Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Yales, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs and all the eminent academics and intellectuals and financial gurus, are what America is famous for. It is a land of talents and world best institutions nurturing more best brains for the country and the world. What people did not want to see or acknowledge is that America is turning into a huge Titanic waiting to be sunk. America is now running in trillions of debt which it believes confidently that it could pay now or later. And it is still spending daily in the billions on wild hunting adventures in the Middle East and military excursions in the high seas, thinking that it is an Empire ruling the world and it needs to be in every corner of the world, with its soldiers and guns guarding the interests of the Empire. It took America more than 200 years of uninterrupted development and growth to reach this peak of achievements. And it took America the last thirty years to become the most corrupt nation in the world, with corruption concealed under a veil of respectability and legal framework. It is all legal, when all the 'knows who' have their hands in the cookie jar, and taking whatever they deemed fit, under the spotlight, and smiling to the banks. From Congressmen, bankers and CEOs, all are in for the quick bucks, grabbing everything they can that are within their control. Overseas they are sending our their armies of hedge funds to suck away the liquidity in foreign markets using technologies and the heavy hands of big bucks. They steam rolled the stockmarkets of the world to fill their pockets with instant millions and billions. In short, America’s brilliant minds are focussed on making instant billions for themselves at the risk of bankrupting America and countries that naively welcomed them and their system of operations with open arms. On the other hand, China is guarded and is carefully guarding what it has built up over the last 30 years. No, they will not blindly let in the Americans to mess up their economies and financial system. In the last 30 years, unknown peasant leaders from unknown universities that were partially ruined during the years of revolution have turned around a poverty stricken agriculture economy to compete with America for world supremacy. They are now number two, coming from nowhere. Until recently, what is Beida, Tsinghua, Jiaotong, Zhejiang, Nanjing, names of universities that were not even ranked, and could never smell the prestige of the Ivy League universities in America and their strings of Nobel Laurette and prominent thinkers and professionals. But the products of these universities, many still unknown, are now running a tight ship and running at good speed to challenge America as an economic power. While America is in debt of several trillions, China has surplus in its reserves of several trillions. Is it talents or fortune changing, or winds of change, that a country blessed with all the finest talents and a system of education that is churning out the best brains for tomorrow, is running aground or out of steam, while a third world country, rising from the ashes, with little known universities and talented individuals is giving it a run for its money? Are the Chinese more talented than the Americans or does China have more talents than the America? The answer is an obvious no. It must be fortune smiling on them. When fortune favours, even a beggar can become a king. When fortune smiles, whatever touched will be turned to gold. When fortune frowns upon the best, no matter how well conceived are the plans, no matter how talented are the executors, they will failed. Pundits are expecting China to overtake America in the near future. Could it really happen with America hoarding an abundance of talents and resources and a superior infrastructure in all areas, except finance and govt? One is infested with crooks and another with dunces. Will fortune smile for China and imbue it with more talents? So far none can be spoken of as talent in the American sense. The only Chinese talent is probably in America, in Yahoo.
Several MPs are going to Parliament to kpkb about housing affordability. They are going to question HDB about its original role in providing affordable housing for the masses, high prices, supply and demand, inefficient system and allowing rich private property owners to buy HDB flats. These are reported in the ST today. Are they crazy or what? Do they take all the kpkbs in the internet seriously and really think that there is a problem? Didn't they read the reports of HDB and Mah Bow Tan about how affordable HDB flats are and how efficient and perfect the system is? Even this morning, two eminent scholars from NUS Dept of Real Estate, Tu Yong and Yu Shi Ming, reported that 'Housing in Singapore still affordable'. And they have authoritative figures to prove their point. How could MPs ignore such well research reports even if they don't believe in the comments of politicians? Unbelieveable! Why did these two academics say that housing is affordable here? They compared housing data of London and Hongkong and found our data much better than theirs. 'In terms of affordability, Singapore has achieved a lower housing price to income ratio. On the whole, the figures reveal that the housing system here does deliver comfortable and affordable housing to the majority of Singaporeans.' Brilliant conclusion. Flawless arguments backed by indisputable facts. So, who is still complaining about housing here not affordable? The MPs should better withdraw their intended questions in Parliament. They are going to get the same answers. Period. According to the two academics, Hongkong and London's housing ratio are 19.8 and 7.1 respectively while ours is 5.8. Housing ratio is housing price to median annual household income. See, ours are cheaper and more affordable. Tiok boh? In terms of comfort, we have 27 sq m for one person while Hongkong and greater London have 12.5 and 31.9 sq m per person. Ok London has bigger space than us because Europeans believe that comfort means more space. Don't compare with Australia when comfort means 300 sq m per person. That is not comparing apple with apple. Using this kind of #$%@ logic of relativity, when Hongkong's housing ratio is 30, then we can push up the prices of HDB flats to 20 and pat ourselves that we are still cheaper. And when Hongkong is squeezing their people into 5 sq m dog kennel, we can build smaller flats and sell at higher prices and say we are still comfortable. The same logic goes to the toxic bonds. Other people are selling it, especially the West, then it should be ok for us. The Americans are designing their stock markets to fleece the small investors with programme trading, and unfair advantages for the big funds to cheat the small investors, would these also be acceptable for us? Can we use a more independent set of criteria of our own to define what is affordable and comfortable for our people instead of relatively logic and shifting goal posts? My simple definition is 30% of one income and repayable in 20 years and a space of 50 sq m person. No space? Who is the bum that said we have a lot of space? Or stop the influx of more immigrants to this little piece of rock. Our population density is now more than Hongkong, 6,814 to 6,460 and greater London's 4.761. Want to make it worst? It is madness. And some MPs going to Parliament to ask why so many traffic congestions on the road? Wait till the lunatics increase the population to 8 million, then you will know what is congestion. Now it is so good, relatively speaking of course. Can't call it congestion. Even the packed MRT trains are soooo comfortable.
I totally and vehemently disagree with this call to abolish GRCs. Yes, it used to be advantageous to the PAP to run in GRCs and with strong ministers carrying weak and newbie MPs into parliament. That was long long ago. History. The ball game today is completely different. The GRCs are no longer that formidable and favourable to the PAP. I can sense fear in the vulnerability of GRCs. What could happen today is that GRCs would be the nemesis of weak ministers, and there are quite a few, and the GRCs will present them to the oppositions, plus the weak and strong MPs. Looking at the mood and situation today, two or three GRCs could easily go to the oppositions. And with a few more if nothing changes from now till the GE. The opposition should just go with the GRC system. The time is never better than now. Believe me, the GRCs are favouring the oppositions instead.
According to Dr Helen Qiao, the economist from Goldman Sach, China's rapid economic growth will peak by the end of this decade and subsequently decline. Her prediction is based on the dependency formula which shows the relationship between the number of dependents and that of the working population. China's one child policy will reduce this ratio and thus works towards its decline. Japan is facing the same problem and so are the old European countries. Countries that have low dependency ratio will go on a decline and vice versa, countries with a high dependency ratio, ie, more working populations than dependent population will do well. Extrapolating this relationship we can see the new emerging powers of the 21 Century. India will overtake China as it does not have a population control law to limit reproduction. Other countries that will also rise to become economic powers will be Indonesia, Malaysia and many African countries where population growth is nothing short of phenomenal. The higher the birth rate, the higher the potential for growth and sustainability. Singapore will also decline in double quick time as we are not reproducing ourselves fast enough. The more proactive Singaporeans should make plans to migrate to the higher growth countries quickly before the decline sets in. The first sector to be hit will be properties as there will be lesser new population to purchase properties, unless we keep importing more foreign talents.
The Asian Reader's Digest conducted a poll on 760 Singaporeans and asked them who they trusted most. 50 individuals finally emerged as the top most trusted men and women in Singapore. They include a top judge, a top cop, ambassadors, doctors, businessmen and women and comedians. I did not see the full list but some prominent professionals of eminent Singaporeans did not make it to the list, eg lawyers, bankers and people from the finance industry etc. But most notable was the absence of politicians. I thought, my god, the people have no trust for their politicians. Then I read further and it said 'the general elections have proven the country's leaders already rank highly...' and thus were omitted. I don't know what this statement means. It would be interesting if politicians were also included to give the people an insight into how well regarded they were. Then again it will be quite pointless if we end up with a survey when the top 50 most trusted individuals were all politicians. It will be quite embarrassing to the other professions and individuals. It will be equally embarrassing if one or two politicians did not appear as these are the most honest and highly regarded individuals we can find in our country. Anyone not in the list could be a slap in the face. Another reason for the exclusion of politicians in the survey could be a kind of self censorship. Ranking politicians with the mortals is unbecoming and can be sensitive. Better stay away from controversy. Whatever the reasons, the reason given for their exclusion is the most enlighten one.
MBS will be the number one tenant at Marina Bay. It will compete with RWS headon for the gamblers comes April 27. The Marina Bay is going to be an exciting locale. And one can expect more BS to move in and stake a claim to this prime land. DBS is likely to be there, maybe OBS and KBS too. CBS another potential. Then there are the IBS, RBS, SBS, and the UBS. Not forgetting that NBS will also be there. Now, what is NBS, No Bull Shit? Isn't it interesting that gamblers are now hot personalities and being courted everywhere, and some being flown in and driven by Rolls Royces to the resorts! Soon we will be reading more great stories about the exploits of gamblers and how much they made every minute they spent in the VIP rooms. And the greatest gambler of the island will soon come out from this resort in Changi to join the fray. Many Singapore students will write composition of what they want to be when they grow up, 'I want to be a gambler". Now the cool thing is not to be in the company of royalties and politicians but be seen with top notch gamblers.
Everyone seems to be blowing the property bubble and fanning it. High prices are good. We can hedge against inflation and our savings for old age. I don't believe people can be so simplistic. The series of repercussions and consequences are unimaginable when asset inflation leads to asset deflation. During the last financial crisis, many people went bust, bankrupt. Many lost their jobs, many could not service their mortgages, many properties were forced sold, many ended with negative assets. And of course many downgraded. Just because things were looking better, and the property prices have recovered, with some making profits and some lowering their losses, we should continue to blow the bubble. The next crisis can come even sooner than expected and the impact could be worst when the loans are getting bigger. 90% of our people lived in HDB flats. This is their home, the roof on their heads. When HDB flats become an element in the speculative circus of boom and bust, when it busts again, and serious enough, we are going to have many frustrated and angry people. And if they cannot afford to have the roof over their heads, we are going to have a real social problem of our own creation. As we keep feeding the unsatiable appetite of the developers and the speculators, we may want to ask why or what for? Making all those profits for what? To make developers and speculators rich and happy? To make foreigners coming here to swoop up the properties rich and happy? Our main concern, or the main concern of both the people and govt is good homes for the people. Not 'AFFORDABLE' homes that are not affordable. But looking at today's news, the two launches of BTO flats are 10 times oversubscribed, saying that they are indeed affordable. And is there a high demand or the demand is fictitious? Many of these buyers are still frightened that if they can't get one now, the next one will be more expensive. Many needed a home, genuine buyers, but the supply is coming in in drips and draps. If they don't register, no building of new flats. The frenzy to grab anything that is available is hot. Who dares to wait when the mantra is that property prices can only go up and up and away? I really hope that another big financial crisis hits us soon and this time people really learn that playing with people's homes and blowing the property bubble is dangerous and bad. The flat is the people's home and should not be a factor in the housing casino.
In the Life page of ST today, director Pierre Morel was accused of being racist by casting all his villains as Asians or Pakistanis or Eastern Europeans. His latest film From Paris With Love also have non whites as villians, including Chinese or Vietnamese I think. It is so funny really, to accuse a director for being racist just because he casts the heroes as Anglo Saxons and the badies as non whites. The non whites should be grateful for the roles and the doles he is offerring them. Come to think of it, they should go back to the 50s and 60s when movies were so wholesome and non racial. I particularly enjoy the great movies of how the West were won, with American cavalries always arriving in time to kill the bad Red Indians and save the European immigrants, their families and little children from being slaughtered. And they always have happy endings too, with the Red Indians either shot or fleeing into the prairies or having their wigwams burnt to the ground. Let's have more soldiers and Red Indians movies, more remakes and in grander scales. I am sure no one will complain about racism. And the Red Indian actors and actresses will be most happy with the jobs and doles. Provided they don't cast Europeans as Red Indians.
The commercial cum residential site at Choa Chu Kang and Woodlands junction fetched a cool $164m yesterday. Two years ago the bid was only $64m and not accepted. What does this tell? Cheap don't sell, no bubble? When is a bubble a bubble? As can be expected, there will be all kinds of definition of what and when a bubble is formed. For the moment, one can expect 90% of Singaporeans between 30 to 40 years and owning a property to be in debt of $200k to $1m. This is likely to be the bank borrowing to acquire their dream home, a roof over their heads. Presumably they are servicing their mortgages at 30% of their incomes. As long as the economy is running smoothly, no crisis or wars, they will have no problem paying their loans. When there is a crisis, two things could happen, one, losing their jobs, and two, property prices plunged. This double whammy will suddenly reveal that their properties are worth so much lesser in value, and they have no income to pay for their loans. Maybe then people will say, it was a bubble. At current prices, most properties are priced way too high and this will give them ample room to collapse when the time comes. The gap between the current price and the value it will settle is another measure of the balloon that has been built in. Inflated prices in good time and realistic prices when people will not dare to splurge. Do we have a bubble now? From $64m to $164m in two years! The developers will keep pushing the limits thinking that they can keep on charging more. And when in trouble, hoping that the govt will help them out so that they will not go bust. In the meantime who is going to help the people who need a roof over the head from having to pay a lifetime for it, at the prices the developers demand? Who is the profiteer or who is causing the price to shoot to the sky? Must be the developer lah.
Ho Geok Choo asked Mah Bow Tan whether HDB should return to the old system for flat application. Mah Bow Tan said negative. The BTO is the best system and it even reduced the waiting time from 7 or 8 years to the current 3 to 4 years. How can anyone argue against such logic? In the past the queue was 150,000 long and ended up with 31,000 surplus flats that needed 5 years to clear. Today we still have many times oversubcribed flats on launching but still not all flats are sold? How come? I think I can try to explain about the old system, the 150,000 queue and 31,000 surplus flats built. It was badly managed in the first place. There was genuine demand in the early stages when the baby boomers were starting to grow up and having families. And there was acute housing shortage. Of course some idiots allowed the flats to be overbuilt to the extend of 31,000 flats. If we have the talents like we have today, no such thing will happen. And the facts speak for itself. No more surpluses and more more 150,000 queue today. So Ho Geok Choo must have been satisfied that her question was answered. No more question. I ponder again on why there was no queue when a new launch was often oversubscribed many times over? Phantom buyers I think. And all the kpkb about young people not getting their flats are just false noises. What about those who could not afford to buy the affordable flats and thus never even make it to the application stage? Would they be considered as not applicable to the demand equation? What about those that were ruled out of the HDB scheme by virtue of their income, those exceeding $8k or $10k, or those who may meet the money criteria but because of their family commitments, could not afford to buy the flats they wanted to? These are not demands since they did not apply to HDB. And all the singles and those that cannot get together a family unit but still needing a place to stay, not part of the demand too? The BTO scheme is indeed very neat and clean. Those who for whatever reason, needing flats, but ruled out or cannot afford to, and never apply are not part of the demand and no need to bother or look at. So, since there are no application, so no demand and no need to build. Where got housing problem?
The budget is out and it is goodies time for all. Alright some will still sieve through it with a comb and nit pick at why no this and why no that. Overall, it is another angpow budget of at least $10b for the people. So, want to complain again? Where on earth is there a govt that always give angpows to the citizens? My only little concern is where is the money coming from? Our reserves or surplus profits from GIC and Temasek? After announcing mega billion losses and adding on another few hundred millions more recently, I think I can safely conclude that surplus from our investments can be KIV for a long long time to come. But money cannot come from nowhere. Can we expect to have another round of raising taxes, more ERPs, raising GST to help the people(in this case help first and raise later), more expensive public flats, more savings from our CPFs being set aside to fulfil the 'tan ku ku' fantasy? Unfortunately the answers are still over the horizon, maybe after the next general election. And the answers no need to 'tan ku ku'. Mesti akan datang.
Today I feel quite 'tulan'. Only on Sat I posted an article saying that high property prices good. This morning I read Mah Bow Tan saying high property prices no good. How can he disagree with me? And he said that he has some more things planned to curb property speculation and high prices. But there are good news for those who could not afford to buy HDB flats because of high prices. So far, no bubble has formed, despite the fact that anyone buying a property from HDB ten years ago will now see the same property appreciated by 200%, there is no bubble still. Well, good then, as this is due to normal price appreciation in a good economy, low interest rate and a confluence of other factors. But HDB is not going to go to sleep. It is doing a review to see what it should do to prevent speculation and bubble building. Hsien Loong has joined in the discussion by saying that HDB flats are not for speculation but a long term investment and for the buyers to live in, even to hand down to their children. Is this a policy statement? If it is, it will signal a major change in where public housing is heading. But he must get this message to the HDB first. Then hopefully, things will change and people will really be able to afford affordable HDB flats. I always cringe when I mention the word affordable. Probably developing a phobia for it. It sounds so cheap. By the way, the General Election is around the corner and maybe we have some real policy changes for the good of the people. And no changes after that.
I was reading Goh Meng Seng's latest post in which he quoted an official statistics that reads like this, 'The average household income from work had also risen from $4,238 in 2003 to $5,680 in 2008, reflecting the growing affluence of HDB households.' Isn't this good news, that the average household income was $5.680. Today, two years later, it should be more than $6,000. Singaporeans no need to go to the casino to shout 'huat ah!' They can now do it at home. My friend's household income in $9,000! Lagi huat. 6 pay checks, average about $1,500 each, and two more paychecks akan datang. That would put his household income to more than $10,000 when the youngest two children start working. Goh Meng Seng argued that the household income surge is due to children unable to buy HDB flats and are forced to stay with their parents, thus boosting household income higher. Tiok boh? With $9,000 or $10,000 household income, can start to buy private property liao. How come ah? Still staying in HDB flat.
Shall I call it the Wooden apology or the Tiger apology? After all it is all about the media and fancy news of the celebrities and a world of make beliefs. I did not watch the telecast and did not bother at all. It was after all his personal affair. It is big news alright for those who were his big fans and his sponsors. I was an admirer of Tiger Woods, the number one golfer, the world champion. What went wrong or what was wrong with Tiger Woods when what he did was quite normal actually, for someone in his shoes. And he is not alone. His indiscretion somehow came up quite shocking and disappointing to his fans. I think his main problem was that he lived under an image of a flawless man. He was just like a priest or more, godly, and perfect. It was too big an image for any man to take on. When he turned out to be just like another ordinary guy in his personal life, it was too much to bear. The truth hurts badly. It would be a different story if he had lived a life less pristine, less godly. No one seems to bother much about Mike Tyson or Bill Clinton or what some of the royalties did. As long as they don't pretend to be flawless, they are accepted as who they are. The disappoint comes when the flawless was found to be flawed. When you are white, a little spot or speck of dust is enough to damage the image. Tiger should best discard his wholesome boy next door image. Just be himself and live life. If his appetite cannot be satisfied, he is going to create more problems to himself if he tries to be otherwise. Donald Trump has the best advice for him. Just go play golf and be a world champion. Forget about living like a priest. He is very talented. His sponsors have a part to play in his spotlessly clean image. Don't they know that he wasn't?
It is high only because our economy is doing well, an indicator of prosperity and also high wages. Why are there sudden measures to curb high property prices? We are receiving plenty of confusing and conflicting signals nowadays. One day good one day something else. Plenty of supply, no panic but panic building. Why are people, especially the young, still complaining when their salaries are also shooting to the stars? The only problem I can see is that while their salaries are heading for the stars, the prices of properties are reaching to another dimension, and they are continuously chasing and not getting near. Then again it is their fault because they are not talented enough to earn faster and more. The developers and speculators are always delirious when property prices are soaring. They have no responsibility to anyone except their own greed and profits. They will do anything to double or triple their profits at all cost. Who cares about the well being of the people in general. The bulk of the people just want a decent place to stay, a roof over their head that is affordable. I want to print this word in very small prints, 4 or 6 points. Cannot say it too loud. Otherwise people will scream that it is definitely AFFORDABLE. The govt has a very big responsibility for the well being of the majority of the average citizens. The rich and able will look after themselves and speculate in properties and all things to get richer. The small people in the middle are not so fortunate and could only depend on their Very High Salaries but not high enough to pay for the affordable flats and to get by. They cannot afford to chase the property prices dictated by the speculators and developers or the blameless, market forces. These innocent, and losers, will end up as bigger losers. The govt has a responsibility to take care of them by correct policies. Mindless market policies will definitely lead to disillusion among the masses and will alienate them to vote for a party that will look after their welfare. Govt has the choice of looking after whichever sector of the people they want to. They can choose to continue to feed the fat cows and they can choose to care for the lean goats. High property prices are good. Keep raising. Don't stop. Don't build and strangle the supply and let the price rises. 80% or 90% of the people will be very happy and grateful.
Who is complaining that our public housing prices are high and not affordable? The higher prices are due to our higher incomes and increased prosperity. And for those who are complaining, be advised that nothing is expensive. It is only a matter of whether you can afford to pay for it. So don't complain if you can't pay for it. To those who can, it is simply affordable.
Singaporeans should thank the foreign workers for the two casinos on our shore. Without the foreign workers coming here we would not have the casinos. This is how great their contributions to our economy and growth. Thank you. Please come all your gift bearing foreigners. What else are you bringing for us?
It is the time of the year to call for more training and skills upgrading. We need to raise our skills, go for more training to improve productivity, and then to increase our income. I fall nicely into the group of 45 to 65 that needs more training and better skills. I need them, for I have another 20 or 30 years to go. Like I said earlier, enough time to start another family or to build a new career. The future suddenly brightens up. So much to look forward to. In the past I was only looking for whatever little money left in the CPF. Now got chance to start a new career, go for job interviews and asking the organisation about promotional prospects. Feeling like a new person again. Got to search for my certificates and testimonials and dust away the dusts, and make photocopies of them. Now, how to write an application letter? Forgotten how, too long ago. Training first. Come to think of it, if I could have gone for the right training and learn a master skill, then there is no need to go for more training at this young age of 60. Is there such a master skill that one can acquire and become a knows all for good? There must be one that allows one to be so skilled that one can switch industries and jobs like changing clothes and still continue to enjoy high pay, high perks and high bonuses year after year, unending. And the best part, no more training needed. And one's value and talent and skill get better everyday. Can anyone advise me on where to learn this master skill? Or is there such a master skill?
I have so many flowery superlatives to describe this casino entry levy, but again, better to keep it to myself. By now many will know what this levy is all about in the most negative ways. It is anti Singaporeans, anti PRs, anti business, and makes the casino operation and business look so awkward. It keeps away the people that should be in the casino and flood the place with undesirable and unwelcome visitors like foreign workers. And it creates so many unnecessary trivial issues and a lot of work. Best, more Singaporeans will be caught trying to sneak in without paying. The two casino operators are serious business people who have put up billions of dollars upfront. The least that we could do is not to make it difficult and tedious for them to run a proper business. They are prepared to play ball, accept every rule that we impose on them, no matter how inconvenience and nonsensical. They are willing to cooperate with the govt completely, not to trangress or violate any of our sensitivities. We need to give them a break and make the profits they deserved. And in return they are going to provide many jobs and spawn many supporting businesses which are good for our economy and our people. What I would recommend is to scrap the levy for all Singaporeans and PRs except for those that have been excluded for crime and self exclusion orders, and whoever that were excluded for good reasons. We cannot discriminate against our own citizens in our own home. The reason to prevent people from gambling with the levy is plain naïve. How can we open a casino and prevent people from gambling? The people who want to gamble will find places to gamble, away from the two casinos, in Batam or Genting or underground casinos. The levy is nonsense towards this intent. The levy should be applied to foreigners instead, especially those that are not going to be beneficial to the business. This will help to recover some of the revenue loss from Singaporeans and PRs. But not all foreigners need to pay entry levy. The high rollers should be exempted for obvious reasons. For ease of implementation, make use of the credit cards. Foreigners who carry gold or platinum cards should be exempted. A small token of say $30 or $50 should be imposed on those with other credit cards. No credit cards, no entry. Let the ownership of credit cards be the controlling factor for admission. And credit card companies should be warned not to abuse this requirement and issue cards recklessly as credit cards will now be in demand by foreigners. This is good for credit card business too. Whatever revenue loss in levy could be recouped from more patronage and gamblers allowed into the casinos. The revenue for the govt could be more. Applying the levy on foreigners will also allow the current system and equipment for collection of levy to remain in use and not a white elephant to be put away. We have come so far down this road to allow casinos in our shores. Let’s be serious and let the business thrives and grows. This is big business incurring big investments and cannot afford to fail both for the operators and for our economy. The levy requirement is just not conducive for the business. And I am claiming intellectual property rights to these outrageous recommendations that are bound to raise a lot of eyebrows and ruffle feathers. But make no mistake about these, the recommendations are serious, practical and pro business. The levy on Singaporeans is simply dysfunctional and would anger many Singaporeans and PRs. How could we introduced apartheid against our own citizens and think that it is fair and good? 5 already got caught on the first two days of operation. I hope my suggestions will be accepted and the two casino operators should consider paying me a handsome consultation fee for it. And the govt should also pay me a sum double that the casino operators are willing to pay me for telling them to do something they dare not do, that is necessary for the good of the business and to create more employments. Would there be a minister tough enough to admit that my audacious recommendations are what that needs to be done, and to tell the administrators that this is the way to go, and of course to pay me my rightful dues. Of course no one needs to pay me anything as no one is under any contractual agreement to do so.
The two civilisations have many things in common. Put an Indian and a Chinese together to compete, they will give each other a good run for his money. There is little to choose between the two. Why then will India always be number 2 to China? Many observers have noted the systems, customs, culture and language as the main baggages that will slow down India. This has been proven in history over the last 60 years. India gained its independence in 1947 and inherited a country with all the systems and infrastructure in tact. There were little disruption and the country continued to build up from that point in time with no major upheavals. The CCP gained control of a devastated China in 1949 and went about to destroy whatever that was old and irrelevant. China went through a crisis stage of revolution and destruction in all fields, culminating in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Communist China was built on the ruins of a fallen dynasty and decadent customs and belief system. It started again on a relatively new slate in 1978 when it embarked on its four modernisations and opening up to the West. Today China has leapfrogged ahead of India and running in full steam with all engines firing. India is still taking a stroll, and making progress too, but at different pace. But these are not the main factors that is holding back India. India is targetting to overtake China to be the number 1 Asian power. It tries to compete and outdo China in every field. In areas that it is not competitive it just cry out loud that China should keep away from its sphere of influence. China on the other hand is trying to overtake the USA in all fields. What ever America is doing, China is trying to catch up. And China is catching up very fast. And this is the main reason why India will never catch up with China. It is focussing on a wrong target. The barrier that China intends to cross is way up in the sky. India is looking only at China and is already gasping for air and panting. Unless India sets its sight to overtake America, it will only be chasing China and be in China's shadow.
I happened to read Uncle Yap's comment on how to raise productivity in Singapore. And he said it should start right from the very top. Right. He recommended that Hsien Loong chopped half of his cabinet to show the way. I was musing over it the whole night and concluded that he was half right and half wrong. He was right in his diagnosis but wrong in his prescription. Right in the sense that any major policy must be top down with the leaders taking the lead and showing the way. But I don't agree with his recommendations to axe the top talents at the very top of the pecking order. These are the rare talants and in very limited supply and should not be anyhow wished away. Instead, I will counter suggest that in order to make them more productive, they should be given more jobs to do. Appoint them as Chairmans and directors or advisors to more institutions and organisations so that their talents and expertises are out to good use. Each one can easily take on 3 more Chairmanships or 10 directorship or 20 advisorships at least. My suggestions are definitely more positive and effective and agreeable for implementation, and definitely will raise productivity at the highest level. Making suggestions that cannot be implemented or will be rejected is, yes, unproductive.
Singaporeans and PRs have to pay $100 for entry to the Resort World casino. Foreign workers could enter free. What a great ruling. Now all the foreign workers will be making the casino their dining hall and playground. Free food and drink for the whole day at a cost of $3 for transport. And free aircon and comfort in a brand new resort. Ooh la la. Now we will see how the casino operator going to handle this kind of situation. The casual Singaporeans who could go in and spend a couple of hundred bucks would not find it worth their while to pay $100 to enter the casino. Instead, the casino will have to put up with a mob of hungry foreign workers who may put in ten bucks into the jackpot machine, and many may not and will just be there for the free food, comfort and entertainment. Interesting rulings and interesting situation.
'Our govts lack enough people with the fortitude to speak up without fear or favour. Over regulation, increasing taxes and lack of true representation are affecting our way of life. I feel very much for the young ones. Once, it was common for them to won their own homes. Not now. It's a harder place.' Pauline Hanson Pauline Hanson is leaving Australia and returning to England to her fish and chip root. She must have been very disappointed over the immigration policy in Australia and wanted to go back to a place that is much fairer. She is in for a nasty surprise. There are more coloured immigrants in England today than the England she thought she knew. Her quote above is very familiar. At first I thought it was from a Singaporean or about Singapore. The only part I agree with her is her concern for the young. But it is not so that the young in Singapore are not able to buy their affordable homes here. Our young are in a very admirable position with the govt guaranteeing that more affordable homes will be built for them. Australia should learn from Singapore in building homes for their young.
Until 20 or 30 years ago, being Chinese is very uncool, very embarrassing and even shameful. It is a race that has been condemned by the West and bullied by little Afro and Asian countries. It was a poor ancient civilisation that has nothing going on for it, militarily weak, impoverised, inferior in science and technology, even in agriculture. It was struggling to be a nation, a very huge developing country of the hungry third world. Its citizens still trying all ways to escape to any foreign land, away from a harsh communist govt. Its Chinese diaspora quietly and humbly minding its own business and trying its best to earn a living through trade and business. No high ambitions as keeping a high profile will only attract unpleasant attentions. The Chinese were best described by the Westerners as non descript, inscrutable businessmen, lacking in character and talent. They all look alike. They were the natural target to be ripped off, to suffer discrimination, oppression and extortion at all levels of society they happened to reside. The best way to survive was to lie low, find a strong political leader as a godfather to protect their interest, and pay him well. Many Chinese were ashamed to be associated with anything Chinese. They discarded their language, culture and customs and willingly embraced Western culture to look respectable, and claimed to be international citizens of the world. Unfortunately they were only bluffing themselves. No one believe that they were anything else except Chinese. They could not believe that they have Chinese written on their faces even if they speak perfect English or American, and wear branded clothes. They were repeated victims of racial discrimination and violence. In a short span of 30 years, China is now the second most powerful country in the world though it still insists that it is a developing country. The Chinese who were running away are returning home to contribute to the rebuilding of their country. There is not only new found wealth, but new found pride and confidence in being Chinese. The returnees were not down and out failures but successful entrepreneurs and technocrats, scientists, doctors, academics, etc. armed with the latest knowledge and skills they have acquired to do their share for their homeland. China too is confident enough to open its door wide, and Chinese citizens are free to come and go. Not only the Chinese were returning, the Chinese diaspora who have left the country decades and centuries ago are also returning, rediscovering that there is nothing wrong being Chinese. They too are awakening to a new world where Chinese is no longer the shameful and inferior people of the world, fit only to be coolies, cooks and laundrymen. They are rediscovering their roots and their history and culture. The Westerners are also starting to learn Chinese to understand and do business with the Chinese. Chinese has become an increasingly important international language. While the West has just begun to learn Chinese, the Chinese are learning English in a big way. English is a very important must know language in China. In no time, the mainland Chinese are going to be proficient in both Chinese and English and will be well placed to benefit from the advances of science and technology. What have changed or contributed to this dramatic transformation of the world’s political and demographic map? Were the new Chinese aliens or just the same as their poor peasant predecessors? Where were they during the 300 years of dark ages in China? There were no talents then! Now everyone is saying that China is full of talents. Put simply, the Chinese were victims of minority rule during the Ching Dynasty. The Manchus were just a hunting tribe, like the Mongols, and ruled China with their muscles and swords. Culturally they were inferior to the Han Chinese but chose to oppress the Han Chinese for their political interests. The drive and enterprise of the Han Chinese diminished and many were impoverised when the dynasty collapsed. Those who escaped had to eke out a living in foreign land and subject to all kinds of harrassments and obstacles put in their ways. They were shackled people, and had no one to fight for their rights. They were suppressed, exploited and degraded in all fields. The Manchus were bankrupted, weak and helpless. And when the communists took power, the overseas Chinese were natural victims of the Cold War and continued to be marginalised in their new countries. The Chinese of today are no longer oppressed in their homeland and everyone is free to live their dreams and their high aspirations, at least constitutionally. Internationally, the victimisation and discrimination have lessen and they were able to break through in many fields of endeavours. The Chinese today no longer feel ashame or fear to be known as Chinese. And with a world that is freer and with racial discrimination and prejudices breaking down, there is little to hold back the individual Chinese to live their dreams and be treated more fairly everywhere they go. Relatively speaking, things are getting much better for the average Chinese and the diaspora in their new countries. Still there are many countries that would want to continue to suppress and oppress the Chinese and their drive, and to rob them if they could, or to commit racial genocide at the slightest excuse. But there is a new hope and a new awakening.
I have been against derivatives in the stock markets and the financial systems for its high leverage and extremely high risks. The US subprime loan crisis was a result of the same instrument being packaged as very attractive long term cheap loans but sold several times over on a single diluted asset. In an article in the ST today, it was revealed that Goldman Sach was instrumental in saving Greece from its huge debt and still able to keep on spending more. Ingenious is the word. The process is very simple, offered a loan and lengthen the repayment period for as long as possible, and make repayment looks very affordable, maybe over 30 years or 60 years or even 100 years. And the loan was not recognised or recorded as debt in the accounts books. So no debt or debt free, while actually being weighed down by a mountain of debt. Such instruments of deferred payment to the unknown future, maybe the next generation to repay, will come in very handy in any country that thrives and encourages forward spending, or taking huge loans. It is the basic principle of spending now and pay latter. And borrowers were convinced that the future is always brighter and tomorrow will be better. So go spend now, with future money. Our high mortgages in our affordable housing ballon is built under the same premises. Young people are encouraged to take huge housing loans in the millions under the belief that their future income will see them through. At 30% of two incomes repayable over 30 years, it is actually 60% in debt. As employees earning a salary, no matter how capable they are, the chances of losing their jobs or incomes is always hanging over their heads like a swinging axe. But now they should not worry if they can rely on derivatives or swap instruments for help. Financial institutions should design more of such instruments in preparation of a surge in demands in the future should the economy take a dip and unemployment rises. Under the principle of future income, looking into 50 or 60 years ahead, they can design instruments along such lines. And the borrowers can happily go ahead and spend more, and borrow more. Derivatives and swap instruments will be the saviour of the day. Greece is saved for the day. Ooops.
Over the last couple of weeks, probably 100m Chinese from the Chinese cities and overseas have made a beeline home to their little villages and towns to be with their families during the Lunar New Year. Several hundred thousands of Malaysian Chinese too will make the same pilgrimage home to be near to their loved ones, to renew that familial ties, to stay and keep in touch with papa and mama, grandpa and grandma, brothers and sisters, and all the aunties, uncles and nephews and nieces. Isn't that cool? No, it is not cool according to some of our young Singaporeans. What is cool is Christmas at Orchard Road and parties in Mohammed Sultan and Clark Quay. Chinese New Year or other religious festivities like Deepavali and Hari Raya are uncool, so commercialised. There is no party spirit to talk about, just some ancient cultural practices that are irrelevant to the sophisticated and westernised Singaporeans. The opening of Universal Studio in Singapore must have been their lives complete. Indeed cultural festivals and holidays have gone too much the way of commercialisation. The ST also helped to publish the going rate for wedding angpows and Chinese New Year angpows. It is $20 for children or $8 for friends. I have 30 nephews and nieces and grand nephews and nieces, how much would that cost me. I will need another income to fill up the red packets. What $20? I have heard of $1000 per angpow and anything less than $100 is embarrassing to pass to the young ones. Now I am feeling embarrassed as well. I believe the Singaporeans are now waiting for the govt to come out with some rules and guidelines on how much to put inside the angpows. Or maybe the Chinese Chambers of Commerce or some big and reputable Chinese Associations could help to lay down the ground rules become angpows become too commercialised that those who cannot afford to stuff in a small fortune will be too embarrassed to offer them to the young. Come to think of it, it will be better to celebrate Chinese New Year without the angpows, just party and have a good time in the clubs or at Orchard Road.
We live in a multi racial and multi religious city. So is New York, London, Paris and many other big cities around the world. Why are we being hit by regular inter ethnic and cross religious intolerance and irritations? Or why are the residents here getting so intolerant and unbearable of people of different colours and beliefs? Three young men were arrested for posting insensitive racial remarks over the net and one religious leader were hauled up by the ISD to drink kopi. And we believe everything is normal though the tension is simmering beneath the surface of a false smile. We have 45 years of continuous effort in nation building to gel the people into Singaporeans, to think, act, live and behave like Singaporeans. Have we succeeded? I thought we have, or at least up to a decade or two ago. We have invested in a lot of time and effort to break down racial and religious barriers among our citizens and were quite successful until the recent influx of foreigners. The huge numbers of new residents and their unfamiliar ways of life and behaviour would definitely rub the wrong side of some citizens who are a bit more sensitive. And the new residents too would find us strange and perhaps unfriendly towards them. We want them to be like us, and accept our ways of life. They want us to be more tolerant of their ways of life and even see things the way they want it. There will be such forces pulling and pushing against each other. We even have new residents questioning why Lunar New Year or Christmas is celebrated in such big scale while other holidays were not. Soon they will want things their ways and demand more from the already accepted norms and ways of life here. The equilibrium will be changed, or will be tested and challenged. Will the natives accept such challenges meekly or will they be so pissed off with the new residents or citizens and come to a face off? We started to have this dangerous broth of multi racialism and multi religion under the British rule. They were not concerned about the consequences except their economic and political interests. And they also have the gun to deal with any dissident or trouble maker the colonial ways. Also the poor immigrants were ignorant and have little rights to talk about. They accepted their fate, live peacefully to avoid trouble and keep clear of the laws. Today we consciously decided to add more mixes in the broth. Today they talk about rights and privileges. We have new residents that are educated and know the laws and demand more rights or they will not come. They are seeing themselves as our saviours, not coolies, and will not care how the natives feel. They even feel slighted and unhappy because our walkways were not designed for their prams and convenience. And they will tell you right in the face. We will have to live with the consequences of all the new faces and residents and their demands on the meek natives. The meek shall not inherit paradise. Maybe we shall learn from New York and London on how they keep their foreigners quiet and not to cause trouble to the locals. They must know the way or else they will be plagued by all the spurious demands of the immigrants in their midst. Have we solve our foreigners versus natives problems, or they are just waiting for an opportunity to blow up? Shall we invite more foreigners to have more buzz in our lives? Don't worry, they have already brought in the buzz.
Come the next General Election the people should think carefully on what they want and who to vote to represent them. I will be voting for my money. Who ever is protecting my money will have my vote. I will not be voting for people who want my money and also my vote. The people must wake up to the fact that the money in their CPF/Medisave is their money and no one shall have designs on this money. For too long, people have been quite callous in thinking that the money is there for them to take. In the name of, for the people’s good, thinking and planning for the people’s good, they just go to Parliament and legislate away the people’s savings, to keep the people away from their savings. The next election is the time to put a stop to such haughty ideas and attitude. Let them know whose money it is. And let them know that they should piss off and stay away from the people’s money. Watch Parliament and see which MP is still entertaining such ideas. You vote for MPs to represent your interest and protect your money, not to take away your money, no matter how good is the proclaimed intention. Please do not plan the people’s lives with the people’s money. The people will be very grateful if the plans are with public money.
No one likes to hear complaints. No one likes to be the object of complaints. In cybespace, we have complaints everywhere and on many issues by Singaporeans. Complaints against the high cost of living and high property prices are rampant. Is it good or bad? I think it is good. For when Singaporeans stop complaining, it means that they have given up, they no longer see anything here that is worthy of belonging, that they no longer belong or want to have anything to do with this place. In short, they are opting out. When Singaporeans no longer care about their country and its well being, no longer care about how it is turning into, that will be the sign that it is coming to an end. Such a state of affair was best described in the last few years of Hongkong before 1997. Everyone gave up and prepare to run with whatever they could grab. They had forsaken Hongkong and abandoning ship. Just listen to the complaints. When it is silence....
The most authoritative political writer of the ST has given her take on the high demand and high prices of HDB flats. Chua Mui Hoong has concluded that it was due to high demand, particularly from the immigrants. She quoted figures to support her conclusion. 25,000 couples marry each year. Over 7,000 couples file for divorce annually and some may need a new home. In 2008, nearly 80,000 granted PRs and 20,000 given citizenships.The number of resale transactions in 2009 was 37,205, a 31% increase over 2008. Were her figures convincing? I think so. And she must have got them from official sources, not from the gossip circles. HDB has replied a few days ago that the cries of demands were misplaced as demands were not high and they have enough supplies to cater for them. Everyone who applies will get a flat in 3 years! And inspite of saying that, HDB is ramming up the building of more flats. I think if the demand is not there, the high building programme will end up with over supply. But then again no. Only those who have registered are considered demands and when there are enough demands then only HDB will build. Somehow HDB is missing something. Chua Mui Hoong should present her statistics to HDB to let them have a better look at the overall picture of population growth. But it may be of no use as the numbers may not be translated into genuine demands if the immigrants did not apply to HDB. So, who is wiser?
An analysis of the UBS study: Singapore has the lowest wages and domestic purchasing power among the Asian Tigers By Eugene Yeo, Consultant Editor The worldwide study conducted and released by UBS lately, titled “Price and Earnings 2009″ has some unflattering results for Singapore. (download the study here) While our economy has the highest GDP (PPP) per capita in Asia at $49,288 according to a World Bank report (source:Wikipedia), our people do not enjoy a quality of life which commensurate with it. Though we are technically a developed first world country, some economic indictators as shown by the UBS study suggested that Singaporeans are not that better off than those in Third World countries. Low wages Singapore has a GDP (PPP) per capita higher than Switzerland, but our wages are way below the Swiss. The UBS study found that employees in Copenhagen, Zurich, Geneva and New York have the highest gross earnings. With its extremely high gross wages and comparatively low tax rates, Switzerland is a very employee-friendly country. The net wages used have been deducted for taxes and social security. Zurich and Geneva have wage indices (gross) of 119.8 and 107.5 respectively. In contrast, Singapore has a wage index of only 31.3, comparable with Moscow (30.9), Tallinn (28.7) and Johannesburg (26.7). In the Asia-Pacific region, it is exceeded by Tokyo (83.0), Sydney (74.1), Auckland (44.1), Hong Kong (42.3), Taipei (35.5) and Seoul (32.3) Low domestic purchasing power Where does an average income buy the most products and services? Wages alone do not determine the standard of living in a particular city or country. A better way to measure prosperity is to divide the average annual salary by the total price of a selected basket of goods and services (as used in the UBS study). This tells us how much purchasing power local wages. Again, Zurich (106.9), Sydney (95.9) and Luxembourg (95.4) topped the list – its citizens have the highest domestic purchasing power. Singaporeans have a low purchasing power of only 39.9, comparable to Kuala Lumpur (39.5), Warsaw (34.0) and Bogota (33.7). Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region which are ahead of us are Tokyo (82.2), Auckland (68.9), Taipei (58.9), Hong Kong (58.1) and Seoul (57.4). In other words, though the cost of living is higher in Tokyo, the average Japanese has a domestic purchasing power more than twice that of an average Singaporean. Though Malaysia is still a developing country and has a GDP (PPP) per capita of only $14,215, less than 3 times of ours, the ordinary Malaysian citizen has about the same domestic purchasing power as the Singaporean. Low relative purchasing power of wages This is calculated in the UBS study by using a specific, highly uniform product that is available everywhere in the same quality, and then calculate how long an employee has to work to afford it in each city. For the purpose of this article, the iPod nano (with 8 GB of storage) is used. An average wage earner is Zurich and New York can buy a nano from an Apple store after nine hours of work. A Singapore worker will have to work three times longer after 27..5 hours. The figures for selected Asia-Pacific cities are as follows: Sydney (9.5hrs), Tokyo (12hrs), Auckland (16hrs), Hong Kong (19hrs), Seoul (22hrs) and Taipei (23.5hrs). Again we came in last among the 4 Asian Tigers. Long working hours People work an average of 1,902 hours per year in the surveyed cities, but they work much longer in Asian and Middle Eastern cities, averaging 2,119 and 2,063 per year respectively. European cities had the lowest working hours per year. A global comparison showed the people in Lyon and Paris spend the least amount of time at work: 1,582 and 1,594 hours respectively. Singaporeans spent on average 2,088 hours at work per year with 11 days of vacation. This is less than Hong Kong (2,295) and Seoul (2,312), but more than Tokyo (1,997), Taipei (2,074), Sydney (1,747) and Auckland (1,884). Singaporeans also took the least number of holidays after Hong Kongers (10 days/year). High cost of living Singapore was ranked the second most expensive place to live in after Tokyo, surpassing Hong Kong for the first time. Let us compare the food prices in Singapore and other developed countries since food is a basic necessity. In the UBS study, a basket of 39 food items is put together and weighted mainly according to Western European consumption habits. The average worldwide cost of the basket is USD385. In Asia, Tokyo topped the list with an index of 124.7, followed by Hong Kong (96.5), Singapore (89.4), Seoul (89.0), Taipei (67.9) and Sydney (66.3) Conclusion The high cost of living coupled with low wages and domestic purchasing power condemns the average Singapore worker to an ignonimous, monotonus and stressful working life. Singapore workers have to work harder to earn the same amount of money and save for a longer period to purchase the same product. In 1991, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong promised Singaporeans that we will be able to achieve the “Swiss standard of living” within a decade. Ten years later, we have a living standard which is closer to Russia than Switzerland. Like Singapore, the Russians has a low wage and domestic purchasing power and Russia, especially the city of Moscow, has one of the highest cost of living in the world. The above article was emailed to me and I am not sure which paper was it published, most probably the ST or Business Times.
More letters are pouring in and more grouses will be heard when 6A1s and 4A2s are not good enough for admission to Hua Chong JC. And the same thing will apply to admission to Raffles Institution. Parents are right to be fuming mad that their children with such great results could not find places in the two top JCs. Why? Grade inflation or Integrated Programme(IP) programme? Like it or not, the top students are in the IP programme and have already been admitted. The second best, now filling the places in the normal distribution of straight As are not the same as the best in the IP programme. It is damn good feeling to get straight As even in the Normal stream. But the reality is that straight As in Division Two are not the same as straight As in Division One. What shall the MOE do to please parents and students? Continue with grade inflation or grade the Division Two students as the Division One students which means that many may not get their straight As? Alternatively it can open up more places in the top JCs for these students and appease their parents. Tough situation requiring tough fixes.
I was told to watch the Youtube video. I did not want to bother. Then it came over the news that Pastor Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism was called up by the ISD and made a public apology. Now it sounded serious enough for me to want to know what actually happened in the video. There were 3 videos actually, two on a Joseph Wee and a third on a woman named Rita. One was a former monk and the other a nun, and both were interviewed by Rony Tan on stage in front of his congregation. Immediately it was very obvious that the two interviewees were ignoramus as far as Buddhism is concerned, though they claimed to be monk and nun. Or at least they portrayed themselves as two simpletons who, after spending so many years in the religion and claiming to be quite devout, could not make any sense of the teaching. Or maybe they were simply a bit dull. In fact the interviews came across as a stage managed process all out to ridicule Buddhism. And Rony Tan was given the opportunity to make comments like being under the influence of demons, blind leading the blind, and false religion. He came across as the wise man and the other two like fools. But then he commented that Joseph was good enough to become a pastor and doing very good work in converting children to his religion. Everyone had a good laugh at the two silly interviewees and Buddhism. The message that Rony Tan was making was that his was the only true religion and others were false religions. And he knew where he was going while the rest were led by the blind. I am very sure that he knew where and what heaven is all about while the Buddhists did not know what is nirvana. He implied that since the Buddhists did not know nirvana and had not been there, there were talking about things that they did not know. This also implied that Rony Tan must have been to heaven or his believers must have been there and they knew what heaven is all about. As far as I know, the Bible said there is no Christians in heaven! Then how could Rony Tan be so sure about what heaven is all about? And he must have been conducting funeral rites for his followers that they were called home to be with the Lord. The other revelation is that he believed other religions were false or the blind leading the blind. I wonder what he would say when in the company of other religious leaders? Would he say, 'I respect what you all are believing in and your religions.' Then when he returned to his church, he could continue to preach his sermons about other religions according to his belief. Or maybe he will tell them the truth as he is not supposed to lie. Now he has been called up by the ISD and has apologised. Is he sincere in his apology and would not do it again? Would his apology be in conflict with his belief, after all he believes that he is on the right path and is telling the truth. Some comments in cyberspace said it was alright for religious leaders to preach about other religions to their followers within the confines of their religious abodes. Is it really alright? Or have religious leaders been doing such things all the while in their own sermons to their believers, running down on other religions? Now we can understand why some religions are so divisive and so hypocritical. Preaching one thing behind closed doors and putting on a smiling face and embracing the devils and demons in public.
One casino licence has been issued to Resorts World Sentosa. Marina Bay Sands should be getting theirs in no time. Would the two casinos be enough to satisfy the gambling urge of the Singaporean gamblers. And to include the Toto, 4D, Football Pool and Turf Club, I think we should have enough gambling instruments and organisations to please everyone in need of pleasing. With Singaporean gamblers now spoilt for choices, maybe it is high time that MAS take a more serious view of the financial industry, including banking and the stock market, to reduce or remove the gambling elements in them. The banking and finance industry used to be solid institutions for long term investment and perhaps slower growth. But with the ingenuities of the financial experts, many paper products were created and pushed to the investors with little regards to the harm they are causing to them and the industry as a whole. The minibond saga was a case in point. Tbere are many derivaties that are in the market, worthless pieces of paper that are not backed by any securities or collaterals, or heavily leveraged that when there is a call to dump them, many investors will end up with practically nothing but yes, worthless papers like the Lehman Bonds and other toxic products. It is opportune time to reflect on the health of the banking and finance industry and rein in fictitious and questionable products from the market. Just because the Americans are doing it, marketing it and playing with it, it does not mean that they are reasonably save products. They are mostly leveraged tens of times of their real values and at times the real values could be as much as the value of the pieces of paper they are printed. The banking and finance industry must return to their fundamentals and slower growth. The industry in American are highly geared to pay astronomical bonuses by taking high risks that are unbecoming of the institutions that are the cornerstones of the whole financial industry and the economy. The products are highly dangerous and only fit for the casinos. We don't need more casinos.
There are many things that we are paying through our nose and are taken for granted as our way of life. The question is whether we should be paying so much for them, and if we can afford to key paying for them. Our housing is going the way of Hongkong and Tokyo. Our cheap public housing is no longer cheap anymore. And we will make them more expensive for the good of the people who have bought them. But someone must pay for it and keep the balloon from its unstoppable inflation. We are paying for cars that cost about one third of its import price. For $50k or $60k, we could be driving much bigger and more luxurious made cars. Or we could be driving the same cars and saving a fortune from it. How much does a Toyota or Honda cost really? And how much is a Mercedes or a BMW? Are we being shortchanged? And our medical cost is skyrocketing like hot air. Funny thing is that there is a ruling against doctors overcharging their clients. The complicated surgical procedures and the expensive and sophisticated equipment will add to the cost. What about cough and colds, tooth extraction or fillings? The way it is going, another big chunk of our income will have to be set aside to pay for medical cost. Then we have to pay astronomical salaries to ministers, and some are still complaining. But this is the cheapest to pay for. Just one plate of kway teow or maybe add another plate every time they increase their salaries will solve it. This one is cheap really when the cost is spread around to every Singaporean. The good thing is that Singaporeans can afford to pay for all the extraordinary costs of things which need not be. And there is no fear of the balloon bursting as long as we can keep paying our people more and more salary to feed all the high cost items. Can we really continue to pay our workers higher and higher salary in a competitive and interconnected world? Why should our cleaners by paid $1000 pm when other countries are paying them $300? Why should our average workers by paid $2000 pm when others are paid less than half of that amount? Can productivity really solve this imbalance? Use more machines and computerisation and lesser manpower? Starting from the worker's level, once they cannot feed the system to pay for their cost of living, the effect will be felt to the next levels. But some levels will be so insulated that nothing will happen to them even if the dam breaks. For now, the magician and his magic wand is still doing wonderfully and paying for ever more expensive items for a living seems to be easy.
The police have announced that 3,500 people with serious criminal records will be barred from the casinos under the Commissioner of Police Exclusion Order. This is different from the Self Exclusion Order that a gambler or his family could exercise to keep himself out of the casinos. This is another positive step in the right direction to keep our casinos crime and sleaze free. I am sure all the religious organisations will also be helping the authority in their daily sermons to advise their believers to stay away from the casinos. With this two prong approach, the casinos can be sure to be free from criminals and angels. Only the secular and ungodly people will be left to visit these new playgrounds. I am wondering whether those commercial cheats who squandered away money from commercial and charity organisations will also be barred? I think they should. People who committed breach of trust, commercial frauds, dishonesty, should also be excluded from the casinos. With such an exclusion order acting as an additional deterrent, the casinos could be doing a good thing for society, telling potential cheats to be good if they want to play in their games rooms. An incentive not to take the wayward path.
We are into the second month of 2010 and things are gradually transforming. The stalwarts of first generation Singaporeans are fading away one by one. Ng Teng Fong, the richest man here, has been called home to the Lord like many before him. Our Olympian Tan Eng Yong, also went home when the Lord sent a driver to fetch him. Both men, given their health and wealth, should technically live forever. Their departures are a reminder that paradise is where we should be, our home. Funny thing is that no one wants to return home to paradise. I was at a funeral service of a young friend whom the Lord loves so much to take her back in her thirties. And all was grim and gloom. All wore black to show their sadness when paradise beckoned. And our good friend Boon Wan is working tirelessly to provide us with the best medical services, facilities and treatment to keep us here longer. And he unknowingly think that with more money in our Medisave, we can remain here longer and happier, better taken care off in the nursing homes, with first class nursing care. Does he think that his hospitals and nursing homes are better places than paradise where the Lord had gone ahead to prepare his mansions for us? This is an issue that is most confusing and most contradicting in the minds of mortals. Paradise beckons and no one is tempted. Hell is where they want to be. Or hell on earth is where they want to hang on, for as long as they could, even forgoing their little comforts, saving as much as they could to cling onto life in this hellish world. I can't blame those who have found paradise on earth and refuse to go. But many would have been better off returning to the ultimate home in paradise. While the Lord prepares his empty mansions in anticipation of our return, Boon Wan is preparing his nursing homes with great comforts in his imaginable ways, to show us how much he cares. He also makes sure that we have the money to pay for it.
Properties in Singapore are cheap, especially the high-end ones that are built for the super rich. At $3m or $5m a piece, it is too easily affordable. Many of the super rich will find properties at $20m or $30m a piece affordable as well. At the employee level, i.e. workers who earn a salary, this includes ministers and top civil servants, properties at $3m or $5m are actually as expensive as peanuts. They could buy one every year or every other year with their annual salaries. Isn’t that fun? Life is really good for these highly paid workers. Then we have workers, the genuine low down working class, complaining that a $300k flat is expensive and unaffordable. And the ministers and top civil servants are telling them it is not so. These flats are really and truly affordable. It makes sense when one could pay a $3m to $5m property with one or two year’s salary. But the disconnect is quite obvious. Why are the workers complaining? Simple, their incomes are just too little relative to the price of the flats they have to pay. And they need two incomes and 30 years to be able to pay that miserable $300k. So, is their complaint genuine or they are just a pain in the arse? To these low paid workers, their perspective of affordability must be different, and real. They think so anyway. The cheap flats are expensive, very expensive to them. And the reality of the cheap private properties is also real, as the buyers need only cough out a couple of years' income to pay them off. No need to take loans at all. The disproportionate reality and the disproportionate truth divide the real workers from the surreal workers in paradise. Quite funny huh?
Chok tong has came into the battleground and fired his first salvo. Let's talk policies and let's offer alternative solutions instead of criticising. It is easy to criticise but what about offering alternative solutions? Sounds fair? Of course it is easy to criticise. But before anyone, who does not have the resources of all the supertalents, attempts to offer solutions, let's ask if this kind of familiar challenge is fair. In the first place, why should people who are not being paid a single cent come up with alternative solutions, and a better solution? Solving national issues is not going to the jamban to shit. It takes a lot of information, data and considerations, demanding a lot of time and resources, to come out with something that is workable. On this point a lone I think it is an unfair challenge. What I think the critics can do is to criticise. Yes, critics only need to do that, nothing more nothing less. But if the govt is willing to pay the critics, provide them with the resources, maybe they can venture into trying to find an alternative solution. What about the politicians? My view is that they should just offer a new direction, of where they want to go, what they want to do. The details and how to go about in achieving their objectives and policies should be left to the talented pool of civil servants to help them to work out the sums. Without the resources, they should not attempt to offer solutions that are likely to be inadequate. Just talk policies and objectives, what they want to do for the people. That should suffice.
With 25 high power supertalents in the Committee, including 9 ministers, and 6 months of deep and challenging thoughts, is there anything new coming from this Committee. I am quite disappointed actually. To me there is nothing new. One Winsemius could probably come up with more and enlightening suggestions to change our landscape and lead us to a brighter future. But not all is lost. At least the Committee discovered that the high dependence on foreign workers is a dangerous road to take. This is probably their one and only major contribution to reverse course. Without this Committee we will still be plodding along happily with more foreign workers. PS, the whole cyberspace netizens knew this long ago and have been kpkb about it for quite sometime. A side contribution is of course more money for the govt in terms of higher foreign workers levies. Can't think of anything else that is near to a revelation.
It is not about the person but the policy. Mah Bow Tan is just a policy maker and should not be the issue in the election. Some may want to make it one but that is a private matter to those who want to do so. Let Tampines be a contest of ideas, a contest for the people to decide whether the HDB housing policy is good for them or a daft one. From the govt's perspective, it is an excellent policy that is good for the people. So, who should decide if this policy is good for the people? The people or the govt? The election will allow the people to say so, to make sure that they are heard, to tell the govt what they want and what is good or no good for them. It is the time for the people to say, 'I say so!' What are the issues at stake or what are the components of this HDB policy? 1. High HDB price is good. 2. HDB flats should be priced at market price with a market subsidy. 3. HDB will build flats only if there is demand for it. And demand is defined as applicants putting in their applications. HDB will not project demands and plan their building programmes on available information and demographic data. 4. Flats will only be available to move in after 3/4 years on application. 5. Affordability means 2 incomes and 30 years to pay for a smaller flat as sky rocketing prices means paying more and getting less. 6. Your children will get to pay more and more for HDB flats. 7. The actual cost of building HDB flats will remain a mystery. No need to know. These are some of the key features of the current HDB policy. Would the people be daft enough to vote against this policy. Or would the people be smart enough to vote for this policy?
A week of silence after Boon Wan sounded the idea of raising Medisave contributions and finally I read a letter in the Today forum by a Alex Chan. Chan was concerned that the increase will hurt the young home owners as HDB has already targeted 30% of their income for its flats. These home owners have already budgeted what they could afford to pay for housing to the max. Anymore design on their CPF will mean touching on their disposable income or for those still waiting to buy a flat to revise downwards and look for a smaller unit. But surprisingly not many complain letters were sent to the ST forum. Maybe there is no problem really and Alex Chan's concern is misplaced. So far from the govt side, only Halimah Yaacob raised some concerns that it will affect the workers if this thing is pushed through. She is the only voice against the increase. So what about the rest of the MPs? Are there still studying the proposal and getting feedback from the people? It will be good to know which MP is for or against this proposal. It will also be good to know how they vote after they have expressed their views in Parliament. I am deeply concern about this raising of Medisave contributions and locking up more of the people's money. It seems that the govt is bend on holding on to the people's money for as much as they can lay their hands on and for as long as possible. This is the message I am getting. Is the govt so hard up of money? Obviously no. GIC and Temasek are still globe trotting around looking for good buys and absorbing whatever losses in their stride. Still, the people will have their ways of looking at these monetary measures as a way of snatching their money from them and will have many negative thoughts and feelings. And to some it is not just feelings but very painful. I would like to suggest that Boon Wan make it more painful by raising another 5%. A big pain for once instead of creeping pains every other year. This is textbook Machiavellian strategy. Or is it to make it less painful like raising property taxes every now and then instead of all at one go? Looks like I am going to here for a while and I will just go on posting.
Expat workers threaten Gulf existence Feb 03, 2010 DUBAI - An influx of foreign workers in the Gulf poses a threat to the region's existence, UAE daily Gulf News reported on Wednesday, citing Bahrain's Labour Minister Majeed al-Alawi. The minister said the situation could become like Singapore and the Maldives, where "foreign workers had been brought on temporary contracts and are now ruling these countries," according to the report. Speaking at a labour conference in Abu Dhabi, Alawi said one million citizens in the wealthy Gulf are unemployed even though the region employs 17 million foreign workers, describing them as "a threat to our existence", Gulf News reported. Alawi pointed out that while 50 percent of projects in the Gulf have have come to a halt due to the impact of the global recession, the number of foreign workers has not declined. "Whoever thinks this foreign manpower in the region comes for a project and leaves on its completion is wrong. They come to stay. They buy and sell in their market created on our lands but accommodate no Arab," he said." he was quoted as saying. Alawi added: "This way countries were lost and we, in the Gulf, are facing the same threat. If this is not happening now, it will happen in the next generation." Officials in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have for years expressed concerns over the presence of millions of expat workers who are needed to run their economies. Still these countries continue to hire skilled and unskilled people from abroad to do jobs their citizens either cannot do or do not want to do. The above article is copied from Maktoob Business . Maktoob The Gulf states fear that they will lose their countries to foreigners. In the Singapore experience, we consider ourselves as immigrants. And immigrants given citizenship becomes Singaporeans. So new immigrant citizens will take over and own this island when old immigrant citizens die or fade away. This is the natural state of affair. We don't have problems with that. We welcome new immigrants to become our citizens and take over from where the old immigrant citizens left off. And we will have a more vibrant city state still populated by Singaporeans. And old Singaporeans that cannot live up to the challenge, they just have to be sidelined. It is their problem. The difference in mindset between Singapore and the Gulf states is that we place the existence of the state above the existence of the people. The people can come and go, can die and disappear, the state lives forever. We live for the state.