COVID Restrictions Lifted, China’s Businesspeople Hit the Road to Revive Export Economy

Yiwu, a city in China’s Zhejiang province, produces more than half the world’s Christmas ornaments purchased by the billions of people who celebrate the holiday.
China’s “zero-COVID” policy, coupled with global pandemic fears, dulled the local export-fueled year-round glitterfest. Christmas orders fell by 50% in 2020, according to the official Global Times with raw material costs and labor shortages hindering a recovery in 2021, which saw only a 10% to 20% increase in sales over the previous year.
Then, faster than elves could hitch those nine reindeer to Santa’s sleigh, a day after Beijing began lifting zero-COVID restrictions on December 3, a Zhejiang trade delegation departed for Germany and France to launch the “Thousand Missions and Ten Thousand Enterprises to Expand the Market and Grab Orders Action.” The goal: Sell enough stuff to help spark China’s economy back to pre-pandemic growth.

They hit a snag. “It seems like the Europeans’ and Americans’ purchasing power is so weak now. If the markets there are weak, China’s economy is definitely suffering too,” said Steven Gao, a businessman in Zhejiang province who exports Christmas ornaments and other trinkets to Europe and the U.S.
Beyond pandemic aftereffects such as not-yet-normal supply chains, Gao blames the bleak economic prospect on President Xi Jinping’s recent policies, particularly his focus on “common prosperity” during the 20th party congress, which met in October in Beijing and gave him a third term. The phrase refers to an official effort to address income inequality, a push often linked to personal wealth accumulated by founders and executives in sectors such as tech.

“Many of my rich friends are thinking about moving to other countries,” said Gao, 45, who asked to use a pseudonym to avoid attracting official attention when he spoke with VOA Mandarin on Tuesday. “They are afraid their wealth will be seized. This lack of faith, combined with pandemic control, led to the slide of economic growth.”
According to a CNBC report on December 4, U.S. manufacturing orders in China are down 40%, according to the latest CNBC Supply Chain Heat Map data, and Chinese factories are expected to shut down two weeks earlier than usual for the Lunar New Year that falls on January 22, 2023.

When Xi presided over a December 6 meeting of the Politburo of the Communist Party, China’s second-highest decision-making body, he emphasized the need to stabilize the economy and to attract foreign investment.
After the gathering, the official Securities Times reported on December 7 that the Suzhou Bureau of Commerce planned to charter flights to France and Germany after a “successful trip” to Japan returned with guaranteed orders worth more than 1 billion yuan, or $142 million.
A similar flight organized by the Suzhou province government took off for Europe on December 9. “Racing against time, grabbing more orders and opportunities … these are the most crucial tasks the Chinese companies took on when boarding the plane,” editorialized the official Global Times news outlet which pointed out “Yiwu… has been the starting point of numerous international trade channels linking the entire world.”
Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce platform, recently launched a special operation code-named “Digital Hybrid Trade Show” to start at least 100 overseas exhibitions in the near future, Securities Times reported on December 12. The exhibitions cover more than 10 important foreign trade target markets, including the United States, Germany, Britain, Japan, Singapore and Australia.
Some analysts, however, believe that China’s response to the pandemic may have made it less attractive to foreign businesses for manufacturing and investing.
The state news agency Xinhua reported that those in the December 6 meeting stressed that stability is Beijing’s top priority in an international economic environment marked by “high winds and waves.”
Zhao Chunshan, chief adviser of the Asia-Pacific Peace Research Foundation, a private think tank in Taiwan, told VOA Mandarin that “Capitalists are running away. No one dares to invest, causing economic instability. If there is a problem in the economy there is no way to stabilize.”

Zhao says that local governments with high debt loads must look outside China rather than to the central government for stability.
“China’s central government has no way to solve local debts,” he said. “The central government’s allocation alone is not enough. They have to attract foreign investment and business on their own. To some extent, the central government also gives localities such authority.”
In an interview with VOA Mandarin, Lai Rongwei, an assistant professor at the Center for Liberal Studies at Taiwan’s Longhua University of Science and Technology, said the fact that provinces and cities are scrambling to form groups to go abroad reflects the fears of local officials.
“China’s measures to seal off cities have led to a severe shortage of supplies, including medicine,” Lai said. “The debt of local governments is already huge, and the lack of revenue in the past years has made the situation even worse. People actively going abroad shows a great deal of panic, fearing that the economic downturn can’t be alleviated, and the risks are becoming bigger.”

But Lai said that after the pandemic lockdowns, China is no longer as attractive to foreign investors as it used to be.
“Foreign investors must take into account the cost of investment,” Lai said. “Cities could be shut down and power cut off any time when there’s an order from higher authorities. … Private enterprises find it hard to survive, and now the governments are looking for solutions from foreign investors.”

Source: Voice of America

Fraud Charges Unsealed in Arrest of Crypto Magnate Bankman-Fried

Law enforcement officials and financial services regulators have filed a raft of criminal and civil charges against Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange company FTX, alleging wide-ranging fraud that eventually brought down the company, which was valued at $32 billion earlier this year.

The Department of Justice on Tuesday morning unsealed an indictment charging Bankman-Fried with eight criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, actual wire fraud, money laundering, and violation of laws governing donations to politicians and political parties.

At the request of U.S. prosecutors, Bankman-Fried, 30, was arrested on Monday evening at his home in the Bahamas, where the headquarters of FTX is located. The U.S. and the Bahamas have an extradition treaty, and Bankman-Fried is expected to be transferred to U.S. custody in the near future. ‘House of cards’

Earlier Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued its own set of civil charges, also accusing Bankman-Fried of “years-long fraud” that included hiding information from investors, diverting customer funds to a hedge fund he owned, using other customer funds to make political donations, and to purchase hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate.

“We allege that Sam Bankman-Fried built a house of cards on a foundation of deception while telling investors that it was one of the safest buildings in crypto,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “The alleged fraud committed by Mr. Bankman-Fried is a clarion call to crypto platforms that they need to come into compliance with our laws.”

Also on Tuesday, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed a lawsuit against Bankman-Fried.

Rapid rise, rapid fall
In the short time since its founding in 2019, FTX grew to be one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, and Sam Bankman-Fried — often referred to as “SBF” — became one of the industry’s most recognizable figures. He was a regular speaker at business conferences, gave testimony before Congress, and was seen by many as a model cryptocurrency executive.

The list of investors who plowed billions of dollars into FTX is long and distinguished, including Sequoia Capital, SoftBank Group, Tiger Global Management, and Third Point Ventures.

Earlier this year, Bankman-Fried positioned his company as a savior for the broader crypto industry when a broad selloff of cryptocurrencies left many firms in the space reeling. FTX extended lines of credit to crypto lender BlockFi and crypto broker Voyager Digital in an effort to help them weather the storm. Both BlockFi and Voyager eventually filed for bankruptcy protection.

Signs of trouble
In September, news reports began raising questions about the relationship between FTX and Alameda Research, a hedge fund owned by Bankman-Fried which was supposed to be a completely separate corporate entity from FTX.

However, it gradually became clear that the two companies were actually closely connected. Media reports began to reveal that a large share of Alameda’s assets was tied up in an illiquid crypto token called FTT, which was issued by FTX. Over several days in early November, customers rushed to pull their money from accounts with FTX, sending the company into a massive liquidity crisis and forcing it to stop processing customer withdrawals.

After several days of attempts to arrange a rescue package, including a briefly considered sale of FTX to Binance, its largest competitor, FTX, Alameda, and more than 100 affiliated companies filed for bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department and the SEC alleged that Alameda actually had “virtually unlimited” access to funds held by FTX on behalf of its customers.

The charges against Bankman-Fried claim that Alameda illegally used those funds to invest in highly illiquid cryptocurrency tokens, as well as to make “undisclosed venture investments, lavish real estate purchases, and large political donations.”

Before its collapse, cryptocurrency investors around the world had placed billions of dollars in their accounts with FTX. In large part because of transfers to Alameda, FTX is facing an estimated shortfall of $8 billion.

‘I made a lot of mistakes’
Against the advice of his attorneys, Bankman-Fried has given a number of interviews to news organizations since his company declared bankruptcy. His contention has been that, while he may have made mistakes, he never intended to defraud anyone.

In early December, Bankman-Fried told The Wall Street Journal that he could not account for money that FTX customers transferred to Alameda Research.

In an appearance at a conference sponsored by The New York Times, he said, “Clearly I made a lot of mistakes. There are things I would give anything to be able to do over again. I did not ever try to commit fraud on anyone. I was excited about the prospects of FTX a month ago. I saw it as a thriving, growing business. I was shocked by what happened [in November.]”

His claims contradict the allegations leveled by prosecutors in the indictment unsealed Tuesday, which accuse Bankman-Fried of “willfully and knowingly” defrauding investors and customers.

‘Utter failure’ of controls
Last month, control of FTX and its constituent companies was turned over to John Ray III, an attorney and corporate insolvency specialist who has been brought on to manage multiple companies facing bankruptcy, including the failed energy giant Enron in the early 2000s. His primary task will be to assemble all the remaining assets of FTX in an effort to recover some of the money its customers lost in the exchange’s collapse.

Ray appeared at a hearing held by the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, during which he described a company that lacked even the most basic corporate governance structures and was run by a small cabal ill-equipped for the job of running a multi-billion dollar corporation.

In prepared testimony, Ray said, “[N]ever in my career have I seen such an utter failure of corporate controls at every level of an organization, from the lack of financial statements to a complete failure of any internal controls or governance whatsoever.”

In the broadest sense, Ray said, the company’s failure was the result of the “absolute concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of grossly inexperienced and unsophisticated individuals who failed to implement virtually any of the systems or controls that are necessary for a company that is entrusted with other people’s money or assets.”

Under questioning, Ray said that the asset recovery process will take months to complete, and will not make FTX customers whole. “At the end of the day, we’re not going to be able to recover all the losses here,” he said.

The committee had also expected to hear from Bankman-Fried on Tuesday, but the FTX founder’s arrest on Monday made that impossible.

Lawmakers angry
The allegations of fraud and mismanagement at FTX have raised calls in Washington for action by Congress to rein in the cryptocurrency industry, which operates under a poorly defined set of regulatory rules.

House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters on Tuesday said that she was “deeply troubled” by the revelations coming out about FTX. At the same hearing, U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry, who will take over the chairmanship when Republicans assume control of the House next month, criticized Bankman-Fried but said that he still sees “promise” in digital assets.

Others were less tolerant of the industry, with Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat, calling the entire industry “a garden of snakes.”

Industry representatives urged lawmakers to tread carefully when it comes to establishing new rules for cryptocurrencies.

“Following the failure of FTX International, it’s understandable that lawmakers want to do something, but they should be wary of passing legislation in haste that would do more harm than good,” Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, wrote on Monday. “Instead, Congress should take its time to investigate the issues we’ve seen and work closely with the crypto industry to find solutions that benefit everyone.”

Source: Voice of America

NA members proposes increasing minimum wage

Members of the National Assembly have asked the government to increase the minimum wage as people’s cost of living keeps rising.
Months ago, the Lao Federation of Trade Unions proposed increasing minimum wage from 1.1 million kip to 1.5 million kip.
However, labour organizations have suggested that the proposal is unrealistic to the current situation and the new minimum wage, expected to be announced in May 2023, is more likely to be raised to 1.3 million kip.
Mr. Phonsan Vilaimeng, member of the National Assembly for Constituency 13 (Savannakhet) justified that the increased minimum wage will encourage Lao workers to be more interested in working in Laos rather than seeking jobs overseas.
As the covid-19 outbreak is easing, there are more and more Lao workers seeking jobs overseas, especially those workers in provinces located along the national borderlines.
Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Khamay Khatthiya said that increasing the minimum wage is possible only if after thorough consideration and discussion by the three labour organizations representing the government, workers and employers.
“According to domestic and international regulations, study in adjusting the minimum wage takes a long time and involves the collection of information from all relevant parties,” said the minister.
In reality, the minimum wage paid to employees by labour units is not 1.2 million kip as currently defined by laws. The latest survey suggests that most labour units pay each of their employees as high as 1.6 million kip per month.
“In the past fuel allowance of 50,000 kip for civil servants could cover fuel cost for several days but today that amount is merely enough for less than two days. Meanwhile, previously, refuelling a car tank cost 400,000-500,000 kip but now 1 million kip,” said Ms Ketmany Bandasak, member of the National Assembly for Constituency 1 (Vientiane).

Source: Lao News Agency

Gov’t asked to improve laws to address unemployment

Members of the National Assembly have proposed the government to devise and revise relevant laws and sub-law instruments to keep unemployment rate in the country under 15% by 2025 and develop a modern labour database.
At the ongoing 4th Ordinary Session, members of the assembly asked the government to take into account the increasing of the minimum wage to improve people’s livelihoods.
The suggestion was made on Tuesday’s morning after Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Baykham Khattiya presented her report on job creation and labor skills development for Lao people.
The lawmakers also asked the government to improve curricula on vocational training in line with the requirements of Industry 4.0 and encourage private sector to invest more in vocational training and job creation for people in rural areas, and organize job fairs to help jobseekers access the labor market.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has been trying to promote employment in domestic and overseas markets. As a result, the country’s unemployment has been decreased so far this year, and expected to be 18% (423,427 people) by the end of this year, said Minister Baykham Khattiya.

Source: Lao News Agency

Deriv global offices certified as a Great Place to Work® for 2022-23

Deriv Malaysia - Great Place to Work

Celebrating achievements in Deriv’s office in Malaysia

Cyberjaya, MALAYSIA, Dec. 13, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Deriv, one of the world’s largest online brokers, once again proved that great work challenges and dynamic work culture are the driving force behind its global success. Cyberjaya, Dubai, Asuncion, Minsk, Birkirkara, Limassol, Kigali, Ipoh, Malaka, and Labuan offices have been recognised as the ‘Best Places to Work’ for 2022 by Great Place to Work® (GPTW).

Deriv’s offices in different regions made the top 30 workplaces list for the first time. The official list was announced based on the confidential feedback of employees on work culture, employee engagement, and job satisfaction and an audit of management policies and practices by the organiser’s ‘Trust Index©’.

The surveys conducted in the offices across regions revealed that 100% said they are treated fairly regardless of gender and race. All agreed that the management is honest and ethical in its business practices. According to the survey results, a positive and fun environment, complemented by its supportive culture, made this possible.

Deriv efforts and commitment to building a workplace culture that focuses on core values of Integrity, Customer focus, Competence, and Teamwork ensued a positive outcome. The work culture is open and transparent and treats employees from diverse backgrounds with equality and honesty.

Jean-Yves Sireau, Chief Executive Officer shares, “We want Deriv to be a vibrant community of dynamic people who loves to build things, bring innovative solutions to exciting business challenges, and have fun together. Winning several ‘Best Places to Work’ awards is a testimonial that we are on the right path!”

Click on the link to know the complete list of Deriv’s certified offices.

GPTW certification celebrations across Deriv offices.

Deriv Dubai - Great Place to Work

Deriv’s office in Dubai – A Great Place to Work

Deriv Malta - Great Place to Work

Deriv’s employees in Malta celebrated GPTW certification.

This information is considered accurate and correct at the date of publication. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information.

About Deriv
For the last 22 years, Deriv’s mission has been to make online trading accessible to anyone, anywhere. Deriv’s product offering includes intuitive trading platforms, over 200 tradable assets (in markets such as forex, stocks, and cryptocurrencies), unique trade types, and more. Platforms and assets offered vary by country. With more than 950 employees present globally, Deriv strives to provide the best work environment, which includes positive work culture, timely addressing of employee concerns, celebrating employee achievements, and conducting initiatives to boost employee morale.

PRESS CONTACT
Aleksandra Zuzic
aleksandra@deriv.com

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A leading US Financial Institution selects Temenos to modernize its wealth management platform in the cloud

Temenos open platform to support leading US Financial Institution’s growth in wealth management

Ad hoc announcement pursuant to Art. 53 LR

GENEVA, Dec. 13, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Temenos (SIX: TEMN) today announced that a leading US financial institution is extending its relationship with Temenos to include its international private banking business. The Temenos wealth management platform will support the bank’s strategic transition to a cloud-based core banking system and help drive growth in Europe and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) as it looks to transform its operations and drive efficiencies at scale, while offering first class services and products to its clients.

About Temenos
Temenos (SIX: TEMN) is the world’s leading open platform for composable banking, creating opportunities for over 1.2 billion people around the world every day. We serve over 3000 banks from the largest to challengers and community banks in 150+ countries by helping them build new banking services and state-of-the-art customer experiences. The Temenos open platform helps our top-performing clients achieve return on equity three times the industry average and cost-to-income ratios half the industry average.

For more information, please visit www.temenos.com.

Investor and media contacts

Investors
Adam Snyder
Head of Investor Relations, Temenos
Email: asnyder@temenos.com
Tel: +41 22 708 1515

Conor McClafferty
FGS Global on behalf of Temenos
Tel: +44 7920 087 914
Email: Conor.McClafferty@fgsglobal.com

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