Does Thailand’s capital need an elected governor?

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By the time you read this article, the results of Bangkok’s gubernatorial and council elections should have been declared. Once the Election Commission is convinced no irregularity or fraud took place, it would announce the winner.

Does Thailand's capital need an elected governor?

That is why we call the winner ‘governor elect’, because he or she has not started work yet.

As expected, the battle for this important post has been fierce and crucial for all parties involved. The ruling Palang Pracharath Party aims to win the hearts and minds of Bangkokians in order to gain more seats in Bangkok at the coming general election. However, Bangkok’s demography is very diverse, and people can change their minds abruptly. This makes it difficult for the contenders to ensure successful campaigns, no matter what the polls might suggest about their chances of winning. 

I am not going to discredit the pollsters from various institutions. Nevertheless, there has been criticism for a long time that some pollsters don’t really conduct their surveys scientifically, and that they are instructed and controlled by those who use their services. Even worse, some pollsters come up with fake polls to flatter those in power or the wannabes, obviously in exchange for some rewards.

According to Article 49 of the Bangkok Metropolitan Act, the governor has several duties and responsibilities, such as supervising work routines, being head of the Bangkok government body, keeping Bangkok safe and clean. Most importantly, the governor needs to carefully spend nearly a trillion baht budget in the interests of the citizens. So, members of Bangkok councils, chosen on the same day as the governor, also need to perform their duties by checking and balancing power. These city council members have to voice their concerns if need be and work on behalf of the people of their constituencies as well as Bangkok as a whole.

In reality, in many situations the members of the Bangkok council and the governor come from different factions, and this leads to turbulence, much like the fierce fighting among MPs from all sides in Parliament. The members of the last Bangkok Metropolitan Council (BMC) were picked by the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order, which came to power in 2014, to fulfil the strategic purpose of pressing full reforms. This might have caused some stagnation for several former BMC members. However, when the election bell rang, many will manage to retain their posts.

This possibly reflects the continuity of their close and long-term relationship with voters in the constituencies and voter loyalty to each individual candidate. This is another reason why many political parties, new or the old, work very enthusiastically to win some seats in order to lay their political base in the hope of a larger national role, such as member of Parliament.

Like it or hate it, you have to live with the elected governor for the four-year term, unless the winner is found to be unsuitable for the position under law. There are many challenging tasks for the governor-elect to prove himself or herself as well as be tested by Bangkokians. The heavy rains in the last few days before the election, which led to flash flooding in many areas including major streets, was a wake-up call for all candidates about the challenges ahead. They have to deal with these kinds of sudden floods throughout the tenure. 

The majority of Bangkokians today seem to have zero tolerance for discomfort. It is totally different from the time when I was young and was staying with my grandma. We lived in our home amid heavy floods for nearly six months without making any complaint. Not because we did not want to complain, but we found hardly any authorities caring enough to take responsibility for the situation. Most governors at the time were nominated and appointed by the powers that be.

As an ordinary citizen, there was nothing we could do but wait until the water subsided. Things have now changed a lot due to more opportunities for the present generation.

By all means, it is not easy to serve as governor. One of the objectives of holding the gubernatorial election is to keep the administration free from bureaucracy and red tape. As many might realise, the Minister of Interior still has power over the governor in many circumstances. The minister can overrule the decision of the governor or even depose the governor if he considers the governor “not fit to perform the duties”.

As far as the politics is concerned, the Bangkok governor is highly unlikely to remain neutral. As we have already seen, the system is not really geared to let the governor pursue his or her agenda freely, and they have to compromise with the BMC members if they are from different factions.

It would be advisable for the governor to be fully responsible for supervision of work routines in the 50 districts of Bangkok, and oversee critical issues such as terrorist attacks, public safety and public welfare benefits of Bangkokians. We can go even further by changing the rules, such as scrapping the gubernatorial election and adopting a system of recruiting or selecting a highly qualified person, like the city of Pataya does.  By doing this, we could have someone work for us all rather than setting up very high expectations and ending up with mostly average people who often become the so-called “jack of all trades, not the master of one!”

Amorn Wanichwiwatana
Special to The Nation

(Amorn Wanichwiwatana, D.Phil. (Oxon), is a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University)

Published : May 21, 2022

How Marcos Jr weaponised social media to rewrite history and win power

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Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s landslide presidential election win was secured with a social media disinformation campaign that whitewashed his father’s brutally corrupt dictatorship, falsifying not only Philippine history but also his own education credentials.

How Marcos Jr weaponised social media to rewrite history and win power

Marcos Jr has waited 36 years to restore his family to the Malacañang Palace, and now returns as the 17th president of the Southeast Asian nation of 112.5 million people.

However, not everybody is happy to see the return of the Marcoses. Those who lived between 1965 and 1986 remember the 21 years under Ferdinand Marcos Sr and the brutal martial law he declared from 1972 to 1981 to eliminate his political enemies.

Dark history

Human rights abuses were rampant during his tenure, which was marked by arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, torture and killings. Amnesty International reported that 70,000 people – including priests, human rights defenders, labour leaders and journalists – were flung behind bars, more than 34,000 tortured and over 3,000 killed.

The Marcoses were also known for corruption that fuelled an extravagant lifestyle of jet-setting and luxury spending sprees, including on Imelda Marcos’s infamous shoe collection.

Efforts are still being made to recoup some of the US$10 billion that the Marcoses are thought to have plundered from the Philippines. However, those efforts are likely to be curtailed following Monday’s election victory.

In February 1986, Marcos Sr was ousted in what came to be known as the “People Power Revolution”. The disgraced family fled to Hawaii, where Marcos Sr died three years later.

The Philippines Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG) is still working on getting the stolen funds back. It is also handling more than 100 cases of embezzlement and human rights violation from victims of Marcos Sr’s oppressive rule.

How Marcos Jr weaponised social media to rewrite history and win power

Brushing clean

However, it appears as if the pain and anguish suffered by the previous generation was largely ignored by the new generation of Filipinos, who spend a big chunk of their time on social media.

This helps explains why Marcos Jr won over 24.7 million votes from the younger generation, aged 18-41. According to data, these people spend an average of four hours per day on social media – the tool weaponised by Marcos Jr to whitewash his family’s past.

Instead of distancing himself from his father’s legacy, Marcos Jr used the online platforms to turn him into a national hero, claiming that he brought a “golden age” to the Philippines.

On Tuesday, he visited his father’s tomb at the national Heroes’ Cemetery in Metro Manila. For decades, the Marcoses and their supporters campaigned to have his remains transferred there, before President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to do so in 2016.

Marcos Jr also claimed on social media that he has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University. However, the university said he failed to complete his degree and was awarded a special diploma in Social Studies in 1978.

Marcos Jr became vice governor of his home province of Ilocos Norte at age 23, running unopposed with his father’s party. He was governor when, six years later, his family was chased into exile.

The family returned in 1991 and Marcos Jr was once again elected governor in Ilocos Norte. In 2010 he became a senator, before running for vice president in 2016. He lost narrowly to former human-rights lawyer Leni Robredo – also his key rival in the 2022 presidential race.

The power of propaganda

To say that Marcos Jr won the presidential election by using social media as a propaganda tool is no exaggeration.

Bongbong masterminded a years-long strategic campaign on social media that has helped rebuild and polish his family’s image. Pro-Marcos propaganda has proliferated on social media – from glossy TikTok clips showing “fun times” during the Marcos era to YouTube videos declaring there was no martial law.

An official from political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica reportedly said it was approached by Marcos Jr to delete unfavourable records of the Marcos regime on social media platforms so he could gain momentum in the election.

Observers say however that Marcos Jr’s landslide win cannot just be put down to social media whitewashing. Many also point to people’s disappointment in the political establishment and democratic rule over the past three decades, which have seen presidential impeachment trials, political protests, corruption and more.

One sociologist put it succinctly: “The faith people had in liberal democracy has dried up.”

Published : May 14, 2022


The crypto bubble: Can Bitkub ride out the negative sentiment?

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It comes as no surprise that the Securites and Exchange Commission has decided to fine Bitkub Online Co Ltd for breaking the SEC’s coin listing rules.

The crypto bubble: Can Bitkub ride out the negative sentiment?

Jirayut Surpsrisopa, aka Top, the young founder of Bitkub has gained a reputation for his shrewd strategy and effective public relations. He has made an impact through his talks, exchanging of ideas and his ability to close deals, especially by signing contracts with big names such as the Mall group. He has added to his goodwill by pledging support for the Thai national football team to help them qualify for the World Cup final. We can see adverts of Bitkub at almost every street corner in Bangkok, be it expressway, public billboards, convenience stores and even on your computer screen.

The Bitkub slogan reads, “When you think of digital money, you can count on Bitkub!” It sounds similar to the wordings of a famous convenience store, which you might often hear when shopping there. 

The marketing blitz has only raised doubts and further antagonised critics as well as the authorities. They see the trading and the persuasion campaign as another kind of cult, which might lure the innocent to become victims of a possible scam.

Sondhi Limthongkul, a provocative commentator, recently dedicated his airtime on his Friday programme, warning about the possibility of a scam in cryptocurrency trading and urging the government to intervene sooner rather than later.

Need for close oversight

I am not going to judge anything by cherry picking. I have researched the content and discussed all possible scenarios with some of my friends in the field of criminal justice agencies.

Many are very concerned about these new kinds of technologies and the lack of appropriate measures or suitable laws to protect the innocent. They say the government and the concerned parties have closely watched the exponential growth of Bitkub for quite some time. The problem is the Thai government still lags far behind in dealing with these kinds of business ventures.

Many people believe that the recent fine imposed on some members of the Bitkub board is something the authorities had waited patiently for a long time. This is due to the fact that they could not find any misconduct by Bitkub since the company started operations. However, this incident has led to the Bitkub coin losing almost 50 per cent of its value.

There was no sign of any speedy recovery in trading last week amid the crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war as well as the hike in interest rate by the US Fed to fight inflation.

Despite the number of big challenges before Bitbub, the company’s advertising is still allowed to invite those interested in multiplying their money by joining the company’s trading platform and investing in Bitkub. It is understandable that the government as well as concerned parties, such as the Anti-Money Laundering Office, Stock Exchange of Thailand, the Bank of Thailand as well as other concerned agencies are trying to close any gap or loophole in the laws sooner rather than later. 

The fine that they imposed on Bitkub is considered very small and a soft step by the government’s gatekeepers. One of the main reasons why Bitkub is still allowed to trade freely is because the government lacks efficient laws to to deal with Bitkub. So we can expect that in the coming months or so, there might be some new gazette announcements of newly written laws or more suitable measures to deal with these kinds of scenarios.

If we leave Bitkub here and carry on discussing about the future of Cryptocurrency in Thailand, we can foresee that the government seems to be very reluctant to put forward or fully support this kind of business. They are instead building up some barricade to protect those who tend to be victimised. If we do not take things for granted, the government has to do the right things and carefully implement any policy with strong caution. We can understand the various constraints and consequences that the government is wary of, particularly when several big elections are approaching — Bangkok governor and general election. More importantly, at the upcoming censure debate the opposition factions might put the government in the hot seat.

Lessons learned 

Cryptocurrency is not widely used or legalised. Only the central American country of El Salvador accepts bitcoin for commercial use and as a legal tender. Even without being influenced by Warren Buffett’s critical comments about cryptocurrency, it is evident that the future of digital money is still murky and revolves around those who trust and rely on the digital currency. That is why some critics might often say that it looks like a new kind of cult, in which the cult leaders will try to build up their fame by creating their own currencies. The more popular your currency, the more you gain. A company cannot succeed if the money they create are not accepted or reliable enough to be commercialised in the big markets.

The origin of cryptocurrency, as far as I am concerned, can be traced to those who wanted to challenge governments and some powerful nations that are dominating the global economy. So they tried to find a new way of doing things.

It is not easy to catch a big fish with bare hands, I suppose!

Amorn Wanichwiwatana
Special to The Nation 

(Amorn Wanichwiwatana, D.Phil. (Oxon), is a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University)

Published : May 14, 2022


Money politics in Parliament? It’s business as usual for Thailand

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Rumours that several small parties are accepting bribes from political big shots in exchange for their support in the upcoming censure debate are spreading through the media. However, this is merely business as usual for Thai politics.

Money politics in Parliament? It’s business as usual for Thailand

Talk of politicians receiving or giving cash and other benefits has been a feature of our political scene for decades and is one of the reasons we have so many military coups. It seems that politicians never pause to consider the consequences of their own corruption. Meanwhile they are always quick to condemn the military for seizing their legitimate power and nullifying democratic governance.

Of course, we cannot be sure whether the latest rumours are true or just a hoax designed to discredit those in power, including the leaders of the accused small parties. However, people from all walks of life seem confident of their veracity, no doubt influenced by Thailand’s long history of political bribery and “rewards”.  

Personally, I am sceptical of rumours that as much as 30 million baht is changing hands in sleazy deals aimed at manipulating the no-confidence vote against PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and his ministers. The government still holds a majority in Parliament and I doubt that coalition parties will vote with the opposition in sufficient numbers to unseat the PM and his men. While the negotiating power of small coalition parties might be strong, they do not have enough momentum to cause serious turbulence in the governing body.

Politicians, as part of their role, make contact with each other for various reasons. So, even if a government minister did attend a lunch meeting with the small parties’ leaders, there is no guarantee that a deal on voting in the censure debate was reached or even discussed. It might be the case that the small parties simply wanted to flatter the government’s leadership and display their continuing loyalty and support. It could be as simple as that! 

We have to keep in mind that the current government’s tenure is coming to an end and a general election is looming on the horizon. And chances are high that these small parties will be wiped out in the coming election. Newly drafted amendments to the Constitution and related organic laws will change the election formula used to calculate the number of MP seats. We will no longer count every vote, meaning politicians from small parties will be in a very difficult situation at the next national polls. As a result, their priority now is to find ways to survive, rather than seeking backroom deals as the rumours would have it.

However, never rule out politicians’ capacity for untrustworthiness. Money politics has plagued Thailand for some time. The military knows this well each time it decides to stage a coup. Thais might be fed up with the constitution being ripped up time and time again, but the military is not solely to blame. Whenever they come to power, Thai politicians fail to learn from past lessons and work for their own benefits rather than the good of the majority.

Politicians are now looking ahead to the next election, due in less than a year, and obsessively planning how they can retain their seats. 

The so-called “quid pro quo” method will be attractive to those eager to remain in power as well as those seeking power.

Many observers say the current Constitution is to blame for the occasional bouts of chaos afflicting Thai politics. As a commissioner and spokesman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, I can confirm that in drafting the supreme law we knew we had to listen to all stakeholders, including politicians and the citizenry. Hence, the details of the Constitution came out of the opinions, criticism and evaluation offered by groups across the whole of Thai society. This might not be the best Constitution ever written but through it we tried to make our country a better place via reform.

For instance, Article 235 clearly states that “those who violate ethical standards and become involved in corrupt practices shall have their rights to stand for election revoked”. In other words, their opportunity to run for election will be terminated for life. For politicians accustomed to the old ways of climbing the ladder of power, this seemed to be a very harsh measure indeed. 

If the rumours cited above are true or substantiated in any way, those found to be involved in selling or buying votes in any circumstances will pay a very high price for their misconduct. Unfortunately, our system still needs a whistle-blower daring enough to make a legal complaint so that the court can have the final say. In reality, bribe-takers and receivers are always satisfied with their “agreements”, meaning it is very difficult to find anyone willing to come forward and blow the whistle. We have to wait and see if the rumours are true, or else check the result of censure debate to see how many votes are cast for and against the government. Only time will tell.

By Amorn Wanichwiwatana
Political scientist at Chulalongkorn University
The Nation columnist

Published : May 14, 2022


Saudi Arabia makes strong statement by shunning Biden plea on oil supply boost

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As global oil prices keep rising amidst the continuing war between Russia and Ukraine, the United States is turning to its estranged ally Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, for possible help to boost supply.

Saudi Arabia makes strong statement by shunning Biden plea on oil supply boost

However, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of the Middle Eastern kingdom, appears lukewarm.

US President Joe Biden recently called ailing Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, asking for an increase in the production of crude oil. The Americans seemed to foresee a Russian invasion of Ukraine and an inevitable boycott by Western countries on Russia.

The Saudis’ reply was that they would maintain the production output agreed by the major oil producers under the Opec+ production agreement.

That means no extra oil output from Saudi Arabia at the moment.

Saudi Arabia makes strong statement by shunning Biden plea on oil supply boost

The crown prince cancelled his trip to attend the Winter Olympics in China in February in order to make sure he was with his father when Biden called.

The US-led boycott of Russia, a major oil producer, following its invasion of Ukraine has reduced supply in the world market and led to a series of price hikes.

Ties between the US and Saudi Arabia, its long-standing strategic partner, have soured since Biden took office in January 2021. The Americans are unhappy with Riyadh’s human rights record, particularly involving the Saudi-led military operation in neighbouring Yemen and the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018. Reports citing the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said he was killed and dismembered there before the remains were disposed of.

The CIA pointed its finger at the Saudi crown prince, known as MBS.

He avoided the Western media for over two years after the incident and recently broke his silence in an interview with The Atlantic. “I feel that human rights law wasn’t applied to me,” he said of the accusation against him. “Article XI of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that any person is innocent until proven guilty.”

The crown prince also mentioned the possibility that he would cut his investments in the US, which is currently worth about $800 billion. “In the same way we have the possibility of boosting our interests, we have the possibility of reducing them,” he said.

That explains why Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader seemed to be uninterested when the US — the largest consumer of oil — approached the oil-rich kingdom, its long-time ally for help to rein in runaway oil prices.

Saudi Arabia makes strong statement by shunning Biden plea on oil supply boost

Published : March 11, 2022

Speeding up Covid-19 vaccine production setup with automation and digitalization

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If we are to list remarkable innovations done in the century, Covid-19 vaccine production would be ranked among the top of the list, if not the very top.

Speeding up Covid-19 vaccine production setup with automation and digitalization

When the novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic by WHO in March 2020, the vaccine became the one item that was suddenly and simultaneously needed by all. While pharmaceutical firms could produce hundreds of millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine in the matter of a few months, the world needed billions and as fast as possible.

Winning the race against time: Acceleration from development to manufacturing

Shorter time-to-market in vaccine production is crucial to save lives.  Accelerating clinical trials in the timeframes required to combat Covid-19 and ramping up production in the quantities needed are two of the biggest challenges the pharma industry has ever faced.

Speeding up Covid-19 vaccine production setup with automation and digitalization

Ramping up Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing capabilities

The mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 (also known as COMIRNATY®) for Covid-19 by BioNTech, in collaboration with US pharmaceutical specialist Pfizer, was in extremely high demand even before it was available.

With such urgency, BioNTech converted its existing facility in Marburg, Germany, to further scale-up Covid-19 manufacturing capacity. Prior to mRNA vaccine, the Marburg facility had been producing influenza vaccines based on flu cell culture, then changed over to recombinant proteins for cancer treatments.

Besides a higher clean room class required than what existed in the facility, when working with mRNA, one of the challenges faced was the need to switch from rigid to mobile production, with many single-use components.

mRNA vaccine production processes involve several manual work steps. Weighing is one such example. Precise measurement and reliable recording of weights are vital to ensure vaccine quality. With batch system and process orchestration, the operators get a guidance from the Manufacturing Execution System (commonly known as MES) throughout the entire process on when and which actions are needed to be taken. This is enabled by the workflow management component of the software which orchestrates the various sections of the system, in ensuring the most efficient production.

Speeding up Covid-19 vaccine production setup with automation and digitalization

Paperless production for faster and more efficient process

Paperless production offers many advantages over traditional procedures in the pharmaceutical industry.  Electronic Master Batch Record Management enables users to create, execute, review, and release Master Batch Records (MBR). In addition, Electronic Batch Records (eBR) are made faster. Testing is based on the principle of “review by exception” – in other words, deviations are dealt with when the system recognizes them based on exception rules. That makes the testing process less labor-intensive.

This new system and end-to-end digitalization of vaccine production enabled a conversion to “paperless documentation of production” that can immediately fulfill all documentation requirements, which is a critical component to validating vaccine efficacy.

To automate the entire facility, all systems need powerful, flexible, and scalable distributed control system that steers and controls all processes in the plant and takes digitalization to the field level. Seamless integration of automation solutions makes it possible to develop, optimize, and manage production processes efficiently.

Speeding up Covid-19 vaccine production setup with automation and digitalization

All the improvements made at the Marburg plant are Industry 4.0 compatible.

The Marburg plant has been producing the vaccine since the end of March 2020. A digitalization and automation project of this magnitude normally takes about a year. With support from Siemens, the Marburg plant conversion was completed in just five months, with the main components of the new MES completed in only two and a half months. The Marburg facility at full operation can produce up to one billion doses annually.      

Siemens and BioNTech plan to intensify their collaboration for the rapid expansion and creation of production capacity for the Covid-19 vaccine. The aim is to establish new production sites for Covid-19 vaccine production worldwide based on the Marburg plant and its technology, starting with a production facility in Singapore. Within this cooperation, Siemens will provide the latest automation and digitalization technologies for BioNTech production sites, such as design, simulation, and engineering software as well as process control technology.

Published : January 10, 2022


Strong Partnerships are Key to a Sustainable Energy Transition

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Following the signing of several milestone agreements to support the safe transition of the Erawan offshore natural gas field to its new operator in April 2022, Chatit Huayhongtong, President, Chevron Thailand Exploration & Production, talks about how the lessons of the past can enable an affordable

Strong Partnerships are Key to a Sustainable Energy Transition

The energy transition is upon us. The challenge for governments, communities and businesses is in delivering a transition that delivers affordable, reliable and ever cleaner energy for all.

Of course, the energy system has always been evolving and the good news is we can learn from that. Long before Chevron Thailand helped pioneer natural gas development in the Gulf of Thailand, we were selling Kerosene fuel. Today Chevron is piloting electric vehicle charging stations at our Caltex service stations.

The existential challenges of the energy transition came to mind this week with the signing of several agreements to continue the safe transition of the Erawan concession to its future operator PTTEP ED, itself a significant milestone for Thailand’s energy sector.

These agreements – which enable PTTEP ED’s early access to Erawan, set out how operations will be handed over and ensure Chevron’s important decommissioning work continues post-handover – demonstrate the cooperation between Chevron and PTTEP ED. They also represent a reminder of the strong and enduring partnership between Chevron and the Kingdom of Thailand.

More than 40 years ago, we helped launch the Kingdom’s modern oil and gas industry with the discovery and development of natural gas from Thailand’s first commercial gas field – Erawan. While success at Erawan was never guaranteed, the strong partnership between Chevron and the Kingdom gave Chevron the confidence to apply its innovative technology to the geologically complex Gulf of Thailand.

Strong Partnerships are Key to a Sustainable Energy TransitionIt was an ambitious undertaking, but Erawan’s start-up in 1981 marked a new era for Thailand, fueling economic growth and powering human progress with lower carbon, affordable and reliable energy and becoming a model for the way other fields were developed in the Gulf of Thailand. During the following decades Chevron invested $42 billion in Thailand. Natural gas and feedstock from the field also spurred the growth of Thailand’s impressive petrochemical industry, which supports thousands of jobs and yields important materials and products for domestic use and export.

Techniques developed here have also been exported globally. Chevron’s pioneering “well factory” approach developed in the Gulf of Thailand is being applied in some of Chevron’s key global operations, such as the Permian Basin in the United States. Erawan also saw an entire generation of skilled technical Thai workers receive unparalleled access to training and development – with a number deploying their talents internationally across Chevron’s operations. In parallel, the partnership with the Kingdom has seen Chevron invest heavily in health, STEM education and economic development to strengthen communities and provide opportunities for the next generation.

To me, the key to a successful energy transition will be in the creation and maintenance of these kinds of partnerships between governments and world leading companies that will enable innovative technology and investment to deliver the kind of future we want.

Strong partnership made the development of the complex Gulf of Thailand geology possible, changing the lives of a generation of Thai people. Partnership can also make the complex transition of the Erawan operation possible, ensuring that energy can continue to be provided safely and reliably for the next generation and that rights of concessionaires are maintained.

Strong Partnerships are Key to a Sustainable Energy Transition

Chevron partnered with the Kingdom to develop Erawan with the shared understanding that there is no industry more consequential – or more crucial to our lives – than energy. Access to safe and reliable energy powers economies, empowers communities and improves lives.

As we work together towards net zero, Thailand can build on a proven system, one that is already providing a lower carbon source of energy, while developing and scaling new technologies to facilitate energy transition. Natural gas, already the cleanest of the fossil fuels, can underpin energy transition and this is especially so in Thailand with many remaining domestic resource opportunities. Energy conservation will also play a role, renewables will become even more important and new forms of energy, including hydrogen and CCUS, must be developed at scale.

This will call for new and strengthened partnerships, new collaborations, new investments, and new innovation. The energy future of Thailand, and the wider region, will be defined by how partnerships, investments and innovation can be leveraged to find complementary, not competing, solutions.

Strong Partnerships are Key to a Sustainable Energy Transition

The development of Erawan over 40 years ago was an ambitious undertaking. The geology was complex, the solutions were unique, and the result was nation changing. That success was achieved because of the strong partnership between Chevron and the Kingdom, built on a shared understanding of the critical role energy plays in the development of economies and communities.

As we begin the next chapter in Thailand’s energy future, one where we will face the challenges of ensuring energy supplies today, and advancing towards net zero, partnerships are more important than ever.

Published : December 29, 2021

How to stop inflation from wrecking your retirement #SootinClaimon.Com

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Inflation is why the 4% rule never made any sense.

How to stop inflation from wrecking your retirement

I’ve always found it strange that we put one of the most complex and difficult financial problems on senior citizens. After you retire it’s very hard to know how to invest and how much to spend each year. You must plan around many unknowns, how long you’ll live, what you’ll need to spend on health care and what will happen to markets. Saving while working is the easy part, but spending down a retirement nest egg is much, much harder, and leaves much less margin for error. It also gets much less attention from the finance industry and policy makers.

Enter the 4% rule, the idea that if you spend 4% of your assets each year you’ll have enough to last you through retirement. It was a well-intentioned effort to reduce the complexity to one simple guideline. But it’s deeply flawed, and that’s become all the more apparent as inflation creeps up and poses another source of risk to retirement income.

The original 4% rule dates back to 1994, It dictated that a retiree invest their assets in a 50/50 stock/ intermediate bond split, take out 4% the first year, and adjust that amount for inflation thereafter. But 10-year treasury yields were more than 7.5% in 1994. As rates fell and stayed low, that 4% rule no longer seemed like a sure bet. At the time the rule was created, having such low yields for so many years was unthinkable. Up until several months ago many people couldn’t imagine high inflation either. This is the problem with simple rules for complicated problems. They don’t hold up well when the unimaginable happens, and in markets the unimaginable is to be expected.

That’s why Morningstar just announced 3.3% is the new 4%. The investment research firm assumes inflation will be low going forward, but is concerned that bonds will stay low and equities are over-valued. The new rule means that if you have $1 million saved, your income is cut to $33,000 a year from $40,000 – which is a significant drop in your standard of living. Accepting that markets are full of surprises, they suggest retirees adjust how much they withdraw each year based on how the market does: when the market is up, spend a higher percent, when it’s down, spend less. This is even worse than the old 4% rule, because it makes a basic and fundamental error.

The objective is not to avoid running out of money before you die, as the spending rule assume. The goal is to be able to finance your retirement with some degree of predictability. Not running out of money is the constraint, not the objective. The average worker puts a high value on stable wages, yet for some reason the financial industry assumes retirees are content to endure large swings in their income year to year.

If you are in a 50-50 stock/bond allocation, the Morningstar strategy may result in more than 30% income swings years to year, and that isn’t even accounting for the new inflation environment. Yet most retirees are on a fixed income and have large health expenses.

If predictability is part of the objective, it will take more than a 50/50 split and a simple rule, it requires actively managing market and inflation risk. One option could be buying an annuity that will pay you a fixed amount each year, leaving the insurance company to take on all the risk. But the annuity market is thin in America and it’s hard to find one that will adjust income for inflation. People also hate annuities. When the U.K. required people to buy them it proved so unpopular that the government backed down and left British people as lost as the rest of us. Another popular idea is spending the Required Minimum Drawdown (RMDs), which is how much retirees are forced to withdraw from their accounts each year to avoid a tax penalty. But these were never intended to be a spending plan and Morningstar estimates a spend-RMD rule can lead to 50% swings in income year to year.

A better option is to delay Social Security as long as possible so the government will pay you a bigger benefit. The government not only pays a certain amount each year, it will adjust it for inflation. For their remaining assets, retirees also need to be more proactive in their risk strategy and get serious about inflation protection. Instead of short-term or medium-term nominal bonds in their fixed income portfolio, retirees should seek out longer-term bonds that are inflation-adjusted with payouts that will match the income they need each year.

Such bonds are very expensive, so many retirees can’t afford this approach. That leaves taking a hard look at spending and thinking through needs and wants. One strategy is to finance needs – housing, gas, food – with safe assets such as Social Security and inflation-indexed bonds, which both offer protection in a high-inflation environment. This is critical because the price of the goods you need tend to be more sensitive to inflation. After that, finance wants – vacations or presents for the grandkids – by drawing down assets from your riskier portfolio that’s invested in stocks and might vary year-to-year based on asset performance.

Inflation is the new risk to retirement. It may change bond yield and equities in unpredictable ways, and erode the value of any assets that aren’t inflation-protected. Relying on the old rules, which were flawed to begin with, will no longer be sufficient.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Allison Schrager is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. She is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk.”

Published : November 22, 2021

By : Bloomberg

What’s the link? Food, human health, livestock, environment, and antimicrobial resistance

Medicines which aim to relieve pain and suffering, may cure us of diseases and avert untimely deaths, are at increasing risk of becoming ineffective against disease-causing microbes. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microbes such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites no longer respond to medicines. This makes common infections harder to treat, more expensive to treat, more difficult to treat, and increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

Antimicrobial resistance emerges naturally, usually through genetic changes in microbes. However, the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials (antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic medications) have dangerously accelerated antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance is undermining a century of progress in medicine

Joseph Thomas who leads the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Antimicrobial Stewardship and Awareness, said “Antimicrobial resistance is undermining a century of progress in medicine, infections that were previously treatable and curable with our drugs are becoming (or at risk of becoming) incurable (as medicines are not working against infections). Even common infections are becoming risky and a problem. Surgeries are becoming risky. Cause of all this is found in the behaviour of human beings who are misusing or overusing antimicrobials. We must ensure that when we are sick we are only taking antimicrobials on medical advice and medical supervision.”

When we use antimicrobials irresponsibly or inappropriately – for example, taking antibiotics for a viral infection like a cold, or taking antimicrobials without a diagnosis from a medical professional – fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasites have the opportunity to develop resistance to the medicines.

“Having good infection control is key to controlling antimicrobial resistance (AMR). So if infection control is good along with water, sanitation and hygiene – in clinical settings, veterinary settings and in food producing settings – it will help to stop the spread of infection and this in turn will reduce the use of antimicrobials to treat those infections. Use of poor quality drugs and/or unnecessary use of antimicrobials in humans, animals and in food production is also fuelling AMR” said Dr Haileysus Getahun, Director of the WHO Department of Global Coordination and Partnership on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Dr Getahun is also the Director of Joint Tripartite Secretariat on AMR (comprising United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO, World Organization for Animal Health – OIE, and WHO) that coordinates the joint work of the organisations across the #OneHealth spectrum.

Covid-19 has brought antimicrobial resistance into spotlight. A systemic review found that while there were only 6.9% of 3338 covid-19 patients with bacterial infection, 72% of them had received antibiotics. The adverse impact of this irrational use of antibiotics in covid patients will manifest itself in future, warned Dr Getahun.

Agrees Dr Ishwar Gilada, Secretary General of OMAG (Organized Medicine Academic Guild) which brings several associations of medical experts on one forum in India: “The Covid-19 pandemic has provided another example of how irresponsibly and inappropriately antibiotics as well as antivirals were used. We need collective and urgent action to stop indiscriminate use of antimicrobials (be it antibiotics, antivirals or antifungals).”

Dr Getahun added: “Antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem that demands a comprehensive, multisectoral response. It is to be addressed through different mechanisms -including regulations and also by enhancing the robustness of the human and veterinary health systems to make sure that antimicrobials are prescribed based upon the needs and not due to oversight of the trained medical professionals. Antibiotics should not be sold over the counter.”

Why we need food, veterinary, human health and environment sectors to join forces for combatting antimicrobial resistance?

“We need different sectors- food sector, veterinary sector, human health sector and environment sector- to work together and coordinate for the One Health approach. Humans are abusing antibiotics not only in the human health sector, but also in agriculture and livestock. The more we use antimicrobials in any sector, the greater are the chances that resistance will develop and the drugs will become ineffective. In humans, antibiotics are often used as substitutes for decent infrastructure, decent hygiene measures and for proper diagnosis and treatment. Over 30% of health facilities do not have running water supply- so it is difficult to practice good hygiene in such environments. So antibiotics are used as a cheaper substitute. There is widespread use of antibiotics for prevention of infection and in treating infections that will not respond to antibiotics- like flu, where antibiotics will not work (as it is a viral infection)” said Dr Elizabeth Tayler, Technical Lead for WHO in the Tripartite Joint Secretariat for AMR, supporting the collaboration between FAO, OIE, UNEP (UN Environment Programme) and WHO at global, regional and country levels. She has led the development of the Tripartite Strategy and the development of the AMR multi-partner Trust Fund.

In animals, there is a push to intensify livestock production, very often in unsanitary facilities with poor biosecurity. So antibiotics are used to prevent infections. Sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics are used for growth promotion in livestock and also for blanket prevention in animal herds. In many countries more antibiotics are being fed to healthy animals than to sick humans and sick animals.

Dr Tayler underlined that antimicrobials are increasingly used in plant kingdom – 440,000 kg streptomycin and tetracycline sprayed on citrus tress (like orange trees) in California, drug resistant Aspergillus has been linked to use of the anti-fungal Azole (used to treat fungal infections in humans) in tulip industry. Anti-fungals are used in flower production that leads to resistance in humans.

Antimicrobials leak into the environment. Significant antibiotic residues have been found in effluents from intensive agriculture and from hospitals- all ending up in the river waters used by people to bathe and drink. In some cases levels of antimicrobials compounds in waters around medicine manufacturing sites have been found to be higher than therapeutic concentrations in the blood of patients taking those medicines.

WHO has declared antimicrobial resistance as one of the top 10 global health threats

This year during the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November), Go Blue campaign is the new initiative to raise awareness, stop resistance. By Going Blue, individuals, workplaces, landmarks, and communities will be helping spread awareness about antimicrobial resistance, said Dr Lianne Gonsalves, WHO Technical Officer for AMR Awareness and Campaigns.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) being a One Health issue needs to be addressed by different sectors, emphasized Dr Gonsalves. During the Week of Antimicrobial Awareness, all of these different sectors, especially food, veterinary, human health, and environment, among others, are working together to raise awareness about antimicrobial resistance.

By Shobha Shukla, Bobby Ramakant – CNS (Citizen News Service)

(Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant are part of Editorial team at CNS (Citizen News Service) and Asha Parivar. Follow them on Twitter @Shobha1Shukla and @BobbyRamakant)

Published : November 20, 2021


Welcome to the crypto metaverse, where its all too easy to lose #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Facebook and Microsofts stuffy corporate idea of the Metaverse – think virtual offices packed with creepy Dorian Gray-like avatars – is nowhere near as dystopian as the cryptocurrency-fueled metaverse that already exists today.

This latter realm is the real head-spinner, as my Bloomberg News colleagues recently depicted. It’s a place that runs on decentralized finance (DeFi), a hi-octane $100 billion web of largely unregulated platforms that lend and exchange crypto for fees.

It’s a place where parents fret as their kids pocket real money on blockchain games like Axie Infinity; a place where virtual museums display art sold by real auction houses for eight-figure sums; a place rife with inflated prices, insider front-running and myriad frauds and forgeries. It’s a place where, for every interesting financial innovation, there’s a hack, rug-pull or wipeout just around the corner – the Squid Game token is only the most recent example.

The question now is how much longer this place, where real and virtual fortunes are made and lost, will stay a Wild West. Probably not very long.

We know from history that speculative frenzies have a habit of eventually fading, while rules and standards are never too far away from fast-growing financial technology. There was a time when peer-to-peer lending and instant online payments weren’t as supervised as they are today, for example. Regulators are already taking a closer look at DeFi.

In supervisors’ sights are crypto assets like stablecoins, which are managed algorithmically to avoid wild fluctuations in price. These serve as the fuel for some of DeFi’s raciest projects, like locking up crypto in trading pools offering ludicrous (and short-lived) 1,000%-plus annual yields, but also some of its most bank-like ones. These might involve an issuer buying real-world loans and bonds, backed by consumer debt or real estate, and securitizing them as tokens on the blockchain offering 5%-10% yield. (The issuer gets more crypto in return.)

You can glimpse the opportunity for old-school finance here: More automated and transparent processes, with fewer middle-men, might save money and help avoid the kind of shenanigans that led to the collapse of financial services company Greensill Capital.

But the reality today is that even these DeFi projects still come with significant risks. Sift through the fine print and it’s clear that a lot of things could go wrong. The counterparty chain is complex – one offering, for instance, features an India-based entity, connected to a Delaware-based entity, connected to a pool of crypto assets managed by another entity.

There also appears to be limited legal recourse for investors, and little power over issuers, who earmark the proceeds for general funding of “business operations.” If something goes wrong with the algorithmic management of an event like a loan default, there don’t seem to be many answers.

The more bank-like the DeFi project, the more likely it is that bank-like rules, and costs, will follow. On top of regulation, regular banks – so-called “TradFi” – are wading in. French bank Societe Generale is proposing to refinance a tokenized portfolio of covered bonds by borrowing from a DeFi platform. It would be the first such move by a major lender, and a sign the financial sector would rather co-opt than be disrupted by crypto-anarchy.

Whether directly or indirectly, sheriffs are moving into town.

Now, to be sure, the cavalry is still playing catch-up, and the ingenuity of fraudsters is still very much on display; the philosophy driving today’s dabblers should remain “buyer beware.” This is the Wild West phase of DeFi after all, fintech consultant Peter Lugli says. “I wouldn’t bet the farm; maybe the sickly horse.”

In the meantime, the corporate world’s interest has been piqued. Even Facebook, which is in the regulatory spotlight, is chasing its own stablecoin ambitions with a pilot digital-payments project in the U.S. and Guatemala. Maybe the irony is that, in the future, those stuffy Metaverse offices envisioned by Mark Zuckerberg will end up being backed by metaverse money – half-real, half-virtual, but fully regulated.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the European Union and France.

Published : November 07, 2021

By : Bloomberg