1. WTO: Global tensions to force trade slowdown in 2019
  2. Supplementary budget of RM19.6 bln won’t affect 3.7 pct fiscal target
  3. National AI framework to be completed by year-end
  4. Malaysia lags in AI Readiness Index compared to regional peers
  5. Agricultural import-export permit in three minutes with iMaqis
  6. RHB Bank introduces first multi-currency Visa Debit Card
  7. Columbia Asia highlights healthcare trends of 2019

Global tensions to force trade slowdown in 2019, says WTO
The World Trade Organisation said global trade growth is expected to be lower in 2019 than it was last year, citing widespread “tensions” and economic uncertainty. The WTO had in its preliminary estimates predicted a 3.7 per cent expansion of trade for this year, but has revised that down to 2.6 per cent, marking a decline on the three-percent growth recorded in 2018. In its main annual forecast, the 164-member WTO renewed its concerns about systemic threats that could continue to disrupt the world’s economy, notably retaliatory tariffs between China and the United States.  There are indications that ongoing talks between Washington and Beijing could resolve the bruising tariff battle, but timelines for a possible deal are not clear. A year ago, the WTO projected that trade growth for 2018 would be 4.4 per cent. The projections released today are based on a “relatively smooth” Brexit playing out over the next two years, WTO economist Coleman Nee told reporters. Britain leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement, or the various other possible Brexit scenarios that remain in play, will impact global trade, Nee said.

Supplementary budget of RM19.6 bln won’t affect 3.7 pct fiscal target
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the supplementary budget of RM19.6 billion will not affect the government’s fiscal target of 3.7 per cent for 2018 as it was part of the real expenditure for the year. Tabling the second reading of the Supplementary Supply (2018) Bill 2019 at the Dewan Rakyat today, he said the fiscal target had already been achieved. He said the estimated supplementary budget of RM19.6 billion comprises RM15.49 billion in development expenditure and RM4.13 billion for operating expenditure. “As explained, RM6.3 billion is the previous government’s commitment that had not been provided an allocation and RM4.3 billion is for repayment of off-balance sheet items borrowed by the previous administration. “The balance of RM9 billion is not an additional budget, but rather a reclassification of the expenditure, mainly from operating expenditure to development expenditure,” he said.

MDEC to complete national AI framework by year-end
Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is expected to complete the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Framework development by year-end to drive the AI ecosystem in the country. Data economy director Dr Karl Ng Kah Hou said the framework development, which began last year, is an expansion of the previous National Big Data Analytics Framework, launched in 2015. “The framework will only be implemented after receiving the approval of the government,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. According to a recent study jointly conducted by Microsoft and IDC Asia Pacific, Malaysia is not ready yet for AI, and it needs to focus on all areas, particularly its investments and data to accelerate its AI journey. IDC Asia Pacific Datacentre Group research director Chin Jun-Fwu said the AI Readiness Index between Malaysia and its Asia-Pacific peers showed that Malaysia only scored 1.59 for investment readiness and 1.65 for data readiness. “Whereas, Asia Pacific’s readiness for investments and data stood at 2.43 and 2.35, respectively, showing that Malaysia is still lagging behind its regional peers,” he said. The AI Readiness Index ranges from one to four, with the higher score indicating the higher level of readiness for AI adoption.

Commenting on the findings, Ng said MDEC is working closely with industry players to promote and raise awareness on the need to invest in AI adoption. Therefore, he said MDEC has been conducting focus group discussions with academia, associations, startups, industry players, as well as government stakeholders before completing the framework. The survey showed that only 26 per cent of Malaysian organisations embarked on the AI journeys, and those which had adopted AI are expected to increase their competitiveness by 2.2 times in 2021.

Agricultural import-export permit in three minutes with iMaqis
Applications for the agricultural and agro food products import and export permit can be done in as quick as three minutes via the online system, iMaqis. Agriculture and Agrobased Industries Ministry deputy minister Sim Tze Tzin said the new system would be able to save the time of the personnel at the Malaysian Inspection and Quarantine Service Department (Maqis) as they need not use paper and cash because all businesses were implemented online. He said iMaqis which would operate fully in the middle of the year would enable a saving of RM350,000 a year.

RHB Bank introduces first multi-currency Visa Debit Card
RHB Bank is the first Malaysian bank to introduce Multi Currency VISA Debit Card which offers access to 13 foreign currencies alongside the Malaysian Ringgit. The RHB Multi Currency VISA Debit Card and RHB Premier Multi Currency Visa Debit Card supports US Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, Pound Sterling, Australian Dollar, New Zealand Dollar, Swiss Franc, Hong Kong Dollar, Saudi Riyal, South African Rand, Singapore Dollar, and Thai Baht. “The launch of the Multi Currency debit cards is part of RHB’s commitment towards making banking more convenient, fast and seamless for our customers. This debit card will empower our customers’ lifestyles and provide a gateway for their various financial needs without the hassle of having to open an account in different countries. We will continue to pursue our aspirations to provide greater convenience by bringing banking closer to our customers,” said Dato’ Khairussaleh Ramli, Group Managing Director, RHB Banking Group. “Currently, we have more than two million debit cards in circulation and in the first year, we expect to issue 15,000 new Multi-Currency Visa debit cards.” added Dato’ Khairussaleh.

Columbia Asia highlights healthcare trends of 2019
Columbia Asia Hospital has outlined key trends impacting the healthcare industry in these times of digital living and convenience. The hospital has a patients base of over three million across four markets in Asia.

Key healthcare trends 2019
• Patients are looking for the best consultation with efficient services: Patients today are expecting a lot in terms of the service that they receive. These expectations range from well-maintained hospitals, helpful doctors, nurses and staff, shorter waiting time for appointments, quick access to health records et al.
• The future of healthcare lies in efficiency: For primary and secondary care, patients prefer to rely on neighborhood / small-sized hospitals that provide easier access to quality healthcare services. In addition, smaller hospitals provide focused treatment options and shorter in-patient stays enabling them to keep costs low for patients. Leveraging digital technologies on a smaller scale further permits cost effective delivery of specialist care.
• Tapping into the realm of mobile healthcare: More and more healthcare organizations are relying on patient interface through mobile apps. Apps often feature the ability to schedule appointments, access patient’s medical history and test results, send reminders and provide option of cashless payment for acquired services.
• Social media space is the new word-of-mouth. Consumers today have the option of checking reviews before making most purchase decisions – hospital choices are also increasingly getting dependent on reviews found in the online space. Other factors such as presence on social media platforms and its responsiveness have an influence on patients’ hospital preference.