths are poorly managed. Or even worse – barely regulated. Because in the modern world, all things are connected. And a credit squeeze will affect everybody. See Iceland, Greece, Spain, Portugal in the ever-growing list of countries either borrowing or printing money to climb out of their fiscal indiscipline.
DEAR KLIFD PROMOTERS - So go ahead if you think that the KLIFD can benefit the country. With the necessary and effective safeguards, Chinese walls, risk analysis and enforcement, it may work. But if you are trying to replicate the same 'pure' free market formula which has proven to be disastrous over the years in Wall Street, London, Dubai and other ‘international financial hubs’, then please sirs, think again.
A couple of years down the road, I don’t want to see Matt Damon in a documentary on Malaysia entitled KLIFD - from Boom to Bust. Click here on my earlier posting entitled ‘Subprime Bust Part 2 - INSIDE JOB THE MOVIE’ and a related posting entitled ‘Michael Lewis (Wall Street Insider) Mikhail Taufiq (Venture Capitalist) and the Subprime Bust’ –Click here.
188. Paper Promises
Paper money make poor substitute
For gold and silver,
A mode of transaction
On human promises.
And oh, how well
We know of man
And his paper promises!