Moody's warns US, China it's time to change their ways

Moody’s Investors Service is actively and innocently prodding the two largest bears in the world economy.

Experts at the agency threatened to remove Washington’s final AAA credit score next month. The increase in US 10 time bond yields to 17-year peaks was exacerbated by that volley.

Beijing was the next city to speak Moody growl this week. As Asia’s largest economy struggles with an economic slowdown and a worsening real estate crisis, Moody’S changed its outlook on the Chinese government of debt from” stable” to “negative” on Tuesday ( December 5 ).

A day later, Moody’s went even further by telegraphing potential rating steps against state-owned bank tycoons, numerous Foreign government-backed organizations funding system assignments, and even Hong Kong and Macau.

Threatening downgrades for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., China Development Bank, and another behemoths will undoubtedly work if Moody’s is attempting to capture the attention of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. It will also affect international investors who are concerned that Beijing is n’t moving quickly enough to contain contagion risks.

In general, the urge is to respond violently to these instructions. The group of US President Joe Biden carried out that action.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen responded to Moody’s risk to drop by saying,” This is a choice I disagree with. Treasury securities continue to be the world’s top safe and liquid asset, and the American market is ultimately strong.

China is also pushing up. Issues of Moody about the aspirations of China’s economic development and fiscal sustainability are unnecessary, the Ministry of Finance of Xi stated on Tuesday, expressing its “dissatisfaction.”

Beijing added that the fallout from financial and property issues is” stable” and that it is working to “deepen measures to tackle risks and challenges.” However, it’s important to take into account the potential benefits of rating agencies like Moody making a timely call for stronger action against the two economical powers.

Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, disagrees that the country merits a upgrade. Asia Times files / AFP picture

The rules of economic gravity however apply, as Moody’s served as a helpful warning to Biden, Yellen, and Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, in the case of America.

Faith in the money is rapidly eroding as the US federal loan surpasses$ 33 trillion, Biden’s White House raises spending, and the Fed tightens its restrictions with the most vehemence in years.

The price increases in gold and cryptocurrencies are merely the most recent example of how traditional Bretton-Woods economic realities are clashing with contemporary disregard for the ways in which markets you influence perhaps the largest economies.

China, as well. The 24 members of the Communist Party’s Politburo will soon meet to discuss policy priorities and determine rise objectives for the upcoming year. Following that, a course may be charted by the annual Central Economic Work Conference, which will bring up municipal and central government leaders.

A development goal of around 5 % is anticipated for 2024, according to economists at JPMorgan, Standard Chartered, and other major investment bankers.

An optimistic growth target, according to Goldman Sachs economist Maggie Wei,” may help lessen the risk of China falling into a self-fulfilling cycle of melancholy expectations, more depressing growth, and reinforcing negative expectations.”

However, Moody’s is reminding group leaders that economic gravity is more difficult than that.

According to Moody’s, the government and larger public sector may help financially strapped regional and local governments and state-owned enterprises in China, according to its reasoning.

When Moody’s warns of “increased dangers related to functionally and consistently lower medium-term economic growth and the continued reduction of the property sector,” it also speaks for many.

However, it is implied in bold font between the lines that many international investors are n’t buying Xi’s promises to carry out audacious structural reforms. And how new stimulus increases are then “posing wide downside risks to China’s macroeconomic, economic, and institutional strength,” according to Moody.

Chinese President Xi Jinping claims that he now favors more expansion driven by the private sector. Online Screengrab image

China’s finance minister responded by saying that mainland growth is improving in the October–December quarter and that the Chinese economy will account for more than 30 % of global GDP in 2023. That would be consistent with predictions made by the International Monetary Fund ( IMF).

However, there is no timeline for taking action to grow&nbsp, better, rather than just faster, in China’s new rhetoric. According to scholar Lee Lu at Nomura Holdings, more stimulus may become necessary in the short term. We also think it’s too early to say the bottom, he says, “despite the numerous trigger actions announced recently.”

The good news is that Premier Li Qiang is thought to have received Xi’s approval to speed up efforts to reinvigorate the private sector. Li’s team unveiled a 25-point plan package next month to level playing fields and increase funding for private companies.

Eight economic officials and firm tanks are involved in the program, including the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, the People’s Bank of China, National Administration of Financial Regulation, China Securities Regulatory Commission, &nbsp, and National Development and Reform Commission.

The goal is to significantly raise the loan to private enterprise ratio in order to increase innovation and productivity and support more powerful supply chains. According to Li’s group, the goal is to guarantee” ongoing revenue solutions” for private businesses that refrain from “blindly stopping, suppressing, withdrawing or cutting off money.”

The NDRC stated this week that China “is comfortable and more capable of achieving long-term robust growth, and constantly bringing new impetus and options to the earth through China’s accelerated advancement.”

According to scholar Diana Choyleva of Enodo Economics,” Beijing is serious about getting funds flowing to the healthier components of the home field, whether it be personal or state-owned.” &nbsp, They are not satisfied with entrusting the choice to the businesses, which have discriminated against the private market for a number of factors.

Jumpstarting the creation of a high-yield bond market to expand China’s money markets universe is an essential component of the business. Theoretically, a lively and varied range of debt offerings would boost options for private sector financing and boost China’s appeal to investors.

These, Xi’s efforts to make the yuan more popular on international businesses are advantageous. As concerns about the US dollar rise, the battle is gaining momentum. Nothing could hasten that progress more quickly than swiftly and openly putting in place significant reforms.

Here is where Xi and his team needed to win back the confidence of international investors. It is important to note that The Moody’s news did n’t destroy Chinese assets.

The most significant lesson from the Moody’s statement, according to economists at advisory organization China Beige Book, is that their team takes years longer than the majority of China viewers to reach an obvious conclusion. Little brand-new around. Continue.

However, analysts at Citigroup Global Markets predict that in 2024, China’s investment-grade payment issues will be more alluring than those of US counterparts. Following the Moody’s information, Citi experts wrote,” The market has now priced this in to some extent, and China investment-grade has some price.”

In Chongqing, China, a butler is seen strolling along dingy bridges with brand-new residential properties in the distance. Photo: Zhang Peng, LightRocket, CNBC Screengrab, and Getty Images

As Beijing works to regulate real estate markets, Citi experts also cited China’s” stronger, but still fragile micro story.” Chinese money bonds with an investment class are currently up about 5.4 % in 2023.

According to Citi researchers,” China risks are primarily in the price.” The Chinese offshore credit market, which is regarded as an asset and money diversifier for regional investors, tends to do well in times of inland equity-market volatility.

Analysts ‘ concern that China’s time of raising GDP rates solely through stimulus and funding is over, however, is where Moody makes a point.

For starters, “remaining plan room may be limited, as we believe central authorities needs to balance moral liability problems when supporting local governments with substantial debt burdens,” according to scientist Samuel Kwok at Fitch Ratings.

Another is that the quality of mainland growth can only be improved by strong financial retooling that unlocks China’s longer-term growth potential. This trend toward trigger over reform explains why S&amp, P Global Ratings predicts that China will grow below 5 % into 2026.

According to S&amp and P record analyst Eunice Tan, China’s real estate market is still under stress despite stimulus. The cash patterns of property developers and heavily indebted regional government borrowing vehicles are being dented by limited access to credit assistance and higher corporate debt utilize.

As a result, S&amp, P’s Tan claims that the rise website for the Asia-Pacific is moving from China to South and Southeast Asia. Tan notes that this change may limit China’s lenders ‘ medium-term face while enhancing those of India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

China’s imports decreased by 0.6 %, despite data released on Thursday showing a 0.5 % increase in exports in November year over year. More policy supports are required to promote demand, according to a word from UBS analysts, and the data more dashed hopes of regaining China’s consumption-led economy.

According to OANDA researcher Kelvin Wong, “domestic need has remained weak in China despite continued revival efforts by policymakers via intended monetary and fiscal stimulus steps.”

Therefore, according to Wong,” It seems that the previous one-month treatment of transfer growth recorded in October is probably a “blip” and November’s bad year-on-year growth rate suggests the rolling twelve months of bad growth trend in imports remains intact.”

At the Horgos Port in the autonomous region of north China’s Xinjiang Uighur, business containers can be seen. Image: Xinhua

Global traders are anxiously anticipating the Politburo’s next chamber event as difficulties mount. This once-every-five-year program typically takes place in early December.

The fact that it has n’t been scheduled yet has led to rumors that Xi wants to address a number of pressing issues, such as rising local government debt, deflationary pressures, and real estate to record youth unemployment.

As a madly polarizing 2024 presidential election draws near, the US even faces significant obstacles. The US government’s estimated annualized loan interest payments have increased to the$ 1&nbsp, trillion level, among other things.

Shareholders are free to disregard the financial paths in Washington and Beijing that Moody’s, S&amp, P, and Fitch have to say. However, as payment prospects deteriorate, it is important to keep in mind that some observers, analysts, and investors are n’t buying the party line, despite Biden and Xi’s insistence that they are on top of their individual debt problems.

Following William Pesek on X, previously Twitter, at @WilliamPess

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Meta takes down China-based network of thousands of fake accounts

A Facebook logoGetty Images

Meta says it recently removed a network of thousands of fake and misleading accounts based in China.

The users posed as Americans and sought to spread polarising content about US politics and US-China relations.

Among the topics the network posted about were abortion, culture war issues and aid to Ukraine.

Meta did not link the profiles to Beijing officials, but it has seen an increase in such networks based in China ahead of the 2024 US elections.

China is now the third-biggest geographical source of such networks, the company said, behind Russia and Iran.

The recent takedowns were outlined in a quarterly threat report released on Thursday by the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The China-based network included more than 4,700 accounts and used profile pictures and names copied from other users around the world.

The accounts shared and liked each other’s posts, and some of the content appeared to be taken directly from X, formerly Twitter.

In some cases the accounts copied and pasted verbatim posts from US politicians – both Republicans and Democrats – including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Reps Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan, and others.

The network displayed no ideological consistency.

In examples released by Meta, an account in the China-based network reposted the words contained in a tweet earlier this year by Democrat Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia. She criticised Texas’s abortion laws and wrote: “Let’s remember – abortion is healthcare.”

But another account in the network copied-and-pasted a tweet from Republican Representative Ronny Jackson, who wrote: “Taxpayer dollars should NEVER fund travel for abortions.”

Meta’s report stated: “It’s unclear whether this approach was designed to amplify partisan tensions, build audiences among these politicians’ supporters, or to make fake accounts sharing authentic content appear more genuine.”

The company’s moderation rules forbid what Meta calls “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour” – posts by groups of accounts that work together and use false identities to mislead other users.

Often the content shared by such networks is not false and references accurate news stories from major media outlets. But instead of being used for legitimate comment or debate, the posts are meant to manipulate public opinion, push division and make particular viewpoints seem more popular than they really are.

Meta said the large Chinese network was stopped before it took off among real users.

Ben Nimmo, who leads investigations into inauthentic behaviour on the company’s platforms, said such networks “still struggle to build audiences, but they’re a warning”.

“Foreign threat actors are attempting to reach people across the internet ahead of next year’s elections, and we need to remain alert.”

The company said it also discovered two smaller networks, one based in China and focusing on India and Tibet, and one based in Russia which posted primarily in English about the invasion of Ukraine and promoted Telegram channels.

Russian networks, which prompted the company to focus on inauthentic campaigns following the 2016 election, have increasingly focused on the war in Ukraine and have attempted to undermine international support for Kyiv, the report said.

Meta also noted that the US government stopped sharing information about foreign influence networks with the company in July, after a federal ruling as part of a legal case over the First Amendment that is now under consideration by the Supreme Court.

The case is part of a larger debate about over whether the US government works with tech companies to unduly restrict the free speech of social media users.

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Four arrested over romance-investment scams

Police have arrested two Chinese and two Thais for alleged involvement in romance-investment scams and impounded assets worth about 300 million baht.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, said yesterday the arrests and seizures were made at five raided premises in Bangkok and Samut Prakan on Tuesday.

He identified the Chinese suspects as Hongling Ruan, 44, and Zhao Yue, 59. The arrested Thais are both women, identified as Lawan Thawee-apiradeepoon and Sawiktree Angkabut.

They were charged with public fraud, computer crime, participation in a transnational crime organisation and money laundering.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop linked the suspects to nine other Thai and Chinese suspects arrested earlier.

They allegedly used false Facebook profiles of attractive women to approach victims they lured into romance and cryptocurrency investment scams.

One of the new suspects, the Chinese man Ruang, is the husband of a 28-year-old Thai model Jakkreena Chookhaowsri, alias Kiki Maxim, one of the nine suspects previously arrested with assets worth about one billion baht.

Pol Maj Gen Athip Pongsiwapai, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, said the gang laundered their ill-gotten gains by buying luxury houses and vehicles and investing in lounges and restaurants.

Police have now impounded assets worth 1.3 billion baht, including 19 luxury houses, 14 luxury vehicles and 6 million baht in cash.

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Chinese, Thais arrested in dual scam investigation

Chinese, Thais arrested in dual scam investigation
Central Investigation Bureau police search one of the premises raided for evidence, on Tuesday. (Photo police)

Police have arrested two Chinese, one a Thai model’s husband, and two Thais for alleged involvement in romance-investment scams, and impounded assets worth about 300 million baht for examination.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, said the arrests and seizures were made at five raided premises in Bangkok and Samut Prakan on Tuesday.

He identified the Chinese suspects as Hongling Ruan, 44, and Zhao Yue, 59. The arrested Thais are both women, identified as Lawan Thawee-apiradeepoon and Sawiktree Angkabut.

They were all charged with public fraud, computer crime, participation in a transnational crime organisation and money laundering.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop linked the suspects to nine other Thai and Chinese suspects arrested earlier.

They allegedly used false Facebook profiles of beautiful women to approach victims they lured into romance and cryptocurrency investment scams.

One of the new suspects, the Chinese man Ruang, is the husband of 28-year-old Thai model Jakkreena Chookhaowsri, alias Kiki Maxim, who was one of the nine suspects previously arrested with assets worth about one billion baht.

Pol Maj Gen Athip Pongsiwapai, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, said the gang had laundered their ill-gotten gains by buying luxury houses and vehicles and investing in lounges and restaurants.

In total, case police have now impounded assets worth 1.3 billion baht, including 19 luxury houses, 14 luxury vehicles and 6 million baht in cash, the commander said. All suspects denied all charges.

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Disfigured Chinese also begged in Malaysia, Singapore

Disfigured Chinese also begged in Malaysia, Singapore
An immigration officer with profiles of the six disfigured Chinese beggars arrested in Bangkok recently, at the Immigration Bureau on Monday. (Screenshot)

Chinese beggars with facial and body disfigurations recently arrested in Bangkok were not working for a Thai boss and had previously solicited money in Malaysia and Singapore, according to the Immigration Bureau.

Pol Maj Gen Panthana Nutchanart, deputy commissioner, said on Monday that some of the six beggars knew each other. They denied they were trafficked by a gang, and told police they worked for themselves and used public transport while in Thailand.

He said they were aged 28-41 years could earn more than 10,000 baht a day in tourist-crowded areas in Bangkok. They had Thai interpreters but there was no evidence Thais gained any other benefits from their activities.

The Immigration Bureau had learned some of them had also begged in Malaysia and Singapore.

They were arrested between Nov 11 and 20, and all had already been deported, he said.

The six, four women and two men, all said the scars on their faces and bodies were from burns incurred as children in China. Immigration security camera footage confirmed they were already disfigured when they arrived arrived in the country.

They usually begged at footbridges and near shopping centres – especially in the Asok, Lumpini and Silom areas. They exchanged their takings for yuan and deposited the money in their accounts, registered in China.

Some of them had begged in their homeland and decided to try their luck in Thailand after friends told them they could earned substantially more here.

Others said they had arrived for a tour but ran out of money. One said he begged while waiting for a new Chinese passport to replace the one he reported lost.

Pol Maj Gen Panthana said the bureau had recently also arrested seven Jordanian adults and 16 minors at hotels on Nana Road, after complaints they had been pestering tourists for money, accosting them while they were shopping or withdrawing cash from ATMs.

All of them had arrived as tourists. They were detained pending deportation.

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Emerging digital technology, alternative data and financial inclusion in Cambodia - Southeast Asia Globe

Securing a loan can be a life-changing event, allowing people to access the capital necessary to start a business, buy a home, and invest in their future. But for Cambodia’s large underbanked and unbanked population, difficulty in accessing financial services, and an absence of the financial data used to assess creditworthiness, can make getting a loan challenging. According to the National Bank of Cambodia, only 59 percent of the adult population have access to formal financial services, leaving 41 percent either accessing informal financial services or no financial services at all.

However, developments in Cambodia’s lending landscape offer cause for optimism. The explosion in Cambodia’s fintech ecosystem, paired with the growing potential of alternative-data credit frameworks, could provide a path towards financial inclusion for those previously left out of the conversation.

Acccording to Ms. Phal-Chalm Theany, Secretary General of the Association of Banks in Cambodia, “Alternative data has tremendous potential for contributing to financial inclusion by complementing traditional financial data that banks have. They range from information on mobile wallet transactions to information on user behavior on digital platforms that can be utilized for risk assessment of individuals and MSMEs.” 

Most financial institutions use debt repayment history and bank and credit files to determine the creditworthiness of potential borrowers. Driven by digitalisation and developments in technologies such as data analytics and machine learning, alternative credit scoring is based on any form of non-traditional information that can provide insights into the ability and propensity of borrowers to pay back loans. Telecom and utility payment histories, as well as digital footprints and mobile data, can all be utilised to assess creditworthiness within these frameworks.

Banks in Cambodia are increasingly looking to tap alternative data for serving the unbanked and underbanked.

“Data in Cambodia is still very much fragmented and held across multiple organizations and institutions,” said Mr. Mach Chan, CEO of Phillip Bank in Cambodia. “Many people do not have formal loans from financial institutions. This makes it challenging to predict their repayment capacities. If Phillip Bank can easily assess aggregated alternative data, we can better assess a borrower’s creditworthiness based on their social and behavioral indicators, and spending patterns and habits. This allows us to form a more complete picture of the borrower’s risk profile, with opportunities to offer cheaper loans to less risky customers, regardless of whether they are banked. Additionally, many SMEs are not formally registered making lending a challenge. If banks can access the payments data of these MSMEs, the financial Industry will be more confident to support the needs of these businesses.”

Across Southeast Asia, governments, banks and key stakeholders are becoming increasingly interested in the potential of alternative data as a tool to expand the scope and accessibility of financial services.

Southeast Asia-focused report published by the World Bank Group in 2021 highlights four new data types that have emerged as part of the evolving digital ecosystem, and which can aid credit decision-making: mobile operator and app-based data, digital payments, e-commerce data and enterprise-tech (business-performance) data. Such alternative data has also been highlighted by the Asian Development Bank as one of the key areas for driving financial inclusion in Southeast Asia. 

Across the region, governments, banks and key stakeholders are becoming increasingly interested in the potential of alternative data as a tool to expand the scope and accessibility of financial services.

In December 2022, the National Credit Bureau of Thailand announced the plan to launch a non-credit data centre by consolidating such data into NCB’s existing credit database with initial application of utility payment data from Electricity and Water Utilities.

In Indonesia, Experian collaborated with a telecom company to uplift financial inclusion by using data from telco to provide advanced credit assessment to empower unbanked and underbanked.

In the Philippines, Credit Information Centre (CIC) is working on an open policy to enable accessing entities to utilize credit bureau data with alternative data to come up with a complete picture of a borrower’s credit profile.

In the context of Cambodia, utility bill payment and telco payment data can serve as important sources of alternative credit data. Moreover, with rapid digitalization along with adoption of digital payments, there should be enormous potential to tap a wide array of alternative data on payments and digital footprints. Around the world, such data have served as key drivers for digital financial inclusion. 

With a rise in digital financial service providers, digital payment catalysts and e-commerce in Cambodia, massive amounts of alternative data are already generated at present. Given this scenario, it is important to have an organized ecosystem to collect, process and utilize such alternative credit data.

On the regulatory front, the National Bank of Cambodia revised the prakas on credit reporting in 2020, enabling Credit Bureau Cambodia (CBC) to collect alternative data along with traditional credit data to support financial institutions to strengthen credit risk assessment capabilities.  

CBC was established in 2012 with the support of the National Bank of Cambodia, the Association of Banks   in Cambodia and other key stakeholders in the sector to manage a fair and transparent credit market in support of the nation’s economic development. Since then, CBC has become the leading body providing financial information in the country. Although currently CBC only manages traditional data reported by member banks and financial institutions, it is preparing an ambitious roadmap to collaborate with multiple sectors in the country. Its plan is to establish a comprehensive alternative credit data ecosystem that can work together with the traditional credit data ecosystem for social and economic benefits to Cambodians.

“I would say Cambodia stands a decade ahead of other emerging market economies because of the Credit Bureau and the lending environment,” explained Gordon Peters, co-founder and CEO of fintech firm Boost, which harnesses popular social media platform such as Facebook and Telegram to enable access to finance. “CBC has done a great job of collecting, collating and sharing data on the financial lives of customers,” he said. “I think that is a huge unlock.”

For Peters and company, CBC establishes a level of legitimacy and security that has benefited Cambodia’s financial sector and allowed his firm to fill a gap in the ecosystem. Banks and financial institutions have a high degree of confidence and trust in the role of CBC as a key financial data infrastructure in the country. For a company that already manages credit history data of more than 7 million individuals and businesses, expanding the capabilities to manage alternative data reporting system looks plausible.

Ms. Phal-Chalm Theany, Secretary General of the Association of Banks in Cambodia

Ms. Theany elaborated: “CBC is a data centre for the financial sector that collects data from banks and financial institutions, stores and analyses them for the purposes of credit scoring for those financial institutions. Where each bank and financial institution may have its own data, CBC has the financial information for the whole sector.

“With strong capabilities in data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, CBC is uniquely positioned to harness alternative data from diverse data sources to enable banks and financial institutions to conduct better assessment of the profile of the unbanked (mainly women and farmers) and informal small businesses, estimate income with more precision. This shall enable financial institutions to offer more appropriate credits or other financial services in the absence of a financial footprint, credit histories or property guarantees.”

Mr. Chan added: “CBC could spearhead the aggregation of payments, telco and utilities data. These datasets are then fed into a prospective customer’s credit score. Over the past few years, with NBC’s Bakong as a key enabler, we’ve seen a rapid digitization of payments. We believe that when assessing customer creditworthiness, payments data is just as important as borrowing and repayment data, and should be prioritized. At the same time, CBC would need to seek the cooperation of their member financial institutions to provide these datasets. For SMEs, we also see data from GDT as an important asset. If CBC could connect and obtain data with GDT, it will allow the banks to form better assessments for clean loans, spurring economic activity.”

Currently, CBC provides K-Score, an algorithmic credit score (ACS). ACS uses machine-learning algorithms to analyse massive data sets to produce credit scores without traditional financial information. This is the only industry level credit score available in Cambodia. First launched in 2015, CBC did a major revamp of the algorithms in 2020 to keep up with the evolving changes in the market landscape. Today, K-Score is available to all member financial institutions of CBC and (via CBC’s mobile app) to all individuals as well.

Example of a K-Score from CBC

A 2023 report in the Asian Journal of Law and Science states: “ACS is the tip of the spear of the global campaign for financial inclusion, which aims at including unbanked and underbanked citizens in financial markets and delivering them financial services, including credit, at fair and affordable prices.” The study outlines the wide ranging benefits of ACS and alternative data as tools to benefit individuals across Southeast Asia who lack access to financial services.

In the Cambodian context, Credit Bureau of Cambodia is well positioned to lead the way in leveraging these tools. To make sense of the massive datasets now available thanks to digitalisation, CBC utilises a host of ACS tools. Machine-learning algorithms and other artificial intelligence mechanisms allow for the analysis of data at a scale that was previously impossible. Risk analysis profiles and loan portfolios that are regularly updated and refined are just a couple of the ways these technologies can be leveraged using alternative data. While the power of these tools is certainly important, CBC’s experience in the sector — and its standing as the leading institution managing, analysing and providing financial data — are the most compelling reasons for the adoption of alternative data schemes in Cambodia.

“As we are entering our second decade of credit reporting in Cambodia, CBC is committed to being a trusted (element in the) national financial infrastructure for providing alternative credit data, to strengthen credit risk assessment for our 190-plus member financial institutions, and to expand access to credit for the new-to-credit consumer segments. We are very open to collaborate with alternative data providers such as telcos, utilities and payment service providers to harness information not found in traditional credit reports, to help more Cambodians obtain access to mainstream financial services,” explained CBC CEO, Oeur Sothearoath.

As CBC leverages its established presence in the financial sector, a growing pool of innovators is working with the agency to develop and facilitate the alternative data ecosystem.

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IN FOCUS: Underage and on dating apps - what is being done to protect minors, and is it enough?

The Grindr spokesperson also said the app is classed in the 17+ category on both Apple and Google Play App stores, which means parental control settings in both operating systems can be used to prevent the app from being downloaded.

She added that Grindr is “always willing” to work with Apple and Google to develop better age gating technology that respects users’ privacy while improving safety.

As for why Grindr does not require users to upload a profile photo or picture ID, the spokesperson said that user concerns are a key reason for this. Users can privately share photos using private albums.

She added: “Since the founding of Grindr, many of our users have had very real needs to maintain privacy and discretion on the app, ranging from highly personal circumstances to government persecution in more than 60 countries around the world where it is tragically still illegal to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Nevertheless, she said Grindr “works constantly to eliminate illicit activity from the app”, including using AI and machine learning “in a variety of ways to promote safety, including monitoring chats to detect potential underage users”.

On top of that, Grindr has an external moderation team of more than 150 experts to monitor chats and identify issues such as underage users and those who may try to target them. It also reports activity involving minors to organisations committed to protecting children, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the US.

CNA also asked OkCupid, Tinder and Grindr about whether they were open to partnerships like the one that dating app Bumble recently formed with the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), a gender equality advocacy group in Singapore.

The partnership, announced in September, allows AWARE to report harmful or dangerous people to Bumble’s dedicated member safety team.

Through this new tip line, these people can receive a warning or even have their profiles removed from the platform.

In a press release, Bumble said this is aimed at reducing the burden on victim-survivors of sexual violence and technology-facilitated abuse to report these harms, while ensuring that dangerous individuals are proactively removed from Bumble.

OkCupid, Tinder and Grindr did not directly respond to queries about this.


Notwithstanding dating apps’ various measures to keep the underaged from using them, some users told CNA how easy it was to sign up when they were below the age of 18.

Ms Li, 23, is no stranger to such apps. She first started using them as a 17-year-old.

“There’s really no verification, so I just put my age as 18. I had almost everything actually, I had Bumble, OkCupid, Hinge, Tinder.”

Feeling guilty for lying about her age, Ms Li wrote in her profile that she was 17, going on 18. Despite doing so, the apps did not detect that an underage user was on their platform. 

In fact, Ms Li said her profile became more popular after she updated her bio. “Once I put that, then I actually got more matches.”

She added that she was far from the only underaged teen on dating apps.

“Pretty much every girl I knew that was in upper-secondary school would have been on the more common apps, like OkCupid.” They would send profiles to each other to see who their friends matched with, she said.

Some of the men who matched with her on the apps were 10 years her senior, but it did not raise any alarm bells back then. She said she felt lucky about it, thinking that these older men were taking a chance on her.

It was especially gratifying given that some boys in her age group still shunned girls. “A man likes me – he isn’t immature like the boys,” she said.

“At that age, it was very, very easy for girls to be looking for that attention and validation.”

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Shorter ticket lines, more interactive displays on the cards for Singapore’s tourist attractions


Self-service ticketing shops with facial recognition capabilities have been set up at indoor skydiving interest iFly Singapore in Sentosa to manage host check-ins as well as the research and pay processes for photos and videos taken during the trip. &nbsp,
In order to observe and compile visitor data, such as demographic profiles, footfall, and explore times, iFly Singapore also uses data analytical tools. These data are then used for qualified sales strategies and marketing campaigns to boost visitorship and increase average customer spend. &nbsp,
People used to wait at the reception desk for 10 to 15 minutes just to inquire about this waiver variety, according to Lawrence Koh, the founder and CEO of iFly Singapore. ” How do you fill it up?” and so forth. However, the majority of them will have already registered online at this point and are only there to assess in and get a tag.
A customer relationship management system is used at the domestic park Kiztopia, which has numerous stores, to gather data on customers ‘ prior payments, website visits, and wedding with marketing emails.
As a result, Kiztopia was able to use the information to create targeted selling campaigns for their various user segments. &nbsp,
Additionally, it is investing in the universe system, a idea that many people may not be familiar with at the moment.
People have heard about it, but Heidi Tian, the chairman and chief executive officer of Kiztopia, said that in order to truly experience it and use it. &nbsp,
” The parents of our clients are our objective.” There is always some balancing on how much parents are ready for their children to be exposed to like interactive games because we also want the kids to play in the metaverse.

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Going undercover to reveal people smugglers' sales tactics

On 29 February, 2020, thousands of refugees and migrants arrived at the Pazarkule border crossing between Greece and TurkeyGetty Images

“There is nothing to be worried about. Whether they’re 12 or 18 years old, we take guys of these ages too.”

A people smuggler in Quetta, who arranges illegal routes out of Pakistan, is explaining his business model to an undercover BBC journalist. For 2.5m Pakistani rupees ($9000; £7,500), a young man can arrive in Europe “safe and sound” in approximately three weeks, he says, by crossing the border into Iran on foot and then travelling by road via Turkey to Italy. His tone is reassuring.

“He should keep snacks. He should definitely carry good quality shoes, and two or three sets of clothes. That’s it. He can buy water from Quetta. He will call upon reaching Quetta and a guy will come and receive him.”

The smuggler – Azam – claims hundreds of migrants cross the Pakistan border into Iran every day. He downplays the risks to our reporter, who is posing as a man wanting to bring his brother to the UK.

With inflation soaring in the country and the Pakistani rupee plummeting in value, many people are looking to move. Pakistani authorities have told the BBC nearly 13,000 people left Pakistan to go to Libya or Egypt in the first six months of 2023, compared with close to 7,000 in the whole of 2022.

Often the journeys they take are dangerous. In June, hundreds of migrants died after a cramped fishing vessel sank off the coast of Greece. At least 350 Pakistanis were thought to be on board.

“Even if he gets caught [along the way], he is only going to end up back at home. No-one is going to kidnap him and ask for ransom,” Azam says.

But migrants who attempt to travel via Libya can fall prey to militias and criminal gangs. One Pakistani man we spoke to, who used a people smuggler to travel to Italy, says he was kidnapped and imprisoned for three months in Libya.

Saeed (not his real name) says he was only released after his family paid a ransom of $2,500 (£2,000).

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‘DM for game’

Many smugglers are operating in plain sight on mainstream social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok – through accounts that have tens of thousands of followers.

Since May, the BBC has been monitoring social media accounts promoting illegal migration routes. We have found that the smugglers’ tactics are concealed by a web of euphemisms that enable them to sidestep content moderation and law enforcement. They arrange trips and payments privately via direct messages and WhatsApp.

Code words like “dunki” and “game” are used to promote illegal routes to Europe. “Dunki” refers to boat crossings and “game” describes the journeys that migrants will take from start to finish.

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You can listen to “BBC Trending: Exposing people smugglers” on BBC Sounds.

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The three most common routes from Pakistan transit through Turkey, Iran or Libya before reaching their final destination in Europe.

Since the Greek migrant boat disaster, people smugglers we monitored have been increasingly promoting “taxi games” – shorthand for routes by road through Eastern Europe – as the favoured smuggling method.

Smugglers’ social media accounts post videos of groups of migrants hiding in woods and running into minivans, with agents’ names and mobile phone numbers superimposed on top. On WhatsApp, customers and “agents” exchange messages about the next “game” in group chats with hundreds of members.

Azam specialises in “taxi games”, claiming they are safer than sea routes. But there are risks to those land routes too.

The UNHCR – the UN’s refugee agency – says freezing temperatures in winter as migrants attempt to cross borders on foot, as well as road accidents, have resulted in deaths.

Graphic showing Saeed's route to Turkey

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Five other smugglers we spoke to also recommended “taxi routes”. One said he could get someone to the UK from France for £1,000 ($1,228).

We put our evidence to Meta, which owns Facebook and WhatsApp, and TikTok – that their platforms are being used to promote illegal people smuggling.

Meta took down all links to the Facebook groups and pages we flagged to them, but did not take down the profiles attached to them. It did not remove WhatsApp groups, because its policy of end-to-end encryption protects privacy and does not allow for moderation.

TikTok took down the links to the accounts we alerted them to. It says the company “has zero tolerance for content that facilitates human smuggling” and “removed accounts and content that violate their policies”.

Man with a beard looks through a small window in a metal door

‘Journey of death’

Saeed left his town in Pakistani-administered Kashmir almost a year ago because of a lack of employment opportunities for young men in his area – and clashes along the border with Indian-administered Kashmir. He lived very close to the Line of Control – the de facto border between India and Pakistan in the contested region – but has been in Italy for 10 months.

He says he was influenced to come to Europe by a combination of TikTok videos he saw online and by a friend who had left Pakistan a few months before him.

“I heard that it’s very simple to come here and it would take about 15-20 days. But it was all a lie. It took me more than seven months,” he says.

Saeed is awaiting the outcome of his asylum claim in Italy and says he now regrets taking the illegal route, calling it “a journey of death”. But he regularly posts videos on TikTok of his new life in Italy.

A few clips document his route from Pakistan, mostly showing an excited young man on his journey. These upbeat videos follow a TikTok trend which many young Pakistani men like him, who arrive in Europe, have participated in.

In one video captioned “Pakistan to Libya”, a friend he travelled with films them both, selfie-style, sitting on a plane, smiling.

He says that it’s “just a form of art” to post videos like this and argues they are “not a true reflection of society”.

Two weeks after our undercover journalist first contacts the smuggler, we call him again – this time revealing we are BBC journalists.

When we challenge Azam about the dangers of the illegal routes he is promoting, he hangs up.

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Managing director stabbed pregnant wife to death after inaccurate company report showed poor numbers

Warning: This story mentions suicide and contains descriptions of a suicide attempt.

SINGAPORE: A managing director of a training company who suffered insomnia after mistakenly thinking his business was failing stabbed his wife and their unborn child to death.

David Brian Chow Kwok-Hun began ruminating on the financial health of his company after receiving a half-year financial report from an accounting employee that showed low-performing numbers.

The numbers were later found to be inaccurate. Despite his family encouraging him and trying to seek help for him, Chow made up his mind to kill himself and his wife, in order to “save” her and their unborn child from any debtors.

After another night of insomnia, he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed his pregnant wife to death.

He then tried to kill himself but was unsuccessful and decided to call the police to avoid implicating his father who was on his way to fetch him.

Chow, a 35-year-old Singaporean, pleaded guilty on Thursday (Oct 26) to one charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

He had been suffering from adjustment disorder with anxious and depressed mood at the time of the offence and qualified for the partial defence of diminished responsibility.

The court heard that Chow and the victim, 30-year-old Isabel Elizabeth Francis, registered their marriage in 2019 and lived together in a flat since May 2021.

Chow was the managing director of KnowledgeTree Training Centre, a training company providing workforce skills qualifications and other courses.

In December 2021, he asked for the company’s half-year financial report from his accounting staff. 

When he received the report, he went through the numbers and felt there must have been an error, as the numbers were unusually low. He asked the employee to check again and get back.

In January 2022, the accounting staff got back to Chow and confirmed that the numbers were accurate.

It was later revealed that the numbers were wrong and were not an accurate representation of the company’s financial health.


Chow began thinking that the company was not doing well and would probably run into failure. This was despite the fact that it had been profitable, racking up S$1 million (US$729,000) in earlier profits.

Between Jan 5 and Jan 7 in 2022, Chow began losing sleep. He was worried and stressed over the company finances and slept only one to two hours per night on average. His family members, wife and colleagues noticed his behaviour.

When Chow spoke to the manager of his company about finances on Jan 8, 2022, the manager saw that he looked stressed and noted that the company was still making a profit.

Chow’s mother and brother also met him to talk about the finances and assured him that the company was still making a profit.

Because of what the company earned over the years, it was in a financially sound position to weather the next two years. 

His parents also had dinner with him to encourage him and assure him that everything would be fine.

Chow’s wife booked a counselling session with a counsellor to help him deal with his work stress, but Chow continued losing sleep over the finances.

He began seeing things in his head if he closed his eyes, including images of soldiers marching, a devil and “a scary dog”.

His family members continued trying to reach out to Chow. His father made an appointment for him to see a psychiatrist and arranged to ferry him to work.

Chow tried listing down his problems on a counselling worksheet and felt slightly better, but still could not sleep.

At about 1am on Jan 11, 2022, Chow began pacing up and down the corridor of his flat in Ang Mo Kio.

He continued ruminating over his business concerns and looking at the LinkedIn profiles of business competitors.

He logged into an e-learning portal and realised his employee still had not rectified an issue that was earlier pointed out, and was concerned that his mother would scold the employee, who would leave.

The managing director was also worried about his employees quitting and losing confidence in him, as they had noticed him breaking down.


From 3am to 4am that day, he began having suicidal thoughts – the first time he had such thoughts, court documents showed. He was worried that his wife would feel shame from having a husband who took his own life.

If his business failed, he fretted that others would go after his wife and unborn child.

The man felt he had to do something, and thought of killing his wife to spare her and their unborn child, so they could “go to heaven” while he killed himself, said the prosecution.

At about 5am, Chow took a knife from the kitchen and headed to the master bedroom, where his wife lay sleeping on her side.

He turned her and thrust the knife into her abdomen, telling her: “Sorry, I have no way out.”

He then stabbed her multiple times in her head, neck, abdomen and back until she stopped moving.

After killing his wife, Kwok checked the peephole of his main door to make sure no one had been alerted by his wife’s screams.

He tried various ways to end his life, including stabbing himself with another knife and asking the “devil to take him”, said the prosecution, adding that he also took an assortment of tablets.

Chow realised his father had sent him a message saying he was on his way to fetch him. Chow decided to call the police to tell them that he had killed his wife, as he did not want to implicate his father.

He also did not want his father to see the state that he and his wife were in, so he called his father and asked him not to come over. After calling the police, Chow unlocked the main door and lay down to wait.

The police and paramedics arrived shortly after and the victim was pronounced dead while Chow was taken to hospital and arrested.

An autopsy of Chow’s wife found that she had died of stab wounds to her back and neck. She had suffered 10 stab wounds and five incised wounds on her head, neck and torso, two of which were fatal.

An autopsy was also done on the foetus, which was found to be a girl of about 15 weeks’ gestational age. It would not survive at such an age if it had been born, medical reports stated.

Chow was assessed by an associate consultant from the Institute of Mental Health, who found that he was suffering from adjustment disorder with anxious and depressed mood at the time of the offence.

While the IMH doctor and the defence psychiatrist had different diagnoses of the subtype of adjustment disorder Chow suffered, they agreed that he had symptoms of anxious and depressed mood.

Chow was found to have catastrophic thinking, fearing that he would go bankrupt and was overwhelmed by the premonition that people would go after his wife if he did.

However, his impulse control was not impaired, as he had performed goal-directed actions in killing his wife, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue.

Mr Jiang said Chow had penned his thoughts in the counselling sheet prior to the killing, tested the sharpness of the knife and covered his wife’s mouth before checking if anyone heard her screams.

He was not of unsound mind and was fit to plead.

The prosecution is seeking nine to 12 years’ jail for Chow.

Chow is defended by Mr Shashi Nathan, Mr Jeremy Mark Pereira and Mr U Sudharshanraj Naidu from Withers KhattarWong. His family members attended the court hearing.

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