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9/30/2009

A shocking case in ST forum

A Lim Beo Thiam, 52 years old, and have been unemployed for the past 18 months. Business collapsed and lost a leg to diabetes. He was taken to court for arrears of $432 owned to Town Council for S&C charges. His debt kept ballooning. He wrote to the ST hoping that help is on the way. He must be one of those guys who have slipped out of the safety net. He must be desperate. It is shocking that such cases actually exist. I thought all the craps of people falling into hard times were fiction. Got such things in paradise meh?

I am terribly disturbed

I am very disturbed by the way Singaporeans look at problems and their inability to shift out the truth from all the information available. Many Singaporeans are complaining about the high property prices, especially of HDB flats. And we all know what is the main cause of the high prices. Now what is the problem? I have read letters and suggestions that in order to bring down the prices, HDB should build smaller size flats or build basic flats with bare concrete and bare fixtures like in the 60s/70s. Are these the cause of high prices? Don't Singaporeans know or understand that the high prices are caused by market pricing and the notion of affordability? If the supply and demand, and market pricing dictate so, if the affordability fiction says so, no matter how small is the flat, or how basic it is, it can go to $1m for a 300 sq ft unit. Come on Singaporeans, stop being silly. Stop being foolish.

Yes, we have destroyed her

Ris Low has resigned from the Miss Singapore World title. Let's pop the champagne. But wait, let's go one step further and burn her on the stake. This is the power of the pen. Having said that, I think Ris Low deserves to be the Miss Singapore World. Despite the persistent and vicious attack on her character, she took every blow gracefully. She stood tall among all the small people thowing shit at her. She smiled. She did not show any sign of anger, befitting her choice and status as a Miss Singapore World. She did not succumb to the pressure and break down. She resigned gracefully from the title and her parting words, 'This is actually the best for everybody...I just feel that it 'd be better for everyone, including the Singaporeans who are not very supportive of me going to this pageant.' She knew she had done wrong and accepted her fate. How many 19 year olds or even adults have not done wrong, or more horrendous wrong than Ris Low? The campaign against her was cruel. It was airing dirty linen at the lowest level in public. Why couldn't this be sorted out confidentially? Oh, it must be of great public interest. The ERM also handled the case well without adding more fuel to the fire. For the way Ris Low stood up and face the harsh attacks by some of the letter writers, she is every inch deserving to be Miss Singapore World. Many would have crumbled and suffered under such intense pressure. There was no kindness in the attack. She stood tall and took the blows.

Electricity tariffs up 12.7%

This is the amount of increase household has to cope with in their electricity bill from October 09. I have lost track on how much housing prices, both public and private, have gone through the roof. But thank god, the people are saved by the subsidies provided by the govt. So the high property prices are still affordable.

9/29/2009

GIC $59b loss

The Wall Street Journal, 28 Sep 2009 SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--Government of Singapore Investment Corp. suffered a loss around S$59 billion in the fiscal year ended March, making it one of the worst years for the sovereign wealth fund since it was established in 1981, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday. "The equities investments suffered the most, followed by falls in property valuations. It was one of the worst years ever," the person told Dow Jones Newswires. Does anyone got a feel of what $59b means? If a private condo costs $1m each, $59b can buy 59,000 unit man. My guesstimate is that the sum of money could buy up all the HDB flats in Ang Mo Kio or Toa Payoh. That is what $59b means when translated to purchasing power. But no one is battling an eyelid for the loss of such a hugh sum of money. It is just paper money, some digits churned out by the accountant. On hindsight, GIC should have put in more money in CitiBank. If the investment in CitiBank was 10 times of what CIC put in, it could recoup $46b worth of profit in one go. Wouldn't that be nice? Ok, the initial collapse would mean many sleepless nights and shivering in cold sweat. But it would be worth it.

End of the Dark Ages

With the advent of cyberspace we are seeing the dawn of a new era of freedom in mass communication. The days when the govt controls all the modes of communication are over, or about to be over. Or at least we are now allow to hear alternative views and news. Gone were the days when the masses were fed with fairy tales, legends or stories of comic book superman and superheroes. Today we are seeing and hearing different kinds of heroes. In our local context we are hearing news and views that would not have the chance to see in prints. Now we have Ngaim Tong Dow, Seah Chiang Nee, Lucky Tan, Gilbert Goh, Alfian Saat, Tan Kin Lian, Andrew Loh, Choo Zheng Xi, Leong Sze Hian and many others who are saying things from the way they see it. Without them and all the infamous bloggers in cyberspace, we will still be like little children, reading fairy tales and comic books, and feeling very good. All bloggers should continue to contribute to the diverse views of truths and coloured truths, to challenge the truths in the old media. Only then can the masses break free from the oppression of one sided media transmission.

We are 5 million strong

Thanks to PRs and new immigrants, that's the front page news in 'my paper' today. Our population has hit 5 millions with the help of foreigners. We shall thank the foreigners for helping us to shore up the property prices as well. We shall thank them for providing jobs for our people. We shall thank them for helping to grow our economy, for without them we would be plunged into a recession or collapse. And thank you for helping to fill up the seats in MRTs and buses and the roads, and all the places that need people to patronise them. Without the foreigners we will be a dead city. Thank you, thank you. We are eternally grateful. And please come. We need another 3 million to reach our ideal target of 8 million. After that everything will be fine. We will not need any more foreigners or babies for growth when that magic number is reached. And our economy will continue to grow, and we will live happily forever.

9/28/2009

Weeny warlords and draconian policies

Singapore is seen by the world as an authoritarian state rightly or wrongly. We have many 'draconian' laws ranging from banning of chewing gums, caning and the death penalty. From a Singaporean point of view, especially from the angle of law abiding citizens, such laws don't really affect them as they are targetted at the irresponsible and criminals. In fact such laws are seen as good by many, including foreigners who came from their land of disorder and near anarchy. This culture of handing down tough laws and policies have over time seeped into the veins of many weeny little warlords who have no qualms in dishing them out to the masses. One favourite item is to make things compulsory, even to the extent of impounding the people's money under whatever guises. And we even have jail penalty for commuters who cheat the bus company of a few cents. In today's ST, Goh Eng Yeow wrote a long article about the stiff penalty that the Stock Exchange is handing down to small traders for carelessness. The fine is a hefty $1000 for data entry error or a mistake that may be worth a few hundred or a few tens of dollars. Goh Eng Yeow's article explained fully the whole gist of the matter which he described as another form of draconian laws that this island is infamous for. The sad thing is that many poor buggers were punished for a small unintentional mistake. Maybe a $1000 fine is not worth mentioning in the eyes of the little warlords. What is $1000?!!! It is so little, so small, and people should not quibble over it. Well, when one can be fined for a few thousand dollars for chewing gum offence, this $1000 fine is not even close to a peanut. And nobody cares. Everyone of some importance will have more important things to do than to bother about little people being fined for $1000, rightly or wrongly. Small people should count themselves lucky if their heads are not cut off by the warlords within us.

9/27/2009

No Yellow Ribbon for Ris Low

More efforts and revelations are needed to destroy this 19 year old girl. Do more research and dig deeper to bring out more unpleasantness of her life, and it is only a matter of time before she be buried and done away with. First it was her poor English. So she is bad. Now it was her credit card fraud. She was found guilty for cheating using stolen credit cards. This must have done the job. Attacking her for bad English was snobbish. Revealing her cheating conviction was hitting her below the belt. For the latter, I too find it difficult to defend her case. Having committed a crime is something that would put Ris Low and the organiser of the Miss World campaign in a very awkward position. And the attackers gone to town with everything they had against her. Oh, wait for more. It is not over yet. And I am reading very carefully between the lines to pull out the mastermind behind this whole sordid affair of character assassination in the name of good fun and righteousness. Forget about forgiveness, forget about Yellow Ribbon. Forget about gracefulness. We Singaporeans are just a bunch of rats! Talking about grace, forgiveness and having a Yellow Ribbon campaign is only an aspiration and not meant to be real. We are honestly just low down human beans. Let's bury Ris Low in the most humiliating ways we can think off and use the media to its best advantage.

The ideal Miss World, Singapore

The ideal Miss World, Singapore We have the best formula for what a Miss Singapore representative to the Miss World could look like. My prescription for the formula should include the following: 1.Tall, lanky lass from Northern China 2. Exotic physical attributes and endowments of Malay/Indonesian tribe 3. The English Language skill from India 4. The cosmopolitan culture of the Eurasians 5. And the brain of a Singaporean Put these together and get the experts from our Science Park to incubate a few specimens and in 20 years time we will have the best of Singapore ready for Miss World and Miss Universe. We have the expertise and resources to do what is needed Then there will be no necessity to assassinate another Ris Low.

9/26/2009

Asia On The Edge pics4

The guy is Lim Yu Beng.

Asia On The Edge pics3

Sorry, can't recognise them.

Asia On The Edge pics2

Beatrice Chia is in green and Tan Kheng Hua in red.

Asia On The Edge Show pics1

This is a performance produced by Goh Boon Teck for The Arts House. The 30 min show is free and will be on from Thur to Sunday 27 Sep 09 at 7.30pm outside the old Parliament House . Any of you recognise Mark Richmond? The girl is one of the top local model, I think. Can't remember her name.

More than we can chew

Ngiam Tong Dow said that we may become strangers in our home. Don't worry, we are already strangers in some part of the island. Walking through Chinatown or Geylang makes me feel that I am no longer in Singapore. No need to mention Little India. We are becoming a minority in some parts of our homeland. I forgot to mention The Sail and many high end residential estates and Orchard Road. And we are hearing calls on how to integrate the foreigners into our society. Maybe a more practical way is to integrate ourselves into the ways of the foreigners. The docile, nondescript, voiceless and faceless Singaporeans are as good as non existing other than be a digit in the big number games. The newcomers are the ones doing the talking and telling us what we should do to be like them or else.... And according to a 19 year resident PR, Atul Temurnikar, '...failure to integrate newcomers can post political problems, the way it has done in some European countries.' It is an early warning. Europe is big. Each of the European state is much bigger than we are, in physical territory and population, and the problems they are facing with their migrants are mounting. Could we tackle these same problems when our time comes? Maybe we can if we grind the numbers in our calculators. It is all a number game and with money, nothing is impossible. I enjoy the way the $10m integration fund and campaign is being turned into a joke. Maybe it really is.

9/25/2009

A shitty article written by a lump of shit

Thursday, September 24, 2009 Singapore hopes for an end to its shame They must be spitting razors in Singapore’s corridors of power as I write this. ...... Imagine then the outrage, the fury, the sheer indignation felt in the island city-state at the certainty that their country will now forever more be associated with easily the most blatant example of crookedness in motor racing and one of the worst ever in the history of sport itself. The 2008 Singaporean Grand Prix could hardly have been more execrable. Nelson Piquet Jr. was ordered to crash his car by his bosses at Renault in order to force a safety car episode at a time which so suited his team-mate Fernando Alonso that he went on to win the race. Formula One is now thought about as a mafia-controlled, vile sport where anything – even people’s lives – is expendable. Because of the skulduggery of Flavio Briatore and his loyal lieutenant, Pat Symonds, the first ever night-time Grand Prix – an event which was supposed to showcase the best of Formula One’s glamour and pizzazz - is now linked with the ludicrous new word “Crashgate”. Oh dear. It does not take too much imagination to see that some hapless government official or minister from the appropriate government department was probably summoned to the office of Mr Lee Kuan Yew – who, although well into his eighties, now sits in the Singapore cabinet of his son, the Prime Minister, as Minister Mentor – and had heavy objects hurled at his head. The above is an extract of an article by a joker by the name of Gitau Githinji posting in his blog in UK. And he called himself a writer. I can't imagine that the fraudulent crash by the Renault Team is now a Singapore problem and Singapore should be ashamed of it. What kind of shit did he store in between his ears? His full article is at http://gitaugrandprix.blogspot.com/2009/09/singapore-hopes-for-end-to-its-shame.html

Myth 211 - Public housing cheaper than private properties

Most Singaporeans believe, superficially, that public housing are cheaper than private properties. Is this true? In truth, public housing is expensive like hell. Let me use some simple statistics and formula to prove this. Just like there are many formulas and creative ways of computing affordability of public housing, let me prove that public housing is really expensive relative to privately developed housing. A 5rm HDB flat at $500k for 99 years will cost $5000 a year to the owner to live in the property. A private condo of a similar size at $1.5m for 999 years or freehold, will cost the owner $1500 a year. Can this be true? Of course it is true. A 3000 sq ft landed property could be had for $2.5m or $2500 a year. And this is double the size of a 5 rm flat. The govt and the banks should review their housing and loan policies. I would suggest that the govt build public housing for foreigners and repackage private housing with 999 yrs or freehold lease for Singaporeans. And the banks should allow Singaporeans to repay the loans in 3 or 5 generations or more. A 100 yr or 500 yr loan and the borrower needs only to service the interest computed annually at a special rate like the HDB's. With the 999 yr or freehold property as collateral, and appreciating in prices, the borrower can choose to liquidate when the price doubles or triples, or continue to let the descendants to service the loan repayments. The bank has no fear with an appreciating asset in the bank vault. Such an approach will see Singaporeans owning 999yr/freehold properties while foreigners live in 99 yr public housing. Of course the quality of public housing can be upgraded and the price be according to market pricing. Think about it.

9/24/2009

Downgrading the quality of living

Without any hassle or hullabaloo, Singaporeans are downgrading their quality of living and paying more for it. In my personal view, a family of 4 hardlanders, their lives are not much to talk about anyway, but they should deserve a living space of at least 1000 sq ft or 90 sq m. They are human beans too. But this is subjective. Some may think that 600 sq ft should do the trick and some may be more generous and think 1500 sq ft should be more decent. It all depends on what one would consider decent and comfortable. I think going anywhere lesser than $1000 sq ft is going down to living like dogs in a kennel. We are human beans and we need some decent space to live reasonably comfortably. I would suggest that the govt should use this as a guideline in their estate planning and as a yardstick for decent living. And not to forget, the people should not have to strife a life time to pay for such a small space. Yes we have limited space. So don't crowd it by bringing in more foreigners, aspiring a 6m or 8m population. A family of 4 in less than 1000 sq ft is bad. Anyone who thinks that it is good should be prepared to live in one. Please don't use Tokyo or Hongkong as a reference point. They are bad examples. And please don't use Africa to say how lucky we are. We need to live better and in bigger and better space, not in smaller and more expensive space. Call it the people's dream, or aspiration. Does the govt share the people's dream?

GIC profit - another version, another truth

Thursday, September 24, 2009 Who is responsible for GIC's profit? (A tale of 2 news paper report.) Who is responsible for saving GIC's hide? Lee Kuan Yew and his team of fund managers or Barrack Obama and his team of advisers? If the US govt decided not to approach GIC to convert to common stock in Feb, do you think they would have recouped their losses and managed a profit? Their original conversion price was $26.35 not the $3.25 they received in Feb. The Straits Times is bragging that GIC had the foresight to invest in banks that were too big to fail. That is very dangerous- betting on what the Federal government decided to do instead of market and company fundamentals. GIC was lucky this time. But what about UBS? Is it making a profit? GIC should thank their lucky stars that Lehman collapsed before Citi. The sudden collapse of Lehman made the Federal govt realise that they had to intervene and bailout the banks.... The above was copied from an article posted in http://singaporeanskeptic.blogspot.com/. It presented another version of the truth.

China's spokesman said...

China will never let Singapore draw away Chinese gamblers to the island. China's spokesman Steve Wynn said this when addressing the press on his IPO listing in Hongkong. Below is the detail of the AFP report. Wednesday, September 23, 2009 Wynn: China & Macau Govt Will Never Let Spore Draw Away Chinese Gamblers AFP HONG KONG — Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn said Wednesday that China has relaxed travel curbs for Guangdong residents visiting Macau, giving a boost to the Hong Kong listing of his casino group next month. "It is a macro-economic consideration by the central government," he told a press conference. Asked if he was concerned that Singapore, which will see its first casino project open by end of this year, will draw Chinese gamblers away from Macau, Wynn said it was unlikely. "Will the government of Macau and the government of China let it happen? I don't think so."

Obama's speech in UN on corporate excesses

This is the gist of what Obama said at the UN on corporate excesses, cheats and corruptions in high places. 'And that means setting new rules of the road and strengthening regulation for all financial centres, so that we put an end to the greed, excess and abuse that led us into disaster, and prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.' We have been copying corporate America like a little twin. Would we continue to copy America and start to tighten our regulations, or we are in such a comfortable position that we can sail along as it is? Maybe we can. We don't have that kind of excesses and corruption in the scale of corporate America. We don't have bankers paying themselves hundreds of millions. We don't have banks and insurance companies going down. We don't have a housing crisis. I think we are doing very well. Carry on.

9/23/2009

GIC proven critics wrong

Splashing across the front pages of our major newspapers is the news that GIC has made $2.3b profit after selling half of its stakes in Citigroup. And it is sitting on a similar profit on paper, maintaining its 5% share in the bank. 'GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song said the "good outcome" was down to judgement calls which "turned out to be right".' Other anaylsts are also showering praises on how GIC managed to turned around and '...getting out of jail free.' All the critics who disparaged GIC and Temasek for buying high and selling low will now have to eat their own words. They have been proven wrong. The strategy and investment decisions of GIC and Temasek were well conceived and right from the beginning. And with more profits coming in, it is time to make more investment decisions.

Whose view matters?

The govt, or Mah Bow Tan said in Parliament that HDB flats are affordable. HDB also said so and explained why they are affordable. The Straits Times went one step further with its reporters making in depth analysis and reports on why HDB flats are affordable. And in today's Editorial, it again confirmed that they are affordable, and those who insist that they are not affordable have only themselves to blame. They are unyielding, selfish, suffered from an odd mentality that new towns are 'ulu', insensible, obstinates and quirks. On the other side of the fence the voice of unhappiness and grief is getting louder. And there is now a petition by the unhappy, insensible, obstinates and quirks calling for signatures to support their perceived grievances. The petition now has more than 900 signatures. The HDB flats being affordable side is obviously right according to their logics and reasons. And they are getting very annoyed by these unreasonable demands of the people. Are the unhappy voices unreasonable and illogical? Officially it is. So, no matter how many signatures were collected, their cause is a lost cause. Their views, their interest, their unhappiness are not important. They don't matter.

9/22/2009

Petition on high HDB prices

There is an online petition seeking support and signatures at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/lower-hdb-valuations-or-build-more-affordable-hdb-housing-for-singaporeans More than 850 signatures have been collected over the last few days.

So many complaints about high HDB prices!

It is so pathetic, so ridiculous, for Singaporeans to be complaining about high HDB prices. They cost only a few hundred thousands, so cheap, so affordable. Why are Singaporeans making so much noise for cheap quality housing? I just visited The Sail over the weekend. A unit with the equivalent floor area of a 5rm flat is asking for $3m to $4m. And all sold out. What is a few hundred thousands by the way? Singaporeans should know the real market prices of quality housing and be grateful that they are getting HDB flats at such affordable prices. Incidentally when I was there, there was hardly any hardup Singaporeans in sight. Oh my host was one of the rare Singaporean specie that could afford to buy a unit there. Be grateful huh.

Ah Mah and Ah Kong's Singlish

How many of you have been entertained by the Singlish of Ah Mah and Ah Kong? It is hilarious if one is kind, difficult and irritating for the less tolerant, and outright outrageous and stupid for the Anglophiles. For the latter, Ah Mah and Ah Kong are simply idiotic, can't speak simple English. They should be kept away from the polished crowd of sophistication and well cultured WOGs. How much different is Ris Low from Ah Kong and Ah Mah? I am waiting to read more letters to attack Ris Low for her poor command of the English Language. Let the campaign continues to drive Ris Low into hiding. Make her feel ashame, huh? We are the sikit atas Singaporeans. We spaek good Inglish. If you cannot spaek good Inglish, stay away from us. I shall use my control of the blog/forum to attack such poor Inglish speakers.

Notable quotes by Teo Chee Hian

'Religion is a force for good, and it's important that it does not become exclusive and that it reaches out to other groups and communities to build strong social cohesion.' Teo Chee Hian I also say the same truth everyday. So do many believers, that religion is good. This is the conventional truth, a populist belief that ignores the empirical and historical evidences of how evil and destructive religion was, is and can be. Anyone who thinks that religion is all goodness, please read the content of the scriptures and at historical records on what religion actually did to the non believers and also to their believers. Heard of the Inquisition and the role of religion in the conquest of the world of savages? The truth is ugly and it is better not to tell the truth.

9/21/2009

Top brands offering subsidies

Pravda, Blurberry, Lois Vittoon, Armaine are selling so well that they could sell their products at any price. The market demand is so good that using market pricing mechanism will mean astronomical profits. The higher they priced their products the greater will be the demand. As a goodwill gesture to reward their unthinking and faithful followers, they are going to sell their products at a discount. But discount is a bad word. So they are going to adopt a different promotion strategy. They cannot sell their products at lower prices of course. It will affect the value of their products the buyers will feel like suckers. So they are going to call it 'subsidy'. For one month only, all their products will be sold at subsidised prices. The huge price tag will remain, or inflated higher, to give their customers a feeling that they are getting more subsidies. This promotion is only available in paradise island.

A $10 million solution

The govt is spending $10m to integrate new citizens and PRs into our system. With such an expensive approach to solving this problem it is only a matter of time before the newcomers find themselves being embraced by the locals. And if $10m is not enough to resolve the issue, maybe another $20m or $30m should do the trick. For the govt to spend so much money on an apparently non issue is puzzling. Or is there genuine problem in the integration of the newcomers? Or the locals are not accepting them or the newcomers not making any effort to integrate with the locals? I don't think the govt of the past bothered or spent a cent more to integrate the early migrants when they arrived. Everyone would have to find their way to survive and live with the locals or early arrivals. There was this natural tendency to live and let live, to adapt and accommodate each other with the least resistance. And those migrants were mostly poor and illiterate. Maybe poor and illiterate are easier to please. Today the migrants were talents, well educated and highly praised. Would these be the source of their problems in adapting and integrating with the lesser talented locals? Or maybe the locals could not meet the expectations of the new talents or feel inferior to them. So, how should the money be used to get the two to be nice to one another? Give treats to the new to make them less snobbish and be kinder to their less able locals? Or to give to the locals to be nice to the new migrants? For the latter, maybe a reward system will expedite the mixing of the two groups. $100 for making a new friend of a new citizen. $1000 for 10. And an award of $10k for the most friendly local who have made the most new friends among the new citizens. Can we really expect people to make love with each other overnight just because the govt says so? We are having so many foreigners in our midst and the novelty of meeting people from other countries is turning into an irritation to some and a pain to others. A few at a time may not present any problem and the locals may go all out to make them welcomed, out of curiosity and being helpful. When the newcomers come in hoards and become almost a nightmare, everywhere, the feeling is indifferent and uncomfortable. And if the newcomers are overbearing or demanding, they can only expect the locals to reciprocate, not necessary violence, but keeping a cold distance. It is not uncommon for the locals to feel that they are being invaded by aliens in the trains or buses. And the aloofness or unfamiliar characteristics or traits of newcomers may rub the wrong way. I think more money will definitely help to resolve this problem.

9/20/2009

HDB's version of subsidy, affordability and fair prices

Today's Sunday Times has a little article to explain how HDB determines the prices of flats and I believe this must be HDB's version. I quote, "A new flat's equivalent market price is first determined by looking at the recent transacted prices of resale units nearby. Adjustments are then made to account for factors like location, finishes of the flat and other attributes The price reflects the flat's value at the point of purchase and is what people are willing to pay on the open market for such a unit. The HDB then sells it at a significant discount, which is the subsidy given by the govt. The HDB sells flats base on market price instead of cost as this is the fairest way of pricing new flats. A market base pricing approach ensures that all groups of buyers enjoy similar discounts to the market and would be fair to those who are buying other HDB flats today...." There you have it, the definition of fairness, subsidy and market pricing are all there. And this is not only the HDB's definition, it is also the current govt's definition. They have meticulously come to these definitions as the fairest and best for the citizens. Like it or not, agree with it or not, you just have to accept it. I wonder if they ever consider that the high prices of resale flats is also contributed by some who got a windfall from enbloc sales, by foreigners and by some who are urgently in need of a flat? Would any other worthy political party offer another set of definitions as their party's stand to challenge these definitions in the next election? Any change to the present definitions must only come from an alternative party. So far the alternative parties are not offering anything on this as far as I know of. The people just have to live with the govt they voted in and accept what the govt considers as the best it can offer. The sad thing is that we don't have a worthy alternative party with a clear set of party manifesto to offer to the people, yet. Or a group of passionate leaders with fire in their belly to contest the election to serve the people's best interests that is different from the current govt.

9/19/2009

The Bizarre Behaviour of Singaporeans - V2.1

The Bizarre Behaviour of Singaporeans - observations made by a German national who has lived in Singapore for 9 years. This same article which I posted on 11 Aug 09 in this blog is now posted in Tan Kin Lian's blog and attributed to a German national who has lived here for 9 years. I tried to insert a comment in Kin Lian's blog but it was not shown. Anyway, Kin Lian, if you are reading this, you may want to correct the slight error. Cheers. PS. I am Singaporean and not German.

The assassination of Ris Low

It started of as a guise, projected as good humour and clean fun to poke at the way Ris Low, the newly crowned Miss Singapore World, speaks English. It was so innocent and with good intention, that Ris Low should speak good English or else.... Now part of the deception is off. The campaign to assassinate her continues. The ST reported that 40 letters were received on Ris Low's poor command of English and wow, 11 writers were quoted. I am now wondering how many letters were written to ST on the high cost of property prices. But 40 letters must be a big sampling of the voices to support the case Ris Low is not fit to represent Singapore. On face value this is a lot when all national issues probably got a handful of letters. But of course no such statistics were given except for this case. ST is just doing its objective role of reporting the groundswell. Who is mastermind behind this character assassination? What is his true intent or identity? Is speaking good English a criteria in this beauty contest? If it is, then this requirement must be stated clearly from the start and contestants must be interviewed to screen them out of the race. Obviously not. If I can remember, contestants from non English speaking countries can choose to have a translator. Ris Low can ask for a translator and speak in Mandarin or dialect or Singlish and get it translated. Why not when Japanese, Spanish, or whatever contestants can do so? Anyway, what's so big deal about a beauty contest when the contestants won by default as the true beauty of a nation will never stand out to be chosen? It is just a little fun and fancy contest. And I agree with what Woffles Wu said as quoted in ST. Go for it Ris Low. Be yourself and not what the pretenders expect you to be. The way you speak is what you are. And if you want to speak the best you can, choose the medium that you are comfortable with and not be forced to use a foreign tongue. I hope the nasties will not continue with the attack and go after her schools, teachers and her families. The vibes are disgusting. Hiding behind the veil of good intention to destroy another person is low down behavior. Will the mastermind behind this saga owns up?

9/18/2009

Temasek's Report card briefing

Loh Chee Kong's front page report(Today paper) on the Temasek briefing highlighted one pertinent point. Temasek's investment is for the long term, for the long long term, and it should be judged on the long long term. How I wish Temasek can park a few million with me for long term investment. The other point is Temasek's defence on not fully disclosing its financial position to avoid exposing itself to its competitors. So, how much of the numbers are real if there is this 'hidden element' in its report? Is the total sum disclosed as under Temasek's management, all $172b, the true amount or the full sum? How much is Temasek really managing since the truth cannot be disclosed? I also read Alvin Foo's report in the ST. It pointed that the worst drop in value in Temasek's holding was contributed by the 10 largest Singapore listed companies. This amount was $30b out of the $55b decline. This was huge compared to the $18b lost due to the top 10 foreign listed companies. My suggestion is for Temasek not to invest in local companies as the risk is so high. Sell off its local assets, like selling off the power stations and invest in foreign assets which are statistically safer and the loss would be smaller.

A big challenge today!

Malaysia has staked its claim on 5 popular dishes as Malaysia' national dishes. These include Nasi Lemak, Chicken Rice, Bak Kut Teh, Chilly Crab and Laksa. It was like the British claiming that they founded Singapore. Ok, now that the heat is on, let me claim something for Singapore before they are claimed by other countries. I hereby stake these claims, and without exceptions, unconditionally, that these are our national dishes: 1. Mee Goreng 2. Mee Rebus 3. One Ton Mee 4. Roti John 5. Rojak 6. Satay And for deserts, 1. Chendol 2. Bo Bo Cha Cha 3. Ice Kacang And for drinks, 1. Teh Tarik 2. Teh O 3. Kopi O 4. Kopi C 5. Ice Kosong Oh, maybe I shall defer Teh Tarik to Malaysia since they have experimented it in space and made it world famous. I was thinking of adding Bubble Tea but Li Ao will call us stupid again. And how can I forget Mee Siam. This must be truly Singaporean. No one would dare to challenge this unique dish of ours. I will find some time to write a piece and submit it to Wikipedia to make it official. Now, what is so challenging about this challenge of the day? I am hoping that someone will make a more hilarious claim than mine. My only concern is that this may trigger a diplomatic spat.

9/17/2009

Calibrating benefits for citizens

It may be a bit late but better than never. Vivian is taking the cue from Hsien Loong and will be looking at the benefits that citizens should have over non citizens. And yes, membership will have its privileges. And all the ministries and stat boards will also be looking into it to make citizens feel worthy of being citizens, recognition of their responsibilities and sacrifices. Who says kpkb in cyberspace has no use and the govt will not listen? The voices in cyberspace will only grow louder if they are ignored. Any govt that believes in serving the people cannot ignore the voices in cyberspace and just listen to their own contraptions and feedbacks. Like it or not, the noise in cyberspace is real, though at times unpleasant to the ears. We are hurt! Oops, I mean heard!

Boon Wan blogging in MOH blog

This looks like for real. Now we have a real minister blogging to share and exchange views in cyberspace. According to the report, Boon Wan is going to blog regularly, not blogging just for show. Given his busy commitment, it will be quite demanding on him to reply to the issues that will pop up in the MOH blog. I think he will cope. The cyberspace, blogging etc is the most effective means of communicating with the masses and vice versa. And handling it well, it can achieve a lot of goodness and goodwill. Goodbye to snail mail and writing to the media forum and hoping it will be printed. The main medium does not have the space to provide a meaningful two way communication which is something cyberspace is best designed for. Look at the number of letters on HDB prices that are filtering out into the main media forum and you can extrapolate how many have written in but unable to see the light. Welcome to cyberspace, Boon Wan.

9/16/2009

Obama fighting sophisticated thieves

When the thieves landed in Wall Streets, the regulators and administrators were awed by their sophistication, confidence and rich manners. They promised to generate a lot of businesses and wealth for all, including the regulators and administrators of course, if they were allowed to do what they wanted to do, freely. In other words, deregulations or little regulations, and a free hand to write their own rules of the game, print their own money or worthless papers to be sold for hard cash, and also write their own pay checks. This went on and on until the Lehman and subprime crisis. And all is history. But history is repeating itself. The same game is being played again. The thieves are loading themselves with huge sums of money. When they piled themselves with all those ill gotten gains, someone must pay for it. The money must come from somewhere. Obama is not going to be duped by these thieves like those bright eyed and eager beavers in Wall Street. And he has no reason not to stop them as he and his team are new and their palms were not greased by the thieves. So you can expect Obama and his team to come down hard on these thieves. And you can expect the thieves, their lobbyists and those regulators and administrators in their pockets, including congressmen and senators, to be stand up against whatever regulations and control that Obama may want to impose. When the regulators and administrators are on the side of the thieves, nothing will change. The robbing of the ignorant masses will continue and the thieves will get richer and more blatant in their acts. No regulations is good for them. No one is learning the lesson. No one.

Only two letters in the papers!

Two letters, one by See Leong Kit and another by David Soh Poh Huat, were harping about the high cost of HDB flats. If there are so many flat buyers in the island and only two bothered to write to the media, then it is concrete proof that it is not a problem. The minister and HDB are right. HDB prices are affordable and the people are happily buying them. See Leong Kit raised the issue of the real causes of high HDB prices which nobody wants to know or talk about. High profitability, market pricing and unrevealed cost and what else? David Soh quoted a case about why people could not afford to pay high COV. But this is only one odd incident. Not counted. The minister and HDB are right. People can go flat shopping for the best deal. No question about it. And if they cannot afford a 3 rm, go for 2 rm. If still cannot afford, go for rental. See, no real problem. All imaginations or people trying to live beyond their means. Hardlanders are basically losers and should not aspire to live better or in bigger flats. Be happy and grateful for a roof over your head. Many third world people don't even have a thatched roof over their heads. Would the hardlanders take my advice? Do they have a choice or any choice?

9/15/2009

When uncaring, aloof technocrats take over

We have seen some measures taken to curb the property bubble. But such piece meal reaction to a dangerous trend that could make and break a person's home is nothing to cry about. There is a need for a deeper thought on what housing is to the people. We are a country and a nation in the making. Housing is an essential component that welds the people to the country and call it home. If housing is turned into another commodity of exchange, going to the highest bidder, the natural law of a free market will see the rich grabbing all the good properties and leaving the poor at the bottom of the heap. This will only breed discontent and undermine the foundation of this country as a nation of people. From the excuses uttered, I find them all rubbish. Shallow and selfish and arrogant. Young people want to get married, go and register and queue for a flat that will be ready in 3 years time. Are people just machine and getting married is something that can be methodologically programmed 3 years in advance? There are many instances of people deciding to get married over a drink or over dinner and you expect them to wait for 3 years for a place to make babies. And you complain not enough babies when these people are forced by your policies to delay making babies? And another reason, don't pay the price asked, or don't pay COV. Go shopping around for the best price. So easy mey? What kind of silly comment is that? When the supply is not there, or 3 years away, and when the buyers, for some reasons, cannot wait, they are price takers. With limited land, and a growing population, the think tank must start working to redefine what is the housing need, and the important role of housing in nation making. Public housing must not be a commodity of trade. For those who are speculating in properties, the developers, the bankers etc, the more expensive property prices are, the better for them. What about the losers, the people who cannot afford and have to keep on tightening their belts to keep a decent roof over their heads? Property speculation is a zero sum game. Can the speculative element, the investment game of properties be taken out of the formula? Can the govt treat property as an essential item for the citizens, and to provide good and cheap properties for the citizens to bind them to the country, to root them here? There are many areas and industries to speculate and make huge monetary gains. Just leave property out of the game. Building flats in anticipation of needs and demands like in the past is not necessary a bad thing. The citizens need a home, a good home, not just a pigeon coop that is getting smaller and smaller. Other luxuries are secondary. Give the people a good place to live in and bring up children without breaking their banks, or their backs.

9/14/2009

More palliative care in the pipeline

And those who can pay will have to pay. Now, what would I want to spend my life counting beans, drawing little circles, painting little red dots, or walking on a ramp, and pay for it? What kind of living is that? Do I want to look forward to 85 or 100?

If we don't do anything now....Obama

This is what Obama warned the Americans in his medical reform speech. If the American govt does not do anything now, the insurance premiums will continue to go up. In our home front, if the motorists don't do anything now, they must be prepared to pay higher premiums. Period. No one sees any urgency in trying to curb this excessive and unreasonable rise in motor insurance fee. And we all know why it is going up. Anyone responsible or looking into this matter? Oh, forgotten liao. That's the fact here. KPKB for a while and all will be forgotten.

A new fad in town

It is damn great fun to own a media agency or a blog or forum and use it to ridicule or malu other lesser beans. It is funny and very effective and you can cheer on others to join the ridicule game. I heard a girl by the name of Ris Low, or something like that, was made fun of in the media. I must qualify here, they did not ridicule her but all made in jest, just for fun lah. And I like the spirit of making fun of others, no matter how insensitive it is. Maybe it is another way to teach people why they must spaek good Inglish. This girl did not speak good or perfect English and became a very convenient and funny target. The more she speaks, the more funny she becomes and more ammunition for attacking her. Oops, I mean making fun of her in jest. No hard feelings. Language is just a skill, like dancing or playing football. Given time and effort, one should be able to pass off quite reasonably. Stupidity is acquired or born and not easily removed by effort and training. For people who were speaking a language for a long time, as a primary mode of communication, or educated in the west, it is easy to laugh at those who are new to the language. It is as good as an entitlement to sneer and ridicule those who can't speak as well as them. I wonder how these jokers will sound if they were to speak to Ris Low in Teochew or Mandarin? Would their dialect or Mandarin sound just as ridiculous? I love to hear them speak something they are not familiar with and use it to ridicule them to the max, in this blog/forum. Let's start a campaign to ridicule people who can't speak English well, just for fun lah. Then we can follow up with a few more campaigns to ridicule those who can't speak their mother tongues. Like they said, orang china bukan china or in different variations to suit the different races.

9/13/2009

The Ten Commandments(for the corporate world)

In his article on the global meltdown of yesteryear, Robin Chan listed down ten of the evils that led to the fall of corporate giants and threatening the collapse of the economic world order. His 10 points are: 1. The housing crisis was boosted by a booming stock market and low interest rates, leading to a housing bubble. 2. Financial derivatives of mass destruction like CDS and CDOs which the bankers called ingenious financial products were good for the industry. In reality these were highly leveraged debt which were restructured and layered and were not more than a house of cards. 3. The lack of rules and regulations, or deregulations, allowing financial thugs a free hand to structure secret or shady deals. No regulation is good for the market was the mantra of the day. 4. Irresponsible rating agencies operating under conflicts of interests and aiding the process of tradings in high risks products by giving them AAA ratings. 5. Fair value or mark to market pricing, allowing the market to determine the value of assets rather than its underlying value, believing that the market is the best judge of the value of an asset. 6. Reckless bonus payouts and huge salaries as an acceptable norm to corporate honchos which led to high risk taking for short term gains. 7. Big is good and big banks are better than small banks. The bigger the better. What happened was that the banks and pseudo banks became so big that they could not be allowed to fold no matter how big were their debt and mismanagement. 8. Curbing financial innovation is bad. Innovation is the way forward to creating wealth and profits. The CDS and CDOs are ok and they should not be blamed but for the lack of understanding what they were that led to the demise. 9. To save the economic systems, countries printed money and more money to pump the system, to encourage spending, leading to a disproportionate debt that itself becomes a problem for the future generations to bear. It created a new problem to save an old problem. 10. The death of the theory of efficient market, believing that an efficient market will take care of the loose ends. It failed miserably. The sad thing today is that the above 10 causes and consequences of the financial crisis are still there and kicking, alive. Nothing very much were done to tackle these problems and they are coming back, taking a new life of its own with renewed vigour. In order to stamp out these corporate sins, we need a Ten Commandments to deal with them. 1. Thou shalt not create a housing bubble. 2. Thou shalt not allow high risk derivatives and products to flood the financial industry. 3. Thou shalt not allow thoughtless deregulations to run the financial system and the economy. 4. Thou shalt hang irresponsible rating agencies and financial institutions. Actually should prosecute the CEOs. Amend this to, Thou shalt not bear false witness or tell lies. 5. Thou shalt abolish fair value or mark to market pricing of assets. 6. Thou shalt not cast lustful glances at your neighbours huge bonuses or lusting for them. 7. Thou shalt not allow banks or financial institutions to grow too big. 8. Thou shalt regulate the so called 'financial innovations' and make sure they are safe. 9. Thou shalt not print money and increase public debt. 10. Thou shalt not blindly believe in the goodness of an efficient market to self regulate and heal the evils in the system.

9/12/2009

It is political, it is documentary, it is...

Coming hot on the heels of the reclassification of the 'Demons' In White to be not dangerous anymore, not enemies, we are seeing the reclassification of Martyn See's Singapore Rebel from a political film to a documentary film. See how outrageous things can be? It is political, no it is not, no it is,... depending on the tide and wave, I think. When is a person a good person or a bad person is also dependent on the situation and timing, and also which side one gets up from the bed. But the truth will still be the truth and any truth that has not surfaced will surface in a matter of time. The only issue is that it is not time, or the timing is not right. Will we see a new history to write something good about JBJ or Chee Soon Juan?

Property bubble to be raised in parliament

MPs are gearing up to raise questions on the buying frenzy for new properties and the escalating of property prices, both public and private. Would it be a concern all for nothing? Mah Bow Tan has said many times that HDB prices are affordable. So has HDB with their repeated explanations in the media, and today it came out with a detailed table to show how affordable the HDB flats are. The figures speak for themselves and why are people refusing to listen and accept the fact that HDB prices are affordable? A 3 rm flat at $150k only needs $460 pm to service. Very affordable for a household income of $2000. No need cash I think, just use the full CPF contribution. And a 5 rm flat at $330k needs only $1189 pm with a little cash after using all their CPF. The report did not say whether the repayment is 30 or 40 years. Anyway, very affordable, without much CPF left. While critics are embroiled in the issues of affordability and mark to market pricing, they tend to forget that maxing the used of CPF will mean compromising on the key role of CPF savings for retirement. No one is asking about the real cost of the flats and why pricing to extract the most from the buyers and eating up all their disposable income. This is public housing afterall and keeping the price low will allow the buyers to use their income in many other ways. The danger of a subprime crisis in our midst cannot be ruled out as the conditions are quite similar, low interest rate, liquidity, full employment, an economy that is still ticking. With such high leverage and big loans, a little flu in our economy will hit these high leverage buyers badly. When the price of a flat is dependent on mark to market pricing which is highly volatile and can go crazy, when a flat costing $150k can be sold for $300k or $500k, it can come tumbling down when the demand is not there. Would it not be better for a little intervention to moderate the craziness and not letting the bubble to expand to catastrophic proportion before bursting? Let the market forces or free market mechanism do its job? Where is the moral responsibility to be prudent and avoid plunging into a tragedy? Caveat emptor good enough?

9/11/2009

She is rich, at least worth $300k!

Most Singaporeans owning a HDB flat is worth at least a couple of hundred thousand bucks. An owner of a 3 rm flat should be worth about $300k. Now that kind of wealth could make the person live like a rich gentry in many countries. In paradise, some of these people are living the life of vagabonds, scrapping a living collecting tin cans and scrap boards. This is real, no imagination. There is such an old woman shown on video. What she needs is to get a financial adviser to manage her wealth, turn the piece of asset into an income and live better. Or maybe she was just trying to keep herself fit and collecting scrap boards is just a form of exercise.

Anti Jews tattoo

Malaysia has its cow head stomping incident. We have our 'Anti Jews' tattoo incident. In our case it was a guy with a tattoo 'Anti Jews' done on his face. And he was charged in court for hitting a Jew. He really did that. Such anti racial or religious acts did not happen out of the blue. The govt has a prominent role to send the right message out, that it would not tolerate such acts and behaviours. Any govt that takes a partial attitude towards such infringements will only encourage and breed more of such behaviours. Any infringement of such a nature must be nipped in the bud and the law coming down hard on the culprits. The message must be loud and clear. By the way, how could someone wearing such a tattoo on his face in Singapore and get away with it? Nobody notices it? It is good that the Malaysian govt has taken action to charge those who were involved in the cow head stomping incident. If they continue to protect the culprits, more racial hatred will flare up. Now the whole community will be watching the case and see how partial or impartial will be the court's judgement.

9/10/2009

The Age of Demonising over?

During the cold war period the western powers and their media went on a tenacious campaign to demonise anything Communist, Russian or China as bad, demons, devils, destructive, terror, evil or whatever that is negative. This went on for more than half a century till today. There is a little easing off lately with the fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a capitalist China. The demonising is still going on. The events following the publishing of the book Men In White could be an indication that the Age of Demonising your enemies or opponents is slowly coming to an end. Or will it be? Our general election is around the corner. The opposition political parties are not in the same league of the Communists and the Barisan Socialists. They are more like any other ordinary citizens. Would they be subject to the kind of demonising to discredit them as reasonable people unworthy to be elected as the people's representatives in Parliament? For that matter, why are cyberspace and alternative media being regarded in the likes of dissidents or anti establishment parties, an evil force that must be watched like a hawk and if possible nabbed and put into cold storage? I seem to have this impression, rightly or wrongly, that this is the sentiment. Is it true or just my imagination? Are they that dangerous, that destructive? By the way, alternative parties are just groups of individuals offering an alternative to run the country and not gangsters or mobs or triads or demons. They need to be treat respectfully as any deserving citizens, in fact better, for their noble intention to serve the people and nation. There are thugs, rogues and scoundrels in their midst, possible. In fact these undesirable elements are present in all corners of society, among the elite as well. Will we see the passing of the Age of Demonising? Or calling people names, branding people as bad, etc etc is still a way of protecting ones own self interest. They are bad, we are good!

The fragility of our stock market

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the SGX and it was all celebration and a job well done. Everyone was given a pat on the back for their contributions to the success and growth of the SGX from 500 companies to more than 700 companies. And we are now recognised as a serious international player. The success of a stock market depends on many factors, the system and administrator, the products and the players. I have dealt with some of the problems of system flaw in the past, especially the uneven playing field which I still find it unacceptable and unfair to the small players. I will now briefly touch on the products and players in the market. Other than our local companies, we have introduced stocks from some 20 companies as proof of our progress in internationalising our stock market. I wonder how many of these stocks are being traded and worth the cost of having them listed in our market. The more glaring issue is the S Chips. These came in to replace the Malaysian CLOB when Mahathir threw in the spanner. Are we better off? Or are the investors better off? Do we get more money for the investors or more outflow of our hard earned money with a net loss due to frauds and misrepresentation? What is the bottom line? The players in our market are the big foreign funds, local broking houses, small and big local investors, and the increasing role of remisiers own trading. The foreign funds come and go, some short term, some trading furiously like the small traders or worst, with programme trading to scalp whatever they can from the market. Both the funds and broking houses are taking full advantage of their low cost, ie, practically no commission to trade against the small investors. Who will win in such a game is obvious. With commission dwindling to a level that it is no longer worth the risk exposure, many remisiers are resorting to their own trading. Why risk thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a $20 or $200 commission. The mistakes are very costly and so are bad debts. Not many people understand the role of remisiers and how unfair is the system towards them. With a small population of active investors, the market is just unsustainable without the remisier acting as a multiplier through their role as the guarantor and money lender to the investors. No banks will take such risk and exposure with minimal or no collateral. The alternative is not to allow such risk and exposure in the system, which means the market will practically come to a standstill, with negligible trading activities. There was a myth that with the introduction of internet trading, there is no need for this middleman. This has proven drastically wrong as the cost to maintain such a system negates the pittance returns from the traders. How many employees can actually trade online when they are working in their offices? The big players have no time to stick to a computer terminal when a phone call is all they need to do. How long can the remisiers continue to trade on their own and to make money out of the system is an issue that will soon play itself out. The recent mini bullrun is an aberration. In most instances, the remisiers are losing their pants because of the uneven playing field and programme trading. Now there are things like dark pool, preview of trading data, speed trading etc which all favours the big players. Assuming that the pool of remisiers find that they cannot win in such a market and call it a day, assuming that no contra trading is available as there is no remisier to be the middleman to act as guarantor to pay for the bad debt, how active can our market be? Will the big funds still be here when the small investors are no longer there to be scalped? Is our market sustainable in the long run with such a small pool of traders and with increasing number of stocks and derivatives being introduced into the market?

9/09/2009

Myth 210 - Singapore Govt's money is not the people's money?

Letter To The Wall Street Journal, 8 Sep 2009 Correcting Temasek Misperceptions We wish to correct some fundamental misperceptions in your Aug. 31 editorial "Temasek's Revised Charter." First, Temasek is an investment company set up as an asset owner to seek returns by taking investment risks. While our sole shareholder is the Singapore government, we are not a "fund," and do not manage Singapore "citizens' earnings." It is factually wrong to imply that Singaporeans have no choice but to "keep their money with the fund." The above is part of a statement by Temasek's MD Corporate Affairs to the Wall Street Journal. To be specific, it says that it manages Singapore's govt's money and not Singapore "citizens' earnings". I am not sure if Singapore "citizens' earnings" is the same as Singapore citizens' money. As a layman, I think the citizens of Singapore will think or believe that the Govt's money is the citizens' money. But many in the forum have told me that this is not true. I think the Govt's money are money from the Govt's income, including taxes, rentals, sales of land and properties, services etc. Technically, they are not the citizens's earnings but the Govt's earnings. Let me offer another example to clarify this explanation. If I lend $1k to A and B lend the $1k to C, C is right to say that he is not spending my money. Cause he borrows it from B and is accountable to B. So Temasek is managing the Govt's money, not the people's earnings. Right.

Notable quotes by Jim Rogers

"They have more than doubled the American national debt in one weekend for a bunch of crooks and incompetents. I'm not quite sure why I or anybody else should be paying for this." Jim Rogers Who are these incompetents and crooks? These are people who churned out corporate profits in the billions when the organisations are technically bankrupts. And mind you, they are the supertalents from the top notch universities. And they do not know that they have done wrong. And they are demanding the same crazy pay and bonuses again. You don't need crooks and robbers when you have them around. And they are much more greedy and deadlier. They have no shame, no sense of moral justice. They only demand a ransom from the organisations and shareholders.

SCCCI broke its silence

The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry has joined the debate over the lack of linguistic skills of foreign immigrants working in the sales industry. Many forum letter writers have written to the media to complain about this lack of English Language skill and some even suggested that people who can't speak English should not be allowed here. Ah, it brings back memories of the good old days when a pass in English is the key condition for a job in the colonial civil service. I think it is a good idea to make English proficiency a criteria for employment here. Maids, construction workers, sales staff etc and who else to include in this category? Employers must be fuming mad. It will give life to a new industry in language learning, and more private language schools to come into this new business.

Resurrection of the 'Demons' In White

The book Men In White has the inadvertent consequence of bringing together the political foes of our freedom fighter generation. These were the people who fought the British for independence and later fighting among themselves for political supremacy. There was a contest of will, political ideologies and beliefs. They fought and threw punches at each other, or they fought, and one side received all the punches and black eyes, and were demonised, captured or fled the country. Many never ever dream of a homecoming unless they recant their 'wrong doings'. Yesterday many returned. For those who were biting their nails and waiting to see these men with horns on their foreheads, they were disappointed. They came and appeared like ordinary men, with a tie. There were no signs of the terrorists or rugged guerilla fighters left in them. Fighting for political powers in those days were really fighting for life and death, unlike today when fighting for more money, status and power was the order of the day. It is good that old men and women should put down their swords and cudgels and shake hands and call each other friends. It is good to let the bad memories fade into history. Yes, bury the hatchet and embrace one another as old friends. If we can embrace strangers and new immigrants as one of us, there is no reason not to welcome home our brothers and sisters of the past to live among us. A first step forward to more graciousness. The next question is whether the political climate and rules of the game be changed as we move forward. Or would it be just a flash in the pan and things will return to normal, and the weapons be strapped back around the waist, the cudgels in hand, ready to deliver the next deadly blow?

9/08/2009

CPF Life the best scheme

The CPF Life annuity scheme is the best scheme that the govt can think of. I won't disagree with that. For many who are unable to manage their forced savings, they definitely need another forced annuity scheme to carry on the trend of being forced to look after themselves. With so many enquiries, the CPF Life scheme is expected to robe in many more contributors, especially with the carrot of a $4,000 bonus for those who are not forced to sign on. I will encourage all those who need someone to manage their money to sign on too. This leaving your money to other people to manage is becoming a Singaporean habit, a Singaporean trait. For me, no way. I will never sign on anything that has a 'forced element' in it. I am very capable of taking care of myself and my money. It is such a great feeling to touch the money inside your pocket and say, 'Yes, it is my money. It is real. And I can do whatever I want with it, any time any place.' Mine is just a personal preference. Actually, with such a great scheme, if it is that good, people will be queuing to sign up, like property launches. No need compulsion. They will queue over night for it too. Community Clubs can help by providing buses to fetch them to CPF Board. Maybe not necessary if they can sign up in the Clubs themselves. Should CPF Board try this and see how many will queue to sign up for this great scheme?

9/07/2009

Do banks have the ammo to fight frauds

This headline in the ST reminds me of the realisation in the European community of the real robbers that are robbing the people. Before I go on, the article in the ST was about banks trying to curb credit card frauds and limiting the liabilities of card holders. The European concern that was taken up by their Finance Ministers at the G20 was about the disproportional ransoms that the bankers are extorting from the banking industries. They reminded the ministers at the meeting that even before the financial crisis is over the bankers are paying themselves the crazy bonuses that they were getting before. And the Americans are not going with the Europeans as the main culprits are the American bankers themselves. These robbers are robbing their shareholders of hundreds of millions each, individually and annually. How on earth could they justify their abilities to earn that kind of money? With or without them, with a new team in charge, their banks are going to do just as fine, or just as badly. Many were managed to the brink of bankruptcies, or were bankrupts and needed govt and public funds to save them. The read fraudsters that are cheating the minority shareholders are the bankers themselves, and the CEOs of MNCs where the minority shareholders are helpless while the management just write their own pay checks, and pay themselves crazy. Do we need to look anywhere for fraudsters? Oh, pardon me, I am referring to European and American bankers and MNC CEOs, those who took tens or hundreds of millions. And it is not just the CEOs, it is the whole management team and board of directors. All are in it. It is a case of I pay you and you pay me, I approve your pay and you approve mine.

9/06/2009

Bird watching

I went on a bird watching trip recently, armed with binoculars and camera, to watch and count the number of birdies in our little island. Many of the old birdies have disappeared. The merboks, the magpies, the Mynars, the nectar feeders etc. Even the sparrows, the most populous and in every roof corners, are hardly seen today. We were briefed that the bird population has grown with more sanctuaries being set aside as protected territories for migratory birds to nest here. So we counted all day long. As usual, the mynars and sparrows were few. But the numbers of crows, egrets, green pigeons, herons and many that were rarely seen in our island, non residents, are setting roots here and making our sanctuaries their homes. A thought came to my mind. One day we may see Singaporeans lugging their binos and digiphones in the city looking for Singaporeans and counting Singaporeans. The Singaporeans have gradually become a rare specie, and it takes effort to find them in the crowds of foreigners. There may be conducted tours with well informed tour guides leading groups to look out for Singaporeans. They will be armed with knowledge on Singaporean behavioral patterns, eating habits, slangs, dressing and their favourite haunts, what to look out for to separate them from the foreigners or new Singaporeans. And I think this will become a new industry. Conducted tours for Singaporean watching, and counting.

The wooden story revives

‘I was a block of wood. So? It was the truth.’ This story is immortalised in the Men In White book. How many political leaders would take such a comment in a public address standing up? Chok Tong did, standing 6 ft 4in tall. And he not only admitted that he was wooden, he could joke about it too. That is the kind of leader we have and the people love him for it. His ministers continued to support him. He is the most likeable PM so far. And because of the public dressing, he became a better man, more uninhibited and improved on his public image and public speaking. In other words, less wooden. And he got LKY to thank for. In LKY is another quality of leadership unseen anywhere. His lecture is always well regarded by friends and foes. Chok Tong became a leader and his own man and accepted the comment though stunned for a while. Recently we have another grateful recipient of his lecture in Parliament. After his robust reply to newbie NMP Sadasivan, the latter was thankful, like a student attending a lecture in the university once again. And we can see him learning and gaining from it and become a better man in the future This is the unique quality of LKY. He can tell anyone off and the recipients felt very grateful for the lesson, for he meant well. ‘He’s not a man to slam you for nothing. He was never personal.’ Said Chok Tong. Imagine another leader coming out and make such a comment on anyone, the reception is not going to be the same. There were several instances, some in Parliament, and I don’t think the recipients were grateful for the dressing down. Maybe some PMs may learn this trick from LKY and make public assessments of his cabinet ministers in the future, if he is LKY calibre. Anyway, what’s wrong with being called wooden when there is real substance. The number one golfer’s official name is Woods, Tiger Woods. And no one is disturbed by that name. Who knows, the next headline when Tiger wins another tournament may be ‘The Wood is on top again!’

9/05/2009

"Affordable" in inverted commas

The ST reported on the new launch of another condominium in the Gillman Height site and the "affordable" prices that are being offered. A 2-rm 75 sq m unit is priced at $700k or about $1000 psf. When words are bracket by inverted commas, it is clear that the meaning is suspect. Affordable or affordability is now a misleading term, depending on who is using it and the listener. It used to be the belief that when something is said often enough and repeated loud enough, people will come to accept it as the truth. Unfortunately these two words have developed into some kind of ill repute. People no longer believe in them. What if affordable is mixed up with heavy subisidies, with willing buyer willing seller, with market pricing? How believeable and affordable can it be? Could the people uttering affordable really and sincerely believe in what they are saying? I do. Anyone who cannot afford to pay $700k in their lifetime(two incomes) for a roof over their head is unfit to live in paradise when people could easily earn $1m in a year. There is a spurious outpouring of unhappiness over the usage of the word afforable and the basis or formula use to define what it is in the ST forum today. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. We do not know how many letters have been sent to the ST before a few were printed. And the angry cries in cyberspace would probably not be heard, so not counted. As long as the affected people chose to keep quiet, the few voices heard would be read as too little to warrant any serious attention. Unless the voice is loud enough, spoken often and with more anger, no one is going to listen and people will conclude that 'see, no protest, so no problem'. The affordability index is so perfectly calibrated that the people are happy with it. And the properties, private and public, are selling like hot cakes. The demands are evidence to prove that it is right. Does anyone ask how many of the visitors in property launches are paid to be there or how many units are actually booked by the agents themselves to give the impression of strong demand? And how many are booked by speculators?

9/04/2009

Myth 209 - Fiction of succession planning

We are renowned for our ability to plan a head. And corporate succession planning must be a piece of cake. Failure to work out such a simple plan will be sorely felt and seen as simply incompetent. Or is there a better expression, inability to plan, forget to plan, dunno how to plan, or simply no time to plan, but pretend that it was all planned? We have seen many several CEOs departing and then we hear a big announcement, the organisation is searching around the globe for a successor. And the process will take another few months or years. What is succession planning? Didn't the CEO has someone standing by that can take over should he gone missing? Or our organisations are so dearth of CEO potential that whenever a CEO departs, someone outside must be brought in? This has been the case, it seems. All the bullshitting about succession planning are now laid bare for all to see. There is no succession planning, or there is no one within the organisation that is fit to succeed the CEO. What a pathetic state of affair!

The reassurance Singaporeans needed

Catherine Lim's question to LKY during the dialogue at the LKY School of Policy inadvertently led to the revelation and reassurance of the resilience and ruggedness of our political system and govt infrastructure. This will be PAP's legacy and achievement for the people and country. In his reply to Catherine, LKY assured her that in the event of a freak election result that threw out the PAP, the army will not move in. The second assurance is that we have an excellent checks and control system underpinned by our elected President system and this will protect the country's reserve from a scoundrel govt. Feeling better already. The other assurance that was implicit is that our political system will withstood any changes of govt, and even if an opposition comes into power, the political system and govt will continue to run. It will be tragic if after operating a govt and political system for 45 years the country will turn into turmoil just because a new political party is elected into office. A democratic electoral system and govt must be designed for govt change, peacefully by the electoral proceses. And PAP has ensured that the system holds. This is just like succession planning. An organisation must be able to continue to run when the leadership is changed and not collapsed. Any responsible CEO must always prepare the next man to step into his shoe should he need to vacate the position for any reason. Sadly, many big organisations are failing in this area. And when the top guy falls, there will start running around looking for a successor. What a joke. Back to the resilience of our govt and political system. With the assurance given, does it mean that the electorate can now be confident to go ahead and elect a new party to power? Does it mean that the system will still work and will not collapse? The assumption of course is that the electorate is also smart enough not to elect a bunch of idiots or scoundrels to form the govt. Assuming that the opposition parties are able to put up a slate of professionals, I mean professionals and respectable individuals, no need scholar calibre, and they be elected to govt, will the change be just a normal process without big upheavals? Japan has done that and its system is holding, it is not collapsing when a new and inexperience team of politicians are taking over. We will have to see whether the strength of our system is real or a myth when that day comes.

9/03/2009

Proud to be a Malay Singaporean

This is an article by Khartini Khalid who is pursuing a master's degree in international relations at The Fletcher School, Tufts University. The Fletcher School is renowned for International Relations courses and to be there is itself an accomplishment. I can understand why Khartini felt proud, as an individual and as a Malay Singaporean. She has proven that the Mahathir Myth that Malays are less equal than other racial groups wrong. Khartini told the story of her research project which took her to a Malay village in Negri Seremban. In those few days she discovered how different the Malays in Singapore were from the Malays in Malaysia. The social and political space they live and operate were distinctly different. In Malaysia, different races still live in their own communal quarters while in Singapore, the official policy is to mix the people to avoid a concentration of races in their respective corners. Malaysia and Singapore race relations have developed from these different footings and we can be proud that racial tension has eased off in our case but remains more or less the same in Malaysia since 1969. The whole social/economic and political system in Malaysia revolves around race and Malay dominance, and a govt that promotes superiority of a racial group. In Singapore, racial equality is in our constitution, though an aspiration, nonetheless, the govt takes tremendous effort to prevent race biased tension among the people. Which is a better system is subjective. But one point I like to comment on is that our system will fail miserably if the govt goes about promoting and protecting the interest of one racial group or the majority against the interest of the minority. In fact the govt takes pain to play down on the dominance of the majority group and will come down hard on the majority should it try to exert too much influence or disadvantage the minority. This is the crux of our successful formula. All things being equal, the majority must take a step back to accommodate the minority. The reverse is true in Malaysia and this has resulted in the majority exerting more and more pressure on the minorities with implicit support from the govt. The latest issue of the stamping of the cow's head during a demonstration and the govt playing down the infringement as a non issue is a case in point. Such blatant disrespect of the minority sensitivity will not be tolerated here and the govt is likely to come down hard on the guilty party. We have taken different paths in our social, economic and political development of our people. Only time will tell whether ours is a better or poorer model for the people.

Circular reasoning to the rescue

The appointment of Piyush Gupta as CEO of DBS has apparently been warmly received if the reports in the media are to go by. But the underlying sentiment that was not reported but can be sieved through by reading between the lines tells a different picture. This foreign talent fad or infatuation must have stirred the hornet nest of talented locals who see their aspirations being squashed once again. So there must be some way to explain away this great acquisition of a foreign talent that is deemed better than all the useless local talents. Siow Li Sen wrote that for those who are criticising the recruitment, let there be no worry. Piyush Gupta will become a citizen soon. So he will become a local talent, a Singaporean. How many will lap up this kind of excuse? And the better part, we went around the world, with high expectations and specifications for the most qualified candidate, with great talent and experience, only to claim that no change is needed in the new job. 'DBS does not need fixing'. No need to take needless risks. Then why can't a local be good enough? Oh, at home, he has to tackle a mountain of deposits to make them work and to regain Singaporeans' trust in the structured notes fiasco. Do you need a foreign talent to tackle these local issues? But, like it or not, the die has been cast. Now more analyses and reports on how good this move to hire a foreign talent was will be churned out. The spin doctors will be put to work to appease the hurt ego of the locals. In the meantime, it is better for local talents to find employment in foreign banks to prepare themselves for such jobs. Decorative kois are for display only. My bet is that our decorative kois are any time of higher quality than these foreign talents if given the opportunities. At least, while in schools and universities, our local talents would have outshone many of the foreign talents. What our local boys lacked are opportunities, exposure and experience. If we don't give these to them, who would?

Landslide or freak election, Army will not move in

Catherine Lim asked LKY yesterday if he would send in the army should there be a freak election. And the answer is no. So opposition parties can feel safer now, that the army would not do the unthinkable, or no one would do the unthinkable. LKY's reassurance was based on the serious thought that this govt had put in to design a near perfect system with the President as the last man to protect the money in the reserve. The President will be there to block any attempt to spend the reserve, as if this is the only threat to the nation should an opposition party comes to power. The underlying assumption is that the President is infallible, a man of unquestionable integrity and will not change side and join the new govt to loot the country's coffer. I am not referring to the incumbent President. There are many Presidents that will come our way. Should Singaporeans sleep well, that this assumption is good enough to save the country when that day comes? If Presidents are immortals or demigods, I think everything will be fine. The only problem is that scoundrels can come and pass themselves off as saints. Maybe sending in the army is a more pragmatic option.

9/02/2009

DBS netted a Foreign Talent again

Champagne popped yesterday and another round of celebration as DBS announced that it had successfully searched and found another foreign talent to helm the bank. The appointment of Piyush Gupta, a PR, was welcomed as another great achievement and would do DBS a lot of good in its banking business though it also announced that nothing would change and business as usual. There were happy faces everywhere. The appointment of another PR in the number one govt bank is, sad to say, another confirmation of our failure in nurturing and developing our local talents for the big league. And we have been doing this over and over again for the last few decades and still repeating the same formula without any wiser. Our local talents that were sent overseas to the best Ivy League universities in the US and Europe are still unfit to be the CEO of a local bank and many of our big organisations. And they will never be, if things are not changed. Our formula is simple. Send our best to foreign universities with a long string attached. On completion of their 4 years of studies, pull the string and haul them back to our little ponds to be fed and grow fat, like the kois. Big and beautiful to look at, full of fat. And when we need marlins, sharks and whales to swim in the oceans, expectedly none will be fit for the job. So we will forever be dependant on foreign talents to fill jobs that require exposure and experience in the international arena. Our mandarins are experienced only to swim in the little fish ponds. Maybe the 4 years of exposure to the local lifestyle will equip them with enough knowledge to buy kindergartens, theatres, hotels and landed properties. Maybe football clubs with be next. In contrast, India and some other countries allowed their best to stay on in America and Europe, join the big league MNCs, and grow with them. They were sent to swim the seven seas, brave the storms, and survived, fit and all muscles, to take on the world. It is thus not unexpected for our local organisations with big dreams of going international to be dependant on foreign talents, and forever, if our policy on nurturing and developing our own talents is not changed. We will continue to breed ponds of beautiful and fat kois, but no marlins, no sharks and no whales.

9/01/2009

How China will destroy your retirement

Below is an article by an American and spreading with the help of unthinking Singaporeans to show how bad China is. The fact is that our retirement has been destroyed by America in their subprime fiasco and the financial crisis they have created. Now they are pointing the finger at China. For goodness sake, stupid Asians and Singaporeans. Think, use your little numbskull before they expired. How China will destroy your retirement The Shanghai index just laid a horrible egg. Wall Street fainted and investors world-wide took to the hills. How could this happen? 1. Loan growth at China’s central bank fell by 80% in the last 30 days. 2. After a spate of frantic buying this spring, China has stopped stockpiling raw materials, which it bought for pennies on the dollar. The Baltic Dry Index has plunged 25% since late July. 3. The massive amounts of cash that Beijing has pumped into its economy has not been properly absorbed. It has hemorrhaged into speculation. That’s why, although profits for China companies are DOWN by 30%, the Shanghai index is UP 80%. Can you spell BUBBLE? 4. It’s not just stocks, either. The most expensive housing in the world is now in China. Yes, that is correct. The ratio of property prices to income is now SEVEN TIMES HIGHER in China than in the U.S. It looks like the Japanese land bubble in the ’80s, but with one billion people involved this time around. Can you spell CRASH? 5. On October 1, the China Communist Party holds the 60th anniversary of Mao’s Long March. Expect Beijing to Band Aid this Ponzi scheme together until October. But, as the last few days have shown, the lie cannot last much longer. WE HAVE 30 DAYS—TOPS. Urgent You Act I’m Dick Young and I am convinced that China’s Ponzi Scheme will not work for much longer. And when it crashes to the ground after October 1, look out, because Wall Street goes with it. Don’t bother looking for your retirement plans in the rubble. They’ll be pulverized. It does not have to be this way. Indeed, my subscribers have a different plan. We will be very busy over the next 30 days, but it is work that will set us up for life.

We have this great bull story in the media again

We are short of talents. Companies cannot find enough of accountants and finance professionals. And recently we even bragged so loudly that we are recruiting doctors and medical professionals in big numbers from all over the world. My take is that either our tertiary institutions were are sleeping and not producing enough qualified candidates to feed the needs of the economy, or that our graduates were of no talents and not good enough for the industry. So either we don't have the head counts or plenty of useless, half baked and unemployable graduates. So, the lack of local talent must be true. All the statistics and surveys say so. What are we going to do about it? Apply the instant tree formula and go and recruit from all over the world, including graduates from third world and universities ranked lower than our esteemed local universities. Why did I get this feeling that something is not right? How could world class universities not producing graduates that are considered as talents and graduates from less than world class universities are grabbed like hot properties, great talents? If our universities are producing non talents, then we might as well close them down and save the money. And forget about the 4th university.

Foreign or local workers not an issue

I am tempted to agree with Lim Swee Say that foreign worker local worker divide should not be an issue. It is productivity. We need productive workers to do the job well at the lowest cost. This is like white cat black cat, no issue. Just catch the mice. I must clarify here that when Deng Xiaoping said this, foreign and local workers was not an issue in China. He was talking about Chinese workers only. And I believe Swee Say would also have said that whatever, citizens must come first. In our context, we may also claim that we are different. We are small and cannot be isolated. We are immigrants from the start. So living on the entrepreneur skills and hard work of foreign workers should be a part of our secret formula to success. And lazy and less productive workers cannot get away with it. They may be citizens, so what? They have done NS, big sacrifice, so what? They need to be competitive and productive and be better and cheaper than the foreign workers if they want to be counted. We have to be real and not be bogged down by citizens and non citizens. This is the real world. Singaporeans must work as hard as the foreign workers. There are many schemes to help them to be productive and to earn better incomes. But if they do not want to buck up, it is their own fault. We are competing in an international environment when all barriers to entry have been removed. Every country is buying talent. Our non talents can go elsewhere and be foreign talents and be welcomed. The above is just for discussion. It is meant to be provocative, to stimulate thinking out of the box.