Time for a petition to the govt

The motorists must do something to prevent the motor insurance companies from reaping them off with the reckless increase in insurance premiums. Many motorists have clean driving records and the NCD is supposed to recognise this by reducing their insurance premium. Instead, their insurance premiums are now ever higher than before. How can this thing be allowed to go on and nothing can be done to it? Is there any govt organisation that can put a stop to this mindless daylight robbery? It is time to petition the govt for action. Innocent motorists cannot just keep quiet and let the insurance companies imposed whatever premiums they deem fit when the high cost is not due to these motorists. Can the govt agencies do something immediately? There is no point in talking cock and wasting time. Action is needed now. At least freeze the rate to last years and talk later.

Victims of ethics

Madam Chiang Meng Lee wrote to ST about her involvement in an accident which was clearly the fault of the other party and a few days later a legal letter came accusing her of being the cause of the accident. I too had such a case in the past when a reckless taxi driver swerved into my lane. And I was accused of causing the accident. This kind of tactic, to point the guilty finger at the other party cannot have come from the drivers but must come from other interested parties. Whoever offered such advice must be totally devoid of morals and ethics. The main intention is to win even if turning the table against the innocent parties. This is how dark our society has become. And if one does not have the money to engage an equally good lawyer and pay through your nose, just too bad. Be prepared to become the victim and pay for all costs, including legal cost. Yes, our judicial system is fair to all, but conditional that you have more money than the other party. Where is the ethics?

Money or your life?

This was the infamous catchphrase of the 60s and 70s when the island was infested with triads and secret societies. It was a common occurrence to find a knife at one's throat while walking alone and the phrase, 'money or your life' would threaten the intended victim. Many would just have their wallets emptied and walked away a few dollars poorer. Today, 'money or your life' has taken a new meaning. The amount is much much bigger. And the victims were not healthy people walking alone at night, but walked with a whole entourage of family members into a posh hospital. There, the extortionists were not the gangsters or triad boss but clean and sophisticated professionals armed with the best medical degrees from the best medical universities. And if the potential victim happens to be suffering from a critical illness, it is as good as hearing the catchphrase, 'money or your life' being repeated. And they are not asking for a few dollars. It can be in the hundreds of thousands, or several hundred thousands of dollars. But there is a big difference between the gangster's demand and the demand by the professionals. After paying the gangster, the victim walked away alive, though a bit shaken. In the other case, they may go home in a casket after paying the huge ransom. There is no guarantee that after paying the money asked for that his life will be safe. Money or your life, or maybe money first, then we see how it will go.


S Chips in the news for all the wrong reasons

Well, after warning about the corporate governance and trustworthiness of S Chips, finally the old media is catching up on this act. Two reports, one in the ST by Yang Huiwen and another in Today by Conrad Raj, posed the same concern about the dangers of playing with S Chips. At the rate the S Chips are turning turtle, just give another couple of them going into the rubbish dump, I think it will be enough for the investors to dump them completely. They are looking to become so wild, as wild as the days of Malaysian Clob shares. Be warn. Tread with care. We have very little control and knowledge of what is going on. For those who are not in stockbroking, S Chips refer to Chinese stocks listed here. Now the there is a new version of this which refers the S Chips to Scam Chips.

The ingenuity of Wall Street thieves

They knew that the outrageous bonus game is over. So they have come to terms with it and decided not to pay huge bonuses any more. But pay themselves well is something that they must do, by hook or by crook. Their new game plan is to pay out front. They will raise the basic pay of their CEOs and senior management by as much as 70%. So a CEO who is getting US$180k will have his basic pay raised to $300k. This kind of robbery is only on the personal side. At the corporate level, they have been hookwinking the Obama govt that all of them are going bust without a bailout of several tens of billions of dollars. But the moment the Fed decided that they could not pay indecent bonuses when receiving govt bailout fund, they started to tell the govt they don't need the money, they are starting to make profits, and one even want to return the govt money immediately. These are the exceptional talents of Wall Street. We must be salivating to welcome them on board as shining examples of out of this world super talents. America main street and Europe need a revolution to rid the country of such thieves.

The shifting timeline

We are still hearing complains that above 40 years need not apply for jobs and these relatively young and healthy people are getting angry and desperate. I call them young and healthy because the timeline has changed and many are not realising this. Today's 40 is yesterday's 30. And many of them are having kids in primary schools. So far the only organisation that is taking this into consideration is the civil service. More and more civil servants are working past 60, with some noticeably past 70 and 80. Why is it that the private sector is refusing to acknowledge or recognise this shift? In the 60s and 70s, people get married at 21. Today the marrying age is 30 or 35. Then people retired at 55 and died at 60. Today people die at 80 or 90 but retire at 55 with a few exceptions. Then people started to work at 16 or 18, after O or A level. Today they start work at 23/25 or later, after university and NS for the guys. They used to make babies at 18 or below 20. Now many only do this after 30. The anomaly is now a reality. The prime of a person's life is 60 and he/she can go on to 80 or 90, another 20 years to go at least. 30 is still a child wet behind the years. With improving living condition, food and health, and medical careful, people are definitely healthier today than yesterday. When will the human resource practitioners and employers understand this shift in timeline and adjust their expectations? Perhaps we are in a state of transition. The first batch of healthy 60s will come from the baby boomers, or maybe the later baby boomers. Or shall we bring out all the million dollar 'Yodas' in the public and private sector to prove this point? They are many of these hiding in their top floor or penthouse offices and calling the shots, still alive and kicking in their 70s, 80s and perhaps 90s.

The business of keeping people alive

Mediacorp had a few news clips of the happy senior citizens in the homes or community hospitals over the weekend. They appeared healthy and enjoying every moment of their time alive. What they did not know is the heavy cost to keep them alive. From the look of it, the cost was paid by their children. Obviously they did not know that they were bankrupting their children or straining their financial resources just to keep them there. It is not cheap definitely. Ignorance is bliss but not for those who have to struggle to pay the bills. One is deemed financially able to foot the bills if the household income is above $1,500. Unbelieveable! Khaw Boon Wan has been in charge of the MOH for several years and have been working very hard to keep medical cost down. How successful has he been? Has medical cost come down or still spiralling up? The recent increase of fees in community hospitals is a testament that the cost is just going up. For those who are still healthy, pray not the day you have to be admitted to any hospitals or nursing homes. Many will not be able to afford it even with their Medisave and medical insurance. Some of their savings may not last even one month when the bill can go to tens or hundreds of thousands. With the high cost of hospitalisation and medical fees, everyone who is sick or ageing is a walking liability to himself and the family. And we celebrate for being able to keep people alive to 80, 90 or 100 years.


How to juggle accounts for a bigger bang?

This incident is still vivid in my mind. Quite many years ago I came to know of this group of companies and how well they paid out bonuses according to each subsidiary's performance. Some averaged 3 months some averaged 6 months and the exceptional ones got 12 months. All looked clean and fair, according to the books. Indeed the payout of bonuses was according to the book, actually according to the cooked book. One of the subsidiary companies actually cooked the book, brought in all future sales, WIP, etc and recorded as realised revenue and profits. That year the company was like boomtown Charlie. Every employee got 12 months bonuses. Not sure how many months the CEO and the top management staff got for cooking the book. What happened the next few years, never mind. The boat will straighten as it reaches the bridge. If the next few years lose money, take lesser bonuses. But one good year every now and then is good enough. For good years, the reward is amazing. For bad years, no sweat, the pay is still there. And if the company goes bust, just too bad. Find another company. This is the beauty of being in the corporate world and managing public companies, and being an employee. You never stand to lose your capital nor your pay, except if the company closes down. But when the company chalks up big profits, take as much as you can. Claim all the credits despite the fact that a large part of the profits were money makes money. Does anyone ask how much profit should be generated from the capital invested before talking about the excess profits? As an example, if the company has an asset of $1b, assuming that this money should give a decent return of 10%, given the risk in business, otherwise park in the bank for guaranteed risk free interest, a $100m profit is just about acceptable. Nothing to crow about. Only when profit is in excess of 10% would it be considered a contribution from the management and employees. (Not counting cooking books) It is not uncommon for management of a $1b company to crow about great profits and demand big bonuses even if the profit is less than 10% of the asset and capital invested. Another common practice by hedge funds or fund managers is to measure their performance with market indices. If they perform better than such indicators, they have done well, and need to be rewarded. Thus if everyone is losing 70% of their investment and if one is losing 60%, that one has done well. Clever accounting and clever logic.

Singapore United the way to go

This is the new war cry of Hsien Loong. He is calling on Singaporeans to work together to find solutions to the crisis. How real and relevant is such a call? The work together may be a bit real as everyone has to work to keep the machine running, the economy running. If everyone just plays his part be it a cleaner or a minister, things will continue to move. The part about finding solutions to the crisis is best left to the super talents. How could the less able be in a position to find solutions when the greatest minds in the US are still fumbling along? Even if they have any small ideas, they will quickly be brushed aside by the supertalents. They will be a laughing stock to have the audacity to suggest a solution to such an immense problem when supertalents could not resolve. And if assuming that they could get the idea across, make known to the supertalents. Oh yes, they can write to ST Forum or to Reach with their great ideas. I rather be real. Every one just do their parts well. Let the cleaners do the cleaning and the govt do the governing, the thinkers do the thinking. Hey, this is very Confusion, oops, Confucian I mean.

If looks can heal

I saw this beautiful structure in the Sunday Times this morning. A lot of glass, reminding me of the futuristic glass complex proposal for the Sentosa Casino. Very impressive looking building. This one is actually an artist's impression of the New National Heart Centre. It boasts of great facilities when ready in 2013. What keeps capturing my attention is the fine architecture and the feeling of being in a futuristic and well designed building. It is a great feeling. I think the patients would feel good too, and their hearts will feel better even before any medical treatment. I hope the building design was selected not just on good look but with cost consideration in mind. Otherwise, the cost of building such a great facility will ultimately be carried by the patients' bills. Nice building, and I already have this good sense of well being.


The need to control the beast

We have seen what had happened to the great American genies and how clever they were in bringing down the whole of America, not just the industries or the financial system. America will now be in debt for centuries to come. It is bankrupted many times over. The cause is simply too many clever people who thought they could make a lot of quick money by being too clever. They were not concern about real productivity, providing more goods and services, they were only interested in churning out numbers to represent huge paper profits in the short term, for their own vested interests, for the huge bonuses that they stood to win in the huge bets they put into the financial market. There was no responsibility, no conscience, no morals, no nothing, except how much was in it for them. And the tool that helped them to acquire their ill gotten gains at the expense of everyone, is derivatives. The first giant to fall because of gambling in derivatives is LTCM, or Long Term Capital Management, a hedge fund. Without the US govt intervention, the domino effect would have toppled many more financial institutions in 1998. That was just a warning but went unheeded. In a 2004 Bank Derivatives Report it was stated that the total values of derivatives held by US Banks was US$84.2 trillion. The bank risk exposure was US$804 billion. Today we know the answer of exposing to such high risk. The house of cards has collapsed. But be frighten, be very frighten, not because the America house of cards has collapsed. Be frighten because many are still convinced that derivatives and hedge funds are the way to go into the future. And they are pumping more money into these two beasts. How on earth would clever people be convinced to do so, when all the evidence of the disasters that can happen and already happened, be blinded to go along into the deeper and more dangerous end? They must be convinced by cleverer people that it is safe and the way to go. In relative terms, the clever people are smarter people and the clever people are just plain stupid. Way back in 2003, Warren Buffett had warned that derivatives are 'time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system....In our view, however, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that while now latent, are potentially lethal.' These words were more than prophetic. It has come to reality. At that time Buffett admitted that he could not understand how much risk the major banks were running themselves in. 'The derivatives genie is now well out of the bottle, and these instruments will almost certainly multiply in variety and number until some event makes their toxicity clear. Central banks and govts have so far found no effective way to control, or even monitor, the risk posed by these contracts.' Do we not know the answer today? Do we still want to dabble in derivatives and allow them, and hedge funds to mess around with the financial system and market? We need independent bodies with different interests and missions to control and regulate the financial systems, the banking industry and the stock market. These institutions have their own short term interests to guard and will be blinded by them to take on higher risks than acceptable. Their exploits to grow and make more profits must be reined in by independent bodies whose interests are long term and the viability and sustainability of the system and institutions, and the foundation of a stable nation state. The financial system and the stock market must not be turned into high risk casinos. There is a need to control the beasts before they destroy everyone, every institution and the nation as a whole. The people within the industry are the most dangerous people to be tasked to regulate themselves. There is simply a conflict of interest, and self interest, short term interest will override the longer term interest and interest of other parties.


Promotions, promotions and promotions

Everyone is happy when they are promoted. But promotions do not come free. It means more pay! How much more pay and who is paying? Where are the money coming from?

Would Wee Cho Yaw pay himself $20m bonus?

He owns the biggest bank here. The turnover of UOB is not less than Capitaland. The profits made by UOB were consistently higher than Capitaland. Why did Wee Cho Yaw pay himself a miserable $6m or thereabout when an employee in a public listed company could be paid $20m? My take is that in the case of UOB, there is ownership. When you own the company, when you know that it is your money, you will be more careful. You would not just pay away the profits of the company. If the top guy got $20m, what about the next 10 guys and the next 100 guys? Together, their bonuses will become a bomb, maybe $100m or more. The rot in Wall Street was exactly due to a lack of ownership. The Wall Street thieves and robbers literally robbed their shareholders of their wealth by paying themselves crazily. And the small minority shareholders got the crumbs and paid for all the losses should the companies go bust. The employee CEOs and top management staff will just send in their resignation letters and laugh all the way to the bank. This is the anomaly and injustice in public listed companies, where the employees just dipped into the coffers, legally, all approved by the board of directors. Very familiar isn't it?


UMNO will still be UMNO

I thought after the General Election UMNO will really reinvent itself to be more national than communal. And the PM to be also called for big changes to remain relevant. Yesterday's election of Khairy as the new UMNO Youth chief confirms that UMNO will still be the same UMNO. Nothing will change UNMO. It will be what it was and will be today and tomorrow. The kris was wave and kissed again. It was handed to Hishamuddin by non other than Khairy, who looks like having a higher potential to use it. Good luck UMNO. Good luck Malaysia.

What? Too much?

These seem to be the reaction of the public and the letters to the media forum. They are envious of the huge bonus that Liew Mun Leong has been rewarded. But what Liew got was all legal and just reward for his talent. Come on, what he got is peanuts compare to those in Wall Street or in Fleet Street. If we aspire to be a nation of rich billionaires, we must learn from Wall Street and pay the best talents their just rewards. Then only we can have more billionaires. I hope no one is going to call Liew Mun Leong to return his big bonus or a new law being passed to tax it at 90%. That will ruin our policy of rewarding real talents. All our talents will run away and we will end up as the net losers. In fact we should reward more to those who are underpaid when their responsibilities are much greater than Liew Mun Leong but getting less than him. Let Liew Mun Leong's bonus be the reference point to attract more super talents to our shores. Liew Kai Khuin wrote to the ST about the grotesque 700,000 pounds pension being paid for life to the former CEO of RBS. Why should it be troubling to pay him so much for life when his contribution and merits will be good for life even after he has left RBS? His contribution will continue, everlasting. And the public anger in the US over the bonuses paid to AIG was also raised. But we are different. We are making money, a lot of money! In the ST today it was reported that the homes of Sir Fred Goodwin, the disgraced CEO of RBS, has been attacked. And the attackers warned that it was only the beginning. They called themselves 'Bank Bosses are Criminals.' What is the world turning into? People getting honest rewards, just because the losers think that the rewards were a bit too much to stomach and they want to attack them? The losers must be put in their place. They must be reminded that if they were just as good, they too would be getting the multi million dollar bonuses. Please don't begrudge talents being paid their worth. Can I have some crumbs?


To spend or not to spend

Like real, as if I got all the money in the world to spend, to help the economy. I was planning to go for a foot massage. But now I am not too sure. LKY said, "I've got economists saying you've got to change your system. Wall Street Journal has said, 'Oh, this won't work, consume yourself'. Four million people to consume and keep an industry that supplies the world with top-end goods - it's rubbish." If what we spend, no matter how much, is not going to make any difference, I think I better save my $20.

34 more subsidised hospital beds

This is the bold headline in My Paper. Because of rising demand due to population growth, about 1 mil more non Singaporeans, and an ageing population, 34 more subsidised beds were added to bring the total to 3,656. Shall I congratulate the MOH for such a big increase in number of beds available?

Celebrating Singaporeans - Liew Mun Leong

Finally we have a Singaporean that could command a multi million dollar salary, getting closer to the talents in Wall Street. Liew Mun Leong of Capital Land was paid a performance bonus of $20.52 mil for year 2007. His total pay packet came to $21.7 mil as reported in Today. Can I presume that his annual salary is $1.18m or less than $100k pm? If that be the case, how many months of bonuses will his $20.52 mil equate to? 205.2 months! I am beginning to doubt my arithmatic. Did we have another world record? Well done Liew Mun Leong.

What is going on?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 This blog is down until further notice. a. Regular CNA forumer JohnLaw who first reported on the CDC bonus has not been seen. b. Wayang.Party has been shutdown by ISP. c. Blogger PoThePanda was investigated by the police & ISD for his articles. I receive a few emails that a number have been followed. Something may be on. I'll be back once the picture is clearer Posted by LuckySingaporean at 3:24 AM The above was posted in Diary of a Singaporean Mind. What is happening? WayangParty reported that it is now back online and is investigating the cause of the breakdown. They suspected foul play. Coincidently Redbeanforum was also out on Monday evening. Are we thinking the same thing that something sinister is brewing? Who on earth would want to do such a damn thing? Lucky Tan's post makes one thinking of some forces at work, that we are being watched like the Communist countries or the days of Gestapo. I think it is all our imagination. Our security personnel are paid by public money and have better and more important things to do than to stoop so low and become petty pawns in a political game. The only reason for them to act will be threats to national security or terrorism. I don't think bloggers belong to these two categories. Should my postings be interpreted as a threat to national security, please email me or give me a call. I shall cease posting. Or maybe I shall post about lingeries and underwear, or which celebrity is sleeping with who. Or maybe I shall write about cookings, or better still write a cook book. That should be safe enough for good Singaporeans. Then I shall write about the most intellectual pursuit of Singaporeans, writing cook books. Then we will become the most intelligent


A Govt in a Forbidden City

Over the years we have seen more liberalisation in the economy and financial industry. The reverse is true after new and more stringent laws were enacted yesterday on Film Acts and Control of Public Demonstration, in the political arena. Why is there a need to keep increasing govt control of the people and public demonstration? Is there a perception that there will be more demonstrations and the demonstrations will become more serious? The new laws point to such a scenario or perception. Will we see more barriers be erected around the Govt or Parliament House and the Istana? Would these eventually lead to a physical wall around them and even guns and barb wires? A govt that keeps protecting itself from the people, and barricading itself behind laws and walls will end up holing itself inside a forbidden city. When such an eventuality becomes a reality, it is a sign that the govt is no longer with the people. It will be a govt that is afraid of the people. And the fact is that no govt can hide itself behind high walls and barricades even protected with guns. The most powerful wall that can protect and safeguard a govt is the Wall of Hearts and Souls of the people. Such an invisible wall does not divide but protects the govt by the people. It is not a govt against the people but a govt with the people. In the past, our ministers could walk around and mingle with the people freely. Today, the body guards are everywhere, shoving and pushing the people with their hostile looks, very familiar with the outings of a triad boss. And even ordinary MPs are being threatened by the people and attacked by the people. How and when have we reached this state of being when ministers and MPs are afraid of the people? They are the representatives of the people, elected to look after the people and should be loved and respected by the people. Why the protection, news laws to control the people, dishing out freedom to the people as if the freedom of the people is for the govt to give? Who is the govt representing? Who elects the govt? Where are we heading?


Buangkok East Drive saves 7 minutes

Buangkok East Drive saves 7 minutes The openinging of the Buangkok Drive extension has made travelling to the city that much faster, by 7 mins. Wonder how much was spent to save that precious 7 minutes. And there is great expectation that this new road will make travelling on the KPE more popular. I will probably agree if the ERP charges are not too prohibitive. A lot of planning and resources have been invested into this new road. And many more resources and planning will be invested building more new roads and extensions to improve traffic flow. The thing that motorists must know is that we are in a phase of diminishing returns. With so many vehicles on the road and a limited number of roads, this is the best that can be done. A few hundred millions more may save another precious few minutes as we explore more space for roads.

An end of a legacy and a new one in the making

I did not sign up for the opening ceremony of the new Kent Ridge NUSS Guild House, which was also an occasion to listen to LKY in person. Neither did I read his speech in the media except glancing over a few key points. Nothing unusual actually. But in a bigger perspective it marks a change and a new beginning. LKY has created a legacy for what he has done to this little island. He used to hold his audience in awe when he spoke. Two generations of Singaporeans grown up under this spell. Even foreigners looked forward to hear him speak. After last Friday, that chapter was closed. Somehow, though he came through on the TV as still very forceful and lucid, he looked like a man out of time and out of place. LKY did not say anything new. He reiterated old values that have been flogged over the years. Saying those things to wide eyed and young eager beavers may make some sense. I am just wondering how many people were with him when he said those things, or how many were just twiddling their thumbs and rolling their eyeballs at the new meanings of those values and virtues. As what the elites are for the past years, they will listen and just shut up. If there were anything they want to say you will know hear them unless one is in their circle of confidante. The views in cyberspace were more robust and direct. And the views expressed, if they are anything to come by, is an indication of an old legacy forgotten and a new one in the making.


Hospital fees, legal fees and insurance premiums

The combination of these three elements in one go is the best we can get to emulate the great American society. We have arrived, in a way, like the Americans. And soon what is happening to AIG and the strong detest of the way they paid themselves will affect the people here. The AIG executives are living in fear of the brickbats that are coming their way. How long can they go on ripping the people off? The Americans are up in arms. And with the availability of firearms, do not be surprised if a few of them will be shot for crimes against the American public. The American society is plagued by huge hospital fees, huge legal fees and huge insurance premiums. And the way things are, we are heading into the same quagmire. The beauty of it is that we know exactly what it is going to be and we believe that this is the solution for a rich country like ours, like the Americans. Just pay your way through. No money no talk. How could the medical bill for a student suffering from leukemia reached $400K? Sure, you can count every item in the whole process, from ward charges to medicine and professional fees. So it is justifiable to charge that kind of inhuman fees? Totally transparent and accountable. This was the bill for Zhang Xiaoou that was highlighted in the Sunday Times today. How many people can afford this kind of money? Even $20k is a big problem to many. Then the whole process, in the case of car insurance and claims for damages and injury involving legal fees, my goodness, we have progressed as a nation, as a people beyond any means. Everyone is getting rich in the whole process without asking anything about the conscience of making money. Just find the reason, right or wrong, legal or illegal, and make the other party pays. And finally the innocent motorists will be the ultimate paymaster. And this is a free market economy. Nothing can be done. Everyone is paying market price for everything. It is the way and it should be.

A team of rivals

This was the main theme of an article by ST’s China Bureau Chief, Peh Shing Huei on Saturday. He was referring to the Obama Administration which is made up of both the Democrats and Republicans, some from the George Bush Administration. This rival mix in politics is gaining popularity out of necessity and expediency. China has started this trend after Deng Xiaoping’s successors took over the leadership. The current Thai govt is also a gathering of a mixed bag of politicians. And so is the State Governments in Malaysia. In fact UMNO is also an alliance of convenience among the communal parties. Singapore’s history also took off with a team of rivals, the left wing Barisan Socialis and the right wing or socialist PAP. But the marriage of convenience was shortlived and the Barisan Socialis MPs were either imprisoned or fled the country. I wanted to ask if such a marriage of convenience is possible or workable for the long term good of the component members and the country today. The answer is quite obvious. It cannot be and will only lead to one party swallowing the other or running down the weaker party. Politics has never been a pleasant tea party of friends but of vicious politicians trying to out manouvre each other with the winner takes all before the party is over. It was never meant to be a game for ladies and gentlemen but for schemers and cunningness to fix up or destroy the enemy at all cost. Have things changed? Has the world changed or the people changed to such an extent that the thought of partying with the rivals is now relevant and a necessity? Would we see the different political parties coming together after a general election as national leaders sitting in Parliament to agree and also to disagree without trying to take a swipe at each other at every opportunity? Looking at the ethics and temperaments of politicians, we are still a long way off. We may be emulating the Americans in many things. But the new trend of embracing rival politicians like what Obama is doing is the furthest thing that will be copied here. The medieval rules of the survival of the ruthless, and the destruction of every opponent in the way, will still be the political ethos and morality of politics here. Am I wrong?


Eunice Chew Li Xin

Another pathetic story of a 14 year old girl who died unnecessarily in this very unforgiving city state when you can't go on living without money. According to the story in AsiaOne online, her mother was so broke that she had not eaten for a few days. This 14 year old girl had to work in fast food outlets to buy food for the jobless mother who is also having medical problem. Her parents were divorced. And Eunice was stabbed to death by her mother, probably in a state of despair after days of hunger pangs. No matter how wide is the safety net, as long as the cost of living is high, there will be many that will not be discovered and will continue to live in a life of drudgery. Wonder if they qualify or were on public assistance programme. In a country that is so kind and compassionate to the losers in life, we need not do anything to be cruel.

The AIG fallout

The stubborn persistence to be paid huge bonuses even when the company was going bust and needing US$185 billion in public money to keep it afloat is the height of plain stupidity and abusive arrogance. The House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel called it 'Near criminal indulgence.' The Americans were outraged. But will the expectation of high and exorbitant pay and bonuses continues to be the way of life or will they see the end of an era of robbers and thieves? Paul Heng, the MD of NeXT Career Counsulting here thought that it could be the beginning of the end of big, fat, obscene bonuses. Singapore is not free from such near criminal indulgence. We have been blindly and greedily following the Wall Street thieves in their daylight robbery and extortion of public money or shareholders money. And the best part is that we are proclaiming that our pay is still too low, not enough, they needed to be pay more. How much more? How much is enough? When an employee can throw away $50k for a cooking course, you cannot be so blind not to know that he is obviously being paid too much that he can't wait to burn it away. As a public policy, it is of great importance to pay the employees well, especially the talented, for them to live well and contribute well to society and country. But when paying well becomes excessively well, something must be gravely wrong. Then there are other consequences in the formula. High pay, high consumption, high cost of living, high cost of everything that needs higher pay is like a dog chasing its own tail. The workers are working just to keep paying for their food and essentials. At the lower end, the high cost of living is just that. No money left for anything, not even for retirement. And forget about an expensive cooking class. The govt has a very important responsibility to grapple with high cost and high pay controversy. What it should least do is to add to it and make this vicious cycle turn even wilder. The workers can never earn enough when other agencies are all waiting, counting how much they have in their pockets and CPF, and price their products and services to make sure that every cent is taken away from them. This is called affordability pricing or market pricing. A way to make sure that what you earn is just enough for them to take away. Many still cannot see the woods from the forest and think all these high property prices and high pay is a good thing. So the high HDB price, the high medical fees, education, etc are all affordable and good. The high rentals that the landlords are charging the shops and businesses are paid by the consumers, every cent of it. What is important is to curb the growing cost that often is unncessary and self inflicted. When cost is lower, the people can live more comfortably with lesser pay. The value of money is not eroded away that fast. Otherwise the money in the CPF, even a few hundred thousands, may worth nothing when it is time to take them out. And if the cost of 2 or 3 bungalows continues to go up, the public employees will demand that they are not paid enough and want to be paid in 10 or 20 millions. Hold the madness. Stop the dog from chasing its tail. It is never ending. It is unrestrained greed. The best part, the balloon must burst one day.


CPF savings not enough for retirement

I fully agree with Aaron Low, ST's political correspondent, on his view that CPF savings will not be enough for retirement. At the rate inflation is eating up the value of the savings, many will be hard push for money to pay for their basic expenses. The question is why CPF savings, about 40% of a person's life time income is not enough. Oh, they have been buying affordable housing and paying for affordable hospitable bills. Ok, these are affordable expenses and reasaonable to spend them. So how to make sure that after spending on these affordable items at affordable prices the retirees will still have enough money to live on? One way as suggested by Aaron, is to give up the idea of leaving something behind for the children. Have an inflation pegged annuity plan that will ensure that every cent is used up. Nothing to be left behind. I have another brilliant idea. Raise CPF contribution to 60%. This should work for a while if inflation is still at 6-8%. But if the price of housing and medical bills keep going up according to market prices, or if inflation is higher, this may still be short. If that is the case, we can raise it to 80%. It is prudent to save for the future. Tighten the belt if need be.

Time of Great Opportunities

The world financial crisis has thrown open the door to great opportunities if we are prepared to take a step back and assess how best we could benefit from it. One area that we can seriously take a relook is the policy on foreign talents. Now is the time to go out there and mount a major recruitment exercise to bring in the real talents from America. We can go for the top notch talents instead of the third or fourth rate talents we were getting in the past. We could go for the best 200 or 300 CEOs to replace all the CEOs in GLC linked companies. The CEOs of Citigroup, AIG, GM, Ford Motors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the financial institutions and the airlines, the aerospace industry etc, all are available at a price that is now affordable. We can than go ahead and acquire the Citibank Asia operations, AIA, replace the CEO of HDB with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, build car factories in JB, Batam and Bintan with the help fo GM and Ford Motors. The experts and top talents from Wall Streets can replace the local talents in our finance industry, and the possibilities are just enormous. Go and get them before it is too late. And we can truly transform ourselves into really world class. Our corporations all headed by the best foreign talents and supported by the best local talents. We will be world beaters.


The motorists are angry, very angry

The high insurance cost now, and the coming future, is making many motorists angry. And the fact that this is a mandatory requirement really is a pissed off. It is like legalising daylight robbery. It is not the point to tell the industry to reduce the insurance premiums. The govt must step in to stop the malpractice as the legal requirement for car insurance is from the govt. How can this thing be left to the insurance industry completely to decide how much they want to charge when it is obvious that frauds, abuses and malpractice are the cause. And don't forget that pay is also a major concern. How much is the cost going to the pay of the industry players? Big pay means big cost, don't ever forget that. Someone must pay for it. 8 month bonuses or 12 month bonuses or more?

Newton BBQed

It is good that the Newton BBQ stall has been suspended from business for 3 months. That is what the Singapore Brand is worth. I thought the Singapore Brand is worth more than that. But I hope all the tourists would avoid Newton altogether. The locals should avoid the place as well. And another big mess in Sim Lim and other shopping centres are about to unfold. Maybe the shops will also be suspended from operating for 3 months if they are caught fleecing their customers. In the case of Dr Clemen, he did not fleece his customers. They came willingly to give him the money.


$400k to $500k for 344 sq ft pigeon hole

The housing developers were bragging about the mad rush for 344 sq ft of pigeon holes and buyers willing to cough out $400k/$500k for it. And motor insurance of $2000 pa or about $200 pm, much more than the instalment payment of a OPC. Then $4/$5 for a bowl of noodle. Are these what we called progress, better off than yesterday? Why would people work so hard to earn $500k only to live in a little pigeon hole and feel that their quality of life has improved? What the shit to pay $200 pm just for protection to drive a car and may not even need it for the next 30 or 40 years, but keep paying? Then at $5 a meal and 3 meals a day, it will work out to $15 base. That is $450 min pm. Squeeze to bare minimum, it will still need $300 pm just to eat alone. Shouldn't someone tell those who are jobless and on public assistance to do the natural thing, which is practical, pragmatic and more dignified? We are getting poorer for sure, when our money is buying lesser and lesser things. And we called this progress? But everyone clamouring for more expensive housing as a good thing. Everything must be expensive than can be good. We can afford to pay and pay. 5 years ago I bought a flat TV for $5k. Just bought one for less than $700, and better in quality and features. Oops, I must be wrong. The cheaper one must be of poorer quality. Both are branded Japanese made. We are going crazy or becoming stupid to believe that things will get better at the way cost of living is allow to runaway uncheck.


Are we turning into robbers?

Yesterday we read about the thugs in Sim Lim Square fleecing on their customers, particularly tourists. And this did not happen yesterday, and not in Sim Lim alone. Today we read about daylight robbery in Newton Hawker Centre. 4 foreigners were literally robbed of $491 by Stall 43, Tanglin Best BBQ Seafood. This was their bill for the food. 8 prawns cost $239 or $30 each. 4 crabs cost $169 or $42 each. And what else? Is this what we have become? These robbers are not only robbing the tourists and foreigners, they are destroying the Singapore brand and livelihoods of the decent people in the same businesses. Do we want the world to know that we are a nation of robbers before something serious is done to curb such abuses? Letting them off with a warning or small fine is not acceptable. They should be made an example of by revoking their business licences. Maybe fleecing is now a way of life as long as someone else has to pay for it. It reminds me of car insurance. Another kind of robbery. And if one looks carefully, robbery is everywhere, some even appeared legal and honourable.

Do not begrude others doing well

I was too busy to watch the news last night but with the TV on I could still catch the phrase, 'Do not begrudge others who are earning more' spoken by someone who must be earning much more. I think the comment was the result of some vibrations in cyberspace of civil servants getting 8 months of bonuses in such a time. Why should people begrudge others who are capable and earning their honest pay? Even in times like this, the able and capable, and the very talented must not be forgotten. Let's pay them their worth in case they may think of jumping ship. There are a lot of great paymasters out there waiting with open arms to employ these able talents, and pay them more. Just a little concern about public servants being paid with taxpayers money, and being paid very well. Just hope that their being paid very well will not being translated into more taxes in order to do so. The money must come from somewhere. From who's pocket?


Case is geared up to fight insurance fraud

Two letters in the ST forum did the job. The motorists are angry and demand that something needs be done to curb the abuses in the motor insurance industry. And Case is making strong statements to muster govt efforts to stop the fraud. Case President Yeo Guat Kwang said, 'It is not fair for the consumers to suffer, at the end of the day, because of all this malpractice in the industry.' It was also reported that GIA has all along suspected 'that some workshops, legal professionals and medical practititioners are working hand in glove in making these claims.' While professionals are involved too! And all these have been going on for so long and no one does anything to it or nothing can be done to stop it? Hey, this is highly efficient Singapore! So what are we going to do about it? The insurance companies have done the Singapore thing, throw more money into it by raising insurance premiums to solve the problem. Would more money be thrown into it to help the motorists? Or maybe we shall second a few supertalents to solve this difficult problem.

All the countries doing the wrong things

The US is going to curb employment for foreigners. And KL is also doing so. The big bourses in Tokyo, Australia and some others are curbing short selling. People are having second thoughts on minibonds and derivatives, high leverages on stocks and assets have proven to be very destructive. The exception is Singapore. We know we are doing the right thing while the world fumbles with about everything. That is why we are so successful. We will continue to welcome foreign talents. We will continue to sell minibonds, with a bit more care. We will continue to let short sellings in our stock market, it can only be good. Let the market forces determined the price. And we will continue to have derivatives and more derivatives. Leverage is good. Imagine one can take 5 or 10 mortgages on a house. There will be more liquidity. Why would Conrad Raj wrote against introducing more derivatives in such a time? He said it is like encouraging gambling. One stock with 10 derivatives means it is multiplied 10 times. If it fails, it will hurt 10 times, exactly like minibonds. Our stock market does not need more stocks or IPOs anymore. We can keep expanding by just multipling the stocks with more derivatives. So many people have been burnt with fortunes destroyed because of derivatives. Why can't we learn a little and be a little more cautious? Why can't we learn from other's mistakes? No, the others were less talented than us and do not know how to do it right. We are so talented until we can't find anyhow to fill Ho Ching's position and need a foreigner to come and help us find the way. By the way, I fully agree with Conrad Raj's reservations and concerns.


We are getting closer to a 8 million people city

We are getting closer to realise our dream of a 8 million people city. I read today's paper that private developers are building flats that are as big as 8 table tennis tables or 344 sq ft. And HDB is also reducing the size of the respective flats compare to the earlier days. Whether this is progress or regress is another issue. The squeeze will mean that the island could easily double or triple the population size. Let's forget about Swiss standard of living. Let's look east at Hongkong and Tokyo, great examples of great living. And the quality of life should be better as these flats are relatively more expensive on a per sq ft basis. So more expensive must be better. And this great way to live can be easily explained away. Save on PUB bills, save on cleaning space, no need maids, OMO can do liao. And no need to run all the way to the toilet or kitchen. Just row over and one is instantly in the toilet or kitchen. So easy and comfortable. Can watch TV from the toilet seat too. Singaporeans should look forward to the exciting future.

S Chips or minibond equivalent?

Finally a letter appeared in the ST forum questioning the huge amount of money lost by investors in S Chips, or China stocks listed in our stock market. I am wondering if this the first and only letter ever received by ST on this issue. Steven Lim Ngian Ern questioned whether due diligence were done before foreign companies were allowed to be listed here and why no one was answerable for the increasing number of S Chips going under through accounting fraud, disappearing management, board of directors abandoning the companies, overstating of cash balances and over inflated sales. Who is accountable for all these failures and the loss of money by investors? The answer is NOBODY! No one is responsible. It is caveat emptor. Someone told me geylang's gambling dens also operate on the same basis. No one is responsible. You die your own business. The operator just bring the gamblers together and collect a commission. Before we continue to plunge more deeply into this black hole, before more investors lose their money, I think there are enough incidents to warrant a slow down in this reckless and mindless pursuit to boost up the number of stocks in the stock market. Clob is already a very bitter experience. The way things are going it is not much different from Malaysian Clob shares or the minibonds. We need accountability and responsibility. We are not talking about losing peanuts. The money lost in the market is awesome.


Car insurance premiums up and up

The motorists are so pissed off with the high insurance premiums for cars that two letters appeared in the ST forum today. There could be more letters written in and many more who are angry but did not write in. The gist of their anger is that the high operating cost in the insurance industry is contributed by bad management and probably misleading claims and the whole process of repairing and claims. And all these were simply passed to the innocent motorists. Worst, many motorists have never made a claim in their lives and are made to pay more and more. Huh, pay more and more. Motor insurance is a compulsory requirement by law. Should the authority be concerned and be interested to see that there is fair play in this business? Or someone is sleeping or paid not enough so does not think it is his job to get his feet wet or hands dirty? The other question is whether the accident rate is really that high given the high number of vehicles on the road. Without proper monitoring and regulations in this industry, the insurers could turn themselves into highwaymen and the motorists becoming victims of another scheme of daylight robbery. Wake up man.

3 universities freeze student fees

Is this good news or bad news? Money wise I think most students and parents will breathe a sigh of relief. But quality wise, without increasing the fees, will the quality of education suffer? Every time when there is an increase in fees, they will tell you that you want quality you pay for it. So the quality improves with every fee increases. Now if the fees are frozen, do we see the quality of university education stagnant until the next fee increase? This is the kind of hogwash Singaporeans have been fed all these years, the quality of this kind of reasoning to justify fee increases or pay increases is idiotic at best. Shall Singaporeans continue to believe this kind of bull? Without this pay freeze, the universities have already planned to raise fees from 4% to 10% depending on the faculties. They deem it as their right, a natural thing to do. At an average rate of 7%, in 10 years, the fees will be double, and presumably the fees of the academic and non academic staff will be double as well. Then can we ask the question, will the quality of the professors increase accordingly with each pay increase? Maybe. But will his job spec increases accordingly? Or will he still be teaching the same number of students and the same number of hours and modules? Will the quality of each batch of students graduating improve with the same fee increase? For the past decade or so, we have done away with a salary cap. We forgot that the job spec does not change very much. We forgot that the incumbent does not change very much. We forgot that many jobs are still the same jobs 10 years ago. But with an open ended salary, the salary keeps running away. The higher the salary at the top, the more the increases will be and the joker sitting there will laugh all the way to the bank. And this salary increase policy applies not only to the universities but everywhere, you know where. Just look around and ask, what has that person done to deserve another 10% of increases? Is his job getting bigger, he gets smarter, he does something extra ordinary? The only reason that this incessant increases relies on is market forces. Other people are being paid more, so they must get paid more. How silly. But that is how things are. We have thrown away the old concept that a job is worth so much and need only to be paid so much, regardless of how much other people are being paid.


Celebrating Singapore

Taking a magnifying glass and poring over the map carefully, it was with great effort that I found this little place called Singapore. Take another map before the 19th century and you would not find it. And this little piece of rock of 4 million people, actually about 2.5 mil if the non citizens are not counted, is hell of a rich country today. Without any natural resources, we are standing among the rich nations of the world. The most remarkable thing is that we have so much money as a state that we literally did not know what to do with it. Hey, we are talking about a few hundred billions in US currency. The boys must be going ga ga and getting dizzy in their heads. How to put those numbers into perspective? And we trotted around the globe with a handful of rich nations talking about where to put our money. And all the big corporations and nations in need of money will come knocking at our doors, taking a queue number and waited patiently to be welcomed in. Unbelieveable, but this is our achievement. We have plenty of cash. The little catch is that we don't have the people to take care of it. And we do not know what to do with it. So we do charity for the world. We are the number one philantrophist to the world. Take a bow. We deserve it.

Should fare hikes be posted in websites

Public transport companies are having wonderful and informative websites to promote what they are doing and educating and informing the public about the companies and activities. Shouldn't public companies post information on the history, the when and how much were the fare hikes on their websites? Such information are relevant and useful to the public. It is also all about transparency. And these are information that are not only available whenever there is an increase, they are all authorised, approved by PTC. They are not confidential information. I have been trying to find these information in the websites but no signs of them. Public transport companies, please post them on your websites please.

Knowing your place

Today I shall not indulge in matters that does not concern me, matters that should rightfully be the concerns of those who volunteered to care of them. Today I shall talk about things that a kopitiam shall talk about, about things that affect the kopitiam people daily. Let's start at 6am. What would people be doing at 6am when the sun is not even up? Sunrise is now 7am after we amended our time forward. Oh, the 'mummies' must be busy preparing their little kids for school. 6am may even be too late for those living further away. These are real stuff of kopitiams. What else, ha, choping seats in kopitiams with tissue papers. Arrrgggh, such bad habits, offensive, unacceptable. There must be better ways of choping seats. And don't forget to return the plates to the cleaning ah peks or ah mahs. And don't leave a mess after eating ok? Public transport may be something they should talk about. Not the high cost, but about seating on the floors, about peeping Toms, about giving up seats to aunties and uncles and getting annoyed when they don't accept the kind offers. For the young, talk about warcraft, about the latest gadgets and mobile phones, about Stomps, and yes, take pictures for Stomps. And the tai tais, about the most sexy lingeries and where to get them. I think there are many serious stuff that befit kopitiam talks. How nice if everyone will come to kopitiams and talk about such stuff. I think everyone will give me pat on the back and say, 'Good boy, that is your rightful place.'


18 years good enough to invest in stocks

The new ruling has just came out. 18 year olds can trade in the stock market. I don't use the word investing in stock markets. Stock markets used to be a place for long term investment. You put in some money and see them grow with the company. Not today. The stock market is like a casino or worst than a casino. The big players are manipulating the markets at will and investing in stocks is no longer like it was before. It is betting on a position every day, every hour and every second. I don't think it is the right thing for 18 year olds to be in this kind of stock market. We will turn into a nation of gamblers. is this the right way to go? At 18, the possibility of reckless trading is very high. And traders can easily be caught in bad positions and losses can accumulate into a mountain in no time. And the parents will end up bailing these kids out, that is if they are able to or can afford to.

Parliament is not kopitiam

Parliament is the nation's highest body where the ablest men and women gather to discuss serious national issues. There are important things to be raised in Parliament. There are important things to be raised only in kopitiams. One issue I thought would be important enough is the sale of core national assets. We have sold 3 power stations which I believe should be regarded as core assets or strategic assets. They were real things, with buildings, machinery and equipment sitting on the ground. They provided an essential service to the people. We have exchanged them for fiat currency. From the fiat currency we got, we probably have used it to buy other assets which recently have proven to be fleeting assets. Now the money is gone. The fleeting assets have diminished in value. Our 3 power stations also gone. The selling of core national assets must be seriously discussed in Parliament. If we do not need the money, there is no reason to sell such assets. Why trade our core and strategic assets for things that, well, have proven unworthy or worthless? Parliament must review such attempts to sell more national assets in the future and decide whether it is a good thing or a sensible thing to do. At this point in time it has been proven to be unwise. It is like selling Christmas Island. Once sold it is gone forever.


Good that NOL shares were hammered down

Yesterday there was this market rumour that NOL may be making cash calls and its shares were duly sold down. This is what investors should do when companies take the convenient way to demand cash from cash strap shareholders, in a very difficult time like this. I hope investors will continue to sell off companies making cash calls. And it is highly irresponsible for such companies to do so when some don't even need the money or have other sources of fund. What is happening? Are these companies so broke or they have lost their pants somewhere and needing the small shareholders to pay for their folly? Robbing poor Peter to pay Paul?

Growth for what and for who?

Eminnent professor of strategy at the Stephen M Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in the USA is questioning the growth fetishism in Singapore. She is calling for a reexamination of what all the fuzz is about. And it takes someone from the distance, not our world class academia, to discuss such an important matter. Perhaps our brilliant people are all busy making money the best they could for themselves. Dr Linda Lim is a Singaporean based in Ann Arbor. She could see from the distance of things that we cannot see from inside the fish tank. The wide income gap and the high cost of living, and the way we bet big with our national savings are all things that demands a serious relook before they get bad. Where is the debate or concern in this little paradise of super talents, demigods and immortals? Maybe they have more important preoccupations like licensing bicycles or chasing pieces of gold medals in sports, or chasing foreign talents. Should we be pondering over the distribution of wealth and how to spread it around more instead of asking the hardlanders to ever keep on tightening their belts, or to make them pay more as every increase is carefully calculated to be affordable but leaving them with nothing for tomorrow? The ST devoted one page of its paper to Dr Linda Lim Today with 3 separate articles on her and what she had said about our economic growth and strategy.


Just for the record

Monday, 09 March 2009 Se Young LeeDow Jones Newswires Singapore's foreign reserves fell to US$163.55 billion at the end of February from US$167.09 billion a month earlier and was lower than US$171.74 billion a year earlier, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said Monday. In Singapore dollar terms, the reserves were S$252.78 billion in February compared with S$252.57 billion in January and S$239.36 billion a year earlier, the central bank said on its Web site. I copy this from Singabloodypore.

Preparing for Change

Is it time for change? Obama took almost one year to prepare the Americans for change. If it is time for change, the people must be mentally prepared for it. Who can do the preparation? The political parties or the media? Which media and who wants change? When people are talking about change, I presume they are talking about political change, a change of govt and a change of policies. There cannot be any major changes or change of policies without a change of govt, or at least a big swing in votes with more opposition candidates in Parliament. And for such a momentous event to happen, a lot of preparation and effort must be put into it. It cannot happen overnight. Neither can it happen spontaneously unless there is a crisis of earth shaking proportion. Then there will be the supporters and forces that will resist change, who would want the status quo. These forces will be working equally hard to avoid change. For the moment the forces against change are having the upper hand. What can be done to keep the call for change and its momentum going? The forces for change will have to start thinking and working now. And I think cyberspace can play a major role towards change by harping about it day and night to create the awareness. The people must be prepared for the change to come if it is to come.

In a state of shock!

Have we been so stunned to inactivity by the financial crisis? After the Reliance Package there were some talks of upturn the downturn and belt tightening. Subsequently there were more calls for trainining. Then what else? With the economy grinding down, with some industries limping, where are the supertalents and their super solutions to the problems facing us? Could more be done to alleviate the situation? Or are we just sitting there waiting for the storm to blow over and then pick up the pieces? Or really there is nothing else that can be done? The people have no talents and they can't do anything. Those with great talents and are paid for their talents should be showing their talents at times like this. We really need them now, badly. Where are they?


Slit wrist or no slit wrist

This is the latest controversy being discussed in TOC. It has taken issue with the facts of the NTU student, David Hartonto Widjaja, who stabbed his professor and was reported to jump to his death but not before slitting his wrist. Nearly every one of the media reported this. TOC had interviewed a student, Edwin Lesmana Tjiong, who said that there was no slashed wrist and this was confirmed by police reports. How could such a big gap of evidence happen? What is going on?

Waiting for Pipe Piper to blow his tune

The Shanghai and Tokyo stock markets have started to stabilise and turned around. Australia has extended its curb on shortselling till the end of May. Proactive govts who are concerned with how their stock exchanges are performing and how to shore up the falling values of the stocks are actively doing their parts. We used to have commentaries to talk up a falling market when the situation justified it. We used to distinguish our markets from the rest as our market was sound. And our market is sound. At least many of the companies are still reeling in millions and billions in profits. Some have cash hoards in the billions waiting to prey on distressed companies. Compare them to the companies in the US when many are insolvents, then we ask the question, why are the values of our stocks being battered down? Taken that some of their revenues will be affected. But they are still healthy companies, especially our banks and blue chips. When will the Pipe Piper stand out to blow his tune? It seems that everyone is just waiting. No one dares to utter his bit if the Pipe Piper does not act. It is like a headless corpse waiting for something to happen. And in the meantime the stockmarket continues to be slammed irresponsibly and billions being lost. There must be a return to value for the sound and profitable blue chips. It would also shore up the values of Temasek and GIC when the values of their stock holdings improve. Their books will definitely look better too. Where is the Pipe Piper?

Monitoring the transport fare increases

Can anyone provide the information on the number and amount of increases by the transport companies over the last 3 years? I am trying to get this info to keep track on how much have been added onto the fare prior to the generous deduction of 2c per trip which commuters are very grateful. Monitoring such increases is very important as it will keep track and a check on what the commuters are paying. More often than not, most tend to forget or ignore the increases as they were done in small bite sizes. Some don't even notice them, like me. I am going to put extra effort now on to follow this closely. I am waiting for a reply from the SMRT on my query.


Can we afford to do away with GRCs?

The relevance of GRC has been a perennial issue in all elections. We have been told of how important it is to ensure minority representation in the govt. Lately we have seen how useful it is for a constituency to continue to be served by other MPs in the same GRC when one has passed away. There is no need to run another costly election and wasting money and time of the people. And no lost of the quality of services to the residence. GRC has many other advantages. It allows a bunch of MPs to enter the Parliament in the same bandwagon, anchored by a strong candidate. Weak candidates need only to hang on tight to the tail coat and he is in. But of course, the sword can cut both ways. GRC can also relieve the hardworking ministers from the Meet the People Sessions if their schedules are too demanding. They can rely on the not so busy MPs to do the mundane tasks of solving residents' problems. I do not live in the GRCs of the ministers and do not know if they spend the same number of hours meeting the people as the MPs. Meeting the People is a very tedious and time consuming job and sometimes may not be too pleasant as well. Today such jobs may even carry the risk of personal injury. I think GRC will grow increasingly important as the ministers and MPs get older and less mobile or have less energy to walk the ground. Leave it to the young beavers.

Celebrating Singaporean - Professor Donald Tan Tiang Hwee

Professor Donald Tan Tiang Hwee In the company of Singapore's finest eye surgeons. That was the privilege I had yesterday when I attended a public awareness talk on cornea donation organised by the Lion's Club of Singapore. And the luminaries that graced the occasion, other than the senior Lions, were Professor Arthur Lim himself and Professor Donald Tan. A/Professor Heng Yim Jin and Dr Lim Li also made their presentation in the public seminar. Professor Arthur Lim has been an authority in eye surgery for many years and is probably the father of this field of medical science, and a mentor to the many fine eye surgeons we have here. It is heartening to know that he has a worthy successor to continue his great works and to make more progress and discoveries in this field. Together, they have made the Singapore National Eye Centre a top class eye clinic and famous around the world. They not only have a superb track record to their credits, including the highest success rate in cornea transplant, lowest tissue rejection rate, lowest cell loss rate, they are also constantly doing R and D to develop new methods and technology in cornea transplant. They improved on the technology and techniques being used, they also developed new techniques that are new frontier science and technology. Such achievements and track records need to be made known to all, especially Singaporeans that we are truly among the best. I have attached a press release by SNEC below to give more details of their achievements, including the technical jargons of cornea transplant and other surgical treatments by other equally great eye surgeons in the Centre. This press release is dated Sep 04 which is not too current, but good enough to so how much they had done since then. SNEC 15TH ANNIVERSARY INTERNATIONAL MEETING The Singapore National Eye Centre will mark another milestone as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary since inception in 1990 with a year-long programme beginning with the SNEC 15th Anniversary International Meeting which will be held from 3 to 6 September 2004. The Theme of the Meeting: Clear Vision for All Ages, represents the mission of every ophthalmologist. There will be a high quality scientific programme featuring symposia, updates, masterclasses, skill transfer courses and live surgery demonstration presented largely by our local ophthalmologists. Renowned ophthalmologists from all over the world are also invited to speak in this Meeting. SNEC will be uncovering some of our new and significant advances from our major subspecialties that will impact the practice of ophthalmology. New Advances in Lamellar Keratoplasty Assoc Prof Donald Tan Associate Professor Donald Tan is the Deputy Director of the SNEC and Senior Consultant and Head of Cornea and External Eye Disease Service. He is also Director of the Singapore Eye Research Institute and holds dual appointment as associate professor at the Department of Ophthalmology, National University of Singapore. A/Prof Donald Tan spearheaded the cornea development with the introduction of new techniques of ocular surface transplantation and amniotic membrane transplantation in Singapore since 1997. The SNEC is now the leading Centre in these techniques in Asia besides Japan. In collaboration with dental surgeons from the National Denetal Centre, A/Prof Donald Tan led eye surgeons in SNEC to successfully complete the revolutionary two-stage Osteo-Odonto Keratoprosthesis Surgery to enable a blind boy from Thailand to see. This is the first operations of its kind in South-East Asia. Lamellar Keratoplasty (LK) refers to a surgical procedure in which the anterior corneal layers, to a variable stromal layer depth are replaced with donor tissue. The lamellar keratoplasty is used for the management of various corneal disorders and it is fast re-emerging as a viable option for corneal replacement surgery. SNEC has achieved new and significant advances in the area of LK and recent innovative surgical techniques and tolls are now emerging which allow corneal surgeons to perform LK with excellent visual results. LK has distinctive advantages over penetrating keratoplasty: sutures can be removed earlier, risks for wound dehiscence and graft failure due to allograft rejection are reduced. The need for therapeutic lamellar surgery has become more pressing in Asia, where tectonic and therapeutic indications for keratoplasty remain major indications, and the ability of corneal surgeons to perform “match and patch” grafts of various sizes and shapes allows for treatment of complex disorders such as tectonic lamellar surgery in Mooren’s ulceration and scleral melting after adjunctive pterygium surgery. At the SNEC, a review of indications for lamellar surgery show that 40% of LKs are performed for tectonic indications, while a third are performed for optical reasons, and a quarter for therapeutic indications. Clinical Applications of Optical Coherent Tomography Dr Doric Wong Dr Doric Wong is a senior consultant ophthalmologist with the Vitreo-Retina Department and the Cataract and Comprehensive Department of the Singapore National Eye Centre. He also practises in the Department of Ophthalmology of the Changi General Hospital. Dr Doric Wong spent a year at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, New York, where his focus was on medical retina. His practice encompasses most aspects of surgical retina, specifically retinal detachments, and PVR, diabetic retinopathy, macular surgery and trauma. In medical retina, his interest is on choroidal neovascular disease and polypoidal choroidal vasculopathy. Dr Doric Wong has been invited to lecture and to teach extensively in the region. A high-powered resolution imaging for retina, the Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), is now available at the Singapore National Eye Centre. OCT has matured as an investigative tool in ophthalmology over the last few years. It now provides a new and reliable and reproducible way of visualisng diseases of the retina, providing information otherwise not visible through other means. A highly detailed cross-section view of the retina can be recorded using infra-red light and special acquisition techniques. An image akin to one using a microscope to examine a slice of the retina is obtained from a patient’s eye without being invasive. Subtle changes of the retina, and its relationships with structures above and below it can be visualized and documented, helping doctors to understand disease processes which affect the retina and monitor changes with treatment. Femtosecond Laser Technology: Current Status and Future Perspectives The Femtosecond Laser Technology is fundamentally a new technology utilizing the fine precision of a femtosecond laser as a surgical tool and has applications in a host of eye surgeries including its ability to laser as a corneal flap for LASIK surgery to correct myopia, perform corneal transplantation with precise accuracy and also perform glaucoma surgery. The femtosecond laser system has the ability to perform accurate but gentle surgery on the cornea without fist having to apply heavy suction forces and deforming the natural shape of the cornea. The potential of this technology lies in the co-development of new corneal transplantation procedures which may result in improved safety and visual outcomes in patients blind from corneal diseases. For further information, please contact: Ravi Chandran Corporate Communications Executive Singapore National Eye Centre


The widening racial divide

The pain is hurting more with each day passing in Malaysia. The discrimination against the non Malays continues and will continue as a govt policy with BN in charge. Malaysia under the BN is determined to rule the country on the basis of Malay and non Malay. And the ethnic minorities suffer in silence, for too long. But the silence has been broken and they are standing up to say no to such discrimination. Hindraf is playing an increasingly important role in this fight against racial discrimination and suppression, against economic freedom and freedom to choose a way of life.And they are going to sacrifice for the cause with more martyrs to be imprisoned or to be harmed in the process. As the BN continues to build up its Malayness in a country when the Malays is not really an absolute majority, the ridiculous nature of this Malayness is now being exposed. Most of the champions of Malayness are not Malays themselves. Many are Arabs, Indians and Indonesians in orgins. And many have mixed ancestries. The point is more sore when many are new immigrants in the country compare to the ethnic minorities who have set roots here a few centuries back. The people are questioning this Malay formula. What is so Malay about being Malay? As long as the ruling BN continues with this half past six formula to cling on to power, Malaysia will continue to be divided as a country for years to come. Instead of becoming more Malaysian, it is becoming more Malay. Actually this is also a fallacy, it is not becoming more Malay but more rojak Malay. For the new Malays are not Malay in the strict sense but descendants of mixed ancestries. Who is a Malay? And the real bumiputras, the original natives of the land, were also beside sidelined. The Orang Aslis, the Dayaks, the Dusuns, the Ibans and the many tribes in East Malaysia, they do not enjoy the kind of privileges and attention the so called 'Malays' are enjoying. Would the real bumiputras stand up for their rights and rightful place in the country and chase away the pretenders?

HDB is a private commercial organisation, is a....

HDB is private, HDB is public, HDB is a commercial organisation, HDB is a govt organisation, HDB is to build flats for the people, HDB is to make as much profit for its shareholders.... What is HDB? What is the role of HDB? Oh it has been privatised, no longer a govt organisation or stats board. The govt has nothing to do with its policies. 'The Senior Minister of State for National Development, Ms Grace Fu, said yesterday that the HDB is "going to hasten the pace of the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) because we think this is a very good time....Ms Fu assured home buyers yesterday that HDB will "always price (the new flats) with the market price in mind.' This is quoted from the ST today. So is HDB govt or private? Also, this new pricing to the market must be a policy that every MP in Parliament also approved of. Was there any objection to such a policy or were there any question ask in Parliament? Objecting is a non existence word. Asking is the best that the people can expect from their representatives in Parliament.

Don't be stupid

'We have achieved progress with our bilingual education. It would be stupid for any Singapore agency or NTU to advocate the learning of dialects, which must be at the expense of English and Mandarin.' Chee Hong Tat, Principal Private Secretary to the MM. I cannot agree more with this statement. The romancing of ethnic, parochial and sectoral emotions and sentiments must not become a national preoccupation. Go on and cultivate, preserve and enjoy your personal romance with whatever holds dear to one's heart. But pushing such agenda is, yes, STUPID. It is stupid, it is stupid. Primordial instinct cannot be given too much of a free play and become a national agenda. The above quote is in the forum page of ST today. I am not sure if the stupid comment was Chee Hong Tat's comment or MM's comment. It is his letter, so it must be his. But the nuances and the familiarity of the stupid comment and its origin is well known. I thought only in cyberspace that such liberal use of the word stupid and expletives are common. I am glad that the main media is also feeling more free to express stronger feelings on issues. I am also glad that a PPS is also comfortable to use such terms in public statements.


Affordability Key to HDB flats

Ignatius Lourdesamy is working overtime to reply to the numerous questioning of HDB pricing of its flats. So far HDB has been explaining that the flats are all affordable as there is a range of flats to fit every pocket. The issue is why are the people not accepting this explanation and why are the people so unhappy with HDB? There seems to be a big gap of difference or perception between the two parties. In a way HDB is right. Just buy within your means. Just work out on 21% of your income and go for the flats that one can afford. The buyers must be wrong here. If they cannot afford a bigger flat, they must buy a smaller one. The other issue which many are still having a big doubt over their heads is with respect to the costing of the flats. First is the commercial interest and market pricing policy of HDB. This must have cheesed off a lot of the buyers. The second point is the costing. How did HDB work out their costs? The most important part of this puzzle is the land cost. I don't think anyone is going to agree with the way HDB cost their land. And that may be the reason why this is often spoken but no details will be given. Then there are the other costs which the people will be curious to know. HDB is a public housing organisation to build flats for the people. It is not a commercial or private enterprise no matter what it calls itself. It has a public responsibility to serve the interest of the people for the privilege position it is in. At the rate it is going, the animosity towards HDB will keep growing when its priorities do not match the perception and interest of the people it is supposed to be serving.

What I would call a badly managed and irresponsible stock market

Financial institutions across the world are licking their wounds and there were many red faces around. One exception is the stock markets. Despite the meltdown, no one is complaining, it seems, and the plight of the investors losing their fortunes were left untold. Many stock markets are victims of the financial tsunami. They cannot be sheltered from the onslaught. But many could have fared better while some actually dealt themselves in with many bad decisions. Some of the things I dread are as follows. 1. Reckless and rapid flooding of the market with IPOs. 2. Lack of control over dubious corporations. 3. Allowing the market to be manipulated or cornered by syndicates. 4. Allowing short selling in an imperfect market. 5. Hands off to irresponsible corporations making cash calls when liquidity is tight. 6. Allowing the erosion of values of stocks when some intervention is necessary. 7. Continue to multiply market instruments through more derivatives. 8. Deregulations when regulations is seriously wanting. These are some of my preliminary thoughts.


GIC lost 25% on paper

The media quoted LKY saying that GIC's portfolio fell 25% from its peak and was managing only $150b. For the 25% fall, I will strongly recommend that GIC take out a couple of billions to reward the staff for such a scintillating performance. It has greatly outperformed the market indices which fell about 40%. On the second point of $150b, I am very puzzled. Why was it reported in so many media reports that GIC was managing something like $550b? This is not a 10 or 20% error. It was inflated by almost 4 times what GIC has. Now, which is the real number? No one should question LKY as he is the GIC Chairman and it was like words from the horse's mouth. Some may wonder how come GIC is managing a portfolio that much smaller than Temasek. But fact is fact. Would the reputable and highly reliable media do some ground work to confirm the facts?

Riding a fast train or a Titanic

LKY had a dialogue with the media organised by Thomson Reuter yesterday. His mind was still as lucid as ever though his body may not be willing. Picturing him climbing the steps to a rally platform or walking the ground is not going to be easy. The question is whether he still wants to be in charge. Some may challenge this proposition, that he is no longer in charge and the baton has long been passed to Chok Tong, and now Hsien Loong. Come again? What would one make out of a man who would jump out from his grave if he senses something is wrong and say that he is not in charge? Then again, with so many hitches and slips and things going badly wrong, LKY is still very cool, as if nothing has gone wrong. Two possibilities. Either nothing is wrong or he doesn't think that they were wrong. If nothing is wrong, he does not need to do anything. If he does not think they were wrong, even if they were seriously wrong, then he still does not need to do anything. So what is happening? Are we like the rich and famous making merry inside a Titanic, having full trust in the ship, the captain and his crew, unknowing of the giant iceberg and rough sea outside, in the dark? Maybe the Titanic is not a good example. We could be in a fast train, rushing at full speed ahead, with clear sky, maybe a bit hazy at times, and under talented drivers. Is there a cliff ahead that the train will fall over? No, all clear ahead. We have control. LKY said he did not see a need for a snap election now. If he is in charge, that's it. If he is not, a snap election there will be. Who is in charge ultimately, or maybe the election is just an issue that the one in charge can step aside but keep an eye on it from the sideline. Will LKY never be in charge?


Rainbows and omens

The sighting of rainbows is now arousing a lot of interests. Every sighting keeps people guessing, is it a good sign or a bad sign? The lightning strike on the merlion is definitely a bad sign. It caused damages and money to repair. And some tourists may not have the chance to take pictures with the merlion in the background. It may be a disappointment in their holidays here. Rainbows are a different kind of things. They don't hurt or harm anyone. Quite a pretty sight actually. And they appear often after a downpour, washing away all the bad stuff in the air and on the ground. It gives the impression of a new begining, leaving the unhappy past behind. A better and promising tomorrow awaiting. That's what a rainbow says.

The next General Election

There have been all kinds of speculation of a snap election. The only thing that got snapped was the merlion. What else will be snapped? Another interesting question that is being raised is the possibility of LKY contesting for another term. How preposterous to suggest that he is too old and should resign. At 85, he has done everything, he should be singing My Way in the karaoke clubs. Now, would the electorate still think that it is worthy and deserving to vote an octogenarian to be an MP? I think everyone will have his way of looking at this queer possibility. There are many reasons for him to stay in politics, and many reasons for him to quit. Should the decision be made by him or should it be a decision to be made by the party, or by the people? The story will not have a pleasant ending should he be voted out by the people. Would he consider leaving a legacy as a never defeated MP? Or would he dally with the possibility of a bridge too far?

Who are the real fools, clowns and traitors?

The silly Chinese were at it again, biting their own backside. In an article by ST's China correspondence Sim Yin Chi, titled 'Not all Chinese backed patriotic buyer', he started his article with words like, Rogue, Conman, Fool, Clown and Traitor, to call Cai Mingcao. Cai Mingcao was depicted as an obnoxious character after his sabotage of the Christie's auction of looted Chinese treasures. Fortunately not all Chinese were against him. Actually only a minority of 22% in a survey. But the way the article was written, it was as if all the Chinese were attacking Cai. I fully endorse and support his action against the auction. When there is no way to obtain justice, when there is a miscarriage of justice by a court that is supposed to deliver justice, what else should the victim do? And what else did the Chinese people say about the French court? Is there any Asian correspondence worth his salt to condemn the French injustice? No, they are just another bunch of stupid Asians who accepted the abuse and injustice of the West , the colonisation, as a right. They deserve to be treated as second class, as fools, to be ruled by the West. Who then are the real fools, clowns and traitors?


Which is a better option?

GIC swop its US$6.88b prefered shares(4% if converted) to 11% ordinary shares of Citibank. At the same time it also forgo a fixed income of 7% returns for a 1c dividend that is not guaranteed. And to make matter worst, the price of Citibank immediately fell from the conversion price of US$3.25 to US$1.50, more than half the value of the prefered shares. And that is not the end of the story. Last night Citibank price fell to US$120, wiping off another 20% of its value. So technically it now has a value of $2.54b. This is only 37% of the US$6.88b. Why would GIC want to do that? Is the additional 7% of Citibank shares that much better than the fixed income of 7% which was estimated at US$480m annually? Or was there unreasonable reasons or pressure for GIC to agree to the conversion? The only way to look at this as a good move is long term. In the the long run, if Citibank price goes up, we will be getting 7% more of its worth. For the immediate, it is a frightening decision. The paper loss over two days is US$4.33b!

Community hospitals up fees

By Amresh Gunasingham on 2 Feb 09 THREE of the largest community hospitals here have raised their prices sharply, and a fourth is set to follow suit. Soaring costs of food, medical supplies and qualified staff had forced them to so, they told The Straits Times. Revised ward charges for the cheapest beds have increased by at least $50. Some patients will end up paying $3,900 - almost double the previous charges - for a typical month-long stay in C-class wards. The above is quoted from ST Online. World class hospitals will end up with world class cost and world class fees. That is basic economics. But we tend to forget if the not world class patients can afford world class fees or need to be warded in world class hospitals. Also, can a middle world class hospital be adequate for not world class patients but charging not world class fees?

Clever Idea!

A Choo Kay Wee wrote to the ST suggesting that the damage by lightning on the merlion be left as it is. His reason is that it would create a lot of interests and people may just want to see it. But his brilliant idea is to charge a fee for people wanting to see the broken head. Now that is simple ingenious. A uniquely Singaporean way to make money at all opportunities. I would suggest to include stories on the significance of the lightining bolt and lightning strike and engraved theme on a plague to be attached to the merlion. That would be a wonderful story.

3 suing HSBC for forex losses

Three foreign investors are suing HSBC for losses in trading forex. They claimed that the banks did not allow them to use certain trading strategies which resulted in the loss. This is a case of clients wanting to use their own strategies but not allowed to. What about cases where stock exchanges allowed unfair strategies or trading practices eg computer trading, cornering the market, short selling, etc to make profits against small investors? Would there be a day when investors will stand up to sue stock exchanges for allowing unfair trading practices to go on at their disadvantage? Is there a moral and legal ground for stock exchanges to ensure that trading practices are fair and equal to all parties? I know that cornering a stock is illegal. To what extent is a situation that makes a stock being cornered? Is a stock cornered when a few parties work in collusion to drive up or down its price and incurring losses to the innocent, ignorant small investors? There must be moral responsibility, justice and fair play in all stock exchanges to ensure that all parties have a fair chance to trade, to win and to lose in the market.

Special Account is for retirement

Farah Abdul Rahim, Director, Corporate Communications, MOM, replied to a Rick Poon who wanted CPF Special Account to be used for education loan. She explained that the Special Account is meant for retirement purposes. Isn't the whole CPF savings meant for retirement purposes? The reality is that it was, but not now. With so many agencies eyeing the CPF savings, and planning their products and services to be paid by CPF money, there is really not much left for retirement. The Ordinary Account will probably be emptied to pay for affordable HDB flats. The more there is in the Ordinary Account, the more affordable will be HDB flats. The Medisave Account will be locked up for that day that may not come. Shouldn't it be time to start another CPF savings scheme truly just for retirement? We have, in the midst of getting to the CPF money, forgot that these are hard earned savings for retirement. Now public policy of housing prices will use the savings in the CPF as a basis to compute affordability. As long as there is money there, the price will match it. Am I wrong? Then we woke up one morning in horror. Why is there not enough money in the CPF for retirement? Why, when we set aside as much as 40% to 50% at one time, and at any time more than 30% of our income into CPF? And still not enough!


MBAs needing help?

Two British dons here to give suggestions to MBA graduates on what they can do in this recession. My eye balls are rolling. Shouldn't these highly qualified and trained professionals be looking after themselves or teaching the more lowly educated populations on what to do? The thought that they are lost and needed help or guidance really baffles me. Dum da da dum dum, dum dum.

How ominous!

It was the lightning bolt. Now the merlion was caged. This latter piece is on the front page of ST today. How ominous!

Where to Ho Ching?

This has been the number one question in many people's mind. There were all kinds of serious and cheeky suggestions, from the Presidency to being a housewife. Let me try another proposition. With the kind of talent and connection, it will be a big waste if Ho Ching makes herself redundant. She still has many good years to come and she can still contribute to the country and the stable of govt link companies. It is far better to get someone who knows to do the job than to hunt around or fish around for another genius to come by. Ho Ching should stay in Temasek and continue with what she is or was doing. Why? After going through all the crisis she must be that much wiser as to the risks involved in managing and investing huge sums of money. And Who else has the privilege of a $58b lesson? Tan Yong Soon only had a $50k lesson in France. I still feel that with such a costly lesson that is difficult to come by, she is even more qualified to do the job. Stay on Ho Ching. No one is more qualified than her to do that job. Of course many of you will disagree. But that's how I see it.


Merlion struck by lightning bolt

"Eyewitness Ms Rina Toh, 17, a barista at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at One Fullerton, said: 'I saw a bright Z-shaped lightning bolt, and it was a lot bigger than usual.' " The above is quote from ST online. Our national icon struck on the head by lightning yesterday. And a piece of the head fell to the ground. Must check with the gods what this sign means.

Notable quotes by Chok Tong

'Find ways to honour seniors' Goh Chok Tong Chok Tong said, "It is timely for us to reflect on how to adapt and adjust to this 'silver tsunami'. How we should relate to the elderly, leverage on their talents and life experiences and honour them for their contributions." He also commented about the trend for children to abandon their parents in nursing homes. He warned that how we treat our old today will set the tone for how we will be treated when our time comes. Yes, what kind of society are we? Compare what Chok Tong said and what Boon Wan has suggested, building cheaper nursing homes in JB and neighbouring countries, we get a different measure of the speakers. What Chok Tong said is like what the Chinese saying, 'ren jiang de hua', or the human lingo. Saying things that reflect human values or being human. There is nothing wrong with Boon Wan's idea. Those are very practical, reasonable, cost effective measures for people who have money not enough. But such things can be done, discreetly, and not spoken with a loud hailer. The things that Chok Tong said above will be received quite kindly and agreeable to most people. In Boon Wan's case, ouch, it hits the raw nerve of humanity, of emotions and feelings. These are the attributes that make human beans human. Devoid of them, down playing them, will turn us closer to being inhuman, inanimate. Use and throw away mentality. Now, would there be criticism or anger to what Chok Tong has said? They will be, depending on which angle one is looking at it. Some may split hairs, question his intent and interest. But generally, these are things that politicians should be saying, national leaders should be saying.