Iraq: Assisting people displaced from Hawija

Medecins Sans Frontieres (“MSF”) is an international medical humanitarian aid organization that provides free, quality medical assistance to populations in crisis. MSF currently operates relief activities in over 69 countries around the world, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 in recognition of its independence, impact and impartiality in the delivery of vital humanitarian aid.

Mariko Miller is a Canadian emergency nurse working with MSF in Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, where MSF teams are providing healthcare to people forced from their homes by armed conflict, and supporting emergency care in two hospitals.

Many of the displaced people come from Hawija, a district southwest of Kirkuk that has been under the control of armed groups for more than two years. Since the intensification of military operations to retake the district in August last year, more than 80,000 Iraqis have fled Hawija (UNHCR). Many families tell about lack of food and fuel in the area, and about perilous journeys to reach safety. Despite the scale of people’s needs, humanitarian assistance remains largely insufficient.  

MSF mobile clinic in Tuz Kurmato (Kirkuk) (Photo: Ahmed Sami)

Mariko shares her account of assisting people arriving in Kirkuk:

“There are eyes darting around me in a crowd with a hyper vigilance I haven’t seen before, and I’m watching a little boy in the arms of his mother. His hands are desperately grasping at the air around him with an acute hunger that is painful to observe. There is a package of biscuits in a box in front of him and I watch his eyes focus in on them. He grasps the biscuits, then struggles with the plastic wrapper, and this image of him stays frozen in my mind. He is too young to be so hungry, too young to understand the decisions his family had to make to survive, or how this journey will define his future. Around him people are scattered in groups on the ground, huddled around boxes of food, eating desperately after six days of hunger and two years of suffering under the control of armed groups.

The boy is among 647 people who have arrived safely from Hawija, a place suffocated by suffering. All of these new arrivals chose finally to leave Hawija on a journey that some people don’t survive. Those caught trying to flee can be executed, and those who make it out of the town have to travel 7 km at night through a desert scattered with landmines and improvised explosive devices, where snipers sometimes hit their marks. The other night many families were executed after being caught trying to escape. It is a calculated risk they have taken: that to survive, they might die. But the ones in front of me have made it, they are alive.

Many women who come to me have tears that spill out of their eyes as they talk about the families they left behind – in an area that has been getting hit by aerial strikes and where an upcoming offensive is expected. There is a young woman who lost her entire family yesterday when they stepped on a landmine in the dark, and her grief is so palpable, so horrifying. There are many other people who sit silently, self-protective, eyes diverted, eyes that have seen more than eyes ever should, in a state of shock that feels impenetrable, yet necessary, because they are not yet free. They must still survive.

There is an older man who sits alone, short of breath and with a loud audible wheeze. I am giving him some Ventolin so he can breathe, but instead of breathing better, he starts to cry, and tears keep falling out of his eyes. His son is in Hawija. This is all he needs to say.

Sometimes it is the hardest thing, to hear these stories and to maintain a sense of professional composure, when I feel the tears just behind my eyelids, paralyzed but wanting to drop like the rain. I have no idea what to say other than, “Inshallah, [God willing] your son will arrive safely”. He looks at me with glassy eyes and repeats, “inshallah”, and looks up to the sky. Two little kids lost their mother in another landmine explosion yesterday en route. The air I breathe in is blanketed by suffering, and it is shedding layer after complicated layer all over the land.

Displaced children play amongst trucks in Kirkuk, northern Iraq (Photo: Baudouin Nach)

There is an eight-year-old boy who confronts me because his little sister is sick. He says he has not slept in days because at night the women sleep, and the young boys keep guard. He is serious and strong, his emotions flat. I see children hiding food in their pockets, and the sight of this hurts my mind because they are still surviving.

During this last week, several children have come through with blast injuries and our doctor has removed shrapnel and metal from little limbs and the team has safely transferred them to the emergency hospital in Kirkuk, which MSF is supporting. We see only the ones who make it, the ones who have survived the perilous journey and reached the entry points beyond the frontline, and we know there are many who have been left behind.

At a different entry point, a young man collapses on arrival as he exits the truck. He is unresponsive and pale, but alive. He is carried to our clinic and, while I grind my knuckles into his sternum to get him to respond, I see tears spill out of the edges of his eyes. He lies paralyzed on my floor, weeping, until finally he is able to sit up. He tells me how his parents were recently killed and his brother is in Hawija. His wife is pregnant with their first child and he feels overwhelmed by uncertainty. We sit on the clinic floor and his pregnant wife joins us and they cry together. He thinks I have saved his life and, with clasped hands, he tells me he will pray for me every night. His courage overwhelms me.

We are building our project from the ground up, and we are preparing for the days to come. We have started training staff in the main emergency hospitals and we are gaining access at entry points to provide a response for war-wounded and emergency arrivals. Our medical teams are growing quickly to build capacity, and the solidarity of the team makes it easy. The intersection of humanitarianism and medicine here reminds us of MSF’s identity, and the need for our presence is obvious. The gratitude from our patients is remarkably humbling and, as heavy as the air is in pockets here, we are all exactly where we need to be.”

As Médecins Sans Frontières has not been registered in Singapore, Singaporeans may donate to the organisation’s causes via its Hong Kong office at https://ssl.msf.hk/donate/en.

Aside from doctors, MSF is also in need of non-medical professionals for the efficient running of its medical activities and programmes. For those interested to work with MSF, kindly visit www.msf-seasia.org.

View from the Peak Blotter, 12 June 2016

Making “educated” bets on central bank outcomes, economic releases or elections is a hiding to nothing. Repeat after me. “I have no edge”. None of us do when it comes to events that are outside of our control. When it comes to investing, the only things we can influence is our entry and exit points. The entry points are vital because it establishes the framework we have predetermined, the approximate risk versus reward. The exit proves whether we were right or wrong. The rest is broadly out of our control because you cannot influence the markets’ reaction to news. You can make your best estimate of the outcome but that is it. The only certainty is price. Where you get in and where you get out and that can only be determined post the event. Public market investing sounds like an awful business model when I put it like that.

All we can do is look for anticipated asymmetric pay off structures. Given the current polling, I have no clue whether the UK will stay within the Eurozone. I think they should stay but that isn’t relevant. What I suspect is that the risk versus reward of asset markets is heavily skewed in favor of weakness. The SPX is within 2.0% of a one-year high, credit remains tight and carry trades are buoyant. Risk premium being priced into asset markets is not reflecting the level of risk. Sovereign bond markets have adjusted to the growing risk of Brexit and increasing evidence that the US employment outlook and the longest cycle in US history may have peaked but equity and credit markets have not. They will this week.

All year we have advocated that we are stuck in a broad trading range for the USD, stocks and credit. We are back at the top of the trading range for stocks and therefore we are short. Our belief that Brexit risk is not properly priced is something that just reinforces our view. All the headwinds we have spoken of all still exist: weak global growth, poor profitability, ineffective central bank policy, rich US equity valuations, slowing China. Yet when I speak to investors about selling here, the response I get time and time again is that the market is short and we are going to break out. Selling strength and buying weakness must improve your risk v reward. However, the average trader finds this difficult because it requires you to swim against the tide. Short markets can squeeze higher but only fundamental improvements force new price paradigms. This is not one of those times. From where I sit, the outlook for profitability and growth is deteriorating while asset market pricing is asymmetrically skewed the other way. The risk v reward of being short is outstanding. We will add 20% to our short stock position.

My crystal ball cannot predict the outcome of referendums so we will be covering all short risk strategies before the 23rd. By then, I feel that asset markets globally will have adjusted to reflect the potential for a binary Brexit outcome. A recent survey I saw showed that the consensus for the pound if Britain chooses to leave was 1.30 and 1.50 if they stay. So if the outcome is binary, shouldn’t the market reflect this by providing the same symmetrical outlook i.e. 1.40? That is my best guess. Euro will also weaken going into the vote as proxy trades are established. USD strength will be broad based (ex-yen), global stocks, credit, EM and all forms of carry will fall this week.

Fed is a non-event. Expect a repeat of Yellen’s speech in Philadelphia. Besides the FOMC meeting on Wednesday, several other Central Banks will be meeting this week. On Thursday, the Bank of Japan will convene, and later that day the Bank of England and the Swiss National bank. Expect nothing. Furthermore, Mr. Draghi will speak on Friday. Several countries will release CPI numbers this week; the UK on Tuesday, the Eurozone and the US on Wednesday, and Canada on Friday. Beside that data, we will also see Japan monthly Industrial Production on Tuesday, Unemployment numbers from the UK on Wednesday and from Australia on Thursday.

 

Paul Krake
Founder, View from the Peak
IND-X Advisors Limited

China Residential Property Update

As a part of View from the Peak’s Expert Conference Call series, we invited Robert Ciemniak, Founder and CEO of Real Estate Foresight to share with us his latest thoughts and projections for China’s residential property market. Real Estate Foresight’s analytical approach is unique, combining data science with on the ground research designed to support investors with their due diligence, city selection and strategy development on property investments in China.
 
Robert’s track record in forecasting China’s property prices has been excellent predicting the top in 2013 and the subsequent rebound a year later.   His discussion covered current price trends, the supply outlook and the pace of inventory work-down.  He also discusses a series of themes which points to the divergent nature of the market as a whole. While many of us fixate on nationwide indices, it is clear that China residential property market is more segmented and efficient than most give it credit for.
 
There is clearing, pricing, supply and volume divergence not only between Tier one, two, three and four cities but also within each tier and within each city itself. It is a sign of a very healthy market as there is price dispersion not only between cities themselves but also within cities and between neighboring projects. The Chinese buyer is becoming very discerning about the quality of the projects they acquire.
 
Policy divergence is also being witnessed with provincial and local governments showing discipline to ease price gains in booming cities such as Shenzhen and Shanghai. Other cities that haven’t benefited from the boom in the last 12 months continue to ease restrictions. Targeted, regionally implemented policy will always work more effectively than a generic nationwide approach. This means that we all need to take a sum of the parts approach when looking at housing policy. We need take a city by city approach, something Robert does well.
 
The market has become more concerned about oversupply speculating that price appreciation will accelerate new supply, exacerbating the inventory clearing in some areas. The source of concern is the Gross Floor Area (GFA) under construction vs. GFA of sales which could indicate a large amount of supply coming on line vs. demand. However, this must be looked at with certain caveats and in the context of other supply indicators. Slumping land sales and slow starts point to supply discipline that previously did not exist. Inventory clearing still has a way to go but quality properties clear quickly while others do not. Sounds pretty efficient to me.
His conclusion is that we are close to the top of this property upturn because policy tightening measures are starting to be implemented on a central and city level. However, the divergence in pricing and tightening restrictions means there are still investment opportunities on a more local or project-specific level.

Why is the South China Sea so Important?

On May 17, 2016, a U.S. patrol plane, conducting a routine patrol over international airspace, was intercepted by two Chinese fighter jets near the Hainan Island, off the southern coast of China. According to the Pentagon’s initial reports, the Chinese fighter jets conducted an ‘unsafe’ interception of the U.S. patrol plane, forcing the U.S. pilot to descend 200ft (60m) to avoid a mid-air collision. However, later on Thursday, Hong Lei from the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied any U.S. allegations, asserting that, "the US plane flew close to Hainan Island. Two Chinese aircraft followed and monitored at a safe distance. There were no dangerous maneuvers from the Chinese aircraft. Their actions were completely professional and safe." While the U.S. Department of Defense is said to be addressing this incident through diplomatic and military channels, Washington has accused Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea. In turn, Beijing severely criticized the increase of U.S. navy patrols and exercises in the region. Daniel Kim offers a larger analysis into this current situation 

Value Proposition of Funds? Using Managers or going Direct?

Many families have been dissuaded from investing in funds believing them to be poor investment value for money, an extra layer of fees and typically managed by firms that do not put the needs of their clients first. This may be true in some instances, but in others, funds are an important investment tool for families seeking to preserve capital.

CapGen, which evolved from the Said family office in Geneva, advises and manages money for families. An important part of its business is to scour markets to find the best fund manager solutions for our clients’ portfolios.  -Ian Barnard answers some questions family offices may face for investing in funds.

View from the Peak Blotter, 22 May 2016

Constantly repeating yourself is the domain of three types of people: Parents, the insane and market strategists. Two of the three definitely apply to me (some would say more) but unfortunately, it is a sad reality that certain things simply don’t change from day to day or week to week. It is often difficult not to continue to draw an identical conclusion when the facts point you in the same direction.

For several weeks now we have reiterated time and time again that the USD is going to rally, front end rates are moving higher and that commodity and emerging market outperformance was coming to an end. We may have focused on different segments; for example, Cindy discusses on page 3 that it is too early to cover iron ore shorts. While there is always a nuance set of circumstances to each market segment we look at, at the end of the day, iron ore pricing is about aggregate commodities and the near term gyrations in the value of commodities is often driven by the USD. Get the dollar right and you generally will get the broad direction of the commodity universe correct.

China's Debt Dilemma Presentation

Firstly, a huge thank you to Pieter Bottelier for his time and insights into China’s debt dynamics. It was pretty clear to all of us that we could have spent hours on this most complicated of topics and we have plans for Pieter to come back and share more thoughts at some date in the future. A further thank you to everyone who attended today’s webex and for the array of probing questions that we received.  

For those of you who were unable to listen live, I have attached a link to the recording of the webex and a copy of Pieter’s presentation.

Remember, if you are planning to watch the recording via a phone or tablet, you will need to download the webex app. Otherwise, you will be good to go on your desk top. A written, summary report of this call will be available next week.

Here is access to the recording:

https://meetings.webex.com/collabs/url/ASHY97hIc_jVQLkRPMRZiCMG884OLXHCGnnCiFtU6Ye00000

If we were not able to get to your question in the allotted time, please email me and we can get answers for you.

 

 

 

Credits: Paul Krake, View from the Peak IND-X Advisors Limited www.viewfromthepeak.com.hk

Renewable Energy Gaining Momentum

renewables

 

There’s definitely chatter on Renewables these days.

Green Investing. Clean Technology. Responsible Investing. Renewable Energy. Reducing Emissions. Solar Panels. Wind Turbines. Water Power. Rechargeable Batteries. Electric Cars.

THE GRID.

What are these buzz words? It’s turning out to be quite a movement. Environmental/health advocacy meets corporate responsibility meets political commitment to a sustainable future. It also means, despite the low oil price, there’s a revolution brewing against conventional energy (oil, gas, coal) for a eco-friendly and economically feasible alternative.

Charity Event Participant Interview

Rohit Nanwani participated in this past year's White Collar BoxingTM charity event and shares his experience below. He is from the Tolaram Group, with headquarters in Singapore and offices in Asia, Africa and Europe, which evolved from trading to manufacturing to brand building, establishing leadership in several industries across different regions.

White Collar BoxingTM (hosted by Vanda Boxing Club) is an annual event in which 20 men and women aged 25-55 compete in a controlled boxing environment. All participants go through a professional 12-week training program leading up to a 3-round bout in the ring. The event is sanctioned by the World Wide Collar Boxing Association (WWCBA).

The event beneficiary is the Children's Surgical Centre (CSC) in Cambodia. To date, over US$1.5 million has been raised, enabling CSC to perform over 9,000 operations for children free of charge.

Impact Investing for Family Offices

The recent Singapore Family Office meeting on "Impact Investing and Philanthropy" covered various routes that families have in setting up foundations, non-profit work and impact investing, depending on the aim and strategy of the endeavour.  Many families choose to run their own foundation for a cause that is very personal and meaningful, while others strategically work on a need-based approach. While the path of foundations, endowments, donations and patronage are quite clear, impact investing proved harder to define.

Finding Investment Value in Italy

The branding, “Made in Italy” is known globally that gives Italy a firm investment platform for investors locally and from abroad. Italy’s economy is made up of a vast diversity of small and medium sized family owned business forced by quality and qualified professionals that bring a niche products and services. Italy strategic geographical place facilitates exporting its products and services to all over the world and increases its industry brand awareness and makes it attractive for investors looking at real asset investments. Italy economy is also divided into highly developed manufacturing industry in the north of the country dominated by the private sector and agriculture industry in the south of the country, lending to diversification by industry.

Jaime Araujo’s Top Tips for Travellers who Love Wine

“No matter where I’ve lived in the world, coming back to Napa always feels like home. Here are my top tips but no matter where you go, you’ll love Napa!”

Wineries to visit:

Family Offices in Asia

The VP Bank / University of St. Gallen report on Family Offices in Asia aims to provide comprehensive insights into the current status and development potential of the emerging Asian market for Family Office solutions.

To download a copy of the report, please click here.

Family Wealth in Asia 2015

Hubbis has published their 2nd annual flagship publication to analyse the latest devleopments with regards to managing the wealth of Asia's growing number of HNW and UHNW families. The research covers practical opinions and case studies, focusing on specific challenges that not only HNW and UHNW families in Asia face, but banks and other advisers too - and the strategic options for addressing them. 

Click here to download a copy of the report.

 

Knight Frank Wealth Report 2015

Knight Frank partnered with WealthInsight to provide an analysis of wealth distribution trends covering almost 100 countries and over 100 cities. Knight Frank also draw on the views of thousands of active clients and investors, together with the expertise of their agency and consultancy teams, including those advising on alternative property sectors, such as healthcare, agriculture and student housing.

Society of Family Offices  |  20 Maxwell Road #09-17, Maxwell House, S(069113)  |  Tel: +65 6838 0852  |  E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.