Financial Services Update: July 30, 2019

Financial Services Update | July 30, 2019
Authors: Michaela Wong, Jordan Fox
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

August 4, 2019: Financial Services Committee Call: Please join us on August 5 from 9:00-10:00AM SGT (August 4 from 9:00-10:00PM ET) for our 2nd Financial Services Committee Call. During the call, we will review the committee’s work, discuss member priority issues and prepare for upcoming events. Click here to register, and please contact Michaela Wong (mwong@usasean.org) with any questions.

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Myanmar's new insurers face a tough sell

Myanmar’s insurance market is predicted to grow 100-fold over the next decade after liberalization of the life and general insurance sector in January opened the market to foreign companies. The government originally stated that they would allow three foreign life insurance companies to establish 100% wholly owned subsidiaries, but the market was later opened to accept five foreign insurers after alleged intervention by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. As part of the liberalization, other interested foreign firms are required to set up joint ventures with domestic insurers where they are permitted to own up to 35% of the company. There have been six proposed joint ventures which are expected to receive approval by next month. Nine companies have shown interest but only six have submitted request for proposals.

While this creates massive opportunities, many barriers still remain for foreign competitors. According to ministry figures for 2017, just 0.01% of people in Myanmar hold life insurance policies with premiums accumulating to only US$13 million. While insurance is a largely untapped market in Myanmar, challenges for industry players include limited demand, deep public mistrust of financial institutions, and quickly accumulating competition. Companies hoping to expand in this sector will need to tailor insurance products to the market, as well as educating the public about insurance and its benefits through advertising.

Foreign companies are expected to bring much needed expertise, resources, and best practices to the sector while further developing the economy and the market for long-term bonds. Given that there are only 19 local companies providing general and life insurance, the market will be greatly shaped by foreign influence.

Digital Identification Initiatives in ASEAN

On July 22, the Stock Exchange of Thailand completed the digital gateway to Thailand’s National Digital ID (NDID) Platform which enables customers to use biometrics for verification and gain access to various financial and governmental services. The NDID is a cooperation between the state-run National ID company and ten commercial banks that strives to improve efficiency of financial services, convenience for customers, and privacy of personal information. The platform uses blockchain and facial recognition technology, while following UN digital ID and e-authentication collaborations in ASEAN. The NDID gateway will be publicly implemented in the financial services sector in the fourth quarter of this year and is expected to move into other sectors, such as insurance and retail, if successful.

The digital gateway has reduced the IT setup costs of accessing the NDID, enabling banks and other financial service providers to develop services using this technology. So far, 50 companies have signed up to access the gateway. Thanachart Bank is expected to launch an information-based lending service called T-Fin by the end of the year, which leverages AI and machine learning to approve personal loans. FinNet, The Stock Exchange of Thailand’s sister company, has created a system that allows financial institutions to verify clients’ identities. In addition, Singapore-based startup, Silot, will use NDID to expand its QR payment systems. The Bank of Ayudhya will gradually expand its use of facial recognition software to payments, lending, and withdrawals during the fourth quarter. Siam Commercial Bank is internally testing contactless palm vein recognition (fingerprint authentication), which it plans to roll out later this year following approval from the central bank.

The use of digital ID initiatives is prominent elsewhere in ASEAN as well. In addition to the MyKad (Malaysia Identity Card), a compulsory identity card for citizens aged 12 and above, Malaysia is finalizing details for a national digital identification that can be used in e-commerce and other financial services while improving security. The ministerial cabinet is currently studying the project and will decide on next steps once it is completed, most likely by the end of the year. Unlike the Mykad, it will not be mandatory, but rather will serve as a “verifiable platform of trust”.

Passed in 2018, the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) establishes a national identification system that will promote “good governance, enhance governmental transactions and create a more conducive environment for trade and commerce to thrive". The system collects demographic and biometric data, though opponents are concerned it could be used as a repressive tool. The government aims to enroll all citizens by 2020.

In Singapore, digital identification is an integral part of the country’s Smart Nation initiative focusing on transnational security, reduced business costs, and citizen convenience. The program includes initiatives in every sector including healthcare (E-Pharmacy, patient identification, hospital registration), finance (digital signing of contracts, online customer acquisition, digital payments, electronic know-your-customer), trade and logistics, eCommerce, and travel. The government has already conducted trials and full implementation is expected by 2020. It is mandatory for all citizens, but Singaporeans will only be required to register with the system once.

Singapore’s Tax Agency Proposes to Exempt Cryptocurrencies From GST

In an effort to more accurately characterize and tax cryptocurrencies, Singapore’s Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has proposed an amendment to the Goods and Services Act that was passed in the GST (Amendment) Bill in 2018 and will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

GST laws currently classify digital payment tokens as both a “taxable supply of the tokens and a supply of the goods or services” whenever they are sold, issued or transferred. The IRAS characterizes digital payment tokens as being expressed as a unit, fungible, and not denominated in any currency or pegged by its issuer to any currency. The token must also have the ability to be transferred, stored or traded electronically, and intended to be a medium of exchange accepted by the public without substantial restrictions on its use. The proposal used Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash, Monero, Ripple, and Zcash as examples.

The proposed changes to the characterization of digital payment tokens include:

(i) The use of digital payment tokens as payment for goods or services will not give rise to a supply of those tokens; and

(ii) The exchange of digital payment tokens for fiat currency or other digital payment tokens will be exempt from GST.

This comes as a part of the Ministry of Finance’s five proposed amendments the Goods and Services Act that was passed in the GST (Amendment) Bill 2018 and will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Proposed amendments related to GST on imported goods include clarifying the implementation on imported services and introducing penalties for customers who misrepresent GST.

Under other amendments to the GST Act, court tax proceedings will no longer automatically be private. Instead, cases would be treated like other judicial proceedings which can be deemed private at the Court’s discretion. The last amendment would create professional standards by requiring only a “public accountant” (defined by the Accountants Act) or an “advocate and solicitor” (defined by the Legal Profession Act) can represent a taxpayer before the GST Board of Review. News articles and public comments have focused solely on the changes to cryptocurrency and almost none have discussed any other amendments.

The MOF closed the window for feedback on its draft of the GST (Amendment) Bill 2019 on July 26, 2019.  

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Singapore and Malaysia can still work closely despite recent differences, says DPM Heng

Market Development
More players enter Vietnam e-hailing market
UBS unveils 3rd edition of Future of Finance Challenge contest in Singapore

Asset Management
Indonesia Plans Bond Sale to Residents Living Overseas
Media Release: Institutional Reforms, Political Stability, Fiscal Transparency And Accountability, Managing The Reduction Of Debts And Liabilities, Good Governance And Sustainable Economic Growth - Strong Credit Positives Towards Affirmation Of Malay
Authorities want banks to give up corporate bond addiction
Institutional reforms, accountability good for credit ratings, says finance minister
Indonesian Dollar Junk Bonds Slump as Contagion Risks Emerge
Thai c.bank agrees to prepare capital inflow measures as baht climbs
New reporting rule for digital asset trading

Banking
Three More Foreign Banks To Launch in Philippines
Finance chief defends Landbank
Asean the “real prize” for Singapore’s upcoming digital banks: Maybank Kim Eng
Duterte threatens to abolish Landbank
MoF proposes tax cut for small firms
Banks to ride on digital ID scheme with new services
Gov’t mulls postal banking system

Brunei
S&P reaffirms Baiduri Bank’s rating with stable outlook
UNISSA strengthens Islamic finance research cooperation with Malaysia

E-Payments
Singapore's move to waive sales tax on digital payment tokens will spur innovation, boost cryptocurrency exchanges, says PwC
India and ASEAN Boost Fintech Commitments
Wave Money focuses on 4G finance opportunities
Thai Commerce Ministry, Lazada join for 'Smart Village Online'
OneConnect partners with UnionBank's fintech subsidiary UBX to co-create Philippines' first blockchain-enabled platform for MSMEs
How should Vietnam regulate cryptocurrencies?
A glimpse into the future of banking in Brunei
Bank of Thailand Is Open to Discuss Libra, Concerned Over Security
SEC says stablecoin won't be employed as fundraising tool

Economics
Thailand News: Uttama ‘guarantees’ enough money to finance economic policies, maintain stability
Lists of compulsory non-cash transactions announced
Party leadership approves additional measures to boost economy in Laos
Indonesia's advancement of Islamic Finance is transformative: IsDB 
Indonesia Economy Must Brace for Long-Term Support, New Central Bank Official Says
Bank Indonesia Signals Further Rate Cuts This Year
New Thai finance minister says will not interfere in central bank policy
Finance chief Uttama readies policies for low-income earners
Indonesia's Short-Term Growth Potential Maxed Out at 5.5%; Reform Needed: Finance Minister
Foreign finance institutions step up expansion plans in Việt Nam
UPDATE 1-Indonesia plans more tax breaks to lift GDP growth - finmin
Finance Ministry counters student’s view that GST hike will increase the cost of goods and disadvantage the needy
US helps Vietnam to facilitate trade
Singapore financial sector oversight 'among the best globally': IMF
Guan Eng: S&P Outlook Sign That Growing Debt Not A Threat To Malaysia’s Credit Ratings

Insurance
Life insurance industry gross premiums set to rise to $260M
Philippine Peso Declines After Duterte Unveils Tax Revamp Plan
Local, Foreign Insurance Cos. Readying to Sell in Myanmar

Malaysia
Investors to get tax exemption after three years, need not wait to exit
Meeting Malaysia's 2020 deficit target 'challenging': Finance Min
Malaysia’s strong credit ratings due to reforms, says LGE

Market Regulation
New tobacco tax reform law to ensure expanded healthcare for poor families
Dominguez urges Congress to pass remaining CTRP bills, higher excise taxes on alcohol, e-cigarettes before year end
DOF, DILG issue joint circular on setting reasonable LGU fees
DOF to push Trabaho bill for 18th Congress’ OK
Media Release : Ministry Of Finance Grants Three Year Extension For CGC TPUB-i Contract Financing Scheme Of RM300 Million Benefitting Bumiputra Entrepeneurs
Minister of Finance Issues Regulation Establishing Sanctions for Failure to Repatriate Proceeds of Natural-Resources Exports
Business community backs tax program, other measures in Congress to attract FDIs
Duterte allots P1B to finance Philippine Innovation Act
Labor-intensive industries to receive 60 percent tax cut 

Myanmar
Foreign Partners Poised to Aid Growth in Myanmar’s Life Insurance Sector
Myanmar invites foreign investment in microfinance
Foreigners only able to trade after October, YSX says

Thailand
Thai banks to secure bank services with palm and facial biometrics as national ID gateway opens
PPRP tax plan sparks fear
Thailand’s Fintech growth among the fastest in ASEAN

Vietnam
Vietnamese stock market attracts foreign investment
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Singapore and Malaysia can still work closely despite recent differences, says DPM Heng CNA 29th Jul 2019
Singapore and Malaysia can work "more closely" together on many areas despite recent differences over issues such as water and maritime boundaries, said Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. In an interview with visiting Malaysian journalists on Saturday (Jul 27) Mr Heng said that being the closest neighbours, there will always be differences that arise from time to time between the two countries.He highlighted three areas the Singapore and Malaysia can work on – ensuring regional peace and stability, developing the economy and fostering stronger people-to-people ties. Economic development was the second area, Mr Heng, who is also Singapore’s Finance Minister, highlighted. He said every country hopes to improve its people’s standard of living, grow its economy and create jobs. Mr Heng cited the example of digital banking and e-commerce, pointing out that many in the region still do not have a bank account because banks have found it too expensive to serve people in the outlying areas. If the ASEAN states can work together to facilitate a payment system for regional trade, this could improve people’s lives, the minister said, adding that financial inclusion was one of the topics discussed by the finance ministers in Chiang Rai, Thailand, this year. 

Market Development

More players enter Vietnam e-hailing market VietNamNet 24th Jul 2019
Three years ago, the e-hailing market was the playing field of two foreign names, Grab and Uber. Now, the number of firms has increased. Post on July 1, 2019 launched an e-hailing app, MyGo, for motorbikes, cars and goods delivery services. Tran Trung Hung, CEO of Viettel Post, said at the opening ceremony that MyGo has attracted 106,000 drivers, while 5,800 trips were provided on June 30. MyGo has the second largest number of drivers in the e-hailing market, just after Grab, which has been in Vietnam for five years and has 200,000 drivers.Prior to that, another domestic e-hailing app, Be, joined the market. After six months of operation, Be said it had attracted 30,000 drivers, 4 million downloads and 11 million trips. It plans to attract 100,000 drivers by the end of 2019.

UBS unveils 3rd edition of Future of Finance Challenge contest in Singapore The Business Times 19th Jul 2019
UBS has launched its Future of Finance Challenge competition for the Asia-Pacific region in Singapore, one of six cities around the world to invite innovators and fintechs to take part in the third edition of the Swiss bank's global challenge.

Asset Management

Indonesia Plans Bond Sale to Residents Living Overseas Yahoo Finance 28th Jul 2019
Indonesia is planning to sell bonds to its citizens living overseas as Southeast Asia’s largest economy seeks to expand its funding pool and reduce the dependence on foreign fund inflows for financing a budget deficit.The government is studying the so-called “diaspora bonds,” which will target non-residents from migrant workers to students, according to Luky Alfirman, director general for financing and risk management at the finance ministry. Details of the type of debt instrument, its tenor, denomination and transaction costs are being still discussed, he said.The diaspora bonds are part of the plan to reduce high foreign ownership of Indonesian securities that makes the nation one of the most vulnerable emerging markets.

Media Release: Institutional Reforms, Political Stability, Fiscal Transparency And Accountability, Managing The Reduction Of Debts And Liabilities, Good Governance And Sustainable Economic Growth - Strong Credit Positives Towards Affirmation Of Malay Ministry of Finance Malaysia 22nd Jul 2019
The Ministry of Finance welcomes Fitch Ratings’ confirmation of Malaysia’s sovereign credit ratings at A- with a stable outlook on 18 July 2019, which follows similar confirmation by S&P Global Ratings on 3 July 2019. Malaysia has surprised many sceptics who expected a downgrade due to legacy issues from the previous government that loaded us with high debt and failed governance. Institutional reforms implemented by the current Government to enhance fiscal transparency and address high-profile corruption cases that will gradually improve Malaysia’s governance indicators, have convinced both Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings that Malaysia’s sovereign credit rating deserves to be reaffirmed.

Authorities want banks to give up corporate bond addiction vietnamnews.vn 22nd Jul 2019
The Hà Nội Stock Exchange said that Nha Trang Bay Investment and Construction Joint Stock Company successfully issued private corporate bonds worth VNĐ650 billion (US$28.2 million), all of it to the Việt Nam Maritime Bank. The Việt Nam Prosperity Bank (VPBank) bought VNĐ925 billion ($40.22 million) worth of bonds issued by the Hoàng Trường Tourism Real Estate Investment Company. VPBank is among the lenders to have invested a lot in corporate bonds recently. As of March this year it had invested nearly VNĐ15 trillion in bonds, an increase of 69 percent from the end of last year.

Institutional reforms, accountability good for credit ratings, says finance minister MalayMail 20th Jul 2019
The ongoing institutional reforms, greater accountability, fiscal transparency and political stability are credit positives which led to the government’s strong credit ratings, said Finance Minister, Lim Guan Eng. In a statement today, Lim said the Ministry of Finance welcomed Fitch Ratings’ confirmation of Malaysia’s sovereign credit ratings at A- with a stable outlook. “Fitch expects Malaysia’s institutional quality to improve further over time due to the wider implementation of open tenders, fiscal transparency, anti-corruption and institutional reform measures to promote accountability and fiscal responsibility,” he said.

Indonesian Dollar Junk Bonds Slump as Contagion Risks Emerge Yahoo Finance 18th Jul 2019
The plunge in dollar bonds of two Indonesian speculative-grade issuers is raising the risk of contagion for other lower-rated borrowers from the nation.Securities from Indonesian property firms such as Alam Sutera and Modernland Overseas Pte slid on Thursday morning, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s after a bond from another property company -- APL Realty Holdings -- sank as much as 20 points on a credit downgrade of its parent, and debt sold by a subsidiary of textile manufacturer Duniatex Group plunged this week. That Delta Merlin Dunia Tekstil note sold in March plummeted nearly 70 cents on the dollar after an affiliated company missed a loan payment.Indonesia’s financial regulator dispelled concern about liquidity in the local banking system. Liquidity “is fine” in general, and delays in loan payments at some companies “is not due to problem of liquidity in banking system” but elsewhere, Wimboh Santoso, Chairman of Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority, known as OJK, said in an interview Thursday.The nation’s central bank on Thursday cut its benchmark interest rate for the first time in almost two years and pledged more easing to come as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy faces headwinds.

Thai c.bank agrees to prepare capital inflow measures as baht climbs Nasdaq 16th Jul 2019
Thailand's central bank is preparing measures to control short-term capital inflows, while continuing to relax restrictions on outflows to cope with the strong baht , according to minutes of a policy meeting last month. The monetary policy committee (MPC) felt rapid appreciation of the baht might not be consistent with economic fundamentals and could impact economic growth, according to the minutes of its June 26 meeting released on Wednesday. "Given moderating economic prospects, current economic data from various sectors reflected that the Thai economy would be more sensitive to currency appreciation," the minutes said.

New reporting rule for digital asset trading Bangkok Post 15th Jul 2019
Parties involved with digital asset transactions worth above 5 million baht will have to report their trades to the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo). Local digital asset exchanges will be required to report digital asset trades with a value exceeding 5 million baht to commercial banks, then the banks must report such transactions to Amlo, said acting secretary-general Preecha Jaroensahayanon. The Finance Ministry will issue an additional clause in the digital asset royal decree on the compulsory practice, expected to take effect in early August, Pol Maj Gen Preecha said.

Banking

Three More Foreign Banks To Launch in Philippines finews.asia 29th Jul 2019
The Philippines continues to attract interest from foreign financial institutions due to its sound macroeconomic environment and stable investment climate, according to a ranking official of the central bank. Chuchi Fonacier, deputy governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilpinas (BSP), shared the news of the three new entrants during a recent speech, adding that the regulator was committed to strengthening risk governance, leverage technology and achieve greater and broader access to financial services.  Fonacier said that the three foreign banks were from South Korea, Indonesia, and Hong Kong but did not disclose their names. Since former Philippines President Benign Aquino opened the market to foreign banks, the BSP has allowed 12 foreign banks to open branches and 13 to establish representative offices.

Finance chief defends Landbank Inquirer 25th Jul 2019
No less than the head of the Duterte administration’s economic team has defended Land Bank of the Philippines after President Duterte threatened to abolish the state-run lender for supposedly forgetting its mandate to serve the agriculture sector, pointing out that more than a fifth of its lending portfolio to date supported farmers, fishermen and agribusiness ventures. In an interview on Tuesday night, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who also chairs Landbank, said that besides adhering to the President’s order that the lender further increase its exposure to agriculture, they would also report to Mr. Duterte either within the month or during the upcoming Cabinet meeting scheduled on Aug. 8 that the country’s fourth biggest bank in terms of consolidated assets was leading the pack in terms of assistance to the agriculture sector.

Asean the “real prize” for Singapore’s upcoming digital banks: Maybank Kim Eng The Business Times 22nd Jul 2019
The “real prize” for Singapore’s upcoming five challenger digital banks is the Asean market, where half of the population is underbanked and incumbent banks are still catching up, according to a recent report by Maybank Kim Eng. Digital banking offerings developed and tested in Singapore will have a competitive advantage in regional economies, on the back of the city-state’s regulatory, capital and technology ecosystem, said analyst Thilan Wickramasinghe. In the report, he noted that banking penetration in Asean remains low while incomes have been growing rapidly. Banking systems in most Asean countries are also still catching up in terms of regulatory best practices, even as the younger demographics are increasingly using digital payments for transactions.

Duterte threatens to abolish Landbank Rappler 22nd Jul 2019
President Rodrigo Duterte wants the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) to be abolished or reconfigured if it continues to "act like a commercial bank" instead of serving the interests of farmers. Duterte said Landbank should come out with a viable plan. Otherwise, he said, Congress should abolish or reconfigure it. In April 2018, the President already called out Landbank for the same reasons, in front of farmers. "The problem is when you give credit and you ask for something in return, it is not really freely given because there's a fee and that fee does not go to government but to someone else's pocket," said Duterte in Sultan Kudarat, while giving out land titles.

MoF proposes tax cut for small firms Vietnam News Agency 22nd Jul 2019
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) is proposing a regulation that exempts micro and small enterprises from corporate income tax for two years after they have sufficient income subject to taxation. The regulation would be applicable for micro and small businesses which are established from household firms. This is one of the proposals the ministry has submitted to the National Assembly relating to tax exemption and reduction policies for micro and small businesses. Accordingly, the MoF plans to apply a corporate income tax rate of 15 per cent to micro enterprises with annual revenue of less than VNĐ3 billion (US$129,000) and a labour force of less than 10. A higher tax rate of 17 per cent would be applicable to small enterprises with annual revenue of less than VNĐ50 billion ($2.15 million) and employing less than 100 workers.

Banks to ride on digital ID scheme with new services The Nation Thailand 18th Jul 2019
Thailand’s top commercial banks will roll out new financial service plans as they embrace the National Digital ID (NDID) scheme, which is expected to be officially launched in the fourth quarter of this year. The NDID is a blockchain database which stores the information of its users. The database has been developed jointly between the state-run National ID company in cooperation with 10 commercial banks in the Kingdom. The use cases in the financial sector include allowing clients to open bank accounts and make financial transactions online through digital facial identification, known in the financial sector as electronic know-your-customer (e-KYC).

Gov’t mulls postal banking system Khmer Times 15th Jul 2019
The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications last week proposed the creation of a network of postal banks to enhance access to banking and financial services across the country. Speaking on Friday during a meeting of the Council of Ministers, Minister Tram Iv Tek said a postal banking system would particularly benefit people living in rural areas. “A postal bank will help people in the countryside, who will no longer have to come to the capital or provincial towns [for banking services],” he said, noting that the idea of creating the bank came to him during a trip to China, a country that uses postal banks.

Brunei

S&P reaffirms Baiduri Bank’s rating with stable outlook Borneo Bulletin Online 28th Jul 2019
Global ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) reaffirmed its credit rating of BBB+/A-2 with stable outlook for Baiduri Bank, placing Baiduri in the company of strong regional and global banks. The report provided by S&P stated that the stable outlook on Baiduri Bank reflects their expectations that the bank will maintain its high systemic importance in Brunei and that the bank’s financial profile will remain steady due to adequate internal capital accruals amid low to mid-single digit growth over the next 18 to 24 months. The report further stated that the rating reflects the bank’s strong market share and diversified business in Brunei with a dominant market share of loans and deposits. Baiduri’s ratio of net loans to customer deposits of 58 per cent remains higher than the industry average of 35 per cent. Baiduri’s liquidity ratios are also stronger than those of several global peers.

UNISSA strengthens Islamic finance research cooperation with Malaysia Borneo Bulletin Online 24th Jul 2019
Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) renewed their regional strategic partnership network by inking a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Malaysia’s International Syariah Research Academy (ISRA) at a signing ceremony at The Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong yesterday. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the 13th Malay Archipelago Syariah Scholars Dialogue (Muzakarah-13) that is held for two days starting yesterday. The MoU signing will enable UNISSA to step up its strategic cooperation on Islamic financing issues via research with Malaysia. It is envisioned to help the university better achieve its core objective of delivering Islamic studies programmes in a more systematic and efficient manner, and improve academic excellence with regard to publications and research via modern technology. It is part of UNISSA’s efforts to fulfil its mission of becoming a leading Islamic university with respect to propagating Islamic knowledge in line with global needs.

E-Payments

Singapore's move to waive sales tax on digital payment tokens will spur innovation, boost cryptocurrency exchanges, says PwC Yahoo Finance 29th Jul 2019
The Singapore government's proposal to exempt digital payment tokens from a sales tax when they are used to pay for goods and services is likely to benefit cryptocurrency exchanges, asset managers and blockchain entrepreneurs, according to accounting giant PwC. The waiver of the 7 per cent goods and services tax (GST) would also bring the city state closer to Hong Kong in terms of being a tax-friendly jurisdiction for cryptocurrencies, said Gwenda Ho, a partner in PwC Hong Kong's corporate tax practice. She said the proposal by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) could potentially spur more innovation from entrepreneurs in the field of blockchain-based services and solutions.

India and ASEAN Boost Fintech Commitments finews.asia 24th Jul 2019
The outlook for fintech in Asia continues to blossom and the latest memorandum of understanding signed by major players from multiple countries in the region is expected to further build the collaborative ecosystem between financiers and tech firms. The Singapore Fintech Association (SFA) has signed the MoU with the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) to «collaborate and promote the APIX platform», an online market place for financial institutions to connect with innovative fintech solutions. APIX was first launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at Singapore Fintech Festival 2018. The platform will enable financial institutions and fintech companies to collaborate in a sandbox environment.

Wave Money focuses on 4G finance opportunities Mobile World Live 23rd Jul 2019
The company, a joint venture between Telenor and Yoma Bank operating in Myanmar, isn’t looking at 5G “that closely at this stage in terms of the application of mobile money”. But Jones sees “great opportunities” to add value to its current service, for example by enabling it to offer virtual call centres, which it will explore “when those networks start to be built”. Wave Money initially offered cash transfer services based on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD, or quick codes) using SMS to deliver notifications. “And then, all of a sudden, the market just moved so quickly to 4G that we realised we had to, really, change our whole approach”. Today, agents and customers are connected via an app and, while money transfer remains at the heart of the company’s services, it is “moving heavily into ticketing” and serving an “incredible Facebook e-commerce market in Myanmar” involving several thousand transactions each month.

Thai Commerce Ministry, Lazada join for 'Smart Village Online' ThaiVisa News 23rd Jul 2019
The Commerce Ministry has joined forces with Lazada, a leading e-commerce platform, in launching "Smart Village Online," targeting five communities in the country. Lalida Jivanantapravat, deputy director-general/ Department of Business Development under the Commerce Ministry, said the online initiative was launched after the department's visit to Pei Neu Village of Lin'an district in Zhejiang, a prototype for the "Taobao Village Model", using e-commerce as the main tool to promote occupation and generate income. The Commerce Ministry has applied the Taobao Village Model with local entrepreneurs and manufacturers of Otop and community products, aimed at gathering local communities and create a prototype of 'local e-commerce communities' in Thailand.

OneConnect partners with UnionBank's fintech subsidiary UBX to co-create Philippines' first blockchain-enabled platform for MSMEs PRNewswire 22nd Jul 2019
OneConnect, an associate company of China's insurance giant and Fortune Top 29 Company Ping An Group, has partnered with UBX Philippines Corporation, the wholly-owned fintech subsidiary of Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank), to build the country's first blockchain-enabled platform to meet the banking needs of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The partnership underpins both UBX and OneConnect's commitment in accelerating digital transformation in the Philippine financial services industry -  using their technological advancements to enable financial institutions to better serve the unbanked and underbanked communities. The partnership comes amidst the vital roles of MSMEs in the Philippine economy. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 99.6% of all business in the Philippines are MSMEs and they contribute to almost 63% of total employment. However, SMEs get only 9.2% of loans and financing from the country's major banks.

Vietnamese firms urged to export through Amazon Vietnam News Agency 22nd Jul 2019
Vietnamese businesses, especially small- and medium-sized ones, should export their products through the Amazon e-commerce sales platform, a seminar heard in HCM City yesterday. Speaking on global export trends through the Amazon platform, Trần Xuân Thủy, managing director of Amazon Global Selling Việt Nam, said by putting their products on the platform, businesses would have the chance to access over 300 million customers in 185 countries and territories as well as develop their brands at little cost. Global e-commerce had grown strongly in recent years, rapidly transforming consumer behaviours as an increasing number of people opt to shop online, he said.

How should Vietnam regulate cryptocurrencies? VietNamNet 22nd Jul 2019
On June 18, Facebook stated it will launch Libra, a cryptocurrency, in the first half of 2020, allowing billions of users of the social network to make online financial transactions. In a report released earlier this month, Can Van Luc and authors at the BIDV (Bank of Investment and Development of Vietnam) Training and Research Institute said they would not prohibit cryptocurrency, because the trend is irreversible. Vietnam should think about how to control the currencies, they said. Libra is described as ‘global financial and monetary infrastructure’ created from blockchain. It is believed to have lower fluctuations and higher safety than other cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Etherum.

A glimpse into the future of banking in Brunei World Finance 22nd Jul 2019
As one of the largest banks in Brunei and a key player in the global banking industry, Baiduri Bank has enjoyed several years of growth. Not content with resting on its laurels, though, the firm is now looking to build on its successes via investment in new technologies. From contactless payments to digital wallets, technology is rapidly changing the banking landscape. Furthermore, as customers are increasingly embracing mobile and internet banking, banks are pressured to adapt to their customers’ evolving needs. As a consequence, institutions are turning towards new technologies.

Bank of Thailand Is Open to Discuss Libra, Concerned Over Security Cointelegraph 20th Jul 2019
Bank of Thailand governor Veerathai Santiprabhob said that the institution is open to discussing Facebook’s Libra stablecoin with the company, Chinese state-run press agency Xinhuanet reported on July 19. Per the report, Santiprabhob made his remarks at the Bangkok FinTech Fair on July 19, pointing out that Facebook had already contacted the central bank many times. He also noted that the institution had established a new team to study Libra’s whitepaper, but their analysis will take time. “We are not going to rush into a decision of Libra as yet,” Santiprabhob reportedly said, continuing to emphasize the importance of security: Santiprabhob reportedly said that Libra cannot simply replace the Thai baht, concluding that “Libra cannot just step in and replace all currencies and digital money.” As Cointelegraph reported earlier this month, Fiscal Policy Office legal officer Sumaporn Manason argued that Libra will likely run up against difficulties entering Thailand as the cryptocurrency does not fall under any local financial legislation currently existing.

SEC says stablecoin won't be employed as fundraising tool Bangkok Post 16th Jul 2019
The Stock Exchange of Thailand's (SET) stablecoin is to be used as an e-payment medium for clearing and settlement and not a fundraising tool, says a senior official at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Such a stablecoin will help reduce the clearing and settlement period of securities and lower transactional cost, which is normally done through the banking system, said Supa Thamthitivat, director of the market supervision group at the SEC. Stablecoins are a type of cryptocurrency designed to minimise price volatility by pegging their value to another cryptocurrency, fiat money or exchange-traded commodities.

Economics

Thailand News: Uttama ‘guarantees’ enough money to finance economic policies, maintain stability ThaiVisa News 29th Jul 2019
Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana on Friday guaranteed that the government will be able to fund its economic policies while maintaining financial stability for the rest of the year. During the morning’s policy debate in parliament, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha restated his intention to continue developing the Eastern Economic Corridor. He claimed that the special economic zone has the potential to boost Thailand’s economic growth to Vietnam’s level. The announcement was followed by the opposition coalition expressing more doubts as to how the government could fund their economic stimulus policies without jeopardising the financial stability of the country. In his reply, the finance minister revealing that the central budget currently has a value of Bt500 billion. The budget is divided into 11 categories, including a category for emergency spending with a value of Bt100 billion, he stated.

Lists of compulsory non-cash transactions announced vietnamnews.vn 29th Jul 2019
Authorities have announced a list of transactions that will have to be made via banks in some areas in a move to boost non-cash payments. According to a newly-issued regulation of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), several payments and transactions in merger and acquisition (M&A) activities, securities, tax and State budget must now be made via banks. Accordingly, in the financial sector, enterprises that contribute capital to purchase and sell stakes in other enterprises, or transfer their contributed capital to other enterprises must use non-cash payment forms. Non-credit institutions are also required to use non-cash payments for transactions related to loans and loan repayments.

Party leadership approves additional measures to boost economy in Laos Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 29th Jul 2019
The Party Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party has resolved to plug loopholes in order to prevent revenue leaks along with imposing harsher penalties on officials involved in financial misappropriation. This was part of the additional measures package the committee resolved to adopt at its 8th plenary session. Party Secretary General Bounnhang Vorachit, who is the President of the Lao PDR, recently signed the resolution on behalf of the committee. The plenary session agreed to accelerate work to modernise revenue and expenditure management systems, while maximising revenue sourced from land, mining, and services.

Indonesia's advancement of Islamic Finance is transformative: IsDB - ANTARA News Antara News 25th Jul 2019
Indonesia’s advancement and prioritization of Islamic Finance, including the recently launched National Islamic Finance Committee, locally called KNKS, is transformative, Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) official noted in a statement received by Antara here, Thursday. “We, at the IsDB, are pleased to support Indonesia’s roadmap to have a larger share of Islamic Finance and Islamic Economy,” Director General of Country Relations and Services Dr. Walid Abdelwahab remarked at the Annual Islamic Finance Conference (AIFC) being held in Surabaya, East Java, on July 24-25, 2019. Abdelwahab further added that the IsDB group supports the implementation of this Indonesia Islamic Economic Master plan, through a collaborative approach, and in partnership with bilateral and multilateral development financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society.

Indonesia Economy Must Brace for Long-Term Support, New Central Bank Official Says Yahoo Finance 25th Jul 2019
Indonesia must brace for a long period of global monetary policy easing, which will open the door for more interest rate cuts in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and a possible surge in foreign inflows, the nation’s newest central banker said.Destry Damayanti, 55, was approved by the parliament on Thursday as the senior deputy governor at Bank Indonesia, becoming the No. 2 official at the central bank and the first woman to hold the position since 2009.In an interview in Jakarta two days before her confirmation, Damayanti said if global uncertainties persist and world growth continues to slow, then the “global easing of monetary policy will go quite long.”Under those conditions, and given the need to support domestic growth, “I think the room for easing will be quite long, will continue for quite some time for Indonesia,” she said.The central bank last week joined the wave of global easing with its first rate cut in almost two years.

Bank Indonesia Signals Further Rate Cuts This Year Jakarta Globe 22nd Jul 2019
The governor of Bank Indonesia, Perry Warjiyo, has given a signal that the central bank may lower its benchmark interest rate again this year to boost the country's economic growth. Speaking in front of lawmakers during a session at the House of Representatives in Jakarta on Monday, Perry said the room for monetary policy easing remains open as long as inflation stays manageable. "There will be room for monetary easing [policy], whether it is to boost liquidity or to make further cuts in the benchmark interest rate," Perry said, as quoted by Antaranews.com. The bank cut its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 5.75 percent last Thursday in anticipation of expected policy easing by the United States and other developed countries.

New Thai finance minister says will not interfere in central bank policy ThaiVisa News 22nd Jul 2019
Thailand's new finance minister said he will not interfere in the central bank's monetary policy decisions and will let it handle the strengthening baht currency. THB=TH. The ministry plans to introduce economic stimulus measures after the government has announced its policies in parliament next week, Uttama Savanayana told reporters. The baht has appreciated about 5.9% against the dollar so far this year, threatening the export-dependent economy and its pivotal tourism.

Finance chief Uttama readies policies for low-income earners ThaiVisa News 22nd Jul 2019
Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana plans to propose policies targeting the grassroots economy, including expanding the benefits under the welfare card scheme and promoting e-commerce in the agricultural sector. Members of the Palang Pracharat Party, the largest in the governing coalition, congratulated Uttama on his position as the new finance minister on Friday. With the government’s policies likely to be officially announced by the end of next week, Uttama declined to disclose the details of the expected economic stimulus policy at a press conference at the Finance Ministry on Friday. Economists from commercial banks predict that the new government’s stimulus package will inject around Bt100 billion into the economy to stimulate consumer spending. The strategy of the new government, Uttama said, will focus on the domestic economy and ways to boost the grassroots economy amid uncertain external factors dampening the Kingdom’s exports.

Indonesia's Short-Term Growth Potential Maxed Out at 5.5%; Reform Needed: Finance Minister Jakarta Globe 22nd Jul 2019
Indonesia's economy will be unable to grow at more than 5.5 percent in the short term if structural problems hampering productivity are not resolved, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Tuesday. "Based on potential output related to production, it is estimated that our [economic] growth capacity is only in the range of 5.0 percent to 5.5 percent in the short term," the minister told the House of Representatives, as quoted by Antara news agency. At such rate of growth, Indonesia is at risk of falling into the middle-income trap. According to the World Bank, a country is in the middle-income trap if its gross national product per capita has remained between $1,000 and $12,000 at 2011 prices. Indonesia's gross national product per capita is now $3,840.

Foreign finance institutions step up expansion plans in Việt Nam vietnamnews.vn 22nd Jul 2019
The competition in the Vietnamese finance and banking market has become fiercer as existing foreign institutions are rushing to increase capital even as new entrants continually join the market. This week alone, the State Bank of Việt Nam announced it had approved capital increases for Public Bank Vietnam Limited and Shinhan Bank Vietnam, a move that paves the way for the foreign banks to expand their operation in Việt Nam. Malaysia’s Public Bank Vietnam Ltd on Tuesday received the SBV’s permission to increase its charter capital from VNĐ3.65 trillion (US$156.65 million) to VNĐ6 trillion ($257.85 million).

UPDATE 1-Indonesia plans more tax breaks to lift GDP growth - finmin U.S. 17th Jul 2019
Indonesia plans to cut several different taxes to boost investment and accelerate economic growth, its finance minister said on Wednesday, after noting the government’s 2019 growth target may be hard to reach. Southeast Asia’s largest economy in the first quarter expanded 5.07% from a year earlier, missing market expectations, leading Sri Mulyani Indrawati to tell parliament last week that the government’s 5.3% growth target may not be achieved. Some analysts say fiscal stimulus may be more effective at keeping Indonesia’s growth momentum for now, rather than monetary easing, due to a lag time in monetary transmission.

Finance Ministry counters student’s view that GST hike will increase the cost of goods and disadvantage the needy The Independent 17th Jul 2019
The Ministry of Finance has countered a student’s view that the impending Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike will increase the cost of consumer goods and further disadvantage those who earn lower incomes. During his Budget speech last year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the GST will increase by two per cent. This tax hike will raise the GST from the current seven per cent to nine per cent and will be implemented sometime between 2021 and 2025, in a progressive way. 21-year-old Marcus Aw Chen Feng, an undergraduate student, has asserted that the impending GST hike can “negatively affect economic growth” and further disadvantage the needy. In a forum letter published by the Straits Times last Monday (8 July), Marcus said that the GST hike would result in higher prices for consumer goods and necessities and impact the spending power of lower-income Singaporeans, leaving them with less disposable income to meet other expenses.

US helps Vietnam to facilitate trade Nhan Dan Online 16th Jul 2019
Vietnam’s stock market has been evaluated as a bright spot in the region in terms of growth speed and foreign capital absorption for years, according to Chairman of the State Securities Commission (SSC) Tran Van Dung. The event was attended by Politburo member and Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue, the US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink and USAID/Vietnam Mission Director Michael Greene. The USAID-funded Trade Facilitation Programme was approved by the Vietnamese Government. Its governing body is the MoF and its manager is the General Department of Vietnam Customs. Over US$21.7 million will be implemented over the next five years, aiming to support the reform, harmonisation and simplification of policies and procedures for exports and imports in line with international standards.

Singapore financial sector oversight 'among the best globally': IMF The Business Times 16th Jul 2019
International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reaffirmed Singapore’s financial sector oversight to be “among the best globally”, while adding that the country's economic fundamentals are strong and its economic policies sound. Having completed its third financial sector assessment programme (FSAP) on Singapore since its last review in 2013, IMF said the overall sector is resilient with healthy buffers to withstand severe adverse shocks, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced in a media release on Tuesday. IMF found Singapore’s financial system to be resilient even under very adverse scenarios, as demonstrated by stress tests, including a large-scale global financial market turmoil.

Guan Eng: S&P Outlook Sign That Growing Debt Not A Threat To Malaysia’s Credit Ratings Malay Mail 16th Jul 2019
Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Global Ratings positive outlook of the local economy demonstrates that rising direct public debt was not jeopardising Malaysia’s sovereign credit rating, said Lim Guan Eng. The finance minister said S&P’s A- rating of Malaysia also demonstrated confidence in the local economy, Malaysia’s strong institutional profile, economic fundamentals and prudent debt management. “The reaffirmation (by S&P) also shows that the increase in government’s direct debt does not affect Malaysia’s sovereign credit ratings, especially when the government’s overall debt and liabilities have been reduced,” Lim said in a statement. Lim then attributed the improved numbers to Malaysia’s growth prospects after the World Bank projected a 4.6 per cent GDP growth in 2019, along with rising exports despite the US-China trade war.

Insurance

Life insurance industry gross premiums set to rise to $260M Khmer Times 28th Jul 2019
The insurance industry is expected to see its gross premiums increase to about $260 million at the end of this year from $196.4 million last year due to rapid growth in the sector, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said. In a statement released in conjunction with “Insurance Day” yesterday, the Ministry said the sector’s annual growth was about 35 per cent in the last five years and expects it will keep increasing by at least 32 per cent in gross premiums this year. Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth said during the 19th Insurance Day celebrations on Thursday that Cambodia’s insurance industry is progressing strongly and had become the main contributor to the non-banking sector.

Philippine Peso Declines After Duterte Unveils Tax Revamp Plan Yahoo Finance 23rd Jul 2019
The Philippine peso shrugged off President Rodrigo Duterte’s tax plans, with the currency declining as traders focused on falling bets for an aggressive easing by the Federal Reserve this month. Stocks rose after staying lower for most part of the day.“The dollar is generally stronger as prospects of a 50-basis point cut by the Fed next week is fading,” said Andre Ibarra, senior vice president and chief dealer at Security Bank Corp. in Manila. The peso’s fall has “nothing to do” with Duterte’s state of the nation address, he said. Duterte, in his annual speech to Congress on Monday, pushed for bills that would cut corporate taxes, streamline incentives that cost the government billions of pesos in foregone revenue, and raise levies on tobacco and alcohol products. He didn’t discuss a plan to shift to a federal form of government, a move that would require changing the Constitution.

Local, Foreign Insurance Cos. Readying to Sell in Myanmar The Irrawaddy 23rd Jul 2019
Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance is set to give the go-ahead to joint ventures between local and foreign insurance companies next month. The country’s insurance business regulatory board, which is overseen by the Ministry of Planning and Finance, is currently scrutinizing companies that have submitted requests for proposals (RFP), U Zaw Naing, the board’s secretary, told The Irrawaddy. Partnering with foreign insurance firms that have opened representative offices in Myanmar, local companies such as IKBZ, AYA Myanmar Insurance and Grand Guardian Insurance will provide general insurance services and GGI, Capital Life Insurance and CB Insurance will provide life insurance service. Foreign companies will be able to hold up to a 35-percent stake in joint insurance ventures while the remaining 65 percent must be locally owned, according to U Zaw Naing.

Malaysia

Investors to get tax exemption after three years, need not wait to exit NST Online 26th Jul 2019
The government is going to allow venture capital companies to have their investments tax exempted in their filings with Inland Revenue Board, as soon as three years into the investment. When this incentive was announced under the Budget 2018, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) Yeo Bee Yin explained venture capital companies were only eligible for the tax exemption of up to RM20 million, after they have exited from their investments. This usually takes up to between eight and 10 years of investment before an investor is eligible for the maximum RM20 million tax exemption per year.

Meeting Malaysia's 2020 deficit target 'challenging': Finance Min Al Jazeera 22nd Jul 2019
Malaysia will find it challenging to meet its three percent fiscal deficit target for next year due to uncertainties around the US-China trade war, the finance minister told Reuters in an interview on Monday. Southeast Asia's third-largest economy is dealing with a debt pile of more than one trillion ringgit ($243.2bn), which the administration of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has blamed on mismanagement by the previous government. Malaysia is also struggling with slowing economic growth, hurt largely by a global slowdown and the trade war between the United States and China.

Malaysia’s strong credit ratings due to reforms, says LGE The Star Online 21st Jul 2019
The ongoing institutional reforms, greater accountability, fiscal transparency and political stability have led to Malaysia’s strong credit ratings, says Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.In a statement yesterday, Lim said the Finance Ministry welcomed Fitch Ratings’ confirmation of Malaysia’s sovereign credit ratings at A- with a stable outlook. “Fitch expects Malaysia’s institutional quality to improve further over time due to the wider implementation of open tenders, fiscal transparency, anti-corruption and institutional reform measures to promote accountability and fiscal responsibility,” he said.

Market Regulation

New tobacco tax reform law to ensure expanded healthcare for poor families Department of Finance 28th Jul 2019
The newly signed law imposing higher taxes on cigarettes and a new tax on e-cigarettes and other alternative devices for smoking will enable the government to properly implement the Universal Health Care (UHC) program, in keeping with President Duterte’s commitment to improve the lives of Filipinos by expanding the delivery of healthcare services, especially to low-income families, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said. Dominguez said that while this new law signed by the President last Thursday is primarily a health measure meant to wean smokers from their addiction and discourage young Filipinos from taking up this vice, Republic Act (RA) No. 11346 will also bankroll the UHC program, which would require an initial budget of P257 billion in its first year of implementation.

Dominguez urges Congress to pass remaining CTRP bills, higher excise taxes on alcohol, e-cigarettes before year end Department of Finance 23rd Jul 2019
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has expressed the hope that President Duterte’s call in his 4th State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) for the Congress to pass reforms in the corporate tax system along with the remaining packages of the administration’s comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP) would provide lawmakers a strong impetus to pass these investment-friendly and job-generating measures within the year. Dominguez also urged the Congress to consider the President’s SONA statements against smoking and binge drinking as “a call to action” on passing bills that seek to impose higher taxes on electronic cigarettes and alcoholic drinks primarily as pro-health measures.

DOF, DILG issue joint circular on setting reasonable LGU fees Department of Finance 22nd Jul 2019
The Departments of Finance (DOF) and of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) have issued a joint circular providing the guidelines in setting reasonable rates for regulatory fees and other service charges imposed by local government units (LGUs) as part of ongoing government efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the country. Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2019-01 , signed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, was issued to ensure that LGU fees do not unduly burden the public but are imposed only to help local governments recover the costs of services they render while making them more business friendly, in compliance with Republic Act (RA) 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery (EODB EGSD) Act and as provided under the Local Government Code.

DOF to push Trabaho bill for 18th Congress’ OK Business Inquirer 22nd Jul 2019
The fiscal incentives being granted by the country’s investment promotion agencies (IPAs) such as the Board of Investments (BOI), Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) and free port zones are a double-edged sword. These perks lure in local and foreign investors who wanted some relief from the high costs of jump-starting their businesses, but they also result in billions of pesos in foregone revenues for the government. For over a decade now, the Department of Finance (DOF) had been moving to rationalize the tax incentives offered to investors and, hence, had been at odds with the Department of Trade and Industry, which was in charge of the IPAs and the granting of incentives.

Media Release : Ministry Of Finance Grants Three Year Extension For CGC TPUB-i Contract Financing Scheme Of RM300 Million Benefitting Bumiputra Entrepeneurs Ministry of Finance Malaysia 22nd Jul 2019
The Ministry of Finance has approved a three (3) year extension to Credit Guarantee Corporation Malaysia Berhad (CGC) to manage the revolving Tabung Projek Usahawan Bumiputera-i (TPUB-i) contract financing scheme up to 30 June 2022. This is in line with the Government’s commitment in ensuring that the country’s economic growth also creates opportunities that allow entrepreneurs and small medium enterprises (SMEs) to flourish. TPUB-i, a contract financing scheme funded by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), provides working capital financing to Bumiputera entrepreneurs who have been awarded contracts or projects by the Government or its agencies, statutory bodies, and reputable companies. Under this scheme, CGC has an allocation of RM300 million to facilitate Bumiputera entrepreneurs who face challenges in obtaining access to financing from financial institutions.

Minister of Finance Issues Regulation Establishing Sanctions for Failure to Repatriate Proceeds of Natural-Resources Exports Lexology 22nd Jul 2019
The start of 2019 saw a renewed attempt by the Government to compel exporters of natural resources-based commodities to repatriate their export earnings and deposit them in the Indonesian financial system as part of a series of measures that were adopted at the time to bolster the rupiah against the various headwinds buffeting emerging-market currencies. The new rules on the repatriation of export proceeds in the natural-resources sector (“Export Proceeds”) are set out in Government Regulation No. 1 of 2019 (“GR 1/2019”),[1] which entered into effect on 10 January 2019 (see ABNR Legal Update “Repatriation of Export Earnings to Indonesia: New Regulation Signals Stricter Approach” [click here]). After a gap of almost six months, the Minister of Finance has now established sanctions for non-compliance with GR 1/2018 through the issuance of Regulation No. 98/PMK.04/2019 - “MOF Reg. 98/2019”),[2] which entered into effect on 1 July 2019.

Business community backs tax program, other measures in Congress to attract FDIs Department of Finance 21st Jul 2019
Ahead of the midterm State of the Nation Address, over thirteen of the Philippines’ most prominent business groups and joint foreign chambers expressed strong support for key measures in the Duterte administration’s legislative agenda for the 18th Congress. These include the passage of the remaining packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), which focus on reforms in the corporate income tax (CIT) and fiscal incentive system, in property valuation and assessment, and in capital income and financial taxation; plus new excise taxes on alcohol, e-cigarettes and vapor (vaping) products. Other priority measures identified by the groups are the amendments to the Public Service Act, Foreign Investment Act, and Retail Trade Act—all of which are meant to open the domestic economy to more foreign direct investments (FDIs).

Duterte allots P1B to finance Philippine Innovation Act Sunstar 16th Jul 2019
An initial P1 billion will be appropriated for the first year implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11293 or the Philippine Innovation Act inked by President Rodrigo Duterte to "promote growth and national competitiveness of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). RA 11293, signed on April 17, seeks to generate and scale up action in all levels and areas of education, training, research and development toward promoting innovation and internationalization activities of MSMEs as driver of sustainable and inclusive growth. In line with this objective, the law mandates the government to adopt a broader view in developing its innovation goals and strategies covering all potential types and sources of innovation.

Labor-intensive industries to receive 60 percent tax cut - ANTARA News Antara News 16th Jul 2019
Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto has said that labor-intensive industries will soon enjoy income tax (PPh) reductions of up to 60 percent of their total investments. "Let's await the finance minister's regulation first. We have determined the industries . It (the income tax reduction) applies to all labor-intensive industries applying for it," he said in Karawang, West Java, on Tuesday. The income tax reduction is stipulated in Government Regulation No. 45 of 2019 concerning the calculation of taxable income and the settlement of income tax in the ongoing year. President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has signed the regulation. The government regulation also deals with super tax deductions of 200 to 300 percent for industries contributing to vocational training and innovation.

Myanmar

Foreign Partners Poised to Aid Growth in Myanmar’s Life Insurance Sector The Irrawaddy 25th Jul 2019
While joint-venture proposals from foreign insurance companies are being reviewed by the country’s insurance business regulatory board, some of Myanmar’s largest insurance companies are already building bridges to leverage foreign expertise for the growth of Myanmar’s nascent insurance industry. After two years of delays, Myanmar began allowing insurance companies to operate in the country’s life insurance market for the first time in April. The Ministry of Planning and Finance—which oversees the regulatory board—has granted licenses to five foreign companies thus far: Chubb Tempest Reinsurance of the United States; Dai Ichi Life Insurance of Japan; AIA of Hong Kong; Prudential of England; and Manufacturers Life Insurance of Canada.

Myanmar invites foreign investment in microfinance Asia News Network 24th Jul 2019
In response to growing investors’ interest in Myanmar’s finance sector amid on-going market liberalisation, key players in the microfinance industry gathered on Tuesday at an event in Yangon, the nation’s hub of commerce. Phyu Yamin Myat, general secretary of Myanmar Microfinance Association, told the first-ever Microfinance Success Asia event in the country that foreign businesses are keen on entering this “huge market”. “Many investors are aware of the huge opportunities. Myanmar’s microfinance sector is competitively young but is growing very fast,” she said.

Foreigners only able to trade after October, YSX says The Myanmar Times 19th Jul 2019
Foreigners will only be able to trade shares on the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) after October, U Thet Tun Oo, executive manager of the bourse, told The Myanmar Times. This is in spite of the Security Exchange Commission of Myanmar (SECM) announcing on July 12 that foreigners would be allowed to trade on the YSX but without specifying the date. YSX executive manager U Thet Tun Oo told The Myanmar Times that while the SECM has agreed in principle to allow foreign participation, details still need to be ironed out and that will take about three months. The actual date for foreign participation will be announced by the YSX.

Thailand

Thai banks to secure bank services with palm and facial biometrics as national ID gateway opens Biometric Update 23rd Jul 2019
Banks in Thailand are planning to offer biometric security for financial services including payments, loans, and electronic know your customer (e-KYC) processes for new account opening, the Bangkok Post reports. Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) is launching contactless palm vein recognition for customer identification and payment authentication, according to the bank’s Executive Vice President for Payment Product Solutions and Management Functions Srihanath Lamsam. The bank is testing the technology in its own sandbox before an expected official roll-out, with installations to payment terminals, later this year. The central bank has not yet granted the required permission to operationalize the technology, but did approve the use of fingerprint and facial biometrics for account openings last month.

PPRP tax plan sparks fear Bangkok Post 23rd Jul 2019
The Palang Pracharath Party's (PPRP) proposed lowering of personal income tax has raised concerns over a reduction in state revenues. The proposal was one of the election campaign pledges made by the PPRP, the core coalition party, and the issue is picking up attention ahead of the government's announcement of its policy manifesto later this week. Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said the policy is aimed at building equality between individuals who pay personal income tax to a maximum rate of 35% and corporations which pay corporate tax at only 25%.

Thailand’s Fintech growth among the fastest in ASEAN Thailand Business News 17th Jul 2019
The growth of Financial Technology in Thailand is said to be among the fastest in ASEAN. The World Bank meanwhile, has suggested the government reduce inequalities in access to capital to enable variations in Fintech development to emerge. The World Bank’s senior country economist for Thailand, Kiatipong Ariyapruchya has revealed the World Bank’s analysis of financial technology or Fintech, saying that Thailand is regarded as an ASEAN country with rapid Fintech development, with 140 Fintech companies registered, while about half of them are new companies.

Vietnam

Vietnamese stock market attracts foreign investment Nhan Dan Online 16th Jul 2019
Vietnam’s stock market has been evaluated as a bright spot in the region in terms of growth speed and foreign capital absorption for years, according to Chairman of the State Securities Commission (SSC) Tran Van Dung. He said the foreign indirect investment (FII) in Vietnam reached US$1.28 billion in the first six months of 2019. Between 2016 and 2018, the FII sector continuously net purchased local stocks worth US$1.98 billion per annum, he said. He added that Vietnam’s stock market has continued growing in scale and liquidity in recent years with the total market capitalisation touching nearly US$4.3 million as of the end of June 2019, equivalent to about 78% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, up 11.2% against the early 2019.