1. Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Arul Kanda to face charges over 1MDB audit report
  2. Malaysia prudent in approving FDI from China to avoid ‘transshipment point’ label
  3. Five foreign companies closed down from May-September
  4. Thailand sets 24 February as election date
  5. New Zealand embraces medical marijuana with new law

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Arul Kanda to face charges tomorrow over 1MDB audit report
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will file charges tomorrow against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and former 1Malaysia Development Berhad president and CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy on the alleged alterations to the 1MDB final audit report. A statement by the MACC said, “The charges will be read out in separate Sessions Courts at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex at 8 am on Dec 12.”t The MACC said it has received the green light from the Attorney-General’s Chambers to press charges against Datuk Seri Najib and Arul Kanda tomorrow. Datuk Seri Najib was arrested yesterday when he went to the MACC headquarters to give a statement, apparently over the probe into the alleged alterations in the 1MDB audit report. He was released on bail. Arul Kanda was arrested today after he had gone to the MACC office, apparently also to give a statement over the same probe. Last month, Auditor-General Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad revealed that the final audit report on 1MDB had been tampered with and that Datuk Seri Najib had knowledge of it.  She also disclosed that two crucial matters dropped from the report were on the presence of wanted businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low at a 1MDB board meeting as well as the financial status of 1MDB. On the same day, MACC was reported as saying that it will commence an investigation into the alleged report tampering and would call several witnesses to assist the probe.

Malaysia prudent in approving FDI from China to avoid ‘transshipment point’ label
Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming said the government is being prudent in approving foreign direct investments (FDI) from China to avoid the country being labelled as a transshipment point for Chinese products to enter the United States market. He said such labelling was a concern as it would cause the US to slap tariffs on the country. “Malaysia can possibly be labelled as a transshipment point from China to the US, and any evidence of this would lead to the US imposing tariffs not only on the companies involved but also on the industry as a whole, which would have a great impact on the local industry,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat. Dr Ong said the government was also concerned that Chinese investors might make low value-added investments, which ran counter to its aim of promoting high value-added industrial activities. He also said the government would not introduce new incentives to attract investments from China, as there were already many applications from Chinese companies to invest in the country. “We must take the responsibility of vetting FDI from China to ensure that we encourage only those that are really keen to use Malaysia as a manufacturing hub for the long term,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Ong said five manufacturing companies involving foreign investors closed down during the May-September period, involving investments worth RM308.7 million. Subsequently, 362 local workers were also laid off following the closures which were due to business decisions and not because of the transition in the government, he said. “Other factors which led to foreign investors withdrawing their investments from Malaysia include the contraction in the global economy and market volatility resulting from the decline in demand and sales.” He said Malaysia’s increasing focus on quality and high technology investments, the technological shift towards digitalisation and Industry 4.0, as well as rising labour costs had left investors, especially those involved in labour-intensive projects, unable to adjust their operations.

Thailand sets 24 February as election date
Thailand will hold a much-delayed general election on 24 Februry 2019. Announcing the date today, the Election Commission also said a military-imposed ban on political activities that has been in place since 2014 has also been lifted. The military government had imposed the strict ban when it took power in a 2014 coup, citing the need for law and order after months of street protests against the democratically elected government of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. It began easing the ban in September, when it allowed political parties to resume organising. Campaigning for the election is likely to begin in January.

New Zealand embraces medical marijuana with new law
New Zealand’s government has passed a law that will make medical marijuana widely available for thousands of patients over time, after years of campaigning by chronically ill New Zealanders who say the drug is the only thing that eases their pain. The legislation will also allow terminally ill patients to begin smoking illegal pot immediately without facing the possibility of prosecution. The law would also pave the way for New Zealand companies to manufacture medicinal cannabis products for both the local and international market, an industry which is being touted as a potential game-changer for deprived Maori communities on the east coast of the North Island, who hope to turn the thriving illegal industry into a thriving legal one. The measures were implemented ahead of a planned referendum on recreational marijuana use, which the government has pledged to hold within two years, as part of their confidence and supply agreement with coalition partner the Greens. The new law allows much broader use of medical marijuana, which was previously been highly restricted and subject to approval by the health minister.