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7/31/2009

The fallacious compensation formula for top management

Goldman Sach is going to reward its top management with bountiful bonuses again as its profit soars. Technically it appears a reasonable thing to do given that the top management were the people that helped to generate the profit and should be duly rewarded. But, but the formula is loaded on one side. Big profit means big bonuses. No profit no bonus and big losses, it is the organisation that pays, or the shareholders that pay. Nothing to do with the top management. They only miss out on the big payout. Look at yesterday when all the big organisations were bleeding in the billions. Would the top management put back those billions that were lost? What if the last losses were $200b, as an example, and they started to make back $20b this year, big bonuses again? By right, they should work for the organisation for free or at a fixed pay until all the losses were recovered. Would that be fairer to the organisation and the shareholders? For such organisations that have suffered huge losses, the compensation formula should and must take that into consideration. That was why older compensation schemes were not foolish enough to pay everything with the sky's the limit computed on a spot year. You can't do that! The American govt should pass a law to make those top management to work for life, without bonuses or pay increases, until the losses are made good. Then only can they talk about more bonuses.

A frightening letter in ST forum

'Begrateful, Spore' was sent in by a Canadian Eric J Brooks telling Singaporeans how lucky they were in such a well managed country. He compared our efficiency and our caring govt with what he used to live with in Toronto where rubbish were cleared only once a week. And Singaporeans only need to pay a pittance, $40 a month for conservancy fee. That is a steal. Now, what is so frightening about the letter. The praises are in the right places. We have a good govt and a well managed country. So, what's wrong? The problem is in the $40 conservancy fee that Singaporeans are paying for a clean environment. Some clever little kid is going to crack his head and say, 'Hey, this is too cheap man. Let's do a comparison on the cost of providing such a great service with all the big cities. This is a great opportunity to raise the conservancy fee since an ang moh is so overawed by it.' And raises his pay or bonuses too. This is the same kind of logic that sees the prices of our properties, taxi fares, public transport fares going the heavenly way. And so were the other goods and services. Our star attraction as a value for money tourist attraction where quality goods can be had at cheaper prices than other places is losing its glitter. Soon we will be just another expensive destination. Tighten your seat belt and wait for the next hike in all the service fees. We are living in the best city and we need to pay for it. Nothing comes free and good things don't come cheap.

7/30/2009

Sophisticated investors welcome, family jewels not for sale

By Shamim Adam July 29 (Bloomberg) -- Temasek Holdings Pte, reeling from the aborted appointment of Charles "Chip" Goodyear, said it lost more than S$40 billion ($27.7 billion) in asset value and that the sovereign fund may allow public investment for the first time. The Singapore investment company will seek "sophisticated investors" and won't sell the "family jewels" for short-term gains, Chief Executive Officer Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said in a speech today in Singapore. ... All sophisticated Singaporeans are invited to invest in Temasek to take advantage of the expertise it has accummulated over the years. Temasek has a scintillating record of, if I remember correctly, registering 8% or 15% growth over the last couple of decades. And Singaporeans should feel comforted that family jewels will not be sold. DBS, SIA, NOL, Singapore Land etc are safe for now. Unfortunately the power stations were not managed by Temasek. Or else they would not be sold. Was Raffles owned by Temasek before, and was it a family jewel, or was it a national heritage? Let's make an effort to keep some of our inheritance and not to sell everything for a little short term monetary profit. Let's not sell Alaska!

Shedding crocodile tears

Why is property speculation bad? The buyers are happy, the sellers are happy, the land owners are happy, the developers are happy, and so are property agents and conveyance lawyers. And everyone is laughing to the bank. Let's churn the property market higher, limiting supplies, increasing demands, and get the media to write more frightening stories about the prices going higher and better rush in to grab one before it is too late. Or write about how a $200k property is now selling at $400k to move the herd for the slaughter. In property market, we only hear of the money people are making. We never hear who is paying for the enormous sums and how many years they must slog to pay back. But these are the normal things in a free market when prices are determined by supply and demand. Go for it, let the prices surge higher. It is good. There will be money everywhere. I forget, the banks too will be very happy to loan out more money. And all the property owners will be beaming, seeing how much their properties are worth now. The same 4 walls, and many with dwindling lease life. Still the herd will rush in to buy, fearing that they will miss the boat. Anyone remember the dizzy demands for country and golf clubs a few years back? 30 year lease and most of them with less than 15 years left. And the value for the less prestigeous clubs is probably 20% left from their highs. And this will keep going down, and may become negative value when the lease expires and a new top up is demanded from every member for a new lease.

We are still waiting?

I thought I remember that people are looking into the motor insurance and workshop repair scam. Now, how many days have passed? Is the issue dead, resolved, or is it water under the bridge? Or is it that since no one is talking about it, the scam is now acceptable and nothing needs to be done? Motorists better make more noises before you start to pay another hefty insurance premium to fatten the crooks in the scam. You need to complain louder to be heard and to be taken seriously for things to happen.

7/29/2009

Of Mavericks and supertalents

Either our education is a fake, a failure, or our selection process for govt scholars and top talents is missing something. We talked openly about identifying and selecting mavericks for the civil service but did we see any? Philip Yeo and then who else? Oh, one who ran his ministry so well that he could go on leave to pursue his passion, knowing that without him, the ministry will do just as well. Where are the mavericks? Then we look at Temasek, presumably with so many local talents, they could not find one to fit the shoe and went around looking for something cheap and good. I think Liew Mun Leong should comfortably fit in with the wealth of experience that he has been exposed to, if none internally is good enough. We should not keep on telling the world that we have no local talents and dismiss our local talents as furnitures. Look at all the actors and actresses in MediaCorp! If we don't give them a chance, would they be what they are today? Would Hongkong and Taiwan entertainment industries give them the same chance? Lim Goh Tong was never a supertalent. But he built an empire that stretches through several continents. So were some of our not so talented entrepreneurs like Wee Cho Yaw and the Queks. So, what is the truth, system failure, no talent, or what?

7/28/2009

No shame, no guilt, no remorse

Did anyone notice any sense of shame, any feeling of guilt or any hint of remorse? Any sensible person faced with such blatant and outrageous acts of impropriety would have long said, enough, can’t take it anymore, run away to hide, and not to face the world again. But no, there is nothing wrong. Everything is justifiable, can be explained and is reasonable or normal. I am above the law, above all human norms and behaviour, nothing can stain me. I have done so much good, so much merit, whatever things that I have done were mere little indiscretions. No, not indiscretions, they are normal acts of a human bean and I am a normal human bean, with all my greed, lust, and extravagance. The above probably explain why all the shit were allowed to be aired in public over so many days, for all to see. Is there any decent man kind enough to advise the tart that the whole thing is so ridiculous it is better to call it off immediately, not even to have it started in the first place? Anyone with an ounce of intelligence could see the senseless nature of the whole proceedings. But no, it must go on public record that I have done no wrong. I am beyond reproach, and if I have done anything stupid, they are excusable as I have done big things and done great things. All the great things that I have done must be enough to mitigate the little silly things that I have done. Oops, whatever I done were not silly or wrong. I have done no wrong. That is why I am standing here facing the music. For no dirt or shit can stain me. Oh come on, spare the people and the teacher and the truth from being tarnished by your stupidity. Or have we reached a stage when all the rich and powerful believes that with money and fame, there is no fear of shame, there is no shame as long as your bank account is full of money.

Peeking into stock orders 'an unfair advantage'.

'The hallmarks of our markets are that they are open and above board, and the little guy has as much of a chance as the big guy.' - Senator Charles Schumer, Chairman of the Senate rules and administration committee. What is happening in Wall Street and many stock exchanges across the world where the hedge funds are operating is that they tapped into the main exchange operating system to peek into stock orders from other investors. This gives them a 0.03 sec lead time to compute and place their orders to take advantage of other investors with their powerful computers. According to the Tabb Group, it reported that these high frequency traders accounted for more than half of all the trades and pocketed 'about US$21 billion in profits last year. Who lost? Schumer wants a stop to such advantage against the small investors and wants to prohibit trading by high frequency traders. Well, the Americans have some decent man to call a thief a thief. There is conscience to do right and justice. Do we have such high frequency traders trading here and taking advantage of the small guys? If there are, what are we going to do about it? Or why did we allow this go on for so long? Fair game? Caveat emptor? This is worst than minibonds! Are we fair to the small investors? If billions have been lost by the small investors because of such malpractice, who is going to pay for it? No one is responsible for sure. Does anyone know what is happening?

7/27/2009

An old story rehashed

He was a botak, with short crew cuts, not the stylish marine type. A typical Chinaman style, nothing fashionable. He wore a short sleeve white shirt, and probably a pair of China brand leather shoes. His office was just as spartan. Outside his office there would be a queue of well dressed western gentlemen in fine business suits and expensive briefcases, waiting eagerly to meet him. Once in his office they put on their best manner to present what they want, to sell to this Chinaman. The boorish, apparently ill mannered Chinaman would stroke his botak head, dug his nose or popped up his denture occasionally, while listening to the elaborate presentations. He controlled a war chest in the multi millions, to buy expensive equipment. The polished and well dressed gentlemen were there, eager to please him, all for his nod to get to his money. Yes, they came for his money. The moral of the story is that when they want your money, they will queue up and be nice to you, no matter who you are. You can be a little dictator, a military junta or a cruel monarch, they will come to please you to part with your money. We have plenty of money in our sovereign funds, and in our stock markets. We need not go around the world begging the thieves to take it. They should be the one begging for the money. We need not live by their rules and dictation. Why should we employed an Angmo to front our SWF or other set ups that we paid for? Because the thieves said so? Because the thieves demanded that it be so or else they would not want to take our money? Just like the stockmarkets around the world, the thieves and robbers will come if there is money to make. There is no need to bend backwards to accommodate them, to play by their rules, or rules designed and determined by them to their advantage. We have the money. We have money flowing out of our pockets. We need not be beggars, to plead with the thieves to come and take it. They will come. When they said no, they do not want your money, they are bluffing.

7/26/2009

Can students assume that all is ok?

With the closing of Brookes Business School and its subsidiary school, can students attending classes in all the existing private schools feel secure that they will not get into the same problem as those from these two schools? Case's Executive Director Seah Seng Choon has explained that CaseTrust is just about protecting the fees students paid and welfare practices. The role of ensuring academic excellence is the responsibility of Spring Singapore. In 2004, EDB's press statement said that an accreditation council was supposed to be set up. This somehow did not materialise. Can we assume that all the private schools thus did not go through a screening process to ensure that what they claimed were genuine and that all of them are sound and proper? A new regime will be set up under EduTrust to regulate private schools and the quality of the services they are providing. Until then, Case is stepping up to check on private schools to see that all is in order. There is a lapse of 5 years of free enterprise when everything goes. 5 years of caveat emptor while the foul smell was floating around and with several other incidents and several schools closed down. What a pathetic state of affair that was allowed go on for so long without any body stepping in to protect the students and the image of a reliable and world class education hub that we are building. Can students assume that everything is ok now?

What the govt is looking for in a govt scholar

What the govt is looking for in a govt scholar Below is a quote by Eddie Teo, PSC Chairman, on what the interviewers will be looking for when interviewing potential scholars. He advised the young interviewees to be themselves, to be critical and sceptical. And this is what he meant by that. ‘Being critical means you care about our nation and want to improve things and correct what you think is wrong. Being sceptical means you are not naïve and do not accept everything you read or hear.’ He also added that the PSC ‘is not looking for conformists or yes men …but people who dared to think and question existing policies’. With so many people calling me naïve, I sure fail miserably if I were a young man applying for a scholarship. But the motherhood statement is a very nice ideal to live up to. It would be nice if the people recruiting scholars really believe and practise what they preached. I think they do. The problems come only when these highly idealistic young people graduated and started their civil service careers. Would they continue to believe in such ideals and practise them? Look around, look at some (some only) of the farcical reasonings given to justify some of the absurb policies and decisions made, I think many would believe that such ideals are at best a myth. Or the recruitment process failed miserably in its ability to select the critical and sceptical into the service, the ‘few mavericks – people with unconventional viewpoints who are willing to challenge assumptions…(to) add vitality and diversity to the service’. What do we have and what do we see in public service? The minibond fiasco and the mess in the finance and private education industries are examples that say nobody cares nothing about our nation and about improving things. It is just a job with a clearly defined job description that comes with it. Where is the ownership, the passion and conviction in nation building? If it is not my job then it is not my problem. Running a country is not a job. Running a country is not simply about making more profits. It is about improving the quality of life of a people. What kind of life we want our people to live, cost of living and cost of not living. Are the people living when they have to spend a whole life working just to keep themselves alive instead of living life?

7/25/2009

What integrity to protect the small investors?

We want fairness, fair odds to trade in the stock markets, to win and lose fairly. We demand a fair trading system and fair treatment from the regulators. No loaded dice in the stockmarkets. These are the minimum conditions that small investors should expect from the stockmarket trading system. Allowing a trading system to be loaded against the small investors is not only unfair, but CRIMINAL. It is a crime amounting to cheating or collaborating with the cheats to rip off the small investors. There is a very revealing article in the ST today, of course it must come from the gods in America, in Wall Street, from the New York Times. Our demigods and immortals are blind or ignorant to such revelations. Even if they do, they won’t make a whimper of it. The best they could do is to copy an article, like this article, and innocently push it out to the public. For what? To educate who? High frequency trading moves in blink of an eye ‘Critics say it offers unfair advantage over traditional trading.’ The big boys, hedge funds, are making millions and billions by the use of sophisticated trading systems and computer programmes to trade against the small investors. And the verdict is simple. They win and the small investors lose. Programme trading has been put in practice for many years with the consent of the regulators who knowing very well that it is unfair to the small traders. They are accomplices to the crime of robbing and cheating the small guys. Period. Not only that the big funds have technology on their side, the trading rules are also on their side, and aided by a big war chest, the unfair advantage they have over the small investors is unimaginable. Why were they allowed to participate in an unfair game where integrity, honesty, transparency and fair play are fundamental principles of the whole trading system? They provide volumes, they churn up volumes, giving the fictitious impression that the market is active and trading with high volumes. It was all a big farce. It was all programme trading that contributes to the high volume, buying and selling at the same time. Syndicates manipulating the stockmarkets are frown upon and apprehended for cornering the market, for market manipulation. Is programme trading in the same league? Where is the integrity to ensure a level playing field for all? Where is the integrity to protect the small guys? Or is it another case of immoral morality, exploiting the innocent small guys with a loaded dice?

Brookes duped? Not so, say ex students

This is the heading of an article in the ST about the case against Brookes Business School for issuing fake degrees from RMIT. The heading is appropriate. It is the school, Brookes, that was duped and in turn duped the students. It is the school that issued fake degrees. No human bean is involved or guilty of it. Brookes should be hanged. Would this be the natural finding at the end of the case?

7/24/2009

New Singapore city waterfront

The financial district waterfront at dusk. 2nd pic shows the three towers of Sands Casino nearing their completion. They stand on the left of the waterfront pic and facing the Fullerton Hotel. The tower block with blue lights behind the Fullerton is the new MayBank building.

Stage for the National Day Parade

This is the floating platform in the sea next to the Esplanade. The NDP shows will be staged on this platform. The 2nd pic were performers on stage during a rehearsal.

Goodbye Mr Chip

I read a copy of Wall Street Journal's article on the departure of Chip Goodyear and the reason given by Temasek is "differences regarding certain strategic issues." Could this bungling be avoided from day one and not happen at all? The assets managed by Temasek and the interests and objectives are bound to straddle across strategic and highly sensitive area. How could these be screened away from a foreigner who is the CEO of the organisation? Could Goodyear be asking too much and wanting to know too much that the strain becomes unbearable? It is quite ridiculous to engage a foreigner to manage the strategic assets of a nation and believe that nothing sensitive will be divulged. Now, can we expect a kiss and tell autobiography or movie in the near future? The royalty fees is going to be quite substantial and irresistible.

The new way forward

The headline in the ST today, Surgeons cleared but hospital was negligent. This was about a case where the kidney donor died of internal bleeding after the operation. The judge found that 'the hospital had been "negligent and had breached it's duty" when it failed to monitor the patient during those 90 minutes after her operation. It was reported that during an autopsy it was discovered that 'clips had apparently slipped from her cut renal artery' and she died from internal bleeding. Who is the hospital by the way? So it is the failure of the hospital to do its job thoroughly. And the hospital is found guilty and has to pay damages and costs. This is very similar to the minibond fiasco when the parties found responsible and punished were organisations. No human beans were involved or responsible. This is a good way to go forward. No need to be personal, just blame the organisation and punish the organisation.

7/23/2009

New citizenship – strike lottery!

Becoming a new citizen here is as good as striking lottery. The first thing they are going to receive is the GST rebates and maybe new Singapore shares when they are given out. Next, a bigger bonus will come from HDB. First time buyers will be entitled to a $40k grant. Tiok beh pio ah!!! And more govt subsidies in hospitalization and medical bills. Wow, bee tang! Membership has its privileges. What have new citizens contributed to the nation to be entitled to the full benefits of citizenship? Below is a petition to Obama that is circulating for signatures. SOCIAL SECURITY CHANGES It does not matter if you personally like or dislike Obama. You need to sign this petition and flood his e-mail box with e-mails that tell him that, even if the House passes this bill, he needs to veto it. It is already impossible to live on Social Security alone. If the government gives benefits to 'illegal' aliens who have never contributed, where does that leave those of us who have paid into Social Security all our working lives? As stated below, the Senate voted this week to allow 'illegal' aliens access to Social Security benefits. Attached is an opportunity to sign a petition that requires citizenship for eligibility to that social service. PETITION for President Obama: Dear Mr. President: We, the undersigned, protest the bill that the Senate voted on recently which would allow illegal aliens to access our Social Security. We demand that you and all Congressional representatives require citizenship as a pre-requisite for20social services in the United State s.

Silly thoughts and silly excuses

The departure of Chip Goodyear from Temasek has spawned a series of silly talks and excuses in all the gossip corners. There were things like globalisation needs a foreigner to front the unit. Now I know why we employed so many foreign talents. Or we need a foreigner to be more transparent. For this I will suggest just wearing a see through plastic sheet will be better. And, yes, if we want to invest in America, we need a foreigner, or better still, an American to show our sincerity. Shit, who would want to put more money into a country with an economy that can go bust any time or with a dollar that may turn into banana money. Now what else were reported? Oh, fine for attending meeting late. That must be a super talented idea. Saving money for the organisation. I will wait to hear more funny stories. But mind you, all these funny episodes do not come cheap.

That deadly deficit hangover

Tharman was talking about economic principles and the need for exit strategies and direct, targeted help. On govt spending and fiscal policies he warned that govts need an exit strategies for over spending or else the bubble will burst. This tickles my thought about exit strategies for the high property prices and the payback of our CPF money. What kind of exit strategies are there to prevent the bubble bursting, or to prevent the poor 99 lease holders from seeing their multi million dollar properties turning to 0 value when the leases expire? And the huge CPF debt owed to the CPF contributors, how and when would they be returned? Delaying payout, shifting the goal posts, more schemings, would only delay the problems but would not solve it. In fact the problem will only snowball unless there is a workable exit strategy to pay back when the money is due. The two nightmares that Singaporeans are facing are, one, when their properties, worth millions of dollars, become nothing. The second nightmare is when they realise that the CPF money is only a dream, to feel good, to be happy reading the numbers on a piece of paper and feel very rich. And yes, Tharman still thinks that it is a bad idea not to tax on basic necessities. It is better to tax on them and then targetted the money collected to those who need the money. An excellent strategy which I still don't agree. Just like the strategy of escalating property prices.

7/22/2009

Don't compel if you can't guarantee

The govt is making CPF Life compulsory for CPF contributors by 2013. And it claims that the payout will be for life. But it also has a provision to say that if the fund is insolvent, it can stop paying to the CPF members who have paid money into the scheme. Halimah Yaacob has correctly pointed out that “the relationship between the CPF Board and the CPF members, however, is not just a legal contract (but) a social contract as the board has a social responsibility to manage CPF funds prudently in order to help Singaporeans meet their retirement needs.” Straits Times. Did the CPF members ask to be in the annuity scheme? NO. It is the govt that is compelling the CPF members to put their money into the scheme. If that is so, the govt better guarantees that the money is there and will be paid to the contributors as promised. Otherwise don't make it compulsory. The provision not to pay is unacceptable.

'they assumed everything is ok'

RMIT said it complained about Brookes Business School in 2007 to the MOE. MOE issued a warning letter and subsequently did not hear from RMIT. So 'they assumed everything is ok.' But everything is far from ok and many students were cheated in the last two years. And the matter was raised in parliament. 'Halimah wondered if more could have been done to "save a lot of people from heartache".' Hello, hello, anyone in? On vacation?

No more good years

Once we heard loud noises about more good years. But when good years were turning into lean years, one good year was brought in to break the bad trend. Unfortunately it didn't help much. Probably they should get an expensive good year instead of a cheap one. Now, brace up and prepare to have more of the same. Actually when the mandate of heaven is with a person, anything the person touched will turn to gold. Otherwise everything touched will turn to dust. But when the mandate is with a person, even a fool, everything touched will turn to gold. Would the mandate of heaven still be with the chosen?

7/21/2009

Not a bad idea for rise in HDB resale prices

'HDB flat prices should be a reflection of Singaporean's wealth and it is "not a bad idea" for prices to increase steadily, especially for those holding onto negative assets bought in the previous market peak in the mid 1990s.' Grace Fu What about those first time buyers who have yet to buy a flat and chasing the escalating prices?

Hello, anyone in?

Is there anyone responsible for anything anymore? Is there anyone able enough to do anything right or everyone has done his best and this is what we are getting? What, what, sorry wrong number. If anyone is asking me what am I talking, I also don't know. These words just keep ringing in my ears.

What a beautiful sound

On the front page of 'my paper' are these sweet words that are music to my ears - S'poreans to get monthly CPF Life payouts. Then on page 2, CPF Life are for life. And sweeter still, the first paragraph, 'Singaporeans will receive monthly payouts form the CPF Life annuity scheme for the rest of their lives although the law does not provide for it, assured Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong. The sweetness ends there. As I read on, the money is not coming from the govt, it is coming from your own savings. Fat hope, where got govt so good one. And I think it is compulsory after 2013. The point is that it is your own money.

In celebration of longevity

I am 95 and still going strong. I decide to go a cruise around the world and tell my personal assistant to get 5 tickets. One for me of course. The second ticket is for my personal assistant as I need him to be with me all the time, telling me how my stocks are performing and how is my $50m doing. And I also need him to tell me how beautiful is the sunset. The third ticket is for my personal nurse. She needs to check that all my systems are functioning and to feed me with a battery of pills, drugs and supplements. How else can I keep on being alive at 95. Another ticket for a maid to push me around and to massage my near to lifeless body, to make it supple and to prevent blood clot, muscle atrophy, or to simply let me feel the goodness of being touched. And the 5th ticket is for another maid whose job is to feed me, queue for the food at the buffet spread and do my errants. While I will be enjoying my world cruise, my thought will go out to my good friend in his rental flat. His life is very well taken care of by the CPFLife that he had invested. Everytime I visited him, I am very contented just watching his calm and serene face, all at peace, staring at the ceiling. He is attached to some machine and being fed by social workers. He once told me he had two wishes. One is to be disconnected from the machine. His next big wish is to crawl around the estate, with the help of the beautiful handrails that have been erected for his needs. They were extremely useful. But he has not been able to touch them for more than 10 years. Life is great. Long life is greater. PS. Now you know when I need to have $100m for my retirement!

7/20/2009

Racial Harmony Day

Vivian is talking about racial harmony and the need to be mindful, conscious and sensitive to this delicate balance in our multi racial society. We have been talking a bit about such issues and the perception and bitterness of the minority that they are discriminated and disadvantaged. I wish such issues can be resolved once and for all and everyone can live happily thereafter. The reality is that discrimination will be there in all countries and societies, racial discrimination, religious discrimination, social and economic discrimination, even in our case, local born or foreign born, new or old citizens. Human beans are born with a little sainthood in everyone and a little devil as well. How much sainthood and devil in a person varies, genetic, biological, social, wealth, education etc, will all affect a person's mindset. At times it is circumstances, environmental. But this does not mean that we shall live with discrimination. What we can hope for is that discrimination is not permitted by law and practice. The individual part is more difficult to deal with as any incident can be changed from a disagreement between two losers into a racial thing. Let me quote an incident when two guys were having kopi in East Coast Park Hawker Centre. They sat in a table next to a couple. The man told off one of the guys for wearing shorts as it violated his wife who was there. The two guys could have stood up and told the man off which could end up in a fight. If they were of the same race, it would be just a quarrel and a fight. If different races were involved, it could be flamed as a racial dispute. If we keep on wearing the colour lenses and look at things in our chosen colour, we will continue to live in a world of colours. We can also remove our colour lenses and try to make the best out of the system. America has the most laws to protect its people from human rights and racial discrimination. It is also the country that flouted these laws the most, and racial discrimination is not only history but existing daily and in very bad forms and dosages. We have done very well in our minority majority relationship and a live and let live ethos. Everyone, minority or majority, will be treated as fairly and equally under our laws. There will be the odds and difficult situations and occurrences. But generally, we are doing ok and will keep improving as we move forward. What we must be wary of is for small groups of agitators that will want to flame every incident and turn it into a big issue. We can handle issues or problems as human beans or as colour beans. It is all in our mindset.

7/19/2009

Making a statement

A political secretary to a Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah was found dead after being interrogated by the MACC, Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, on his boss. He was not the target of the investigation. 30 year old Teoh Beng Hock, due to get married next week, was found dead 9 floors below the MACC office in the wee hours of the morning. Did he commit suicide after a fierce marathon interrogation session? Or there was foul play? Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the police had not rule out foul play. And if there were foul play, who would be in the MACC office in those hours were obvious. Or would it be some thieves who entered the building and saw Teoh and decided to bungle him over the window? An ordinary citizen being called up for interrogation inside a govt office ended up dead from falling over the window. How could people die so easily inside a govt office? Is someone trying to make a statement or a kind of warning? What is the statement that is being made and to who? Would it be better to pronounce him insane and lock him up in a mental hospital, or file a sodomy charge against him instead of simply bungling him over the window? The statement is a statement of fear, of who is the boss.

7/18/2009

Blind to our own destruction

The green movement is gathering steam to warn the human specie that they will destroy themselves in their folly to exploit mother earth to its fullest. By employing technology and the cunning of the human mind, they harvest the land, farm the sea and eat up everything beyond their replacement rate. We burn and consume so much natural resources and fossil fuel that the temperature will become too high to sustain many life forms. But this road to our self destruction will have many more years to go. The fastest and shortest road is to destroy the world economic and financial system. We have been warned. It is so easy when we are blind to our greed. When everyone is singing, Greed is Good, and believing in it, and participating in the ripoff, the very people who are there to manage this insatiable appetite, become part of the marauding party, we are doomed. We will not learn as long as the benefits to the few cheats and swinders are shared among the leaders. All will party at the expense of the small guys, the losers, so they called them. It is pointless for the small guys to kpkb, useless, no one will listen to such foolishness in the wilderness. Let me bring in the big guns. I was reading Paul Krugman's article in the ST this morning, The only good news is at Goldman Sachs, he said. The writing is on the wall. Yes we will commit the same sins again and again. And the regulators will join in and say good, go ahead. Goldman Sachs is making a lot of money again and is going to shower its employees, especially the top manager, with tons of money, just like yesterday. They will pat their backs again and said how clever. But that is not the problem. The problem is how they make the money, in Krugman's words, 'financial firms...directed vast quantitites of capital into the construction of unsaleable houses and empty shopping malls. They increased risk rather than reducing it, and concentrated risk rather than spreading it. In effect, the industry was selling dangerous patent medicine to gullible consumers.... While other banks invested heavily in...toxic waste...selling to the public at large...Goldman ... made a lot of money selling securities backed by subprime mortgages - then made a lot more money by selling mortgage-backed securities short, just before their value crashed... All of this was perfectly legal, but the net effect was that Goldman made profits by playing the rest of us for suckers. And Wall Streeters have every incentive to keep playing that kind of game.' This modus operandi is not confined to just selling toxic products. The stock markets are operated under very similar principles. The big funds, with the help of technology, managing information, will sell down stocks and force out the small and weak investors before buying back at rock bottom prices, at any opportunity or negative news, real or imagery. Then they will buy back frantically and unload at much higher levels to the same suckers. And all this time the fundamentals of the stocks remain unchanged. The process is repeated every other day. And the regulators of stock exchanges knew what was going on, all perfectly legal. And they have vested interest to keep playing the game or let the game go on.' The excuse is caveat emptor as long as there is no blood on the streets. As long as there is no mass protest like the toxic bonds, the game will be legal. When greed rules the head, greed is good. Selling snake oil is fine as long as the few will amass a fortune from it and the suckers continue to pay willingly. There is no qualms and no need for moral responsibility. The chase for rapid economic growth, the high property prices and the property game, all falls into the same modus operandi. Create demand to drive up prices when there is no need to, but for the greed of profits or economic numbers.

7/17/2009

The relative truth

What is truth is all relative and depends on a person's background and what he/she wants to believe in. Some once exclaimed that $600k is peanuts. Temasek and GIC lost several tens of billions, near to $100 billion, but no one really bats an eyelid and no one say that it was a huge sum. Today we heard MAS lost $9.2 billion and the phrase used is this - 'So heavy were its losses that they wiped out about 80 per cent of MAS' combined gains of $11.29 billion in the preceding two profitable years...' Why was this loss described as so heavy when several tens of billions were simply another loss? If I were to put it, I will say $9.2b loss is peanuts. The truth, the real truth, depends on the person saying it, and the people listening to it also have their own truths and interpretations of the truths. When Chiam See Tong asked for some money from the reserves to be used to help the citizens, the response was that it would kill the golden goose. And I think he was not even thinking of a billion bucks. After losing several tens of billions, the golden goose is still healthy and swaggling around, still can afford to loose a few billions.

HDB flats are heavily subsidised

'New HDB flats are heavily subsidised and the board's priority is to help those who need such housing the most, such as those who are buying a flat for the first time and families who cannot afford private housing.' This is from a reply by Chan-Wong Jee Choo Lily, Dep dirctor, HDB. I am wondering whether old flats were heavily subsidised? I am also wondering how heavily subsidised were the flats at Duxton Pinnacles when they were sold at about $200k more the than the first launch at market prices?

7/16/2009

Immoral morality

How could these two words be lumped together? It is either moral or immoral and not inclusive. In life, the moral and immoral parts are obvious, but the immoral morality part is kept under a veil. Sometimes what is obviously immoral is not so immoral and what is obviously moral is more immoral than anything else. Prostitution is an industry that easily fits into the immoral realm. So is the casino and gambling industry. But the prostitutes are trading their services for a fair price, wiling buyer willing seller. And the customers normally go away satisfied, provided the service does not include hidden diseases. The casino is what it is and because of that it is so well regulated that the risks are all upfront. The hidden cameras, loaded dices and electronic controls are not allowed to be introduced to cheat the customers, though some still do illegally. Actually I should call these industries moral immorality as distinct from immoral morality. Now what is immoral morality? The banking institutions, the financial industry are reputable industries, administered and regulated by man of principles and high morals. Today, their moral standard go as far as this statement, and no further. We have experienced and been hurt by the toxic products, frauds, misrepresentation, flawed systems, exploitation of technology against small investors, regulations and systems favouring the big funds without the small investors having any clue to it and thinking that the odds are fair. The casinos are fairer. At least the gamblers know the odds and know that they got to be careful with the casino operators. In the case of the finance industry, the trust is a given, but misplaced. Oh there are exceptions to the rule. Some are highly principled and moral, integrity beyond dispute. Now, did I give a good explanation of immoral morality? All their accomplices are meant to be people of high morals and will uphold fair play and walk around with a hat saying moral responsibilty is their name.

Would Singapore become another Mexico?

Brookes Business School was ordered to close by the MOE for issuing fake degrees. Now its subsidiary, Stamford Global Learning is also ordered to close. The former had 400 students while Stamford Global has 40. How would this affect Singapore's reputation as a world class education centre? Would Singapore be avoided like Mexico from the H1N1 flu, in this case, fake degree flu? To quote an affected China student, 'If people in China hear about this, fewer of them will come to Singapore.' This is not the first time such things happened. Is it so difficult to avoid such a mess? Just a few phone calls to the universities concerned will do the trick. Maybe it is too troublesome, too big a job. Maybe it is nobody's responsibility. Oh, free market, self regulations, caveat emptor. Now I am wondering how serious is this fake degree flu and how far it is going to spread. Totally irresponsible.

7/15/2009

Potong Pasir and Hougang getting upgrading

The sun rising from the West? The two opposition wards are not only going to get the upgradings, they are queue jumping, as their turns are not due yet. Unbelieveable, how can opposition wards cut queues and get rewarded ahead of govt controlled wards? This must surely be signs of maturity, magnanimity and generosity. This is what an all inclusive society is all about. No one will be left behind.

AG office unhappy with govt depts

Lax procedures and inefficiency have resulted in money not collected or contracts awarded not at lowest cost or for convenience. This is intriguing given the quality and number of supertalents hired and paid so well. It is basic to buy services or products at the lowest cost unless the provider or product is substandard. The AG Report highlighted that the MOE could save between $1m to $15m if the cleaning services were awarded to contractors who quoted lower than market rate. Fair comment. But why are the words HDB, market pricing and water conservation tax keep popping up in my mind? The govt should be run as efficiently and profitably as possible. The business principles of buying cheap, below market prices, and selling high, at market prices or better, must be adopted by all ministries. Run it as a profitable business. Make as much money as the market can pay from the consumers. Who are the consumers?

7/14/2009

Victims of Savages

Throughout history, the worst savages of racial discrimination, brutality and ethnic cleansing were the Americans and Europeans. They left their marks from North and South America, Africa and across Asia. Hardly any race was spared. The savage killings of the Red Indians, the slavery of the Africans, apartheid in South Africa were historical facts that western journalists and academics chose to shut up and to conveniently forget. In turn, they painted the Americans and Europeans as the beacons of human right champions, the hope to extinguish racial discrimination and the saviour of the world. And a straw man was used to replace the American/Europeans as the number one racist hoard, China and the Chinese. And all the silly Africans and Asians, including Southeast Asians, swallow this line of thinking conveniently. In reality, the Chinese were also the victims of savagery when the West invaded and controlled China, turned it into a semi colony. Then the minority Chinese in Southeast Asia themselves were victims of savages in their adopted countries. The Indonesians were the worst culprits followed by the Malays in Malaysia. Ethnic cleansing were quite a frequent affair, cultural and social oppression were written into laws and govt policies. The only place where the Chinese were not persecuted is Singapore. The only place that the minorities were not persecuted is Singapore. The only country where the minorities were treated fairly and enjoy as equal a right as the majority is Singapore. The Malay minority here is still angry with appointments in the military. But to be fair to the govt, the condition then was such that it was a matter of national security and survival. It was not racial to begin with. They may want to understand the situation then and ask themselves whether the govt could have done otherwise to keep the country peaceful and stable when our neighbours were out to do us in with possible military intervention.

7/13/2009

Malaysia backtracking on teaching in English

Muhyiddin announced that Malaysia is scrapping the teaching of Science and Maths in English and the reason given is that it will undermine the students ability to learn Bahasa Melayu. The teaching of these subjects in English is also tough on the students as their grasp of the language is poor. I think the real reason is that there are not many competent teachers who are able to teach in English. The 40 years of abandoning the teaching of English has taken its toll. Many of the teachers educated under the new policy would not have much knowledge of English and will be incompetent to use the language as a medium of instruction. If the teachers are struggling, how could the students learn anything? Education policies or many national policies cannot be scrapped simply at someone's fancy as the consequences and impact are long term and long lasting. To unwind and start again is going to be very painful. The easy way is not to do it and continue with their current policy of using Malay as the medium of instruction. It is not easy to transform a nation of Malay speakers into an English speaking community overnight.

Crowds in property launches

Crowds are thronging new property launches and grabbing up properties like hot cakes. And property developers are cashing in on the affluence of Singaporeans and launching more projects for sale. The Singaporeans are really rich, buying properties costing at least a million like buying durians off the streets. Where is the recession? Where are the poor? It is all a myth. All the talks about poor Singaporeans living from hands to mouth or waiting for handouts are mere exaggerations. Singaporeans are rich like hell.

Myth 207 - Monkeys scattered when the big tree falls

Many have quoted this phrase as a truism, that all the monkeys in a big tree will scamper and scatter once the tree has fallen. No more branches to hang on to. Better to look for another big tree. Better still, be their own big tree. In such a scenario there will be many big trees contending for more monkeys to hang on to their branches. Will this be the case all the time? I think it will be, without exceptions. Big tree falls, means big tree no more. A replacement tree growing beneath may become another big tree, but will take some time to grow in stature. Another possibility is instant Angsana tree being used to replace the old tree. But instant trees have short roots and may not stand the gust of strong winds or a heavy downpour. And Angsanas are never know to be strong, like the old oak tree or the tembusu. Would this saying be as true as it was or would it just be a myth?

7/12/2009

Free water in restaurants?

There are people demanding free drinking water from posh restaurants. How audacious! If they want to drink free water, go to the tap. Just as one of the posh restaurant owners said, they served great culinary fare. Why would people go to their restaurants to drink tap water? Ridiculous. These must be the cheapskates or people who cannot afford high class restaurants. They should confine themselves to eating at hawker centres. Incidentally, water is not free. Our water comes with a 30% water conservation tax. And that is huge in any terms. This outrageous tax has been in practice and the dumb people have been paying for, I think, more than 10 years or 20 years without complaining. Recently some little noises have been heard calling for the abolition of this highhanded tax to be removed. After so many years, the people must have learned to handle our precious water with care and not to waste them. The message must have gone through. Apparently not. It is here to stay no matter how nonsensical is the reasoning. Hit the people in the pocket where it hurts. But this policy is good and efficient. It may be obnoxious and totally arrogant to slam the people with this kind of reasoning and policy, but it is damn effective. Other then curbing some abuses of water, the revenue is handsome and can be used to pay people more handsomely. No matter how much I dislike this policy, its virtue is irresistible. I would like to suggest that the same reasoning and policy be introduced to curb wastage of petrol. Hit the drivers with another 30% petrol conservation tax. This can be extended to food wasting. Too much food are wasted by our unrestrained habit of eating and eating all day long. 30% rice and food conservation tax will ensure that the people save on food consumption and eat lesser. The benefits are tremendous. No need for wasting time in school children with obese problems. No need extra training for obese NSmen. No need to waste foreign exchange to import more food. And the additional revenue can be used to reward those who implement such policies. Anyone still want free water? Or is there free water?

7/11/2009

Singapore Night Festival

More pictures in the Singapore Night Festival blog in link provide or http://singnitefest.blogspot.com

Don't be cock, learn from the Americans

We are America's most ardent fans in everything the Americans do. We will eat shit if the Americans say it is good. We have copied and aped practically everything they do in high finance, managing the stock exchange and playing with derivatives under a policy of free wheeling and dealing with minimum supervision. Now the Americans have created this huge mess for the world. But the Americans knew that they have done wrong. They are thinking deeply on where they have gone wrong and are trying to rewind from their mistakes. They are not foolish or stubborn people who refused to admit their mistakes and will continue to do the silly things. Today I read in the paper that Geithner is seeking more curbs on derivative dealers. The days of free wheeling and dealing with minimum supervision and control are over. "'We propose to require all derivatives dealers...to be subject to substantial supervision and regulation, including conservative capital requirements, and strong business conduct standards,' Mr Geithner said, essentially acknowledging there were few limits in the past." In addition, these traders are required to keep records and reporting requirements. The objective is to prevent market manipulation, fraud and other abuses by providing full information to regulators about activity in the OTC derivatives markets. I think this is not enough, especially in a small market like SGX. Market manipulation through huge buying or short selling and programme trading, among other things, were the tools that big funds and house traders employed to exploit the weaknesses of small traders. Small investors have been incurring huge losses over the years without a clue to these unfair advantages and manipulation of big funds. It is time to continue to follow the Americans and rectify the flaws in the financial system instead of adopting the belief that no complaints means that everything is doing well. Stop the bleeding in the stock market where small investors have their pockets emptied by the big players. The new measures to be introduced by Geithner will dampen the high volatility of the stock market. But it is a necessary evil to contain the destructive manipulations and excesses of the big funds. The volatile trading activities must be curbed and some sanity return to the market. The stock market must operate and on its original premises and assumptions and sound principles, not the rules of a casino.

7/10/2009

The unsustainable ascent of property prices

Our property prices have skyrocketed over the years and the stratospheric prices of HongKong and Tokyo are within our reach. We will outshine them in a matter of time. Then why is it unsustainable when the prospect of prices going higher is so brilliant? Let me talk about the forces that will push the prices higher and higher. Our limited land is a fact that cannot be changed. Even with reclamation, we can just do that much more. The other reason is that with prices at such a high level, with many people ploughing their life savings into properties, many with high mortgages, allowing prices to fall is going to be catastrophic. So by hook or by crook, property prices must be maintained, if not higher, but not allowed to falter and slip. The solution is simple. Manage supply and demand. Supply is easy to contained. Don't build untill there is a demand. Don't sell land unless the price is high enough for a good return. The demand side, invite more rich foreigners to buy up our properties with attractive incentives, first world infrastructure, transparency, stability, and a value that can only go up. The rich foreigners can go for the high end. The not so rich can buy up HDB properties when they become citizens or PRs. As long as the demand for properties is there, have no fear that the prices will fall. But what about demand from the locals? There will be the upgraders who need a little more to move up. But will there be demand from the new entries, the new generation coming into the market? Can their income feed the high mortgages they will be paying, a stagnating income against an ever rising property market? The divide is going to widen. Many of the locals whose income is not going up will have to downgrade or go for smaller HDB flats. On the other end, the upper and high end market, demand will keep on soaring. And it is, or will be a good thing. They will help to prop up both the private and public housing markets. In the future, Singaporeans will have to beg the foreigners, and more foreigners, to come in to buy up their properties, to keep the property prices high. Without the foreigners and their cash, our property market will crash. Yes, the foreigners will be here to help the locals by buying up their properties so that they can downgrade and live on the profits. Hopefully the profits ill last their life time before they ran out. How many times can one downgrade? Without the foreigners, our high property price is unsustainable.

Authoritarian state and practices

George Bush started by prying into the private lives of people using the excuse of security after the 911 bombing. Now prying into people's privacy is no longer the exclusive practice of authoritarian states. Britain just uncovered journalists tapping into individuals phone lines to listen to their private affairs and to obtain private and confidential information from them. How far can a state violate the privacy of the individual in a non authoritarian state? Nothing to talk about in authoritarian system as that is a way of life. What about private organisations taking the same excuse and pry into the privacy of their employees? There are many ways that this can be done. The CCTV is everywhere and can be turned into a monster in the hands of unprincipled and uncrupulous scums. On the excuse of monitoring the security of the building, they could sit down, have a cup of coffee, and review everything inside the lift, or people accessing the building, watching them in close details in the privacy of their offices. They will watch whether he/she will be adjusting their private parts inside the lifts, pasting whatever they dug out from their noses onto the lift walls or any peculiar traits. Then the tapping of phone lines can also be easily abused. There is no privacy when your phone lines are tapped and people can enjoy listening to your flirtation with whoever is on the other sides. And if the other party happens to be an unsuspecting high govt official, he would not be too happy if one day someone is going to reveal what he/she said over the phone. It is so precarious, so scary, when monsters are lurking around, wearing ties and suits like perfect gentlemen. But they think they have all the right to pry into your lives, listen to your private conversations as their god given rights. And they have no moral conscience to even realise that it is wrong, unethical to do such a thing. It is an abuse of the system and a breach of trust. The authoritarian practices are found abundantly in the democratic world as well, where little unscrupulous warlords run their little henhouses.

7/09/2009

HDB, what are you doing?

I totally disagree with the new HDB policies on housing as formulated by Mah Bow Tan. HDB as a public housing scheme, is to provide a roof to all citizens of the country. If it wants to provide housing to PRs, that is a separate issue but should not compromise the needs of the citizens. And the policy of not providing for everyone who needs a flat is not what a govt should do to its citizens. With the clever scheme of BTO, there is this additional need to plan and apply 3 years ahead for a flat which I feel is unfriendly to the citizens who need a flat urgently for one reason or another. Not everyone has the luxury of planning 3 years ahead. A little over supply is not a waste when the interests of the citizens is concerned. HDB is not any commercial property developer. It should aim to provide a roof for all citizens when they need it at as low a price as possible without making a loss. Public housing is for that roof over the head, not for speculation. Govt policies should not encourage people to speculate on the sole property they own. Speculation can lead to big profits and also big losses. Let the rich speculate all they want in the private property market. Don't mix the sheep with the wolves.

Minibond saga - The Missing Conscience

Greed is good. But greed with no tinge of conscience is bad. And this is the message that I would like to see to come out from the minibond saga. But no, it was totally missing. The whole scam was a business and when the product was found unacceptable, it was simply removed. There was no social responsibility or accountability. No human beans involved in the whole process except the poor losers who bought the products. I think all the decisions were made by robots, machines and computers. There must be social responsibility and accountability in business. And this applies to the management of all institutions, public or private, finance or the casinos. The next problematical institutions is the stock market. Why is it that hedge funds were not operating in the casinos? They have huge resources to fall back on to their advantage. In the stock markets across the world, the hedge funds bully and exploit the small investors by their unfair advantage of huge financial resources, technology and unfair practices. No matter how big they are, inside a casino, the advantage of hedge funds and small gamblers are the same. At least the casino has the conscience to ensure a level playing field. We have seen how the minibond saga exploded, only when the pain was too big. We have yet to see or hear small investors crying foul in the stock markets across the world. Are the operating systems and procedures in the stock markets fair to small investors? Or is it a case of caveat emptor? There must be the conscience and social responsibility to protect the interest of small investors, to provide a level playing field. An organisation or country that has no conscience to protect the small people and the disadvantaged is a lost cause.

7/08/2009

Mechanical Appointees

I have a solution that will help organisations to cut cost. Organisations that think that they are paying too much for their Chairmans can head to ToysRUs and grab a mechanical toy. Bring it back, pin a name tag on it with the word 'Chairman' and plant it on the Chairman's office. By so doing they can save all the cost of paying for a Chairman. They don't come cheap today. And the best part of it is that they can happily fire the Chairman to appease the unhappy employees or shareholders should the oganisation fail to perform or make losses. And they can walk back to ToysRUs to get a newer model, version 1.1 to replace the ineffective one. I don't think such toys will cost very much. The same concept can be applied to Directors of companies. Any busy director who is unable to attend board meetings can send a mechanical toy as his representative in the board meetings. At least when he collects his director fee his attendance record is perfect. I claim intellectual property rights to this idea and anyone practising it only needs to pay me 10% of his first year income. ToysRUs can also pay me a small commission for higher sales of mechanical toys.

Perfect ending to a perfect storm

After 7 months of thorough investigations the MAS has come out with its findings and punishments for the minibond fiasco. The investigation was done very objectively and the three objects that were found to be the cause of the financial storm were financial institutions, training and toxic products. And the punishment was to ban the toxic products and the financial institutions from selling them. No human is at fault and no one will be made a scapegoat. Thank god.

7/07/2009

A little bit history

Many of you may not remember the days when the majority in this island was discriminated. Yes it happened. It was an anomaly of history which escaped the notice of many, and many today took it for granted that the majority in power is a norm and will be here to stay, forever. During the colonial days, the masters called the tune. The ruling class and its coterie of officers monopolized all the govt offices, including big western corporations and banks. Key appointments were held by the British and the English speaking elite comprising mainly the Eurasians and those imported from the East India Company. Forget about the Chinamen, they could not speak English and looked funny with their slant eyes. Or maybe it was the British form of meritocracy and the Chinamen were not meritorious enough. When self govt was returned to the locals, all the high offices were naturally taken over by those from Her Majesty Services, filling the positions vacated by the British. The majority Chinese were in the peripheral of the govt. They were either in commerce for the richer ones, semi skilled craftsmen or small time hawkers, and the rest odd job labourers. They were thus grossly under represented in high govt offices. When the PAP govt took over, this state of affair continued for several years with key govt appointments continued to be dominated by the minorities. It took several decades to moderate this historical discrimination and a more representative govt service based on the population profile. But in so doing, many of the Eurasians who were favoured by the colonial govt left for Australia. That was how things were then. Would the majority be discriminated against one day? Given the twist and turn of history, anything is possible.

Planning a City for Crawlies

I watched the news last night and was very impressed with what SBS is trying to do to help the wheelchaired commuters. They have a special point with a button to press and the bus will come to the entrance of that point to pick up wheelchaired commuters. It was so convenient and so pleasant for these commuters. Along HDB estates, new hand railings have sprung up all over the walkways for the oldies to grab as their crawl along their ways. We can expect 300k or 400k of the 70s to 90s in the next 20 years, crawling all over the place. Some will wheelchair into buses or MRTs to have a swing in Orchard Road, some jogging in the parts on their wheelchairs, and many going to work, to their offices, if they are still employable. Yes, we are going to have crawlies everywhere, not the vibrant young things in their fanciful gears and makeups. We are ageing as a population. I too will be one of the crawlies. Actually there could be a few hundred thousands even now. Surprising thing is that not many are seen crawling around. Are we expecting them to appear suddenly in the next few years to swarm the city? 200 wheelchairs queuing for the buses at the interchange at any one time. How many buses will have to be at the designated pick up points and how long will it take to clear the queue? The parks, shopping malls, HDB void decks, all littered with crawlies? Possible? I think I will be content to sit in front of a terminal banging away and enjoy a cup of kopi. The only thing that will still be active and have some energy to do so will be the little ones, the fingers, and a few grey and dying cells in between the ears. I really cannot believe that the 80s and 90s will be so itchy to be crawling all over the places. They will only pose a safety and security problem to themselves. We haven't seen or heard any mugging of the oldies yet, except by their children. It may happen, daily, if they offer themselves too freely and easily.

7/06/2009

A tragic hole

I still remember this little hole in the 60s, the hole that I crawled out before being buried in it. The parents were all illiterate coolies cramming into little cubicles with 10 or more in a family. Life was simple and without any aspiration. It was just living, working and sleeping. Many dropped out of schools in their pre teens and ended as kopi kias or kopitiam helpers. That was their fate if they failed in school. Never mind, just get a job and get on with life. The next phase of life for these ignorant and illiterate boys and girls was to get married and have children. They got married before they were 20, some at 18. It was time for big celebration. The following year would be parenthood time. At those juvenile age, it did not need much imagination as to what they knew was installed for them. The parents were around to help in the mothering of the new borns. And there went another chapter of their lives, cut out to replay the tragedy of their parents once again. Don't expect their children to be much better than these boy/girl father and mother. Fortunately with education and higher literacy, these things of the past are getting lesser today. These people are not helping themselves. But were they happy? I think they didn't know. It was just living, working and making babies and that was it. Surprisingly not all failed. A few ended up as contractors and became successful! I see it as a big gamble with many losers and few isolated winners.

Poverty and underprivilege are not exclusive to any race

Rewind back to the 1950s and 60s, the better off racial group was the Eurasians, partly because of their European heritage and ancestry, and partly because they were the next closest to the colonial masters in language skills and cultural affinity. The Malays, Indians and Chinese were all in the same boat, all ekeing a living as best as they could. In terms of housing, the Malays were living in quite spacious kampong houses while the non Malays were squeezed in cubicles in their respective town enclaves. Many Malays in the East Coast/Eunos areas were land owners if I am not mistaken. Came independence, everyone was literally on the same starting block, and the field was level to all. The English Language was the neutral instrument for all to learn and level up. The Malays enjoyed free schooling while the non Malays must be the poorest of the poor to be granted free schooling. In those years, the Malays received the most assistance from the govt vis a vis the other races. Why, after 45 years of independence, the socio economic divide between the Malays and the rest became a gulf? The other races did not get any special assistance from the govt in schooling or in the English Language. And they are not blaming the govt for not being able to keep up with the other races. Why are the Malays still asking for govt assistance as a necessary condition to be able to keep up, that without govt assistance, they are destined to fall behind, to be disadvantaged? As of today, there are proportionally as many poors among the Chinese and the Indians as the Malays. They soldier on, to compete with whatever they have. Some will make it, some will not. The field was never made uneven to their advantage. Some couldn’t cope with the mother tongue requirement and had emigrated. The mother tongue problem is especially more serious among the Chinese than the other races, as many Chinese could not speak their mother tongue, which incidentally was never Mandarin. Mandarin was a foreign language to many of them. It was not to their advantage to learn Mandarin. It was a very tough obstacle unlike the Malays coping with Bahasa. Assistance from the govt is a great help. But without assistance from the govt, life goes on. How and why are the Malays falling behind?

7/05/2009

Not a mindset issue

Ridzwan Dzafir wrote a book encouraging the Malays to change their mindset to climb the educational and socio economic ladder. This is the same advice that the other communities, including the Chinese, have been told by the govt. What the Malay doyen was saying is a conventional wisdom. One needs to help himself to climb the socio ladder. There is no short cut. This elicited a reply from an Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim in the Saturday paper. It is easier said than done. In our highly competitive educational system, the playing field is not level. The rich, with their resources, can do that much more to help their children. The poorer parents, ‘even with financial assistance, could not match the investment made by richer ones.’ I agree that the poorer families are at a disadvantage. But not all is lost. Personally I too grew up financially very disadvantaged, socially and academically handicapped in a very poor quarter of the society. I crawled all the way back, without any tuition or assistance from anyone, not even my parents or kin. Then came my children. They too did not benefit from any tuition or special conditioning to assist them in their studies. They went through schools as any average family children did. The only thing we did was to be at home, no drug taking, no clubbings, no havoc and heavy drinking or partying and leaving them at home on their own. We were just there as parents, to keep the family functional and intact. We provide the emotional and psychological support. I have witnessed many well off families with plenty of tuitions but not benefiting their children. The only advantage they really had was to pay for their degrees from an overseas university as they were not good enough for a place in the local universities. Poorer families are disadvantaged but not to the point that it is beyond hope, that they need a miracle to do well. I think any above average students with enough parental care and encouragement should be able to climb the academic ladder on their own. A little assistance would be welcomed, but without them is not the reason for their under performance academically. There are enough assistance schemes for those who need them. Poverty and underprivileged are not the exclusive rights of the Malay community.

7/04/2009

Properties are up for grabs

Melvin Chua, a businessman, sold his 4rm flat in Jalan Membina for $550K and bought a 5rm for $638K. He only needs to top up $88K for a bigger flat. No sweat for a successful businessman. Sales of HDB flats have surged due to demand from young couples, upgraders, downgraders and PRs. It looks like the prices of properties will continue to rise, fuelled by demands from people who can afford them. The prices must therefore be reasonable. In the facing page of the ST was an article by Fiona Chan asking whether the property rally is sustainable? I can simply answer that with an affirmative yes. The pool of flats built by HDB is stable, no new flats are being built unless they have been booked in advance. This is a new concept compare to the old when flats were built ahead of demand leading to oversupply at times. And if the locals are not there buying, the huge influx of PRs and new citizens will be there to make up for the slack. We need them to shore up the CPF scheme. Anyway, what is $500k or $600k? Jet Li bought a bungalow for $14m or $16m. And in the Life page there is a huge bungalow of 7,500 sq ft sitting on 16,000 sq ft of land or the equivalent of 15 5rm HDB flats. The value could be more than Jet Li's. The PR hedge fund manager owner did not disclose the price but it is a handsome house in the choicest corner of Singapore. The rich are living very well here. And so are the average Singaporeans in their affordable 5rm flats. Those who cannot afford it, the losers, need not fear. The govt will look into their needs and build more affordable 2 and 3 rm flats to suit their pockets. And for the real losers, there will be more rental flat built specially just for them. Actually we should not be wasting our time talking about the losers. They make their lives that way, lazy, stupid, and failed to seize the golden opportunities to make more money to buy bigger and affordable flats or landed properties. Shall we say good riddance?

7/03/2009

Not too long ago

I wonder how many of you remember the school days when a bus from the Institute of Health would arrive at the school weekly to fetch students for dental treatment. All the scalings, extractions, fillings and dentures were provided free to the students. And after each treatment, the bus would send the children back to schools, all the time accompanied by a nurse. It must be a very costly operation as there were many schools and many school children needing dental care. Those were the early years of our nationhood when the country was not that rich. But we could afford it. It was govt taking care of the people. Today, we don't even bat an eyelid for losing hundreds of billions. But healthcare is no longer free and no longer cheap. We could not afford it. Or it would lead to abuses, the country will go broke. Strange tale isn't it.

I am branded, not like Prada or Luis Vuitton

Matilah has branded me as alarmist and even irresponsible for highlighting the high cost of H1N1 test. My fear is that some people will not seek treatment or test because the fee is too prohibitive. You only need 5 people infected and walking around, not seeking treatment, and you will have an epidemic in your hand. This is alarmist? Denis Distant also wrote to the paper on the same issue of cost. Not everyone can throw away $85 or $214 just to confirm if one has contracted H1N1. It is not cheap. Let me list down a few things of what alarmist is. 1. Voting an opposition party into govt will chase all foreign investors away. 2. Voting an opposition MP will turn the estate into a slum. 3. Holding a party in a park can be a security issue, maybe rioting going out of control. 4. Our wives and daughters may become maids if we vote the opposition in. 5. If we give handouts, the people will develop a welfare mentality, a crutch. I could go on and on. If I am alarmist, I am in great company. I am not in the naming game or else I would give matilah a brand as well. But that will be cheapo. When has matilah joined the branding clique?

7/02/2009

Was it $214 or $124?

A couple of days back a forumer wrote to ST, I think, to complain about having to pay $214 for a H1N1 check in a govt hospital, or was it a privatised hospital? H1N1 is an epidemic that is going to affect the whole population. What if everyone finds this too expensive and refuses to seek treatment, how would the situation develop? What would happen if the people find our medical fees too high and choose to skip treatments for all their deadly diseases and sickness? Can we say, well it is their own health and it is their own problem. If they die, we can replace them with more migrants or with new citizens. What if the diseases they are infected were highly infectious? Would it become a crime for not seeking treatment?

Sweet dream turning into a nightmare

I was at this long queue of happy people waiting for our angpows. The queue was long but the people did not mind. The govt had announced that it would be giving out $2b worth of angpows to the people as part of the Sharing the Nation's Angpow Programme(SNAP). This was mooted several years back and was finally being implanted. Profits from the country's investment of our reserves would be shared with the people. At an estimated sum of $500b and a 3% return it would give a neat profit of $15b annually. Of this, $2b would be shared with the people so that the golden goose would not be killed in the process. Everyone was in the queue. And so was I. Then screams were heard and the queue scattered in all directions. No angpow, not for another 10 years at least. The fund managers need to earn back the $100b that were lost. Without the loss, $100b at $2b a year could be spreaded and given to the people for 50 years. Now we have to live with not angpows. The people were angry but that was how fate had dealt the people a nasty blow. We had a lot of money and wanted to make more. Through no fault of anyone, the world financial system collapsed on our investment. It was a sweet dream that turned into a nighmare. Then I woke up feeling pissed.

7/01/2009

Najib making very bold moves

After his proposal for closer cooperation with Singapore, Najib is making even bolder policy changes that will test his tenure in the hot seat. His new changes on foreign ownership of private corporations and properties even surprise me. My earlier impression of him was that of a careful and not to ruffle feathers PM. His third bridge has already created a storm. Now the announcement of these changes could raise a typhoon if he does not have the backings of his cabinet. While these are good to attract more foreign investments, the question is whether they are enough? Is there any assurance that the next PM would not remove everything and back to status quo as before? Would the foreign investors feel confident that this will be the new Malaysia for the forseeable future?

Discrimination - Another point to add

Another major difference between Malaysia and Singapore is that in Malaysia, racial discrimination is official, legal and morally a right thing to do. Anyone opposing such discrimination can be threatened with bodily harm or attacked by mobs running amok. In Singapore, the official position is no discrimination. It is against the law. The govt is embarrassed by whatever little signs of discimination and took pains to explain why it was a necessary evil, a temporary one. When conditions are favourable, we can see that all discriminations will be removed in a matter of time. In Malaysia, discrimination is institutionalised, a way of life, official govt policies and will be there to stay.

Putin was furious

Putin has been on a warpath against the high cost of living in Russia. He yelled at the grocer for selling sausages at $11! To him it was too expensive though the grocer told him it was good quality. He was on a rampage and took it personally to bring down the high cost of living. I was wondering what would he say if he knew that the flats at Duxton Pinnacles that could be sold at $300K was sold at $500k because the market forces said so, because people were willing to pay for it? Maybe if he were a Singapore leader he would say differently, and said, 'Very clever!' Or 'Good for the economy.'