Just as I raised my hope for a 7% dividend, it fell flat in my face. And my estimate was way way off. The 7% would have given a return of US$482m pa. GIC could have the money back in no time. Now it is all gone. But don't worry, there is a better and more promising deal. The conversion price which was US$26.35 was watered down to US$3.25 and the conversion to ordinary shares will give GIC an 11% stake in Citibank, the second largest shareholder next to the US govt. And there are more promises along the way. If the market recovers and Citi's price shot up, we could reap much higher returns. If the market plunges and Citi became insolvent or be nationalised, gone with the wind. But the second 'IF' is only a big If. No need to worry about that. In the long term everything will be fine. Now the more juicy part. If our US$6.88b can give us 11% stake in Citibank, it means that the whole bank can be had for no more than US$70b. This is definitely very affordable. Shouldn't GIC launch a general take over of Citibank and merge it with DBS to become an international giant bank? And another piece of good news. There are so many good news and things are looking much rosier. What's that? Oh, Citibank's share price fell to US$1.55. This simply means we could have the bank for less than US$35b. And with already 11% in our hands, US$30b should do the trick. I don't think the US govt will object if we let Chip Goodyear to negotiate the deal. The US govt must be more comfortable with Goodyear in charge. Wow, I think we have all these planned in advance. Great foresight and pro active thinking and decision making. We must have see all these coming. Go for it GIC! Take Citibank under our wings, but make sure the top management are Singaporeans. The Americans can be co opted as advisers. I will definitely bank with DBS Citibank.
Singaporeans must make noise, make all the noise that is necessary when they see something is not right. For if they don't, it will be taken that everything is alright. See, no one complaining. Everything must be fine. If Singaporeans are willing to accept all the nonsense thrown at them, their money kept away from them, take their money from them, and let things happened the way others want it their way, they have only themselves to blame for the shit that are being thrown into their faces. The fate of the people is in their own hands. And they can't say they have no opportunity to make their views and opinions heard. In the past TOM would have the absolute authority to sieve through what they want or do not want to be printed, to be read. Today the internet is there. Just hit the keyboard and out it goes. No one can stop you, except yourself. It is all up to you now. You can only blame yourself if you allow people to abuse you and rob you of your right, your money and your voice. Go, make all the noise that you want and be heard.
Temasek owns 261 million preferred shares of Citibank that pay 7% fixed returns. What does this mean? 7% of what? 7% of the value of the 261 mil worth of shares or 7% of the par value of the shares? If it is the latter, then nothing much to talk about as the amount will come to about US$18m pa, assuming the par value is US$1. Now, if the return is based on the total sum paid for the preferred shares, eg at US$10 each, the return will be a neat US$180m pa. The amount will vary accounting to the share price agreed upon. This is quite likely as the returns must be gauge against who Temasek could get from other fixed income products other than minibonds. Oh, maybe minibond returns are factored in as these bonds were then yielding 4 or 5% returns. Which is which, this has not been explained. 7% of what? The return must be quite sizeable or else Citi will not be attempting to force the conversion of these shares to ordinary shares earning no fixed returns. Is there a 7% of hope?
We have heard the huge losses of Temasek's investment, all $58b! Now, don't ever poof poof this as small change. It is a very huge sum of money. What about GIC? How much has it lost? Rumours and speculations are that it has lost more than $100b! Given the $550b portfolio that it was managing then, it is unlikely that it can escape the meltdown with less than 30% loss. Do the citizens have the right to know how much we have lost? Or shall this be kept under veil in the name of secrecy or professional expediency? Is it acceptable not to tell the people how much we have lost? Is this the people's money? If so, can we ask and be told of the real numbers? Or shall we be complacent and just trust that the money is in good hands?
We have seen the victims of the minibonds and toxic financial products. Of course no one is responsible for the mess and the loss of millions from our investors. These investors are expected to be smart enough to know what they were doing, and stupid enough to lose all their monies in things they do not know enough. They should count themselves lucky, to be able to point the fault at the products and the agencies selling them, including the ‘irresponsible’ marketeers. I am not sure if it is fair to blame this group of scapegoats. But what these people have lost in the minibonds is nothing compare to the billions lost in the stock market. Blame it on the contagion effect affecting the whole financial world. No one is to be blamed. Really? OK, OK, better not to blame anyone if we want people to listen. Once people think that they are being put on the spot, their guards will be up. In our hurry to build a big stock market after the collapse of CLOB, have we been too quick and too loose in expanding our stockmarket, with all kinds of stocks from China and a little from other emerging countries launching their IPOs here? Now we are seeing how risky they can be without the close quarter monitoring. We are seeing frauds after frauds, with managements running away or accounting irregularities. Have we thrown caution into the winds just to achieve our ambitious plan of expanding at all cost? Then there is the operating system that favours the big boys who can muscle out the small investors by brute force, force selling all the way down, or vice versa. Not only the investors were hurt, corporations also see their stock values hammered to levels beyond recognition, far below their net asset values. Now IPO listing is a stigma that few would even contemplate. No body have faith any more in IPOs and our market. Derivative markets are as good as dead. Before we ask where are we going from here, please ask how much have been lost, or how many billions have been lost. The sad thing is that unlike the minibond fiasco, it is difficult to pin point at one single fault. So there is no avenue to seek redress. Caveat emptor, caveat emptor! Everyone looks like an angel. Yes I can see the halo ring above the heads. Where is the moral responsibility, the public duty, and professional conduct and accountability to ensure that the system is sound and fair to all participants in the market? Are we happy at the way the market is running and at the way money is being lost in the market? Actually the money were not lost. They were being scooped away. It is high time that something be done to stamp the incessant loss of money in the market? Anyone bothers? Anyone responsible? Who cares, the apple still look ravishingly red and sexy outside. All we are hearing is that we have one of the best regulated market in the world. Best in what and to whose benefit? Anyone want to ask the opinion of the small investors? Who is laughing all the way to the bank? And whose bank accounts are being emptied? It is a tragedy! Nothing less. PS. Japan is worried that confidence in their stockmarket and financial system is breaking down and is seeking ways to intervene in the stock market to prime it up. They are preparing billions to buy into the stock market. I think we will do nothing. It is all caveat emptor. We have the best system in the world, and it will run to a halt on its own. Have faith. Trust that the system is in good hands.
We will look after our old, our weak and our sick! We will house them, feed them and care for them! We will return their savings as promised and not suka suka keep it at our pleasure! We will build housing at really affordable price, not market price! We will build hospitals to care for our sick, not at astronomical prices! Hmmmm, I think any potential political party that adopts the above as their party slogan will be seen as too idealistic, not pragmatic. Maybe foolish.
In January 2008, GIC invested US$6.88b in convertible preferred securities of Citigroup, which at the time would have given it a 4% stake in the bank if converted to common stock. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late last month, GIC now owns a beneficial 5.3% stake, or 303.8m shares, in Citigroup. These include preferred shares that can be converted into 261.1 million common shares. Based on Citi's $1.95 closing price Friday, the stake is worth $592.4 million. The above is an extract from a WSJ article posted in www.littlespeck.com. From US$6.8b to US$592.4, that is less than 10% left. Oooooh, it is so painful.
Which is more serious? The escape of an international terrorist who was planning to blow up our airport or the loss of at least $100b of our reserves, or the tax payers' money? Is the selling of the series of minibonds and other toxic products to the public more serious than a stock market beefed up with many dubious stocks or management that we hardly know and accounting systems that are difficult to verify, and a system that allows the big boys to bring the small investors to the cleaners? Both are very serious issues and have very serious implications to the well being of the state and its people. It would be best for the professionals to deal with them in depth than for me to touch on them briefly in an internet forum. Let me deal with the Mas Selamat escape versus the $100b loss. We can look at them from the implications and consequences to come, as well as the lapses and the system to prevent their occurrence. We can also look at the execution and the processes that led to these two incidents. In the Selamat case, we can't imagine how he would hit back and the untold damages and pain that can be inflicted on the people and assets. We can live our lives as if nothing has happened. But wait, if he is around, and should he be successful in what he set out to do before, we will regret deeply for his escape. When it happens, no amount of consolation and remorse can make up for it. No excuses can make up for it. How he escaped and the patching up of the system had been dealt with and hopefully, keeping our fingers crossed, it is not going to happen a second time. And the $100b loss! How long it took to build up this sum of money? How much can it do for the people if we have not lost them? And how long will it take to make back this kind of money? Just think about it. To be fair, some part of the losses are expected given the risk involved in investing. But two points need to relook at. Should so much money be invested in high risk assets? Then the next question is whether some deals were done too hastily, insufficient ground work and effort to understand the risk involved, and could be avoided? And the most silly question to ask is whether we have been too trusting of the Americans? Yes, we lost a lot of money, billions in the last few deals, mostly because of trust. And we put in so much money without even a board representation! What, playing masak masak? Giving away Monopoly Games money? These are huge sums of money that must be carefully handled and managed. The way it was distributed begs for a serious re examination and introspection into our mentality, policies and decision making in these areas. Trust and too trusting will get us only into deep shit. Would there be serious indept analyses of these incidents by the professionals and academics, or would they find them too hot to handle? I will touch on the toxic products and stock market separately.
From what Hsien Loong had said, cyberspace will be the new battle ground for the next general election. The PAP has been preparing for it and the younger members are being encouraged to play a more active role to lead the charge. He has forgotten that Lim Swee Say will be a more popular blogger if he has his own blog. He has a lot of interesting and captivating stories to attract hoards of bloggers. The new media or cyberspace can no longer be ignored as the backwater that was hardly treaded. Over the last few years it has gained tremendous ground and eating into the readership of the old media. People are looking for alternative views instead of the stead and predictable comments of TOM. And with the flowery and unrestrained lingo used, it is an act that is hard to beat. We will see a battle for readership between the new and old media, one that is more critical and cynical against one that is pro govt and singing praises. Or as Hsien Loong said, the traditional or old media will 'present trusted, unbiased and informed opinions' though a bit tame. On the other corner (I said) will be the untrusted, biased and less informed opinions of the new media, but sexy and attractive. And don't forget the power of podcast and pictures. The presentation of the most beautiful angle or the ugliest angle can make or break a candidate. Imagine one getting caught on video or photos in the most compromising position, I mean like digging the nose. Pictures can tell a very distorted story. An ugly or hostile face will be a put off immediately. Now this is not going to be the protected turf of TOM any more. Both can print whatever they like, selectively, and definitely biased. Oops, TOM's pictures will be unbiased. Only the pictures of new media will be biased. Interesting scenarios coming up. I doubt TOM will be anything given its slow printing schedule.
'On a long term basis, overall, the way the Govt has managed the money, we haven't done badly.' Lee Hsien Loong I disagree. We have managed our money well until we started the shopping spree. And the last few deals to buy the banks, were at best, good intention but poor execution. Losing $100b can never be called 'haven't done badly.'
It was great fun going on a shopping spree with a container of cash. Better still when it is other people's money. Take all the credits and big bonuses if it turns out right, and if not, well, so be it. Buying the world is not as simple as it turns out to be. When everyone plays by the rule, proper trading practices, it should not go too far wrong. Unfortunately the world is infested with thieves and conmen of all disguises. Now we have came home with a basket of rotten eggs. And the rotten eggs will not become fresh any more. Caveat Emptor! Would it be easier and safer to invest at home? Here every element is under our control and supervision. The entities are known and can't go too far wrong. But we have neglected our own local companies and the stock market. They have been ruined. Big funds were allowed a free hand and free play to destroy the values of our stocks and emptying the pockets of our small investors by sheer muscles. It is time that we look inward, use our own funds and take on these big funds, save our market, the stock value of our companies, and the small investors. With $1b and the connections, it is so easy, yes, so easy to lick the big funds and make them pay for their waywardness and destruction of our wealth, the wealth of corporations and individuals. Overseas shopping spree is over. Time to help ourselves and save ourselves with our own money. No more dumping in unknown land, unknown companies and management, and ended with baskets of rotten eggs. Play in a pool that we know well. We have comparative advantages.
I read that this important issue was raised in Parliament. And there is a case for licensing bicycles and the problem is only about how ugly and big the licence plate will be. I am not sure if the issue of moderation or self regulation in cyberspace was also raised after the comments by Lui Tuck Yew. The last few days were all about whether a snap election will be called. Seriously, do we have time for all these? Shouldn't people be cracking their golden brains, planning and scheming on how to get back the billions that we have lost? Come on, this is the hottest issue not only in cyberspace but kopitiams as well. The comments in kopitiams were no less wild, pointed and vulgar than those in cyberspace. Now I am allowing my imagination to go a little while after a breakfast of plain porridge and black soya source. I tried that to relive the memories of the 50s and 60s when this was the staple food for many. And they didn't have that for breakfast, but as their main meals, lunch and dinner. It tasted quite plain actually. Should I go for Ah Koon's breakfast set? I digressed. More signboards are coming up in kopitiams and hawker stalls. Self regulations when commenting on social and political issues. No vulgarities. Not tantrums. 'KNN, why got so many signs ah! Kong si mi?' I turn around to see a few Ah Peks pointing at the signs using their middle fingers. On another corner a few Ah Peks were in serious discussion to form a committee and to set up rules and regulations on what are acceptable or unacceptable comments and lingos. A code of conduct is also being drafted up. One even suggested wearing T shirts with logos to tell the other Ah Peks who they are, Kopitiam Moderators.
Singaporeans were all high and excited debating about the 2c savings that the PTC had granted them during this financial crisis. There were excitements everywhere, in the old media as well as cyberspace. The professionals went to town literally, interviewing the grateful commuters for the savings that would have brought them some relief and easier on their pockets. The PTC must have spent many hours debating among themselves on this big decision before agreeing to the reduction. I remember the MYCD took a year to study before increasing the public assistance grant from $360 to $390. And the President took 11 days to approve a $4.9b withdrawal from the national reserves. I wonder if the PTC needed to agonise over this 2c reduction? But all these cannot beat the 2c debate and the expectations of compliments from the grateful commuters. Would the media would be conducting straw polls and interviews on the street on issues like the $58b loss from our investment of public fund, with more losses waiting to be announced? I don't remember any such exuberance when the news broke out. It is kind of a sad that people should all be excited over 2c. What kind of existence is that, worrying about 2c everyday? They will probably hit a state of delirium when their salary is raised by another million dollars. Just sharing my 2 cent's worth.
The media interviewed a few taxi drivers last night and you can tell that they were very unhappy with the lower ridership and lower income. They complained to the media that taxi fares must come down when the fares of trains and buses are coming down. They are losing more passengers in this hard time to trains and buses. It hurts their income for sure. But they could not reduce their fares as the rentals for the taxis are still high and eating into their income. Wait a minute, in an earlier post I quoted a media report that several small taxi operators wanted to reduce the taxi fares. Oh, now I see. Lowering fares without lowering operating cost and rentals of taxis will not do. It will mean high cost low income. What about the views of big taxi operators? They are for high fares. Lowering of fares will reduce the income of taxi drivers. True, true, I agree. No doubt about it. But can they reduce the taxi rentals? Now, that is a very difficult question. No, they are not considering it. They are thinking of other ways of promoting taxi rides like talking to corporations and giving discount vouchers to encourage ridership. Discount vouchers? Discount from whose income, taxi operators or drivers? My question is, why waste all the money and effort to promote to a small group of users? If, I say if, the discount is from the taxi operators, why not simply lower the rental and its equivalent in fares? Why not? They must have good reasons to do so. In the meantime the taxi drivers can continue to fester in their burning rage. Please don't burn anyone, please. Maybe this is why taxi drivers are prone to start fires.
The Public Transport Council(PTC) is showing its caring side by announcing a reduction in SMRT fares ranging from 2c to 18c or a bit more for those who need to transfer from bus to train and vice versa. The more the commuters do their transferring acts, the greater will be their savings. The transport operators will be transferring the savings from govt subsidies to the commuters. I was worried for them for a while when I thought they would have trouble explaining to their shareholders for the loss in profits with the reduction. SMRT claimed that it would have to fork out another $30m to $40m even with the govt subsidies. Would they be incurring a loss then? Maybe not with oil prices coming down rapidly to almost its previous level and with the big increase in ridership. My prediction is that SMRT will chalk up even bigger profits next year. Good for them. Let me compute how much savings will I get before I pop that bottle of champagne. 2c a trip, 2 trips a day and 22 trips a month. Viola, I save 88c! So I will be able to go for that additional cup of kopi in the hawker stall. Not bad. My cost of living is coming down. For those taking buses, the savings could be 20c or more per trip. Very good. Maybe I shall take buses instead and save more. Better still, take bus, train, bus combination, maybe I can save enough for two plates of chicken rice. Great idea.
Chua Mui Hoong in her article today in the ST is all praise for the second key system. It has been tested and it works. It works so smoothly like a well oiled machinery. Everything goes without a single hitch. The system has been perfected over time. What if the President said no? Or what if the Presidential Council said no? These are highly unlikely scenarios. But let's say if it happens, what's next? The request to dip into the reserves goes back to Parliament for another debate, repackage and re submit to the President? Could there be a provision somewhere that after 3 rejections by the President the request should automatically be passed in Parliament? Or would there be a vote of no confidence on the President and a new elected President be elected? Or would the govt just accept it and say can't do anything to help the people because the President said no and no money available? Has this part been tested? How smooth will it be?
We are in a major crisis. We cannot afford to have a weak govt. We cannot afford to have all the politikings going around and sapping away the energy of the govt. We need continuity so that the govt can plan ahead to overcome this crisis. All the conditions are ripe for a single party govt to manage the country over the long haul. A combative democratic process is unhealthy. We have lost probably $100b or more of our reserves. And we don't even know how much is our reserves or how much we have lost. Someone told me not to worry, we have much more in reserves than officially announced. Actually it is frightening if losing $100b is seen as nothing. We need really able men and women to make sure that our reserves keep growing and being protected. And if we are to have able people managing them, a one party dictatorship is the way to go. Through our experience many good men and women would not want to be involved in the rough and tussle of running for election. A single party dictatorship will give the govt full authority to appoint the good men to office, something like the American president appointing his cabinet. There were signs of an election coming with the electoral list being updated. The media reported that there were no new faces doing the walkabout, indicating that the team will stay put. This could be a possibility. How about the possibility of an election for a dictatorship or a single party rule? Like I said above, a dictatorship or single party rule has the flexibility for the power to appoint the office bearers. No neeed new faces to walk about and be recognised or to learn the rope of garnering grassroot support. Is it possible? But this is not the issue. The main issue now is for a sustainable govt to be in place for a long time to overcome this crisis. The people must close rank and support the govt, stay together and cut down on all the bickering and allow the govt to do its job. Maybe 10 years, 20 or 30 years, we shall overcome.
All the ifs and buts and maybes must be put aside. We are facing a crisis. There is no where to hide. The country is facing a crisis. The people are also facing a crisis. It is time the man himself calls for a TV conference and talk to the nation. I would expect the man to say, look people, we are in difficult times. The whole world is also in difficult times, and we are not alone. Yes, we have been hit. Some of our investments have gone sour. Here are the numbers. We have so much and we have lost so much. Period. Now we need to go forward together in this crisis. We are family. We will face this crisis head on, squarely. We will do everything we can, for the country and for the people. Let's stand united, lock arms, as one people, one nation. We shall overcome. Thank you and have a good nite sleep. It is not the end of the world.
The American corporations and thieves are holding Obama at ransom. If he does not give them the billions they are asking, they will bankrupt all the big corporations. What they did not tell him is that if the CEOs are not going to be paid well, they will turn to corruption. But one thing for sure, they are threatening to jump ship and join other companies. Maybe they will come to Singapore. We are probably the only country left in this world that has the money to pay them and is happy to have them. Our headhunters are very busy these days reading their resumes.
This is the title of an article written by Dr Tan Chek Wee in Today. He talked about people demanding to be addressed as Sir even in the community. I have borrowed this title to replace the original title of this article which was 'Dark Clouds over the Istana.' Since our independence as a nation, the office of the Presidency has never been in question or a subject of controversy. All the past Presidents from Yusof Ishak to Wee Kim Wee were well regarded in their ceremonial roles. Then came the Elected President with a more important task to guard our reserves. Other than these nothing changes. And Ong Teng Cheong was highly respected for his role and short stay at the Istana. He wanted to do his job well and took it very seriously. Today we are seeing this huge controversy over the Presidency. The Office is even paid more the the President of the US. For doing what? People are questioning almost everything about the Presidency, from pay to how it is being elected and the effectiveness of its role in guarding our reserves. Why should the highest office of the country be subject to so much cynicism? Maybe we should go back to the drawing board and start all over again. Remove all the elitist barriers and return the right to this office to every Singaporean, rich or poor. Every Singaporean must have the right to stand for election as the President of the country. It must must not be the exclusive right of a few rich and powerful. And we should borrow the American practice of allowing the President to appoint his own team of advisers once he is elected by popular vote. No elected president is allowed to take office by walkovers. Perhaps, when people see that the elected President is able to exercise indepedence by the system that brings him to office, will the controversies go away. An Elected Presdent must be elected by the people, from the people and be able to execute his duties independently. I am not saying that the current President cannot exercise his duties independently. And the public is also not saying so.
OUTBOUND PAGEVIEWS 1 theonlinecitizen.com 6088 2 wayangparty.com 5185 3 tankinlian.blogspot.com 3981 4 singaporemind.blogspot.com 3968 5 http://www.sgpolitics.net/ 3338 6 http://www.pressrun.net/ 2358 7 mrwangsaysso.blogspot.com 1878 8 mollymeek.livejournal.com 1559 9 feedmetothefish.blogspot.com 1516 10 seijieiga.blogspot.com 1483 11 scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com 1340 12 hardhitting-nobs.blogspot.com 1314 13 singaporecitizen.wordpress.com 1206 14 jg69.blogspot.com 1175 15 blueheeler.wordpress.com 1159 16 mysingaporenews.blogspot.com 1111 17 http://www.nowhere.per.sg/ 1064 18 forums.hardwarezone.com.sg 931 19 singaporelifetimes.blogspot.com 931 20 groundnotes.wordpress.com 920 21 http://www.yawningbread.org/ 873 22 wayangparty.wordpress.com 738 23 kakowi.wordpress.com 731 24 http://www.mrbrown.com/ 700 25 singaporeanskeptic.blogspot.com 700 26 wherebearsroamfree.blogspot.com 699 27 singabloodypore.rsfblog.org 677 28 melvintansg.blogspot.com 630 29 gssq.blogspot.com 623 30 singaporealternatives.blogspot.com 604
The current financial crisis is not really a crisis if one is prepared to look at the problems objectively. We are not the poor beggars of third world countries. In fact many Singaporeans are still very rich, worth half a million or a million at least, in assets. See, the problems start to fritter away when you are clear and see things in the correct perspective. Unlock the value of your assets. Singaporeans can't go around begging when they are living in big houses or expensive flats. Those in 5 rm flats can downgrade to 4 rm, 4 rm to 3rm. They will be cash rich immediately. When the finances are not in order, how can they still think of staying in 5 rm or 4 rm flats and ask the govt for assistance? And for the 3 roomers, go for the HDB studio or go for rentals. They must thank the govt for the foresight to build more smaller flats and rental flats. But a better solution is to sell and take all the monies to neighbouring countries like China, India and Indonesia. JB is not a bad place too, cheap and good. And one can live in peace without worrying about old age and being sent to JB's nursing homes. Go there now and chop a place first. Brilliant huh?
Nathan said it took him 11 days to say yes to dipping into the national reserves. Or was it 1 day since the official proposal was submitted to him and he approved it on the next day? Or would it be better if he sat on it for a month before deciding on it, perhaps taking some time for deep prayers and seeking divine guidance? Is the number of days an issue? I think not. When an issue like this comes up, it must be seen from the merits of such a request and all the circumstances that are pushing for it. What should be adequate is for able men in the Presidential Council to deliberate and make their recommendations to the President based on their independent judgement of the case. One may want to ask whether this is possible but that is very subjective. Anyway, what is $4.9b when we have a few hundred billions in the reserves? The more important question is how much of our reserves have been lost. Can the President or Parliament enlighten the people on this? When the unofficial numbers are so staggering, it is necessary to clear the air and set the record straight and move on from there. No amount of shadow play can avoid or delay the disclosure. It must be out. It must be told even if the chin will drop to the floor.
A reality check In today's troubled times, Singapore's political leaders and businessmen may do well to read what is published here. The Times UK. Feb 16, 2009 By Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester Pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth: sometimes it feels as if Britain is in the grip of the seven deadly sins. There are arrogant politicians, greedy bankers, lecherous television presenters, furious trade unionists, obese children, competitive shoppers and an underclass of people who do not work. To the doom-mongers, British society is not broken, it is shattered. According to the Archbishop of Westminster, the economic downturn could be the very thing that brings us to our senses. “It's the end of a certain kind of selfish capitalism,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said. “This particular recession is a moment - a kairos - when we have to reflect as a country on what are the things that nourish the values, the virtues, we want to have ... Capitalism needs to be underpinned with regulation and a moral purpose.” ... "It has been difficult to bring up children with the kind of values we want. Let's face it, we now have a ‘me, me' society, a more consumerist society, a utilitarian society, and our values and virtues have become diminished." “Some of it has got to do with having too much. If your worth just depends on your wealth, that is not healthy. Your worth should depend on who you are.” Nothing exemplified this better than the bonus culture in the City. “I hope people have come to their senses. I don't know why they got such big bonuses. I would cut them out altogether.” Bankers, he said, “were just wanting to make profits but in ways that were rash, and they thought they could continue on this bonanza without querying their excesses. "The industry is so focused on money. Unless that is underpinned with a moral sense and regulation that makes it clear money is only a tool for living, then it is wrong. I think sometimes there weren't enough controls on the City. The above is an extract of an article posted in www.littlespeck.com. The full article, though about Britain, is a good reflection of the woes and sickness of the capitalist countries we are in today.
We have been told that Temasek lost $58b and GIC is likely to fare worst in absolute numbers, maybe more than $100b. The combined sum is no small change, not the kind of money that people burnt away for the nether world. This is real money and a huge sum in all counts. So, how much of the loss is from our reserves? Or shall I ask, are our reserves affected at all? Can we presume that GIC and Temasek are managing some money that came from our reserves, or what they are managing are independent funds that have nothing to do with our reserves? If the latter, then there is no need to ask further questions about losses or depletion to our reserves. So far we are led to believe, from all the official statements made, that there is a dent, big or small depends on one's appetite, in our reserves. Sometimes back the media reported that our reserves were about $200b. If the combined losses of GIC and Temasek were part of this $200b, we are in big trouble. Oh, another question. How much of the reserves or the losses were the people’s money from the CPF? I am asking these questions because they have not been asked and it is awkward to expect the MPs or ministers from the govt to ask them. I will be glad if they prove the public expectations wrong and start to ask for more clarifications instead of leaving the bulk of the asking to the NMPs and opposition MPs. Inderjit Singh is one of the few exceptions to ask questions related to our reserves. But we are not getting any wiser and the above questions could clear some air as to how bad is the damage to our reserves, if there is any damage at all. The other incredulity is that despite the thick layers of protection to our reserves, once in the hands of fund managers, they could be used for high risks investments. We protect our reserves from our people but not from fund managers. Does this make sense? Oh, if all the money lost is not part of our reserves then all my comments are hot air.
Obama and Congress are tightening the screws on the thieves in Wall Streets. And the thieves are screaming, 'If you don't pay us well, we will jump ship!' Now, after the mess they created, who or which country will be in the right frame of mind to want to pay them more to bring them into their fold? Or which country will have so much lose change to pay these thieves the ransom they are asking? I forgot to add that the restrictions placed on the compensation of these thieves are only good in paper. They are exceptional talents and will find ways to pay themselves whatever they deem fit. A thief is always a thief, no matter how much he is paid.
The netizens are getting violent over Boon Wan's suggestion that the old people be put up in nursing homes in JB. His idea makes perfect sense from the business point of view. Provide a service or product at a competitive price and sell. But he forgot the human or inhuman factor in his suggestion. The response from the caring and feeling netizens, unlike the uncaring elite, was furious. How dare he suggests putting the oldies in JB? For every oldie is either a father/mother or grandpa/grandma to somebody. It strikes hard at the emotional cord attaching to the heart, for those with a heart. They could not accept the idea of abandoning their no longer useful to society oldies in a foreign land. Somehow for the sake of being utilitarian, for being moneywise, prudent, we forgot that family, filial piety, love and care and the emotional attachments to parents and family members cannot be measured in monetary terms. Only animals could do that sort of things, calculating whether it is worth the while and how much can be saved. It is the duty of the family, the children, to look after their parents. It is the duty of the govt to provide the facilities at affordable cost, even at subsidised cost, to promote family values and human values of kindness, compassion, caring and loving for their love ones. In our selfish way, we even ignore the feelings of our neighbours. How would they feel when we want to resite our Sago Lane in the midst of their country? If we think our oldies are not good enough to stay with us, why is it good enough to stay with them? Are we becoming inhuman all because of money? Where is the milk of humanity?
The people are getting wiser by the days, and so are the MPs. Both are beginning to realise that the money in the Medisave is the people's money, kept there to pay for medical bills. Why are there so many regulations preventing the people from using their own savings to treat their illnesses? When has it become the right of the govt to dictate how and what the money can be used for? It is not the govt's money, not a govt grant, not a subsidy, not charity. It is the people's money. Now there is a big debate on whether to let the money be used overseas where the medical cost is cheaper. Hey, think utilitarian, make the money work for the best value it can get, be it JB or Bangkok or anywhere else. Why should the people be allowed only to spend their money in expensive set ups here? It can be depleted very fast.
Reserves won't be depleted They are long-term investors and Govt is confident they will deliver: Lim Hwee Hua In 8 months we have lost $58b or 31%. The numbers for GIC is still not disclosed. If one is to extrapolate the numbers, how much more can we lose? Not a reasonable assumption or trend of thought? When we bought into the distressed banks, did we think that losing 70% or 80% is possible? No, conventional wisdom says it was not possible. Can our reserves be depleted? God knows. Any human beans can guarantee that it will not? I don't think any human beans should ever try. But if you are not any ordinary human beans, maybe can. Also if the reserves can be topped up again and again, then it will never be depleted. Now, what or how much would it be considered as being depleted? Is 30% or 40% a depletion? If yes, it is already depleted, by $58b. Or $58b is just another peanut?
Don't touch it. This is our hard earned savings accumulated over the years. And only in extreme conditions will the reserves be made available, through a complicated systems controlled by two keys and trusted people. The officially declared reserves were over $200b, some parked in GIC, some in Temasek, some dunno where, but are there. We are so careful in spending our reserves. It is not to be touched by any flimsy excuses. It is protected by several layers of thick carbonised steel. But when they were in another form, in the hands of GIC and Temasek, they become easily available for investments. Acceptable that investments are not spending, just investing to grow the reserves. The current crisis and the colossal losses to our reserves, a sum many times more than the $4.9b we are dipping into it, called for a rethink in the investment policies of the two giant SWFs. How much risk is tolerable or acceptable, how much can we afford to lose. Shall our reserves be invested in 'dangerous asset class'? Putting it in simpler words, 'dangerous asset class' is not much different from taking unacceptable high risk, like gambling, double or nothing. When our reserves are near to a point of being untouchables, our investment policies must be one that matches the stringent criteria of protecting our reserves to ensure that it would not be washed out for any investing mistakes. If we protect the reserves like hell, and have an investment policies that compromise its existence, the contradiction is not acceptable. The other point that I want to make is very elementary. If we do not know what is our reserves, how do we know that it is there and not being spent? We may have a fortress guarding a piece of worthless paper for all you know. Can we just rely on the word trust as we were told to do so in Parliament?
When the southern Chinese migrated to the south seas, many were from the lower social class. Many were farmers, fishermen and workers. They came to eke out a living and nothing else. Their names were simple and nothing flowery, Tan Ah Kow, Lim Tua Tow, Chan Ngau etc etc. Inevitably the names of animals became common as they were seen as good for the children less the gods would punish them or take them away. The illiterates were just not too comfortable with the words Over the years the names started to evolve and adapt to the social and historical changes, including the intervention of govt and the turns of economic fortunes. Our colonial and religious heritage had their first influence on the people. Tan Ah Kow became James Tan. Lim Tua Tow became John Lim. The Tua Tow disappeared or became TT. The next phase of change was the hanyu pinyin campaign. This was another of the unifying efforts of the govt, to do away with dialects and have a common language. It's effects turned out to be a bit of a rojak. Tan Ah Kow became Chen Ya Kou. The father and son had differently written surname in English, From Mr Tan to Mr Chen. Some refused to accept this as it looked funny. So Tan Ah Kow became Tan Ya Kou, retaining the surname in dialect and the same spelling. Another variation is use Chen Ya Kou alias Tan Ah Kow. The next phase of development was economic. With wealth and affluence, Ah Kow, Ah Ngeow and Ah Gu were no longer acceptable. How could it be when pet dogs and cats were called more respectable human names like Tom and Jerry? That ended the phase when humans were called names of animals while animals continues to have human names. Then came a period when we wanted to become international citizens and adapted international norms of writing names. Tan Ah Kow became Ah Kow Tan. It could be because some foreigners could not understand that Chinese family name was written in front and not at the end. To avoid Tan Ah Kow being addressed as Mr Kow instead of Mr Tan, that was the solution. The most colourful phase came in the 80s when originality and being unique were the fad. Uniquely Singapore must have been an offshoot of this truly Singaporean beginning. Glamorison Tan and Feliciality Tan started to appear everywhere, everyone unique and different and only limited by one's imagination and the combination of words. Forgive the ignorants to think that Singapore was invaded by aliens from another planet. Today I read about John and Melissa becoming too common place. Everyone being introduced is either a John or a Melissa. And for that little uniqueness, after all a name is to identify a person and be different one from another, John will now be John Michael and Melissa will be Melissa Margaret. So, how shall John Michael Tan Ah Kow writes his name? Should it be John Michael Ah Kow Tan or could it be Tan Ah Kow John Michael or Tan John Michael Ah Kow? John Michael Tan Ah Kow is not going to be. His family name is right in the centre and will never be discovered. He will never be a Mr Tan. How about John Michael A K Tan? Possible. Sounds better too. Hi, I am Florissian Lantany Lee. Nice to meet you. I am Jamon Honchu Wong.
Everyone seems to be quoting this word, 'reserves' freely. How much is actually our reserves, what constitute our reserves and where are they? Our CPF a part of the reserves? How much of Temasek and GIC assets are part of our reserves? Then there is another reserves guarded by the President. How much is this and where and in what form? Can someone clarify on the above mess and put the amount and parts in a simpler manner so that we know what it is all about?
The govt just announced the resilience budget worth more than $20b to help the people in such a difficult time. Should the people be grateful? We heard the call that we are all family, looking and caring for each other, helping each other and making life better for everyone. I did not hear wrongly. Then you look at the HDB policy, market pricing to max what they can get from the buyers. They used all public resources to monopolise public housing to squeeze it out as much as they could from the people they called family. And when you complain they said it is affordable because you can pay with all your CPF. Hey, the CPF is people’s retirement money! What happens if they have nothing left for retirement and hospital bills? Then the Health Ministry got worried. With so much money being taken to pay for flats, better lock up some in case they need to pay for hospital bills. And there goes another chunk into the Medisave. Then another proclamation, Singaporeans got no problem paying for medical bills. Then another ministry got worried. What if they got no money to retire and demand public assistance? Better lock up for this before there is no money left. Hey, what about me, the one who contributes to the CPF? I got nothing left for myself. Just too bad lah. And don’t expect charity or free lunch from the govt. The govt does not believe in encouraging crutch mentality. As long as the people got money to pay for HDB flats, pay for hospital bills, the two big ticket items, that’s good enough. Oh now got compulsory CPF Life and with easy options except no option to opt out. So now all the money got locked up for some good reasons, and here comes the recession and people got no more savings to fall back on, we have the resilience package. How much will each get and how long will it last? So there you are, a benevolent govt, and a people with one of the highest savings and all crying money not enough.
Who said Obama could not do anything? His US$500k salary cap for bailout banks is getting through to the thieves. Citibank's Vikram Pandit has seen the writing on the wall and volunteered to pay himself US$1 and no bonuses till Citi is profitable again. Though the rest of the top bankers are still recalcitrant, still did not know that they have moral responsibility and accountability for their decisions, they are now asking Congress to take a lighter touch in the face of fierce critics and congressional grillings. But again, they are not going to walk away without asking for more. They are putting forth the subtle threats to leave for European banks, presuming that European banks and Asian banks would be silly enough to pay them what they are asking when the Americans are saying no to their looting ways. They were told by Paul Kanjorski that they cannot live in a 'one way mirror unaccountable to the public at large and often sheltered from scrutiny.' This should also apply to govt and govt regulators for sleeping on their job or doing a lousy job. Goldman Sach's Lloyd Blankfein accepted the criticism and commented that 'Many people believe - and in many cases justifiably so - that Wall Street lost sight of its larger public obligations and allowed certain trends and practices to undermine the financial system's stability.' Are we also having something like this going around here? Has our govt also lost sight of its larger public obligations and allowed certain trends and practices to undermine our system and stability? Maybe I should write something about this. The statement by the committee's Democratic chairman Barney Frank deserves special mention here. 'Why do you need to be bribed to have your interests aligned with the people paying your salary.' No further comments from me on this. Obama has set a new trend. The looting in New York and corporate America will have to stop and accountability is the now the new morality. But from the comments for congressman Michael Capuano, the thieves are still getting away too easily. He asked, "Who was the brilliant person who came to you and said, 'Let's do credit default swaps?' Find him, Fire him." So easy meh? Just walk away without any criminal charges? And after collecting all the fat bonuses and pay? No restitution?
Absolutely nothing wrong. It makes perfect cents. Oops I mean sense. From the practical and pragmatic point of view, from the dollar and sense point of view, it is the ideal solution to land scarce and high cost Singapore. You get value for money in JB, and not too far away from home. For those who want to compute on the additional benefits, they can think of the cheaper shopping and makan and also the petrol to go with. They could save more when all these are added. Why are people so angry with Boon Wan? I can only sense one reason. These people are using their hearts and not their heads. They cannot think logically devoid of emotions and sentiments. They will only come to terms with Boon Wan's good suggestion if they can think like him, think of money and how much can be saved. Then they can be won over. Think utilitarian!
The new media has brought about a new dimension in things that will be discussed and things that will not be discussed in the past. The old media, TOM, has professionally chose to discuss things that they deemed acceptable to discuss and things that they would not touch for obvious reasons. But the gap, the things that TOM will not discuss will be discussed, thoroughly, roughly and viciously, by the netizens when deemed fit. Since the Mas Selamat's vanishing act, Kan Seng was the first to be 'goreng' by netizens for every flaw that led to the escape, including slipshod comments and gaps in the logic presented. Then there was a lapse until Tan Yong Soon told the story of his exciting cooking class in Paris. And the storm broke. But before the storm receded, in came Charles Chong and his 'lesser mortal' comment. The netizens were not going to let him slip away with such a heavenly view of things. Yes they walloped him. Yesterday was Boon Wan's turn to be grilled, not medium rare but well done. His comment about putting the oldies into nursing homes in JB was not taken kindly. Even his credential with a Buddhist shield could not protect him. They questioned his values on filial piety and gratitude to the parents. Lui Tuck Yew's dressing down of netizens as immature too got a bollocking. He thought he could get away with such a sweeping statement in Parliament. He could if there was no cyberspace. TOM would probably add on and support his comments against the netizens. But the netizens now have an avenue to talk back. Don't anyhow scold the netizens. They will return the courtesy. But the perpetual favourite is Swee Say. The netizens remember every of his comments and wise cracks. From his happy reading of his CPF statements to his upturn the downturn, were well discussed. The latest was his mouse that barked away a cat. The MPs in Parliament found the Tom and Jerry fable amusing, but not the netizens. The latter too had a good laugh but for the wrong reasons. Would the people hear any of these juicy expressions of views and emotions in TOM? Fat hope. Only cyberspace can provide the spices and colour on such X rated news. Who's next to disparage the netizens and be the talk of the town or talk of cyberspace?
The righteous and trusted have fallen. Once they were the number One Family in Taiwan. They were pointing their fingers at other people for being corrupt. Today, Chen Shui Bian, the Taiwanese President, is in jail. His wife, the former First Lady has just pleaded guilty to forgery. His son and daughter in law are also accomplice to the crime of money laundering in the millions. Trust and righteousness may only be hiding behind a thin veil of truth.
Wishful thinking or wicked intent 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.
From New York to Singapore, from the global international crisis to national recession, where is the mistake? Or better, where is the word 'MISTAKE' been mentioned? The truth is that no one make any mistake. It just happened. Everyone is caught in a world wide tsunami that came from nowhere. Make no mistake about it. It is just a phenomenon that we have to live with, or everyone has to live with.
With $58 billion HDB could build 580,000 units of flats at $100k each. This is almost all the flats owned by Singaporeans now. With $58b, it could buy 290,000 pieces of Mercedes Benz and line up the whole of PIE. With $58b, it will be more than the combined worth of the top 50 riches people in Singapore. With $58b, the govt can give to each Singaporean family $100,000 in cash. How long will it take to make back $58b? At 10% rate of return on investment on Temasek's balance of $127b, it may take 30 years. But if all the investments can double their value in 5 years, then it may take less than 3 years. The faster way of recouping the loss is to go to Sands when it opens. Place a $58b bet on red or black and one spin of the wheel could recover everything. $58b is $58,000,000,000!
My earlier post quoted Tharman's figure of 40% loss which was 2% better than the market's fall of 42%. Yesterday Lim Hwee Hua quoted 31% which was much better than the earlier number. The exact number is a loss of $58b. We have outperformed the market. Fund managers have been using this as a yardstick to measure their performance. Now that they have outperformed the market, would they be asking for a bigger bonus? In the same report in Today, it quoted the Kuwaiti sovereign fund losing US$31b out of a US$300b fund. Now that is just about 10% loss. Remarkable performance. We should recruit some of their fund managers and we could do much better next round. Just wondering if the Kuwaiti fund managers were local or foreign talents.
'Singaporeans like to have the Govt as the nanny.' Ong Keng Yong I will just say this is bull. Singaporeans disliked being nannied. The nannying was shafted down the throats of Singaporeans with all kinds of compulsion, for the good of the Singaporeans. That was the govt's excuse all the time. And then blame it on the people for being nannied.
An individual needs to donate $200k to the Singapore American School to book a place for a child. A corporation will need to cough out $300k for the same place. This is above the $10k to $20k school fees. The demand for a place in the SAS is so high that this is the market price for the time being. As a commercial enterprise, this is a happy thing. The amount to donate can keep going up as long as people are willing to pay for it. The question is who ultimately pays for it? Shall such a market driven logic be applied to state services like housing, medical, education and the rest of the essential services provided by the govt, including monopolistic services like public transport? One thing for sure when this kind of mindset is deemed acceptable, a lot of profit. Who pays?
Which is more powerful, more successful, and more real? With talent one can do anything. With good fortune, one does not need much talent to achieve more. Without good fortune, no amount of talent is going help and make one successful. True or false? Anyone out there willing to say that talent is the one that counts? The recent events have proven one thing. With talent one may be in a position to do big things. One can achieve a lot but also lose a lot. For losing, it is not the fault of the talent, but lack of good fortune. Blame it on providence when luck runs out. Without good fortune, we can see talents looking rather like misfits. Without good fortune, and when time is running out, or the wind has changed direction, talent or no talent, all will be found wanting. In such times, the latter will expose themselves immediately. And the more they hide behind the veil of talent, the more ridiculous they will look. I am sure many of the talents are having self doubts now and would wish that the balloon wasn’t so big. And there will still be some who sincerely believe the balloon is not big enough, and the talent tag is for real. The balloon will not blow up in their faces. Given such a scenario, maybe a better fall back position is to discard the talent brand and hide behind the supernatural, ascend to the next dimension of immortals and demigods. In such a state, what one only needs a little belief and a lot of trust. Would we be hearing anymore of this thing called talent or super talents? Or would one hear a sigh of relief and thanking god for their good fortune. But fortune comes and goes in cycles, like the tide, sometimes high and sometimes low.
I can't tell. What does this mean? It simply means that I have something to hide. But why can't tell me? Because it is not to your advantage. Because I am taking you on a ride. The costing and pricing of HDB prices cannot be a state secret that can't see the light of the day. Please tell us how the cost is derived and how much profit is made from the new policy of marking to market pricing. Can't tell, don't want to tell, cannot be the excuse. Like it or not, the truth will be out one day. The truth cannot be hidden forever in a democracy. It is better to tell now than for it to be told by someone else in a different way later. Please tell.
Khaw Boon Wan is allowing more money to be used from the Medisave to pay for the high medical and surgical fees. Is this a good thing? Like the use of CPF for a running away price of HDB flats, this is will only lead to the depletion of the people's savings. At the end of the day, everyone's saving in the CPF will be minimal. When are the authorities going to look at the problem truthfully and cut down on the cost that is eating away at the people's savings? More leeways is like more wayangs. Disagree? For goodness sake, deal with the problems of cost and market pricing. Don't distract the issue by talking about the fat ladies and the irrelevants.
The Lien, Tsao, Shaw and Khoo The Straits Times also listed the above families and their foundations for charity and it is only rightful to mention them here. Dr Lien Ying Chow donated almost half his wealth to the Lien Foundation. And Khoo Teck Puat was reported to have 'left 30 per cent of his wealth or some $2 bil to the foundation after his death in 2004.' And the old great philantrophist like Tan Kah Kee who donated practically all his wealth to education, building of schools and universities here and in China.
Chew Hua Seng In a way Chew Hua Seng is more remarkable for the amount he has donated to his foundation. $100m! His is new money that he has made recently. And he may not be as rich as the old rich. But his $100m foundation is a handsome sum of money relative to his wealth. Cheers man.
Wee Cho Yaw and the Wee Foundation The Wee family has set up a $30m foundation for charity, to help the less privileged, to promote the Chinese language and culture, to foster greater community spirit and social integration. The Wee have joined the other prominent Singaporean families like the Lee of Lee Rubber, the Lien, the Shaw and the Tan of Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. These are the contributions of people who have succeeded in their enterprises and returning something back to society. But what is more remarkable is not just this act but for a man who builds a business that has 500 offices in 18 countries. And he did it on his own, his way, without needing foreign talents. Wee Cho Yaw has proven that you don't need foreign talents to do what he has done.
Lim Wee Kiat and Lee Bee Wah are asking HDB to build no frills flats that are really 'affordable' to the young people buying their first flats. I can foresee a reply. If they cannot afford it, go for rental flats. Those are 'affordable' for sure. Both were talking about covered walkways and parks and quality of tilings. The intent is good but the direction is wrong. We can do away with some of the frills but the quality of the flats should not be sacrificed. The quality of the tile in HDB flats are not that great for a start. Going back to the 70s when flats came with cement screed is a big no. There is no need to cut down on the quality. It is all about costing and pricing. The most glaring example is the Pinnacles. When HDB could make profits selling them at the first launch prices, why is there is need to jack up another $200k each! This is profiteering at the expense of the people. And the mentality is that this is good! Just look at the costing and review the objectives of the HDB flats. Are HDB flats built just to maximise profits or for the people, for nation building? Some people have been intoxicated with too much fine wine to think that more profits is good. Think again. The prices of HDB flats need not be so high without even cutting down on quality. No need to price at market prices. If we mix up public polcies with private enterprises reason to exist, then we are no longer a country governed by the people for the people.
I have been yelling for this to happen earlier but it all fell on deaf ears. The turkeys in Wall Street and the American corporate world have been having too good a time robbing the minority shareholders. They claimed that they were the supertalents and demand to be paid in gold. And they justified themselves with their million dollar or billion dollar profits. Then they asked the company to pay them half of the profits for their cleverness. It has been that way for many years. Now we are seeing glimpses of the so called profits that were actually fraud, doctoring of accounts. And the shareholders could not to anything about it. The sudden revelation that many are losing billions and the corporations they ran could go bankrupt were greeted with shock. For the millions and billions they made over the years, could it be enough to cover for the losses of hundreds of billions that are now being told? Would the turkeys say a word of sorry, or would they cough up the loot that they had stolen over the years? Nay. What they are now doing is to ask for public funds to bail them out. And when the funds came, again they start to pay themselves crazy. America is lucky to have Obama who is brave enough to tell them in their faces that they are a bunch of shameless and irresponsible crooks. And yes, cap their salaries to prevent the looting to go on. America does not need crooks, selling themselves as supertalents, to run their corporations. They need decent men and the minority shareholders should demand just that. The crazy days of paying the sky must stop. No more looting. Erect a few lynching platforms and hang some of them for their deceit.
When our fund managers placed their bets on Citibanks, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Barclay etc etc, I thought it was a good idea. I still believe it was a good idea. Under normal circumstances, it was a window of opportunity opened for a little boy to enter the big league, on invitation. Even if the situation wasn't of the best, it should turn out well in the long run. We could be co owners of some of the biggest names in the financial world. Obviously things did not work out the way they were expected. Our losses were phenomenal. No numbers have been quoted except in vague percentage terms. The art of selective use of absolute numbers versus percentages has been honed to a fine skill in this paradise. My guesstimate is that the loss could be around $150b to $200b. Oh, let me be more precise on this. It is paper loss. And we outperformed the market and even trimmed our investments to 7% cash. Outperforming the market is a way devised by fund managers to tell investors that they have lost a lot of money but they are still cleverer than the market. As to the 7% in cash, good fund managers would probably have 70% in cash, not 7% or 10% or even 20%. What went wrong? On hindsight, we were in a hurry. We could also be too trusting of the Angmohs that came knocking at our doors asking for money. That was ok. The sore point is whether we have done enough homework and done enough to protect our investment if things were not what the Angmohs said they were? Placing such huge bets, in the billions, must be done with a lot of caution and hard facts. It is not betting in a casino! Everything is now water under the bridge. We would have to wait for the long run to recover our losses. There is this conventional wisdom that in a 30 year cycle, the prices of stocks and shares will outperform any kinds of investments. We will see what will happen in 2038. With the advantage of hindsight, any money put into the market today could probably double in less than three years. But the risk to lose everything is still there. The difference is that the risk is much lesser and the loss relatively lesser too. Many investors in the market have learned their hard lessons since the bull run of 1993 and the subsequent years of crashes. And they are still learning and still hurt by the present crisis. The important thing is to learn that old conventional wisdom may not always hold and investing with big money must be done carefully, patiently, unlike gambling in a casino.
That's life. People choose and create their own heroes. Kin Lian had done all the work that no one wanted to do. Everyone practically scattered and hid. Now we have two heroes proclaimed. And at the point of proclamation, they had yet to lift their little fingers while Kin Lian was sweating all over, and paying for all the cost himself, at his own time and expenses. He done it for free, at no one's prompting and order. Would the people remember him? Or would the media remember him? I think the new media would.
All the netizens have misunderstood Lui Tuck Yew. He has explained himself in Parliament that he was also for the light touch of regulating cyberspace and not for more regulations. I am wondering whether what was reported was exactly what he said or it was just the nuances that came out in the old media. It is good that Tuck Yew came out to clarify his position so quickly. Cyber regulations is for the netizens to decide. This sounds reasonable. Unfortunately the development of cyberspace and the concept of regulations do not fit in the new scheme of things. Regulations in cyberspace can only be effective in a limited and control area, a specific site. When it is cyberspace in toto, you can't really do anything. Unless govts want to adopt the cowboy tactic of hanging the horse thief and set up a ruthless task force to execute it, pursue the violators to the keyboard he is typing on, and chop off his fingers. Just like hard copy literature, with all the regulations, the pornography, hardcore and softcore media and fanatical literatures are everywhere. If you don't see it does not mean it is not there. Cyberspace will have its own version of the whole spectrum of acceptable and unacceptable blogs and sites. They will co exist and each will find its own customers and followers. What would likely to happen is that every netizen will go to places they are comfortable with. People will read what they want to read. Yes freedom of choice. Cyberspace will evolve and the bees will gather where there is honey and the houseflies will seek where there is rubbish. Oops, like me put it differently. The kopi drinkers will go to the kopitiams or coffee bean stalls, the tea drinkers can go to the sarabat stalls or tea houses, the beer drinkers can go to hawker stalls or pubs. And the wine drinkers can drink wine at kopitiams too, instead of wine bars. Basically, to each his own. That is what cyberspace is all about. No more nannying. Grow up. Yes people cannot be tied to the apron forever and thinking that they are children for life.
Goodyear is here. And many more good years may follow. We have unfolded our new secret formula to take on the world of corporate giants. We are in the big league, with a big war chest to spend. And we need a new formula to prove that we are different. We need an Angmoh face to front our international vehicles to look more real and international. Don't get me wrong, I am not xenophobic. In a brave new world when a black man can front the most powerful nation on earth, why are we still sticking to the old colonial formula of Angmoh best? Have we not learn enough? Have we not learn any lessons from the financial crisis that is unfolding in our face? There is no short cut to success. The only short cut is fraud or deceit. In other forms they called it creative accounting or doctoring the books. We don't need to learn this from the West. If Asians do not think they can succeed without an Angmoh face, then Asians should deserve to be doomed. China and India have proven that Asians are not duds. Japan, Korea and Hongkong have proven that Asians are equally eloquent and good in the theatre of warfare in international business. Perhaps our colonial fantasy is still deeply engraved inside our psychic. There are some advantages in having an Angmoh face to run our business. I dread that this is the magic formula to live by. Someone told me that some of our overseas businesses deliberately hired Angmohs to give it more credence and respectability. If the logic of western superiority is true, UOB should have folded up long ago. And India and China will still be colony or semi colony. All the Indian and Chinese corporations are doomed. How is it that Japanese brands are household names in the world market? Yes shahib. Tea or coffee?
'My ministry and the police are not intending to let that asset be debased by allowing the police to become a tool for petty politics.' K Shanmugam He added, 'The integrity and impartiality of the police force should be beyond reproach and that has been and will be our policy.' Shanmugam was responding to Siew Kum Hong's complaint that while the latter was conducting a street survey, 2 policemen were watching him and he was later told to stop his survey. He was only allowed to do so half an hour later after checking with their superiors. It seemed that the police received some complaints on Siew Kum Hong causing a nuisance to the public. And Shanmugam assured him that the police has a duty to investigate all complaints even if they do not merit an investigation. I just got two nagging doubts. Who would complain about Siew Kum Hong conducting a survey? He looks like a very nice guy, very polite and very learned, as handsome as any of the MPs. He does not bear tattoes or carry a parang around. Who was the complainant and what was his background or intent? I think all the mothers will let him carry their babies. Secondly, would the police do the same if a nuisance complaint is made against any MP or the grassroot leaders or anyone walking along the street? Ok, MPs should be safe. Low Thia Khiang or Denise Phua need not worry. Correct or not? Hey, Siew Kum Hong is also an MP, albeit an NMP! Was Siew challenging anyone on the streets or carrying a loud hailer blowing at top volume?
Premier Taxis MD, Lim Chong Boo, wanted to lower the $2.80 flag down fare during non peak hours. Johnny Harjantho, MD of Smart Taxis wanted the 35% surcharge for peak hour fares reviewed. And Neo Nam Heng of Prime Taxis wanted the authority to allow the operators to use used cars which are cheaper and can reduce operating cost. After fighting so hard to get the current fare scheme to be running without too much objections from the commuters, which increases their income by the way, how could the taxi operators want to turn the table to lower fares? Have they forgotten about the problems of the past when there were too many fares and too many taxis clogging the roads, and long queues? With the current high fares and surcharges, they need only pick lesser passengers and work lesser hours to get higher returns. And with a better paying passenger profile, lesser taxis need to run the roads, and traffic woes will be a thing of the past. The better paying passengers will definitely demand better quality or newer taxis since they are paying more for it. Second hand cars are old and not worth paying the high fares and surcharges. And don’t forget, with lesser passengers being able to afford to take taxis, the queues will be shorter and make taking taxis a privilege of those who can afford it. And that should be the way. Taking taxis is a privilege of the more wealthy commuters. They want the convenience, not to wait and wait.
Low Thia Khiang raised the thorny issue of how independent is our Independent Presidency in Parliament. He reckoned that the two key system is as good as two keys opening simultaneously, or two keys working as one. This has led to the call for a more transparent process in the excercising of the presidential powers. Tharman replied that our system is sound, run by men of high integrity and challenged Low to question their ability to act as honourable men. We are in fact in a very privilege position at this moment in time to talk and debate over the issue of how independent is our Presidency and whether there is a need to be more transparent to let it be seen that the Presidency is indeed independent. At the moment it is all about faith, the faith of good men in office. Otherwise the issue would not even be raised, that there is no doubt in the people's mind. Now, what do we have in practice now? We have a President in office who was a candidate nominated and sponsored by the govt. A govt's candidate, and walked into the office by default because of the stringent criteria that ruled out the possibility of more candidates being qualified to contest for the position. And he is assisted by a Presidential Council of eminent citizens, also nominated by the govt. It is only natural that the independence of the President becomes an issue. We are fortunate that the President has not been called upon to exercise his powers on controversial issues. If there be a day, the President's independence will not just be discussed in Parliament only. It is obvious that for the President to work independently, he needs to be independent or not too closely linked with the govt. And this applies to the Presidential Council as well. We are all familiar with the chorus, 'All the King's men.' Parliament also raised the issue of the transparency in the process in which the Presidential Council and the President would have to walk through before coming to their decision. This is still not apparent to the people. The other point that I would like to raise is the possibility of the two keys opening the vault in the middle of the night. Is that possible? Would there be an alarm system when the vault was opened, by two keys, but without proper authorisation? Who guards the vault to prevent such a happening?
The reserves were accumulated over many years, probably from 1965 onwards. Theoretically all the old citizens contributed to it one way or another and is a minority shareholder to this money. Now that we are using the reserves to share with the citizens, does it mean that every citizen, new or old, will be entitled to the same handouts, ceteris paribus? If yes, are the old citizens being shortchanged or the new citizens just being treated to a buffet from the accumulated reserves which they did not contribute a bit to it?
Obama is going to put a cap to the salaries of CEOs whose corporations received bailout aids from the govt. Many of these highly talented CEOs will be making a beeline out of America, and where to but paradise. It will be a great loss to America, a brain drain. America will lose their great talents. And paradise will benefit from their presence, their skills, experience. More good years ahead. Just pay them for what they asked for. Every cent is worth it. They will come in handy to manage our investments in Citibank, now BOA, UBS, Barclay and whatever.
Obama is furious at the irresponsibility shown by the corporate big wigs in Wall Street and the American corporate world. Despite so many of them being bailed out by the taxpayers, they are still splurging on themselves and paying themselves crazy. Obama is going to put a stop to all the money madness in America. He is going to put a cap on the CEO's salary at US$500K per annum for those corporations receiving govt aid. This madness of salary without a cap is running to a wall. It has been going on for too long. How could it be allowed to continue for so long? An employee with an open ended income that can literally shoot to the moon? Only the greedy could not see anything wrong with it. There must be a cap to all salaries and all incentive schemes to stamp the abuses and corruption in different guises.
This appear to be the norm in Parliament. Low Thia Khiang was whacked for running down the JCS outright. Of course there are goods and bads of the JCS. It is not meant to be a cure all solution. Then there were sweeping remarks that the netizens were immature as if MPs were mature in making such unqualified remarks. There were unkind and cruel remarks of Seng Han Thongs burning. There were many sites that gone to town burning the news. There were sites that did not do that. At least I know redbeanforum.com and mysingaporenews.blogspot did not. Don't make sweeping statements to tar and feather everyone. That is immature even when spoken in Parliament. So, does Lui Tuck Yew really think that netizens should regulate themselves or a body of netizens to regulate other bloggers? What a missed opportunity that we don't have ABS in action. To tackle the abusive bloggers is a full time job. Who would want to do it for free! Everyone is asking to be paid for doing national service. Let's be realistic. A reasonable voice may say a little to moderate the outcry. But would he/she take it on himself/herself to police the net without being paid? Come on, you must know how big cyberspace is and how much work needs to be done to trawl the sites. Ok, so what's next? More regulations and setting up cyberspace police squad? Or sending in the insurgents to attack abusive bloggers, fighting fire with fire? This will only define the war zone and set up a never ending feud between the nasties and the govt. Another option is to pay for the services of PR agencies to do the PR jobs. But that would be costly and may also backfired as anyone seen to be speaking for the establishment for the sake of it will be attacked or ignored. It is not an easy task to moderate the feelings of bloggers. And don't take the outburst so negatively. It is the purest and most brutal truth, a genuine feedback from the ground. Silencing them will only throw up the sweet and pleasant tooth. Is that what the govt wants to hear? To have the raw feelings out is better than just hearing the good stuff. Maybe paying some established bloggers to be the voice of reason to cool down temperatue could be a possibility. But it is a tricky task. Mishandling it would discredit the bloggers and fan the fire. You need good seasoned bloggers to handle this in the most acceptable way without offending the already angry mob. And it takes a lot of effort and devotion. Doing it for free? Fat hope. It is still a task or a role that has to be filled. And only respectable bloggers can do the job, carefully without ruffling feathers or rubbing the bloggers the wrong way. The heat can be lowered and cooled with the right effort. It is all about maturity! And not making sweeping statements to run down all and none.
It was reported in the ST that Low Thia Khiang had doubts on the effectiveness of the Jobs Credit Scheme in saving jobs. "He was promptly taken to task by six PAP MPs,...including labour chief Lim Swee Say.' Surprisingly several PAP MPs also questioned the same thing as Low Thia Khiang. But they were not taken to task. One thing which everyone is careful not to touch is the CPF. It seems that touching the CPF is taboo or will cause undue hardship to the hardlanders. And I too strongly disagree with Ngiam Tong Dow's suggestion that the CPF should be cut. I think he is too far away from the masses. Why can't we cut the CPF? Please ask the HDB or Mah Bow Tan.
This is gearing up to be the new debate of the day. Several MPs are standing up to be heard in speaking up for a Singaporean first policy. It was never an issue till now. We used to hear things like foreigners are talented and here to help us. Why are we chasing them away if they are here to help us? Not very logical. Then there is also the brutal truth version. Singaporeans who cannot make it in such an ideal environment like paradise, to make money and a good life, deserved to be kicked aside. They just don't have it to make it in life. Let their places be taken over by the hungrier foreigners. Maybe we should compromise on this. Singaporeans, being less talented, can take over the cleaning jobs in food courts. The talented foreigners can run the country.
Tony Tan reported that GIC was managing a fund of $450b and Temasek Holding managing a portfolio of $200b. These work out to be $650b. He also said that 7% was in cash and something like 30% in income paying investments. And we have outperformed the market! The market valuation of stocks worldwide has fallen by 42%. Our portfolio only lost 40% of its value. Not bad after taking some precautionary measures to trim down our investments in stocks and shares. So what is our paper loss to date. A 40% loss of $650n is $260n. But if we deduct the cash and other investment part, assuming 40%, then the sum invested in stocks and shares should be around $390b. A paper loss of 40% works out to be $156b. Still not a small sum of money. A little more than what Madoff has lost. But this is based on the above data and extrapolation. The actual amount loss, on paper, may be lesser. How much did we really lose? The number must be unspeakable.
We have two heroes coming in to help the investors in the minibond debacle. Professor Hans Tjio of NUS will oversee the process at Hong Leong Finance. At DMG & Partners Securities, Kim Eng Securities, OCBC Securities and UOB Kay Hian will be Hwang Soo Jin. Both "will not be personally involved in the resolution and settlement of individual complaints. 'They will provide MAS with regular updates on the progress of the financial institutions' complaints review and will highlight to MAS any shortcoming in their processes as well as any issues that require regulatroy follow up,' said the central bank." This is reported in Today paper. Tan Kin Lian's role is over. Now the heroes will step in to finish the job.
This is the headline of an article in the old media, 'Somthing to clap about' by Lin YanQin in Today. Workers of Chin Heng Garment Factory still found something to clap about after being retrenched. They were initially unhappy and angry and feeling quite emotional about being out of job. Soon they were clapping when the severance package negotiated over a month was improved. The workers greeted the news by bursting into an applause. This is a very positive spin on a depressing news. And the workers' morale is high and bubbly and looking forward to more challenges in good spirit, like oxens.
Singapore went to Davos with a solution to save the world from another financial meltdown. It has diagnosed the cause of the current crisis to the low pay of regulators and administrators in charge of Wall Street and the financial institutions. The solution is simple, pay the administrators and regulators at least as much as the bankers and fund managers and the problem will not have happened. The underlying assumption, according to my understanding, is that you pay for good talents. By paying the administrators and regulators as much as the bankers and fund managers, the supertalents will become administrators and regulators. And if they are paid even more, then they will be better than the bankers and fund managers. Now, how much will be enough to pay these supertalents? The bankers and fund managers are being paid hundreds of millions with the top three getting billions at the peak of the market. But there is one problem that I noticed. These supertalents of bankers and fund managers were being paid so much and they could not stop asking for more and actually resorted to frauds to continue to demand more and more pay. Would they behave differently if they become administrators and regulators? Won't they be the same greedy and unscrupulous thieves again? One thing for sure. If this is our solution, we must put it into practice first to show the world it works. The minibond crisis and the rubbish dump stock market are indicators that our administrators and regulators are not being paid enough. Let's pay them as much as the bankers and fund managers first. And when our stock market shoots pass 4000 points and no more similar minibond crisis, then we can tell the world that we have done it. We can solve all kinds of problems by throwing money at the problems.
Wall Street and the American corporate world are in a big mess. And the whole world is suffering the pain. Who is guilty or more guilty? At the moment only a handful of big wigs are caught with their pants down. No, they were not caught. They surrendered to the authority, confessed their own crimes. The authority was sleeping! Or were they sleeping with the thieves? The wonder of it all, the real criminals are all enjoying their ill gotten wealth without any sense of guilt and not guilty of any crimes. The real criminals are the regulators and administrators. They created and managed a flawed system! And the rest took a ride on the flawed system and benefitted from it. No crimes, just mismanagement. The thieves are stealing from an open till. So who is to be blamed? The regulators and administrators are pointing the fingers everywhere except themselves. Who is to regulate the regulators? Who is to guard the guards? When the administrators and regulators are cock enough to let flawed systems to operate and the thieves to take from the till legally, or without breaking the law or the rules, where is the crime? It is time to hang the regulators and administrators. They cannot find excuse that they are not paid as well as the thieves.
We need to create more jobs. I don’t mean creating jobs like cleaners and chambermaids. I mean real jobs that pay reasonably well. There are three ways to go about it. One, with our huge reserves, more jobs can be created with the money available. We can create more seniors and deputies positions, eg senior or deputy President to the President or senior vice Presidents, deputy to the vice President, senior Perm Sec, deputy Perm Sec or deputy to deputy Perm Sec. We can also have senior mayors, deputy mayors, or even create new ones like governors and deputy governors. The people have already accepted the practice of seniors, so it should not be an issue. Precedents have been set. It is a good precedent. A second way is to pass the hats around. Stop the ridiculous practice of one person wearing 10 or 20 hats. Pass the hats around so that more people can wear one or two fat hats. The greedy practice of several hats on a small head or a small head that thinks it is very big is unhealthy. Ok, I must be careful about this as there are not many people that are fit to wear big hats or many hats. A third way, and this concerns the filthy rich oldies. Many of the oldies are so rich that even without the income from their jobs they will have enough money to last a few generations. Let them retire gracefully to enjoy their wealth, to see the world and smell the roses. And let the younger and hungrier people take over their jobs. After all many are so feeble that most of the time they were on sick leave or fail to turn up for meetings or for work. We can spread a little generosity around and cast the net wider to share the goodies.
This seems to be the complaint of the day. The old media is joining cyberspace in reporting bad news and more bad news. Now isn't that bad? It is time to report good news. And this is a sign of being responsible, to tell good ending fairy tales. How would the media react to this call of telling good news in bad times? Would they be challenged by their professionalism or their conscience? Should the journalists or anyone reporting on news, deliberately take on a one sided approach, to cook up good news for that happy feeling? To tell the tooth or to tell the truth? It seems that telling the tooth is a duty call. What kind of spin shall one put into it when job losses, wage freezes, cannot keep up with bills and debt payments are the order of the day? One way to approach it is to report on the lifestyles of the rich and famous and their parties and expensive taste. Forget about the hard luck cases. Those are losers and they deserved to be in those desperate situations. These are the people who skims to save 10c on their bus fare, try to whip up dinner for 4 for $10 or downgrade from drinking $200 a bottle wine to a $12 bottle of fermented grapes that are still drinkable. What a life. I hope writing on bad news does not become seditious.
Is it just a sickness? With all the big financial institutions and corporations asking for millions of dollars from the govt to prevent bankruptcies, the CEOs in Wall Street are still paying themselves crazy. They take it as their dues, their just rewards for bringing in big businesses. Gary Goldstein, President and CEO of executive search group Whitney Partners, has this to say. 'It has become very corrupt...I've watched it over the years and everyone was taking their piece of the pie...and not paying attention to the end game, which is the little guy who ends up with all of these securities on their retirement accounts.' If these people have created real value or wealth, no one is going to protest. Have they? Their ingenuity in creating false wealth, doctoring of accounts, false businesses, supported by all the regulating agencies and the civil servants, have led to this world wide financial meltdown. And the best part is that they don't care and are continuing with their taking habits. It is part of the system, authorised, no fault, no crime and no guilt. Obama is furious and so are the Americans. They want to stop it but can't. The people are helpless while those in position to take continue to take. And the value of the stocks of many corporations hit bottom. No sweat. It is the small guys that are holding to the stocks thinking that it will see them through in their retirements. It is time to review the fat bonus scheme. It is the scheme of the thieves in power, to fatten their own pockets. Corporate honchos should tie their bonuses to the performance of the company as well as the value of their stocks. This must be fundamental to the health of the corporations and the wealth of the shareholders and the viability of the stock market. If stock prices are allowed to be manipulated by big funds and corporations do not care a dime whether it is going up or down, or if it is $20 or 20c, then the value of the stock is worth only the value of the paper it is printed. It is worthless. At the rate it is going, the stock market industry across the world will hit crisis situation just like the banking industry. Small investors will end up holding worthless pieces of papers. The compensation of corporate managers must be tied to the performance of the companies and stocks. This will ensure that they will bet their future on the well being of the corporations and stock value. Of course the flawed stock market mechanism must also be revamped to prevent massive sell down of stocks regardless of the value of the corporations. There must be responsibility and accountability! At the end of the day, when investors found themselves holding hoards of worthless papers, someone must be hanged!
I have shot a few hundred pics of the Chingay Parade at the Padang. I will try to post as many of the pics here as possible over the next few weeks. My first set is a spread of the various groups of participants, both local and foreign performers. After this I will try to post a group each starting from the locals and ending with the guest performers. I have quite a bit of photos on the Thai, Filipinos, Indonesian, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean and Indian participants. I could have a bit of others all mixed together. I was not able to cover all the other groups. I have seen some Europeans and Latin Americans if I am not mistaken. The Orchid Collection will temporarily be held back until this batch of Chingay pics runs out. Cheers and happy viewing.