Make 2009 a different year. For a start, tell yourself that you don't have to agree with everything other people say, especially politicians. When the politicians say it is good for you, double check, triple check, to see if it really is. If the politicians say it is fair, do the same, many times over. And if they say this is the best solution or policy, don't simply take their words for it. And don't just disagree, say it out, make it loud and clear. And if the politicians is talking cock, make sure he is reminded of it. Let him or her knows. This is what all the world class education that you are getting should mean. It should make every educated one a thinking person with a mind of his own. Not sheeples without a brain. Make a difference in 2009!
Come 20 Jan 2009 a rescue package is expected to be unveiled by the govt to help the people from the financial crisis. There are high hopes of new year angpows to tie in with the Chinese New Year a week later. This is going to be a tough CNY if no windfall is coming from somewhere. The govt is not expected to fail the people and will deliver like it did many times in the past. There will be handouts. But through past experiences the handouts must be squeezed out from somewhere. There is no free handouts and the people should also know better. This time it is going to be a bit tricky for the govt as the economy is also in technical recession and trade is contracting. Then the investment vehicles are not expected to do well. The known high profile investments in western banks are bleeding profusedly. What the people have yet to be told is the bigger picture of all the other investments by Temasek and GICs. They too can't be doing well when all the best fund managers in the world are going broke. If it is going to proclaim another profitable year, you can expect people to think of Madoff. But the govt is going to find the money to help the people. Where will this money come from?
Things are not what they are today. What you see is not really what you get as many factors come into play. A person in Malaysia or Indonesia may own 2 or 3 houses but each costing $100k or $200k. A Singaporean may own just one HDB flat with a value of $700k. Who is richer? And the picture could change if the person owning 2 or 3 houses actually got them fully paid up or owes the bank a small loan. The Singaporean could be tied to a $500k loan and need a steady income to service that loan. And add to this, the cost of living in the neighbouring county is relatively that much lower than here. A dollar there could buy so much more. Who is richer?
Quek Soo Beng’s letter in the Today paper yesterday asked some pertinent questions about the Sinking Fund and the Town Councils Act and role with respect to the fund. For all intent and purposes, the money collected from the residents in the form of conservancy charges etc and placed in the Sinking Fund is for the purpose of maintaining the estate. It was never meant to be used for investment purposes. Should the Town Council intend to invest the money, the main concerns will be capital preservation and not risking it for higher returns. The provisions of the Town Councils Act may be give the wrong impression that it is expected of them to use the Sinking Fund for investment. This unintended function of the Town Council may lead to situations where the main function of the Sinking Fund be forgotten and with the residents contributing unnecessarily more money to it. When the Town Council sees its role as investing the money collected, then there is no limit as to what is enough in the Sinking Fund. And when there are profits from investments or when the Sinking Fund is bloating with excess, there will be no requirement to return the extra fund to the residents. And for all purposes, the residents may be expected to contribute more and more, for investments and more returns, and for the building up of a bigger reserve. It is therefore very important that the purpose of the Sinking Fund be made very clear, ie., to set aside enough money to maintain the estate. And when the amount is sufficient, then it should stop collecting or increase the conservancy charges. The collecting of conservancy charges is not for fun or for the purpose of keeping for rainy days or for investment. When there is a need for more money for estate management, the fees may be raised accordingly. For expediency and contingency purposes, Town Council may want to set aside a little more as a reserve. This amount too must be spelt out. Otherwise the reserve can be for 20 years or 100 years.
With so many frauds being disclosed, with so many people losing their fortunes, it is sad that the only person they could point the finger at is Madoff. What about all the thieves that have enriched themselves all these years in the financial industry? The auditors, the regulators, the CEOs, etc etc? Are they all innocent? How I wish America is a communist state today. You know what the communists did to the thieves that plundered and stole the people's money? They either decapitated them or shot them in a firing squad. But with a justice system that pays big money to the lawyers to find someone guilty or to defend the thieves and make them innocent, there will be no natural justice but the justice of money and power.
Watching the football match between Vietnam and Thailand was like watching two nations battling for honour and national pride, and not just for money or for personal glory. These are the simple things in countries that are still 'backward' and not ruled by money. The people will do anything to defend the honour of their countries without asking how much is in it for them. There are money involved for sure. But they will not trade national honour for money in such a game. Sometimes for sophisticated and modern countries like ours, we tend to sneer at their simplicity. We may even find it amusing for them to be sweating their guts out just for some national glory but not for the millions which they could demand in view of their talents. These talented players should join the commercial leagues where all the monies are and their talents be duly rewarded. The rich countries will be most willing to pay for their talents to play, to win or lose depending the the bets on the table.
HDB is building more 2 rm flats for the baby boomers who are hitting the 60s. Nice thought and nice planning. Since the late 60s till the 80s, HDB probably have built flats for a whole generation baby boomers and see them grow, settle down, raised families and now time to retire comfortably into their golden years. The baby boomers were the most successful generation of self starters, stepping out from a time when poverty was the norm. Many are living in bigger HDB flats and private properties. With children having their own families and leaving the roosts, some may want to cash out and live on the gains from their inflated assets. Typically they would have bought their HDB flats for between $20k to $40k and could now sell them for $400k or more. Neat profit. If a 2 rm flat costs $150k, there is still plenty of money to live by, provided they qualify for the purchase if they have not used up their two bites of the cherry. The good news is that there will be many of these bigger flats available for the young to pick up. The bad news is that these young couples did not have the same opportunities as the baby boomers, where the prices of flats were relatively low to their income. The cost of flats to the baby boomers was about 20 or 30 times their monthly salary, on one pay packet. A $400k flat today will be about 400 times that of a $4k monthly income or 200 times that of a $8k combined income. It looks like HDB lives on one cycle, taking care and planning for the baby boomers. The subsequent cycles or new generations will have to take care of themselves. Or maybe they are being taken care off by having better quality flats to suit their sophisticated lifestyles.
In 2008 I am pleasantly surprised that I could create more than 200 myths. When I first started on this thread I was doubting myself that I could even write 20 myths. Then 100 went pass and then 200. Now I am even toying with the idea of the 1000 myths of Lion City. The best part of it all is that the most mystifying myths are being debunked as tooths or, now what am I saying, is it the most indestructible truths becoming myths? Anyway, it was mystifying. Everyday we are challenging the conventional wisdom and the great tooths of the day and seeing one by one falling by the way side. But don't be despair, more tooths will be proclaimed and more myths will come or way. It was also a year of great education. The Singaporeans were being educated everyday with each crisis getting more serious and nearer to home. But I bet with you, the Singaporeans have yet to learn a thing. They are still as complacent as before, as silly as before. They would not want to think and would live their thinking to other people. And they have great faith that all will be well if they just see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing and do nothing. God will be there to watch over us. And god will be kind and bless us to eternity with good fortunes.
In March this year the official figure given was that Temasek was managing $185b of assets. If these were in equity or equity related assets and stocks, my guesstimate is that it would have lost 50% of its value at least. But the figure will be much better if kept in fixed deposits or less risky assets that are saved from the financial crisis. If the loss is in the 50% region, I said if, the loss must be made up from somewhere. I fear the money in CPF. Would the minimum sum and Medisave be further increased? Would the withdrawal age be further delayed? Would there be new measures to shift the goal posts? There are now more reasons to wish that our investments are intact, that the talented fund managers are doing well to keep them growing or at least not losing. There are more reasons not to change the govt so that the talents and the continuity will help to safeguard our assets and investments, and our future. The CPF is like a sacred cow. It is the people's hard earned money and must rightfully return to the people for their own benefit at the earliest possible time. Definitely not till they are dead or near death. This is simply bad. I have all the time this bad feeling, and I can be totally wrong on this, that there are people with designs on our CPF money. To keep the CPF for as long as possible to enable them a cheap source of fund for their own investment schemes. I hope I am wrong. I hope the real reasons to keep the money for as long as they can is really for the good of the people, in the interests of the owners. But should anyone really have wrongful designs, they must know that the designs are wicked and will do them no good. The first is the intent to 'sapu' money. No one should ever think of it as the CPF money rightly belongs to the people and depriving the people from getting it back is already sinful, if not criminal. Decent and honourable people who believe in not doing evil should never harbour such thoughts. The second intent to use the money for whatever schemes or things, may include thoughts of returning the gains to the people, if there are gains, may have some mitigating factors to lower the ill effects of the first intent. But if it is just to exploit this cheap source of fund with no regards to rewarding the owner of the money, it is unforgiveable. Seeing it in any other way is still a dirty thing to do. Do I sound like preaching or delivering a sermon? The rights and wrongs of such acts and intents are difficult to dispute or wish away. Do not have designs on the people's hard earned money for private interests. If there are, it is better to let the owners know and seek their permission and forgiveness. Do not temper with money that is not yours.
Christopher Cox complained that he was under intense pressure from Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke to ban short selling in September 2008. Now, why would Paulson and Bernanke deemed it necessary and urgent to ban short selling? Both must have known the dangers of short selling and the damage it could have done. They were key players in short selling before, or at least Paulson must have been, being a fund manager. Many hedge funds blamed the banning of short selling for losing their pants. For it is in short selling that they have an edge against the normal small time investors. When the funds longed a position, it is very difficult to sell at a profit as the small investors will be reluctant to buy high or higher. They too will be waiting to sell. On the contrary, for shorting a stock, it will attract more investors to buy as the stock becomes cheaper. The trick by the hedge funds is to sell and push the price even lower to force out the long positions. And the funds don't sell in the thousands, they sold in millions to drive down a stock price. Short term investors will run for their lives as they cannot hold and will cut their positions. Long term investors too will liquidate for fear of something really wrong with the company. Those who pledged their shares will have their positions forced out by the banks. So will margin traders. It is a vicious cycle and the stock will keep going down with increasing momentum. That's when the hedge funds make their money by buying back at rock bottom prices. It is a very destructive method of trading stocks to make money. It destroy stocks, companies and stock exchanges and of course the investors. Trust me, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke knew what they were doing. Cox is just another cock that could not see the danger of his inaction. And there are many cocks like him around.
The world is increasingly interconnected with businesses and money flow all intertwined in a complex web. The pulling of one string will affect every corner of the web. Talking about a niche market maybe a nonsensical whim and fancy proposition. It is better to be like everyone, be everything, and be part of a big web. But being in a niche market in the midst of a bigger complexity is nothing new. Every small biz is trying to differentiate itself, to find their own niche. Can our stock market differentiate itself and find its own niche instead of being a little flotsam that drifts with the tide and taking directions from everyone? In recent years our stock market has been a non player for all its worth. It is lost in an ocean that is too big for its own good. Now is the time to reflect and seek a new direction as to its role and reason for its existence. Forget about being everything or like everyone else. Carve out its own niche and find a path for its own existence. The interdependency is there. The world's economy will affect everyone and us. The money flow will still affect the tide. Here calls for the exceptional talents of supertalents to be different, just like being a safe haven for funds to be parked here. We need a stock market that can shield itself from the tsunamis, be resilient and stay afloat for its own reasons. Small can still be beautiful and useful in its own ways. We can select our own stocks, dictate our own rules, play a game that is designed for our own good, or be lost and perished in the ocean that we have no control. Under the present crisis, the funds managers must be looking for exactly such a market for safety. Unfortunately there is none around. If our stock market is seen as a safe haven, we would have provided the funds a way to safety in trouble times.
Come next year there will be a big announcement that all the units at the Pinnacles Duxton have been snapped up at the new market price. This will vindicate that the pricing is correct, that there is real demand for such units even at higher prices. And there will be interviews with the happy and successful proud owners for being so lucky to own them. More such flats will be built in the future to cater for the growing demands, at market prices of course.
Yes, with so much wealth, a disneyland like environment, Singaporeans could all be much happier, more contented if there are less criticism and cynicism of the ways things are. If only Singaporeans just count on their blessings and be happy with what they are and do what they are supposed to do, this will be the dreamland of happy people. The people who are supposed to sweep the floor or wipe the tables, be happy doing it. The workers work and do their best, the food courts serve their best dishes, the businesses do their roaring businesses and the let the politicians run the country as they are supposed to. How nice things can be. The fault lies with all the critics and cynics. They should stop all the gripes and kpkb. Let all and one perform their fated roles in life and all will be fine. There is really no big problems here. Everyone has a job, a roof over their head, clothing and enough food to eat. It is a real paradise. Just look at the beautiful parts of everything around us. The future can only be more beautiful.
Was Wall Street a victim of incestuous relationship? All the evidences pointed towards that direction. The regulators not doing their job to regulate, the auditors slept on their job or not doing their due diligence and got away with murder, and the con men allowed to con their way through, duping all the Americans, including foreigners, rich and poor. And they did what they did for years. In the meantime everyone was celebrating the greatness and genius of these supertalents. This is the other part, other than incestuous relationship, the state of delusion. The madness of idolizing the big earners who were cheating all the way by paying themselves crazy was seen as good, all worthy of their huge pay packets and demanding more everyday to justify their worth. The combination of incestuous relationship and delusion is a potent concoction. The former prevented the checks to be conducted expeditiously by the people tasked with the jobs, the watchdogs afraid to bark for fear of being muffed, and the law enforcers turned a blind eye thinking that supertalents cannot be wrong. And every year end would be time for their big bonus handouts, everyone laughing all the way to the banks. And despite the fraud being exposed, they are still laughing all the way to the banks. The delusion is still unshaken. The same formula of success is still intact. The supertalents will still be paid their supertalent salaries and bonuses. And in the New Paper SEC's CEO Christopher Cox regretted for banning the short selling of financial stocks which he might think would have saved the market from falling. His position, a very familiar one, was to do nothing. "What we have done in this current turmoil is stay calm, which has been our greatest contribution - not being impulsive, not changing the rules willy nilly, but going through a very professional and orderly process that takes into account unintended consequences and gives ample notice to market participants." This kind of non action is only good when the system is sound and not flawed. When it is flawed, when there is non regulation or closed one eye regulation, when there are frauds, it is the surest and shortest cut to destruction. And exactly because of his non action that Madoff could pull off his con job for so long. The kind of mess that minibond would have caused, and more serious if not abruptly exposed, to our investors. It will happen to our stock market and financial system too if we do not repair the damage to the system and pretend that everything is fine and do just nothing, like Cock. Oops I mean Cox.
It is so ridiculous that cyberspace has now been use to its best to ridicule officialdom. Any dignitary, thoroughbred, infallible or otherwise supreme talent that once was sharing sermons of wisdom is now the convenient target of ridicules if he/she reveals his/her true self too often. The weapon of ridicule is perhaps the most power weapon available at this point in time to netizens. I think netizens know that there is nothing that they can do to engage in a real discussion with officialdom. They know that they will be ignored for good reasons. So, at best, they will make a silly statement looks even more silly than it really was. But would it matter? I think no. Officialdom lives in another world and there is no engagement. The hardcore netizens swear that they will not read the old media or main stream media. Likewise officialdom will not waste time in cyberspace to read the ridiculous postings. Officialdom will simply say what they want to say in the old media and that's it. It is official. When shall the Twains meet? Or will ever the Twains shall meet? Actually I got this feeling that they met but pretended not to meet. And cyberspace will remain as ridiculous as it can get while the old media will remain as official as it can get.
The key questions in everyone's mind today is risk in investment. How much risk to take and capital protection. Would the investment lead to a total wipe out of the capital put in. In the minibond case, many were looking at long term bond or fixed deposit equivalent that have very little risk of losing their capital. They are looking for a little better than the pathetic interest rates for fixed deposits with minimal risk or no risk at all. Then in the case of Madoff's ponzi scheme, many of the investors went in for a consistent and respectable return for their money on the track records of Madoff's company and Madoff's reputation. A lot of assumptions were taken for granted eg SEC regulations, audit checks were expected to be in order and no fraud was expected. There were risks but none of the investors would have considered them or have sleepless night over them. They could lose some money if the investment climate changed but neither would they ever thought of losing it all. Then again investing in an institution like Madoff's and in a normal situation would be like walking into a bank to buy unit trust, a long term investment that could not go too much wrong. When a financial crisis is brewing, when a major financial institution is in financial trouble, or any big corporations in need of fund to survive, the need for due diligence is much heightened. Putting money into a crisis organisation is like putting in good money after bad money. How bad is the situation and how high is the risk must be the major considerations before committing millions or billions into it. And when millions and billions are concerned, capital protection must be vital. This is not placing bets in a casino where one is prepared to lose the whole bet. This is investment, investing huge sums of money with calculated risks and knowing how much to lose. Going into such high risk investments in a risky situation is different from investing in a Madoff fund or even a minibond equivalent. Here the risk is very high and very real, an organisation about to turn turtle. People cannot go into such critical investments using huge sums of money without protecting their investments and risk losing everything. We have pumped billions of public money into distressed banks and financial institutions recently. Were the risks carefully evaluated and the capital protected by some conditions or agreements without having to lose all or a major part of it? Or were the people deciding on these investments prepared to lose everything without protecting the capital? We are losing a lot of money, public money, and some bets could end up losing everything. High risk high return is as good as gambling in the casino. Investing is not about losing but managing loss and maximising returns. If losing everything is not a factor in the decision making, then it is a highly dangerous adventure. Maybe the risk of losing is computed from the total sum of funds under management. If one is managing $100 billion, taking a calculated risk to lose $10 billion in a single investment is risking 10% of the whole and acceptable. This may be what some fund managers would think. But think again. If the funds are public money, and the 10% is in the billions, it is not a peanut monopoly game. It is risking real money, substantial amount of money. I believe all the supertalents who are paid supertalent salaries must have weighed all these factors carefully before they made the decisions. They are paid good money and are expected to do their due diligence.
I just try to visit TOC and this message greeted me. This account has been suspended. My goodness! What have I done to be suspended from TOC? I hope this is a technical error. My mind is running wild with all kinds of possibilities. TOC may want to explain to me quickly.
The last one and the half years are trying times and have put the A Team to its test. Did they come out with flying colours? From the comments and discussions and criticisms in cyberspace, they don't seem to have done well. In contrast, the old media would probably run accolades across their pages if they were to write about the great achievements of the a Team. From the moment the news broke on the elitist and uncaring face, the NKF, Mas Selamat, CPF Life, Medisave, HDB market pricing, ERPs and public transport fares, electricity tariffs, GST, investment of reserves, minibonds etc etc, the solutions or the way they were handled fell far short, very short, of the expectations of what an A Team can do. Some may disagree and still have great faith in the A Team and would think that these are the best we got and the best were done. For those who expect better, they may want to look for a better A Team, one that pays $10 mil each instead of the present paltry sum of $2m to $4m. We should be looking for rocket scientists, the best legal minds from Yale, the best economic minds from Harvard or whatever to become politicians. We can pay for them. After all we have paid so much just for a few pieces of medals from the sports arena. The money will be well spent for a better A Team to run the country. Unfortunately my reservation is that God has his own plans. God does not endowed an Einstein to be a great scientist to become a politician. Making an Einstein a politician will make the human race lose a great scientist and gain a mediocre politician but paid a great scientist income. It also goes for a Bill Gate. We would not have MicroSoft but a very average politician who will be very unhappy that he did not make his multi billion income and scheming everyday to make a few millions more. A rocket scientist or the brightest mind in any profession is not a sure formula for a great national leader. You need one with a heart in the right place. There may be some freaks in history that are great in the profession as well as in leading a nation. But freaks don't appear often. One swallow does not make a summer. Is the A Team formula a right formula?
After reading the discussion in TOC, I am also convinced that we should support Raymond Lim's idea of a 1.5% GST increase and free transport for all Singaporeans. And if we continue to charge the same price for PRs and non foreigners, maybe no need 1.5% increase, 1% maybe good enough. Let's all support this brilliant suggestion. Assuming if a household's expenditure is $4k, 1.5% will be $60 pm. A family of 4 will probably save $200 or more a month with free public transport. OK, no deterioration in service must be a pre condition. A family spending $2k pm will only add another $30 pm. And everyone can travel freely all over the island any time of the day and year. It will be good socially and for all businesses. The rich who spend big sure won't mind paying a little more. Or they can take some back by taking public transport and park their cars at home. Good for reducing traffic jams too. Give the man a Tiger, man!
Goh Eng Yeow wrote in the ST yesterday about the deplorable stock market, a stock market of penny stocks or worthless stocks. A stick of cigarette costs many times more than many of the stocks which are selling for less than 30c, some even less than 5c. Worst, companies dare not list here for they know that there will be very few subscribers. Imagine a stock market when companies are finding it difficult to raise money? And some are still sitting in their ivory towers thinking that we have the best stock market in the world and trading activities are still very good. We need a thorough revamp to save this stockmarket before the karang guni men move in to pick up the leftovers. Many stock exchanges have enforced a ban on short sellings which wiped off the hedge funds and their destructive activities against stocks. We are still merrily sleeping and wining with the hedge funds and allowing them to do their damages to the stocks. In the mean time our stocks will remain as penny stocks. Any up movement is just a respite, like the fattening of the lambs for the slaughter.
Half of CPF members who invested in stocks and other financial products lost money. And those who have liquidated their shares lost less while those that are still holding onto them stand to lose more as the future of stocks and shares are bleak. How could that be? Statistically, historically, based on past records, anyone who invests in stocks for 25 years will see his returns doubled or tripled. These CPF investors should take a long term view, maybe keep their money invested for another 20 or 30 years. After all they are all going to live till 85 or 100. So stay invested and the losses will turn into profits in a matter of time. Just be a believer and all things will be fine. In the meantime just keep your fingers crossed and pray.
This myth is destroyed for good. There is a link, but indirectly, to oil price. According to Transport Minister Raymond Lim, "This is because the public transport fare is not directly linked to the oil prices. We link it to national factors, like the inflation level in Singapore, and the wage level in the whole of Singapore." So be careful when your wage level goes up. It will only cause transport fare to go up. Maybe another kind of market pricing like HDB, not related to cost of producing the goods or services.
Then we have Mardan Mamat. Now we have Lam Chih Beng. Chih Beng won the Volvo Masters in Bangkok. These are our local talent heroes. Shall we continue to spend millions on foreign talents or use the same money to groom our own local talents?
Singaporeans are feeling that the value of their citizenships has been violated. For the more sophisticated international citizens, they are constantly upgrading their citizenships to a better one. From a third world citizenship, the first stepping stone is to go for one that is easy and fast to get. This is the citizenship from paradise. The paradise citizenship is a passport to many better countries. A few years in paradise, plus working experience, and maybe upgrading the educational qualifications as well, these new citizens will be ready for their next upgrade, likely to Australia. And they will keep on upgrading, to UK and finally to US. This is the prized citizenship. Once they have attained this high level of citizenship, they can than ship around the world as the privilege citizens of the world’s superpower. They will call themselves Americans and may revisit their roots, their country of origins, as the successful entrepreneurs coming home. Or they may return to paradise as PRs while keeping their American citizenship for protection.
Why would the residents of Macpherson asked for free public transport, free travel in MRT and buses! What kind of mindset is that? It shouldn't be asked at all. And Raymond Lim was right to tell them off. Running the trains and buses cost money. If free, then money must come from somewhere to pay for it. The people must be sensible when asking for help. Better not to actually if they have a choice. Any money given to help must be taken from somewhere. When someone is being helped, someone else has to pay for it. The $200b reserves cannot be used for charities unless the situation is so bad. No one can anyhow spend the reserves to help the people.
By Spengler Now that the whole horrible truth has come to light, I have no more reason to conceal my true identity. I am Bernard Madoff. Well, not really. But I wish I were. Few Americans have done more to punish stupidity, pretension and complacency than Madoff, whose apparent US$50 billion swindle calls to mind the caper by Mephistopheles in the second part of Goethe's Faust. The fictional devil persuaded the emperor to issue paper money against buried treasured yet to be discovered.... Most gratifying is the fleecing of the rich and famous - director Steven Spielberg, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, and even actress Uma Thurman's financier boyfriend Arpad Busson got stung, along with a list of supposedly savvy investment firms. The man deserves a medal. Deplorable, to be sure, is the ruin of hundreds of families who entrusted Madoff with their life savings, not to mention charities and school endowments. Call them collateral damage.... The very rich believe what F Scott Fitzgerald said about them, that "the very rich are different from you and me". Serried ranks of lawyers, accountants and financial advisors surround them and keep them from harm. Madoff proved otherwise, making a few of them into paupers and humiliating a very large number of them. Not because of what they do, but because of who they are, the very wealthy consider themselves above the fate of ordinary people. They know the right people, they join the right clubs, and they have access to the right advice.... Madoff has given Americans a lesson in humility that is cheap and painless by comparison. America's elite - the people characterized as "one-trick wizards" who lived off leverage (see Obama's one-trick wizards, Asia Times Online, November 25, 2008) - turn up as a self-satisfied, feckless gang of incompetents who could not spot the wolf within their own sheepfold.... If that sounds deluded, what shall we say about hedge-fund investing for the masses, who believed that American home prices would double every 10 years, as the National Association of Realtors continues to claim in television advertisements? Perhaps they should call themselves Sur-realtors. Madoff offered small change compared to Mom and Pop America, who put 10% down on a home that appreciated 10% each year, for an annualized return on capital of 100%. I copied the above from SingaporeKopitiam and have deleted parts that were irrelevants. The leftovers are pertinent points that we cannot afford not to know before another MadeOff happens here.
Singapore-in-crisis The new heroes In these times, it is not the elites that that deserve mass public accolade - but the simple food hawker who keeps his fare down. A tribute to them from Seah Chiang Nee. Dec 20, 2008 IN TODAY’S crisis, what group of people do Singaporeans most likely accept as their regular heroes – politicians, company CEOs or bankers? Answer: None of the above! I believe it is the simple food hawkers who keep their prices low in adverse conditions, something that exerts a major, repeated impact on every family. Let me explain my choice. Recently, I was attracted by a queue in front of a suburban hawker stall that was selling breakfast at a price I thought had long been extinct in Singapore. An overhead sign reads “Economic Beehoon (rice vermicelli) @ S$1.60”, a simple, nutritious dish that included a fair portion of vegetable and an egg. During these harsh times, with the cost of living at a 26-year high, vendors who sell food at this price are few and far between. They have become Singapore’s new unsung heroes... The above is part of an article posted in www.littlespeck.com by Seah Chiang Nee. When the hawkers can think of holding down their prices at times like this, mind you, they are talking about saving a few cents, taking a little lesser from the people, how would this compare to the $180K price hike of Pinnacles Duxton by HDB? And HDB said it is fair, the fairest! And many Singaporeans agree that what HDB is doing is fair. Unbeliever, but that is how these Singaporeans believe in. The only reason for people to think like this, is that they must be benefitting from the inflated prices in some way. Just ask a simple question. Who is the main cost of high inflation and high cost of living?
Sunday is a good time to take a break. God also takes his break on Sunday. Take the family to church or welcome all the children and grandchildren home for a family lunch. Go to the beach, to the parks, read a book or indulge in a little hobby of doing something just for the loveof it, for a little pleasure, not for money. Allowing oneself to unwind, to be free from the mundane and repetitive daily chores and struggling, it is the same everywhere, in a 800 sq ft HDB flat or in a 30,000 sq ft sprawling bungalow. It is a little moment of release from the material world. Looking at the sky without purpose, looking at the trees or the birds, sharing the sight and creation of nature. Won't it be nice if Sunday is everyday? Far from the maddening crowd? Leaving all the pursuits of material comfort to the following week when the mind is put to the gruelling threadmill of making more money, of surviving. How many people can take a simple break like a quiet Sunday, free from worries, free from the problems of this materialistic world? You be surprised that many are still caught in their own mess, unable to untangle themselves from the financial woes they have stepped into. And many are worrying themselves to death. Freeing oneself from worries seems so easy, so effortless. But not really. Our lives are not really ours to take charge. Other people are planning our lives everyday of the week, how we live, how much we have, and how much to take from us, especially our savings. In the end, many ends up with very little for themselves and have to spend their Sundays worrying how to make ends meet. And the best part is that all the hustlings to take your money away, or to make you spend or empty your pocket is for your own good. The old saying, if you have friends like this, you do not need any enemy. Has anyone ever wonder whether the people who are claiming to be helping them, who are doing all the things for their good, are the people who are killing them, slowly, like hanging heavier and heavier millstones on the people's necks? Give the people a break.
Our beloved model of progress, America, where we copied practically everything except for political system, is showing us how wrong that system is. The financial system has been a con game all the while and we imbibed everything wholeheartedly as the elixir of life. The culture of greed is mirrored in every aspect of our society to the extent that we idolised greed and brushing aside the little goodness that is left in the heart of the little man. We throw away all the goodness and virtues as nice sentiments that are not realistic in this brave new world of greed. The more greedy the more respectable. Allow me to quote a few phrases from a report by AFP, Bloomberg and AP in the ST today on what Obama will be doing. He slammed 'Wall Street for a me first mindset that fed the financial meltdown,...Congress, the White House, financial fat cats and regulators who, he said, "fell asleep at the switch".' There is the 'failure of oversight and accountability'. 'He pledged to "crack down on the culture of greed and scheming that's led us to this day of reckoning".' He thought the Americans were frustrated because 'there's not a lot of adult supervision out there.' The systems were supervised by a bunch of greedy old juveniles. The Madoff's case "has reminded us yet again of how badly reform is needed when it comes to the rules and regulations that govern our markets." We may not have cases of such a scale here, but we do have our shares of spectacular frauds. Maybe the big ones are waiting to be uncovered. The SEC under Christopher Cox, 'is accused by the critics of turning a blind eye to market abuses by well connected banks and financial firms. The agency failed to detect ample signs of trouble on Wall Street that lead to the global economic meltdown,...' Obviously the SEC were going after the small thefts committed by the little guys and closed their eyes to the big and powerful and well connected. The Americans have two systems, one for the rich and one for the poor.
Tan Kin Lian is the new breed of politicians appearing on the scene in troubled times like this. This is a politician that comes from a different mould, with different ideas and values. Tan Kin Lian is offering the people a new kind of politicians that will change the political landscape and new ways of doing things. He is still collecting his 100,000 signatures, which is a sign of how much the people wanting a change. He is not perfect for sure. I wonder if there is any politician that is perfect or godlike. I am not sure how many people following this forum/blog will give him a vote of confidence. I for one will give him mine. I think he is as good as any politician in Parliament today. I no longer feel comfortable with the new values and ways of doing things and a change with credible people is good for everyone.
I have been posting about the obscene prices of HDB flats at Pinnacles Duxton for a while and have seen some responses to my views. I must admit here that it is not an easy task for the govt to cater to the needs of all the people. It often has to make tough decisions. And these decisions made are not an issue of right or wrong but a matter of judgement and values. To price the same flats sold at an average of $300K with decent profit by another $180K comes out as milking the people to the maximum. This is my view. But the HDB/govt do not think so. It said, repeatedly, that this is the fairest way of pricing HDB flats. And they sincerely and honestly believe that this is the best method. They are transparent about it, not batting an eyelid when they argued in favour of this method. I am not saying that they are wrong. I am saying that it is obnoxious and I fully disagree that the govt should just slap a $180k bill onto its people, arbitrary, on the ground that the market is willing to pay for it. Today I read that the US govt is coming out with new laws to protect consumers from arbitrary increases in interest rate or related stuff. Basically the principle is the same. Protecting the consumers from profiteers. Can this Pinnacles case be considered as profiteering? What is the position of CASE? Its mission is to protect the consumers. Do they agree with this kind of pricing policy? CASE cannot just shut up and pretend not to see or hear. The amount may not be as big as a peanut but is a very big sum of money to the buyers. Then there are the MPs. Do they also agree to this policy? If they don't, why are they not fighting to get it thrown out? Or is simply raising questions in Parliament is job well done, nothing can be done anymore? If this is considered a fair practice by the govt, if this is their definition of fairness, then the people must accept that all govt policies will be based on this kind of principles. The people get the govt they deserve.
Not my problem. They were brought in by contractors and abandoned by contractors. So the contractors responsible should take care of their problems. There were 179 Bangladeshi workers out of job, out of money, out of food, and no where to go. Who should do something to help them? Like it or not, they now become a social problem to everyone. The whole process of bringing in foreign workers and the problems arising is going to fall flat on the citizens and the govt. The contractors are going to abscond and the people and govt will have to pick up the pieces. For these poor workers, sending them back is only the beginning of their bigger problems. They have a huge debt to settle that the cannot be settled without a job and an income here. And now it is only 179. It can be 1790 or 17900. Then what?
Anyone watched the match between Singapore's A Team against Vietnam last night? It was our best team and half of the players were foreigners. And they were playing against this greenhorn team that just started to learn to play football after half a century of warfare. It was so humiliating to see how good the Vietnamese were. Their speed, aggression and the accuracy in their passing. Our footballers were just kicking the ball without knowing where the ball will go to. The Vietnamese could do anything they want even in front of our goal posts. They dribbled and wriggled pass the Singapore players as if the latter were pieces of stiff woods. How could the Vietnamese learn to play football the way they did? And they did not have to pay for foreign talents. All local born talents. Maybe they learnt to play footballs during the war years. It was so unfortunate that they did not get a goal through our goal posts. They were clearly superior, a class above our local/foreign talent team. If Vietnam can do it, if Thailand can do it, why can't we?
Mahathir and his sons are pushing to revive the building of the crooked bridge. It seems that this is the only way to save all the problems in Johore and the CIQ. There is no other way! Why can't or won't they consider expanding the Causeway? It is cheaper to build and to maintain, and more efficient. Or is it too cheap to build and thus cannot charge too high a toll fee when built as compare to a crookd bridge? Mahathir must learn to live by his own principles, that there are many ways to skin a cat. If a crooked bridge is obviously flawed and doesn't make economic sense, try other ways.
Madoff, in all counts, is a supertalent in a league of his own. How many supertalents can count so many other supertalents as victims of their talents? And Madoff has the whole world's financial talents and the super rich crawling on their knees to feed him. And now the Americans are not only charging him, they confiscated his properties and passports, and put an electronic tag on his leg. This is very demeaning and inappropriate to treat their once hero. He was a very generous man, helping a lot of people, with charitable foundations in his name. These should be good enough mitigating factors to treat him nicely. And his talents can still be put to good use. Such a waste.
We expect our children to ask a lot of questions. They must, it is the process of growing up. But as adults, at times asking silly questions one will get only silly answers. That is what asking questions is all about. You ask and expect an answer and the other party just gives you an answer. That's all there is to it. The process stops there. In the school environment, things are a little different. The children are expected to ask and the teachers are expected to give a decent answer. A child may ask what is a bird and the teacher will do his/her best to explain what is a bird. As an adult, you try asking what is a bird and you can expect a thousand answers depending on who, what and why the person wants to answer that question. The same process of asking questions in Parliament has been going on year after year. The MPs asked questions and the ministers replied. That is the end of the matter. Is that satisfactory? Would the people affected by the minibond crisis just want to ask questions? Would the people going to buy HDB flats with inflated prices based on market pricing happy with just asking why and be contented because HDB said it is fair? Obviously not. They are demanding for actions to change the situation. In the case of minibonds, they want their money back, they want the guilty to be punished, they want the selling of such products stopped. In the case of HDB pricing to market prices, they don't agree and want it change. They want the price to come down to something nearer to what the prices of the first batch. They are disgusted with the obscene profits the HDB is making at the expense of hanging a millstone on their necks for the next 30 years. Basically they are not just asking question to get a silly reply and to move on. But some still think that giving an answer, any answer, is good enough and the people are expected to move on, or the problem is solved. How cocky!
This is Matilah's favourite line. And it holds a lot of simple truth. I will elaborate a little of this wisdom here. The HDB said the market pricing is fair. The hospitals preferred to have more A and B1 wards instead of B2 and C wards. High rentals and high property prices are good. If a govt is for all these things, what can the people do? Nothing. They have elected the people to form the govt. And those elected are expected to make the decisions. It is their right to do so. This is what it means by the people get the govt they deserved. Period. They have to live with their decisions till the next GE. The people have some rights too. They may have elected these people to be in charge. But they need not agree with them in everything. And they can disagree openly. They can scream and shout until they are heard. But the elected govt still can decide whether they want to listen to the people's unhappiness or disagreement. The elected govt can ignore the people if they so choose. Or they can set their own agenda, their own values of what is good or fair. After all they are the govt. So both parties have their rights and role to play. The govt can keep on doing things which it thinks is right according to their own logic and wisdom. The people can continue to kpkb according to their own interests and pain level. It will be good if the govt will listen to the people and moderate its policies. If not, they can continue to do what they think is best. The best part about democracy is that there is a GE every few years. This is the only safeguard for the people. In a one party or dictatorial system, this right to change and get the govt they deserved would even be forgone. Some in an elected govt may think that they will be there forever and can ignore the people's cry. And they can be there forever if the people just continue to vote for them. It is up to the people to decide what they want and who they want. In between the two GEs, the people can at best kpkb. During a GE the window is open for change. If the people choose not to change, then it is their choice. They deserve the govt they get.
This is a deadly proposition. We are hearing news of layoffs and retrenchments. Anyone caught in such a situation is going to be dead meat. How are they going to pay their bills and mortgages? A cut in CPF will affect at least 80% of the population who are paying their mortgages and more in the heartland. Many have bought their HDB flats by maxing out on what they have in their CPF and their monthly CPF contributions. Get the biggest one can afford as the property prices are sure to go up in the future. A cut in CPF, if big enough, is going hurt everyone of them. This is one of the good things of our property ownership class, or flat ownership class. And everyone is so happy with asset inflation and blindly went ahead with bigger and bigger housing loans. Hope the CPF cut does not become a reality.
Forget about a Swiss standard of living. Let those who can go for it. Let’s look at the average Singaporeans and use it as a reference point for public policy. My model of an average Singaporean family is a young couple, two kids, a 4 rm flat, a small weekend car, a $5k pm household income. In the case of the 4rm flat, the pricing should be such that it can be fully paid up in 15 years or less without emptying whatever cpf contributions the couple are putting in. And the family does not have to break their backs to make ends meet every month and still able to go on a short holiday in the neighbouring countries. Is this too much to ask for? You young people out there, what are your views? I think if govt policies and all the pricing for essential goods and services are tailored towards such an eventuality, the quality of life of the average Singaporeans will be pretty good. Forget about the crazy idea of working to death or working till 85. Only nuts or people with no sense of appreciating that living is more than just working will want to work till death do us part. There are more to life than just working. There are the children to enjoy and grow up with, the smelling of the roses along the way, the little indiscretions that spiced up the dull and routine lifestyle, the little adventures of ups and downs to challenge and pick oneself up after a fall, and all the little things that one wants to do at one’s whims and fancy. A good govt shall work towards providing an environment that makes all these little silly things possible. No need for the illusion of a Swiss standard lifestyle which only a few will attain. For those who can, good for them, but for the majority, the above are not too much to ask for. Has the govt mixed up its priorities? What is the point of a world class infrastructure, world class this and that if the average citizens could not enjoy even the simple things in life? Rush rush to keep themselves alive to pay bills. Any political party aspiring to give the people a better life shall take note of these simple aspirations. Some of you may want to add or subtract from the above model. Some may want a little more, some a little less. It’s ok. Give the average people a life, not a millstone to hang.
I only have a few simple questions to ask? Why are the hospitals insisting on providing expensive wards when many people do not want them? Are the hospitals serving according to the needs of the people or dictating their needs to the people? Why can't or won't the hospitals provide more C and B2 wards when the demands are there? This is another case of who is determining what is good for the people. Unfortunately the people have very little say in this. And the hospitals are determining what they should pay. You got money you must eat in restaurants.
HDB has replied to See Leong Kit and again said that market pricing is the fairest way to go, but fair to who? Would the new buyers buying the same batch of flats and paying another $180k or $200k think that it is fair? There are many questions to be asked. What is the mission of HDB? Where are the statistics to show that there is a big market subsidy? What are the comparable flats that HDB is using to compute these new prices? Are the pricing static or forward looking? Or are they pegged in a similar model as electricity prices? With the property markets coming down rapidly, would the current pricing be fair to the new buyers? Actually these questions are unlikely to get a reply. The HDB has replied and case is closed. Those new buyers in the second batch should blame it on the market prices and accept the fact that they have to buy the flats from HDB at the new inflated prices. They must pay the higher prices to be fair to other buyers of other HDB flats. I don't buy the logic. But what is fair to one may not be fair to another. Who is to decide what is fair? Equal pain or equal gain?
By ALEN MATTICH A DOW JONES NEWSWIRES COLUMN LONDON -- ....According to press and blog reports, the SEC never investigated Bernie Madoff, never even put him through routine checks, because, well, he was too cuddly. And too well respected by his peers. OK, not quite never, back in 1992 they had a sniff about suspicious goings on in an unregistered Florida trading scheme, which they traced back to Madoff. But none of the accusations stuck and Madoff was left to make off with investors' money, unhindered forever after. Made all the more invulnerable by his status as a Wall Street institution. Because if Bernie Madoff, ex-chairman of Nasdaq, boss of one of its biggest market makers and manager of the most solid, long lived and steadily performing of all hedge funds wasn't purer than Caeser's wife then who was? Who indeed? 'This is how reputation and track record can blind people into complacency. - Redbean'
I am sure many of you must have heard of this advice. It is an advice based on track records and experience. The experts must be the experts. Let the experts manage and invest your money and you can sleep well. You can see all the adverts in the trains and on TV as well. Wow, let other people manage your money. Have faith in the experts. Singaporeans are sooooo trusting. Actually so gullible. We have the minibonds. Hopefully no one puts money in Madoff's fund.
Myth 201 - PAP is the only party that can run Little Red Dot. By Green Peas Present and past PAP leaders have been trying to inculcate into our mindset that without the PAP, Paradise will not be paradise any more. There will by chaos, riots, unrest, serious unemployment and our mothers and sisters will have to go to foreign land to become maids. They want to make us all believe that PAP is the only party that is capable of running the Little Red Dot. See what has happened in Thailand. Thaksin's party has been changed from TRT to PPP and now to PT. So what is in a name? It is not the brand name that counts. Names can be changed over-night at whims and fancies and expediency. It is the people who really counts, not the name of the party. And who are the people who really counts that we depend upon to run the Little Red Dot? The civil servants, the administrative service, the police, the armed forces and civil defence, as well as the quasi-govt staff who draw a salary every month. These are the people who actually run the country. Heads (not leaders because we don't have real leaders) can come and go, but the permanent staff are always there. I have been in a govt dept where scholars just come in and warm the seat as my boss for two years and then off they go after stirring up some shits without having to care who would do the cleaning up for them. Oh wait a minute. But people say they are there to plan and give guidance. Sure they seems to be there to plan and give guidance. But the next guy that comes in would turn the previous guy's plans and policies upside down. So what guidance are we talking about? Confusion! Disruptions! Discontinuity! So what is the remedy for the permanent staff? We continue to "run" the country the way we know too well, with or without the scholars. Scholars come, scholars go. They never last more than two years. Remember, they need to chase and climb the ladder up the hierarchy of their own selfish progress and promotion. Oh, yes! Didn't somebody said, "Meritocracy"? So, is PAP the only party that can run Little Red Dot? Or is it only a myth to cast fear and create a dependent mentality?
Why did the American financial woes grew so big and for so long? A lack of propriety, when everyone who is supposed to do his job, failed to do so. There was total negligence, no due diligence or worst, collusion. The consequences, the thieves and conmen had a field day doing what they wanted without any interference from the regulators. The first failure was the auditors. They were the first line of defence. Why are organisations paying so much for these auditors for not doing what they were supposed to do? And why is there, yes, why is there no one to watch over the guards? And the auditors are keeping very quiet because everyone is pointing the fingers in all directions but not at them. They must be held responsible and charge for the crime or as collaborators of the crime. And that includes guarding the regulators. Obviously the regulators were all sleeping or in cahoot with the thieves and con men. Or they might be beholden to them in some ways. Everyone got very rich, extremely rich in the process. And paradise is trying to emulate this great model of success. When people or organisations are responsible to do their jobs did not do them for some reasons, it is the recipe for disasters. The American lesson must be learnt fast and the flaws corrected.
The truth is hitting us faster by the days. Our workers' salary cannot keep going up like the PMETs. No matter how we try, the larger pool of hungry and equally adaptable workers in the world will compete with our workers for jobs. And there is no way we can keep pushing our wages up. In fact the trend is to push them down. How is this going to affect the cost of living here? Everything is up, gravity defying. Now public housing for 4 rm flats in prime area are costing $500k, 3 rm flats $400k. How can our workers pay for such luxurious public flats? As the prices of flats cannot come down or many HDB owners will lose the value attached to their only asset, it can be expected that more and more will opt for rental flats. How many working class young people can afford to pay for a $300k flat? It is time that HDB turn to building rental flats and the existing HDB flat owners can hope that there will be people with the money to buy their flats with a profit down the road. Look out for en bloc sales. These people will be cash rich to buy cheap HDB flats. Or they may upgrade to private properties with their new found cash.
Other than fraud, con jobs, collusion, mismanagement, the other major cause of the financial breakdown in the US is the paying of crazy millions to the top management teams. This practice came out as a scheme among the top management and the board of directors, a case of 'I pay you and you pay me' at the expense of the minority shareholders. And the amount they were paying one another kept going up from tens of millions to hundreds of millions to a few individuals. And what did they get? A bunch of cheats and conmen doctoring the company accounts to reflect profits and roaring businesses, but actually an apple rotten from within. Employees are employees, even at top management level. How could these people command millions and millions while the organisations kept going down? But would this insanity stop and the paying of multi million dollar salary come to a halt?
Can a worker's party not representing the worker's interest or with a membership of workers? Can a worker's party operates without trade unions under its umbrella? In every country, when a party calls itself a worker's party, it normally has a list of trade unions in its organisation. In paradise, it is very strange that trade unions are under govt link organisations instead of worker's party? You do not need a worker's party to represent the workers. This is a unique formula.
This was easy in the olden days when things were either black or white. In the ever increasing complex modern world when grey is bigger than black or white, trying to say that things are white when they are not is going to be tricky. This is made more difficult by the higher literacy level and worldly wise population. Everyone can now see a rotten fish when they see one no matter how many layers of gold plating were coated over it. It thus takes a very brave man or woman to proclaim that something is white in a public forum or with international audience when it is not. Whew, what a task. For the people put in such a position, often it only compromises their own integrity and reputation as decent and honourable men and women. How could someone stand up on stage and claim, with a straight face, that there is no shit when shit is everywhere? Earning a decent living nowadays is not so simple. Righteousness, morality, decency will have to be sacrificed for the right to lead a comfortable life. I try to tell the good stuff as often as I can here. But I will look very fake if the good stuff that I claimed were not really good at all. So it is a very sticky situation. I can only tell the good stuff when they are really good to retain some credibility here. Similarly, I can only tell the wrong stuff if they are really wrong for the same reason.
I posted on a hypothetical A Team with members like Tan Kin Lian, PN Balji, Leong Sze Hian, Goh Meng Seng and maybe Subhas Anandan to stand in a GRC in the next GE and I think they will get elected quite easily. I received comments that they may not really be that good. That I agree. How good is the A Team is relative as there are many better people out there to form even better A Teams. For the moment, a team like the above is the best the opposition has ever assembled. This team, if they could come together, could stand in any GRC and win. That's my assessment. I mean any GRC with no exceptions. No GRC team in the ruling party today is infallible or formidable given the current situation and climate for change. And the ruling party has done itself a disservice by painting their A Teams too highly, and with a pay package that demands that they perform like super human beans. Unfortunately they could not and came out looking like very ordinary. Given the high expectations and mismatch in perception and reality, the people must be very disillusioned with the A Teams. Any opposition party that could put up teams like the above will be a tough proposition for the ruling party to take on in the next election.
The cats have been led out of the bag and everyone is shock and asking many obvious questions. Why such a big con job could be so big and go on for so long in an industry that is highly regulated? Reputation seems to be the biggest valiant in this case. Madoff has built up a reputation over the years as a man of integrity, trustworthiness, unquestionable faith and ability. And people just simply trusted him, blind faith? Again this is the same moral. Never trust anyone blindly. Anyone asking you to have faith and just trust him without questions, must be questioned immediately. Don't be a fool at the end of the game. Nepotism played a big role too. His key executives were from the family, brothers, children and who else. With an inner circle that is thicker through blood, everything can be concealed and no dirty laundry aired. Look out for this formula and run. Transparency, a familiar word. No transparency means something bad to hide. Period. His was a secretive operation. How could that be when there is a Securities and Exchange Commission doing regular checks and investigations on all financial institutions? Are we saying that the SEC was not doing its job or they chose not to do the necessary? Can we trust the SEC or the regulators? The Americans are saying that all the warning signs were there. So negligence or working in cahoot? 'They trusted him with everything' is the title of one article in the Sunday Times. Trusted him with everything! Isn't this frightening? We can't even trust gods with everything, how could we trust another human bean with everything? Singaporeans take note. Never trust anyone with everything. Never put all your eggs in one basket. The ancient truth never fail to show how silly human beans are at the end of the day for being too trusting. The truth shall set you free. Insist on the truth. Not the tooth.
Former chairman of Nasdaq, Bernard Madoff, is being charged for a massive fraud involving US$50 billion. He was running a huge hedge fund and paying good dividends for 15 years. What an unbeliever track record! For those who are staunch believers of track records, please take heart to this. Track records can be cooked anyway the chef wants it to look. What happened to Madoff was that he paid his old investors with money collected from new investors. He was losing money all the way. But through this version of the pyramid scheme, he collected new money to pay old debt that were due. Familiar? His con job could go on forever if he could find ways to keep the investors invested. Or he could bring in more and more new investors to cover up for the older investors. Or if he could delay the pay out to the old investors by keeping their money as long as he can. He should learn from the Redbean Bond. Keep the money and don't pay out. Just send to the investors their growing investments. That would keep the investors very happy and he could conceal his losses forever, and continue to pay himself handsomely, and crow about it. Unfortunately he could not hide it any longer. He could not bring in more investors to build a bigger and ever bigger pyramid base. He could not con more people to put money into a scheme that need not pay out for 20 or 30 years. When he has to pay according to the contractual terms, no delay is allowed, he is dead meat. Things will be different if he could shift the goal posts. Such a scheme cannot go on forever. It is only a matter of time before the pyramid collapses. And there are many such schemes in Wall Street. And all are collapsing. Wonder if there are any here? Why did I have this uneasy feeling, a bad hunch?
It is in the news today that Seletar Golf Club is the latest victim to the minibond fiasco. $5m was reported to be invested in similar product and probably nothing much will be left. Fortunately Seletar had made $5m of profits over 5/6 years to offset this loss. Otherwise the members may have to cough out some money to patch the hole. Maybe because of this that the members are reported to be quiet and not kicking a fuss. The members are very understanding. With this first revelation, perhaps more clubs will also stand up to admit that they too were clubbed. Now, the members of other clubs may not be as easy going as Seletar members, or if the losses are much more, then temperature will rise.
The recent events that are turning paradise topsy turvy is churning up an unexpected result. We are seeing the spontaneous appearance of people into the political scene. This is the kind of development in history, that in times of crisis or of need, able men and women, some kind of mavericks, will stand out to find their rightful places, to do the needful. Tan Kin Lian is one of them. Then you have Leong Sze Hian and to a certain extent you have Goh Meng Seng, and a few others sprouting out in the field of Hong Lim. Another one that is increasingly making his presence felt is PN Balji. And when Subhas Anandan made his mark yesterday in the Probono, he too could be another new maverick in the making. Among them we can easily field an A Team for a GRC. A Team like this will easily win in the next GE. And as the day progresses, more of these men and women will step forward to be counted. This is the kind of development that will occur when change is inevitable and is near.
In these trying times the media could sing a few songs of greatness to cheer up the people and lift their spirits higher. There is no need to fear. The financial crisis is nothing if we know that we have the best leaders the world can offer in charge. If money paid is a judge of the talents of govt leadership, we have the best. Each of our minister is probably 5 or 10 times better than the best of the West. And if we are to compare to Hu Jintao or Wen Jiabao, our leaders are better by hundreds of times over. So the people should not feel depress that we are being dragged along by the financial crisis. Everything is in control. And also we have so much money in reserve that we can use them to benefit the people. Cheer up, nothing to worry. Let's crack a few little jokes to put a few smiles on the people's faces.
This is the interesting headline in the ST. In fact the ST devoted several full pages to the revolution that is going on in the legal fraternity. There were proposals that judges be given more leeways to pass sentences. And frivolous prosecutors could be fined and the victim be compensated. The most remarkable of the changes is Walter Woon, the Attorney General, defending the perception of two laws, one for the rich and one for the poor. Instead of using the stick, he took pains to tell his learned friends that this was not so. Imagine if people are being hauled for contempt of courts or the legal system for questioning the fairness of the courts of law. We are progressing by talking to each other instead of treating everyone as an adversary. Good for Singapore going ahead. Would such an approach be the new ethos applicable to all Singaporeans?
Some may take this news negatively, especially when they are going to be hurt badly. From the national point of view, from the employers' point of view, this is good news. There will be more workers available, hungry some more, and they need not have to pay them an arm or a leg to get them. So operating cost will go down. We will become more competitive. And the residents who are afraid of foreigners, they may see more of them returning home. Then their neighbourhoods will be back to normal. Singaporeans losing their jobs can go for retraining to become construction workers. And the ladies, maybe can be trained to be domestic maids too. Think positive.
The craziness of the $200k increase in the price of the second launch of Pinnacle Duxton flats is again in the news. See Leong Kit wrote to The New Paper asking HDB to justify the hefty increase. Silence. I think this was casually raised in Parliament, or some MPs did asked a few questions about it and the answer was given. So case closed. The fact that it was raised in Parliament and no further follow up action is taken can be seen as an approval, that everyone in Parliament agreed with the increase. So it is an acceptable thing to do. So, all the kpkb in cyberspace will be pointless and there is no need for HDB to reply. And many like See Leong Kit still could not see the point and were asking for the costing. The costing is no longer an issue. It is market pricing. If HDB can provide data to show that similar flats are sold at those prices, that is good enough. OK HDB should at least put up some data to prove that similar public flats, not private flats are sold at those prices and how many were transacted. The logic of market pricing is not to be questioned any more. It is a govt policy. Oops, it is a HDB policy.
Conflict of interest, opposing goals, human greed, have led to the violation of the sanctity of many offices and professions. The medical profession's primary mission is to heal and save lives. The legal profession is to see that justice is served. Both now come with a huge price tag. You don't get heal or get justice if you cannot pay the price. And this violation is not only confined to these two professions. It is so stark and blinding that no one can see it any more. It is like me looking into the mirror in the morning and still claiming how beautiful I look, with all the scars, blemishes and wrinkles. But I am so used to them that I no longer see them. Or at most I will apply a little cosmetics over them, get a plastic surgeon to pull at the wrinkles to give it a little freshness. Then I go around thinking that all is well and good. The fact is that the little cosmetics is only a make belief. Everyone can see the fakeness of it. When the sanctity of a good office is violated and the violators are so happy that that is the way to go, there is nothing that can be done except to wait for nature to take its toll. The time will come
With the minibond fiasco, the people are so frighten of financial products and institutions that they are all keeping their money under their beds. But that cannot do as inflation is eating away their money and they are all hoping for a product where they can grow their money and with their principle protected. The CPF is encouraging people to put in more money into the special account to earn higher interest rate of 4% and principle guaranteed. I am starting a Redbean Bond with principle guaranteed and paying 10% interest per annum. Your savings will definitely grow over the years and you will get a monthly report on how much you have. No headache and no fear. By the time you reach 80 or 100 years, your saving will balloon into a mountain of gold. Oh, one condition, the Redbean Bond is to grow your money, but you cannot take it out.
Fame criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan speaking his mind on the different treatment of crimes and offenders in our courts and also the boorish behaviour of judges. Ooooh, would this be a contempt of the court? He is questioning the arbitrary decisions of judges and 'wonders if there is one law for the rich and another for the poor.' Now, this is touchy business and the public who have no understanding of the courts of law should not get involved. Let's see if TOM or readers of TOM would start a discussion on these issues. I have so many things to say but as a layman, better to leave them to the learned counsels to their discourses.
"In a crisis, it's to 'calm nerves, boost confidence'." This is the role of the media according to Boon Yang. It has a very important part to play in the way it imparts information. The media has been playing a very negative role in the recent financial crisis, fanning the fear, scaremongering etc which result in aggravating the already low morale and confidence of the masses. Shit, I must also have played a huge part in scaremongering as well. Better to spread some good news especially when Christmas is around the corner. I heard my neighbour struck Toto last week, got $1.5m and is buying a condominium soon. And there are a lot of jobs available in the construction industry. And the govt is going to give away hong paos to those badly affected by the crisis. And the minibond victims will be compensated. What is the role of the media if it is not to report news and tell the truth? If a media's role is to spread good news in bad times, or say only the good stuff, what kind of media is it? The first thought that came to my mind in North Korea. The media there only spread the good news.
Two big myths have fallen. The myth of paying big money for top talents is now a myth that will circulate in cocktail parties as a joke. All the supertalents in top American financial institutions and giant corporations, including the motor companies are laughing stocks. Paying them millions and millions and what did the shareholders get? Bankrupt companies. Oh, hold it a minute. The companies could be worst off if not because of their talents. And in times like these, their talents are even more needed. The second big myth to bite the dust is big names, reputations and track records. All the big American financial institutions are big names with proven track records, plus supertalents, tested and proven. What happened? An organisation is as good as the people running it. The people running an organisation now are not the same people who built them. Or if some are still around, the mission, priorities and values may have changed. Don't be complacent. Count ourselves lucky not to have employed these great talents at cloud nine salaries. Or are we thinking of picking them up now that they are losing their jobs?
The low talents deserved it. Want to cheat also dunno how to cheat and got caught some more. And of all things, trying to cheat $1.22 to save paying MRT fare! Lee Heng Anne, 55, was caught for doing exactly this. And she was fined $700. Why can't these low talents learn to be smarter? They must learn from the high talents, want to cheat, cheat a lot and find ways to call it anything else except cheating. Do a little window dressing and may get away scot free some more. Cheat big requires a lot of talent. Look at all the Wall Street CEOs, anyone caught for cheating? The best is the CEO of Merrill Lynch for asking a US$15m bonus. He said the company's problem could be worst if not because of him and his talent. He deserves the bonus for such a good justification.
When everyone is increasing the rental or the sale price of the properties, I must also increase lah. But your propertiesre built 30 years ago and your cost of maintenance did not go up so much, why are you doubling or tripling your rental and price? It is business lah. Business means make profit, as much as the other party can pay. And don't forget, my own pay and bonuses must go up to keep up with my higher standard of living.
The fortnight outings at Hong Lim where the minibond bond victims congregate to hear the sermon from the mount is still going on. The number is dwindling. I am surprised that it could go on for so long. But knowing the habit of Singaporeans it will die a natural death. Soon no one will be there except for Tan Kin Lian and his friends. It will be just another event gone by and assigned to the dusty collections of history. Many issues that touched the people very dearly too were sent to oblivion. There is no tenacity in the Singaporeans pursuit for a cause except for the rebel. Rebels there were and still a few. They are the one who will stick to their cause and tailed their targets everywhere. Unfortunately there are too few of them and with even fewer supporters of their cause. Time will take care of everything. What would happen to the minibond case if there is no Tan Kin Lian? What would happen to the case when the attendance in Hong Lim becomes zero?
On Shu Kio, the wife of Richard Yong of NKF fame, has pleaded guilty in Hong Kong for money laundering and could face up to 14 years jail and a fine of $1.1m. And the money she transferred out, $4.6m may also be gone with the wind. Richard Yong had served his due for his part in the NKF. But On Shu Kio is at best a collateral damage. And she is paying an extremely high price for it. In fact Richard Yong and wife paid the heaviest of all. This prompts one to ask how big is Richard's role in the NKF to deserve such justice. Several of the board of directors of NKF were dealt with. Some spared. And they are still hunting the lone foreigner in India. They will catch him one day, hopefully. But India is such a big place. Richard Yong and his wife should have gone to China, an equally big place and probably they will still be hunting for them. How fair is natural justice?
What is an A Team? I can handpick many A Teams according to my fancy. For one, I can pick from all the President or Overseas Scholars and I can even fill the whole Parliament, all 84 of them. Another version of my A Team is to pick the best of each profession, a few doctors, a few lawyers, a few architects, a few engineers, a few academics. There you are, another A Tea, all excellent in making money. Or to be more colourful, I can pick Jack Neo, Zoe Tay, Christopher Lee, Tao Li, Lam Chi Beng, Mamat Mardan, Agu, a few more sportsmen and women, and I will have an A Team of celebrities. All these great talents of the respective fields have one thing in common, talent in what they are doing. The question is where is their interest, where is their heart? No matter how great they are in their respective professions, do they bring along their hearts to serve the people, care for the people, put the people's welfare first? What is likely to happen is that a footballer may think of how to make football more profitable, an actor may want to make more money for the movie industry, or a top professionals may transfer his knowledge in making money to making more money from the people instead of for the people. What we need is an A Team with a heart, thinking of how to make life better for the people, not slamming them with a few hundred thousands and make the people pay for the rest of their lives, not increasing fees, fares to make more profits from the people. Where is such an A Team? I can't find it among my A Teams of super talents.
There is this myth that is circulating that the demise of the current ruling party will lead to the collapse of paradise as a country. Without the current ruling party, there will be uncertainties, fear and flight of capital and investments, and everything will simply breakdown. It is just like being under the curse of a wicked witch, overnight and we are gone. To believe in such heresy is being too simplistic, too naive and, very insulting to the intellect of the people. What is very likely for a new party to come to power is that there are enough able men and women to be elected to replace the current ruling party. And these able people need not be first class honours in everything. As long as they are able and decent people with sufficient knowledge/education, and a good heart to lead, they will be good enough. This country is not run by 82 politicians. It is run by an army of very able men and women in the civil service, stats boards and the uniformed groups. They will not simply disappear at the stroke of midnight. They will continue to serve whichever party that comes to power. To claim that the demise of the current ruling party is the end of everything is like saying that all these thousands of able men and women are of no significance, that they have no ability and no mind of their own. They could not function without the current ruling party. In reality, among these able men and women, many are even brighter than many of the politicians that we have. There are enough talents among them to form several cabinets, to fill the GRCs many times over. Paradise will survive with or without the current ruling party. In the 70s we used to claim that one block of 5 rm HDB flat has enough talents to run the country. Today, there are hundreds of blocks of 5 rm HDB flats, executive flats, and not counting the landed properties and private properties. Who say we have no talents? Is paradise in such a deplorable state, so fragile and vulnerable? What the hell have we been doing all these years to nurture and cultivate the best of our talents and then claim that we have no talents? Didn't we have been told that we have the best civil service, the best armed forces, the best of everything? But no political talents!
HDB flats are affordable! You must believe that this is true. I swear that this is true. Yes, it is true under certain conditions. There is enough money in the CPF. If not enough, it can be made enough by increasing the amount available from the CPF. But this option is at its limit and can hardly get higher unless money from the Special Account and Medisave Account can also be used. Another way is to prolong the payment, from 20 years to 30 years to 50 years. And all these assume that the flat buyer is forever employed in all his 30 or 50 years of living. What Singaporeans should ask for is for a reduction in the amount of CPF that can be used for purchase of HDB flats. And the duration for repayment should also be shortened. This will allowed more money to be saved for retirement and no need for any CPF Life or fearing that there is not enough money left in the CPF after paying for an affordable HDB flat. Ok, some of you must have stood up and wanting to pounce on me for suggesting reduction of CPF and the duration for repayment. Let me explain. If the people has only $X in the CPF, or the repayment is shortened to say 10 or 15 years, his affordability must come down if not all of $X can be used. He can only afford to buy a flat that cost less than $X. Now you get what I mean? The policy of pricing HDB flat is based on affordability and not on the cost of building the flat. So if the buyer can afford to pay less, the price of HDB flats must come down accordingly. The problem today is that a buyer can use nearly all his CPF and can stretch to 30 or maybe 50 years. This will increase his affordability to buy more expensive flats. So HDB can price its flats accordingly and proclaim that HDB flats are affordable. Today's affordable is all your money in the CPF for 30 or 50 years. This is translated to mean you will not have much of a saving until you have paid off the affordable flat. Got it?
This post could also answer some of the questions by Grunt above. I have read Lee Wei Ling's article 'Medicine is not just a career, but a calling' in the Sunday Times. What came out clearly is that Wei Ling is one of those near extinct specimen that is still living today, out of phase and out of time. The world has changed so much that chivalry is dead, compassion and helping the needy are only for publicity, not intended to be a genuine calling from the heart. This is best manifested in the high profile and high budget shows to attract people to part with their money by the sheer power of the media and show biz personalities. it is all a show. Medicine and medical science have advanced in leaps and bounds. So has human values and greed. Today, if a medical professional, or for that matter any professional, who is not earning enough to live a flashy lifestyle, he is a failure. He may be sidelined by his peers or scorned at for living in the idealistic past. Everything must be priced as high as the client can afford to pay. It is called 'affordable'. There is no time to bother about the actual cost or how deep a hole the client has dug to bury himself. This kind of thinking can be seen in another article in the same paper on the price of new HDB flats by Joyce Teo. She quoted a Albert Lu, the MD of C&H Realty who said, 'for those seeking a new flat to live in, it would not really matter whey they buy. If they were to buy high and sell low, they would also be able to buy a replacement home at a low price.' If this kind of rationalisation is acceptable, then HDB should go ahead and price at any price it wants, after all the owner is going to stay there for good. So buying a 4rm at $500K or $300k does not make any difference if it is owner occupied. Really? What a clever professional view! Back to Medicine is a calling. Yes it is a calling. Money is calling. The frightening thing is that many of our national leaders answered the calling to serve the people and they came from professions where the calling of Money is stronger. Now we can understand why money is the key in policy making. And why affordable has taken on a new meaning.
The losses incurred by our investments in foreign banks is now under public scrutiny and attacks. Many people are just very unhappy and are very concerned about the huge losses from public money. They have not related to how these losses could ultimately affect their savings in their CPF or to the overall financial well being of the country. If the losses are realised, and huge, it must come from somewhere. There must be a big hole somewhere waiting to be patched. The only comforting news is that it is long term investment, maybe 10 years, 20 years or 200 years. In the long term, everything will be alright. The stock prices will come back up, the property prices will come back up, and so will be our investments. These are the general expectations of how things will be from past experiences. What if the fundamentals have changed? What if the rot is of a different kind, HIV or a new mutant that is incurable? The problems with the banks we have invested, and in many of these foreign banks are of a different nature. They are not structural or cyclical. They are due to frauds and mismanagement. Many of these institutions are empty shells, being robbed over the years by their management but dressed up as respectable and sound financial institutions. The money they are asking for their rescue is mindblogging. If the trouble of these banks are cyclical or structural, it is only a matter of time before they return to their former health. The question now is that it may not happen at all, or it may take a few generations to rebuild them from scratch. The same analogy can be applied to our stock market. Under normal circumstances the stock prices will rebound and go back to where they were before. But would it be that way? To understand this we must know why the stock prices were high and why they became so low. If they are just structural or due to cyclical economic swings, then there are hopes that they will come back. What if the high and lows were due to different factors, systemic flaws, structural flaws? As examples, what if the listed companies were run by crooks that we have no control over them, or the business models and the accounting numbers were all fictitious? What if the high prices were due to in flow of foreign funds which have dried up? What if the foreign funds that were here were just for short term, to exploit the weaknesses of our system and run when they have made enough or being exposed, or the systemic flaws were patched up? Maybe instead of investing in bankrupt or empty shelled foreign institutions, it is better to plough the money into our own healthy and well regulated companies and stop throwing good money away at organisations that we have no control whatsoever. We need to build a healthy base at home and attract good quality money here, not the other way. In the long term, a rotten apple can never be returned to what it was before. Bad investments in rotten apples are simply bad investments, down the drain. Habis.
The coming General Election will pit the TOM with Cyberspace head on and the impact is going to be startling. GEs of the past were mostly a one sided affair with the ruling party monopolising all the means of communication with the electorate. It was only in the last GE that cyberspace appeared and shifted the ground slightly. This time round it is not only going to shift the ground, it is going to be a major player to compete for the attention of the voters. And knowing how hungry voters are for alternative news and views, many will be searching in cyberspace to hear what they want to hear. What will still be available to the ruling party? The old media, newspapers, radio and TV, and a few blogs which are the off shoots of TOM. These will be the providers of the official views. You can count them in two hands. On the other side of the fence there will be at least 50 to 100 blogs and forums contesting against the official views. Some will be neutral but many will just take the views that are least reported in TOM. And many of these blogs and their visitors will find such views more interesting and refreshing. Then there are the opposition party blogs and websites that will air whatever they want, policies, agenda, plans and rebuttals. The latter is going to be very important as this is generally denied from them. Without the ability to rebut, often, or as in the past, they will look inept or incoherent. Now they are able to explain away the stuff their attackers threw at them. TOM, radio and TVs will still have the bulk of the readership and will still have the upper hand. But the sprouting up of many alternative blogs and forums will put a big dent into their armoury. And if these alternative blogs could put up well argued positions, rational and logical views, credible views, to win over the voters, the results of the next GE is not going to be so predictable. It is going to be a contest of ideas in cyberspace and the opposition parties are going to have the upper hand in numbers with each blog/forum reaching out to smaller groups of visitors. The aggregate can be quite substantial. And so far there is no answer from the other side. It is like a huge conventional army staying its ground to fight a big battle while the enemies were all over engaging in small skirmishes and guerilla warfare. It is an asymmetric electoral warfare.
PowerSeraya, the third and last power station is sold to YTL, a Malaysian conglomerate. Irrespective of whichever country buying it, should a strategic asset like the power stations be sold and be managed by any country other than the state? Should we sell our water treatment plants as well? Next, shall we sell out ports, Changi and PSA? Or shall we sell SIA and NOL? Where will the selling of strategic assets ends and when will the people stand up and ask, is this the right thing to do? Or are the people so complacent that nothing will worry them? I just don’t feel comfortable going down this road. Do we need the money so badly? Are these money put to better use than to hold on to these assets? Or are we trading our strategic assets for non strategic assets? Why are Singaporeans so indifferent to what is happening to the country and their future wellbeing? I have seen privatized security services hiring foreigners, including carrying of arms, to guard key installations and controlling movement of people. Does anyone think it is a good idea that foreigners should be allowed to carry arms in our own backyard? Having a contingent of Gurkhas is already an aberration. How far down shall we go down this road? We still have the police force and the armed forces in our control. When will they be filled by foreigners? Oh, I heard that the obviously foreign looking personnel in uniforms are PRs or new citizens. So, issuing them PRs and pink ICs immediately qualified these foreigners as one of us? We are living in a very dangerous world. Having people with unknown background guarding our buildings and installations is not a joking matter. Or maybe I am wrong.
My earlier reading of Mukhriz found him to be fairly neutral and rational, unlike his father. Since his intent to seek a political career, his latest proposal to abolish Chinese and Tamil Schools and the reasons given by him exposed what he really is, another Mahathir. The reasons for the Chinese and Tamil to want their own vernacular schools is not simply a case of retaining their ethnic identity but more a case of over coming the discrimination by Malay National Schools and govt policies that obstructed non Malay children from pursuing their education despite their ability to do so. The past practices of unfair quota and allocation of school places and university places have forced the two minorities to find alternative means to educate their children. That is why there is a Tengku Abdul Rahman University. If the govt could implement education policies fairly and provide equal opportunities for non Malay students to pursue their education, vernacular schools need not come about. With hindsight, the abolishing of vernacular schools is a big step backward for UMNO and it can expect the opposition to be strong no matter how they try to dress it up. The Chinese and Indian communities know that only they themselves can look after their own welfare and interests. Even when they are prepared to pay for their own schools, this was also denied by the past UMNO govt. Mukhriz is opening up an old wound.
Our govt is very gracious in granting citizenship and PRs to foreign talents. We are bringing them in by the tens of thousands annually. I am wondering why are there still Singaporeans who want to return but unable to because they skipped their NS at a time when they were young and innocent? Could we treat them a little better than pure foreigners and work out some arrangements that are acceptable to all parties concerned? I believe a born ex citizen who chooses to return is more valuable than a completely new one. It is like the return of the prodigal son. We have our rules and laws, but with so many supertalents working on it, a middle way can be found to bring back our prodigal sons insteand of hugging unknown foreigners.
I am glad to see TOC evolving and transforming itself into a platform to air issues that are close to the hearts of Singaporeans. Other than just the cyberspace, the use of Hong Lim to speak on issues should allow TOC to reach out to more people. The latest agenda includes several new speakers and issues and there is an immediate audience in the form of the unhappy minibond victims. They should form the base for a crowd and other interested and concerned parties can also join in. Hopefully this will draw in more people to Hong Lim and the painful and unpleasant issues facing the people can be revived instead of being buried. There are many issues that TOC can keep talking to raise the consciousness and awarenss of the public. Do not let these issues be forgotten.