November / December Euroasia update

OK This is going to be a long-ish post, to update you with all the goss over the past month. I have been very busy with various projects, travelling, attending all sorts of forums and events, and trying to keep up with everything else. It’s Christmas eve, and I finally get to do some blogging. I dread to think what it must be like in the shopping malls right now, so this is a welcome reprieve.

We had the annual Euroasia Christmas party late this year (11 Dec 09). We had a decent turnout of around 80 clients and friends of Euroasia, which is OK seeing we clashed with many other corporate parties. File note: next year we definitely have to do this the first week of Dec, perhaps even late-Nov. As you can see, those who managed to make it had a great time.

We didn’t

do any Christmas carols in Spanish, French, German, Chinese and Japanese like we did last year… but our team did organise some cool games. It was also a great opportunity for me to thank all our clients for their unwavering support to us over the past year. Dr John Reynolds spoke eloquently in 3 languages about his language learning experience at Euroasia.

Ken with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and fellow businessmen from Australia..

A few months ago, I accepted an invitation to speak at the World Chinese Economic Forum in November and held in Kuala Lumpur (which happens to be my hometown). I’m really glad I went, as I managed to meet a number of very interesting people. At my session, I talked about how overseas Chinese can assist businesspeople from Western nations, including New Zealand, to access new markets in Asia generally and China specifically. I provided examples of enterprising Chinese businesspeople facilitating trade opportunities. In the past, New Zealand chicken producers had to spend money to dispose of chicken parts like chicken feet (that Westerners don’t eat, but Chinese love). Through the intervention of Chinese traders, NZ chicken producers have not only saved money from having to dispose of these chicken parts, but are now profiting from the sales of these parts. There are plenty of business opportunities in China that New Zealanders are missing out on because of the DIY mindset. A far superior approach is to collaborate with Asians who live in NZ and have an entrenched knowledge of the language and culture in the target market. I’m hoping to devote more time and energy to work on these Asia Bridge initiatives in 2010.

At the Forum, I managed to have a chat with the Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng. When he found out that I lived in NZ, he said “you Kiwis qualified for the world cup”, referring to news that New Zealand qualified for the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa and demonstrating his knowledge of New Zealand. I had to break it to him that NZ also qualified for the Hockey World Cup, beating Malaysia the day before the forum.

Ken with PM John Key

Earlier this month, I attended the annual APEC Advisory Business Council (ABAC) dinner, where the PM briefs members of the business community on what happened at APEC. This year, there’s lots to say about the economy and the PM has just arrived back from the East Asia Summit, Malaysia-NZ FTA, CHOGM, and about to go to Copenhagen.

I have previously blogged about this but one funny anecdote worth sharing is from the Q%A where a guy asked a serious question “If we want to catch Australia why not just merge with them?” The PM’s response: I just got back from CHOGM where Australian PM Kevin Rudd asked me the same question. My response was I’m too busy running New Zealand to run Australia as well. This guy can be very funny. I do think John Key is more in touch with the masses than Helen Clark; and has a way with both CEOs as well as joe public. Perhaps this explains his 80% favourability rating throughout a very difficult year.

Mock up of Euroasia’s new website to be launched in 2010

In the new year, you will see the launch of Euroasia’s new website and enrolment system, which we have spent the last 2 months working on. Some people have asked us why we want to spend money on this, especially seeing this is a particularly difficult time. My response is that in order to maintain Euroasia’s position as a leading provider of foreign language courses and cross-cultural services, we have to keep investing in the business, and to keep improving our service offering, especially when times are bad. Recessions don’t last forever, and I’m optimistic that 2010 will be a spectacular year for Euroasia. As it stands, our forward bookings for 2010 are already way ahead of this time last year.

Over the next two weeks, I will spend some time hopefully relaxing and reflecting on the past year. If you’re like me, and need some help with the reflection process, I’ve found this guide pretty helpful. Ask yourself 20 questions that cover all facets of life, not just material prosperity.

Last Christmas, we produced a video compilation of Euroasia staff bringing Christmas and New Year greetings in their native languages. I hope you don’t mind me recycling (seeing it’s in vogue now) this message. Once again we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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ABAC dinner with PM John Key

Earlier this month, I had the privelege of attending the annual APEC Advisory Business Council (ABAC) dinner hosted by the NZ International Business Forum, where the PM briefs members of the business community on what happened at APEC. This year, there’s lots to say about the economy and the PM has just arrived back from the East Asia Summit, Malaysia-NZ FTA, CHOGM, and about to go to Copenhagen.

Ken with PM John Key

The PM talked about 3 key issues:

1) Global interconnectedness. Synchronised recession is illustrative of this. Deep recessions will become more common as economies become more interdependent.

2) Global imbalances. PM cited a savings imbalance, with the West being funded by the East. He thinks the yuan will have to appreciate (given his background as Head of FX for Merrill Lynch, I was thinking whether to start hoarding some yuan) . The major issue is US consumers won’t spend.

The Americans are looking for 20m jobs (7m unemployed plus 13m coming into workforce).

3) Climate change. Unless the big boys (US, China etc) are involved, we can’t change things. It is more of a problem than people think, and will hit faster and with more severity.As the bulk of energy (70%) in NZ already come from renewable sources, and 50% of emissions is from agriculture, addressing this will be a big challenge.

The Q&A was pretty fascinating. One guy asked a serious question “If we want to catch Australia

why not just merge with them?” The PM’s response: I just got back from CHOGM where Australian PM Kevin Rudd asked me the same question. My response was I’m too busy running New Zealand to run Australia as well. This guy can be very funny. I do think John Key is more in touch with the masses than Helen Clark; and has a way with both CEOs as well as joe public. Perhaps this explains his 80% favourability rating throughout a very difficult year.

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Live from Malaysia NZ FTA signing in Kuala Lumpur

This will be short as I am blogging from my iphone. PM John Key will be signing the FTA with the Malaysian PM

tonight. Approximately 60 businesspeople are accompanying John Key on this trip. It has been a full on day, from the embargoed briefing this morning to visits of the Fonterra plant in Shah Alam and Datacom office in Banda Utama. We are now back at KL Hilton for a

briefing before the reception and official signing ceremony later tonight. Just sneaking in a few linea while the PwC guy is speaking. The Kiwis enjoyed being in the official motorcade. More on that later.

[Update 3/11/09: Full report on the signing of the Malaysia NZ FTA]

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Prime Minister – funny speech from a passionate Kiwi

The Prime Minister John Key gave this speech at the KEA World Class New Zealanders dinner two nights ago. I went along last year, but missed out on this year's.  It's great what KEA is doing to celebrate the success of Kiwis.  Well done Ivan. Check out PM's  speech on youtube:

In this speech PM talks about ordering pizza on 0800 838383 for her daughter, and sitting next to Dan Carter and Joe Rockocoko on the plane, leaning over and asking for an autograph for h

is son.

Also recognising the contribution of ex-PM Helen Clark, being the first politician to head the UNDP.

Part Two on Kiwis travelling overseas, broadband, and other topics. He talked about his chat with the Korean PM

on ultra-fast broadband, and poking fun of politicans . In this speech, John is eloquent,  passionate and funny. It's John Key at his best as he talks about what it means to be a New Zealander. Awesome stuff.

Unfortunate that I missed out being there.

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Who should immigrants vote for?

I just received an email from an old friend who now lives in London with the subject line: “Any recommendations on who to vote for?”  This came after my sister asked me last night, “how does one decide on whether to vote for National or Labour?”

“National's colour is green right?… oops no, that's National Bank”

I then asked my sister what's the first thing you think of when I say National? “John Key”

She could be the odd one out. On more than one occasion, I have been asked by migrants: “Is John Key National or Labour?” Apparently, my sister's friends at uni like the Greens because they have cool posters. I like their billboards too, not too sure about their policies, but yeah, they have nice artwork.

It got me thinking, how do people decide who to vote for? This question is particularly relevant for immigrants who have limited experience of New Zealand politics. Even more so for migrants who don't understand the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system. And what if you don't have much experience with the democratic process?

In many countries, politicians do not necessarily think of themselves as the people's representatives, forgetting that the real bosses are the people who put them there.  In any case, in more corrupt democracies (oxymoron?), election results can be rigged.  As such, perhaps many immigrants may not understand the power in their hands.

In this article, I attempt to answer the frequently-asked-question “who should I vote for?” with a 5-point checklist for migrants.

For those of you too busy to read the long version, please scroll to the bottom of this article for a 3-point shortcut version that is applicable to Europeans, Maori, Pasifika, Asians and migrants of every ethnic group.

1) Register to vote.

This is first base. If you're not registered to vote, you can't just turn up to vote. Last day to enrol is 7 November (election next day on 8 November).  In New Zealand, even permanent residents are entitled to vote, not just citizens. Many PRs have told me they didn't realise that. You have to be 18 years or older and have lived in New Zealand for one year or more without leaving the country.

2) Understand the New Zealand electoral process.

Each voter has two votes …

… a party vote and an electorate vote.

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Your party vote …

… helps decide how many seats each party gets in parliament. 

The government will be formed by one or more parties with the support of enough seats to win important votes in parliament.

Parliament is currently made up of 62 general and 7 Māori electorate seats, plus 51 seats allocated from party lists, giving a total of 120 seats.

Your electorate vote…

… helps decide who becomes your local MP. 

Each electorate has a different selection of candidates to choose from.

Electorate candidates can include independents and candidates from parties not contesting the party vote. 

The candidate who gets the most votes wins the seat.

(Source: Elections website)

Most migrants understand the electorate vote, but many migrants have no idea what the party vote is. The party vote is critical because every vote goes towards a pool and at the end of the day, they work out the % of votes each party obtained. This is roughly the % of seats the party will have in Parliament.

More details can be found on the elections website.

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3) Decide what is important to you

What are you most passionate about? Education? Student loans? Economy? Health etc?  

What would you like to see changed? What are you absolutely certain about?

You want to choose a candidate/ political party that fights for what you believe in. BUT you would not be able to find a single candidate or party who would agree with you 100%. This is why you have to decide on what is important, and what you can compromise on. 

There are 2 main political parties in New Zealand. The current Government is led by the Labour Party (under Helen Clark). Polls indicate that National Party has a good chance of winning. Then again, last time around, the polls said the same thing, and Labour Party still managed to form government. Look through the political party websites to see what they stand for. 

National Party: http://www.national.org.nz/About/standsfor.aspx

Labour Party: http://www.labour08.co.nz/policies/

There are many other minor political parties including New Zealand First, Maori Party, Act Party, Greens etc. You can google them.

4) Check out the candidates and parties.

Find out who is standing in your electorate. Attend political talks and debates. You can look at the political party websites to see where the next seminars are. A good source of information is your local community newspaper (eg. Central Leader), which advertises the upcoming political debates, rallies and seminars.

Keep up with the elections news. TV and newspapers are the traditional sources of information. Check out the blogs too. Google Blogs: elections NZ

One of the great things with living in this country is seeing ordinary folk walking up to MPs, complaining about footpaths being too narrow, high food and petrol prices and schools not teaching enough maths, languages etc. What's more amazing is how attentive politicians are, even when it's not election season. Do not be afraid to talk to politicians and ask hard questions. Don't worry. No one will laugh at your English.

Just because you're Asian doesn't mean you need to vote for an Asian. In fact, the pakeha guy may be more Asian-friendly than the Asian 🙂 Similarly, European New Zealanders shouldn't be afraid of voting for Asian politicians. This relates to the previous point: What is important to you?

5) Go with your heart.

The messages voters get are really confusing. It's very hard even for born-and-bred Kiwis to decide on who to vote for, let alone migrants. Ultimately, after having done your research, you will then need to decide on which candidate or party that is closest to your ideal.  

Perhaps one reason I get asked by migrants who to vote for is because they are trying to seek confirmation that the candidate/party they have chosen is the “right one”. The fear is that because they don't understand the New Zealand political process, perhaps there's the risk of choosing the wrong party (say one which is anti-immigration).

My personal view is that both the main parties are not that far apart policy-wise.  Although I have decided on who to give my party vote to, I don't think it's the end of the world if either of the big party forms government. 

As for my electorate vote, I'm still having a tough time deciding between Richard Worth and Rodney Hide. 

p/s: Don't ask who I'm voting for. I'm not saying 🙂

Who to vote? The 3-point version

OK you're here because you're too lazy to read my 5-point checklist, let alone do the research, so the shortcut way to decide on who to vote for is to:

1) Find 5 friends/family members who share similar values with you

2) Ask them who they are voting for and why

3) If you agree with their views, go with the majority vote.

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