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8/31/2009

Public housing is affordable

HDB has reiterated its position that HDB flats are heavily subsidised and affordable. Let me for once agree that HDB flats are indeed affordable. The heavily subsidised part I will leave it to everyone to make their own conclusions. Now, did I say that HDB flats are affordable? I did not say it without reasons. HDB flats are indeed affordable to everyone. You just buy one according to your own financial position. But that is not all. As long as you have money you can buy a HDB flat. The only difference, don't quibble, not nitpick, is that the money you have will buy you a smaller flat as days go by. Still affordable, definitely, only getting less for what you pay for. And paying longer and longer. Actually the people buying public housing should be very contented to have a roof over their heads. Be grateful. That is what public housing is all about, affordable and cheap. If you want good and big, go and buy The Sail or something like that. Those buyers are not complaining and are happily paying for what they get, good value for money.

Landslide in Japan

The 21st Century seems to be a century of landslide victories for opposition political parties that have for years been seen as no hopers. Malaysia shook the ruling UMNO by delivering several states to the opposition, something so unbelieveable. UMNO, with all its machinery and state organisations and power, could just watch as the opposition chips away at their territories. Every by election seems to be an opportunity for the opposition to wrestle another constituency from UMNO. Last night we saw another landslide in Japan. After more than 50 years of domination in Japanese politics, the Japanese grew tired and disillusioned with the ruling party. The LDP seemed to be running out of tricks from its bag and was soundly trumped by the DPJ. The winning margin was unimaginable. And we are witnessing another historical event and a new beginning, and the end of LDP. If this is the trend to be, we will probably see a similar landslide here in the next GE. Many may sneer at such a thought or suggestion. The ruling party has been in power for so long, with all the right and highly qualified candidates, with all the machinery and achievements to show how good it has been. And the opposition is still unable to find the right candidates to make a little dent on this formidable machine. Who knows what will happen or what will come next. There are plenty of qualified and able Singaporeans waiting in the fringe for the moment that could change the course of our history. To get 80 good men and women to stand for a general election is not a difficult task when the time is ripe. The landslide may come earlier than expected. The seemingly uphill task may not be that impossible when the chips are down. Would we see a landslide in two years? I know that many are laughing at such a possibility. At this point in time, it seems clearly impossible, no way. Who knows?

8/30/2009

MIW or Men In White

It is an uncanny coincidence to release a book called Men In White in the Chinese Seventh Month. The Seventh Month is well known for the release of souls from the forgotten nether world, all in white of course, to have a feast before they are returned, back to where they come from. The book, Men In White, will see the return in spirit of the men who were living with us once. But many may not have the privilege to return to this land they once called home, and will remain as wandering spirits in all corners of the earth. They will not be welcomed as PRs or even tourists. These Men In Wilderness have returned in a way to fill a gap in our historical records of our founding days. The effort to hear their stories and get them printed is a very enlighten process, and a gracious one, to let our stories be told from a different perspective. And Singaporeans are fortunate to have this side of the story told now than to wait for another century when memories would have been washed clean of whatever historical correctness, for the benefits of our descendants. The permission to allow such a process to take shape and become a reality should be acknowledged. There are many perspectives of the Singapore Story and there are many eye witnesses who have life testimonies to tell. Some may have already written but waiting to be published when the climate is more conducive. Some may have forfeited the chance to tell their stories. With the passing of time, more revelations will be served in the book shelves. The Men In white is a story told by the defeated in a political struggle to run this country. Most of these men and women were steeped in idealism, aspiration, political beliefs and conviction for a social and political cause. Many could have been very successful and eminent dignitaries today if they have not joined politics or have abandoned their chosen cause. They paid a very heavy price for what they stood for. They never regret or recant or complain about their sacrifices. We could, in the future, read books from the second and third waves of defeated and banished politicians in the wilderness. We could also read autobiographies from the discarded Men In White living in our midst, with their versions of bitterness and dissatisfaction with the way things were. These will be interesting read, like kiss and tell novels. Until then, the Singapore Story will still be written like fairy tales, with princes and princesses and an ending that says they live happily ever after.

8/29/2009

Say only the good stuff

Last week I wrote about the prices of properties in relation to the income of the average workers and the reports and comments by industry workers that property prices today are affordable. The statistics from the industry said that the cost of a mass market flat is equivalent to 20 years income of the average Singaporean, median or mean in this case will not make any substantive difference. This means that it will take 40 years to service the mortgage from a single income or 20 years from dual income, the latter amounts to paying 50% of the double income to the loan. Subsequently some forumers wrote to say that normally a borrower will use 30% of his income for such purposes as living requires a lot of expenses in other areas. This would mean that it will take virtually the whole life time to service such a loan. Accepted that incomes will grow and things will be better along the way. Today we have further clarifications by the professionals as to their reasonings and methodologies for concluding that today’s prices are affordable. I think this is only expected as they have vested interest to talk up the market and get the crowds rushing in to buy. Would anyone in the industry be objective enough to tell the other side of the story, that the prices now are way too high, unrealistic, and unsustainable? Reports on new launches for 99 year lease are talking about $900 to $1100 psf. This means a 500 sq ft studio is going to cost about $500k. Whether this is affordable or not is relative. But the fact that it is going to cost a bomb relative to the average income of the workers cannot be changed. Could it appreciate higher? It could if the income of the buyers are going to keep going up. Of course the professionals will cautiously mentioned about a bubble in the future, unsustainable in the future, but not now. It is affordable. Buyers beware if you are going to listen to the sales pitch of people with vested interests to want to sell the properties.

8/28/2009

It takes a girl to defy the whole establishment

I have avoided posting about this story in case it will affect her chances against formidable foes. But her case was mentioned yesterday and I thought things have worked to her favour and her steely guts to defy two powerful authorities should be acknowledged. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno faces off the Muslim clergies and the Malaysian Govt and defy them to cane her in public. Yes, she broke a religious law, forbidden to drink alcohol, in her case, a glass of beer. And the punitive sentence was caning, 6 strokes. And she stood on her high pedestal and told the authorities, go ahead, cane me in public, get it done with. Her case was prominently reported in many newspapers and media and becomes an embarrassment to the Malaysian Govt. This is a govt that is torned between trying to be secular and trying to be Islamic at the same time, one day clenching their fists shouting Allah is Great and another day calling for moderation to avoid being branded as another radical Islamic state. Kartika's caning was postposed in view of Ramadan. And the Home Affairs Minister Hishamuddin in a press interview declared that his ministry did not have the expertise to do the caning. PM Najib advised Kartika to appeal against the sentence. And to date she refuses. She is still calling the religious authority to cane her in public. I dare you!. And to complicate matter, in order to cane her they had to imprison her, which added to her punishment. Now the Malaysian authority is caught with over punishing her for a minor crime. To go ahead with the caning would put Malaysia in the same league as radical Muslim states. How could Malaysia, a model of modern Islamic state be seen to uphold an infringement to a religious law by a woman, for drinking beer, and deal with her so harshly? Would Malaysia take the moderate path or push ahead with its religious laws? That is a tricky question. And Kartika is still standing tall, as the little girl that takes on a govt and a religious order run by powerful men.

Sad As Ivan was demolished!

The dust has settled after the big demolition job in parliament last week. Peering through the smoky haze, I am still trying to figure out if Sadasivan is still standing there. Or has he been bashed and scattered everywhere like dust, or sprawled on the floor? How sad that a greenhorn NMP should have to take that kind of blow on his maiden speech in Parliament. Or was it an exercise, like the Chinese proverb, literary translated as ‘putting on a formidable impression while dismounting from a horse?’ By the way, any speech can be nickpicked and made to look like anything else one wishes it to be. IMAGOD has been doing it to all my postings lately. I am luckier as he is not God though he claimed to be one. What I see in Viswa Sadasivan is a golden opportunity for the members of parliament to engage in a good dosage of discourse, to do battle with ideas and words, instead of throwing detonators and explosives. Viswa is eloquent and can deliver a speech as good as anyone else in parliament. What would be interesting is the follow up, the attack and defence of positions put forth by him with the other wise gentlemen in parliament. Unfortunately, it was never to be. I don’t think we are going to hear much from Viswa anymore. I hope nobody regrets his appointment as a NMP. I hope he will rise up from the ashes and make a more solid presentation in his next speech, and be prepared and ready to meet the steam roller at full speed. The first round he lost, demolished, for he did not know what was coming, and was hit unprepared. He could be wiser the next time and prepare to take on whatever comes his way. Or he could be like dust, blown away, here today, gone tomorrow.

8/27/2009

Muhyiddin Spoke The Truth, Says Mahathir

August 26, 2009 22:25 PM Muhyiddin Spoke The Truth, Says Mahathir This is the heading in a reply by Mahathir on what Muhyiddin said. So, did Muhyiddin spoke the truth? Muhyiddin said two things. 1. He was persuaded to supply water to Singapore. 2. He said Lee Kuan Yew threatened to go to war with Malaysia if the latter did not supply water to Singapore. Mahathir said 1 is correct and 2 is false. Can I conclude that Muhyiddin said the truth for 1 and did not say the truth for 2? For Mahathir said that if LKY did threaten war with Malaysia, he would be the one to stop supplying water to Singapore. And that is vintage Mahathir and he would do it. Plainly, LKY would be diplomatic enough not to threaten war with Malaysia. Unbelieveable! Read the Bernama report below for the truth or half truth. "KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 (Bernama) -- Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has admitted that he had persuaded Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to supply water to Singapore when the latter was the Johor menteri besar. "Tan Sri Muhyiddin spoke the truth about my persuading him to supply water to Singapore but Lee Kuan Yew did not threaten to go to war if we did not supply water. If he had done that, I think I would have stopped any further supply," Dr Mahathir said in an article posted in his blog on Wednesday. Dr Mahathir was commenting on Muhyiddin's statement on Aug 19 that he (Dr Mahathir) had summoned him to attend a meeting with the visiting Singapore prime minister then, Lee Kuan Yew, over gas pipeline and water supply issues in Kuala Lumpur. Muhyiddin had said that during the meeting between Dr Mahathir, the then finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, Lee and himself, Lee had pressed for adequate water supply to the republic from Johor. "Lee said Singapore was ready to go to war if Malaysia did not want to supply enough water and expressed his regret over the stalled water supply project from Sungai Lingu. "I said we did not have the money and Lee said Singapore was willing to bear the cost and, when completed, the assets will be owned by Malaysia, so Singapore had merely footed the bill," said Muhyiddin. Muhyiddin said this at a ceramah in Tanjung Putus, Bukit Mertajam, during the campaign in the Permatang Pasir state by-election to clarify allegations by the opposition that he (Muhyiddin) had sold a piece of land to Singapore in connection with the water treatment plant in Sungai Lingu, Bandar Tenggara, Johor. Dr Mahathir said in his article he did not know about the sale of land to Singapore but as it was agreed that a treatment plant be built by Singapore in Johor, land would have to be made available. "We were at that time trying to be friendly with Singapore in order to solve several problems. Although raw water would be supplied at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons, the understanding was that in future only treated water would be supplied when our treatment plants would be ready. "We would also not buy any more treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per thousand gallons when our new treatment plant in Johor is ready. "When we no longer needed to buy treated water from Singapore we could raise the price of raw water to Singapore without Singapore being able to raise the price of treated water to us. "However, when we concluded the water supply agreement, Singapore raised a lot of issues regarding our railway land, the CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) at Tanjong Pagar, training flights by Singapore warplanes over Malaysia and the Central Provident Fund. "At that stage, I realised that being friendly with Singapore did not pay," Dr Mahathir added." -- BERNAMA

Of Race, Religion and Nationality

These are the most common identity tags that people wear on their chests. They are either Chinese, Indian or Malay, Taoist, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist, and Singaporean or other nationalities. It seems simple enough until one claims to all three and there are forces tugging them in all directions. In the context of a country, race is probably the easiest to deal with as ethnicity is always subordinated to nationality. Regardless of race, one is a citizen of a country. So we have Chinese Singaporeans, Malay Singaproeans, Indian and Eurasian Singaporeans. This is similar to European Americans, Afro Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans. And as citizens they enjoy the same rights and privileges. The exception is Malaysia where race is supreme over nationality. Malaysians do not enjoy the same rights and privileges unless they are Malay. Nationality may be an artificial construct but it is legal and well defined, with specific boundaries, rules and laws, and rights and responsibilities. All citizens are constitutionally equal. And they are known by their citizenships. So in China you have Han Chinese, Hui Chinese, Mongolian Chinese, Manchurian Chinese, Uigher Chinese and Tibetan Chinese. And they are equal under the constitution. The more troublesome part is religion. The believers believe that they are under a superior being with a superior set of laws. And if they don't abide by the law of a country and want the religious law to be above secular law, then you have a problem. In many countries, you have kings, Presidents, and Prime Ministers kneeling before a religious head who could be just another Ah Beng in a robe. The Ah Beng could be delivering his great message from his gods and the ministers could be sitting there quietly listening to him. And Ah Beng may not even pass his PSLE. But he is the representative of his gods. This is good. The trouble starts when they identify themselves as one and transcend across national borders. Then we have Turkish Muslims demanding the right to represent Uigher Muslims in China. Then we have Muslims from across the world helping their Muslim brothers to topple the secular govt in Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand and other places. And they never see it as wrong as their superior doctrine and god are not restricted or confined to any man made borders. The world will be more muddle and chaotic when race, religion and nationality are messed around like rojak. _________________

8/26/2009

Kudos to Tan Kin Lian

The formation of an independent watchdog group is a great leap forward in the protection of the small people that are often left in the lurch. The Financial Services Consumer Association(Fisca) is a welcome move. Tan Kin Lian has done it again, for the small and helpless people. We need more of such organisations for the good of the people. What such associations need is more clout, say professionals especially in the legal profession, to take up their case at minimal cost. In our expensive legal system, the small people without money often fell victims to the rich or the faceless corporations. The next thing that is needed is a channel to air their cases. I think as time goes on, as they become more vocal, the only reliable and dependable channel is still the cyberspace. The cyberspace is the friend of the small people as it is free and truly neutral and will print anything for anyone. Good work, Tan Kin Lian and friends, of the people.

Another dangerous proposition!

I was greeted by an article in ST by Salma Khalik suggesting insurance coverage for the 85 and above. With all good intention, she made many good reasonings and suggestions on why this group needs insurance coverage and how it could be done. Why is this frightening? Money flying away again. This kind of help, is asking people to take your money for your own good. Please, no more help of such kinds. Please, I am screaming, shouting, no more compulsion or any kind to take the people's money away. I know my kpkb is in vain. This is a sounding board to test whether the docile masses will bite or protest. If not, be prepared, another scheme may come your way. Compulsory insurance scheme for the above 85s. Great, all grounds covered. More money in the lockup. For goodness sake, if one is 85, prepare to leave. Our body is not built to last forever. We are not meant to be here forever. What the shit does one want to live that long for when nothing works? Want another pair of corneas, another pair of lungs, another heart, another stomach? At that age, people shall be contented to live the remaining part of their lives peacefully, with minimum pain. For those who have everything and all the money, please insure all you can and live for as long as you can. Change all the parts if you can afford it. For the average human beans, any day longer is suffering, pain and misery. And the suffering is not only to themselves but to their children and caregivers. What is more merciful? To prolong the pain and suffering, the misery, or to depart when the time has come? Another high faluting idea?

8/25/2009

Making sense of statistics

Today paper reported that the 60% sandwiched class had a reprieve for price increases in the first 6 months of the year. The increase in CPI for this group of people is 0.7%. The ST highlighted that the poorest or lowest 20% was the worst hit as the CPI rose 1.6% for this group. Both used the same set of statistics from the Dept of Statistics to report a different thing. So one group should be celebrating and another group, the poorest, should be crying. But these are just statistics. Look at the shopping centres, foodcourts, the property launches, and the mercedes benzes in 2 or 3 rm flat car parks, then you may wonder whether the people are really suffering. You don't see the overt and abject poverty around the public housing estates. Yes there were the occasional soft drink can collectors and a few lonely souls browsing the rubbish bins instead of the internet. They are the exceptions. Prosperity is in the air. I just recall the happy faces at the NDP and the hundreds of thousands of merrymakers out for a good time at the Esplanade, the Marina Bay and the Padang area. So where are the poor or the poorest? If our poor and poorest are still able to have a good time in the worst economic crisis we are faceing, and with the CPI running away, than things cannot be so bad. Time for celebration again. For the top 20% they can open that $500 or $5000 bottle of champagne, the middle 60% can open the cheap red from ShengSiong or FairPrice. And the lowest 20% can either go for some cheap beer or toddy. Celebrate within your own means. This is paradise, the modern day Eden. (Jaunty going to scold me now.)

Loan shark country II

Just when you think it is over, just when the men in blue declared war and successes in napping a few runners, they struck again. Saw the news last night that residents in some part of the country have to put a layer of plastics over their doors, windows and walls to avoid the paints that will come in the dark of the night. The loan sharks are quite fearless. Or are they sending out a message, that this is their country and they are the law or above the law, or the law is nothing to them? Yes they can defy the law, and what can the law do to them? The thing is that our reputation as loan shark country is growing and spreading, and loan sharks with deep pockets are sending their funds here from neighbouring countries. Soon we will earn the badge of being the number one loan shark country in the world. Another feather on our cap.

8/24/2009

A new lifestyle

Singaporeans have many choices of lifestyle they wish to live by, at a cost. Take visiting families and friends for instance. A family of two adults and two children making social calls is not a cheap thing. The fortunate will drive to their destination and the immediate cost is the petrol. The road tax and car already paid for. Just the recurring cost, $10 for petrol and $5 for parking. And if they choose to park illegally, maybe another $30 to $80 if kenna caught by our superbly efficient parking attendants. The alternative is public transport, either by cab or train/bus. A two way cab fair is going to be at least $20 or more, depending on the distance. Even by mass transport, $8 may be the cheapest. Hey, leading a socially active life is not cheap and not free anymore. What can happen down the road is perhaps virtual visiting. Everyone hook on a webcam and sit in front of a PC or laptop to chat away, by the fingers of course. In visual contact but nothing physical. Now that is futuristic. For those with mother in law phobia it is the best thing to happen. Now I am wondering why is social life or family visit a thing of the past.

Political dissidents turned heroes

The South Koreans said farewell to one of their most loved leader, Kim Dae Jung, or Mr Sunshine. Kim Dae Jung is also hailed as the Nelson Mandela of Asia. He was demonised, turned into a villain and imprisoned by the political masters of his time. He spent many years behind bars, endured torture and death threats, but survived to be elected as South Korea's President in 1998. And history was rewritten. Kim Dae Jung was not the only one that went from dissident to national hero. Xanana Gusmao of East Timor is another example of the kind of treachery and political corruption in Asian countries even today. The abuses of political power to destroy political opponents is nothing new and hardly any Asian country can stand up to tell the world that they are free from such persecutions and bullyings of the losing party. The latest victims are Thaksin and Aung San Ssu Kyi of Thailand and Myanmar. Very likely they will have their stories rewritten someday. Malaysia is seeing Anwar Ibrahim making his come back and could be the next Nelson Mandela from Asia. The stories of Kim Dae Jung, Gusmao, Mandela and many more to come, are testimonies of the stinking political games that are being played by politicians, when innocent political contenders were painted blacker than black. We are so lucky to witness how these dirty political games are played for all to see. But would the masses be able to see the real from the unreal, the truth from the untruth? Or joining the winning side and enjoying the buffet is what counts and the 'villians' shall be villains for the day, until history favours them and turn them into another Mandela?

8/23/2009

What we told the children

We teach and tell the children many things and many good values, don't cheat, be honest, be kind, be helpful, be caring to others, etc etc. These are values that the children take seriously and many would live by them as they turn into adults. As they grow older, we teach them more, serve the people and country, be prepared to fight and die for your country, honour, integrity and loyalty. But do we believe that they will live by them as adults? Or these are just values that are good to have, good to believe or aspire to, and that's about as far as we believe in them? In the world of the adults, the good values may be the same. But they are moderated by pragmatism. Be real. The adult world is not a world of make beliefs. It is a world where idealism is only idealism. It is all about what is in it for me. If there is nothing for me, forget it. Just enjoy the goodness of the meaning. It is better to be practical, pragmatic and live with a new set of values that will enhance one's self worth, material wellbeing and all the other trappings of being successful. Let the children and losers believe in all the goodness of things like honesty, loyalty, honour, integrity, fairness etc etc. Now I can understand why some people feel so disappointed about the national pledge. The more they believe in it, the greater is their disappointment, and the greater they feel like being a sucker. It is just another good to have, good to believe value. Not to be true, not to be real, not achieveable. Just an aspiration.

8/22/2009

Property prices, an exercise in illusion

We have this property frenzy turning more crazier by the days. How much of this is real and how much are concocted to give the impression of real demand and real affordability? The ST carries several pages today with two conflicting views, that property prices are really affordable and with some cautioning that a bubble is in the building and we will have our property crisis like the US in the next economic downturn. Would we hear some sensible words of advice on this happy tragedy that is waiting to happen, or everyone is happily playing the monopoly game? A report by Citigroup economist Kit Wei Zheng said that prices at 19 times are now more affordable compare to the 40 times annual income of 1996. It is a relative game. From 40 times to 19, everyone should be cheering and rushing to get one unit. It is less than half price! The crazy and irresponsible thing is to let this go on and on. In fact it was utmost irresponsibility to let prices shot up to 40 times the annual income of the buyer at the average Singaporean level. But no one cares. Ahhh, caveat emptor. Nothing can be done. It is all good business and individual responsibility, and free market. Wny are we so concerned about people gambling in the casinos? Take a 20 year annual income as an example. It would mean that the buyer would need to pay every cent of his income for 20 years to fully pay up for the unit. And this also isn't true as the mortgage plus interest for 20 years will easily work out to be double the amount, ie, he needs to pay for 40 years instead, every single cent. Let's say that he uses half of his income to service the loan, wow, does it mean that it will take him 80 years to do so? Ok, double income family. So maybe 40 years to pay up. Still sounds good, provided neither of them loses his/her job. Then the increments and promotions along the way will make the repayment much easier. But still a 30 to 40 year repayment and a sum that is not small. In 1975 a semi D cost only 2 years of annual income, a 5rm HDB flat cost slightly more than 1 year annual income. That was why those who bought into properties then could sit on huge profits from asset appreciation. With today's prices, is there going to be a profit at the end of 30 years? We are assuming that many Singaporeans are rich and able to afford such properties looking at the attendance in property launches. We are also assuming that many Singaporeans in the future will be able to pay double the current prices if the present day properties are going to appreciate in value. What is very likely to happen is that in the next 10 to 20 years, there are bound to be several economic turmoils along the way, and people paying high prices and servicing high mortgages are going to be hanged for sure. For the time being, enjoy the party...if it is for real. Let's see who ends up with the baby when the music stops.

8/21/2009

Time for celebration

Singapore is officially the 2nd most expensive Asian city after Tokyo. Bring me my wine, or champagne better, for such a great achievement. And with our salaries also at record high, property prices at record high, Singaporeans are a lucky lot to be able to afford such high living. How do I conclude so? No Singaporean is complaining. So all is fine. And foreigners are flocking here in bigger numbers, all laughing to the banks. There are plenty of money everywhere. A modern day Eden.

High faluting ideas to be demolished

I have glanced through a few papers and blogs and they were all talking about high faluting ideas and these need to be demolished. Now what is a high faluting idea? I search the web and found this: Meaning: (Regional slang) 1. Highly pompous, bombastic (speech). 2. Showing off, ostentatious, pretending to be above one's station in life, putting on airs. Ya, I agree. All high faluting ideas must be demolished. Which one? Anyone comes across any high faluting ideas, please tell me. PS. An idea that is faluting or not is very subjective. It all depends on who is saying what.

Cyberspace state of health

Or shall I call it freedom of speech? Between a communist giant like China and a democratic island like Singapore, I think it is quite shameful if we are to compare the freedom of speech between the two. Mind you, they have demonstrations every frequently. And I am not referring to those in Xinjiang but in Beijing and Shanghai. Back to freedom of speech. The first thought is that we must be much freer, and our bloggers must be blogging themselves crazy with a diverse spread of views, pro and anti establishment. In reality, the country that is freer in terms of blogging and expressing of views is China. Cannot be? In a comment in the editorial of the ST on the topic of India and China relations, the editor said this, '...few Indians know that there are millions of Chinese bloggers who express themselves freely and fearlessly.' The we look at our own cyberspace and netizens and ask ourselves, who can be qualified as 'blogging freely and fearlessly'? If there are such animals, they are probably blogging from overseas or found in P65.

Race and Religion the hot topic

After Hsien Loong's ND Rally, race and religion have taken on a higher profile with poeple agreeing that they should be discussed openly and not be tabooed, or fearing that someone will come knocking at your door. The general mood is that it is time for issues of race and religion be discussed. I think before such a great happening becomes a reality, people must accept certain limitations, constraints and ground rules to abide by. It is easy to start talking about them. But it is not easy to close the topic when things get heated up and when young blood or instigators join the fray. Discussing such issues, the demand for maturity, respect, sensitivity and an understanding ear are very high as the views put forth, when the views are true, genuine and from the heart, can be very tough to the wrong listener. In the case of religion, I think it is more difficult as certain doctrines and seeds of division and hatred are already deeply embedded over centuries in religious books. Unless such dangerous views are removed from these books, they will always be used by the wrong group as reasons to fight and kill. For such views and doctrines, which many believers chose to ignore or pretend that they do not exist, are intolerable or breed intolerance of those not of the same sect. Many are outright destructive. Would a revision be done by the wise men of today to erase those words, phrases and doctrines of the ancient and do a cleansing of these old books so that future generations can live in peace without such historical notes to invite them to be intolerable or to kill those who do not subscribe to their beliefs? How real, genuine and sincere can believers be when the doctrines are not of peace, not of tolerance and acceptance of others?

8/20/2009

The return of LKY

LKY was in his robust best yesterday in Parliament. He stood up reluctantly to demolish a motion by Viswa Sadasivan calling for more equality among the races. LKY's position is that the Malays were the indigenous people of the land and were protected under Article 152 of the Constitution. Their special privilege and position cannot be removed by equality for all races. He was like a young man, full of fire in his belly despite his age. He stamped his authority and made it very clear that he is still in charge, that he is the boss. And when a difficult situation arises, he will be there. And this is bad. By his strong and persistent presence in Parliament, he has exposed a whopping big hole in the succession formula. Did any of the minister see the dangerous trend that Viswa was pointing? And is there anyone that can stand up and defend the position as robustly as he did, establishing himself as the boss man, to be able to speak in full authority and with that kind of forcefulness of a true leader? My view is that LKY should stay in the background and let the young ministers to take charge and fight their own battle, to be their own men. And he will do them a great favour by not rushing to battle as the point man. He cannot be around forever and it is better that the new leaders establish themselves fast while he is still around to avoid creating a kind of vacuum through the lack of a tested and accepted leader securely in place, one who can speak in authority and people will listen, like listening to him. Many people can see this problem. Unfortunately many wise men will choose to remain reticent and pretend that everything is going just fine.

8/19/2009

Regulator did not overpay for MRT doors

This is the heading of an article in the ST today in response to the gripes in cyberspace over the cost of MRT screen doors. The article quoted 3 other sources for comparison. Half height doors 1. SMRT at $65.6k per door 2. Paris at $47k per door 3. Taipei's Danshui/Nangang lines at $84k per door Full height doors 4. Taipei's Neihu Line at $54.7k per door. Just the numbers, Taipei's Danshui/Nangang lines are the most expensive. But these were built in 2006 when material costs were much higher. The other 3 were built around the same period which are better comparison. The Paris line is being built by a Swiss company and their labour and material cost cannot be cheaper than ours. But they are 34.7% cheaper. The Neihu line is full height doors and is still 16.6% cheaper. The best comparison is between the Paris line and ours as the number of doors built are 1992 and 1920 respectively. And both are half height. Length of lines are 10km for Paris and 11km for our MRT. Both are being installed now. The numbers say that we are paying much more than Paris and Neihu lines. True or not?

Fine or jail for putting up tent at Changi

A resident was caught and charged for putting up a tent at Changi beach without a licence. He was fined $800 which he could not afford to pay. Instead he was jailed for 4 days. Wally, I hope it is not you. I am sure you pay for your licence : )

Loan sharks still a problem here!

It was a problem. Now it is a scourge of the land. What happens, haven't the men in blue been chasing after them all these while? Oh, they are now very sophisticated. Maybe even smarter than our men in blue. So it is difficult to deal with them or wipe them out. I can't imagine how the home team is going to deal with the big syndicates when the IRs are operating if they can't even handle the loanshark problem. Maybe the loan shark syndicates also send their key personnel on scholarships to Harvard and Cambridge to outsmart our brightest. It is now a talent versus talent game. Wait till the IRs are open and we will have another new ball game.

The remarkable Garden of Eden

What are the great things in the Garden of Eden. One thing for sure, man was innocent, so innocent that he went about naked without knowing it, thus knowing no shame. And his job was to tend the garden dutifully, knowing no right and no wrong. In other words man shall be unthinking. And he must be kept that way, for he was forbidden to know, not allowed to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. God did not want man to know too much, not to be as clever as him. There was also the Tree of Life, and man must not eat from it to live forever, like God. The line between man and God is very clear. The essence of the Garden of Eden is that man shall live there happily doing his part, tending the orchard. It was a life of blissful ignorance, and be like a worker. Thinking is not needed, everything will be taken care of. Leave the thinking to God. And God has all things planned, with all his wise schemes. And when man tries to be too smart, to be like God, he shall be banished from the Garden forever. Just follow orders and man will be ok. The Garden shall be guarded by a cherubim and a flaming sword to keep those banished from returning. How many of you would like to live a life of contentment in the Garden of Eden, full of ignorant bliss and no worries? And mind you, there is a paternalistic God looking after all your needs. Sorry Tommy. We are no Venice or Geneva. We are Eden.

8/18/2009

We are short of doctors!

Our university can only produce 200 doctors annually. And the supply of doctors is anaemic, must be affected by our 2 child policy that we cannot produce more doctors. Or all the straight As and straight Bs students were not good enough. So now we are recruiting doctors by the planeloads from third world countries or doctors with degrees from third world countries. Our medical facilities have been expanding in leaps and bounds. Our needs for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals must also increase. Somehow I got the impression that nobody notice this. And now we have to import all the great doctors from all over the world. Actually hor, if we know we need so many doctors hor, we can increase the intake of medical students hor, then we got no doctor no enough problem you know. QED.

First MRT, next trains, then roads

The great success in saving lives at MRT station with the erection of screen doors has spawned more great ideas about saving lives at railway tracks. The open railway tracks are even more hazardous as no one will be there to watch over those careless souls wandering into the tracks. And the trains are so difficult to spot, probably installed with stealth capability that they cannot be seen or heard. The trains will creep up quietly to mow down anyone found on the tracks. In the My Paper today, there were many good suggestions on how to make the railway tracks safe for people or jaywalkers. Instal barriers, fences, electronic devices or maybe human patrols to keep people out of the tracks. But no one is suggesting the $126m screen doors. Ok, maybe they know that it is expensive. The most relevant and practical solution is like what Matilah suggested, barbwires, cheap, good and efficient. And this can also be used later when they want to keep the roads safe as well. I remember watching a CNA programme of a train driving through the heart of a market place in one of the Asian cities. Before the train arrives, goods and people were all milling and scattered along the tracks. But the surprising thing is that without any signal or any electronic devices to warn the people and stall holders, at certain specific moments, they will remove everything from the railway track and the train will pass by uneventfully. Once the train has left, the track and its surrounding will be packed with goods, carts and people again. The strange thing is that nobody will be run over by the train. Even in our backyard, there used to be squatters with their huts along side the railway tracks. Amazing that no one got run over by the trains. Wonder how such a miracle could exist for so long without casualties. Can we learn something from these unsophisticated natives?

8/17/2009

Myth 208 - Foreigners taking over jobs and housing

These seem to be the standard complaints of Singaporeans. They are taking over our jobs and our flats. Now, are these happy or unhappy problems? Sell your homes to the suckers. Make them pay you a ransom for them. And with that kind of money, who needs a job, or who needs to work? Pack up and go to Lijiang and enjoy the life of an emperor. Why work, why coop up in a pigeon hole when the whole expanse of mother earth is there for your enjoyment? What are Singaporeans complaining? And there are many Lijiangs around the world where our strong dollar can be converted to buy anything. Singaporeans should seize the opportunity to upgrade their lives instead of thinking of working till they drop dead. Think laterally, think of better alternatives. Ahhhh Lijiang is beckoning. And they will do Singapore a big favour by helping it to renew itself with young and vibrant talents.

Happy like Fxxk feeling (pardon my lingo)

This is the impression one gets of all the PRs and new citizens here. How could they not be happy when they waltzed into a banquet hall with a big buffet spread awaiting them. And many were hungry and have never tasted such goodies before, or be in a posh banquet hall to be served. When people are happy because of goodies, beware. When the goodies are not there anymore, the happy faces may turn ugly. There are many goodies for the PRs and new citizens. And PRs and new citizens will become citizens and pay the price for being citizens. Membership has its obligations. OK the lucky guys are the PRs forever, enjoying the best of both worlds. You see, our system caters to impress the newcomers, not so much of the citizens. As citizens there are commitments, including your money in the lockups. When the new citizens realise what is happening, they are not going to be happy like fxxk anymore. They will be whining like the old citizens.

National Day Rally 2009

The most impressive part of the rally must be the last video clip on the future Marina Bay area. It is a future worth looking forward to. With its completion, we will really transform into another level of economic progress. During the National Day Parade I was staring at the diminutive Asia Insurance Building, once upon a time the tallest building in the island. Today it is dwarfed by its undescribed neighbours, everyone towering above it by twice its height. And the new Marina Bay area is another leap ahead from the present waterfront at Raffles Place and Shenton Way. I could imagine myself strolling along the Sands IR and enjoying the great sights and the richness of the surrounding. Then I wonder if I can afford the luxury within. Or maybe I shall join Wally and pitch tent at Changi Beach where the air is free, the stars and the views are free. Easier on the pocket. Our infrastructure will be first class. The several MRT lines that will complete the transport grid will make moving around so convenient, if one can afford it. Come to think of it, travelling to Changi to pitch tent by MRT is not going to be cheap. What is needed but missing in the rally speech is how to upgrade the pay check of the average Singaporeans. Can the pay check be bigger to meet the higher cost that is expected in a first class city living? Or shall the people be told to spend within their means, and join Wally? I have a better idea. I will turn myself into a professional gambler to qualify for a VIP card, free room and services and free food. I don't have to step out of the Marina Bay area anymore. Just live in the IR, for free. With my miserable income which I can confidently said is at least 3 or 4 times what Wally is getting, or more if he is a pensioner, I still think I will not be able to afford that kind of luxury. Now, for all the pensioners and would be pensioners, unless they have a couple of millions in their savings to last 20 or 30 years, they better find a job that will keep them employed till they are 70 or 80. Retirement or unemployment is no longer an option, but for the yodas. Yes, Hsien Loong did show a pic of Yoda in his presentation.

8/16/2009

Influx of foreign talents, good or bad?

1/3 of our population are foreigners and we are crying out for more. The mantra, they will help to grow our economy, our saviours. Is growing our economy the only reason for us to live by at the risk of undermining what we have built for the last 40 years? Nation building does not come easy and is still a work in progress. We have seen some results. But it is going into the oven again. How so? Our problem is our size. People may accuse those who want to slow down this process of globalisation for being small minded, xenophobic, short sighted, small town mentality. But before we throw the baby out with the water, let's think again and look at where we are to start with. Can we afford to have such a huge influx of foreigners in our midst in so short a span of time? According to demographic projections, Europe will be an Islamic region in 50 years when the muslim immigrants will form the majority of the European population. And Europe is a region of mature countries and civilisations and could not resist from being adulterated by new immigrants. We are only 3m people in a small island. As someone has said, our boundaries can be defined by the SLE, AYE, PIE and KJE. That is how big we are. A pail of shit into an ocean would not mean a thing. But a cup of shit into a pail of water will definitely change the content of the water. For 40 years we have striven hard to build a Singaporean identity, where the citizens associate themselves with this piece of rock and call it home. Now we are saying, let's start it all over again with new immigrants and new citizens. My reservation is that instead of we absorbing the new citizens and their traits and baggages and making them one of us, we may be absorbed by them when we become a minority. It can be good, but it can be disastrous to what we have being trying to build all these years. The conquerers of China and India were absorbed into these two huge and old civilisations. The conquerers of America vanquished the locals and change the landscape into something else. The change was good in the economic sense. To the locals, it can be anything but good. We are too small and the risk of rapid change will have its untold price. We will only see the consequences in 20, 30 or 50 years.

The people were delirious

Big savings come with new hospital subsidy plan. Since July, the 3 tier hospital subsidies of 25, 50 and 75% have been changed to an 8 tier plan ranging from 10 to 75% depending on the family income levels. This means that some patients that were cut off by the 3 tier plan could now enjoy a higher level of subsidies. And they were delirious as they could now save several hundreds or thousands of dollars from the medical bills. Wow. This is the good news part. The bad news part is that some hospitals had already raised their fees because of increased in operation costs and ‘patients had to pay between $300 to $1,500 more for a typical month long stay in the subsidised 8 bed wards.’ LPPL.

How much it costs for a screen door?

A $126m contract to instal screen doors for 36 MRT stations was awarded to ST Electronics and this has resulted in several discussions in cyberspace, all trying to guess how much is the cost of a screen door. The numbers vary from $60k to $100k per door. Let me try another guess. Each train has 6 cars with 2 doors each on either side, and only one side of the doors will be in operation at the station. And with 36 stations with one platform each with two sides, the number of screen doors should be 6 x 2 x 36 x 2 = 864. This works out to be $145.8k per door. If we add 2 more platforms for the interchanges at Jurong East and Tanah Merah, assuming each has 2 platforms instead of 1, then the additional number of platforms shall be 48, giving a grand total of 912. The cost of each screen door shall be $138k. Now, I think I am right on this number and any variation will be due to stations with more than one platform that are not accounted for and can be adjusted accordingly. So at $138k per screen door, this amount could actually buy a Mercedes Benz or a new 3 rm HDB flat in the new towns. In other words the $126m can buy 912 Mercedes Benz or 912 3rm HDB flats. The screen doors are indeed a little costly right? Correction. There are 24 doors on each side of a train instead of 12 doors as computed above. 4 per car instead of 2. Thus the cost per screen door should be halved, ie $69k. This is close to the actual number given by LTA at $65,600.

8/15/2009

Growing numbers, louder voices, bigger demands

1/3 of our population are non Singaporeans. And if we are to maintain our economic growth rate, more will be coming in and we may have 2/3 non Singaporeans in a matter of time. And as their importance grow, and as we become more dependent on their presence and contributions, like a drug addiction, we will need them more. Singaporeans should lay down the red carpet and welcome them with a big hug. And it is quite disheartening to read about the neglect and problems faced by the foreigners, from a place for their children in our schools and their difficulties in communications in public places. They need translators to read menus and order food. How can this be? Their discomfort is our loss if they choose to go somewhere else. Look at the positive side, more foreigners means more demand for housing and our flats will appreciate in value. They will pay quadruples to buy our HDB flats and we can then upgrade to smaller but more expensive private apartments. There will be more demands for more facilities and services and these will help to generate more economic activities and growth. Maybe our taxi drivers will be happier with more foreign commuters. They will provide more and better quality labour at cheaper cost. Singaporeans will all benefit from their contributions. Singaporeans can provide more services to these richer foreigners, renting out their rooms if not selling the whole flats, set up food courts, laundry shops, retail shops or whatever shops, as housing agents etc to support them and making a profit from such economic activities. It is a win win situation. For Singaporeans who cannot see the goodness of more foreigners coming here and growing the economy, it is better that they pack up and go somewhere else. The foreigners are like our customers and deserve to be treated like our customers, to be served well, to be pampered, if we want their money and talent. A good place for unhappy Singaporeans is Lijiang in China or a similar place in India. Cheap and good, and they will treat you like we treat our foreigners, at least until your money runs out.

Making money above ethical considerations

We need ethical leadership. We need ethical management. We need ethical business practices. Making money at all cost, with no regards to ethics will make us look no different from the loan sharks, the pimps, the gambling den operators or prostitutes. The fact that I have to post this means that unethical leadership, management and business practices are prevalent in our system. The minibond fiasco and other unfair practices in the financial system, the fraudulent practices and corruption in public and charitable organizations, are only the tip of the iceberg. Everyone knows but no one is talking. Anyone who dares claim that he does not know is either pretending or lying. Do we have people with the guts to stamp out such violations of ethics and human decency in our organisations ? There are some individuals who are in very privileged positions to do so, to stand up against this degeneration in ethical standards in our system. Sadly, they are not doing anything, probably enjoying the ride. Has anyone learn anything from the recent fiascos and big sums of money lost, with many people at the brink of suicide for losing their life savings, for blindly following the American schemes and scams engineered by the Ivy League graduates? They are no better than the scams of loan sharks. When will we start to think, to question how we make money, whether the business model is ethical and fair to customers, to employees and to associates and shareholders? Or shall we just exploit the weak and the small, grab their money and run without feeling any guilt? While Hsien Loong would have his plate full with many hot issues in his National Day speech, I hope he will touch on the subject of ethics and moral responsibility in corporate practices, including ministries and govt linked organisations. We need moral leadership to bring back ethical conducts and human decency in the pursuit of profits and doing businesses. And actions are needed, not just motherhood statements.

8/14/2009

$126m will be spent on screen walls at MRT stations

Finally the MRT has succumbed to public pressure to do what people want it to do, erecting screen walls to show that it cares and it does not want people to jump onto the train tracks or falling onto the tracks accidentally. It sure looks good on the MRT, and the screens also look nice. At $126m, they better look nice. So we can look forward to lesser death. Now people will be smarter and find other venues to jump. HDB might have to wall up all the high rise flats when people go back to jump. Or we may even have screen walls along the roads. Then we can sleep in peace, that we have spent the money and done all we could to keep MRT, HDB and our roads safe from people who want to jump or who accidentally got knock down and die. Our conscience is now clear. We care to the amount of $126m and more akan datang. Who is going to pay for it? Money well spent?

Our simple formula to economic growth

Increase the population. Without population growth, we will decline. My question is, is this the only way to growth? This is simply quantitative growth. There are many great nations that keep growing qualitatively, with no demanding needs to increase their populations. There is a need to keep our population growing, at a control pace, but not at a pace, and with a growth formula that says no population growth means stagnation and decline. If this is the truth, then our population will not be capped at 8m, it needs to keep growing to sustain growth, 10m, 20m, 50m.... This will denounce countries that are able to grow in leaps and bounds without significant population injection. Why can they do it and we can't? I thought we simply pay our super talents more and they will come out with quality solutions to grow our economy. Can't we just pay our way through? Or is paying and paying a myth, that they can't do anything except to rely on population to grow? Looking ahead, I can only see ourselves starve to death for lack of air, breathing space or moving space when our population hits 8m. And going forward, we will be killing each other for a little space to wriggle around. It is a sure path to our own destruction if population growth is the only way forward.

8/13/2009

Does Dark Pool violate the fundamental principles of transparency

Does Dark Pool violate the fundamental principles of transparency in stock trading? We used to read about the Stock Exchange querying companies on unusual movements of their stock prices and trading volumes and demanding to know why. Would these be a thing of the past when secrecy and non transparency are being advocated? Would the stock prices reflected in the stock exchange a real indication of demand and supply when real buying and selling are not done in the exchange? Would genuine small investors be trading on prices that are not a true reflection of real buying and selling interests? Are information being held against them while some organisations are privy to information that posed an unfair advantage similar to insider trading? Would transparency be a thing of the past? Level playing field?

The Dark Side beckons

That's the heading in the Today paper on the new trading system called the 'Dark Pool' to be introduced by the SGX. The system is to provide secrecy in trading so that big trades can be done without anyone knowing till they are done. Did we say transparency is good? Welcome to the darkside. It is better to do things in the dark than to be transparent. How many more things are done in the dark, or done without the knowledge of other players, giving those doing it an advantage over those kept in the dark? PS: More articles posted in Singapore Alternative News from Europe and America on the perils of Dark Pool. Related: SEC spotlight puts "dark pool" venues on defensive - Reuters 'Dark Pools' Threaten Wall Street - The New York Sun Europe to review ‘dark pool’ trading - Financial Times The rise of dark pools - attack of the clones - The Economist How Dark Pools Help Traders Cheat Transparency - Andymatic.com Singapore Exchange, Chi-X to form dark pool trade plat - Reuters Posted by singaporenewsalternative at 7:50 PM

The NDP was a security nightmare

I was there and experienced the crowd, 30 to 40 people deep, some areas more, all along the Esplanade from the floating platform to Collyer Quay, including the whole stretch of Benjamin Sheares Bridge. And the area in front of Asian Civilisation was also packed with families and merrymakers out for a good time, or just to soak in the atmosphere. It was a great feeling to see so many happy people enjoying themselves in comfort and with peace of mind. On the other hand, it was frightening should a bomb or two exploded in their midst. The carnage would be huge and ugly. Pray that it would never happen in such an event or anywhere here in paradise. The security people must have done a great job, and at the same time keeping their fingers crossed that thing would turn out alright, that everyone, adult and child, could go home contented, after an evening outings. But no matter how good the security people are, there are going to be some misfits, misled, misinformed and stupid people among and around us that will do the unspeakable and cause injury, pain and anguish to the innocents. How could we, as a people, stay together as one harmonious family, and prevent those who would want to do harm our friends and families to give up their evil and wicked designs? Only the people acting as one can avoid such a painful happening, only when the people are prepared to stand up and tell on those who want to do us harm, to turn them in instead of harbouring them. Without the cooperation and involvement of the people, the ordinary citizens, the evil ones will have found friends to hide and conceal them, to swim among them and waiting to strike at the next opportunity. We cannot afford to alienate our people and push them to the other side. We need to really be an inclusive country and count on every citizen as a member of a bigger family, to live and play and enjoy a peaceful lifestyle, free from dangers and harm. 300 to 400 thousand people were out there enjoying themselves and without a care about their own safety. We have taken these for granted. It is progress in a way. A kind of achievements. But we cannot depend on being lucky all the time.

No need for corporate governance

With so many abuses and frauds being exposed in our industries, I must say that it is a daunting task for the administrators to regulate and ensure that the consumers are not cheated, that there is fair play and ethical business practices. The job is so difficult and we should pity them for not being able to prevent all the funny things that are happening. What we should go for is a free market system, when anything goes. No need for governance. Every consumer be made aware, let caveat emptor be our governing principle in doing businesses. In a free market system, everyone will get wiser and learn to protect themselves and there no need to have huge organisations with thousands of people employed trying to administer and regulate when it is near impossible to do so. Make our economy really free, free from any encumbrance, free from regulations and interference. Let the law of jungle rules. Would that be nice, be more efficient? And no one needs to be blamed, no one needs to find excuses when things go wrong, no need to justify for any breaches or failures. Yes, caveat emptor is the way to go. And no need to kpkb.

8/12/2009

Child bearing a social responsibility

Yong Kong Peng wrote to My Paper saying that child bearing is both a personal and social responsibility. This is a new twist to what child bearing is all about. People is our national resource and citizens have a social responsibility to produce babies. Put it in another way, child bearing is a national duty! How many of you agree to this? And if it is a national duty, would the nation be responsible to bear part of the cost of upkeeping the child? Interesting ways of looking at things that we take for granted. So for those who produce more children are more responsible and should be rewarded?

New kid on the blog - p65

The p65 blog is evolving and is crashing into the blogging scene with another loud bang after the first bang whimpered away. This time some big guns were lined up to write for the blog, Mrs Shereen Aziz-Williams, Britain based director of the Council of Ethnic Minority voluntary Sector Organisations, unionist Mohamad Nazir Sani, grassroot leader Terence Quek and MPs are all in the line up. If you are born after 1965, have non partisan and neutral views, and constructive criticism of policies, you are welcomed. Partisan views are not allowed, I think. I am still trying to figure out what these mean. And soon they will also have photos and videos, including snapshots of interesting things around the neighbourhood. Welcome to the blogging world, p65.

The kangaroo courts of ASEAN

Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest. The sentence was actually half of what the court passed down, 3 years of hard labour. Her crime, a stupid American, a big fat slop, floated into her house in the night uninvited and stayed there for 2 days. The crime was so serious that that was a big trial and a big sentence. And ASEAN countries rose to their feet and banging their chests against the kangaroo court decision. Somehow I got this funny feeling that they don't sell mirrors in ASEAN. Don't they see kangaroo courts everywhere? Maybe not, some are more equal than others.

8/11/2009

The bizarre behaviours of Singaporeans

44 years of economic and material success have spawned some very strange behaviors among Singaporeans. We spent so much to buy a house or flat, furnished it up like a palace, but spent our time outside, most of the time at work. And the maids are the ones enjoying the million dollar or multi million dollar assets. Then we paid so much, the highest in the world, for a car only to park at home. Too expensive to drive, too many ERPs and car park charges to pay. And we are encouraged to park the car at home and take public transport, cheaper and more convenient. And when Singaporeans travelled, instead of seeing the places, they went shopping. The best part is that they would head for the cheapest bargains, buying stuff that they could get in Chinatown or pasar malam, at even cheaper prices. And they are happy that they got a bargain. And while the heartlanders are busy trying to make a life here, being told to bust off if they are not happy, which they could not, the rich and presumably very happy and contented citizens are buying up properties overseas just in case they need to make that escape from paradise. While many Singaporeans are thinking of jumping ship, or preparing to jump ship, hoards of new immigrants are rushing in to take their place in this paradise. And to top it all up, they keep complaining about the govt and all the policies that they found unpalatable, come every election, they will vote and return the govt to power. Strange Singaporean behaviours.

8/10/2009

When would anti social policies be removed or moderated?

One of the most anti family and anti social policies is car parking in residential estates. You visit your parents or your children, you pay, except Sundays and public holidays. You visit your friends and relatives, you pay. The more friendly you are, and the longer you stay, the more you pay. The more filial and caring you are to your parents, visiting them more often and staying longer, you pay more. There is an issue of lack of parking space, and residents deserve a place to park. Too many visitors will deprive them of a parking space. Sure there is a conflicting demand of space and social interactions. I pose this as a challenge for the administrators to come up with a more conducive policy to please both the residents and the visitors. Or is this the best that can be? Even in private estates, the roads are narrow, and the white lines are there. Not many of the private properties can accommodate more than 2 cars in their car parks. Any parties or social gathering is going to be very demanding on the residents and the visitors. We have plenty of space to take in 8 million people. Really? At what cost and social life?

Security at the NDP

Read my face

Families and children at NDP

Crowds at the Esplanade

All the foreign workers are there.

Colours of NDP

8/09/2009

Pics of 21 gun salute

Ready, fire and smoke!

My take on Hsien Loong's ND message

Singaporeans from all walks of life shall unite and work together with the govt for a better future in challenging times. This is another version of an all inclusive society, where every man/woman counts, as family, the Singapore family. What can the netizens do to be part of this family, to be embraced as friends and not as foes? If the netizens are going to continue to criticise the policies of the govt, it is unlikely that they will be welcome for tea parties or as friends. Who needs criticisms when everything is being run so well, when the govt is working so hard for the people, who needs people to throw cold water or cast doubts into the works. What would the govt expect then of the netizens? Obvious, please sing more songs of praises, and stop criticising and post cynical remarks. Then we will be family. This, I think, will run counter to the call to Singaporeans not to be complacent, that they can go on holiday, or their grey matters can go on holiday, and not to worry. Everything is well taken care off. No need to be vigilant, trust the govt, have faith in the govt that nothing will go wrong? Is this what being a family, be united as one people is all about? If that be the case, the netizens will forever be enemy of the govt. For this is one role that netizens should do as the govt is inevitably surrounded by good people with good intention and good things to say. Anything that is unpleasant will not be spoken or will say it in a way that will not prompt any serious reactions. A system without complaints is like removing the pain sensory mechanism in our body system. Without the ability to detect pain, we will get into serious injury without even knowing. The criticisms of netizens is a feedback to the govt, a very strong feedback that is good for the govt to take note. A wise govt will not dismiss criticisms as simply bad, simply anti govt and the bearer of such criticisms or bad news as anti establishment, not with the govt, not for the govt and people. Will our govt be enlightened enough to accept and embrace the positive side of netizens or criticisms? Very difficult I think. Look at the national day honours, or invitation lists to govt functions, how many opposition politicians are honoured? The netizens or people with opposing views are also with the govt to want a better Singapore. It is for the govt to work with them, together, as a people, for the betterment of the country.

8/08/2009

When verbal acrobatics rule the day

When monk tries to justify a high living lifestyle of a millionaire as acceptable in present day, when words were twisted or given new meanings to justify the unjustifiable to the point of being deceitful, it won't last very long when the truth will come crashing down on the philanderers. The people were told to live within their means, buy things only if they can afford while on the other hand people wanting to raise their million dollar salary because a Lamborghini is now priced beyond their reach. What kind of logic are we led to believe in? Put it in simple layman lingo, if you have $1, find what $1 can buy and be happy with it, you losers. But for me, when my toy is now $2m instead of $1m, I want my salary raise to get my toy. Get it? That is my logic. This is the meaning of affordability to me. I make my income affordable, to buy anything I want. For the losers, your income is fixed and you get what it can get for you. The meaning of affordable is being stretched, logically of course, to mean different things to different people. It is like shifting the goal post every year, today here tomorrow there. Let's see how this twisted definition of affordable means over time. Once, a 3 room flat can be paid up with a mortgage of 10 years by a single income worker. That was affordable. Then it needs a 20 year mortgage. A new kind of affordable definition. Without realising it, the meaning of affordable becomes a 20 year mortgage to be paid by 2 incomes. And it went on to a 30 year mortgage with 2 incomes. Still affordable, sure, correct sir. Soon affordability will be defined by 2 incomes from two generations or 4 incomes, including the parent's incomes to buy a 3 room flat. It will still affordable. What else is new?

Nasdaq and BATs to stop flashing orders

'New York: The Nasdaq stock market and BATs Exchange will "voluntarily" stop offering flash orders, a controversial service that gives certain firms an advance look at market bound trading orders....' This is the first para of a REUTERS/Bloomberg report in the ST today. How could any responsible exchange allow this to be put in practice in the first place? To let it go and then to put a stop to it after being investigated is unacceptable. How many of such unfair practices have been allowed into the system? The US watchdog is still reviewing all the 'illegal' and unfair practices and will be putting a stop to them. Top on the list is 'high frequency trading' which gives the big boys an unfair advantage over the small investors. Are such practices criminal? Shouldn't someone be held accountable for allowing them to be in practice? Do we have such unfair practices in our stock exchange, and if there are, are we going to keep quiet about it because we don't have a powerful watchdog like the Americans to bring justice and fair play to the small boys and continue to let the sheep stumble blindly to the slaughter house? I hope, really hope, that we are clean and no unfair practices were allowed into our system. I can only hope, but I have this nagging suspicion....

8/07/2009

Are you 30 something?

All those 30 somethings out there, stand up and be counted. You could be the next PM of Singapore. The search is on for the next PM to succeed Hsien Loong. All eyes will now be starring at the next batch of PAP candidates for 2012. Those in young PAP or helping in the MPS would probably stand a good chance. Youth is capital. All those above 40s or above mid 30s, well, keep slogging, over the hill.

The Verdict: 93% say Singapore governed well

Reach has done a survey and the results are very comforting and encouraging. 80% are confident of the economic future, 87% say the country is corruption free, 92% happy with the quality of education and a smaller percentage still not comfortable with the cost of living. With so many happy people, let's ignore the unhappy voices, at least for now as we are celebrating the National Day. Maybe we should brush aside all these irritating voices or better, ask them to pack up and go. The survey was conducted on 1558 Singaporeans. The sample size is definitely much bigger than the bloggers in mysingaporenews. Here we have a very happy and contented Singaporeans against maybe 5 or 6 unhappy Singaporeans. If I were to conduct a poll here, I think the happiness index will be at most 20%. But that will be unfair. A sample size of 5 or 6 and from a generally biased group in cyberspace, you can expect what the result shall be. Reach has done a good job in having a sample size of 1558, good number for 4D, and from a neutral group. The result should be more representative of the perception of the population. Now this is something we can celebrate for this National Day.

8/06/2009

Mum to be put off by ungracious people

A letter to Today paper by Tan Ai Chern described how she was put off by ungracious people, a child/mother who refused to offer her a seat in the MRT, commuters pretending to close their eyes, ignoring her, people jumping queue to buy fish soup in front of her. I hope mums to be will not be put off from having babies because of ungracious people. While we are encouraging people to have more babies, people should think very carefully why they are having babies. The last thing they should do is to have babies because they are told to do so. Or worst, because the economy needs a few more workers as cogs in the gigantic machinery. Or for the money minded, having babies because of the monetary incentives. Then there are those who have babies because someone from somewhere said so. A baby is a life. One must be responsible for bringing that life into this unforgiving world where losers will pay painfully for their whole lives. It is so easy for those who are naturally productive to keep producing. But producing babies to be prime ministers or to be manual workers? The most important and simple point is to give life only if you love the life and are able and willing to give the life a good life. Otherwise it is a very cruel and wicked thing to do to bring life into this world and let that life fend for itself as a deprived and underprivileged.

What is Seagate saying?

2000 jobs gone and company relocating to cheaper place. Are we expensive? What is making us expensive? Labour cost, land cost, infrastructure cost, govt cost, and whatever cost, are all going up, which is good. Then we can be in the league of the first world cities, notable for being expensive. But one of these costs can and will surely go down if we are to remain at least competitive to keep some manufacturers here. Or maybe manufacturing is already a gone case and service is what is the next biggest employer. We need to thank the two IRs for the job opportunities available. Hey wait a minute, the problem is still there. What problem? Labour cost still must come down, which means the income of the workers is not going to go up by any measures. Ok, where is the problem? With a stagnating income, who is going to pay for the services and goods with escalating prices? Housing, transportation, medical, food and entertainment will only get more expensive because the demand is there. How come, when our workers are not creating the demand? That is beside the point. Our workers will just have to live with the situation, lower income and higher living cost. But don’t worry, housing, go for smaller units or rentals. Food, go for cheaper substitution, don’t each chicken, eat fish, I mean ikan bilis, not pompret or groupers. Actually the real situation is that life is good. People are all very rich and with big disposable income. Just walk to the big shopping centres in Orchard Rd and you will know what I mean. And the long queues of people in private property launches will tell a happy story. What is real and what is make belief? I think the buying frenzies in Orchard Rd and property launches are real.

8/05/2009

Anwar suing after being called a traitor

Anwar is taking up a law suit to sue those who called him a traitor of the Malays, for selling out Malay supremacy to the non Malays. Utusan Melayu reported today with challenging statements like 'Who will hold the position of Chief Secretary? ..Who will be senior officers in the police and military?' It is so easy for CB politicians to go on a name calling campaign to brand the other party in whatever way they like and have the media to join in and make the impression stick. But the masses must think and decide for themselves who is what. Is a politician who everyday chants 'Melayu Ketuanan' a champion of the Malays when he pockets millions and billions and throws a few coins at the poor Malays? Or is one who claims to fight for all races, and to assist all the poor regardless of race a traitor to the Malay race? What is a traitor? Who is a traitor? Will the Malay Malaysians ponder a little before they decide? I think the PKR supporters have already decided.

GE did it for its own good?

This is another angle that some people viewed the generosity of the Great Eastern offer. And some of its competitors also quickly jumped in to join the chorus. Indeed GE will gain some PR mileage in this initiative, and sure its customers and the general public will see GE in a different light, definitely more favourable than the mechanical FIs. After the dust has settled, after all the evasions, dodgings and excuses, people are still going to see GE as a more reliable, trustworthy, dependable and customer friendly organisation instead of an aloof, legalistic, calculative and you die your problem organisation. Then one may also want to ask, why didn't the rest of the FIs also think like GE, pay out and make their customers happy, do a one time PR exercise, absorb the losses, which is really peanuts, and save some of the uncles and aunties and their nest eggs? Is this not a worthy cause, a decision that is human, decent and being seen as a caring organisation to do business with? Or maybe these FIs are so entrenched in their position as market leaders that there is no need to spend on goodwills or to cultivate trustworthiness from its customers, that the customers will surely go back to them for more business. No, no, this is not the proper way to do business. It will undermine our business integrity. We need to protect the snake oil sellers so that they will continue to do their business here. it will encourage more snake oil sellers to relocate here, a perfect place to sell snake oil. I am very sure that all those badly hit by the fiasco and badly treated by the FIs will swear never to do business with them anymore. Say whatever you like, GE has done a very human and decent thing, to benefit itself and also the customers. We need more financial institutions that are run in a more humanly ways, where the interest of the customers comes first.

8/04/2009

The Singapore Neverland

Singapore is in a way like Michael Jackson, too much money and not knowing what to do. See anything fancy, buy. We bought from ABC, UBS to Citi. We sell our core assets and buy into new fancies. Then we discard them quickly and happily. What else to we want to buy or want to sell?

In Praise of Human Decency

Great Eastern has done a coup of sort to offer a big payout when it does not need to. In fact the precedent has been set for it to play by the market practice and save a lot of money, except for the pain and loss the investors will continue to bear. One question is whether Great Eastern has crossed the line to the extent of undermining the correct business practice and the rule of law here that we are so proud of, and chose to invest in a bit of morality, ethics and human decency, which are only good for the souls but not for the bottom line. It was a rare moment indeed in a country that crows about making money at all cost, where scoundrels are praised and held in high esteem, and not how the money was made, where making money is the end all, with no qualms about human decency. Investors have been complaining that they were questioned by high and mighty officers of financial institutions demanding only to know if they understood English, and if they had signed on the documents. If either was a yes, no further explanation was needed, and out of the door they went, with minimal or no compensation. Legally right, legally binding but morally shameful. Technically and legally, the financial institutions are right by applying the rule of law. That could be the reason why they were so arrogant that they were doing the right thing. It's all legal. The investors understood and signed the documents. These were enough not to compensate them fully or at all. Caveat emptor man! Just as much we need to protect the investors, the financial institutions also need to be protected under the rule of law. So which should overrule the other, the rule of law or morals and ethics? I think when in court the rule of law will be upheld and not any wishy washy stuff like morality, ethics or empathy. We cannot undermine our system of correct business practice, our rule of law, and compromise on such rulings. The peddlers of snake oil also need to be protected under the rule of law. My view is that Great Eastern must have come to the conclusion that the product must be flawed and morally not right to make this kind of money from the their customers. They have set aside all legal and technical arguments in their favour and chose to make a human decision to return the money to their clients. The decision of Great Eastern speaks a lot about the quality of their leadership. Something we find very lacking in this materialistic world and something we only heard in motherhood statements but not in practice.

8/03/2009

10 is to 11 or 12, or 11 or 12 is to 10

After economy recovers, 10 workers should do the work of 11 or 12 – Lim Swee Say Can we have similar quotes like 10 ministers doing the work of 11 or 12 ministers, or 10 MPs doing the work of 11 or 12 MPs, or 10 MDs doing the work of 11 or 12 MDs? The answer is obvious. The higher it goes, the more difficult and complex is the job. You really need 11 to 12 ministers to do the job of 10 ministers, 11 or 12 MPs to do the job of 10 MPs, and 11 or 12 MDs to do the job of 10 MDs.

Another myth in the making?

Ho Ching's proposal to invite the public to co invest with Temasek has been receiving quite a lot of approval and favourable comments. At face value it looks like another great proposal for investors to grow their nest eggs. But before people plonk in their hard earned savings, they better think very carefully as investment is a high risk enterprise. The higher the returns, the greater the risks. Not very long ago, there was this great scheme called COWEC. It is a company welfare scheme where employees and companies joinly contributed to the fund to invest in stocks with the belief that stock investment was a sure win game in the long run. It was supposed to guarantee a higher rate of return than the CPF. It is now history. The same crazy belief also reemerged in the early 1990s when all the clever analysts and investment experts were churning out reports on how great investing in stocks and shares were against all other instruments. In the long run, investing in stocks will generate the highest returns compare to other forms of investments. This faith led to the release of CPF funds for stocks and shares and a kind of frenzy when every CPF contributor had a stock investment account. Again it became history when many of them lost their nest eggs, contributing to the miserable state of our CPF savings. Would co investment with Temasek lead to the same fate? Can investment guarantee a safe and high return? The fact that the CPF Life scheme has an escape clause in case the fund becomes insolvent speaks for itself.

Chok Tong's 10 challenges

Chok Tong has thrown 10 challenges to the new political leadership as we celebrate 44 years of dynamic progress and economic growth. What I feel is that Chok Tong is unduly worried. There is no cause for concern if one reads the comments in cyberspace, the home ground of dissent, dissatisfaction and cynicism. The criticism of the govt were all very superficial and lacks dept. Many were just simply kpkb, with no substance. How could one call it a genuine complaint or hardship when one needs to pay 20c more for a service or $10 more for goods? Fortunately these are met by the real and genuine responses from contented Singaporeans who are very grateful for what the govt has done. We have progressed in leaps and bounds. And many Singaporeans can be proud to tell the world how expensive are their houses/flats and cars. Their homes will appreciate in value every few years, maybe doubling in value every 5 to 10 years. With this kind of progress, even living in the same 1000 sq ft unit, no Singaporeans would mind. All they want to know is that their homes are getting more expensive and another sucker will be queuing up to buy from them. Then they themselves can upgrade to another 1000 sq ft unit and pay double the price for it. Another sign of progress, to be able to pay for ever more expensive housing or the same size or smaller. For those who have made enough, they could downgrade into a 1 rm rental flat and live happily ever after.

8/02/2009

Are Singaporeans really that crazy?

We used to pay $30k for a 1,300 sq ft HDB flat. Today, people are queuing up to pay half a million or more for a 1000 sq ft little pigeon hole in the air. And everyone is so happy about it. Don't they know that it will take them a whole life to pay to be cooped up in that little space when a big sprawling house could be had in other places for much less? What is so great about a little space dressed up like a hotel room, a place to sleep, a place to pee and eat, and a TV to watch. And that is about all for $500k to a million. And the best part, everyone is expecting to make a handsome profit when they sell that little space to the next sucker. What kind of quality of living are we getting into? Work like shit for life to pay for a little place to sleep and shit and getting so excited over it? Do Singaporean ever ask whether life could be better, less stressful, less work, more leisure and fun and space to run around? Or this is what good quality living is all about?

Bravo, Great Eastern

If we want to know what is being responsible and trustworthy, look no further. The name is Great Eastern. As a follow up to the Lehman minibonds and Pinnacle notes debacle, Great Eastern has voluntary taken the step to payback every cent its clients paid for a similar product. This is quite embarrassing to the other renowned and reputable organisations that were involved in the fiasco and refused to compensate fully or compensating a pittance. The whole episode and the pathetic handling of the cases with consumers having to fight tooth and nail to claim back their losses said that there is an urgent need for a truly independent body to protect consumer interest. Unfortunately, with the overlapping of roles and interests, and personalities involved, such an organisation is practically impossible to find, not that it cannot be formed, but there is no political interest to have one. The web of being connected is amazing in this little dot. The minibond saga is like all the organisations are banded together on one side and the consumers, the little people, on one little miserable corner with a gungho maverick in the form of Tan Kin Lian as their defender. it is an ugly sight like in the Miserables.

8/01/2009

New chief at SGX/Building castle on shifting sands

Magnus Bocker has been recruited from New York, the finest financial centre of the new world. He was the President of Nasdaq OMX. I am not going to belabour the foreign talent or lack of local talent debate. I am looking at this appointment and what direction is the SGX heading? Having a foreign head with a wealth of experience in M & A of stock exchanges, like Chip Goodyears experience in commodities, can we expect that SGX will be heading in this direction, more mergers with other exchanges? The concept is brilliant, as brilliant as the acquisition of huge international banks. The disastrous failure of the latter was due primarily to bad timing as well as buying rotten apples without knowing it. We do not know what we are in for. In the case of growing SGX into an international financial centre in the league of NY, London or Tokyo, my fear is that we are taking too big a bite that we could not swallow. The way the current stock market is running is a case in point. Without a critical mass, a big and sustainable local fund, and relying on an over representation of foreign funds, we are completely at the mercy of these funds. When they are in, we all laugh to the banks. When they decide to pull out, we will be caught high and dry. There is no escape, and many local investors, no matter how big, will be hanged by the cleaners. Their investments can be totally wiped out. This has been our experience. Are we blind to it and still think that this is the way to go? Think big but not too big. Or should we take a step back and ask ourselves whether we should know our strength and weaknesses and play at a level that we can manage and control with lesser risk? Look at our football league. This is what we are and where we will be. Don't deceive ourselves to think otherwise unless we are prepared to throw our money away. The international funds are rich and have plenty of money, but they are very mobile and not only that they will move their funds at will to where the opportunities are, they will exploit the weaknesses of the local market and investors and clean everyone out if they can. Do not play with danger that we cannot control. The minibond saga, the failed investments in foreign banks and in anything foreign, the Scam chips, Malaysian chips, are painful lessons that we must learn from. We are not smarter than them. If we go this way, the biggest disaster that will come our way will be the collapse of the stock market.