Hi guys, You will need to click onto the correspondents list in Asian Correspondents Homepage, on the top right hand corner. All the correspondents are listed there. There is a scrollbar below and I am at number 17. That's the start. See you.
The youngest son of JBJ, the embittered politician who had lost practically every material thing that he owned for being in the opposition party, for taking on LKY and the PAP practically single handed, has been appointed to one of the most important govt organisation, the Public Service Commission. Such an appointment was unthinkable a few years back. And it takes a very open minded man like Eddie Teo, Chairman of PSC, to welcome him into the fold. The PSC is the main body that charts and plans the recruitment and career development of top civil servants. Philip Jeyaretnam is in a way now involved the govt machinery and working with the govt for the country. It is better to have him on the right side than to see him joining his brother, Kenneth, in opposition politics. The appointment does not guarantee that he would not go into opposition politics, but is a big declaration that the govt is willing to embrace talents from the other side. It is also a clear message that the history of the fathers will not affect adversely the fortunes of their children. This is modern Singapore, there is rule of law, there is inclusiveness and a place for all who is willing to contribute to the country. In dynastic China, once a member of a family fell from grace, the whole family would be banished together to the frontier. This is not the case in 21st Century Singapore. Our frontiers are only as far as Tuas or one of the islands a few minutes of boat rides away. We are an inclusive country.
No, not the Presidency! No, not the SM or MM. The most coveted and prized possession in the market is Directorship to the Board of Directors of public companies. Many are known to grab as many as they could or available. The number is never enough. Some may have work and other commitments up to their noses, have no time for family and mistresses, but will still find time to accept the appointments of directorship. The benefits of being a director are obvious, money, status and rubbing shoulders with corporate Singapore. Is there any downside to such a lucrative appointment? So far don’t seem to have any, though legally there are responsibilities, heavy responsibilities. For any neglect or negligent in exercising the power of directorship against frauds and wrongdoings would mean the company losing money, and shareholders too. But have no fear. When things are not looking good, quickly submit a resignation letter and go for a holiday. Then start to scout for more new directorships. And if one is highly talented, there is no shortage of offers. The more talented one is the better the offers. And yes, please do not apply. Appointments are by invitations only.
This seems to be the picture of HDB’s housing policy today. In the past we pride ourselves in being proactive, plan ahead, anticipate problems before they happen. Now it is reacting and reacting, and look and see and then react again. And HDB is proud to say that it reacted swiftly to the changes in demand for public housing and raised its supply from 6,000 flats to 13,500 flats this year. This is a whooping 125% off the mark. And, ‘If the take up of BTO flats remains strong, we will continue to push out more flats under the BTO next year – at least one (project) every month if necessary,’ said Mah. It also said this, “‘What actually happens a few years down the road is unknown. Also, demand is not constant – it varies from year to year, depending on economic and other factors, ‘he told Parliament.” True, true, anything that is more than two days is unknown. Even the next hour is unknown. No need to forecast, no need to plan ahead, no data of population growth to work with, don’t know how many foreigners coming in etc etc. It is so difficult to plan ahead. Let’s take the realistic and practical approach. When there is a demand, then build. Ya Koon can make half boiled eggs in 5 minutes or even 4 minutes on demand.
The Parlaiment sat yesterday and questions were raised on public housing and answers were given. The PSLE has just concluded and the results will be out this Thursday. Comparing the two, the students got to spot questions and try to prepare answers that will match the questions if they were asked. Sometimes the questions were guessed correctly, sometimes not. And the prepared answers may be good but only the examiner will have the final say. It is quite tough for the students really. In Parliament, things are much easier. The questions are known in advance and the answers prepared accordingly by the best brains. The answers will be perfect. No need any examiner to mark. Even if there is any marking, the scores will be a perfect 100. Questioners completely satisfied and the people providing the answers perfectly happy for a job well done. Next question please.
The graffitis are getting bigger and more colourful. They are painted on lift doors, doors of HDB flats, on windows, on staircases. They are the works of loan shark runners. Despite quite a few have been arrested the number of reported cases of loan shark harassment has gone up to 13,771 for Jan to Sep , exceeding the 11.789 cases reported for the whole of last year. What are the loan shark graffitis saying? The message is simple. This is loan shark country. They are the boss. Now the men in blue are up in arms to deal with them seriously. New laws are being passed with stiffer penalties, heavier fines and caning for the runners, and now also the masterminds and the big guys. The question is whether the new punishments are enough to deter loan shark activities which are criminal in nature? Maybe the MHA can take a leaf from SGX on how to solve irritating problems. The exchange is very disturbed by the need to buy back shares which investors/remisiers sold by mistake or carelessness. These are not crimes but silly mistakes. The number of shares or values maybe very small, tens of dollars or a couple of hundreds of dollars. The penalty for the first unsuccessful attempt to buy back is $1000 fine or 5% of the contract value whichever is higher. And the penalties will go up with each day of delay in buying back the shares. After due date +3, the penalty is $5000 per day until the shares are bought back. And there will be disciplinary actions as well. The penalties are so effective that the remisiers and small investors are trembling in fear of making such mistakes. This is what is called effectiveness. Would the loan sharks and their runners tremble in fear with the new laws and penalties? We will have to wait for the harassment stats to tell the story.
Announcement - We are going international Hi everyone, I have accepted an invitation from the Asian Correspondent to be one of their correspondents. There will be some minor changes to the format of presentation when the switch takes place either this week or next. The important thing is that the URL to mysingaporenews will not be changed and you can still log on to the blog as before. Also very important is that the style and content and the way I write will still be the same. I have full independence in posting in the same way as before. Not subject to any editorial policy or approval. The main advantage of this cooperation is that we will be riding on a bigger platform and gaining more readership and exposure. Please continue to enjoy and post as before. Cheers.
Linguistic skill is not directly linked to intelligence. Singaporeans are finally enlightened to this fact. A Mrs Goh Su San wrote to the ST forum to salute LKY for telling it to the people. This Mrs Goh narrated the anguish and pain she and her family had to go through when their two sons fared badly in the Chinese Language in schools and they had to uproot from Singapore to settle in a foreign land. And loo and behold, their two sons blossomed and are now professionals in their chosen fields. The victims of language policies are not confined to just the second language, in particular Chinese Language. In the days of Senior Cambridge Examination, a student could have a string of As. But if he failed the English Language, he was a goner. No place in A level. And for those who did not pass GP in A Level, no place in the university. Failing the English Language was as good as failing the whole examination. How many brilliant students were lost through this language policy? It is history now. On the other hand, a student with a credit in English and all the donkeys and elephants could be admitted to the university. And many ended up as highly acclaimed intellectuals because to their university degrees and the command of the English Language, while the failures in the English Language could at best try their luck in business or else ended up in some clerical jobs or as mechanics. But it is better late than never that we are enlightened to this great truth today. With this great discovery, we could be entering an age of renaissance. Thank god, we are wiser now.
Stories of the victors and the vanquished The APEC Meeting was a scintillating example of what life can be for the victors of a political contest, a gathering of fine wine, fine people and fine company. Everything is so beautiful and glamorous for the victors. Last night I viewed the video of Dr Lim Hock Siew who told his story of the vanquished. He was detained under the ISA for nearly 20 years. His was a life moving from one dungeon to another. He spoke of the miserable conditions that he went through for being a political prisoner on the losing end. He spent all those years in darkness, no friends, no niceties, no finer things in life. He could have got out much earlier if only he was willing to repent, to confess, to say something like quitting politics or things like that. He had the choice, if he was willing to go with the tide. He did not, chose not. He stood by his principles, beliefs and ideals. He would not be beaten or compromised on his ideals. He was no criminal but a contestant in a political game for power, or for the right to govern a country. In Africa, the dark continent, they made people like him into President and honoured with the Noble Peace Prize. In paradise, he is history, forgotten and lost among the debris. Or is he part of our history? I did not read the MIW book and do not know if his name was mentioned. If it was, then he is part of the new history. If not, he will have to wait for a new history to be written. His parting shot in the video was about man and ideals. Man without ideals is hollow. He paid a very heavy price to live his ideals, 20 years of his prime life under detention.
Several MPs will be raising questions on the supply and demand of HDB flats in Parliament. And their key concerns are young couples, first timers being forced out of the public housing markets. Some have tried several times and had to give up when their salaries exceeded the $8k ceiling and forced to buy private flats that are beyond their reach or stretching their incomes. And there is also the issue of profits which Chiam See Tong wants to know, and what is meant by affordability. First question that came to mind is why is it necessary to raise such questions in Parliament when Mah Bow Tan and the HDB had painstakingly explained that the problem of shortages in public housing was only a perceived problems, or due to the choosiness of the applicants? Data were given to prove beyond any doubt that there are enough public flats to meet the demand, and first timers, more than 90% will get their flats in the first try or at most second try. And many media professionals also chipped in to confirm with their brilliant articles that there is no real public housing problem. Would the questions to be raised in Parliament superfluous or a waste of time? Why raised when there is no problem, or is it that the MPs do not agree with the public explanations, that there is a real problem, not simply perceived and to be swept under the carpet? Why, when Chok Tong had also came out to assure the people that the govt would ensure that the flats would be there and affordable? The other question is, what do the MPs expect to achieve? To get a few explanations from Mah Bow Tan and close the case, duty done for speaking out in Parliament? Would it be more meaningful and constructive for the MPs to not just raise questions but come out with ALTERNATIVES of what they want the minister and HDB to do? Wasn't it a common reply that if anyone is not happy they should come out and offer a better solution, not such criticise the policies? I would like to hear the MPs saying why they are unhappy, and what alternative solutions they are proposing instead of simply asking questions. Tell Mah Bow Tan what they want done, that they don't agree with the HDB policy of selling at market price subsidy, that public housing is for the people, the core pillar of our country, to keep the people housed and rooted here. It is not a commercial enterprise to make huge profits and should not be one. Without a good and decent home, what is there to defend this country for? How would people living in expensive mickey mouse flats and shoe boxes feel about the affluence around them, that they are a part of the affluence and well being? The bulk of the country's population are housed in public flats. When these are no longer affordable and no longer comfortable, according to the hardlanders definitions, not defined by people who do not live in them, what is there to hold them to this piece of rock and call it home? Would the raising of this issue in Parliament just another of those question and answer sessions and nothing comes out of it?
The MOH has taken a big step into how it disseminates information through its blog. In a way it has not only by passed the tedious and slow process of depending on the old media to inform the consumers, it has taken full advantage of what new media can do for the ministry, freedom, speed, efficiency and in full control of what they want to say. No need to brief reporters on what to write, no need to vet for accuracy, no need to wait for the editor's approval, no need to depend on the printing schedule of the media and no fear of no space available for their articles. They can say all they want to say at and when they want it. By breaking free and doing it on its own, and with other ministries probably following suit, this mode of communication will eventually become more widespread and even a norm. In the not too distant past, some professional media personalities have been scornful about the new media, questioning their accuracy and integrity. The tune has changed and I have heard some saying that it is the way to go forward. And people can be accountable and responsible for what they posted, with a name behind the article instead of a faceless directive from an organisation. The move into new media is gaining momentum, though still in a small way.
I have kept this thread alive in redbeanforum since March 2007. I have written to a couple of organisations on the issues of corporate governance and directorship. Few days back, Ho Kwon Ping wrote a long article about what was going on in the Board of companies. Today we are hearing the MAS talking about setting up a body to look into raising the standard of corporate governance. Is this an exercise that is more in form or substance? What had happened in the past few years had seen many investors losing their piles in the stock market with dubious companies and dealings and fraudulent accounting. And where does the fault lie? It is, in a way, something like corporate America. The practice of 'I scratch your back you scratch mine' is only a small fraction of a system going out of control. It all boils down to lack accountability and lack of clout. From the board of directors, top management, auditors, financial analysts and banking advisors, everyone is being paid a fee to monitor and be watchdogs to corporate faults. Some participated in the frauds, some just simply resigned when something smelly popped up. No one is responsible for anything or hardly anyone was taken to task for the failures or frauds. What is needed is not only a revamp of the whole corporate governance formula, but a need to pin responsibilities on the shoulders of those carry it and being paid for it. The SGX has come out with draconian rules and fines for simple and often innocent mistakes made by equally blur investors or careless remisiers. Such an approach should be adopted in corporate governance and corporate frauds when the consequences are much grave. Make everyone who is paid to do a job be accountable. Heavy fines is a way. Resigning and washing their hands cannot be allowed. Accepting the payment must come with accepting the punishment for a job not properly done. Rip Van Winkles cannot go on sleeping and get away with it. People who don't have the time to be execute their management, advisory or watchdog's role should not take on the job. Would something like this happen with the setting up of a new corporate governance council?
The tax department has confirmed that the annual value(AV) of their flats have gone up because the values of the flats have gone up and also, these flats can now fetch higher rentals. And the increases were very small given the huge increases in the resale prices of flats. Compare to increases in values of tens or hundreds of thousands, a hundred dollar increase is chicken feat really. I am sure all flat owners would not mind paying more taxes if their flats can be sold for a million or two. And good news for the smaller flat owners. They don't have to pay for the higher property tax. There is a one year rebate! Only the bigger flats need to pay, and the bigger the flats, the bigger the tax increases except for bigger executive flats. But the statisticians will have reasons to be argumentative when they look at the percentages of increases. A 3 rm flat will have to pay $72 more from $2.17. Now how many hundred percent increase is that? Every $2.17 is 100%. The number is too big for my calculator. A ball park number is like 3,600% increase! 4 rm flat will pay $97 more from $46.96. This is easily 200%! 5rm and executive flats have smaller increases of about 100%. I am not going to split hairs on these increases and why the smaller and obviously poorer flat owners should be hit with that kind of percentage increases. What I am looking at is that the majority of HDB flat owners are living in their own flats, their homes, not for letting and also there are many rules prohibiting them from renting their flats. The AV can shoot to the sky, but many HDB flat owners cannot benefit from them. No renting, cannot rent. Only those who need the money or those who have many properties can benefit from the high AVs. Why lump all HDB owners into the same category and make them pay higher taxes when the benefits of high AV is academic and perceived, unreal? For those who are waiting for the flats to hit $1m, no problem. Let the AV go higher. When the $1m target is rich, just sell and get out of the property ownership trap. Oops, 99 year property leasing trap to some.
When I saw Obama bowing to the Emperor of Japan, I was kind of, 'What the hell is he doing?' Didn't he learnt from the same mistake when he bowed to the Saudi King? Didn't his advisors gave him a debriefing that being the President of the USA, he is first among all equals. No king or president is above him or on par with him. But he had to do it again. Many Asians would not notice the significance of that bow. But the Americans are incensed. Hey, the days of kings, dukes and princes are over. The concept of royalties or people who are more equal than others by birth is no longer acceptable, especially in republics, democracies and socialist/communist countries. The days of royalties will be a thing of the past in a matter time. However there are still Asians who are disturbed by the outburst of Americans at Obama. They find it perfectly respectful for a president to bow to a king. I think if the Queen of England or Prince Charles were to visit Singapore, many Singaporeans will willing and instinctively bow to them. For the commoners, maybe it is more a polite way to greet someone who is richer and more powerful than them. After all they are royalties, queens are beautiful, kings are clever and princes are charming. It is all written in the books of fairy tales and fables. In reality, many of these royalties can be quite idiotic or simply nasty creeps. Time has changed, and with universal suffrage, universal education, equality, the mindset of fairy tales should be cleansed in the education system. What is a king or prince if not of the inherited wealth and glory?
This is simply unbelieveable. For more than 45 years in power, there was no mistake. The record was a clean sheet of paper. Yesterday I heard it in the news that LKY admitted he made a mistake in the bilingual policy. Quite shocking news really. Today, reading the media reports, he actually admitted making 3 mistakes in a single day. Mistake number One, teaching the wrong way 'by insisting on ting xie(listening), moxie (dictation).' I will put it as spelling and dictation. Ting xie ie listening and writing, is spelling. Mistake number Two, 'insisting on bilingualism in the early years.' And mistake number Three, 'equating intelligence to language ability.'PS. Moxie is not dictation but writing from memory. Having realised his mistakes, he made it his lifetime pursuit to make it right. And he 'wasn't helped by the ministry officials, one English speaking, one Chinese speaking.' So he took on the task of thinking, on how to overcome this situation. He is no educationist, and he is also a very busy man. He thought through the problems and came out with more solutions. Finally he is putting them right. I can't imagine the consequences if he is not around to think through all the problems for Singaporeans. Why are there no other thinkers to complement this thinker in our country? Our country cannot depend on just one thinker to solve all our problems. The universities must start a course on thinking national issues and solving national problems.
Hi everyone. Japan Netprice is placing an advertisement on this blog. The advert is on the top right hand corner. Japan Netprice is selling a long list of Japanese products on the net. You may enter its sales site by clicking on the advert. Disclaimer: Please note that any transaction between Japan Netprice and the buyer is on a caveat emptor basis. Mysingaporenews/redbean is only providing an advertising service and will not bear any responsibility for any disputes or claims arising from the sales transactions.
NY Times: From Treasury, an Invitation to Financial Bloggers The Treasury Department opened its doors to economic bloggers this month, and the meeting was productive in at least one respect: as John Jansen of the blog Across the Curve concluded, “After meeting them, I feel I cannot refer to them as Timothy Geithner and his minions” anymore. Mr. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, was among the senior officials who talked with bloggers at an outreach session on Nov. 2. The two-hour round table was held on background, meaning that the bloggers could describe the sessions, but not attribute quotes to specific officials. Lengthy posts about financial system reforms — and the bloggers’ disagreements with the Treasury’s strategies — ensued. New-media scribes have gradually made their way inside most governmental institutions over the years, but the meeting was the first for bloggers at the Treasury. Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University who has written at the Marginal Revolution blog for six years, said it was the first time he had heard from any Treasury official. The meeting “shows that the Obama administration is working very hard on outreach to a lot of different media sources,” he said. The Treasury invited about 20 bloggers. Eight attended — at their own expense — including some ardent critics of the department. Michael J. Panzner, who writes the Financial Armageddon blog, said the invitation “was totally out of the blue.” Andrew Williams, a spokesman for the Treasury who assembled the event, said that Mr. Geithner had “long valued the blogosphere” and mentioned that during Mr. Geithner’s tenure as the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, he had requested a daily compendium of relevant blog posts. Another reason for the outreach, Mr. Williams said, is that the blogs are influential, especially because they are read by reporters at more traditional outlets. For the Treasury officials, it was a break from the ordinary, as well. “I think we were much better informed than the groups they’re used to talking to,” Mr. Cowen said, citing politicians who visit and “ask for the impossible.” Mr. Cowen, also a regular contributor to the Sunday Business section of The New York Times, said that one of the senior officials remarked that the bloggers were a “welcome change of pace.” Some of the bloggers were acutely aware of the effects of being welcomed inside “the brain trust,” as Steve Randy Waldman put it on the blog Interfluidity. “The mere invitation made me more favorably disposed to policy makers,” he wrote in his summary of the event, even though he abstained from eating any of the cookies at the meeting, “on principle.” The above article was posted in www.singaporeanskeptic.blogspot.com
I received this in my email. The author has provided his contacts and if in doubt you make check up with him. I am no medical doctor and is in no position to confirm the validity of the below post. Swine Flu Vaccination - Poison ? ? ? - From an Angry Australian Pharmacist. Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 9:34 AM "Guys, I'm Emailing you because I'm bloody scared about something. I created my Facebook group for fun, and to use it to market my businesses to people. What I'm doing now totally kills my ability to do that, but I don't care. This is important. I'm a qualified pharmacist. I've been researching the swine flu vaccine that our government has bought for us (using our money, by the way) and its DANGEROUS. Its easily a hundred times more dangerous than the swine flu itself, Imo. Something that freaked me out is that several swine flu vaccine manufacturers have asked governments to give them an exemption from lawsuits, in case the vaccine caused harm in people. If you made a vaccine that you knew worked, then why would you need a legal exemption in case it hurt people? Massive warning sign. They don't believe its safe. The swine flu itself has killed about 2/3000 people total. The regular flu kills 40 000 plus per year ? So why are we freaking out about swine flu, and not normal flu? Does that make sense? No. If the regular flu kills 40 000 plus per year, and the swine flu only killed 2/3 000 ? Then why are governments buying it in advance, giving it to us for free, and giving drug manufacturers immunity to legal cases against them? Does that make sense? No. The swine flu vaccine contains 2 horribly dangerous compounds ? One is called thimerosol. It is made 50% of mercury. It binds to receptors in your brain, and basically causes brain damage. Is it smart to be injected with thimerosol, and get brain damage, dropping 10 IQ points and going dumb, in order to avoid getting a flu that kills 95% less people than regular flu? No. The other horrible ingredient is called squalene. Squalene accidentally tricks your immune system into killing your own cells, which creates autoimmune diseases like asthma, multiple scelerosis, diabetes, and a bunch of diseases that we don't have a name for yet (because squalene hasnt been used for that long, and we have little data on its effects) ? Is is smart to inject yourself with that stuff, in order to avoid a relatively mild flu, like the swine flu? No. If you're a pregnant mother about to take Panvax, ask yourself this ? Why would you take Panvax, when it contains Neomycin and Polymyxin B Sulfate ? Both of which exhibit positive risk to unborn children ? So as to avoid what? A mild flu, that kills 95% fewer people than the regular flu? Look, I'm a funny guy. Yeah, I make good Facebook groups. People join them by the thousands, and laugh. But I'm also a qualified pharmacist. I scored in the top 0.1% of my state in school. I'm expert at critical analysis of drugs and their effects on humans. And let me be blunt ? If someone came up to me with a syringe full of swine flu vaccine, or came near my family with one ? I would take the needle off them and poke them with it myself ? Followed by several very hard punches. This stuff is poison. Don't take it. Don't let your friends take it. Don't let your family take it. If some idiot in a lab coat asks you if you want it, ask them about thimerosol, squalene, and why the company making it wants legal exemption from being sued, and watch their face go into ?omg I'm being asked serious questions that I don't have the answer to? Mode. Anyway. I hope you're all well. Chat to you on Facebook sometime Sincerely, George Mamouzellos Bachelor of Pharmacy University of South Australia" Adrian Abbott | Regional Manager In the business of climate change P: +61 7 3230 8801 +61 7 3230 8801 M: 0458 355 853 Contact http://mc/compose?to=Adrian.Abbott@energetics.com.au http://www.energetics.com.au/
Save the world, save the forest, save the animals, cut down on energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas, etc etc. These are the magical words of the new world, all crying for help to save the world from destruction by man. Who is the biggest destroyer of this world we live in? The economic formula of growth. High consumption + high construction + high production = High destruction of Gaia. The economic formula of growth is the most destructive force which man chose not to know. No country can afford to continue to chalk up high economic growth year after year without high consumption, high production and high construction, leading to the greater destruction of the earth. Can we be so blind? The world is being destroyed rapidly by the high growth developed countries. The less developed countries are paying the price for their own destruction by maintaining a green way of living How much energy and resources does adding a man into the population consumes? How much energy and resources does it take to build a car? How much energy and resources does it take to build a house of a flat? Imagine how destructive we are to increase our population, to scrap a usable car in good condition, to destroy a whole estate of flats and buildings only to rebuild, en bloc? And we tell our people to save silly plastic bags to save the world! How many plastic bags must one save to feed a man a year ,or to build a car that we scrap prematurely, or to pull down, en bloc, a whole estate? What the hell is going on?
CBF worker or CBF economy? I thought it was meant to be CBF workers, but the ST quoted Lim Swee Say this, 'He pointed to the labour movement's current focus on building a more inclusive workforce with a CBF(cheaper, better and faster) economy. But this really make sense with the mini golden handshake that is being introduced in a bill to pay an Employment Assistance Payment to retired workers that are not rehired. The new law will expect an employer to offer continued employment to workers on turning 62 and later up to 67 years of age. If the employer is unable to offer an alternative employment he would have to pay an EAP to help the worker tie over the period when he has to look for another job. This is something that only a tripartite formula of ours could work. Good for the workers.
Singapore has grown in size and stature after one week of APEC. The leaders of the world seemed to have descended on paradise. And we have never seen so many fine and powerful people gathering here for one whole week to enjoy our hospitality and the best Singapore could offer, from food, entertainment, infrastructure, arts and culture. The number of people involved in the event, including the organisers, must be tremendous. And our leaders worked extra hard. Many must have sore hands after shaking hands with do many dignitaries. And the successful conclusion of the APEC Meeting with world leaders reaching some agreements in climate control, how to tackle the recovering economies, fighting terrorism, are the results of what this little place could produce. More important, the US or Obama, has taken a big switch in their position against Myanmar, much to the credit of ASEAN and the host of the Meeting. Obama met and spoke to Asean members, including Myanmar. The days of aloofness and arrogance, of keeping Myanmar away, incommunicado is over. The US is prepared to use diplomacy instead of threats, sanctions and wars to solve international relations. Singapore could take credit for it. A new Obama Doctrine could have emerged from his visit here. And Obama is inviting Hsien Loong to attend the Nuclear Summit in Washington next year. We are in the nuclear power league! We are now big and moving in the right company. We have arrived. Netizens should stop talking about petty things like cost of living, low pay, ERPs, handouts and charities. Let's all act big and behave big. Work harder and buy up all the new and quality homes that are going to come into the market. Singapore is a big country where people are all big and successful. We are an affluent society and must lead a lifestyle appropriate of the first world countries. The whole of last week is a good peek into what life can be in paradise. Everything so beautiful and dignified.
I declare 16 Nov 09 as the Day of the Dogs. A shopping mall in Serangoon Central has a 185 sq m playground dedicated to dogs, so that dogs can run free, enjoy sports equipment, running tracks, jumping bars, loops and exercise slides. And ST has devoted one and a half page on designer pooches, and how top dogs are bred to the likings and delights of their owners. We have dog restaurants and dog menus, dog parks being proposed and of course vet/dog specialists. While all these affections for dogs are good, let's not forget that there are babies and children. We do not want to end up where couples choose to have dogs than babies. Babies are no longer in fad. Happy Dog's Day.
Capitaland is going to build more affordable homes for the ordinary people in China. This set my eyeballs rolling. More affordable homes and in China, why not Singapore? And what is the definition of affordable? 30% or 35% of a person's income for 30 years? Our HDB used to build truly affordable homes for the people and the people greatly benefitted from it. For that, they voted for the govt for the last 45 years. But things are changing. The formula for affordability is becoming a farce. Nobody believes in it any more, to the extent that the word affordable is becoming a frightening word, a scornful word. For people who still go around mouthing that word, I wonder if they themselves believe in it. Unfortunately the truth is that they really and sincerely believe in it. For these are people who could buy 10 or 20 units of public housing flats with one year of their incomes. Only the losers are crying foul. Would successful people like Leong Mun Leong of Capitaland have second thought and said, what's going on, I have everything I want in life, I have more than enough, I have done and achieve enough, maybe it is time to do some national service, build really 'affordable' homes for the ordinary people of Singapore. Prove that public housing can be better and cheaper, and not dwindling in size. That would be a great mission. But such an idealistic mission is meant only for 'stupid' people who believe in little ideals like serving the people and taking care of the people, giving the people a good life. This is opposed to those who are too talented and too pragmatic, and wanting more and more for themselves. We have many successful people like Liew Mun Leong. What we need is to find among them some 'stupid' people to serve the people and thinking for the people, to redefine what is a good life. Not the current formula of working till one drops dead and paying for a whole life for a pigeon hole, and having no savings for retirement when the savings rate is more than 35% of a person's income. How could it be when our savings rate is the highest in Asia, next only to Japan? The basket is leaking, a big hole, or many holes!
Yes, yes, 4rm flat is going to cost $1m. It is possible. The ST reported today that a 4rm flat at Queenstown has been sold to a rich Indonesian PR for $653k! This is a record! This is a record! And another few hundred thousand is all that needs to hit the $1m mark. Singaporeans should hang on to their dream flats, don't anyhow sell. And agents will tell potential buyers that $653k has been done. And with no one selling, the desperate buyers will have little choice. The new flats will come in a few years time, and provided the supply is enough. Then again, with land cost and building cost going up, don't bet on it that it will be cheaper. Some in the property circus have commented that this is a one time anomaly, it still shows that the rich and impatient PRs will just pay. And those who got a windfall from en bloc sale, pocketing a cool $1m or $2m, coughing out a bit more to pay for a choice HDB flat should not be a problem. Let's rub our hands and wait. Tan ku ku. My Lijiang dream is brighter now. On the other side of the fence, two forumers wrote in the My Paper, one Ng Teck Wee warned against speculating with housing and essentials. Another, Pan Yunyi wanted a cap on HDB resale prices. Both are just impossible suggestions in a free market economy. The govt cannot meddle with market forces. The supply and demand will determine the price. And those caught on the wrong end of the equation just got to buck up or live within their means, ie downgrade. That's being realistic. For those who have hoarded up on properties, wow, boom town charlie!
In a way I would say that the attack by the Chinese netizens on LKY is misplaced or misinformed. LKY is after all a politician and doing what he knew best. What he said in America about the need for America’s presence in the region was mainly for American consumption. He could not possibly go there to tell the Americans to pack up and go home. He was just being a good guest and a good politician. No politician in the world can tell their listeners off especially if there is a need to make them happy or to win their votes. Only politicians in Singapore can afford to give its people or voters a dressing down or make outright blunt statements. Singaporeans are used to it by now, and probably love them for being treated like little children. Singaporeans could easily run off phrases like if you are asking for help, what do you expect, eat at hawker centre or restaurant? Or if you have no money, buy smaller flats lah. What’s so difficult? Live within your means if you are a loser. Period. And if Singaporeans migrated, they are called quitters. After all their votes no longer count. But wait a minute. They might have left, but they still have relations and friends here whom they could agitate for being called unfriendly names. LKY was in the US and he could not say the kind of things the Singaporean politicians could to the people. The American audience would not take a public dressing down quietly. It may be our Singaporean culture, but not American. In America, politicians know exactly what to say and not to offend their voters. Only the American voters will show their middle fingers to the politicians. So Chinese netizens, be realistic and don’t anyhow throw your tantrum. Must accept some decorum and no need to behave like hooligans. Hu JinTao is here as our honoured guest and offering us two the Chinese guobaos for 10 years. If we ask, he may even let us have one jiabao for a few years. Let’s be friends ok?
Lawyers who plot to expose rival's wrongdoings and then report them for disciplinary action will now also be subject to sanction.' I quoted this from the ST to make sure that I did not misquote any word. Too risky talking about the legal profession. Sekali kena sue. What was reported in the paper is that some lawyers have been entrapping fellow lawyers and get those lawyers into trouble. In an honourable profession, such acts have violated some ethical issues. The good men of our society have set a very high standard of ethical behavior for themselves. In the world of triads and mafias, they have no need to observe such niceties. Entrapments, cheating, sneaking around, fixing their enemies are all part and parcel of the game. It is better to be bad men and live with a different set of ethics. Being good men is tough. Trying to fix up your peers can get you into trouble for being unethical. Conduct unbecoming of an honourable man.
The Fort Hood Massacre is the most successfully managed tragedy of modern day America. 13 of its young men were killed by friendly fire, and more than 30 wounded, not in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, but on home soil in Fort Hood. Unimaginable, that war started at home, just like George Bush ducking for cover during the 911 attack. It was not friendly fire to start with. Home ground was never a batttle field. Then what or how should this shooting be called, practise round or the act of a mad man? When the news broke, it seemed that hell will break loose and vengeful attacks could start like wild fires across America. But none of that happens. The great American people took it in their stride, that it was a freak incident by a misguided or deranged individual. And the media, plus the govt officials all sang the same song. A big reprisal has been avoided. There is a serene calm in the American community. The funeral was well attended and tears shed. Military honours were awarded to the brave soldiers who died before setting foot on enemy territory. America seems to have won this first round, to contain the damages and avoid more collateral damages. Is this the end of one chapter of America's history? Or would there be more to come? It is so fortunate that the KKK have been wiped out and the Nazi groups were all under controlled. The white extremist groups and white superiority movements have been silent, too quiet for comfort. Could anyone sense that something is brewing? Could this episode be history and life goes on as usual? My fear is that any wrong move of this kind is going to ignite a wild fire. Pray that such acts should not happen at all as one act could lead to another. Citizens of the world should seek peaceful coxistence and not resort to violence. For violence begets violence. God bless America.
Chinese netizens were fuming mad and were up in arms over LKY’s speech in the US when he was presented with a Life Time Achievement Award by the American business community. In his key note address to the audience of American elites, LKY stated his stand that the presence of the US in Asia is welcomed as a balance against the growing might of China. He commented that even the combined force of India and Japan would not be able to stand in the way of a much stronger China, militarily and economically. The Chinese netizens were angry that LKY was in a way inviting the Americans into the region to be a balance against Chinese influence. And more than a week has passed, and all is quiet on the eastern front. I was hoping to hear or see some robust response from Singaporeans to defend the Mentor Minister. But I should have known better, the apathetic and kiasi Singaporeans will not do or say anything. What about the politicised Singaporeans or the politicians? Would they defend LKY against the attack by the Chinese netizens? Or should they? The only response came from Hsien Loong and for the rest, silence is golden. Maybe we will see a more robust reply in our Parliament when the MPs met. Or at least they could ask some questions if they did not bang tables and chairs. Or maybe the issue isn’t worthy to waste parliament’s time. Better to spend time talking about fore play and ethics. Now, what am I talking. Sorry, I meant fair play and and ethics. The reticence of Singaporeans when confronted by a hostile mob could be the consequence of our culture of depoliticisation. We were bred to keep our mouths sealed, see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing or do nothing. Unless, like Jack Neo said, if the govt said do then we do lah. In this case no signal coming from the govt, so no need to do anything. Letting LKY stand out alone to face the music does not look good. But on the other hand he does not need anyone to fight his battle. He is good enough to take on anyone. Then again, what is so wrong with his speech in the US? He was there, and said the things which his hosts wanted to hear. And with the hosts showering him with so many kind words, he was just being polite to return the kindness. What is said for public consumption is not necessary the same as realpolitiks that were usually thrashed out in the kitchen. The baba has taken a long journey to become a China man. What could be in his mind?
The financial crisis is stabilising and things appear to be settling down. The banks and financial institutions are nursing their wounds after trillions of dollars have been thrown in to save them. But the thieves, conmen and fraudsters are still intact, still in the game, stealing from these organisations. The banks can afford to fail and go bust. But nothing will happen to these thieves and their collaborators. How so? They are so talented that whatever that they are stealing from the organisations are legal and contractual, approved by the Board of Directors who in turn are paid handsomely by them. Brilliant. Whatever that will happen to the organisations under their watches, the thieves, conmen and fraudsters will remain free, respectable, above the law, and very rich. The APEC meeting is in town and one of the first recommendation coming out is on how to save and protect banks and financial institutions from going down. The wise men and women have proposed a long list of do's and don'ts, to tighten control and procedures etc etc. Someone even suggest that banks should buy more insurance to cover their positions. They forgot that insurers can also go bust. And who is to insure the insurers. But the most important element they forgot to safeguard is the thieves, conmen and fraudsters. These thugs are allowed to continue to do what they were doing, to enrich themselves by robbing the banks and institutions in their control. The wise men and women in town seem to have forgotten that there is nothing wrong with the banks and financial institutions but the people managing them and robbing them. My simple layman recommendation is to reintroduce the law against horse thieves. Hang them and confiscate all their ill gotten wealth and return them to the organisations they brought down. That is the only insurance against these thieves. They must be held accountable and be made to face the ultimate punishment. Nothing else will work. The thieves, conmen and fraudsters are working within and inside the system. Where is the resolve to clean up the system? Or are the thieves, conmen and fraudsters still at work and having a say in all these recommendations, to cover everything except them?
Not too long ago, the developers were trying to sell the line that 1000 psf properties are cheap and could even go higher. They knew their sums. More foreigners, limited land and limited supply, sure property prices must go up. Then some quarters were extolling the great virtues of our housing programme and how lucky we are compare to the mickey mouse flats and shoe boxes for rats in Hongkong, and selling at 3 times our prices. The message is that housing prices will keep going up and the sizes of flats will shrink. That is the future of Singaporeans. And there were quarters telling the people that public housing prices are affordable and good value for money. And supply is not a problem. Then a few days back, Chok Tong and then Mah Bow Tan came out to assure the people not to panic, don't rush in to buy, the govt will provide more affordable housing by putting up more land for bidding. It is like going to the toilet and the flats will be out in a few minutes. The MAS chipped in yesterday to warn of more measures to curb speculation if necessary. This is turning into something quite serious. Is all these panicky measures necessary? Looking from the positive side, Singapore has more than 800,000 units of public housing alone. If the govt could relax the sub letting rule and let all public flat owners to sublet their flats to foreigners, all Singaporeans could be instantly turn into landlords. In such a scenario, there is no need to build more flats. In fact the flat owners will be begging the govt not to build more flats. Squeeze the supply so that their flats can be worth $1m or $2m. Then they have the options to sell them or sub let them at higher prices. And all Singaporeans need not work anymore, just live on the income of their rentals. We will become a land of landlords. And we can increase the population to 8m and the people will be asking for more to increase the demand for rental flats. Foreigners will all be welcome. No need any campaign to be nice to foreigers anymore. All the flat owners will live happily with the foreigners as their tenants. And we will be number One again in integrating foreigners with our citizens and they all live happily together, under one roof. Won't that be nice?
The Americans have just passed a health bill amounting to US$3 trillion to provide health coverage for the poor Americans. This looks good, generous and a pro people bill. But it does not address the causes of the high medical cost. America is just feeding the greed of the people in the system, from the medical professionals to the insurers and the lawyers. They are the ones who are benefitting extraordinarily from the poorly managed health system that generates billions into their pockets. Unless America stamps the extravagance in medical/legal/insurance cost, it is an exercise in vain. The hole will be bigger and bigger and will drag America into more debt. Now there are two big black holes, the financial system and the health system.
My experience in watching the animals and birds at Sungei Buloh told me one thing, there is no greed in the animal kingdom. The crocodile will not kill more than one prey. It kills only when it is hungry. So are other predatory animals. Even the stray cats will not kill unnecessarily. And the birds do not build more than one nest. They are contented with just one nest. The only specie that exhibits greed to the extreme is man. They not only want $10m, but $10b or even more if they could get their hands to it. And houses, the more the merrier. 10 houses, 20 houses or 30 houses, there is no limit to this acquisition. There is no such thing as enough in the mindset of man.
This incident happened about 40 years ago, when good men were in the govt looking after the welfare of the people. In the heart of the Singapore River was all the trading activities, and a few rice merchants were forming a cartel to corner the rice market. They wanted to make huge profits by controlling the rice trade and price. The consequence was that the masses, the common folks, would be at their mercy, paying whatever price they demanded for rice. The govt stepped in, ticked them off, ostracised them, and set up Intraco with the main purpose of keeping the price of rice and essential food affordable, not charging at market price and no need for subsidies. Just simple cost plus some profit. No need to explain until face green green and nobody believe any word spoken. The people till now are still benefitting from this timely intervention, and the price of rice did not go spiralling up to a point of being painfully affordable. Those were the good old days with good and selfless people in charge and caring more for the good of the people. They were paid well, but not extravagant. These were the good records of a good govt that is for the people. After all the kpkb in cyberspace, we are having two assurances, one from Chok Tong and another from Mah Bow Tan. How would these turn out? As long as the bidding for land mechanism, market pricing, 'subsidising market price' policies are not changed, nothing will change. The price of properties will continue to spiral upwards. And the new mantra is that micky mouse flats or shoe boxes are good for living, a new lifestyle, and cheap too, at half a million for 400 sq ft. Looks like the goal of a Swiss standard of living has been modified to a Hongkong standard of living. Could we hope for a timely intervention like 40 years ago?
These are some pics which I took on a Saturday afternoon at Sungei Buloh last week. The crocodile at the top was taken on the same day. I used to think that the signboards warning of crocodiles were farfetched till I saw this guy at the first bridge after the main entrance to the reserves.
Chok Tong's assurance of more affordable housing for the people is being met with a big dose of scepticism. Not many want to believe him and I can understand why. Unless the details are work out wit a big change in the arithmetics, it is going to be 'more of the same and nothing new'. The media is splashing across its pages with news of many more sites being offered or going to be offered for more private housing. That's where the demand is, probably from rich foreigners. One developer quoted in the media commented that the sites in Simei and Pheng Geck Avenue could fetch $1000 psf on completion. So what is new? $1000 psf is the new standard of affordability. There will be more on offer. Singaporeans can watch with their salivas dripping from their mouths while the rich foreigners will grab them up, some from ill gotten gains transferred here as new money. As one forumer, Joshua Selvakumar, wrote in the ST forum, how could prices come down when the bids by contractors are going higher by the day? He quoted a 'surprise bid of $251m' which was three times the trigger price of $82m. Who is going to pay for such a high bid? No need to ask. And there was a little comment by the govt that the sites on offer would be withdrawn if the bids fell below its expected price. Govt is not about making money, more money and more money. Govt is about giving the people a good life, the general well being of the people. Who cares about the trillions the govt has in the reserves? Who cares if they have lost hundreds of billions in their investment. What the people is concerned about are their basic needs, like a decent and affordable homes. Not the shoe box quality in Hongkong and the Hongkong prices. A reporter even compared this and said how grateful Singaporeans should be. if we reach such a state like in Hongkong, who is to be blamed. We don't need a govt that set these as the standard or quality of living for the people. If the land price is not controlled, no matter how many more sites are put up, the cost of housing will keep running away, out of sync. Housing, medical and education cannot be equated to a commercial enterprise with commercial aims and objectives, and making as much money as possible from the people. Are we going to have more of the same, more 'affordable' flats? Are the scepticisms of the assurance justified?
Last night heard Chok Tong reassuring the people that the govt had their interest at heart, citizens first and foreigners second. And the most important part, more properties would be made available and the government would "ensure that property prices do not fall out of sync with economic fundamentals." So basically he is saying that there will be more flats at affordable prices. Unfortunately 'more and affordable' are two words that are getting out of sync with the people. What is more when each cohort of citizens is about 30,000 heads and HDB sold less than 5,000 units of flats last year? When 30,000 people got hitched, there is a demand for 15,000 units and even at 50% rate, the demand is for 7,500 units. Out of sync or in sync? What about the additional demand from another few hundred foreigners, PRs and new citizens? Obviously 'more' means different things to different people. No need to explain further about the definition of affordability. It is totally out of sync from the hardlander's definition. The CPF was primarily a retirement fund but now would be emptied for the first 30 years to pay for an affordable flat. I agree that there will be plenty of CPF left if everyone will to go for a 2rm or 3rm flat. But the reality is that this is not the expectation of a Swiss standard level of living. With a huge chunk of money being used to pay for a flat, and expectation to set aside another chunk in minimum sum and Medisave, and the people still expected to save for their retirement, where is the disposable income? A family income of $5k is also very tight with 2 school going children. Are we in sync or out of sync? But if you everyone is having a million or several million dollar income, then everything is smooth going. Everything is in sync. Please tell us what is more and what is the meaning of affordable.
When I posted the article on 'Help save HDB' I used a ballpark figure of 20,000 units of flats sold for 2009. My assumption was way off the mark. I read from a report that the number of units sold was 4,736 units. Using a round figure of 5,000, 2,000,000,000/5,000, the deficit will come to $400,000 per unit of flat sold. Unbelieveable but it is true. I am prepare to change this number if anyone has a better number and wants to correct me. The $400,000 per unit is not only unbelieveable but incredible and even looks nonsensical.
Foreigners are snapping up private properties in greater numbers. The numbers given in the ST shows that from 2007 to 2009, foreigners have bought about 20,000 units of properties here. If we are to extrapolate backwards, foreigners could have bought a few hundred thousands of private properties here. The good news is that more are coming in and buying. Another report says that Singapore is a choiced city for immigrants and there are enough in the waiting list to bring our population to 13m. This could easily triple or quadruple the prices of properties here, including those of public flats. The future of Singaporeans is so rosy. Wait for the 3rm flats to hit $1m and 4rm to hit $1.5m, and the bigger units in the $2m and more. Then Singaporeans can all sell out, move off to Lijiang or Chennai, or JB and Batam, build their own palaces and live there happily thereafter.
Hsien Loong has announced that the PAP is all ready for the next General Election. It has another slate of high calibre candidates all ready to serve the people. This self renewal process of a political party, running in clockwork precision is second to none in the world. With such an efficient party, recruiting the best people into its fold, there is no chance that any other party could ever think of unseating it from power. Then there are other great factors in the PAP's favour. A great record of 45 years of achievement. An electoral system that is designed by the PAP and is obviously more favourable to it. And there are all the machinery that counts during a general election that will be activated to support the party. And there is a grateful people all sold by what the PAP can do for them. How else can any party hope to challenge the PAP? The PAP is probably the only political party that is designed to rule forever. This is another uniquely Singapore invention. It is an infallible party.
According to a Hay Group report, and reported by Lee Hui Chieh in the My Paper front page today, 'Companies here may face a brain drain if they do not repay the "sweat debt" - or employees' sacrifices - that they chalked up during the recession, a global consultancy firm warned yesterday.' This is the most serious threat to Singapore companies to date. If they refuse to up the pay of their employees, many will quit and move from Jurong to Ang Mo Kio or from Raffles Place to Shenton Way. The workers will simply quit and look for companies that are willing to pay them more. And if this fails, they will move further ashore, to JB, Batam and maybe Chennai and Shanghai. Singapore companies must not take our world class, most productive workers for granted. They are in demand everywhere, from Ang Mo Kio to Queenstown to JB and Batam. And they will move. Where else can these companies find CBF workers except in Singapore, Cheap Better and Fast!? Cheap to hire, Better in work and Fast in moving if companies do not repay them their 'sweat debt'. Come to think of it, this 'sweat debt', this country owes a big 'sweat debt' to the old hags that are still crawling around, alive, or to their children and grandchildren for the hardship they went through to build this country to what it is today. When is this country going to repay them? Or better to take care of new citizens and foreigners?
Blogging is important after all. PAP is getting serious about the information, feedback and criticism it is getting from the new media. It is going to engage the new media head on by empowering party members to debate with netizens directly. Long gone will be the days of sporadic responses by a few members or insurgents. Sporadic responses in the past should be differentiated from the sporadic attacks by wild people like MacDonald Bloggers aka Pee on it aka Empty Empathy aka Kristine, or better known as directless rubber aka emplorer aka awaking. I never believe that PAP will send this kind of hot heads to attack other bloggers. For if it does and kena found out, it will be terribly embarrassing. Netizens should brace themselves up to see PAP members coming out in the open to defend PAP policies without hiding under anonymity. This is a great leap forward to more engagement and discussion in cyberspace. And the good side is that PAP will have the chance of greater space to explain itself clearly, and the reasons and justifications for its actions. Now the fight is online. Again, who says blogging is a waste of time? If that be so, PAP will be wasting its time. No the PAP will not be wasting its time on an unworthy pursuit. Cyberspace is the new future.
aka Empty Empathy is back. Remember the one who wrote things like directless rubber, emplorer etc? He is back. And he cleaned up his messages with all these infamous words in them. But he forgot that I was one step ahead. I copied those messages and gave it to my friends for safe keeping. It is in his file.
The land of Sintu was controlled by Godfather Ah Beng. It was not a big place but lying at the crossroad of the international drug trafficking route, it was where all the action took place. From human smuggling, vice, prostitution, gambling and drugs. And Godfather Ah Beng ran it as freely as he could by just collecting the dues for his retirement. And he spent his time partying with wine, women and song. As a result he was indisposed and left the running of his business to his son. His main source of income was prostitution. His son was not the only beneficiary. His mistress also owned a third of the business while his godson another third. The three ran the three cash cows separately under different entities and managements. It was a very closed cartel business and everything was within their control. As time passed, each tried to outdo the other to prove to Ah Beng that he/she could do better. The cartel protected them from new competition and they exploited the arrangement to the fullest. The prostitutes were like slaves to the three organisations, generating incomes to fatten them, which was all good and well. Then smart alec thinking appeared. They tried to compete with each other 'discreetly'. Three monkeys running the same business and trying to con each other by being discreet. Son brought in foreign prostitutes that were cheaper and better. His business prospers. Not to be outdone, mistress and godson did the same and their shares of the business was back to square one. When one offered free gifts or extra services the others followed in double quick time. When one cut the price, the others also cut prices. The consumers were the happiest when the three monkeys fought among themselves, 'discreetly'. The people that suffered the most were the prostitutes. They were the ones servicing the customers and getting paid lesser and lesser while working harder and harder. Even the foreign prostitutes had to compete with foreign prostitutes from cheaper sources. As far as the three monkeys were concerned, cutting prices was the only way to go. They could think of no other better ways. And they forgot that their business was a near monopoly. While they kept squeezing the prostitutes, they were not stingy to themselves. They still reaped big profits and bonuses. Ah Beng too was undisturbed. Whenever he needed more money to splash around, he just raised his protection money and the three monkeys would pay willingly. One day the three monkeys found out that the business was not lucrative any more as the prostitutes too were abandoning the trade. So they sought permission from the Godfather and sold their businesses to live happily ever after from the wealth they accumulated over the years of exploiting the prostitutes.