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11/30/2011

The world is black and white

Maldrid Braut Hegghammer, an assistant professor of the Norwegian Defense University College, Oslo has his article printed in the New York Times and republished in Today. The title of his article is ‘The real lesson of Iraq.’ His main argument is that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake for two reasons. One, the IEAE’s report was not reliable, and two, Iran’s effort to hide information about its nuclear facilities.

In his view, it was right for America to invade Iraq if the IEAE’s report was accurate and Iraq had the nuclear facilities to make nuclear weapons. This is the white countries logic that the black countries are bad, and will use nuclear arms if they have them, and it is the right thing for the white countries to attack black countries to prevent them from having nuclear weapons.

It is right and normal for white countries to possess nuclear arms and to use it or threaten to use it on black countries.

I must thank the Today paper to reveal this kind of black and white logic in the western world. That it is their right to have nuclear arms and to use nuclear arms. The black countries cannot be allowed to have nuclear arms. Black countries are dangerous while white countries are not. And it is alright to attack another black country using this justification.

Can Asean countries use this logic to attack one another should one country decides to go nuclear? This is White Rule. And the author and all white thinking readers will accept this Rule without question. One rule for the white and one rule for the black.

40 years of good governance

The MAS is celebrating 40 years of good governance. The little glitch created by the toxic notes and Lehman bonds were the exceptions of an otherwise a glittering record of how well a govt treasury transcended smoothly from a developing to a developed country. And there were many good people at the helm of the MAS to make it happened.

The road forward is treacherous with the products of the great American Ivy League universities producing crooks and scoundrels to run the American and international financial system with no qualms about moral goodness. It was like if they were told to go out and grab everything they could with their privileged education and membership to an elite class.

MAS had done well but could not prevent major hiccups along the way that are beyond its control. No one will blame MAS for making a slip here and there. But MAS should do its utmost to ensure that slips that are preventable would not be allowed to happen too often. The toxic notes incident was a wake up call that deregulations and a laid back approach is just not workable.

Are there any more toxic notes equivalents in our system that is waiting to blow up in the face of the MAS? Hopefully there isn’t. When the toxic notes were allowed into the system, I believe, due diligence would have been done by the respective organizations and some confidence that they were reasonably sound products for the markets. One lesson from this debacle is never to allow the salesman who is peddling the product to do the due diligence. He will do whatever and just enough to convince everyone that all is fine. There are vested interests in the peddlar to want to push his products into the market.

What is the state of health of our financial market? Or specifically, what is the state of health of the stock market. Every piece of news reported is good news. Our stock market is in the pink of health and we are marching confidently to become a major financial centre in East Asia, contending for the top position with Tokyo and Hongkong. I really hope that this is the case.

There have been many uncomfortable noises in the finance industry since the introduction of high speed trading system and high speed computers, the latter being plug into the stock exchange’s trading system. Everyone is told that this is a good thing, the way forward. Everything is simply fine, going as planned.

The uncomfortable noises and reservations about high speed trading and the unfair advantages they have over ordinary traders have been highlighted by American and European experts. Many smelt foul but would not go too far to say anything worst. And the fouling is more than meets the eyes or at least this is the general perceptions of market stakeholders. The outsiders do not have access, and do not know enough of the high speed computer trading platform to make an informed judgement.

What is high speed trading and how much do we know of this new animal is still a big question. Is it simply a case of innocent computers that just attached itself to the exchange computer system to facilitate high speed trading, and nothing more?

Perhaps it is opportune at this time for MAS to commission an in dept study of high speed trading and whether it violates the basic principles of a level playing field for all stake holders. Or is high speed trading a Frankenstein in the making and the untold damages are still unfolding? An independent team to investigate this system is needed to address the discomfort among the stakeholders, and to confirm that any misgiving is unfounded. A thorough study is warranted to assure all stake holders that they are not sucked into a quagmire without knowing what is happening.

And MAS owes this responsibility to do its part for the interests of all stake holders. If there is a lemon in the financial system, it is important to sieve it out asap before it turns into another Lehman crisis. Would MAS take on this task, or it has done so and that everything is in order? The high speed trading platform and the high speed computers are fair trading instruments that do not have added advantages over other players, nothing unfair, and there is nothing to worry about.

Such an assurance will be most welcomed to put many insecure and suspicious minds at ease. Until then, the lack of understanding of the true nature of high speed trading, how it actually works, will only lead to misunderstanding, speculation and misgivings. Transparency and public education on high speed trading system are needed for it to be accepted as a neutral tool and fair to all stake holders. Everyone wants to believe that high speed trading and high speed computers are fair game.

When politicians were naïve

Those were the days, not too long ago, when politicians were naïve, just a figure of speech. They were young and highly charged, with bellies full of fire, to serve the people and the country. That was a time when the country was ruled by foreigners, the colonial masters. To these young intellects, the first question that bumped into their heads was why should the country be run by foreigners who were no better than them. Probably they also believed that they could do better for country and people when they were in charge.

That kind of idealistic thinking set a trend that changed the course of our history. Young and eager men and women fought to take back this country, to run it for the betterment of its own people. When they succeeded, the locals took charge of all the major ministries and institutions, to manage them for the good of the locals, not for the Queen of England. And with the locals thinking locals, and when the political leaders were thinking of bettering the lives of the people, things changed dramatically. It was local politicians and people serving local people, for the interest and good of the people.

Has anything changed? The politicians have all changed except for one. But everything else has changed. Oh, they are still saying that they are serving the people and the people’s interests. This has not changed. But the substance has. While the first generation of leaders replaced the foreigners with locals, we are seeing more foreigners replacing the locals. Don’t be conned by the term ‘new citizens’. And as for serving the people, this is relative depending on how one views it.

There used to be the govt providing facilities, building facilities, including housing and transportation, ahead of the people’s needs, and waiting for the people to benefit from them. The people needed housing, and houses were built. Schools, hospitals, transportation, jobs, industries, were waiting for the people. Today, the people have to queue up, to wait for these services and facilities. They don’t build public housing to wait for the people. The people wait for the housings to be built. The people wait for schools for their children, wait for hospital spaces and medical services, transportations etc etc.

Jobs then were localized, decolonized. Today we are seeing a new kind of colonization in jobs. Foreigners are taking over the juicy and plum jobs all over again. And this is good, progress of a different kind. Foreigners changed shirt and become instant citizens to take over jobs from Singaporeans. From displacing foreigners we are replacing locals with foreigners/new citizens.

It is scary when a politician stands out and proclaims that he is in politics to serve the people and country. Scary indeed. The naïve politicians of the past were admirable, respectable and sincere in what they said and did. There were some honesty in their ethics, ambitions and idealism for being politicians.

Today they are pragmatic and honest. No more young and idealistic. They may even say if I am not pay so much, don’t call me. And they will delay the opening of an MRT station because there is not enough load, not profitable, not justifiable. They will build public housings, but you wait for another few years for them to be built. They cannot afford to build and wait for the people. Hospitals, transportations, public services, must be justified in terms of profits before they are built. There are exceptions of course, like public parks which were built together with public housing.

With some exceptions here and there, the ethos for public service is never the same again.

11/29/2011

Haloween and PAP MPs

Just visited Mr Brown’s blog and got a bit confused. He wrote that a PAP MP turned up at a Haloween party and was mistaken for playing the role of a PAP MP. Or was it someone turned up at a Haloween party dressed up as a PAP MP. Which is which?

What I know is that people either dressed up as cut out pumpkins, Frankenstein or Dracula for Haloween. Dressing up as a PAP MP must be pretty out of place. Not frightening at all. Sure cannot frighten any children there.

According to Mr Brown, he got the most applause and recognition for being in PAP MP uniform. And he did the hand shaking act damn well. And Mr Brown gave him the best candy he had.

Weird. I still didn’t get the punch line.

Pakistan’s fate awaiting Asean

The plight of Pakistan today is simply pathetic. And they deserved every minute of it for flirting with the evil Empire. Once invited in, the Empire has no respect for the host, for national sovereignty or territorial integrity. They will brush the host aside and do what they want, like the raid on Obama deep inside Pakistan’s territory. Now they blatantly attacked and killed nearly 30 Pakistani soldiers in a prolonged and deliberate attack. So what are you going to do now Pakistan? The Empire has killed your soldiers.

Before the flirtation, the Americans would not dare to enter Pakistani territory or attack any Pakistani military positions. Now, it is fire at your own target and at your own time, at any Pakistani targets inside Pakistan.

Musharaff thought it was a great honour to be invited to the White House, to be feasted by the Emperor. He did not bargain for the outcome of his country becoming a semi colony of the Empire. That is the price Pakistan is paying today.

Asean leaders must be having wet dreams of being feasted in the White House as the honoured guest of the Emperor. The olive leaf has been waved and the invitation waiting to be delivered. Would Asean leaders take the bait and ended up with the same fate as Pakistan? For their personal ego of being seated on the right side of the Emperor, the price is their countries’ integrity as an independent nation, free from the Emperor’s troops. Some are eagerly waiting for the invitation, for the honour. The temptation is great.

Kishore Mahbubani – top 100 thinkers

Kishore has been listed as one of the world’s top 100 thinkers by a US based Foreign Policy magazine. It is a great honour to be there among the Europeans in an European centric magazine that only understands western language and thoughts.

Who is this guy? He is not angmoh. He is the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He got to thank the school for not replacing him with an angmoh to give the school greater credibility and be more believeable in the western intellectual circuit. Think of it, it is one of the rare corners of Singapore where the top dog is a Singaporean. For this reason alone, it is worthy to keep this School relevant as a pride of the country, that a Singaporean is found good enough to head the school.

I am not sure how long before the CEOs of the 3 local universities be headed by foreigners as obviously there are just not enough local talents of international stature to raise the profiles and rankings of these world class universities. Having foreigners to front these universities, like many of the Singapore institutions, is a good thing as they will spread the news of Singapore and how great this island is. Their presence will put the universities connected to the best universities of the West.

Then again, if we do not allow out Singaporeans a chance to take on high profile positions, how would they gain recognition by the international community? How would someone like Kishore be recognized if he ended up just another professor in the School of Lee Kuan Yew or any local universities?

Our angmoh is good mentality is a self debasing policy. If we keep giving the plump jobs to foreigners, our local talents will forever have their heads under water, to be another statistics and nothing more. We need to give more chances to the local talents and thinkers to be in the limelight, to be seen and heard, to be recognized.

Good that we have someone like Kishore. But he could be the last, just like we have a Lee Kuan Yew, and he will be the last titan this little island ever produced.

11/28/2011

When the crunch comes

Seah Chiang Nee wrote the above article in his Littlespeck blog. He is reading the warnings by the political leaders of an impending recession coming Singapore’s way and how it will impact the people.

The worst hit will be the PMETs, especially those with a million dollar or half a million dollar mortgage. What will they do if one of the paymasters got retrenched?

Don’t forget that there are many who have several hundred thousand dollar mortgages in HDB flats. There are many Singaporeans in this category which includes many PRs as well. When the crunch comes, when they lose their jobs, the 30 year mortgage will not go away. They all depend solely on their monthly incomes to service the debt.

I reckon this time the impact will be much greater as the outstanding housing loan sizes are much bigger, all expecting a 30 year free ride without having to worry about any financial crisis.

Just a few months back, it was all sunny skies and full of optimism. Dark clouds are forming overnight.

Be frightened, be very frightened.

The new story

I wonder if any of you noticed the theme in the media with regards to housing. As I scanned through the articles over the last few weeks, there is a new song being sung almost daily. Small is good. Small flats are good. Small flats do not compromise on the quality of life. There are many beautiful parks outside that the people can go to for the space they want. Small flats are ideal for smaller households.

Small is the way to go. And we have a very long way to catch up with Tokyo and Hongkong, to go smaller. It is not only a trend. Our population is growing and we need to keep housing small to make way for more people, for economic growth and better quality living.

PAP Convention

Caught some reporting on the PAP Convention and Hsien Loong’s speech over the news last night. The party has done quite a bit of work in assessing the last GE and what needs to be done to win the next GE. And they are confident that they are on the right track with all the mistakes figured out and the appropriate remedial actions will be put in place. And though the party acknowledged that the next GE will see fiercer competition, and clean sweep is not that easy anymore, they are quietly confident of taking back Aljunied.

My personal view is that they are in for a rude awakening in the next GE. The ground has shifted. More and better candidates will be moving to the alternative party camps as wearing white and being invited for tea is no longer a guarantee for a safe passage to Parliament.

What about govt policies and the bread and butter issues, unemployment, housing, foreign talent, transportation etc that the people felt aggrieved about? Would there be any real changes that will win back the support of the people?

The party still believes that their policies are good for the people and supported by the people. And very likely there will be more cooked policies for discussion in Parliament, though Inderjit was advocating for more half cooked policies to be better discussed before they are cooked.

I think this is the main area that the party is going to lose more grounds as it marches towards 2016. The attitude and mentality and the logic of past policies do not seem to change. Everything is still as per normal. The rapid ramming up of public housing is only treating a superficial wound when the cancer is still growing untreated. So are the high property prices, the high population and congestion issues, and the presence of great numbers of foreigners that the govt sees as the cure all for economic growth but irks the people in general.

As long as the govt thinks it knows best and what is good for the people, it will continue to push through its bestest policies and distance itself from the people who do not agree with them. They believe that the only problem is communication with the people. That is their only fault. If they can communicate well, there is no policy problems.

How could the party with the bestest talents accept that their bestest policies have to change to appease the not so talented views of the people? This is a tough one.

Unless the party is willing to compromise its bestest policies, undermine its bestest talents effort and say, ok, the daft Singaporeans need to be listened to and their less talented views and wishes be accommodated, there will always be a conflict and constant tension between what the party wants and what the people want. Explaining to the daft Singaporeans is easy, especially with clever arguments and statistics. Would the people buy? How many ministers would be able to do the explaining and be able to win the hearts and minds of the people?

Caving in to the daft Singaporeans is never a thing that the party will give way. It is the core value of the party, they will continue to push their cooked policies through, like deaf frogs.

This is the strongest virtue of the party, to do what it thinks is best, to implement tough policies for the good of the people. The question is whether the people think so and whether the policies are really good for the people. The servants will judge the masters or the masters judge the servants? Who will have the final say?

11/27/2011

A New World Order

The recent appearance of Obama in the Asean Summit in Bali and his pronouncement of a new strategy for American dominance in the Asia Pacific Region is a reminder that the Americans have not accepted the geopolitical changes in the 21st Century. The US is still living in the era of post WW2 when everything is about American supremacy, America Number One, and US foreign policies is all about power, military superiority, confrontation, subversion, military intervention, military alliances and war to settle cross national disputes. The US and its empire, American hegemony for the last 60 odd years, are gradually being eroded by the primacy of economic growth instead of military power.

For the last few decades, American continues on its path of being the Number One military super power and spent most of its valuable financial resources to maintain that position while China on the other hand devotes its main effort in economic development and growth. The presumed power today of China being a super power is more economic than military. China has not engaged in any major warfare since the Korean War. The Americans on the other hand have been in continuous warfare ever since. It is still engaged in several wars, to uphold its image as the Number One military power, unchallenged.

The preoccupation with its world dominance and empire is best seen in its adversarial policies of building military alliances, intervention, wars and enforcing sanctions or coercions in all corners of the globe against any country that does not toe the line. From the encirclement of the Soviet bloc of countries it is now embarking on a new phase of containment of China, which is basically an emerging economic giant. China is in no haste to overtake the Americans in becoming the Number One military power for years to come. It is pure foolishness to maintain a naval fleet of several aircraft carriers and military bases across the world as the financial cost is phenomenal. Any attempt to be near what the Americans are doing will bankrupt China in no time like its is bankrupting the Americans in double quick time.

But China is sure in posing a serious challenge to America as an economic power house. And the days when China overtakes America as the biggest economy is just around the corner. For sure, being an economic super power will not make China poorer but richer and a better quality of life for the Chinese people.

So what is America’s strategy to meet the Chinese challenge to becoming the biggest economy? More military alliances, more resources and finances in the military fields, more adversarial and confrontational policies, and all of everything to maintain American hegemony, while pointing at China for being more assertive, and Chinese hegemony when there is none.

The East Asian and South East Asian countries will now be forced to take on a more confrontational position against China, on the side of the Americans. The Trans Pacific Partnership was a disguise for another military alliance against China with Australia as the key partner in the making. Japan and South Korea are likely to follow suit as semi colonies of the Empire.

Would Asean countries be drawn into this American set piece and become the frontline to the American strategy of protecting the American home land and fighting a war in other people’s territories? There is no mistake that any conflict will be in the East China Sea or the South China Sea and involving the littoral states in the region.

The Philippines and Vietnam have some reasons to want to be part of the alliance to confront China and grab a piece of the South China Sea. Would the rest of the Asean states be willing to be pawns on the American chess boards and be played, be traded or sacrificed for the American interest? What will likely be the end game?

In the American calculation, they only think America and presume that the leaders of Asean will be unthinking and will simply go along with the American agenda at their behest. Have the Asean states grown up from the days of colonialism and want to be truly independent states and not be embroiled by big power rivalry when the price to pay is their own independence and freedom to drive their own national policies? Would Asean be abandoned or subsumed by the TPP and all its effort to build a non aligned neutral regional organisation go to waste? That’s what the Americans are saying. Asean can be history.

A New World Order could be in the making when military conflict and supremacy is no longer relevant, when wars between big powers are just too destructive to be conceivable. Only madness and mad men will still be thinking of conducting war as an extention to failed diplomacy.

The New World Order could be one where every state would grow and prosper economically for the betterment of their people without military conflict. The balance of military power today is such that no one country can get away with a military conflict without getting themselves into a state of comatose. The emergence of China, Russia, India and probably other regional powers would allow the smaller states more room to navigate free of the big power politics if they choose to be. It is an opportunity for more trade and economic diplomacy than building military alliances and adopting confrontational policies that could lead to an irreparable war of a scale untold in history.

No country can bear the loss and destruction of a modern 21st Century warfare. Vietnam War was bad, with a major part of the country obliterated. But that was miniscule compare to what could happen when the big powers unleash the full might of their fire power. The thought of Australia with it few million inhabitants as a player in a major war is foolish thinking. It is not even worth a pawn in the chess board of the super powers.

Would the New World Order have a chance to succeed, or would WW2 mentality and diplomacy take precedence and a more devastating war takes its place? Whither is Asean with the Trans Pacific Partnership? Would Asean want to be counted in as a pawn in the TPP to serve American interest foremost?

11/26/2011

It takes 9 months for dental appointment

A Goh Cher Choh waited for 9 months just to see his dentist for the chance of getting a subsidised denture. And he has resigned to this new normal of efficiency in this super efficient island. The normal time for waiting is 10 months for root canal treatment, 7 months for dentures, but his case must be an exception, and 5 months for crowns and bridges. Not forgetting a year or more for braces.

But what do they expect, 1 month, 2 weeks or 1 week? Just go to a private clinic and pay for it if one cannot bear to wait. You can choose world class clinics, neighbour clinic or polyclinic, no need to complain.

Looking down memory lane, the kind of free dental care we had in the 50s and 60s was world class, heavenly, actually out of this world. And it was a time when our country was really poor, and probably not enough dentists too. Imagine, every week without fail, the Institute of Health’s bus would be at the school to pick up the students for dental treatment, including free dentures. Where got such thing as waiting for 7 months or 9 months?

Then again, if one wants something that is subsidised, what is a little waiting? The good old days are gone and that kind of experience would never be repeated in this money minded world. Compare to those waiting 3 to 4 years for their housing flats, these dental patients must count themselves very lucky.

The applicants for public housing are paying good money, in the hundreds of thousands, and they too have to wait. And the mantra is that it is their problem caused they did not plan when to get married and when to buy a flat. In my dream I heard someone saying, ‘I build only if there is enough demand. And they just have to wait 3 to 4 years.’ Is this the mentality of serving the people or the other way, I master, you servant?

Thank God that Hsien Loong had reminded his politicians that they are the servants and not the master of the people. Really, why would Singaporeans elect politicians to be their masters and happily live with it as the normal state of affair?

Iskandar, you have a golden opportunity to bum up your dental industry and what are you waiting for?

11/25/2011

The world’s most peace loving country

I can’t help it but to repeat this quote from dear Hilary.

‘…Washington is “very strongly against any nation using coercion or intimidation instead of using the law to try to resolve these issues.’

The US together with its peace loving friends in UK and Canada are imposing more sanctions against Iran for believing that Iran is building nuclear weapons which the US and UK have plenty of. And they are not using threats or intimidation against Iran. Just friendly sanctions.

And there is another level of peaceful means to resolve the issue. Both the US and Israel are openly telling the world that they are going to attack Iran’s nuclear plants. Now, please don’t get it wrong. This is a peaceful gesture to resolve the Iran nuclear issue. There is not a little hint of coercion or intimidation at all.

The Americans don’t believe in coercion or intimidation. They are so friendly and peaceful. The whole world knows about it. And they are begging the Americans to be the policeman and now the policeman is bringing in more soldiers and weapons to the Asia Pacific region to police the area for peace of course.

The weapons and soldiers are, incidentally, not to coerce or intimidate anyone. They are friendly soldiers and friendly weapons, for peace.

It is good that China is conducting a big scale naval exercise off its seas. China should conduct more of such exercises and make its stand clear about conduct in its surrounding seas, especially when other pesky countries think they can go around arresting Chinese fishermen with impunity. And also countries that happily shot at Chinese sailors and killing them.

China has to take a tough stand on such provocations or the provocations will continue to test its will. With so many provocations and if China continues to show them the other face, China will forever be slapped left and right and still be branded as an assertive and rogue nation by the rogue nations. I say wallop them when they do it.

All the pesky nations, including the rogue Americans, only understand the language of force. Obama is reminding the world that the Americans can still project its power. And it is up to China to say, hey, this is how far you can go. No more cruise missiles into Chinese Embassies or Chinese missiles can also make the same mistakes on American assets.

When dealing with thugs and gangsters, China needs to speak the same lingo and behave like them. No need to worry about the opinions of pesky nations. They have already taken sides. And the message will also get through to them.

A good cause to support PAP

It was so rare that I have to support a cause promoted by the PAP in recent years. Now there is really a good cause for all Singaporeans to support the PAP. Why is it good, it affects Singaporeans in general, some directly, some indirectly.

The PAP Youth Wing or Young PAP is going to the Speakers Corner this Saturday to speak up for lowering of transport fares for polytechnic and university students. These students, still not working and have no official income, are paying twice what college students are paying for MRT and SBS fares. They are still not financially independent and many would need support from their parents. Reducing their transport cost will help to alleviate the burden of their parents albeit in a small way. It still counts over the 3 to 4 years when they are studying.

It is good that the Young PAP is pushing for this cause. It is a cause that all Singaporeans regardless of their political inclination can share and support. Though the Young PAP has called for people turning up at Hong Lim to wear white, a symbol of cleanliness, incorruptibility and everything that is good, some have been peeved by this. I say never mind. The WP supporters can go there in their reds, some in blue, some in orange, some in pink, but all with a common goal, to fight for the lowering of fares for these students.

It will be an opportune time for all the parties to unite and tell the people that they can support a righteous and good cause no matter who raises the issue. And that all the parties will not bicker unnecessarily just because someone else and not themselves brought it up. It will show to the people that the politicians and their supporters are growing up.

I hope all the parties, PAP, NSP, SDP, WP, PKMS, SPP, SDA and any other party that I could not remember and mention, could go to Hong Lim Park this Saturday and make enough noise to support this good cause. It will be a moment when all Singaporeans are united, to stand as one.

Would that be nice?

The perplexing discovery of Sinda

Sinda did a review on the performance of Indian students in the PSLE examination. And horrors, the Indian students are underperforming in mathematics, achieving only 73% pass rate against a national average of above 80%. And many Indian students dropped out of secondary school for being unable to cope with mathematics.

This discovery is more startling given that Indians are well reputed to be maths wizards. Many of the American banks and Singapore’s financial institutions are headed by Indians, be they Singapore Indians or Indian Indians. They must be very very good in mathematics to get into those positions. Just depending on the gift of the gab would not get them that far. Their mathematical talents must have proven to be really good.

Now, what is this nonsense that Indian students are having serious problems coping with mathematics? I am scratching my head. Is our schools and teaching methodology for maths the reason for the Indian students poor grade? Cannot be, we have the best teaching methods for maths and our methods are being copied and adopted even by the Americans.

There cannot be any doubt in the genes of Indian students as there are many fine examples of top Indian finance professionals like Tharman, Gupta, and the MD of MAS just to mention a few.

What is happening man?

Communal living back in Singapore

The idea of communal living was thought to be dead since Singaporeans got richer over the years. Those hand to mouth years of living in cubicles or sharing a flat with several families, sharing kitchen, toilets and common facilities were just a bad dream best to be forgotten. Those were times when most Singaporeans were poor and they had to make do with strangers living within the same four walls.

With today’s affluence and with Singaporeans owning or leasing their own flats, it is like coming full circle to see more and more Singaporeans renting out and sharing their homes with strangers. And with flats that are built smaller and smaller, having more than one family inside a flat is like reliving the past once again.

With more retirees having to remortgage or sublet their flats, living with strangers is going to be more popular for the losers in life. But it should not affect the quality of their lives. Having more people in the flat means more company, more people to chit chat and to look after each other.

There must be some draw backs in communal living. I was reading the case of this Chinese national who killed three women and seriously injuring one in roughly one hour, in the same flat. I am not going to speculate how all the screaming and crying and shouting and banging could go on for so long without anyone barging in to stop the killing.

What I am going to say is that living with strangers can pose high risk, very high risk, for the weaker sex and the old. And the stranger could be very disarming with his friendly smile and pleasant disposition. Not to worry, this kind of things don’t happen too often. It is a risk worth taking. A few cases like this are quite normal as more and more people start to rent out their flats to strangers.

And there are many happy and warm stories to tell of communal living, of friendship built, of help and assistance given, and kindness and gratitude repaid. They get to know more people, make more friends, and help to show how friendly Singaporeans are. They will benefit from the richer experience in life.

Just a wonderful experience to many, except bad luck to a few losers. Forget to add, the quality of life will be so enriching.

11/24/2011

East Asian stability at risk if US trashes its defence budget

The above is the title of Ng E Jay’s article in his blog. And I would like to say that I completely disagree with him. Come on E Jay, you are thinking like an American now.

‘Cuts to the US military budget on the magnitude projected if the Supercommitte’s political impasse fails to be resolved would inevitably results in a significant scaling down of US military commitments worldwide, include an enormous downsizing of its global naval capabilities. This would invariably lead to increased geopolitical tensions in the ASEAN region and beyond.’ Ng E Jay

‘US military commitments worldwide’ is an American terminology to mean conducting wars worldwide. East Asia and the world would be much safer than it is today. There will be little dictators trying to throw their weights around but these will be limited to local skirmishes and small warfare. Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi will still be running the shows. There will be no big scale wars like in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Libya. Don’t forget the Korean and Vietnam Wars. There will be smaller civil wars which dictators could easily suppress without the US and Nato interfering by supplying more arms and weapons.

And small pesky countries would not dare to agitate or provoke bigger countries to risk a war on themself. China, the non belligerent country that has been painted as the trigger happy one, will be even friendlier when no pests dare to irritate her.

The trigger happy Americans are able to conduct wars everywhere exactly because they have the money to do so. Without the military budget, the world would be much more peaceful and safer. The South Koreans would not dare to rattle their sabers daily at the North Koreans. Any Singaporean who thinks that the North Koreans are going to attack Singapore should go get admitted to IMH.

The pesky countries of Asean would not dare capture Chinese sailors or make nonsensical claims against Chinese territories or ever raring to go to war with China. There will be a new balance of power and a new status quo. Peace will have a better chance when little pests know that they cannot stir trouble and think they can get away with it.

An aggressive evil power is the temptation for small countries to destabilize the region, with the evil power nudging them from behind. Fear not, for the evil power is behind them. It is a good thing if the defence budget of the US is slashed drastically. Then calm and peace shall return. They would not have the money to start wars everywhere.

All the wars are started by the Americans. Make no mistake about it. Remove the blinkers to see the truth. They create the tension, the instability, the suspicion, and then invited themselves in to be the policeman, the peacemaker, the leader. And of course, to sell more weapons.

Pension is 10% of annual salary at most

Hsien Loong has spoken on the impending findings of the Salary Review Committee, likely to be out in time for Christmas. He touched a bit on how the pension scheme works and that the max a minister will get is 10% of his annual salary. In his short revelation, everything is in percentages and nothing absolute was revealed.

What is 10% of annual salary? Or what is annual salary? Does this annual salary comprise the basic monthly salary, 13th month AWS, performance bonus and productivity bonus based on the GDP? If the annual total is $10m, 10% will be $1m, assuming that last year the bonus was really huge and the average was $10m per minister. And if the bonus was bigger, then the percentage will be smaller and vice versa.

If the pension is based on annual salary which includes many variable bonuses, presumably the pension should be variable over the years as well. But this is just too perplexing to compute. I would rather believe that the pension is based on the fixed monthly salary. Given a minister’s salary of say $3m a year, the pension of 10% should be about $300k. Right or not?

If the pension is computed using gross annual salary that includes bonuses, then something is not in order as the performance factor and GDP growth should no longer be applicable to a pensioner. As the pension is a monthly payment, even the 13th AWS should not be in the computation. It should be a simple computation based on the last drawn monthly salary and nothing else. Tiok boh? What about allowances?

The other problem about adding all the bonuses into the annual salary is that it is going to vary from year to year. So ministers retiring on a good year like George and his colleagues, the pension is going to be better than those who retire in a bad year. This doesn’t make sense.

So I would think the annual salary is based on 12 months or at most 13 months. And definitely all other allowances for all kinds of appointments other than the minister’s salary will be excluded. We will have to see what the final figure is, if it is not a state secret like the cost of building a HDB flat. If not at the very best, the figures given will be only a matter of percentages.

No self respecting human resource professionals will include performance bonuses and the country’s GDP performance as components in the computation of a person’s pension. Pension does not take into account individual or the country’s performance into the future.

11/23/2011

TPP – The Poverty Pact

The Beggar’s Sect was a very big social gang in the fables and legends of the Chinese pugilistic literature. It was a big gang of beggars that boasted of great martial arts exponents to protect their turfs and areas of operation. They set up their own rules, collect protection fees from their members and would beat up challengers to their territories and their controlled businesses.

The thing is that the Beggar’s Sect was mainly for beggars, and the rich would keep themselves away from the Sect. The Sect continued their existence with members from the begging community.

There seems to be a revival of the Beggar’s Sect in the Pacific region, led by the Americans, the country that is deep in debt. It is roping in more indebted countries as members in a pact called the TPP, standing for the Trans Pacific Partnership, or is it The Poverty Pact? And it is beating all the drums to make it attractive and teasing China to join the pact. The thing is whether China, with all the money in its treasury, and being the biggest creditor of the US, would want to join the poor countries that could only shout but with nothing left in its treasury?

Would China be deceived into joining the TPP or The Poverty Pact? Anyway, with Asean as an established regional grouping of countries and linking up with the big economic countries of the world, is there a need for a new pact to be led by a poor country from the eastern Pacific coast that is many thousands of miles away? Why should these Asian and Southeast Asian countries be led by a country in America? Are they that helpless, and lack of leaders to need to be led by someone else who simply walked in and say I am your leader?

And there is also an APEC. So why dance to a new pact because the Americans say so? APEC and Asean are all redundant and there is a need for another new animal to get things done?

Apple polishing in the corporate world

The Tokyo and Osaka stock exchanges are in the final stages of a merger to reemerge as a bigger stock exchange. Merger and acquisition is the magic formula of advanced corporate and business management principals. Corporation seeks quick growth and profits by simply merging and acquiring other corporations. It is swift and instant growth.

When the time frame to show results by top management is reduced to a couple of years, M&A is the quick solution. And short term gain is matched by short term policies and management practices. Corporation intending to do M&A only needs to put its house in order, or appears to be in order. Patch up the leaking holes temporary with stop gap measures, giving it a new coat of paint and hope that the ship will reach the next port intact. The whole ship could be rotting, but as long as it looks good from the outside, and can sail for a while, that is good enough.

The next most important thing to do is to go out quickly to merge or acquire another healthy ship to boost its bottom line before it sinks. What the top honchos forget is that other corporations could also be indulging in the same apple polishing to look good on the outside and waiting for an unsuspecting suitor. The merger could be between two rotten apples hoping to turn into a shiny apple through the copulation.

The old concept of organic growth, which is slow, tedious and a lot of hard work, is shelved permanently by all the MBAs from the top business schools. There is no need to work so hard, the way to real growth. They have no time for such crappy business idea. Too slow and too difficult. Take the short cut, M&A and lo and behold, a bigger corporation with bigger net worth overnight. Everything becomes bigger, bigger risk, bigger problem, bigger cost, and bigger hole. Uh no, economies of scale man!

Do not be awed by the M&As that are going on in the corporate world. It may be the in thing today. It is not necessarily the right thing to do or a good thing. A rotten apple is a rotten apple. It is the equivalent of banks indulging in big time gambling for quick and easy profit. When the fundamentals are unsound, M&A is a short cut for destruction as the resources were assigned to do apple polishing instead of running and building a sound organization. Quickies are in favour just to look good on paper and in the eyes of the unsuspecting and gullible spectators.

Many young people are also looking for such M&As, to marry the scions of a rich family and lo behold, the merger will bring instant wealth, and recognition, to sit in big companies, to run big corporations.

11/22/2011

The cost of returning home

Two young Singaporeans having settled down in America for a few years could have bought a decent landed property for $300k or $400k, driving around in a fairly big car for $30k, and have a decent savings of perhaps two or three hundred thousand bucks.

If they were to return to paradise, selling their home for about the same amount and with a net cash of three quarter of a million, they could at best buy a private condo and still having to take a few hundred thousand bucks in loan. Eventually the private flat is going to cost them perhaps $2m in total. And they need to buy a small car that is going to cost at least $100k.

Their net financial position is negative, with a big mortgage and hardly anything left in their savings. This is the price of returning home. And there is job hunting to do. It is like being robbed of a couple of million bucks on returning home to stay. Yes, they can go and rent a flat and live like FTs.

In the case of a foreign talent from the neighbouring countries, most of them would not have much of a property anyway. They came, got a job, rented a place and started savings. Few years down the road, placed all their savings for a public flat and service them with their CPF. The value of the flat can only go up, like a savings account with guaranteed 5% to 10% interest rate equivalent, maybe more. Then they start to count the days when they could cash out and return home to be a rich man, or in the US or Australia to start life with a reasonable good cash holding from the sale of their public flat.

The two tales tell of the comparative advantage of Singaporeans returning home to pay a huge ransom for something less and a foreigner who came with nothing much but leaving with a pretty nice cash hoard. And this is not far from the truth. The cost of living is a heavy price to pay. The only good option is to cash out and move out. But his option is not so attractive to Singaporeans who called this island home.

New trade war in the Pacific

The US is starting to relocate its military equipment and soldiers into the Pacific Rim countries, primarily Japan, S Korea and now Australia, with potential to locate in Vietnam and the Philippines as well. The stage is being set up for an arms confrontation with China. It is a move for war, not for peace.

American warships are sailing more frequently around the eastern Pacific as a show of force, that the number One marine super power is there and will be unchallenged. They sure look very formidable and impressive.
The question is whether these warships could sail so freely in the eastern Pacific Ocean when hostility is declared. The Chinese DF21D, its ASBM or anti ship ballistic missile, has a range of 3000 km from its coast, covering practically the whole of the eastern Pacific Ocean. This means that all big ships within the 3000 km radius could be hit. This would then become the No Sail Zone for American ships if war is declared.

The current show of force will no longer be possible and it is unlikely that the Americans would dare to risk their aircraft carriers, battleships, frigates or any big floating vessels within the DF21D strike range. The eastern Pacific Ocean will be a cemetery for China’s enemy ships.

Should China have full control of the seas around its coast, what can the Americans do? It will be a war whereby China will trade its ASBMs for aircraft carriers and battleships. The Americans will again suffer a huge trade deficit as the cost of each ASBM is negligible compares to the American ships.

The eastern Pacific Ocean will be the equivalent of a maritime Dien Bien Phu with the reach of the ASBMs. It is enter at your own risk. The missiles will come raining.

If the Americans are thinking of their bases in South Korea and Japan, forget it. They will be the first to be taken out of the equation. This is not the 1840s when the Chinese cannons could not hit the British and American ships while the latter could hit the Chinese mainland.

This new trading game is going to be very costly to the Americans and its allies for sure. It is so economical and efficient to keep the American carrier groups away from the eastern Pacific coast with just the deployment of ASBM batteries along the Chinese coast. This is the strangest development since the British and American wooden boats could attack China at will in the 1840s.

11/21/2011

Obama restores US influence in 8 days

The New York Times is gloating how successful Obama and his team was in becoming the leader of the eastern Pacific region. I quote, ‘The meeting, at the end of the summit, capped a week during which the US President moved quickly, and on several fronts, to restore the influence of the US in the Asia Pacific region after a decade of preoccupation in the Middle East…Obama announced that 2,500 Marines would be stationed in Australia, opened the door to restored ties with Myanmar, a Chinese ally, and gained support for a regional free trade bloc that so far omits Beijing.’

What did Asean achieve if any? Oh yes, they have accepted the leadership of the US and invited the US to back them up in their territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. It is a great achievement for the small Asean states to install the world’s most powerful country as their leader. They can now start to pressurize China and even go to war with China with no fear.

Kuan Yew Lee’s struggle with the Chinese Language

His new book touches on a very controversial subject in the history of this little island. The use of the Chinese Language or Mandarin instead of Hokien, was a battle among the Chinese intellectuals, the literati and the hoi polloi, the majority Hokien speaking Chinese, and to an extend the other dialect groups. Mandarin was not their mother tongue, spoken by the northern Chinese and used as the potong hua of China, its national language. There must be tension with competitive chauvinism of the various dialect groups feeling that they have been short changed to be forced to learn a new language. The Ah Kongs and Ah Mahs were the primary victims.

Tension was also built up among the minority communities, the Malays, Indians and Eurasians. All the talks about Speak Mandarin Campaigns and the promotion of Mandarin did not come down easy on them. Some fear that Mandarin was going to replace English as the lingua franca of the country. Of course this was unfounded and for all practical purposes not workable.

Kuan Yew Lee’s struggle to learn the language transcended all of two generations of his life time. In the process, transforming a baba into a China man, to reclaim his Chinese heritage which I think he is proud of, but at the same time being the quintessential Singaporean that he represents. He has rediscovered his roots and himself through this journey of learning the language once again.

In my last few articles on the writing of Chinese names, I was being provocative and teasing at the lackadaisical approach of Singaporean Chinese in how they fool around with this fundamental pillar of a civilization. The language is one of the key foundation of a culture and embraces many tangible and intangible aspects of the people that use it as a communication tool. There are some logic, some structure and of course a lot of room to play with as it develops over time. There were many changes to this language since the time of the Qin Emperor. The simplified written form was a major departure from the past. But as a single unifying and common language, it still serves that purpose effectively and efficiently.

At this juncture I shall disband my cheeky editorial policy of writing Chinese name in the western format. It is nonsensical and silly to do so. It is not only rude and insulting to the individual, it is an affront to a well structured and developed ancient language and culture. Kuan Yew Lee shall be Lee Kuan Yew and so will Chok Tong Goh be Goh Chok Tong. This format of writing Chinese name is deep in culture, history and philosophy and must not be taken lightly and be dismissed by the duckweeds of the Chinese civilization, be they called themselves Singaporean Chinese or Chinese Singaporeans, Malaysian Chinese, American Chinese, Indonesian Chinese, Thai Chinese or whatever Chinese.

Chua is my family name dating back to the Zhou Dynasty, and Chin Leng in my individual name. Incidentally, the Goh, Chew, Chua,Ong, and Tsao were from the same family tree.

11/20/2011

The Asean Summit coming to a close in Bali

The American South East Asian Nation (Asean) Summit has come to an end with the leader saying farewell and flying back to North America. But before he left, there was the courtesy photo taking session, a generous gesture for the South East Asian leaders to bring home a photo to show they had been with the Emperor of the Empire. And the host country Indonesia was given the honour of having its president standing on the left of Obama while the Chinese leader sharing the honour on his right.

Who is calling the shot at the Summit is without doubt. And Obama staked his claim to the throne with no reservations. He even despatched his top envoy to Myanmar to test the country’s political and economic reform. Failing the test will have dire consequences and could be booted out by the Empire from Asean.

The menu for the gala dinner for the leaders was all American except for soto ayam madura, to show some appreciation to Indonesia. The Asean Summit was a big success to the Americans to stamp their leadership of the regional group. They set all the agenda for the meeting and stating clearly their intent to show that they are the Number One military power, and will set the rules for arms conflicts as well policing the South China Sea. They are stationing their troops in Australia and, according to Kevin Rudd, it was not meant for China. Who is the target of the American troops’ presence in Australia if not China?

Hail the Emperor of the newly constituted Asean, the American South East Asian Nations regional grouping of countries led by America.

11/19/2011

I am Chin Leng Chua

This is how PayPal addressed me in an email. So my shift in editorial policy is in a way forward looking, and accepting a new reality, that Chinese name should be written in the same format as western names. Maybe that’s how the word bastard comes about, bastardising. And so far no one seems to have any issue with it. The only little irritation is that for those westerners who have been to Asia and are familiar with the Chinese convention, they are going to address me as Mr Chin. On the other hand the ignorant country bumpkin westerners would now be happy and correctly addressing me as Mr Chua.

Some of our sophisticated western educated elite are more far sighted and have long given up the thousand years of tradition of writing their Chinese name the wrong way. Many are happily and proudly writing their family names on their backside. They are the trend setter of Singaporean Chinese or Chinese Singaporeans.

I think it is okay to write our names anyway we like, be flexible and even be regarded as modern, avant garde. I just thought of another way of writing Chinese name, not an original idea as I have seen some media doing it oledy. Okay I can write my name as Chua, Chin Leng. The comma will now denote that it is my family name or first name and people will know what it means.

Nevermind the intricacies. People will understand when they look at them. John Smith shall also be written as Smith, John, like the telephone directory. Clinton, Hilary, or Lee, Hsien Loong. This is getting interesting except for so many commas.

Let’s see how it goes. Maybe two weeks later I might come out with another foolish way of writing Chinese names. My main intention is to standardise the way names are written so that everyone can understand how to address the person correctly. My little blog is the least significant place to try to set an international convention in name writing. Perhaps Singapore, with our ability to punch above our weight, should be influential enough to do such a thing. Maybe one of our world renowned institutions can form a committee with a few prominent professoris, foreign talents better still, to formulate a new world order in how names, east and west, should be written. But a note of caution. Just make sure that their credentials are not fake.

The thousand years of civilisation and how names shall be written to be acceptable in this modern world must now give way because we Singaporeans are confusing the world with our frivolous ways of writing names to accommodate the English speaking world. Instead of making things better, more are getting confused. So we need to live to our name as a trend setter, not follower, to lead the world in name writing.

What other queer combinations can we come up with?

11/18/2011

America is a Pacific power!

We are back! We have the most alliances and the most powerful military to set rules and police the Pacific region. We are here to contain the regional ambition of China.

While the Americans were thumping their chests and bosom, China continues to do what it knows best, as the factory of the world, buying and selling to the world. There is no need for China to claim to be a regional power or super power. Only those that are ambitious or losing it will have to keep screaming at the top of their voices that they are superpowers. China should continue to progress quietly and when it is successful, whatever recognition and trappings of power will just tag along. But it must maintain a powerful military to repel the rogue govts’ attempt to invade its territories.

In the meantime let the Americans do what they did best, in trying to be the leader of Asean, telling Asean what to do, leading Asean by the nose. And they can keep on trying to divide Asean countries by stirring up their differences, playing nice to some and thumping down those that would not go along. Yes, divide and rule, and the Asean countries are clearly breaking up with some willingly accepting the American leadership to confront China.

I think the days of Asean being an independent non aligned regional grouping of countries will be over soon. It will be Asean with the A in front representing America. It will become America South East Asian Nations. It will become the successor of the failed SEATO, a political military bloc that was designed by the Americans for confrontation and war with the Communist bloc during the Cold War era.

The truth is more frightening

I read about the posting by Jason Neo of YPAP yesterday. I saw the picture in the net. The offensive word or words were blanked out. I could only read, ‘Bus filled with young…’ I tried to guess and a few words came to my mine. They were quite innocent really. And I thought people were over reacting.

How could a young YPAP activist be so politically insensitive given the party and the country’s stand on extremist views and words that could stir up ugly emotions? How could political activists of any hue and colour, of any political party, be so ignorant and blatant to post hate mails in the net when several have been taken to task by the law.

I must say that I was taken aback when I read the missing words in the ST…’Bus filled with young terrorist trainees’. I could not believe my eyes. I was stunt. It was senseless. What is his motive for posting this?

Everyone is watching how this episode is going to develop. Hsien Loong Lee is in Jakarta. I think we will have to wait for his return to see what he will say or do. This incident should not have happened at all and must not happen again. The govt has to be very tough on such violations.

The myths of high speed trading

The current fear of high speed trading in the stock market is a repeat of the May 6 crash of 2010 that wiped out US$1 trillion in 30 minutes in New York. And there is genuine fear that there will be many repeats of the flash crash simply because high speed trading is primarily a machine based system. It is garbage in and garbage out. Human error or programme error will just trip the system and go quickly out of control.

The false sense of relief is that these were accidental errors, not by design or intention. Then there are also deliberate errors by rogue traders or funds trying to take advantage of the system. And there are the hackers who would want a share of the fun and the money by entering the system either for monetary benefits or to cause turmoil and a collapse of the system.

These are big issues that can ruin the stock market and cause big losses to investors and rightfully should warrant more serious attention. There are other worries that the administrators and regulators conveniently try to ignore, the interests of the genuine investors, the men in main street, who are investing their savings, the pension funds etc. Their interests need to be protected as well, not just the big funds and high frequency traders(HFT).

The supporters of high speed trading, the system developers, the big funds, HFTs and the regulators, have all been singing the same chorus so far. High speed trading has many benefits, or the benefits outweigh the cons. High speed trading increases liquidity, reduces trading cost, high volatility and high efficiency which are good. Bids can be very small and stocks becoming very liquid, which will facilitate entry and exit from the market.

Not much was really said of the cons and the ills of high speed trading. Not that there were none. They were either not spoken or swept under the carpet, just like all the derivatives and toxic notes and bonds. Everyone benefitting from high speed trading is crying ‘Hallelujah!’ It is a flawless system, it is godsend, something made in heaven for the stock market industry. It is unavoidable, like the tide coming in. Really? Is the spread of drugs unavoidable and states should give in to the drug lords?

Can it really be that wonderful, all goodness and no evil? All the goodness is actually a myth. The small teeny weeny bids, the high speed, high volatility, and lower cost, and high efficiency, only benefits the HFTs. The small investors, the men in main streets, are all losers for they cannot take advantage of any of these great stuffs. High speed trading is their Waterloo. All the great stuffs are actually working against them.

They have higher trading costs versus the funds and HFTs who trade practically at no cost, except for minimal clearing fees, and could make profits from one or two bids against the average traders that need 5 or 10 bids just to get even. The smaller bids are actually designed in this way to favour the funds and HFTs, yes, and against the small investors. They would not say so. Just do the arithmetic of a small trade and the disadvantage is glaring.

The act of allowing high speed computers to plug into the stock market system is itself a violation of stock market regulations. For it allows the HFTs to have access to real time information of buy and sell, and for their algos to work and decide what, when and how much to buy/sell with a clear win advantage. How can that be allowed? They could arbitrage with such information, not much different from insider trading, they could be front running, all because of electronic access to the system which other small traders did not have. And those are only the things that the public knows. Could they be in a privileged position to take advantage of what they know to do more harm to the innocent investors? Could they be cornering a stock, or even the whole stock market if it is small enough relative to their trading limits, or operating in concert with a few big boys?

The stock market regulators have a duty to provide a level playing field for all. It is a key condition embedded in their constitution and rules and regulations. And they are violating this very fundamental rule, giving the HFTs an unfair and absolute advantage over small investors.

Who is to regulate the regulators to stop them from breaking their own rules and regulations? It is fairly acceptable for big funds to hire the best talents and use the best computers and algos to analyse their positions and trading. But they must not be allowed to plug into the stockmarket system to take advantage of their superior technology that is not available to the small investors. Let them play with their own high speed and sophisticated hardware and software, in the privacy of their own establishments, but NOT plugged into the stock market system.

Allowing this to happen is nothing but FOUL. It is a grave violation of stock market practices and rules and regulations, against fair play, inequitable, and even criminal.

High speed trading, high speed traders and algos are not angels playing with their golden harps. They are more like devils and demons with their wicked contraptions cheating the innocents. The small investors have been suffering huge losses, hundreds of times more than the Lehman crisis. Does anyone even bother to ask or to want to protect the small investors? Would anyone be pricked by their conscience to try to protect the small guys? No, it is a stupid thing to do. Be on the winning side. Look after the big business and big boys and make sure they can make more money from the losers.

There are agencies existing with the primary objective of protecting small investors? Are they doing anything about it? The brokerages and remisiers too have a responsibility to protect the small investors, to ensure that the playing is level and fair to all parties. The small investors are their customers. With no customers there would not be any business to do anyway.

The failure of the American and European regulators to provide a fair playing field, to allow corporate greed to cannibalise from the average workers, is the main reason for Occupy Wall Street Movement. The Movement will continue to spread until irresponsible greed and corporate corruption are arrested, and good governance be restored in the right places. Moral righteousness has gone to sleep.

11/17/2011

The fakes look better

This statement is often made by owners of fake branded goods. The real McCoys often have little glitches that came with hand crafted goods. And the fakes look so good and cheap, machine made, printed from a computer, like fake degrees.

Buying fakes and hiring fakes are two different things altogether. I was reading a post in 3in1kopitiam where one guy was relating his experience of a friend hiring a FT with fake qualifications. The friend ended up in financial woes as the insurance company refused to honour its obligation because the FT professional was a fake.

Just wondering how many fakes are there in the market. And they look real damn good than the real stuff, the Sinkies from NUS, NTU and SMU. The Sinkies somehow don’t look too impressive or suave as the fakes, and cost more as they are genuine stuff.

White woman speaks in forked tongue

‘…Washington is “very strongly against any nation using coercion or intimidation instead of using the law to try to resolve these issues.’

This is what Hilary Clinton said on board the USS Fitzgerald in Manila after announcing that it will fight along the side of the Philippines on its territorial dispute with China. For the believers, the US is such a peace loving country that never uses coercion or intimidation against other countries. It only uses force or war. Coercion and intimidation are child play. This is the western truth.

And why is she in a US warship saying such words. And why are the Americans moving it personnel and military hardware to Australia and Asia, possibly the Philippines? She is visiting Thailand and as a gesture of helping with the big flood, she is sending a warship to Thailand as well, for peace.

Asia is going to re experience another era of gunboat diplomacy from the West. Was it diplomacy or gunboat aggression? To me it is naked aggression by the aid of the gun. When the West colonized the world, Africa, Asia and America, it was never about diplomacy but conquest. But that was the only language that silly Asian and African countries could understand. And today you can see them reminiscing about those great colonial days with their white masters. It was great romance of a golden era of masters, subjects and slaves.

There is no need to regret the loss of those happy days. The West is about to reconquer Asia and they are bringing all their big guns back to Asia. And the Asians, especially India, Vietnam and the Philippines, countries that have lived a long and glorious relationship with their colonial masters, are cherishing every moment of it. Let’s welcome the great white gods back to rule over Asia.

But first they must prepare for war and bloodshed, and more destruction. They said destruction is the mother of creation, of a new world under a new colonial master. That would be nice, and a small price to pay.
Asean too has forgotten about how well they lived under the concept of Zopfan. They are aligning themselves with the great powers to fight for a better tomorrow.

Is it all about managing the internet?

There were several articles in the media on the impact of internet on institutions and govt, including those in China. How relevant or important is internet and its impact on society is still controversial and developing. Some believe that it has in some way impacted the views of people. Some may see it just as a venting of frustration and after the letting off of some steam, things will return to normal.

For those thinking in such a way, internet is positive and good as a temporary panacea, like panadol, for instant but temporary pain relief. And what govt and corporate leaders need to do is to manage the internet, harness its power, spin the right story and all will be well. Never mind if the real cause of the disease is not treated.

Today the media is printing all the glowing reports about first timers and second timers getting their HDB flats and they are so happy with their new flats. In other words the housing problem is solved and people are happy with the new policies and the policy makers. Hopefully this is real and the problem will go away with this spin.

Has anything been done to tackle the real cause and source of the housing problem? What about those who were booted out of the public housing scheme over the last decade because of the brilliant policies introduced? Have their problems gone away as well? Or would there be an amnesty of sort to redress the sins of the previous policies for its victims?

The internet, unfortunately, will not let a problem go away. Unlike the main media, after letting the aggrieved parties vent their frustrations, after a cooling off period, and not reporting about the problems anymore, hopefully people will forget and think that the problem is no more. See, no more complaints, no problem liao.

The internet has this nasty habit of revisiting, repeating and harping on an issue or problem, for days, months, or years. The problem will not be allowed to die through intentional neglect or silence. The key issue is not just about managing the internet or spinning more positive stories, but about solving the problem at its source. People who think that they can get away with major problems by allowing people to air them and spin some good stories around the problem to will it away will be very disappointed with the internet.

11/16/2011

POSB and Singapost remarry

DBS deal to bring banking back to Singapore post offices
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Singapore Post has formed a major partnership with the largest bank in south-east Asia, which will see basic banking services offered at all Singapore post offices from January.
The alliance with DBS Bank is the first ever tie-up between SingPost and a bank, and will see the bank’s retail outreach within the city-state expanding from 80 branches to 140….

If I can remember, POSB was part of Singpost which was then known as Singapore Post Office. And the Post Office Savings Bank was then providing some banking services to the people, for the convenience of the people before it was divorced and subsequently become the mistress of DBS. Now Singpost is getting engaged with POSB one more time to serve the customers better.

Will the $2 banking charges be discontinued with this second marriage?

The endless and futile debate

Yesterday was Jessica Cheam I think. Today Esther Teo added another half page article in the ST on the rising property prices and how to protect Singaporeans from the speculators. Just ask a simple question, what is the main objective of these foreign speculators? To make profit. Period. And where does the profit come from? If they make profits, who is losing their money?

This is like inviting the big and sophisticated funds to play in our stock market with their high speed computers. They are here for one simple reason, profit. And the Singaporeans are paying for their profits.

So, what is the discussion all about? Jessica was suggesting more controls, cannot buy, cannot sell, with more regulations. Esther was trying to say it is ok and it is not ok for the speculators to buy our properties.

My position in protecting Singaporeans is fairly straight forward. Keep public housing to Singaporeans and build as many as long as there are Singaporeans who need the flats. No need to have all the cumbersome and ridiculous rules and regulations. The private property sector can be less regulated, to let those who have the money to speculate to their hearts content. But the primary aim of building for every Singaporean without all the silly restrictions must be observed and practiced. Also be careful about being Singaporeans as tomorrow all the foreigners can become Singaporeans. In fact all the screwed up statistics on citizens and foreigners buying properties are deceiving in this aspect. Quite a number are new citizens, which means foreigners yesterday.

On the other hand, just sell everything as I have suggested earlier. Sell the whole island for money and divide them among the Singaporeans. Then everyone will have all the money and can decide to stay or to go somewhere else. Everything that has a price can be sold. Everything is just a gambling chip. Forget about the angst about nationhood, loyalty, citizens first craps. Commercialise everything and put everything up for sale. The best!

11/15/2011

Discrimination in Singapore is no laughing matter

In every country, there is always some discrimination, and Singapore is not spared from this disease. The discrimination is so serious in Singapore that ministers have come out to make a stand, that discrimination must be stopped.

The joke is that in every country, the discrimination is always against foreigners in matters between citizens and non citizens. In Singapore, it is discrimination against Singaporeans practised by foreigners in the country. If this is not nauseating, just listen to the govt’s plea with the foreigners not to discriminate against the locals.

Where on earth can one find the citizens being discriminated by guests who were in the country with the blessings and consent of the citizens? Now, what is going on? The foreigners are acting like masters of the island and the victims are the meek citizens who are at the mercy of foreigners. I can’t believe it but it is true. And the best the govt could do is to make a plea to the foreigners to be nicer to the citizens. Contrast to many countries whereby foreigners tremble at the sight of the locals. It is now a common occurrence that foreigners will beat up locals or talk down to the locals.

This is what is happening when the citizens did not know of their rights to the country and by default allowed foreigners to think the citizens owed the foreigners a living. Is this the new variation of modern day colonialism, when the colonised gave up their rights to their country without fighting, and in a silver platter to the foreigners? If this is going to be the norm, then Singaporeans should prepare themselves to call the foreigners masters. The picture will be complete when the foreigners have bought up everything in the island.

When interest rate for savings was 6%

Could that be true or just my imagination? If I remember it correctly, it was the prevailing interest rate that banks used to pay many eons ago. The banks were rich and able to pay savers good returns. And they must have reinvested them wisely to be able to afford that kind of interest rate.

Today the banks are big time in gambling. They called it investments and tradings or fund management. They manage a great lot more money than before and took greater risks for greater returns. They even charge small savers a $2 fee and pay them negligible interests. The banks must be grotesquely profitable and rich.

Why can’t they pay higher interest rate? One major reason is that the whole financial system is flooded with banana currencies, and plenty of them. But that should not be that difficult to pay a bit more as the banks will simply transfer whatever is their cost to the borrowers. And the big gambling, sorry, mis statement, the great investments in all the great funds with all the great fund managers and private client managers, the banks must be making more money than the old conservative banks by unimaginable amount.

Now where did all the big incomes go to? Or the banks are losing money all the way? The American banks are losing big time and needed bailouts. They are now claiming to be making big times and paying themselves crazy like before. Are the gains real or more cook book fairy tales? Asians banks are steadier, and making profits after profits. Making a few hundred million lesser is a crime and the analysts will instantly recommend a sell on their stocks.

Where have all the profits gone? They can’t be paying themselves all the big salaries and unable to pay a little more to the savers?

PS. Britain is going to curb all the excessive compensation for the robbers in top management. The legislation is coming to end the looting.

11/14/2011

Angry to be spoken to in Mandarin

I read the discussion about a Daniel Chua posting his encounter with a Chinese waiter at Harbour Front. He was unhappy to be taken for granted, that a waiter had the audacity to choose to speak to him in Mandarin. He snapped back at the waiter with the ‘Do I look like a Chinaman’ act. To add insults to injury, the waiter replied that he should be proud of China as his ancestor also came from China too. And this talented Sinkie replied smugly that his ancestors came from Singapore.

Many China Chinese have this wrong imprssion of Sinkie Chinese. They did not know that the ancestors of Sinkie Chinese did not come from China, maybe from Europe or even America, anywhere else but definitely not from China. Singapore is the perfect answer. And it is rude to assume that they can speak Mandarin. Their mother tongue is English.

Now, why should the waiter want to speak to him in Mandarin? This really beats me. How could a China Chinese mistook a Sinkie Chinese as Chinese from his appearance? So ridiculous! I also fuming.

From the appearance one can easily tell that a Sinkie Chinese is likely to be of non Chinese origin. Look at his slant eyes, flat nose, high cheek bones, and the colour of his skin and hair, every inch is so non Chinese, but Sinkie. Absolutely no doubt about it.

To make things easier for the China Chinese, Sinkies should wear a tag on their chest with the Chinese characters, ‘wo bu shi zhong guo ren.’ See , look at me, I am Daniel, my name is Daniel, not ‘da niau’.

The Big War coming to Asia

The Americans are winding down their wars in the Middle East and shifting everything, lock, stock and barrel to the Asia Pacific Region. For a start, the western country of Australia that could only see itself as a western nation, would be the first to host more American bases and soldiers. More bases would likely to pop up in Vietnam and the Phillipines. The Americans can now officially be back in Vietnam without having to fight the Vietnamese anymore.

And an article in the ST today by a David Gordon of Los Angeles Times and Washinton Post is claiming that Asian countries are panicking and are willing to pay the Americans to base troops in their country, to protect against an embolden China.

Is it an embolden China or embolden American crony states with the Americans behind them, that Vietnam and the Phillipines are buying more naval craft to fight China, and India is extending her naval activities to the East and South China seas? Whatever, the American war industries will be getting more orders from these silly Asian pests.

The US on itself is rattling its sabre. It told China that it is getting frustrated and impatient with China for having such a huge trade surplus and it is having difficulties coping with the big American debt to China in the hundreds of billions, actually US$1.1 trillion. So what now America, borrow money pay money, or borrow money don’t pay and start a war?

Can you believe it, the debtor is complaining and whining against its main creditor and wanting to start a war with China?

The extraordinary water solution

This is another excellent example of how Singapore tackled its problems in its uniquely Singaporean way. Another classic case study for the top management schools around the world.

Singapore with its limited land has a perennial water shortage problem and has to import water from Malaysia. It was never to be self sufficient in water. But this was a major challenge it faced and it was pushed to a corner when the sale of water was used as a hostage by Malaysia to make life very difficult and may even derail its development plans. Singapore is now self sufficient in water by maximizing its water catchment area, reservoirs and technology in water treatment, and the rest is history.

Many people forgot that other than the above, there is another element contributing to the success in water management. We may have enough water, but enough is relative. If the people carelessly misuse this precious resource, we will need more reservoirs and never provide enough water for the island. And there is the economic growth factor that would continue to raise the demand for water.

Here is the brilliant solution. Impresse and educate the people on the importance of water and water conservation. Water is a precious item and should not be wasted by careless and inconsiderate usage. But all these are talks and would only be partially effective on people who are already conscious and responsible. The irresponsible and reckless tiada apa type will continue to waste water no matter how often they are told not to do so. Yes, the solution is to hurt them where it hurts most. Tax on their pockets.

There is a surtax charged on the use of water in addition to the high fees and other taxes. This Water Conservation Tax stands at 30-45% of water used. The reckless and irresponsible can waste water at their convenience, but their pockets will be hurt and emptied by 30-45% more. The additional tax is to teach the people the importance of water conservation.

This is so brilliant that it solved the water management problem and adds into the public coffer. Another brilliant Singapore solution to be taught in Schools of Public Administration. Make them pay and they will heel.

The same theory can be applied to other goods. The high rate of changing mobile phones, and many in good working order is a big waste on natural resources. If govt is serious in conservation of mother earth, they can apply the same principle to prevent wastage of mobile phones. Make additional purchase of mobile phones be subject to 30% tax. Similarly there should be a Car Conservation Tax for anyone buying more than one car. And Petrol Conservation Tax, ….

Change in editorial policy

I was watching Channel 5 coverage on the SEA Games. Tao Li won 4 gold and going for the 5th. And a games sticker came out at the end of the event. Li Tao first. Is her name Tao Li or Li Tao? Is our shooter Zhang Jin or Jin Zhang? The other shooter was Ong Jun Hong though the TV sticker came out as Jun Hong Ong. Then there were several swimmers, Jia Hao Ng must be Ng Jia Hao. This non standard format of writing of Chinese names also affected the Vietnamese with Nguyen sometimes in front and sometimes behind the names. Actually Singaporean Chinese names were also reported either ways.

If I can be confused, so would other nationalities. As they said, let’s just follow the majority as the majority seems to be always right, or at least it is more practical to do so. In this case we have the western format as the dominant and familiar way, and easier to understand. So with immediate effect the editorial policy of this blog will adopt the western format when names are concerned. The family name or surname will henceforth be written behind the individual’s name. This should standardise everything and no one will be confused anymore. It will make us to be more westernised or international. No more guessing game.

For a start we will have to get use to Kuan Yew Lee, Chok Tong Goh, Boon Wan Khaw, Eng Hen Ng. Luckily still can address our President as Tony Tan unless he prefers people to call him Keng Yam Tan.

That’s it. This is the way forward. Follow the prevailing trend, and the western style. We will set the standard for countries with Chinese to follow suit. I hope the Govt will make it official for Mediacorp and SPH to do the same. In the interim, while the world gets use to this standardisation, just bear with Mr Kuan instead of Mr Lee, Mr Chok instead of Mr Goh....

PS. Let's not confused the world. Or shall I say let's confuse the world more?

11/13/2011

The brilliant $2 solution

Not many people can remember what this $2 solution was/is all about. Many have accepted it as a way of life and the new normal. It happened nearly 20 years ago, but I still remember. Just to refresh the memory, two decades ago computer technology was not that advance and computer memory was quite small and expensive. I am not sure if this was the main problem, but some banks found that having too many accounts was not only troublesome for their computerized system, but also costly. Computer memory cost money.

What to do? And to ridicule the problem, many accounts were either inactive or have very small deposits in them, some from children’s saving accounts. It was not profitable or meaningful to have these teeny weeny accounts. The only way to get rid of these accounts was simply to charge them a $2 monthly fee if the clients want to continue to keep the accounts. The logic was simple, it cost manpower and resources to service these accounts, and computer memory space.

As a result, all the banks started to impose a $2 fee on accounts with less than $500 or $1000 deposit. I was a victim of this brilliant solution. I totally forgotten about a gold savings account with a local bank. There were a couple of hundred dollars left in them after I sold off my investment. One day I received a note from the bank that it was closing this account of mine as there was no money left. My few hundred bucks gone like that!

I was furious. How could a bank eat up my money which I thought would grow as the interest was quite high then. What I did was normally expected of an unhappy customer. I closed down all my accounts with the bank. Till today, I have no accounts with the bank, not even its credit cards. I was not the only victim. Many victims also suffered in silence as it was their fault for not closing the accounts. It was the fault of the customers to leave their accounts open. The banks happily kept deducting the money and did not bother to remind the clients to close the accounts.

The $2 was a brilliant solution to save money and unnecessary work for the banks. The one who came out with the solution must be a brilliant super talent.

I think NUS School of Management should use this as a compulsory case study in its management courses. It will be a shining example of how effective a $2 solution can be in cost cutting and getting rid of undesirable customers. Harvard may also want to incorporate this into their courses, as a brilliant Singapore solution.

11/12/2011

Posts disappearing after posting

Several bloggers have encountered this problem since yesterday that their posts were disappearing. Is this a bug in Blogger or is it something more sinister?

Whatever, people will put one and one together and look at the direction which they think is the likely source of such strange things. America did it many times. Create a problem and point the finger at whoever they want to target. It is called false flag incidents.

Now some bloggers may think that I am deleting the disappearing posts. No way that I am doing it. I hope it is such a bug. There is no reason for me to delete any post. In fact I welcome more bloggers to post in my blog. The more the merrier. That is why my posts often are provocative and take on pretty strong and controversial views.

I hope this problem will go away. If it persists, as it has never happened before, you can make your wild guess. A point to note, as it made me wondering, was the exceptionally high traffic on Thursday morning. It more than double the normal volume. Could that be the indicator of someone breaking into this blog?

Redbean.

All the signs of the world economy going down

The crisis in Europe is just opening up. How serious it will become is still anyone’s guess. Europe is going down, and so is the US. Foreign banks here are starting to retrench some of their staff, in small numbers. The cause, financial deals are drying up. The financial industry will be the first to be hit this time as investment banks are losing credibility with their huge appetite for gambling.
High net worth clients who are smart enough would be getting cold feet with banks gambling with their money. Yes, it is big time gambling, not playing jackpot machines in the casinos. Many high net worth clients must be losing huge sums of money with stock markets going down in a spiral. And with cash is king, some may be tempted to just sit on it.

The retrenchment of investment bank staff is likely to affect the finance talents whose incomes are pretty substantial. And if these people are committed to multi million dollar properties and expensive cars, it is going to hit them in some ways. The big mortgages are not going to go away. They need two big incomes to service.

Then people will be pointing naughty fingers at them. Why take such big loans and big risk? Why buy properties beyond their means. The thing is that they were not given a chance. They were not eligible to buy properties within their means, to eligible to buy more affordable public housing. Hope it is not going to be the case, or some will be strangling themselves. Those in MF Global are likely to be seeking new jobs too.

When the bubble bursts, those who put these people at unnecessary high risk must touch their hearts and ask themselves if they have done wrong.

11/11/2011

The world watches in silence

After Iraq and Libya, the next target of the Empire is Iran. They are preparing the grounds for it. They have spoken openly of the impending attack to gauge world reactions. Silence. The muslim world is headless and too deep in their own trouble to worry about anything else. Some may be afraid that their country will be next to be invaded and regime changed. Better to dig the head deeper into the sand for safety.

The rest of the world also remains silent as if nothing is happening. Like the proverbial 4 monkeys, see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing and do nothing. Don’t count on the western media or the white men’s conscience to denounce the premeditated murder of the Iranians.

Can any country stop this evil Empire from its murderous intent? If the rest of the world is willing to stand behind China or Russia to challenge the evil Empire from committing more genocide, there may be some hope. You need the rest of the world and the two nuclear power countries to keep the evil Empire at bay.

But why should China do anything? The rest of the world believes that China is the evil one, the aggressive one, their enemy, though China has not even lift a little finger to attack any country. It is best for China to stay out of the killing and destruction and let the evil Empire go on to take out one country after another in the name of peace. Any attempt for China to stand up for the weak nations will be immediately condemned by the western media. That is understandable. But the attacks by the western media will be joined by more attacks by the weak nations of Asia and Africa on China. They will immediately point the finger at China as a country willing to use military power to bully smaller nations. They could not see the Americans are doing exactly that.

It is best for China to stay out of the impending nuking of Iran. It is best for China just to look after its own territorial integrity and make sure that no little pesky country would dare to encroach on its territories and make spurious claims on them.

Let the evil Empire teach the weak nations a lesson on goodness and who to trust. It is now fabricating more evidences, like WMD against Saddam Hussein, to attack Iran. It is forcing China to join them against Iran, to impose more sanctions and even support the strike against Iran.

What a peace loving Empire.

MAS is starting to show interests

The MF Global sham must have triggered MAS into action. Or is it Paul Volcker’s recommendation for more regulation than deregulation? Well, MAS is introducing more regulations to prevent more lemons appearing in our financial market, to protect the average investors. Sophisticated instruments, derivatives etc will now be subject to more regulations to prevent innocent, ignorant and unsophisticated investors from being sucked into the quagmire and lose their life savings.

It is a good start, albeit a little too late and a bit too little. The measures taken are still too inadequate to prevent the loss of billions to the big funds which is happening daily. It is not just the derivatives and sophisticated products that are at fault. There are system faults that cannot go on like this.

The derivatives are now seen as dangerous, if not toxic. If they are dangerous, shouldn’t they be taken out of the system completely? Or it is okay to sell poison as long as the buyer knows that it is poison? This is a philosophical question. It can be a matter of right and wrong, a moral issue.

Derivatives are not only dangerous by themselves. The fact that they are derived from the major stocks in the market will also put these stocks at risk to grave manipulations. The intrinsic values of these component stocks will be of no bearing to the speculators whose only interest is profit by pushing the stocks up and down, at high speed.

The more dangerous development is to allow funds to hook up their computers to the stock market system. This is unfair in many counts. They could trade at high speed with the advantage of high speed computers and with the information provided by the system that the average investors are not accessible to. And they could use big muscles, with practically unlimited trading limits to corner stocks, to move stocks at will.

Cornering of stocks, buying and selling without change of ownership are all against the rules and regulations of the stock market. Are the funds doing it, or allow to do it?

For several years, the investors have been brought to the cleaners by the big funds. A report on who are the main winners and who are the losers would tell the story much clearer on how the system is disadvantaging the average investors.

MAS could have done more to ensure that the stock market is a level playing field to all investors, big or small. Funds can play with their sophisticated computers, algos, big war chests, but must not be allowed to hook their computers to the exchange. This is the least that MAS has to do.

Smaller flats do not compromise on quality of life

This is another political truth that Singaporeans are going to make to believe in. Drinking shit water is good. No car will not affect the quality of life. Two working parents too will not affect family life as quality time is more important. HDB flats are affordable, are affordable and stop complaining that it is not.

Singaporeans are not gullible. They are only easily made to believe whatever political truths they are made to believe. Foreign talents are here to help them and not competing with them for jobs or facilities. Foreign talents are better than local talents.

As far as living in small flats or mickey mouse flats are concerned, just compared with Hongkong and Japan and we will feel so blessed. In Hongkong a designer can even turn a 300 sq ft unit into a lifestyle statement. On entering the unit, he says, welcome to my living room. Then he pull down a shelf, without moving from the spot he is standing, he will say, welcome to my kitchen, next by moving a panel, he says, this is my toilet. Then pushing another panel and pulling out a sofa bed, he says here is my bedroom.

All high tech staff, futuristic, with expensively designed furniture and fittings. His life style is definitely not affected. In fact he will show off his cleverly designed flat as a statement of style.

Seriously, what kind of flats, what size is needed for a decent flat to raise a family with two children? Have we forgotten about family and children? Maybe we have accepted that the family shall be small, with one or two children or no children at all. Get use to the smaller flats. There is no contradiction or conflict in policies, definitely.

But having two children still needs a lot of space for growing up, for grandparents or a maid. Oh, we used to have many bodies in a cubicle. Two on the beds, two under the beds, one on the table, one under the table, one in the kitchen and a few more in every corner of the room. How can we complain about smaller flats? We have progressed, like back to the future.

The thing is that why are we squeezing our people into smaller spaces. Or is it to make room for more foreigners, for 10m population? Is a bigger population indispensable, which our progress depends on it and is the quality of our life? If the quality of life is living in smaller and smaller flats that are going to cost more and more, I think this kind of progress can be done without.

Are we serious in wanting parents to have children, to have three tiered families? Sure, it only depends on whether you can afford it. Having more children and three tiered families in a 10,000 sq ft or 20,000 sq ft property should be no problem. When you can’t afford that, live within your means and try clever redesigning, clever use of space like squeezing the maids with the grands or the children or in the store room.

The quality of our life style will definitely not be affected. It is only an issue of affordability and living within your means.