There is a letter in mypaper today by a Mrs Anna Lee on the good life of PRs in Singapore. When they completed their employment terms here, they take out all the CPF and go home to their big 'renovated luxuriously and comparable to a Good Class Bungalow here,' in the Philippines. And these are just the middle executives with incomes in the $2,500 bracket. With this kind of income, the exchange rate and low cost of living, their income here could multiply many times back in their home town. We can only boast of our great infrastructure and world class govt and world class lifestyle at world class cost of course. And the option is either or. We cannot have world class everything without paying world class prices. That is the only way and as they said, you can't have your cake and eat it. Our middle level executives with a combined income of $6000 to $8000 can at best live in a pricey 5 rm HDB flat. So, win some lose some. And for those graduates trying to find a decent job, maybe wait for a while to save enough for a 3 or 4 rm flat, and that would be quality living they can afford.
We have three state universities and several local and joint universities in our little city. And each has been increasing their intakes of undergraduates rapidly. And we have several polytechnics as well. Then we also have students going abroad on scholarships or on their own to pursue that degree. In total, it is quite possible that 40-50% of each cohort will turn up with a degree and another 20-30% with a diploma. Can our economy absorb all these graduates and keep them usefully and meaningfully employed with reasonable jobs and income commensurate with their qualifications? Employing graduates in jobs that do not require their level of education is not satisfactory and not a desirable solution. In order to accommodate all these graduates, there must be a policy change to make it workable. The liberal policies of welcoming foreigners that are no better or even less well educated or trained as our citizens must be modified. If we are serious in wanting to raise the educational level and technical expertise of our citizens, we must have the capacity to absorb them into the system. The liberal policies of employing foreigners for middle executive levels and above need revision, including setting quotas for local versus foreigners. If the job market is to be lassez faire, the unfair competitiveness of foreign talents will only rule out the employment of local graduates and we will be building a little time bomb in the social fabrics of our society. There will be a political and social price to pay. Answering to the demands and expectation of parents and individuals to want a tertiary education is one part of an equation. Satisfying their higher expectations in jobs and lifestyle is the other. The first part is being accomplished with the availability of more university and polytechnic places. Looks like the second part of the equation is still unsatisfactorily managed and will build up more stress in our system. The young and unemployed graduates and the displaced PMETs will be a force to be reckon with.
'...I sank into a mental depression and felt completely useless. There was a period whereby I can’t even afford to have a proper $3 meal outside and had to feed myself with instant noodles and plain water every day.' The above was from an article posted in Gilbert Goh's Transitioning.org. It is quite a long article by a local honours graduate who called himself Tan. He said he had just got an administrative job after 5 months of search, 11 months of door to door salesman, and another 4 months of search after he was retrenched from his first jobs of 3 months. Tan was expected to be the sole breadwinner of his family but his jobless status had forced his parents to continue with their odd jobs just to carry on. And he was also settled with a study loan to pay. Without a job, without an income, he ended having to borrow to clear his debt. This is the plight of some new graduates who are not lucky enough to have rich parents and could go on a long overseas holidays after graduating, and finding a job is secondary. Yes, some are not so fortunate. When graduates of tertiary education was only 3% or 5%, a degree was a passport to a good life with jobs aplenty waiting for them. When 30% or 40% of each cohorts ended with a degree, the equation changes. A degree is just a degree and many applicants are also armed with degrees. It is not a guarantee that one can land a job so easily. Then we have the talented foreigners coming in to take a share of the jobs available, and there are the retrenched or jobless PMETs begging for a job as well. Funny that this is a problem when technically we have full employment. Something is amissed. It will be a matter of time before our graduates start to drive taxis or be croupiers in the casinos, or as salesmen as saleswomen. Please lower your expectation even if you are a graduate as you will hit one by throwing a stone into any crowd. I wonder how much the parents will have to pay to bring up a graduate. And I wonder how much will be needed for these young graduates to start a home, to buy their first 3 or 4 rm flats. Forget about anything bigger or private. Those must come from the pockets of rich parents. Are we happy with the current situation? Are we doing it right or doing it wrong?
More positive comments are coming out from UMNO leaders, including Khairy Kamaruddin, the UMNO Youth Chief, who was the hottest head in fanning anti Singapore sentiment in the days of Mahathir. He too could see the logic and benefits of such a deal when the sky is clear and the wools were removed from his eyes. The benefits are so obvious and tremendous that only those who chose not to see would miss them. So far the glaring silence from the Mahathir camp and his erstwhile comrades in arms is the only notable thing in Malaysian news. They have kept quiet, including Mahathir. While things are looking well, Najib's path is still not smooth sailing as he is being challenged on his NEM, New Economic Model. Some UMNO branches are accusing him of selling out Malay rights. Najib's trump card is his father's reputation of being the champion of Malay Special Rights. One of the puzzling argument by his opponent is that some Malays are still not able to compete equally with the other races. Could any race have members that are all able and talented to be the best among the best? This is a flawed argument that is being thrown out as a justification to extend the NEP. In reality, every racial group will have its talents and not so talented and the latter will forever be left behind no matter what and how long it takes. It is just a natural thing. To expect all the Malays to be equally competitive is a false argument. Najib still has a big task ahead as he seeks to find new directions to take Malaysia to the future. And the danger of him being toppled and his plans discarded in mid stream are highly possible. Malaysian politics is very fluid and anything can happen except certainty. Nothing is firm or certain. Laws can be changed overnight, policies revoked, and master plans shelved. The only saving grace today is the urgency to want to move forward and achieve a developed country status. And a lot of money and resources have been expended on the IDR. Pulling back and pulling the plug will be very costly. There is no turning back in a way. But be not too sure on this. Is the Railway Agreement a deal done? The politicking has not started yet.
The North Koreans have strongly denied their involvement in the Cheonan Incident and claimed that the evidence was fabricated. The South Korean/US/UK experts claimed that the torpedo was fired by a Salmon class submarine and the North said that it was nonsense as they didn't even own such a submarine. How could the investigators cooked up such a story is mesmerising. And the words carved on the torpedo turbine was also claimed to be forged. And the western media was all clamouring that China is under intense pressure to punish the North. Really, would China be put under pressure to make a major decision against its ally on evidence that it was kept away from and which has a high possibility of being fake? I believe China will want to take its own time to study the evidence to confirm its authenticity. Given the reputation and knowledge of how the Americans and British have fabricated the evidence and information about WMD, it is only expected to doubt whatever the Americans and the British claimed with a big question mark. They are now world renowned for telling lies. Who would be so silly to believe in them? If the evidence was found to be fabricated, then China should call for a bigger investigation to find out the truth, who fired and killed the South Korean soldiers, and also bring criminal charges against those who fabricated the evidence. And how would the world look at the South Koreans and the Japanese who are so willing to take sides and support a war with the North? In the event of a war, who will be killed and destroyed?
There have been many positive comments on the milestone set by Najib and Hsien Loong and the expectations are high for more cooperations ahead. One big surprise is the reticence coming from the court of Mahathir. Or is he planning a long thesis on how foolish is this Najib move? The Najib magic is a direct slap on Mahathir and he should feel the most pain. During the tussle for power, he was still calling the shot in some ways when Najib was reported to have met him to discuss his future as the next PM of Malaysia. It was like Najib needed his blessing and support for the seat. All that has passed now and the first major international policy made by Najib was to dump all of Mahathir's venom into the sungei. While Mahathir is fuming and planning his next move, the Malaysian paper Sin Chew Daily commented on the diverse path that the two countries have ventured and the gaps that needed to be bridged to move along as equal partners. It summarised the policies of Mahathir and how these have held back Malaysia to its developing status while Singapore is running away in the developed league. It lamented that the lack of competitiveness, efficiency, corruption and racial politics would be difficult problems to surmount as the two countries try to get their acts together and move along as partners. The high hopes and expectations are positive but after 20 plus years of heading in different directions, it is not going to be easy, or can be overcame quickly, to get things on the same footings. It will take a long time for the two to be able to operate in the same frequency and enjoy the fruits of their new endeavours. It will demand a lot of patience and statemanship to bridge the gaps and set aside decades of bad blood and perceptions of each other. The people of the two countries can only hope that it is not a flash in the pan move and the subsequent leaders would be dedicated to keep the momentum going. Would this be another high hope?
The South Koreans reportedly conducted a survey on the sinking of Cheonan and was surprised that only 70% of the South Koreans believed that it was the work of the North Koreans. Why is it that there are still 30% of the South Koreans disbelieving the claims by their govt even with their one sided evidence? Given the overwhelming proof produced by the South Koreans, the American and British experts, there should not be any doubt to believe otherwise. So far the western world all believes that the North Koreans are guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. Even the UN Secretary General said so, and he believed everything that the South Korean govt said. And reading from the media, it is conclusive that it was the North Koreans who did it. Would a one sided evidence produced in secrecy by a gang of interested parties that have all the reasons to point the fingers at the North Koreans be admissible in court as valid evidence? And China is expected to take these evidences as the gospel truth. Though China and Russia have said that they would want an independent investigation on the evidence, how much can they differ if the evidence were expertly cooked for several months? The happiest person is the little girl who thought that everything has been sewn nicely and foolproof, that the North is guilty and no one can deny it. The possibility of it being a North Korean act cannot be ruled out, but the probability is low. What if it was a sinister plot by a third party to fan the tension and at the expense of South Korean lives, and the South Koreans swallowed it hook, line and sinker? Isn't that a shameful tragedy while the third party or parties quietly partying away for a great clandestine op?
Stephen Bernard and Tim Paradis, AP Business Writers, On Thursday May 27, 2010, 6:19 pm EDT NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks had another turnaround Thursday and rocketed higher after China reassured investors it doesn't plan to sell the European debt it holds. The Dow Jones industrial average surged nearly 285 points. Treasury prices tumbled as traders funneled money into riskier assets like stocks and commodities. China's show of confidence in Europe let the market resume a rally that stalled late Wednesday following a report that the Chinese government was considering cutting its European debt holdings. If that were true, such a move would have signaled that China didn't think Europe would be able to contain its debt crisis. The agency that manages China's $2.5 trillion in foreign reserves denied the report.... The above passages are signs that the world leadership is slipping from the fingers of the American and into the Chinese. A few words by China are enough to bring a rally in European and American stock markets while Timothy Geithner's visit last week yield practically not even hot air. The weight that China carries in the financial world is evident in contrast to the mess the Americans carved themselves into by the very best financial gurus they have produced from their best universities. These unethical selfish individuals are out there doing their best for their own pockets with total disregard to the ruins they are creating. Obama is trying his level best to put a lease on these crooks but unlikely to succeed as nearly everyone in Congress is probably being paid by these guys or their institutions. The bills may be passed, but the implementation is another matter. In the meantime the American financial system, including the Europeans, will continue to wind down and implode. On the military front, the hawkish and warmongering policy of George Bush of pre emptive strike comes under the limelight. This cowboy gun firing policy, the right to invade any country on the ground that the US claims that it is a threat is now being abandoned by Obama in name. In practice, the policy is still in practice as is seen in the Korean peninsula and the Middle East. Just brand the countries as a threat to American interests and it is up to the Americans to decide when to invade. The world must be feeling very disgusted with the evil Empire and Obama knows it. Unfortunately the little girl is still innocent about what she is doing and is waving the flag of war in Korea. More sanctions, more war games and provocative actions against the North on a charge backed up by evidences that are highly suspect, like the WMD evidences. She is still continuing with the Bush Doctrine of starting war everywhere. As the world wisen up to the deeds of the evil Empire and their bankrupt policies and treasury, I wonder when will they jump ship and let the boy to continue crying wolf and playing the pipe piper to lead the world in financial ruins and war?
This is the title of an article by John McBeth in the ST today to describe the sinking of Cheonan. He could not find a sensible reason for the North Koreans to do such an act. And as national leaders, one must assume that they are thinking people and will act only when they are to benefit from it. There must be good reasons for them to sink the South Korean ship. But apparently there were none. The truth is that the sinking of Choenan has all the bad reasons for North Korea. And the evidence are all there to say that the North Koreans have nothing to do with it. Instead, the sinking are all in favour of South Korea and its allies and what they are up to. The AGENCIES reported that the South Koreans are monitoring and tracking the movements of the North Korean submarines. This is a Freudean slip in the first order. It reveals and admits that the South Koreans have all the while been tracking the North's submarines. And if there was one near Choenan, they would have known and would not have been knocked out by surprise. The South Korean's National Intelligence Service also reported to the President that the North did not do it. And they were arranging for a meeting between the two Presidents which made such an incident intolerable. The factors that are in favour of such an incident is exactly the above. The meeting between the two Presidents and the warming up of relations between the two Koreans must be stopped. Then there is the China element. China is gaining in building up closer relations with the two Koreas. The third reason is of course the American bases in South Korea and Japan. An incident like the sinking of the Choenan would strain relations between the two Koreas, raise tension and justify greater American military presence. And of course, it would drive a wedge between China and its closest ally, North Korea. China would be forced to take sides and whichever side it takes will hurt its relation with the other. Brilliant strategy! China is now in a fixed. North Korea is branded as the bad boy. America, Japan and South Korea are the good guys. And after months have passed, they expect the Chinese to examine the evidence provided by them for the sinking of the ship. During this time they were the ones meddling with the evidence and who knows what they had done to it. They had the chance to have an international and impartial body to examine the evidence but they passed it. China and North Korea should simply rule the evidence as questionable and not admissible as proof. Period.
This mentality was stamped in the Mahathir era and has been embedded deeply in the minds of those who have worked with him. Anwar is no exception. And his immediate response to Najib's agreement with Hsien Loong was that Najib was soft. Any Malaysian leader that signed or come to any agreement with Singapore must be soft. Then what is being tough? Being tough means never to sign any agreement with Singapore. If Singapore asks for 10% Malaysia must ask for 20%. If Singapore asks for 20% Malaysia must ask for 40%. The greatest example was the price of water to Singapore. It was a few cents and Mahathir asked for $3 for a starting price, I could not remember the exact figure. And when Singapore tried to negotiate, the price was raised to more than $10 and even higher everytime Singapore try to negotiate for a more reasonable price. This is what tough meant to Mahathir. Actually it is not tough. It is sheer stupidity. It is an approach that says he would not want to sign any agreement unless it is on his terms. In any business or bilateral agreement, how could any party think that an agreement can be signed on a one sided terms. To go forward, to negotiate any deals, the premise must be that both parties are comfortable with the deal and see benefits in them in an equitable manner. And that was exactly what happened when Najib and Hsien Loong met. And a deal was done. So, in the eyes of Anwar and Mahathir, and those who have been programmed to be tough, Najib must be soft. How to go forward like dat? PS. The best part is that after signing every deal that they had thoroughly studied in details before signing, they will come back and say they had a raw deal. That they were cheated.
The Pakatan Rakyat defacto leader said that the agreement which was announced yesterday raised concerns that Malaysia is seen to be too “submissive” in catering to Singapore’s demands. “There is a tendency that in the policy of Najib, like in the case of Barack Obama, he seems to be too submissive, agreeing, and there is a lot of concern. “Why is it we have now a Prime Minister that surrenders too easily?” asked Anwar. The above paragraph was posted in The Malaysian Insider in an article. 'Anwar flays ‘submissive’ Najib in Singapore deal' By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal May 25, 2010 The impression I get from Anwar's comment is that Malaysian leaders must act tough and play hard ball with Singapore. Otherwise they are seen to be soft, unfit to be Malaysian leaders. This is the underlying confrontational mindset that is prevailing since the Mahathir's time and is still existing today. Anwar's words are a revelation, that within closed doors, they must have been telling each other so. Be tough to Singapore leaders. With this kind of confrontational and aggressive mindset, it is tough to negotiate and come to any kind of agreement. No matter how good a deal, how fair a deal is, any agreement will be seen as a sell out, as being weak. So how to go ahead? Signing any agreement with Singapore is weakness. Signing any agreement with Singapore is signing a bad deal and to their disadvantage. When will they be able to sign an agreement that is fair or to their advantage? When can they sign an agreement and be seen as being tough? Strange mentality.
Cheong Suk Wai interviewed Harvard business administration professor Robert Pozen on his take of the world financial system. The professor was an advisor to George Bush and also chairman of MFS Investment Management, a mutual fund of US$200 billion in assets. The professor came under criticism for recommending that Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac ‘be given a good shake up’. When asked by Suk Wai on ‘What should we be focusing on to prevent, or at least anticipate, future financial fallouts’, these are his replies. 1. When there are very high levels of leverage in the system, that means everyone is running for the exit at the same time.(Spelt derivatives) 2. When you have foreign money supporting a real estate boom, that creates fragility because such money is always hotter than local money. (Be prepare for a quick cash out and a run on the property market) 3. Mismatches between assets and liabilities: If your financing is highly dependent on short term financing against long term assets, you’re vulnerable to liquidity crises. (Careful when taking big loans on properties and depending on salaries to pay) 4. Beware of financial innovations that grow extremely rapidly without proper supervision.(Spelt property bubbles, derivatives, CDOs, toxic products) 5. If you have fixed exchange rate, lots of pressure will build up to make it disintegrate in a short time as opposed to a flexible exchange rate, which goes up and down. The professor also commented on the need for truly independent and professional directors and that at most one should sit in 3 boards to be effective. The concerns of the professor are nothing new as the professionals, govt and academics are all privy to the indiscretions and the flaws existing in the current system. Our little system in paradise is also exposed to the same flaws and risks and it is just a matter of time before they explode in our faces. Do we have the political will and ethical responsibility to clean up the mess before it is too big to do anything about it? The only thing I disagree with the professor is point 5 on fixed exchange rate. The pressure building up is caused by the manipulation of speculative funds and govts like the US who are thrashing it to hide the weaknesses in their own system. A fixed exchange rate under the present condition is much safer and stable and would not be attacked by unscrupulous big funds. It also allows govts to manage the exchange rates purposefully and orderly.
Mahathir thought he could squeeze Singapore's balls by letting the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station to rot and be the eyesore in the heart of Singapore's business district. He forgot that the govt could throw the Land Acquisition Act on it and take it back with a little compensation like what it had done to acquire land for HDB flats and other infrastructure projects. If it was done, what Malaysia could get, going by the going rates for land acquisition will be peanuts. Of course nothing was mentioned on this option while we were still dependent on the water supply and water collection plants in Skudai. Now that this is no longer a trump card, and we could do without, using the Land Acquisition Act could be a matter of time. For good bilateral relations, it is good that we don't have to come to that and create more bitterness and animosities. Now we have a good ending to a fairy tale and they live happily ever after.
I can still recalled the infamous maiden speech of Ah Lian in Parliament about digging jamban and pangsai. If I am not mistaken it was to tell the opposition that this govt is not one that would wait for people queuing up to pangsai then start digging jambans. This is a highly strung govt of super talents, far sighted, proactive and always planning ahead, to anticipate problems before they appear. I would like Ah Lian to propose that Ah Huay make that speech again to remind everyone that this govt is still the same govt that would not dig jambans frantically only after people screaming to pangsai. And Ah Lian should also suggest that the speech be framed and hung on the walls of Parliament to remind everyone what this govt stands for. The combination of Ah Huay and Ah Lian can be a powerful act to make sure that nobody falls asleep in his job.
No one would believe that Najib was able to pull the Malayan Railway relocation project off so easily and quickly. For him to reach an agreement with Hsien Loong is like David Copperfield performing his majic and his audience staring in disbelief. The Malayan Railway was Mahathir’s pet subject in how to skin Singapore. Mahathir knew how badly Singapore wanted that piece of land for redevelopment and irritatingly refused to come to any agreement no matter what. It was simply no go. Najib has only been a PM for less than a year. And on the home front he has made many overtures and decisions that would give Mahathir a big nightmare. With Mahathir breathing down his neck and watching him like a hawk, and with a team of ultras in his cabinet waiting to pounce on him to prove that they are bluer than blue, any PM would be walking on trip wires. The agreement with Singapore, no matter how attractive and beneficial, is bound to come under attack before the ink is dry. For Najib to be able to walk away with it and smilingly is a sign that he is in control, whether by persuasion or sheer leadership, he must have his cabinet behind him. The agreement can be the most attractive and favourable to Malaysia in many counts, but if the cabinet is not behind him, it will never be accepted. If the cabinet is still stuck with the baggages of Mahathir, no Najib magic will work. I am still in a state of shock and disbelief that it is happening. And this bodes well for bilateral ties and economic cooperation between the two countries. It is a gigantic step forward and both sides can only benefit with more cooperations and joint ventures, bilateral or springing into the international arena. When both sides are willing to put aside the historical baggages and look ahead, there will be many more magical moments to come. There will be no need for any formal loose federation when the spirit of cooperation is there. Many of the unnecessary barriers could be lowered or remove to facilitate mutually beneficial activities. In Najib there is a new vibrancy in Malaysia. His mind is set on moving ahead rationally, for economic growth and development instead of fighting the shadows of past animosities. The unfruitful and unproductive politicking of the past is history. He has many tasks ahead and is wasting no time to kick start Malaysia into another economic powerhouse. If he is successful, he will easily outdo what Mahathir had done in the last 30 years in a fraction of that time. Now that the agreement has been signed, Najib is going home to face his doomsayers and the recalcitrants who would be pulling all the plugs under him. Would he be strong enough to stand on his feet and carry his dreams forward, intact?
Historically we have seen many beans answering to a calling to become missionaries. Many stayed that way throughout their lives, living frugally and accepting whatever that was provided for them. The monks lived off the alms while the priests lived off the parish or the church. These are devout believers with a heard of gold. Modern days have changed many things. Even monks who took vows to abstain from material comfort and wealth could defend their lavish lifestyles on grounds that things have changed, values have changed. Modern living and the pursuit of material well beings are compatible with monks and missionaries. Men and women with hearts of gold easily succumbed to modern lifestyles and became men and women with minds for gold. Charitable organisations, religious or secular, are not spared. The missionaries could not resist the temptation of greed and turn themselves into very rich mercenaries, and still claiming to be to a calling. They still wear their robes and badges of honour like the early missionaries who toiled for a cause without asking for more. Indeed time has changed, people have changed, moral and ethics have also shifted to new grounds. Hearts of gold are now minds full of gold.
A classified independent intelligence analysis of a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship concludes that the US authorised the torpedo assault, according to senior officials who cautioned that the assessment was based on their sense of the political dynamics there rather than hard evidence. The officials said they were increasingly convinced the US ordered the corvette Cheonan sunk to help secure the continued presence of American soldiers in South Korea and their bases in Okinawa. An official involved in the assessment said: 'There is very little doubt, based on what we know about the current state of the American leadership and the military.' Both the conclusion and the timing of the assessment could be useful to the US as it rallies world support against Pyongyang....Another WMD justification in the making. So far, the US and South Korean leaders have been careful never to link Mr Kim in public to the attack, which killed 46 crews. Officials said that was partly due to the absence of hard evidence, but also largely to avoid playing into America's hands by casting one of the worst attacks since the 1953 armistice as another piece of lore about the Kim family taking on South Korean and the West to justify the American presence. The American's propaganda surrounding that imagery has been used to sustain two generations of American military presence in South Korea and Japan, and the leading theory in the independent intelligence community is that the Cheonan's sinking was part of an effort to extend the American military presence. North Korea has denied involvement despite the presentation of forensic evidence last Thursday - including parts of a torpedo found in the wreckage - that experts from three countries said established the torpedo was launched from a North Korean submarine. Although officials would say little about what led them to conclude the US was directly involved, one factor appeard to be intelligence that Hilary Clinton was in Japan on a closed door discussion with the Japanese on the sinking. Both have vested interests to raise the tension in the Korean peninsula to justify the continued semi colonisation of South Korea. PS: The above article is an adulterated version of an article by David E Sanger in NYT and reprinted in the mypaper today. I just replaced words like North Korea and Kim Jong Il to the US, Americans and Clinton. How could an intelligence report coming out at this time and based on nothing but gut feel deserved such a prominent exposure and to be read by the gullible readers? _________________
When the Dalai Lama unashamely called himself a Marxist, believing in the goodness of Marxism which he said, 'has moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make money' it heralds a new tomorrow on the ascend. The moral degradation and irresponsibility of western Capitalism is acknowledged by the premier institutions that manufactured countless numbers of production line MBAs that are helping to destroy the world's financial institutions. Harvard's admission of guilt and wrongdoing is their planned introduction of a hippocratic code mirrored along the medical schools. It is meant to remind their graduates that making money immorally, indiscriminately and devoid of ethical considerations is simply bad. But many laughed at it as another meaningless gimmick that would not change the direction of things. Hippocratic code or hypocritic code, the message is clear. The western model of Capitalism and the western institutions of learning need a thorough revamp and what is sorely missing is the element of moral responsibility or ethics. When the Asian financial crisis hit, the western overlords landed in their shining chariots from heaven with a cane in their hands. Asian govts were treated with disgust as simpletons who could not manage their own finances, and harsh words and actions were the order of the day. But they say all things come in full circle. Now we have seen how the Americans messed up their country and the world despite the strings of top financial institutions churning out the 'best' financial gurus and working for the system. Now we have the European financial crisis when they mismanaged at a scale no less than the Americans and much worst that the simpleton Asian govts. What was noticeable is that there were no harsh words and forcing the sick govts to sign on the dotted line for recommendations to treat their woes. And the best part is that they are only pushing their problems to their future generations to pay. The bad part is that they have nothing to pay except for a few who strike black gold in the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. The Asians were lucky as countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Phillipines have abundant natural resources to pay for their temporary excesses. For naive Asian countries that swear by the western economic model, it is time to wake up and reassess where they are heading. It is like the communist doctrine of thesis, anti thesis and synthesis. Western Capitalism was the anti thesis of Communism. A new anti thesis to western Capitalism is needed to reach a synthesis. Blind following and apeing of the western model is inviting the same danger and awaiting the same fate.
As Dr Goh's body lays in Parliament House awaiting a state funeral, the people came from near and far to pay their last respects and tributes to a great and honourable man who had done so much for so little for his country. All the words were of the works that he had conceived and done. They remembered the times they met him when he was serving as a minister and busily doing what he had to do. And words would not be enough to describe all the things that Goh Keng Swee had done in his ministries. One word was starkingly absent. No one mentions anything about sacrifice. No one tells how men of his time, including senior civil servants, slogged through days and nights just to get the job done. If I can recollect, even when he was a minister, he had never complained about the sacrifice he made for the people and country. For he did not need to justify for himself or what he was doing. There were plenty of works to be done and they went about it like missionaries. A calling, a duty to the people and the country. And they did a damn good job for it without the glamour and the trappings of extravagant rewards to go with it. They were men and women on a mission. Dr Goh was an exceptional missionary.
Attacking a country’s currency, stock market or financial system, if done by a country is tantamount to a hostile act, an act of war. Done by a bunch of fund managers, it is ok. They can bring down the currency or financial system of a country and it is considered legitimate, part and parcel of investment strategies! And sovereign countries allow this to happen and could not do anything about it. Who are these fund managers? A bunch of crooks, or are they a cloak and dagger operation of some govts? The latter seems easier to handle while a bunch of crooks are free to do whatever damage they could to bring a country to its knee, to bankrupt countries. And the US is accusing China as a currency manipulator for controlling the exchange rate of Yuan. They want China to free the Yuan to allow the crooks to manipulate it under the guise that if it has a weakness they have the right to bring it down. With the crooks operating as an irresponsible wolf pack out to destroy countries and their financial system, it is better that countries return to the fixed exchange rate system to protect themselves. Mahathir in this sense has done the right thing. China is also doing the right thing to protect itself. Let the West and their freedom to act, irresponsibly, to destroy themselves at their own time. But Obama knows that this is wrong and trying to curb the madness in the finance industry inside the US.
In my article yesterday, the British universities are charging EU and their own citizens a flat fee of 3,290 pounds and international students at 21,400 pounds. In our case, we charge our citizens $7000 against $11,000 for international students. Two points to make from this comparison. The cost of education in British universities are much cheaper than ours as relatively their cost of living are higher. The second point is that they make international students pay 7 times what their citizens paid. This means that if the cost of education is double what their citizens are paying, guessing only, then each international students could be subsidizing 50% of the tuition fee of 5 UK/EU students. It is a case of looking after their citizens first. Let's take a look at the tuition cost and subsidies as published by the NUS website. For an Arts and Social Science course, the grant or subsidy is $19,000. This plus the $7,000 fee the students are paying will make up the full tuition cost, ie $26,000. And if we apply the same formula for the cost of education in the UK, the British are actually charging international students the full fees, with practically no subsidies. What about our international students. If the full cost is $26,000 and our international students are paying $11,000, then they should be receiving a subsidy of $15,000. According to the NUS website, the full fee for international students is $30,000 and they too get a $19,000 grant. I am not going to quibble why the full fee between citizen and non citizen has a $4,000 difference. But why do we need to offer international students a $19,000 grant? Could we charge international students a little more to subsidise our local students like what the British are doing? Of course we can't charge them the same 21,400 pounds or about $42,800 pa. We may also be world class but no foreigners will want to pay the same for a Singapore education if they could get a British one. Still we could raise it to maybe $15,000 or $20,000 if our education is really world class, and at a 50% discount to what the British universities are charging, it must still be a bargain. We could then charge our citizens much lesser, subsidised by international students instead of the govt subsidising international students to a tune of $19,000.
I just read this from the Telegraph. From Telegraph “Germany’s ‘desperate’ short ban triggers capital flight to Switzerland” A year ago, Germany’s financial regulator BaFin warned that the toxic debts of the country’s banks would blow up “like a grenade” once hidden losses from the credit crisis caught up with them. An internal memo at the time showed that BaFin feared write-offs might top 800bn (£688bn), twice the reserves of Germany’s financial institutions. Nobody paid much attention. But the regulator’s shock move on Tuesday night to stop short trading on banks, insurers, eurozone bonds as well as a ban credit default swaps (CDS) on sovereign debt has left markets wondering whether the slow fuse on Germany’s banking system has finally detonated. BaFin spoke of “extraordinary volatility” and said CDS moves were jeopardising “the stability of the financial system as a whole”. It is unsettling that the BaFin should opt for such drastic measures a week after EU leaders thought they had overawed markets with a 750bn rescue package and direct purchases of Greek, Portuguese and Spanish debt by the European Central Bank. BaFin’s heavy-handed move seems to proclaim that the rescue has failed.... The big fund managers think they are very smart in shorting the Euro or any stocks or currencies in a big way to make money. Such action is an equivalent to a run on the banks. It is a deliberate attempt in creating fear which could precipitate into a crisis while govts and regulators are trying to solve the problem. Those involved in such activities should be arrested for treason. The sentiment in the stock market is now so bad that everyone is staying out. The cumulative actions of the big speculators will destroy the world's financial system if not put to a stop. They are criminals!
Singapore citizens pay about $7000 tuition fee per year at NUS for year 2010/11. International students pay about $11,000. We consider ourselves very lucky to receive a tertiary education in one of the top universities in the world. The tuition fee for Imperial College of London, the top 3 university in UK and ranked 5th in the world by Times is 3,290 pounds for UK and EU citizens. For international students the fee is 21,400 pounds for an Engineering course. Am I right to say that a UK or EU citizen is paying lesser for a world class education in Imperial College than our citizens in NUS? The exchange rate is S$2 to a pound. In fact practically all the universities in UK is charging the same tuition fee for UK and EU citizens.
If you are short and naked, and a seller in stocks, the German Stock Exchange will ban you from trading. You can be short but not naked, or naked but not short. Or better to be tall. The action by the German Stock Exchange to curb wild sellings led to another rout yesterday. Edward Krudy reported in New York that the SEC was treating the symptoms instead of the cause of the failures of the stock exchange. The stop gap measures of having circuit breakers are not dealing with the cause of the big plunge in the market. They must go after the high frequency traders. All of them are treating the symptoms and not the cause. The real cause is the problem of being too big. In the past, local syndicates were considered too big to manipulate the stock markets and were watched like a hawk. They were monitored and policed very closely to prevent them from doing mischiefs and harm. But these syndicates are like a little mouse compare to the hedge funds and investment banks with their billions to thrash around. These are the biggest threats to the stability of stock markets, currencies and countries. They could ruin them by their concerted effort to sell down markets or currencies and destroy a country and its economy. Then the investors have suddenly realised that Goldman Sachs was making billions of profits while their clients were losing billions following their recommendations. Why? It's elementary. Conflict of interest. Investments banks must not be allowed to make recommendations and trade for themselves and their clients. Period. All the regulators must wake up from their stupor to rein in the big funds and banks from their destructive selling and buying activities. The big funds have a huge unfair advantage and are hundreds of times more dangerous and destructive than the local small syndicates. Would anything be done? I doubt so. And stock markets across the world will continue with their roller coaster rides, dictated by the big funds. And the victims are the small innocent investors.
Another jumper missed the train, or the train missed the jumper. The jumper was on the track but train stopped in time. Jumper hauled up and sent to hospital with minor injuries. Looks like the jumpers are ever ready to smash at the train as long as the sophisticated screen doors are not installed. The multi million dollar system is still waiting for full delivery, or maybe SMRT are monitoring its effectiveness before commissioning the whole works. Actually a cheaper and easier solution can be found and be implemented instantly. Why can’t the trains be made to slow down to a speed that would not kill as it near the station? Is that so difficult to implement? How much time will it lost, 10 sec per station? The little time lost can be made up with a small increase in speed on its way to the next station, and no time would be lost at all. And once the jumpers know that the train speed is slow enough not to kill, they would not risk jumping down to get injured only to live. See, no need to spend multi million dollars and complicated system. And there is a high recurrence and maintenance cost to foot in the long run. Just a little procedural change and training were all that is needed. This is common sense and the same principle is being applied to road speed. Why so many roads are limited at 50 kph and the expressways at 90 kph? Safety, and to minimise road accidents of course. A slowing down of train speed before hitting the station could solve the jumper problem so easily and cheaply. They better pay me for consultancy fee. I don’t offer ingenious ideas for free.
Is Silviu Ionescu a typical example of the character and integrity of a diplomat? If he is, then the whole diplomatic corp is a sham. How could a man of such low integrity and despicable conduct be chosen by a country to be their representative? And presumably he is the best that Romania can find. It is either their system is so flawed, or the quality of their civil servants is suspect. And if they do not bring him to justice it will reflect very badly on what Romania is all about. On the diplomatic corp here, what are their views and stand on this Ionescu incident? So far they have been very quiet. It would be nice if the head of the diplomatic community take a stand to distance themselves from this obnoxious man whom they wined and dined and embraced as one of them. If they still think that Ionescu is one of them and a good one, then the diplomatic corp will become a joke in town.
The debate continues. Actually it is a very healthy exercise to talk about this issue as it affects practically every school going child and the parents. And the outcome will have a very significant impact on the future of the generations of children to come, and what Singapore will be. At the moment the tussel is between those for and those against MTL with some in between. Both camps have strong reasons to argue for their cases. In between there is a middle camp that accepts MTL but wants it to be made simpler or easier. Ng Eng Hen and his team would now have to sweat it out to come out with a compromise solution to appease the parties. I doubt that in this case they would dare to use the compulsory sword and just decide and make the people accept it like CPF Life, Medisave, Minimum Sum etc etc. Taking such an option will be very costly politically. Whatever the final decision on this, let's hope it is a wise one. The unfortunate thing is that not everyone is going to be happy about it no matter how it turns out. This is clearly an area that is not white or black. Maybe he can fall back on his policy as a long term one as the consequences of the policy will take generations to bear fruits, be it sweet, sour or poisonous. Only the future will tell.
"A system may arise in which the dominant minority... arrogate to itself not only the openings to the seats of power, but also the avenues by which individuals can fit themselves out for such positions of power. The dominant minority is thus able to point out those outside of the charmed circle just do not have the necessary qualifications to be admitted to the elite group." Dr Goh Keng Swee I copied the above quotes from Loh Chee Kong's article posted in Corporate Observer. In the same article there are several quotes that are worth readin, to freshen up from the staleness of the new mantras that violate the wisdom of the old. Reading his speech and the quotes gives one the impression that he had seen it coming and was warning us of how things could turn out in the future. His reticence after retirement could say a lot.
I read Gilbert Goh’s post about CPF demanding him to pay for the shortfall in his Medisave account for a sum of $16,600 as his contribution for being self employed. All self employed, regardless of age, must contribute to the Medisave for as long as they are alive and working. Isn’t this a cock policy when people are starting to collect their CPF savings at 55 and some delayed till 62? Why should people who continue to work after 55 be expected to contribute to the Medisave when they are in a better position than those who have retired and not working? These self employed are economically active and earning an income to support themselves and no need to draw down or depending on their savings to support themselves. According to the Medisave Act, there is no exception. So if one is working at 100 years old, the old hag must still contribute to his Medisave. How outrageous. But no one is complaining. Like the story goes, when they came for the Jews, I kept quiet coz I am no Jew. When they came for the Christians, I kept quiet, coz I ain’t no Christian. When they came for the Commie, I kept quiet coz I ain’t no Commie. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to speak up for me.
Those were hard times. People lived in tiny cubicles, many people inside a room, one room for a family and often more than a family, with share common kitchens and toilets. Goh Keng Swee went out to move these people to HDB flats, where a family or maybe an extended family could live in a flat of 3 rm or 4rm. The strange thing then was that no one ever mumbled or complained that the flats were expensive or not affordable. That was a non issue. The flats were simply affordable. No argument, no need to put one's foot down to insist anyway. Today, the flats are affordable, still. Because the govt said so. But the people don't think so. And the argument is pissing off a lot of buyers who could not afford the flats. But they have to accept the govt's argument that the flats are indeed affordable. That settles the argument though deep inside the people's heart they knew that the flats are very expensive and very unaffordable to some. And it is still an outstanding issue that is going round and round. This is the real difference between the govt of Goh Keng Swee's time and the govt of today. They did what was necessary and what was right, and the people believed and were grateful to the govt. And no need to argument until the face turns green, with statistics, when deep down the people knew what is and what is not affordable. Housing was a success story. Can't really say of the present as the consequences of high prices will only tell some way down the road. Buying a flat then was a happy thing, a roof over the head. Today, buying a flat comes with a big debt and big worries. PS. I am talking about buying a HDB flat. Buying private or landed property is a happy thing. The buyer will simply plonked down his millions in cash. No need to worry about big mortgages to pay.
The financial crisis started in the US led to the revelation that several of the financial institutions in the US,including AIA and investment banks, were too big to fail. When their turns came to fall, trillions of dollars were pumped in to save them. Then the wise men in the US got wiser and pronounced that the mantra of being big and strong is dangerous and these giants need to be dismantled. It is another case of putting too many eggs into a few baskets. Obama and his boys are working hard towards a new direction, the breaking up of big financial giants and regulating their activities, including manufacturing of toxic notes and products. Today there is big news that Prudential is mounting a historical take over of its Asian rival AIA to the tune of US$35.5b. It is billions, not millions, and would probably create another giant that is too big to fail. And the good news or encouraging news is that eager beavers are queueing up to have a stake in the proposed takeover. Such juicy news is always greeted with excitement than with suspicion and caution. Below is a quote from TimesOnline, ‘A number of large Asian investors are believed to be waiting in the wings to bankroll Prudential if its existing shareholders get cold feet on the deal.' Thiam is believed to have been offered personal assurances from the Singapore government that the state investment funds GIC and Temasek are willing to provide billions of pounds. I am deeply concerned that the funds lining up for a piece of the cake are Asian funds and not Western funds. Why are the Western funds shying away from such a lucrative investment? Is it that they did not have the dole, or did they know things that the Asian funds did not? When the too big to fail American institutions were in deep shit, they had the US Govt and the American public to foot the bill. In the event that an international institution like PruAIA is in deep shit, who is going to do the bail out? Asian Govts? A deal that is too good to be true must always look at with guarded skepticism. It is only a good gamble when one has a lot of money to place on the table, and can afford to lose.
Jay Chou is so famous that his concerts are fully sold out and the black market price goes as high as $1,500. His fans are going gaga over him and his song writing skills. He isn't that good looking, they admitted. Neither does he write or sing in English. His is an mandopop icon and have millions of followers snapping up his albums and posters. Jay Chou is a beneficiary of our MTL programme. This is also applicable to the Malay and Indian pop idols. Without the MTL, the fans would not be able to know what he writes or sings. The fans would probably be chasing after Linkin Park or Michael Jackson. But with their understanding and appreciation of another language, they could follow him and want to be like him. Without MTL, the Asian pop culture would at most be within a smaller circle in China, Hongkong and Taiwan. Our Channel 8 would eventually lose its viewership. It is a vicious cycle. It feeds and grows on one another. The fans of pop culture willingly and happily wanted to learn the language and sing the songs. Many English educated professionals are enjoying their learning process to read Chinese characters when they croon Mandarin, Hokien and Canto pops in the Karaoke joints. When learning is fun, when there is a desire and motivation to learn, there is no compulsion to make them want to learn MTL.They willingly want to learn. The MOE may want to include pop culture as part of the learning process for MTL, make MTL cool and fun and enjoyable, at least at the primary and secondary school level. This would give the young a good foundation to start with. Trying to learn MTL using traditional method and ancient poems or literature may not be that attractive to the modern young. A different approach to learning MTL may change the mindset.
I am not talking about the academically less inclined students, and neither am I talking about those who have to struggle just to pass their MTL. I am freakish by those that are mentally unsound and living in our midst, our close neighbours. The worst kind, and waiting to destroy the lives of the innocent neighbours, are those that are prone to violence. There have been many cases reported, while many suffered in silence, fearing that reporting will only make things worst. Many live in constant fear of how a mad man could strike them or their children in the corridors, or may burn down their homes. So far we have not seen many ugly incidents yet. The worst were killer litters that sent a few to hospitals. Some came to blows and some got stabbed, and likely some could have been dead. The spate of child killings in China is a stark reminder to those responsible not to take the mentally challenged lightly, that they were just a nuisance. Killer litters were also a nuisance. Getting hit by a falling litter is as good as hitting jackpot. A confluence of timing must be so perfect to make a hit. Living near a mentally challenged person who is proned to violence is a different proposition. The likelihood of a strike is so much real, only waiting to happen. Who is responsible for allowing residents to live in fear and in danger of being beaten or maimed by a mad man? The MP, the police, the town council or the resident’s committee? Or it is the responsibility of the residents themselves to be alert and keep away from harm themselves? Anyone bother to take a proactive look into such situations and take steps to prevent them from happening? Or are those responsible waiting for things to happen before they will act, just like the killer incidents when skulls were fractured and the victims in the critically ill list? Or are they waiting for a killing spree before they wake up from their sleep? Having a mentally challenged person who is violent next door is more dangerous then a walk in the jungle.
The Straits Times headlined, Passing of a Spore titan. And many other local media also reported on the passing of Dr Goh Keng Swee. The same news is being reported by overseas media but treated in a little careless or callous way. And their headlines read, Dr Goh Keng Swee dies, Goh Keng Swee dies, Dep PM Goh Keng Swee dies, …. There is nothing wrong or incorrect to say Goh Keng Swee dies. But reading it gives one a different feel of the event. He dies, you die, instead of he passes away, departed, called home to be with the Lord, you see, the latter sounds so different or at least polite. Imagine the media starts to report the king dies, the president dies, so and so’s father or mother dies, or the king is dead…. I still like to use more pleasant and civil terms like pass away, passing away and better still, called home to be with the Lord.
In the MediaCorp tribute to Dr Goh Keng Swee broadcast over the its channels yesterday, three words stood out prominently to describe this giant of our founding fathers. He was known to all as an economist and steep in the values of thrift and frugality. He was saving cost everywhere and in everything, even in his own personal ways. He was said to prefer to walk several blocks to save a couple of dollars which people may find it amusing in a time when spending tens of thousands for a cooking class in Paris is just a weekend past time. Maybe the country had underpaid him at a time when money was not easy to earn. Maybe he too did not see it right to pay himself as much as he would want it to be. Maybe when he was around, extravagance was frown upon to the extent that permanent secretaries were spoken highly of for driving around in a small Japanese jalopy. That was the ethos of the years of Goh Keng Swee. He spoke about watching out for poison in investment and economic enterprises. Would he be worried looking at how we invited hedge funds and big investment banks to steam roll into our financial industry, adopting controversial systems that the Americans knew were dangerous and have started to curb these practices? Would he be angry with the poison that the people were fed in the forms of toxic notes and worthless papers called derivatives? Would he allow these to go on through repackaging and not called poison but something else, and let the people have it as long as they know the danger, that the danger is explained to them? With the passing of Goh Keng Swee, would we be bless with another careful thinker to guard our national interests and remove or keep poison out of our system? The unfortunate thing is that history does not throw up great men too often for the benefit of human beans. Often, after the passage of a blazing meteor it is followed by a long interval of darkness. Singapore has the exceptional good fortune of having a cluster of good men during its early years of independence. With the passing of Goh Keng Swee, we have yet to find another equally able and gifted group of individuals of their calibre to sustain our good run into the future.
Dr Goh passed away this morning at the age of 91. He was famed for being the architect of Singapore and for laying a sound economic foundation that allowed Singapore to be what it is today. And many people now can claim credit when the tough part was done by Dr Goh and his generation of leaders. He was a great mover of people and resources. One minute silence for this grand old man of Singapore.
So the Medisave minimum sum will be raised from $32k to $37k. The reason, Singaporeans are living longer and healthcare cost are going up. So who wants to live longer? What this Medisave thing is about is that Singaporeans who are strong and healthy will have to pay first, to the amount of $37k. Whether they use it or not is a separate matter. Any statistics to say how many will use it? But this is a good policy. No one will know when they will fall seriously ill and need money to pay the expensive and ever increasing medical bill. I would like to recommend that the amount in the Medisave be raised to as high as possible. Then no one will complain that they cannot afford to pay their medical bills or that hospitalisation is too expensive. With a big saving in the Medisave, hospital bills will definitely be affordable. No need to worry about how medical cost keeps going up. Just make sure to top up the Medisave Account.
Asia Media Journal, 13 May 2010 Hong Kong – Singapore’s future as a regional media hub is under threat as a result of new government rules for the pay-TV industry, said the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA), which represents the interests of 130 content producers, pay-TV platform operators and equipment-and-service suppliers across 16 Asian markets. The above extracts showed how a stupid decision could snowball to bigger problems and requiring ever bigger intervention by the govt. And this thing is not going to stop and the international players are not going to say, 'Enough, let's move on.' Maybe the three telco should be merged into one to avoid more problems coming our way.
The communist ideology talks about an utopia in the horizon waiting for the workers. All workers will be paid almost equally in that place where the fruits of labour will be equally shared by everyone, from the top to the bottom. But such an utopia will never happen given the fact that human beans are flawed and will never overcome the seduction of power and greed. What would happen before utopia was not explained in the communist bible. It just assumed that utopia will be next. We have seen how China and Russia and other communist states are progressing. What Marx could not imagine is that before utopia, the greed and power crazy communist leaders would have usurped power and wealth for their own benefits, and more shocking is that they will take to the path of capitalism. The worker leaders will still boast of their humble working class background, to give the impression that they were workers too, before. What they did not say is that they are now rich beyond the workers imagination. They have actually turned themselves into rich capitalists and landlords, the very people that the workers chopped their heads off during the revolution. Before utopia is capitalism where the capitalists and landlords will amass wealth and fortune as in a capitalist system. Income gap will continue to widen to a point of no return. And this will set the stage for another communist uprising and head chopping. And the cycle will go on and on. Utopia is only an ideal state that is never achieveable given the nature of humankind. Communism will lead to capitalism and capitalism to communism. It is a vicious cycle.
Why force our children to struggle to learn a foreign language? The language is foreign since my dad and my ah kong had given up using it at home. We are truly native English speakers. Yes, many Singaporeans are truly using English as their mother tongue. And Chinese, I am not sure about Malay or Indian dialects, is really a foreign language. It is better to do away with this foreign mother tongue. The whole country will benefit from such a change definitely. There is a lot of economy of scale and savings not having to repeat and translate so many languages all at the same time. First thing to do is to remove all the signboards with different languages. This should be easy. And we do not need so many translators, especially in Parliament. As for MTL teachers fearing the loss of their jobs, have no fear. The tourist industry is booming, and there are two casinos, and they definitely need a lot of translators and interpretors. Let's see how and what the change will bring about. Our children need not read all those funny tales from dunno where which they cannot relate to. They can truly and happily enjoy Cinderalla, Snow White, and sing London Bridge is falling down. And the youngsters will be glued to classics like Robin Hood and King Arthur and Merlin the magician. What Wu Song and Pan Jin Lian? Never heard of, so uncool. And yes, there will be Davy Crockett, Buffalo Bill, Superman and Batman, all great classics. Not forgetting Harry Porter and his little friends. As for the well heeled and educated adults, talking about Shakespeare or Italian opera will not draw a blank. They will be so comfortable when all the sophisticated citizens sit in the Theatre at the Bay to enjoy a night of high class performance. No noisy wayang and wayang kulit to annoy them. Their taste for good quality entertainment could be well satisfied with the casinos bringing all the world class acts from New York and London. I am already feeling so high and sophisticated just writing this stuff. And the schools should just simply teach English. Such an easy language to learn and oh, so marvellously English. As for second language, let the parents choose an easier language if MTL is too foreign. I think French is equally easier and fun to learn, and so romantic when in Paris. Media Corp could save some money by closing down the rest of the Channels leaving just Channel 5 and CNA. Mike Lee and Jack Neo and all the pretty Channel 8 ladies can go to Taiwan and Hongkong or China to sell their skills. Gurmit and his gang no longer have to labour to try to please the uncool Channel 8 viewers. They can be truly themselves acting in Channel 5, and no need to speak funny. But there still need to have more changes when we do away with MTL. All those difficult to pronounce names like Tekka, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Choa Chu Kang, Sungei Buloh, Tekong etc etc must change to something like riverdale or morningdale, these simply sound so good. We can have Chicago for Choa Chu Kang, Houston for Hougang, Tennysee for Toa Payoh. Wow, I stay in the town of Manhattan East. Where is that, oh, it used to be Gu Chia Chwee, but since torn down and rebuilt. And what kind of name is Changi Airport? How about Kennedy Airport? No this one taken. Obama International Airport will do. And stupid names like ECP, AYE, PIE, etc can be renamed, Ellington Highway, Arlington Expressway, Parkingson Expressway, hmmm, so nice. With a change of policy in MTL, we can change the whole society dramatically to whatever we want. And yes, our children will be happy calling themselves Megan and Oregan. And all the people from Asia will flock to this new city/country called New York or Paris of the East, to learn English and enjoy being a little like Europeans and Americans. I think we have a good case to do away with MTL.
This is the headline of an article in the Today paper. Does the govt expect a less robust response to the red herring, or was it a red herring? The reaction from the public was serious enough for Hsien Loong and Eng Hen to call a press conference to explain the govt's stand. And what is the stand, no change is weightage but change in methodology to cater for different abilities of the students. This is the tricky part. How to implement a system that does not change the weightage while accepting that the grades will be different. Would all be given A grades but at different standards? Or some will still fail and some will still score? And how will the standard and weightage be maintained? We can expect a lot of changes coming this way and possibility more reactions from the public.
When I posted my view on the death penalty I expect many people to disagree with me. Fair. There is a very nice young man waiting in the gallows and many are pleading that his life be spared. I too would want to plead for him as well. We are after all human beans and do understand what is compassion and what it means to take the life of someone and how their loved ones feeling the grief and pain. Am I that ruthless and wicked? Sometimes the saints are more deadly and wicked. And in this instance this is exactly so. Saving one life may lead to more adventurers taking their chances here and destroying more innocent lives by exposing them to the destructive nature of drug addiction. As AuntieLucia has said, we must think of the judges' position as well. It is not an easy job to put the hangman's noose on anyone. They too are human beans. The death penalty is not put up to kill. It is put up to protect our citizens. Yes, if our loved ones got into such a fix we will have to talk softly and not take such a tough stand. This is called vested interest or having a stake in the issue. But when one is a disinterested party and looking at it objectively, which is a better alternative? I still stand to support the death penalty. As for people being fixed up, let the court find out the truth. So far death penalty is given only to those that are found guilty without an element of doubt. That is the job of the court. What I would want the govt to do is to use a loud hailer and tell the whole world, without fear nor apologies, that drug trafficking means sure death in paradise. Make it absolutely loud and clear to make sure that no one can miss this message. And the airlines be made to made an announcement about the death sentence before touching down at Changi. And this can be followed by an advisory for those carriers or traffickers to dump their drugs into the toilet bowl before exiting the aircraft if they do not want to be hanged. Let that be their last chance. The same procedure can be applied in all the check points. Let the whole world knows that we mean business. I think this will be a kinder thing to do. The death penalty will end up hanging no one. But once we get soft, we may end up hanging many more and seeing many of our citizens destroyed or harmed. Our message is simple. No drugs.
I have no issue with Shanmugam and the Govt's tough stand on the death penalty for drug trafficking and kidnapping. Everyone coming into Singapore must know that death is what they get if they play with drugs and kidnapping. The other crime that demands a death sentence is terrorism. The terrorists, the drug traffickers, the kidnappers, are not nice people playing with toys and water pistols. They are out to destroy lives. I can understand the little softness in a human bean to want to be kind. But make sure kindness is given to the right people. People who show kindness to the evil and wicked, the killers, including drug traffickers, are evil without knowing it. They think they are kind and all goodness without knowing that their kindness is going to cause more evil and more suffering. There must be zero tolerance for such crimes here. Period. Let the whole world knows that this is what we will do to such crimes and let those who know and still want to dabble with it here know, without a single doubt, that death will follow. Only then will this island be freed from such crimes, or at least minimal occurrence. The criminals who chose to commit such criminal acts came with their eyes open. They knew what they are in for. They chose to play with fire and they must know that they will be burnt by fire. PS. Any compromise or softness on this tough stand will only encourage more criminals to try their luck here. The people who are fighting for the cause of such criminals are encouraging more to come. They are in a way accomplices, advocates of such criminal acts.
Haven’t you Singaporeans got the message? What message? Alright let me tell you all in plain simple Singlish,’No Govt cannot do.’ Yes, all the so called privatization for efficiency, competition for the good of consumers, are plain bullshit. Singapore needs the Govt to run all the major services, from hospitals to telecommunications, to transport, childcare and burial services. If you need further proof of how important and effective the govt is in providing fair and affordable services, without being held at ransom, just look at the recent World Cup fiasco will do. If the telcos were one, if own by the Govt, we would not have to pay through our noses, paying more than anyone else, and Fifa standing there, high and haughty, telling us take it or leave it. Let’s petition the Govt to take back all the organizations and services that have been privatized. We need the Govt to run this place efficiently and cheaply. Unless you think the hospital fees are cheap, public transport are cheap, watching football is cheap…HDB is also privatized and you know the story. Just claiming that it is affordable does not mean so. Take back HDB and return it as a statutory board. The HDB of the past was a pride of Singaporeans, providing the people with cheap and good housing. Singaporeans are forever grateful to the HDB when it was a statutory board. Need more reasons why we cannot do without the Govt running this place? Need more reasons why privatization is bad, why competition is bad?
The debate on mother tongue continues. And it boils down to how difficult and time consuming it is to learn a language that is of less functional value. Teach maths, science, innovation, creativity, moral values, integrity etc etc except mother tongue. When we simplify our thinking and reduce our minds to a machine, we will fail to think through an issue holistically. Is teaching the mother tongue so simple, just about an emotional attachment, about racial identity, about culture...? Come on all you silly buggers, despite all the education that you received, can you be so blinded by your individual interests to look into a pin hole and say there is the problem, a pin head? Teaching a language encompasses everything that comes with that language, its history and culture, the moral values, the ethics, the collective wisdom, a sense of being, a moral and historical compass, and everything, including creativity, innovation, science, integrity, morality and all that is about living and life. It is not simply about communication, a tool, a function or dysfunctional tool. A human bean without a language and all that comes with it, no matter how intelligent, is nothing but a machine. Living with just the English Language will determine a person's make up and a set of values, culture, philosophy, history and all that comes with it. It applies to other languages as well. Do not simply discard a language and say anything will do. A language is not simply a language. A language is the living soul of a civilisation.
I wrote an article ‘The regulators say Yes’ to expose how dangerous the big funds are when they acted for their selfish good and with impunity. They are untouchable as the regulators believe that they needed the big funds to turn the wheels of fortune, to move the stock markets and lubricate the financial industry with their ingenious products and huge liquidity. The regulators became willing accomplices, appeasing the big funds in all their demands. Goh Eng Yeow wrote an article in the ST about learning from the Asian financial crisis when the speculators raided the markets for a big killing and almost bankrupt several countries. He is advocating that more regulations and safeguards be introduced to limit the irresponsible acts of the speculators. Actually he meant the big funds. Small speculators cannot do much harm on their own. They could only if they gang up and work in unison. Fortunately this is rare. On the other hand, the big funds, a handful of them working together can destroy a whole market of even bankrupt countries. And their untouchable status, like diplomatic immunity, only encourages them to turn wild. The ruthlessness of big financial institutions has manifested itself in all the major and minor financial centres, and Obama in particular is trying to do something to curb their extravagant and irresponsible ways. They need to be cut into smaller bits to be effective. They must be laws and regulations to limit how big they can become before they become too big to fail, and too big and dangerous. Then of course the regulators need to look in the mirror and ask how much of the crimes were part of their own doing, inviting the wolves into the dining room and dining with them. If the regulators continue to sleep with the devils, and probably benefitting from the association, this rewarding relationship will compromise their objectivity and moral responsibility to doing what is necessary for the good of the system and the investors at large.
The older generations may still recall this Hollywood creation called Charlie Chan. I think he was some kind of a Chinaman detective with the Fu Manchu moustache, slit eyes and everything of a stereotypical Chinaman except the actor. Charlie Chan was always acted by a caucasian. In those days it was difficult to find a Chinese actor to play a lead role in any Hollywood films or TV serials. I am wondering how the movies of Charlie Chan would be received today. I suspect there will be cries of racism. In the Today paper the Australian Chinese are crying foul again. The Australians are making a film about an Australian Chinese war hero during WWI. The soldier, Billy Sing, was a very successful sniper who killed more than 200 enemy soldier in the Gallipoli campaign, and was a decorated war hero. Isn't it generous for the Australians to want to make a movie of an Australian Chinese soldier? Now why the outcry? Oh, they could not find a Chinese actor for the lead role and it went to a white actor. I just hope they did not put a set of Fu Manchu moustache on this Billy Sing, and to make it more authentic, an additional pigtail will be just fine. : )
Heard someone said it is so cheap, only $1 per game! Really? $1 of what? How is this $1 derived? Fee divided by 4.8m people? Or fee divided by the 10% or so football fans? Then do we know how much are the rest of the world paying? How much are the Germans or Japanese paying? These are the more sensible people who would not throw their money away simply at any price? Or for that matter, how much are the football crazy nations like Brazil, England and Argentina paying, using the same formula of course? Then there are the countries that are in the competition and have more reasons to want to watch the games, how much are they paying? Cannot tell, cannot tell! Trade secret, malu? Another case of overpaying? All CEOs of corporations, public or private, have a social and fiduciary duty to make sure that money is well spent and not throw away just because it is other people's money. There must be accountability. Maybe prudence is no good. Yes this must be the reason, since we are making our consumers pay for as much as they can afford, no need to be prudent. Pay any price and just charge it to the consumers.
Yabba dabba doo! We have the World Cup on tele! Time for big celebration. Otherwise Singapore will have go through a month of mourning. The more serious cases will suffer from withdrawal symptoms. That was how dangerously close we got to not having live World Cup football to watch. Kind of scary. Luckily someone has some sense of proportion to understand the severity of the issue and get the deal done. Never mind, football is a game of a ball being kicked around. Never mind how much. No need to know. It is money well spent, every cent of it. We have triumphed in our darkest hour. No one can deprive us of this habit of watching football. With a little money all problems can be solved. Thank you Fifa, for being so kind and generous. Thank you for fixing our craving needs. PS. Maybe someone run through the numbers in the computers and find that paying whatever to make Fifa happy is still cheaper than having Singaporeans going overseas to watch footballs. Singapore, the city that never sleeps, may become a ghost town.
Shops catering to the love of mother are doing a roaring business these two days. Mother and motherly love sre in everyone's mind. The Sunday Times has this touching article on Madam Tay Et and her 21 year old young Kevin who is struck by muscular dystrophy. Kevin has been bedridden for the past 11 years and is reduced to nearly skin and bone. His life depends on his mother. His mother did everything for him, including brushing his teeth or changing his sleeping position. The intensity of human love knows no bounds and particularly stronger in a mother child relationship. Mother is there, always sacrificing, for their children. The human milk of kindness is not limited to just humans, and animals too can benefit from it. Many are pampering their pets with things that the average human beans can never think of. Spas, daycare, fancy food and cafes, foie gras and strollers. We are bettering ourselves from living harmoniously with all races to living harmoniously and lovingly with animals. Some even regard animals as families. And some consider animals better than children who could turn out to be spoilt brats, cruel and ungrateful. And there is this picture of two ladies pushing a beautiful pram with tender loving care. And inside sits a beautifully dressed up shih tzu. They must be part of this new family composition. The shih tzu must be calling the elderly lady grandma. And the lady must have introduced the shih tzu to her friends as my baby. Somehow I got this strange sense of sadness flowing through my veins. I could not pin point what it is, but it won't go away. It can't be deja vu for sure.
There are now wild cries about what happened on Thursday in Wall Street when the stockmarket plunged nearly 1000 pts because of a likely error trade that triggered the machines to do the necessary. The stock market went into a tailspin leaving the traders and Regulators terrified but not knowing why and what to do. They are still trying to find out. They may have known the answer but refusing to face the truth. The truth is that the whole stock market system is mismanaged and completely flawed, and is a system of fraud to favour the big crooks. And all because the Regulators say Yes. The Regulators say Yes to the crooks and scoundrels who had them by the neck and telling them or dictating to them what to do. The crooks say we want to play very big and need big limits to trade and the Regulators, say Yes. The crooks say we want to trade very big and with no cost, no commission, maybe a little pittance for the Regulators, and the Regulators say Yes. The crooks say they want to use machines, high speed computers to do their tradings and the Regulators say Yes. The crooks say they want an open trading system to enable their machines to hook to the Regulators machines, to have all the information of traders in the market, the buy and sell orders, etc, and the Regulators say Yes. And the Regulator dismantled their proprietary system and installed an open system for the crooks to play. The crooks say they should not be penalised for using unfair means and unfair advantage against the small traders, and the Regulators say Yes. The crooks say in such trading they cannot be sure if they buy and sell to themselves which is against the rules and regulations of trading, and the Regulators say Yes. The crooks say in some of the things they do it could not be transparent, trading in the dark side, and the Regulators say Yes. The crooks say they want to create plenty of worthless papers like CDOs and all kinds of derivatives to sell to the investors, with no guarantees, and the Regulators say Yes. The crooks say the investors may not know what derivatives are all about and the Regulators must train them, and the Regulators say Yes. The crooks say if the investors refuse to trade in derivatives, the Regulators must force them to trade in derivatives, and the Regulators say Yes. And the crooks say because they are trading big, they want to have lesser regulations or deregulations, and the Regulators say Yes. And the crooks also want to short the market, sell short, even bringing down prices of good stocks at will, and the Regulators say Yes. But it is against the rules to sell short. The crooks say they can borrow scrips to settle, and technically not shorting. They want the Regulators to create a system for scrips borrowing, and the Regulators say Yes. And the regulators did not know why Dow crashed on Thursday? And the American public suddenly are so much wiser, including the professors, and are crying foul and wanting an overhaul of the system determined by the crooks and approved by the Regulators who say Yes to the crooks.
Have no doubts about it, the Apple is rotten to the core. The superficial skin deep good look cannot hold out for long. The subprime crisis, the toxic notes, CDOs/CDS, the heavenly pay out to the bankers and finance crooks, to the lawyers, the high debt of living on borrowed money, and the whole financial system, are rotten deep inside. The stock market and the financial system need an immediate overhaul. What happened yesterday is not going to go away. It is saying it will come back again and again. The super computers and programme assisted tradings shall rule again. They are the best inventions, together with derivatives for the stock markets. Any silly country that still salivating on how great the American and western system is needs to have a reality check. To continue to ape the Americans in their wayward and irresponsible ways is a sure road to the abyss of financial destruction. What I am saying is pure bullshit. The American system is the best system to be incorporated to all the countries around the world. Then we can have everyone being as rich as the Americans and spending like the Americans. The world needs to support the Big Apple and make sure it remains pretty looking.
There was a report yesterday that a property developer is slashing its prices by 15%. This must be the result of pressure from the Chinese govt to bring down the prices. Wonder if this developer is private or govt owned. If it is a private developer then it is wrong for the Chinese govt to make them slash prices. But maybe they can do it in an authoritarian state. But this will interfere adversely with market forces and market pricing. And developers will not be able to make more grotesque profits. The Chinese govt must understand that private developers are only there to make profits. Making them slashed prices is bad. But if this is a state developer, then there are reasons to do so as the govt has to manage the housing prices to make them affordable to the people. The Chinese govt will have to tussle between making housing affordable or pricing as high as possible as long as the buyers can afford to pay. The latter is obviously good as they will have more money to raise their own pay unless they are contented to be paid lesser than the private sector. At the moment it seems that they are willing to suppress the market forces and sacrifice their own pay for the good of the people. Who says authoritarian govt is bad? When they know what is good for the people and act accordingly, even a dictatorship is good. But when the govt acts against the interest of the people, even western democracy is bad.
Dow was trading weak yesterday but still within reasonable limits until a sudden plunge one and a half hour before closing. This is almost a 10% drop in a day and panic was in the air. It quickly recovered 650 pts to close at 10520, losing 347.8 pts. Though buy orders kicked in after the sharp plunge, the sentiment was badly hit. It was reported that it could be due to a trading error and programmed sell orders just kicked in to complete the massacre. Many people must have lost a lot of money during that 20 minutes. The stock Accenture fell from $42 to 4c but recovered to close losing only $1. Nasdaq has announced that it would cancel all trades between 2.40pm and 3pm on grounds that they were obviously error trades. What we have seen is the destructiveness of programme trading. When machine takes over, they can kill without any qualms. Programme trading in itself is an unfair advantage in favour of those with cash and machines. It is better that this process be curtailed and remove from the system before it inflicts more severe damages to the financial systems around the world. No one is pointing a finger to the possibility of an act of terror, an intentional as opposed to accidental error. Even if it is not a sabo act, a sabo act can still happen one day. This over reliance on the machine must be tempered with human control and not machine control.
This perennial problem is resurfacing again with the MOE sending out signals that the weightage will be lowered. The two camps have their valid arguments. The pro mother tongue group see the emotional and cultural importance of their language and identity being eroded. The pragmatists just would not bother about such 'wishy washy' sentiments. All they are concerned is the utility value of the mother tongue. And if they couldn't see any value in it, and if it is too difficult for them to learn, too high an opportunity cost, do away with it. Lump it and move on. All of us went through this process of learning and schooling as children and as parents or would be parents. Learning something is never easy, especially when the heart is not there, and able to see any value in it. I had my difficulties in learning languages as well but more because of the lack of interest, neglect and not willing to put in the effort. I hardly read anything when young, not even the text books unless compelled to. Under such circumstances you can expect my grades for all the languages, Malay, Chinese and English, all bordering on the red. Eventually both Malay and Chinese were dropped and all I had now is pasar Melayu and fortunately still able to make a decent conversation in Chinese, and able to recognise some words to get by. But I regretted not doing more for these languages as their utility values are much more than I thought. They become very useful and essential when travelling around, Malaysia, Indonesia and further away. How to flirt with the mei meis if one does not know Chinese, or the sayangs if one does not know Malay: ) On the part of mother tongue, the older one gets, the more one gets sentimental and emotional to it. It is part of one's identity, one's root. It can be quite embarrassing and uncomfortable in situation when one is expected to know one's mother tongue. But of course if one has erased the meaning of race in one's mind and make up, then mother tongue is totally irrevelant. And one can stand up tall and proudly proclaim that one does not know any word about one's mother tongue and would not be bothered to know. And my English was just as bad. Nearly failed at O level, or actually failed. That was bad huh. I only picked up when I started to read more and write more. There was an urge to read and a necessity to write when one wants to submit a paper for a grade. And the more one reads, the more one writes, the easier it becomes. Be it English or mother tongue, it is the usage, the constant use of the language that makes it easy to learn. If one is from a home that does not use mother tongue, and does not make any effort to make it a working language, it is tough, sure. Let's see how Eng Hen addresses this emotional and sentimental issue in the face of the protest from the utilitarians.
They got this guy Jerome Kerviel for chalking up a loss of $8.9 billion while trading for Societe Generale, and a Fabrice Tourre of Goldman Sachs for concocting ‘Frankenstein products’ that led to the 2008 financial meltdown. Both were traders in their early thirties. And for all the things that they had done, the huge sum of money involved and the papers that were pushed around for approvals, no one seems to be responsible or know anything about their wrongdoings except themselves. This gives the impression that the two must be running the two banks independently, just like Nick Leeson, without supervision, without reporting to anyone, and answering to no one. And there are no internal audit and control systems to check their actions. And for what he had done, Jerome said he was treated like a hooker, being praised daily for the earnings he made that were good. And it could be pretty quite the same in the case of Fabrice, the darling or Fabulous Fab of Goldman Sachs. Jerome has written a book about the ‘big bank orgy’ that he witnessed as a young trader. And the rest of their superiors, the administrators and regulators are all so innocent. This is what Jerome got to say, ‘I am struck by the fact that nothing has been done during the past two years of the financial crisis so that the causes of the crisis are addressed and a situation like mine does not happen again.’ Was there a crisis? Uh no. Anything happened? Uh no. The financial system is kicking again, and the banks are making big bucks too. So what’s wrong? The financial system is fine, just fine. Time to loot again.
Hussin Mutalib, an Associate Professor, responded to Muigai’s recommendation to consider a ‘stimulus package’ for the Malays in a letter to the ST forum. He said that there was some merit in not dismissing Muigai’s report altogether and a little tweaking might be good. While saying this, he acknowledged that there were some govt policies that were needed from the pragmatic point of view, ie barring Malays from sensitive appoints in the SAF and the adoption of GRCs to prevent qualified Malays from defeat in an election. There are good and bad in such policies which are obvious. Hussin also dispelled the beliefs that the Malays were being discriminated against, and non Malays were simply smarter than Malays. The former is generally true except for the appointment to sensitive positions but there is a pragmatic angle to it. The second belief has been proven wrong in many instances when Malay students have excelled and better themselves over the other races on their own merits. Every 500 years a genius could be thrown up from any race or class while every group will have their talents and duds. The disparity in the progress between Malays and the other races has been there since independence. Historically, during colonial days and post independence, the progress of the various races, particularly in schools, were left primarily to their own individual effort. All started from the same footing with no special assistance or affirmative action. Why then is there a need to have some form of affirmative action to help the Malays now? In this line of thought, there is an assumption that the Malays will do better than what they are today if given some assistance. Also, the disparity is seen as something abnormal and unacceptable. What if the disparity is in favour of the minorities and not the majority, would affirmative actions be deemed necessary? There are some questions to be asked. After more than a century of coexistence, the present status quo could be the natural balance of things. If this situation has come about naturally after so many years, would a window period of a few years of affirmative actions make any difference? What if, after affirmative action, and the Indians or Chinese become the least progressive, does it mean that there will be a need for affirmative action as well? Where will all these lead to? Would it be satisfactory only if the majority is the group that is lacking behind the minorities? Or is the expectation that an acceptable status is that all three groups are progressing at the same rate? Is this natural or possible, or a should be situation? Given the rate of progress that is being made by all groups, would it be a better objective to raise the level of every group, to improve their well beings, rather than to harp on the fact that one group is two steps behind another? It is never the natural order of things that everything is the same or can be the same. Can all countries in the world progress at the same pace and be at the same stage of economic development? Seriously, is affirmative action the answer? If the community is not honest enough to face the problems and address them squarely, no affirmative action can bring about positive changes.
The scoundrels at Capitol Hill are sleeping with the bankers and finance thugs in New York and are skirting around many areas that they should be looking into. According to a New York Times editorial in Today's paper, they have completely missed out the rating agencies like Moody's, Standard and Poor, and Fitch. These agencies are equally culpable for the mess in the financial meltdown with their triple A ratings on toxic CDOs. The editorial commented, 'It is not just that raing agencies are incompetent, made wrong assumptions about the housing market and used flawed models to evaluate mortgage-backed securities. Their business is rife with conflicts of interest.' The last sentence is the crux of the matter. Conflicts of interest among financial institutions and the products they are selling. The call for banks to return to its traditional business and not be allowed to dabble in all kinds of investment is a move in the right direction. In the local context, conflicts of interest is also a serious problems. But of course in the land of demigods and immortals, they could not see themselves compromising on their heavenly integrity. They will never be faulted for conflicts of interest. They could even be tasked to self regulate their activities. A similar case to the rating agencies that have been allowed to get away scot free is the lead managers and auditors that brought in shady companies for listing. Several have gone down the drain despite the glowing reports put up by the auditing companies. And no one is taken to task. The whole finance world is run by scoundrels and crooks protecting each other's backside. The world is looking to America to take the lead, for they do not know how or want to do anything.