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Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

In Praise of TR Emeritus

In Political governance on 29/12/2011 at 6:18 pm

There were  two  nice Christmas prezies this year, the return of the infamous Temasek Review in the form of TR Emeritus and this piece which implicitly supported the stand TOC took when TOC “exposed” PAP MP Han. In the old days, TR would explicitly rubbish TOC and Han.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, some bands of Comanches (“Lords of the South Plains”) traded with the Spanish, and later the Mexican and Texan lands adjacent to Comancheria, while other bands raided these territories, stealing horses, mules, cattle and maize, rather than exchange buffalo meat and hides for these items like the “good” Comanches. These bands complimented one another and gave the Comanches the upper hand over the Spanish, Mexicans and Texans, who didn’t know how to cope with the subtleties of the “savages”.

TR Emeritus’  and TOC’s strategies, tactics, aims, and means will necessarily differ but that’s no excuse for not being civilised, and supportive (wherever possible) to one another.  Both are moving broadly in the same direction (or climbing the same mountain?). Each sees the landscape differently, taz all.

Wishing TR Emeritus a fruitful new year. Keep on the tradition of hammering the Foreign Trash (who think they are Foreign Talents) and their supporters. Try to find out what happened to the Temasek JC tutor who hates S’poreans? But don’t get xenophobic. Sad to say the old TR often got carried away, and crossed this broad river too often.

And continue fishing out the PAPpies who do bad things (Whatever happened to the NTUC guy who had to stand down as a PAP candidate MP because of shumething in his background. Is he still a big shot in NTUC?). Get to work TRE, TOC has set a very, very standard recently. Even the old TR never achieved such a feat.

Happy hols all. No posting until 3 January 2012.  Drink or drive, don’t do both.

TOC: More than meets the eye?

In Wit on 29/12/2011 at 9:24 am

Detractors of TOC’s coverage of HanGate (whose numbers include the local MSM, Cherian George (great ST connections) Shanmugam and New Nation’s Belmont Lay) must be doubly annoyed that the facts came out the way TOC’s initial headline said the facts would). They must think, “Lucky sods. Luck of the devil.” As a “futherest from the core team” member, I inclined to this view, remarking that in Milton’s Paradise Lost the devil stood for the freedom to choose.

Cherian, Shanmugam, Belmont and MSM, ever tot that team TOC has good intelligence sources? Not only was TOC given the tape, but shumeone told it that SMRT’s spokesperson never uttered the words (with racist undertones) that PAP MP Han attributed to SMRT. So, TOC did what TOC did, knowing that the headline was not wrong.

And to hide the fact that TOC has good intell sources and to protect its source, TOC played blur, allowing the facts to come out by themselves.

So Cherian, Shanmugam, Belmont, local MSM etc, don’t see TOC as “no ark”. TOC might have sources as gd as the Special Branch ever had in the days of fighting the Comminists. Remember that the treasurer of the Malayan Communist Party was a SB informant.

TOC could have such a mole in the establishment.  Hehehe

What Santa gave Han for Christmas

In Political governance, Wit on 29/12/2011 at 5:17 am

(Or “Why it’s all the fault of Goh Chok Tong” or “Unfair to call PAP racist, PAP loves Minorities”)

When Santa read in ST that Seng Han Thong had admitted he had misheard SVP “Do not ever damage SMRT property even if people are dying”* Goh’s radio comments, he dropped in on Christmas Eve at Han’s palatial mansion to deliver a made-in-China hearing aid and a gift voucher to see a Chinese Ear Nose and Throat specialist.

In politically correct socities like Britain and the US, where Han would be branded by the “great and the good” as a casual racist, his brain only hearing what he wants to hear, Santa would have given him a gift voucher to see a psychiatrist.  But this is S’pore, where things are different. Minorities are expected to be sensitised, not sensitive.

 Seriously, he must have a serious hearing problem if he could have missed out the “C” word in”Malay, Chinese, or Indians”. I mean the “C” word appeared in between the “M” and “I” words. If it had come first or last, a mishearing was possible. Anyway, I hope he visits an ENT specialist and a psychiatrist. We don’t want him inflaming racial tensions, do we? Or him discrediting the PAP and NTUC, where he holds senior positions.

The PM should blame one Goh Chok Tong for making PAPpies such easy targets when it comes to accusations of racism. How can PAP leaders ever be accused of racism when two out of four of the PM’s most trusted ministers are Indians (only 9% of the population), and until August we had an Indian as president for 12 years. And the Attorney General and the MD of the central bank are Indians. So how can the PAP be racist, if it has placed five Indians in prominent, important roles? If anything, the 75% of S’poreans that are Chinese, should be upset, which they are not.

Sorry, coming back to “Peanuts” Goh. In 1992, PAP MP Choo Wee Khiang complained in parly that he once visited Little India and found it in complete darkness “not because there was no light, but because there were too many Indians around there”. It was Opposition MP Chiam See Tong that objected to Choo’s comments, not a PAP MP or minister. Choo remained unrepentant saying he was talking about foreign Indians, not local Indians. Later, he apologised.

There were public calls for him to resign or be sacked from parly. But PM Goh Chok Tong defended him saying that Choo had apologised, that he didn’t mean any harm, and that we should “move on” because people make mistakes “from time to time”. 

Well his trust in Choo was misplaced. In 1999, Choo was jailed and fined for cheating offences. Taz not all. Today, he is facing three charges of accepting bribes totalling some S$2,300 from former coaches and a national player when he was STTA president from 1991 to 2008. He also faces one count of criminal breach of trust alleging he and then-STTA manager Koh Li Ping misappropriated S$8,400 from the association. If convicted, Choo faces a fine of up to S$100,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding five years for each of the corruption charges. Criminal breach of trust carries a penalty of up to 15 years’ jail and a fine.

Some more “no harm” mistakes “from time to time”, Mr Goh? Gd judge of character, that Mr Goh.

Coming back to Han. At the time of his balls-up, he was saying SMRT needs to improve its public communications, “from this incident, we also noted that the public communication system is not adequate to address issues like this”. He is the one who has problems communicating, methinks

But no need to pity him. The latest is that he is trying to weasel his way out of the hole he dug himself in by now saying he was trying to defend workers who spoke bad English** and “My wish to defend you was further taken out of context and misconstrued by The Online Citizen”***.

He is trying hard, very hard.

——

*OK, OK. I exaggerate a little, but not that much

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/

**He is now denying he misheard it seems. “Unfortunately, in trying to defend you, I made the mistake of only mentioning our “Malay” and “Indian” workers where the original quote in the radio interview I was commenting on had cited MRT staff of different races, “Malay, Chinese, or Indians or any other race”.

http://www.publichouse.sg/categories/topstory/item/339-mp-seng-han-thong-apologises-to-ntwu

***On this point, I have defended TOC elsewhere saying that

– SHT owns those comments because he misquoted the original remarks, giving them a racist twist (even if unintended); and

 — given his status as a PAP MP and unionist, and the sensitivity of race here, he didn’t refute what he tot he had heard  as he should have done. Instead he poured kerosene liberally.

Immigration Dept: Come on, pull the other leg

In Political governance, Wit on 28/12/2011 at 3:43 am

Come on Koh Wee Sing Head, Public & Internal Communications, Corporate Communications Division, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, in the light of it being made a matter of public record that:

–  a 30-something sexy looking Chinese citizen working as a shop assistant being made a PR (She had come to prominence when she violently assaulted an SMRT officer for daring to ask her to pay her child’s fare);

– two PRC PRs who were hawkers;

– a Chinese dolly bird that was given PR status but then returned to China, and making fun of how easily she got her PR status; and

– one in three second-generation PRs do not serve NS, a reflection on their parents’ (first generation) attitudes towards S’pore,

how can you write with a straight face the following:

In assessing applications for citizenship, permanent residence (PR) or immigration facilities, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority adopts a holistic, calibrated approach, which includes interviewing the applicant and sponsor, where necessary.

Each PR application is evaluated on its own merits based on a set of criteria, including the individual’s economic contribution, qualifications, age, family profile and ability to integrate well into Singapore society.

http://www.todayonline.com/Voices/EDC111222-0000015/Each-PR-application-carefully-assessed-based-on-its-own-merits,-says-ICA

Yr idea of a holiday season joke?

“F” word banned by PUB?

In Economy, Infrastructure, Media, Political governance, Tourism, Wit on 27/12/2011 at 6:03 am

Trust a former President’s Scholar to come up with the solution to prevent floods in Singapore. VivianB got PUB to rename “flooding” as “ponding”. Why didn’t Yaacob do this instead of calling a flood a 50-yr event. Well there were two 50-year events in less than two months last year.

Seriously, I don’t think it was VivianB’s idea. Likely to be the new CEO of PUB that is behind the renaming. He after all blames us for the floods, saying S’poreans took things for granted*. I say to him, “Don’t try to deflect blame like SMRT’s CEO who told us to guard the trains when there was a security break-in. PUB did not do it’s job.

Ain’t this renaming juz daft and misleading? PUB said of the heavy rain last Friday “there was no flooding at Orchard Road … However, water ponded at the open area of Liat Towers, the underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City, and the basement of Lucky Plaza due to the sustained heavy downpour”.

Sorry PUB, these places were flooded. The ponds were at least ankle deep, at Starbucks, customers walked on chairs to get out, and shops had to close**.

I’m glad that MediaCorp didn’t buy into this euphemism. They called these “flash floods”, as they used to. As to ST, they tried to be truthful, while keeping VivianB and PUB onside. No wonder SPH is such a good dividend payer, while unlisted MediaCorp continues to struggle financially.

If VivianB and PUB were doing their very best to ensure that tourists are not scared off (Remember that the retail trade is tourist dependent to keep profitable and that the overall economy is heading for a slowdown, if not a recession), they failed as far as Malaysia is concerned.  Bernama reported:

Flash Floods In Several Parts Of Singapore Including Orchard Road

Flash floods hits several areas of Singapore including the republic’s most famous shopping alley, Orchard Road, following prolonged heavy rain in the southern and central parts of the city state Friday …

Nice try guys. But better for the economy, retailers and S’pore’s image if the PUB improved its “ponding” prevention measures, not try to play word games.

—-

*”But maybe we have also become victims of own success. Because we have been so successful, alleviating floods, that we have not seen a flood situation for a long time. So when it came, it did catch Singaporeans by surprise.”  Channel News Asia

**How Today reported the situation

The underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City remained closed yesterday evening. Some shop owners at the ground floor of Lucky Plaza said that water levels were ankle-high, but the situation this time was better than during previous floods.

At retail store Giordano, store in-charge Lyn Molino estimated losses of up to S$7,000 and said that customers were not only deterred by the wet floors but also by the stench from yesterday’s floodwaters. “This is supposed to be a good opportunity for us to have extra earnings but it has all been affected,” she said.

The floodwaters also washed out business at Starbucks and fast-food restaurant Wendy’s, among other establishments, at Liat Towers. Wendy’s manager (marketing and branding) Seng Woon Fa estimated losses of about 60 per cent of the day’s earnings. “We are now just busy cleaning up and hope to resume business as soon as possible … we are still checking if any equipment is spoiled,” he said.

Ghosts haunting Citigroup this Christmas

In Banks, Financial competency on 27/12/2011 at 6:01 am

(Another piece in an occasional series wondering why anyone would want to be a Citi customer. No, never had any account with Citi, nor ever sought one.)

1. Another soured deal that it did with a wealthy client

Saudi businessman Ghazi Abbar, who claims in an affidavit he lost $383 million of his family’s fortune on investments with Citigroup Inc., was sold one of the transactions even though the bank questioned his ability to properly manage them, according to an internal memo.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-30/citigroup-saudi-deal-haunts-pandit-as-family-claims-383-million-wipeout.html

2. Bloomberg reports, Part of the New York-based bank’s retail business will be suspended for 30 days by the Japanese Financial Services Agency, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t yet public. Citigroup’s trading unit will be suspended from selling products tied to interest rates for 10 days and its head, Brian McCappin, may resign, the person said.

Citigroup Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit is trying to restore the bank’s reputation in Japan. Regulators punished the company twice in seven years after finding fault with its private-banking operation and a lack of internal controls.

The trading unit will be banned from selling certain products in Japan tied to the London and Tokyo interbank offered rates, or Libor and Tibor, the person said. These are rates at which banks are willing to lend money to each other. Citigroup employees tried to improperly influence Tibor to the firm’s advantage, two people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.

Related posts

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/behind-yr-payments-to-citi/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/citi-owe-it-money/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/citigroup-wins-life-or-death-fraud-case/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/why-do-people-like-being-citi-clients/

PAP and the Christmas Spirit

In Political governance on 23/12/2011 at 5:29 am

(Or “The PAP Repents?”)

PAP MP and Parly Sec, Sim Ann, wrote of increasing social safety nets in an ST artcle yesterday. This reminded me that last Friday, TOC’s Uncle Leong talked of the latest stats report on employment and unlike SPH and MediaCorp publications and channels told us the not so good news. In particular: “Nominal mean monthly earnings rose over the year by 5.4% in the third quarter of 2011, lower than the 6.0% growth in the preceding quarter. After taking into account headline inflation, real average monthly earnings slipped by 0.2%”.

Since real average monthly earnings fell by 0.2% year-on-year, could real median earnings have fallen by a greater percentage?

This, in turn, reminded me that three Tuesdays ago, what with a slowdown (and possibly a recession) looming, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged the NTUC to pay closer attention to lower-income, less-skilled workers and help them get a “fair deal” – in terms of working conditions, skills training and decent salaries.

First a quibble: shouldn’t he have said, “fairer deal”? With a cabinet minister as the secretary-general of NTUC, they would already have a “fair deal”, wouldn’t they? Or was this a slip of the tongue?. Or was he juz being honest in admitting that these workers were not getting a fair deal what with the competition from FTs suppressing wages.

He expressed his confidence that S’pore can achieve its “ambitious” target of raising productivity by 2 to 3% over the next decade, “We’re putting in the courses, we’re putting in the incentives, we’re putting in the support to employers and companies so that they can make the investment, so that they can transform the way they operate.”

This would be difficult if FTs continue flooding in because for any given level of capacity, the more workers there are, productivity drops. (Of course, if the additional workers allow capacity to expand, then productivity can increase. But the low level of productivity growth here, which even the government admits is worrying (but which Tan Jee Say thinks could be a statistical fluke) shows that the additional FTs are here not to add to capacity, but to cut costs.

The total number of non-Singaporeans (PRs and foreigners) grew by 80,400 in 2011, compared to 59,100 in 2010, according to the latest government statistics. This is a year-on-year increase in the rate of growth of non-Singaporeans of about 36%. Didn’t the PM promise to cut back on the number of FTs being allowed in earlier this year? Instead the numbers are increasing.

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt for trying, the 36% increase shows the magnitude of the task to cut back FTs to raise productivity.

But let’s give some credit to the PM. He conceded (Remember the PAP never ever conceded anything when dad or “Peanuts” Goh was in charge), “We cannot assume that if wages go up, the lower-income will be carried along.” With globalisation and fierce competition, the lower-income will have a problem competing unless special efforts are made to help them.  

I’m glad to hear that he no longer expects the trickle-down effect and retraining to take care of this problem: hence the “special efforts”. 

The government will, he reminded us, increase social spending, and ensure that the low-income workers and their families get access to education, housing, healthcare and transport. It will also build on its Workfare Income Supplement scheme.

Nothing new in these words, but gven that he and the PAP had a bad election result, things will be done to make the governing PAP more popular. There won’t be anymore VivianB sneers like,“How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?” Rather more Sim Ann type comments.

But as usual, the PAP wants “tripartite responsibility” to ensure that the lower-income “benefit from the country’s progress”. Yes the employers should play their part, but asking the workers? Kinda rich of asking the weakest of the three to help out the government and employers?

Anyway, as it’s the Christmas season when even Scrooge repented and became generous, let’s not be too harsh on the PM and the PAP and, its soul mate, the NTUC?

Have a gd time yah. Gd feasting and boozing. You can repent later for yr holiday indulgences.

(I’ll post my tots on the casual racism of Seng Thong Han next week)

Note: No postings on 24, 25 and 26 December.

SMRT: Waz missing from board’s apology?

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 6:34 pm

The directors did not apologise for the racist remarks of a member of their PR team that “one of the reasons for SMRT’s unpreparedness to deal with the disruptions last week was … the bad command of English by SMRT’s Malay and Indian staff.”*

The original allegation was made by a PAP MP and he has not retracted this statement, even though he has apologised for his personal remarks on the quality of English spoken by Malays and Indians. http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/smrt-racist-pr-team/

As neither SMRT nor the directors have denied that an employee made this comment to the PAP MP, and the MP has not withdrawn the allegation, the public has to assume that the MP is telling the truth.

They have not also apologised for or clarified or disassociated SMRT from the remarks made by SVP Goh Kong Chee, the head of communications, from which one can draw the reasonable inference that SMRT property must never ever be damaged to save lives even if the emergency systems do not work.   http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/

SMRT is dysfunctional from the board down.

———

Update on 23 December at 9.05am

BlogTV has come out to both deny that a PR person made a racist remark and at the same implied that the MP was hard of hearing. Either that or, a reasonable inference is that Seng Han Thong is a casual racist to this bones in missing the word “Chinese”.

“A comment was made by SMRT’s Senior Vice President for Communication and Services Goh Chee Kong in response to a question on how SMRT planned to improve its communication with passengers.” This was broadcast over the radio:

““What we’re mindful of is that our people, our staff at the stations and in the trains may not be making sufficient announcements and also good enough announcements. And that’s because our staff of different races, it could be Malay, Chinese, or Indians or any other race, they sometimes find it difficult to speak in English. However we’ve encouraged them to make the announcements and not to worry about that……………………”

– BlogTV Facebook

SMRT: Racist PR team?

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 9:13 am

Hey S’poreans, don’t juz “blast” PAP “Flame on” MP for his racist comments, “I noticed that the PR mentioned that some of the staff because they are Malay, they are Indian, they can’t converse in English good, well enough, so that also deters them, from (sic) but I think we accept broken English.”

Remember, he was also quoting SMRT (SVP Goh “You die first, don’t damage SMRT property”?). According to Yahoo!, “During the latest episode of “Blog.TV” on Channel NewsAsia on Monday, the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC had said one of the reasons for SMRT’s unpreparedness to deal with the disruptions last week was, according to the company’s public relations team, the bad command of English by SMRT’s Malay and Indian staff.”

If SMRT does not come out to deny that one of its PR  persons made the racist comment, then we have to assume that the remark was made. Juz like the assumption that SMRT places a higher priority on its property than commuters dying or being put in distress. Remember SMRT never clarified SVP’s Goh comments on damaging its property to save lives if the emergency syatems did not work. They were not working when SVP Goh made his remarks about not ever damaging SMRT property.

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/

Phew, glad I’ve not bot SMRT shares yet. What a bunch of inept managers. According to Senang Diri, there are possibly several ex-SAF colonels in SMRT. Our neighbours must be watching with amusement. We may have the “betterest” weopens, but are our officers any gd? Looks not judging by those ex-colonels in SMRT.

Still keep an eye on SMRT. If senior managers are culled, and new gd ones brought in, the stock could be interesting. I’m putting it on my “watch” list.

SMRT v Delgro: Who treats us better?

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 8:48 am

Depends on what you mean by “us”.

Usually when I have to go to and from Raffles City or Place, or Shenton Way, I take the bus, as it is the most convenient means of transport (driving included).

On Tuesday at about 4.20pm, I was at Outram and decided to take the train to Eunos and then switch to a bus to return home. When I boarded the train, it was full. I was very fortunate to get a seat as I had a heavy load (I had juz bot six books). When it got to Raffles Place, more people entered than departed. But the number entering was light (The slaves don’t leave until 5.30pm at the earliest). But at Raffles City, the train became very packed as masses got in, and not so many left. The train got less crowded at Bugis. But until Eunos it was full (but not packed), standing room only, as more people got off than in And this was at 4.20- 4.40pm!

Now at 4.20 –  4.40pm if I were at Raffles Place or City, I would have no problem getting a seat on the bus. The bus would only be at best three-quarters full of sitting passengers.

Draw your own conclusions.

As an investor, I can draw the conclusion that Comfort Delgro is not extracting full value from commuters. This could affect shareholder value? Management should learn from SMRT. Maybe bring in SVP “Better you die than my train or bus gets damaged” Goh Kong Chee from SMRT*

*OK, OK. I exaggerate a little, but not that much

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/

SMRT: Another dumb statement

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 5:30 am

Is SMRT the place where foot-in-mouthers find jobs. Seems like it.

Here’s another silly, dumb statement that SVP Goh must take responsibility for since he is head of communications. Last week, when SMRT raised its taxi fares it said, “our drivers need a more substantial level of income, not just lower costs or rental rates, in order to cope with the increasing cost of living and higher diesel prices, and continue their businesses”. Also, it had to “keep pace with the fare revision by other taxi operators”.

Juz wondering. Has SMRT tried lowering costs and rentals before raising fares? And if not why not? And ever heard of competing by increasing demand via lower fares?

Also if Mr Goh is the kind of person one gets when one hires a retired SAF colonel and MINDEF spokeman? Trying to justify the need for another FT PR or public communications head, rather than a true blue S’porean.

ComfortDelgro: Income Opportunity

In Uncategorized on 21/12/2011 at 6:03 am

There is a story going around that ComfortDelgro’s management sent an e-mail to SMRT’s management saying, “Thanks for the income opportunity.  Christmas came early for us. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Keep on doing what you are doing. Our mgt and shareholders love it.”

Seriously, I hear that analysts are tweaking their numbers for ComfortDelgro upwards to take account of a temporary switch from trains to bus, while commuters await further developments at SMRT.

As reported earlier analysts are lowering lower revenue forecasts for SMRT to take account of the coming fines, severance packages for senior managers, and higher maintenace costs. Compared to other metro train systems, SMRT has lower maintance costs as a % of revenue. But don’t start ranting like Goh Meng Seng. Our MRT system is a baby by int’l standards. London and NY have lines going back to the late 19th century. HK’s system is older. Only Shanghai, among major int’l cities, has a system that is younger than ours.

(To see where SMRT’s incremental profits come from see slides 9, 29, 30. They come from rents and ads not from fares. Fare growth is “peanuts” see slide 8 http://www.smrt.com.sg/investors/documents/presentations/DB_Conference_Investor_presentation_1QFY12.pdf )

SMRT shares fell 3.6% on Monday, and 1.1% on Tuesday the lowest in three months, following the three breakdowns last week. Looks like the head of communications attempt to show how he and SMRT valued shareholder failed. SVP Goh Chee Kong (retired SAF colonel and MINDEF spokesman) told us publicly that that it is better for commuters to die rather than damage SMRT property if emergency systems fail to work.  (OK, OK. I exaggerate a little, but not that much

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/)

Failed twice. He can’t prevent SMRT share price from failing, despite showing us publicly that he is a failure, morally and ethically. Hmm, wonder if his parents, wife and children still respect him?

Dec 2010: A quirky look back (Part II)

In Political governance on 21/12/2011 at 5:37 am

Continuation of  http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/dec-2010-a-quirky-look-back-part-i/

This time last year, Goh Meng Seng was strutting around as Secretary-General of the NSP, talking the talk about his “ministerial specific” strategy that would win the NSP seats in parly. Well the NSP had a lousy election save in Marine Parade (thanks to the people’s princess Nicole Seah and the PAP’s Clownish Trio of then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, his side-kick Kate Spate Tin, and her assistant “fat fingered” Denise), with GMS nowhere to be seen in the GRC he was contesting (He seemed more interested in having his photo taken with Nicole was the view of WP members who had wanted the party to contest the GRC.). No surprise that GMS is no longer Secretary-General of the NSP, and will let his NSP party membership lapse. He has moved on from NSP as he had moved on from WP after the 2006 GE.

But you can’t keep someone like GMS away from publicity and activism. He is now heading the newly formed Chinese section of TOC. Planning to use TOC to keep in the public eye? But TOC needs to expand its audience beyond English-educated “networked public”*, and as Show Mao is not available, GMS is better than nothing.

Talking of TOC, their motto seems to be, “Live dangerously”. This time last year, it was spoiling for a fight with the MIW,  what with it leaving the cyberworld to organise a seminar in which it invited all the political parties. It even had the audacity to leave an empty chair when the PAP ignored its invitation. It got its comeuppance in early 2011 when it was gazetted a “political” body and made subject to MDA rules. Well this December, it announced that it had invited the president of S’pore to attend a January bash: it wasn’t being ironical. Wonder if this had anything to do with the presidential debate that it organised and which was made available to the public via the Internet ? Tony Tan came out well when answering questions from a non-partisan live audience. Remember his margin of victory was 7,000 votes,  this debate must have helped him. The other two debates were conducted by representatives of the nation-building constructive media.

Sadly, one TKL was found wanting at that debate. He had to have 377A explained to him. In December 2010, Tan Kin Lian was looked upon as a credible presidential candidate. This despite him saying he had no presidential ambitions after his failure to get more than 1,200 petitioners to sign his “100,000 names for me to stand as president”. S’poreans still fondly remembered him as the plucky ex-PAPpie who stood up for retail investors who bought mini-bonds and DBS notes. He had problems making up his mind whether he would stand, and when he finally stood for the presidency, ran an eccentric, erratic and poorly funded campaign (one GMS was his adviser) as the “People’s Voice”. He lost his deposit and blamed everyone (especially TJS) for his defeat. He should have blamed himself: especially his refusal to fund himself in a serious way, his inept tactics, and his strategy of taking the anti-PAP voters for granted.

The maturity of most voters was shown by their refusal to be bribed by his populist promises. They knew the president hadn’t the power to implement any of the goodies TKL was promising.

Many younger S’poreans this time last year, did not know who Tan Cheng Bock was. They now know that as a PAP MP, he took on the government many times. We also now know that he is very rich, what with a place in Sentosa Cove (“Invetment leh” he says). He also showed he was a savvy campaigner (mail shot to all voters), able to attract grassroot volunteers and big sponsors.

Penultimately, last December we didn’t know much about Tony Tan’s family. We now know his eldest son got deferred from NS for 12 years and never became a medical doctor or an army medical officer; his other two sons were never selected for the SAF officers’ or even combat trained NCOs’ course despite being medically fit; and he has one good looking stunner of a daughter**, who married an ang moh.

Finally, let’s remember that in December 2010, Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan, Raymond Lim, George Yeo, and Ms Lim Hwee Hwa were in the cabinet, and Zainul Abidin was a junior minister, and Cynthia Phua was alleged to be the MP from Hell. They all lost their cushy, mega millions jobs in May 2011.

The first six have yet to find anything that pays as well. Was LKY wrong when he said, “{Y}ou have to pay the market rate or the man will up stakes and join Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs and you would have an incompetent man and you would have lost money by the billions.”

I mean investment banks are not exactly falling over themselves to recruit any of the Competent Six.

Happy hols.

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*”Modern media theorists refer to participants in such systems as a “networked public”, rather than an “audience”, since they do more than just consume information.”(Economist)

**TJS has two great looking daughters.

Dec 2010: A quirky look back (Part I)

In Political governance on 20/12/2011 at 5:59 am

For starters, the trains were running regularly then. I mean, one of the gd points about having an authoritarian government, is that the trains run on time. So, I’m surprised that the PM is not publicly blaming the 40% of S’poreans who voted for the Opposition for the trains breaking down. He could have said government and public services cannot be so efficient with so many unhappy voters to please, so expect problems.

Seriously, this time last year, who had heard of Tan Jee Say, Chen Show Mao, Benjamin Pwee, Dr Ang Yong Guan, Nicole Seah, or Jeannette Chong Aruldoss?

TJS stood for two elections in May, as a candidate for the SDP in the general election (GE) in May and in the presidential election (PE) in August. He did so-so in May but got a credible 25% of the votes in the PE. He is now trying to unite the Opposition parties, or so he says).

Show Mao became an MP at his first attempt and then gave a speech in parly that warmed the hearts of many Chinese-educated S’poreans. They and the other four showed that the Opposition could attract academically brilliant people (Nicole is smart, not juz sassy and pretty), and successful professionals to boot. A far cry from “demagogues”, “opportunists” and bicycle thieves.

Who knew of Tin Pei Ling, Denise He or Puthucheary in December last year? Tin and Denise He (Tin’s Face book administrator) showed that the PAP had problems getting smart, young Internet savvy people, while Nicole Seah showed that the Opposition had no such problem. Puthu showed S’poreans the kind of FTs that become citizens and PAP members. Shumething that didn’t impress many S’poreans (self included).

Last December, the Reform Party (who?) and its Secretary-General were seen as the brightest stars in the Opposition firmament. True, KennthJ had to live down his failure to take over the SDA. But one Chiam See Tong, the SDA’s chairman, had given KenJ his backing, so it wasn’t as though it was all KenJ’s fault. To show each other that they had no hard feelings, Chiam invited KenJ to SPP’s Christmas party, and he accepted. And KenJ could boast of attracting two government scholars turned educational entrpreneurs (marriage partners Tony Tan and Hazel Poa) into RP.

Today, the RP and KenJ are no longer seen as serious players in the Opposition. Most of the then party members (including the dynamic duo) walked out in early 2011, saying they had differences with KenJ. He then made things worse by his petulant reaction their leaving. In the GE, the RP did badly partly because of the weakened state of the party, but also because of one GMS of the NSP, who played hard ball with the RP over which seats the RP could contest.

(To be continued on Wednesday. Getting too long.)

Importance of EU economies and banks to S’pore

In Economy on 19/12/2011 at 6:54 am

This table from BT shows how important the EU economies are to S’pore. (NODX- Non oil domestic exports)

Err here’s hoping SPH not upset with me. Remember SPH, it’s Christmas.

And why Asia needs European banks: they were big US$ lenders to Asian banks. http://www.breakingviews.com/asian-banks-cant-fill-gap-as-europeans-retreat/1620073.article

SMRT: Waz int’l best practice benchmark?

In Infrastructure on 19/12/2011 at 6:11 am

When SMRT, its regulator, LTA, and the government were in denial about

– overcrowed trains; and

– security,

the CEO, Ms Saw Phaik Hwa , was allowed by all three to get away with remarks like, “Not as crowded as in Tokyo leh”*, and “Other places got security lapses too”* and “People can board the train, it is whether they choose to” despite the howls of upset commuters.

Well now that we have three serious disruptions (one “immensely serious” according to the transport minister) of service within the space of four days (And the second breakdown in three days on the North South Line. Whoever said, “Lightning never strikes twice on the same spot”?), shouldn’t S’poreans be told what are the international benchmarks of best practice when it comes to disruptions of service for a city the size of S’pore in the developed world? And what are the benchmarks in Hong Kong and Shanghai? And the frequency of breakdowns in HK and Shanghai? And what the train operators in other cities pay for maintenance, as a % of their pre-tax income.

True as this is S’pore (not Ms Saw’s beloved country, Malaysia**), we should aim to better these benchmarks. But, if we want to beat them, we should know what they are. After all, if the CEO can make comparisons with other cities when it comes to overcrowding and security, it is only fair that other comparisons be made.

Hopefully, the SMRT, LTA or the government can tell us what these are. If not, then what about the constructive, nation-building local media? If not then the netizens of the Wild, Wild West have to do their part, as usual.

Trumpets pls. I was right,  “Commuters have a choice. They can have more trains or less breakdowns. They can’t have both.” (See our MSM reports, “MRT trains to go slower, frequency reduced”.)

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/commuters-have-a-choice-they-can-have-more-trains-or-less-breakdowns/

————————————————————–

*Not her exact words.

**She loves M’sia so mich that despite living here since her school days (she is 58), she is still a PR.

Sorry she is 57 going to be 58 soon.

SMRT SVP is great believer in shareholder value?

In Infrastructure on 18/12/2011 at 2:03 pm

Juz wondering if anywhere in any other first world city transport system got someone so dedicated to shareholder interests  like senior vice-president for communications and services, Mr Goh Chee Kong, who said last Friday, “If you are stuck inside a train, never smash the windows or force the doors open. Stay calm and wait for help”.

But what if passengers are in great discomfort or suffocating to death in the dark because the back-up system that was supposed to activate emergency lights within the carriages and provide ventilation was not working? And passengers don’t know when help is arriving because the driver is not authorised to tell them, or he doesn’t know?

Still no smash windows to breath fresher air, Mr Goh?

The reasonable implication of what Mr Goh says is that SMRT (remember he is SVP) prefers S’poreans to suffer great discomfort or die rather than damage SMRT property.

Shareholders will be pleased that they have someone, like Mr Goh managing SMRT, who is so concerned about shareholder value that he would rather people die than damage SMRT property.

I’ll go buy some SMRT shares tomorrow. With managers like him, nothing for shareholders to worry about neh?

SMRT: Giving gd corporate governance a bad name

In Corporate governance on 18/12/2011 at 5:43 am

SMRT has the best corporate governance practices among the 30 companies of the Straits Times Index, according to an American consultancy, ST reported yesterday. SMRT did well on matters like compliance with the Code of Corporate Governance, structure of the board, what directors are paid in comparison to employees, and how much information the company discloses about itself and its involvement in community projects and events.

http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_745994.html

Obviously the quality of management and public communications, and contingency planning were not among the factors considered.  

Olam International, SingTel, OCBC Bank, SIA Engineering. SIA, Noble Group, Neptune Orient Lines, Sembcorp Industries and Fraser & Neave (who ranked below SMRT in the corporate governance rankings done by this US firm) must hope that they are not tainted with the same brush as SMRT.

Seriously, the last thing the image of corporate governance in S’pore needs is to be associated with SMRT, or for SMRT to be the poster boy of good corporate governance here. Sigh.

And seriouisly, better take the bus (SBS only) the next few days. Who knows what else will happen to SMRT trains or its buses or its taxis.  The latter have not had problems, but better safe than sorry.

Looks like analysts will have to lower their revenue forecasts for SMRT to take account of the coming fines, severance packages for senior managers, and higher maintenace costs.

SMRT: Another “Commuters can choose” comment

In Infrastructure on 17/12/2011 at 11:08 am

So another failure, the third in four days, and the second breakdown in three days on the North South Line. Whoever said, “Lightning never strikes twice on the same spot”?

And here we have SMRT’s  head of communications telling people, “If you are stuck inside a train, never smash the windows or force the doors open. Stay calm and wait for help. … Senior vice-president for communications and services, Mr Goh Chee Kong, said that in the event of a power failure, there is a back-up system that will activate emergency lights within the carriages and provide ventilation”,  ST reported.

What the FISH! We should be told why the, “back-up system that will activate emergency lights within the carriages and provide ventilation” didn’t work. After all the commuters were suffocating.

Commuters should not be told that they must suffocate to death or suffer in the dark stale air, rather than damage SMRT property, if the back-up system fails to work. The head of corporate communications should know better what to communicate.

Is there any good manager at SMRT?

 

Banks can lose money on private banking business

In Banks on 17/12/2011 at 5:38 am

Our three local banks are targeting private banking because Asians are getting richer and richer, it’s a steady, cash generating business providing a great annuity revenue, and it allows them to take advantage of their large capital base (they are among the safest banks in the world) which is a drag on earnings. One report has DBS as the “strongest bank” in the world, while another has OCBC. Me, I say OCBC because less FTs there, even its ang moh CEO is more-or-less localised. And it has the Lee family as a contrilling shareholder. They are super conservative.

But Investec, a South African investment bank is a lesson for our local banks. In November 2011, it posted a 2% decline in first half earnings after recording a loss at its private banking business and a sharp drop in deal flow.

It had been reducing dependence on lending and deals, and asset and wealth management now account for 40% of operating income, compared with 29% a year ago.

But the private banking division lost £4.9m, hurt by real estate woes in Ireland and Australia. Operating profit before exceptional items totalled £223.63m in the six months to end September, compared to £228.16m in the same period last year.

So losing money in private banking is a possibility

Worse our banks have to spend a lot juz to be in the game. OCBC despite acquiring ING’s Asian private banking biz*, is still a midget even in regional terms when compared to Citi, HSBC, UBS and Credit Suisse. The Bank of Singapore (OCBC’s private bank) expanded its assets under management by 11% in the first nine months of 2011 to US$29 billion. Peanuts by int’l standards.

——

*It paid, in 2010, US$1.46bn which represents 5.8% of the unit’s assets under management, after adjusting for surplus capital of US$550m. This compares with the 2.3% measure paid by Julius Baer for ING’s Swiss assets which is in line with another European purchase by an American private equity group of a smallish private banking outfit — RHJI’s purchase of Kleinworth Benson from Commerzbank. To be fair to OCBC, it was rumoured that HSBC was willing to pay the same price, but lost out when it was unwilling to give promises that staff would not dismissed. OCBC was willing to give this promise.

Starbucks coffee is for wimps

In Uncategorized on 16/12/2011 at 9:20 am

The analysis that we did showed the amount of caffeine ranged from 50mg per cup from Starbucks, up to over 300mg per cup from another coffee house, Patisserie Francoise,” a Scottish researcher said. “I was very surprised by this.”http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-15968515

This is less than the caffeine in one mug of tea, calculated at 75mg. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15982904

 

“Commuters have a choice. They can have more trains or less breakdowns.”

In Infrastructure on 16/12/2011 at 6:18 am

Juz wondering whether the recent breakdowns be due to the strain of running more trains during peak hours to appease commuters’ anger abt crowded trains? If so, Ms Saw should come out and say, “Commuters have a choice. They can have more trains or less breakdowns. They can’t have both.”

Could the breakdowns be due to skimping on maintenance to maintain profits in the face of higher oil prices? I mean if SMRT was skimmimg on security, why assume it was not skimping on routine maintence of the system?

If the government will be using NSmen to provide additional security to protect SMRT’s revenue, why not use SAF technicans to help maintain trains and network?

Wonder if the CEO’s and other senior executives’ bonuses are subject to clawbacks? What about the bonuses of senior LTA executives? And whether the bonuses that Raymond Lim received as transport minister will be clawed back too?

Finally wonder what if these breakdowns had occured juz before May GE or presidential election. Potong Pasir would be still in SPP hands? And a GRC or two would have fallen? And would the PAP even get 55% of the popular vote? And Tan Cheng Bock would be president?

The “FTs are betterest” policy is coming to roost.

The indirect power of new media in shaping debate

In Media, Political governance on 16/12/2011 at 5:22 am

(Or “Why I am complacent about having a code of conduct for the Internet)

So a blogger is upset because an NTU academic who studies the new media agrees with the government that a code of conduct for netizens is useful.

Many moons ago, bloggers were unhappy with the Institute of Policy Studies’ (IPS) study, Impact of new media on general election 2011, which concluded that the new media wasn’t that important in the election.They tried to explain why the new media was more important than what the IPS people tot it was.

I tot the study and most of the bloggers’ comments were missing the point.  I tot the new media played an important role in the GE for two reasons:

– It made public, information that in the past was confined, in the absence of MSM reporting, to smallish groups. To me the classic example was the 1988 GE in Eunos GRC. Most S’poreans (self included) did not know JBJ and friends had so such support there until after the results were announced. Contrast that with the 2011 GE when S’poreans knew via new media that Aljunied, East Coast and Joo Chiat were places where the PAP could lose. Of course, the new media could also give wrong info: like the SDP could win in Holland Village GRC. I mean the SDP did so-so only. Were we conned.

– Via making info public and via direct feedback from unhappy readers, the new media forced the local MSM to be a little less biased in its election coverage. There was a little less government propoganda masquerading as objective news and analysis. (BTW, I was one of the persons helping out on the survey that tried to quantify the perceived extent of how skewed was the reporting of the local newspapers. Believe you me, it was depressing measuring the large gap in coverage.)

No code of conduct can restrict the power of new media to do the above in any situation unless the code of conduct was drafted by the North Korean or Chinese government or one Tan Kin Lian**, hence my complacency.

On the point of feedback to traditional media, I recently came across a posting made several moons ago on an Economist blog, part of which I reproduce to explain how the new media influences the traditional media:

As an employee of the mainstream media, I would say that in my experience loud and convinced feedback from a large segment of the public will usually influence the treatment afforded to their subjects of concern. He goes on Indeed, this is precisely what has just happened to Mr Keller, as one can see from the difference in tone between his Monday column and his Tuesday blog post. Browbeating the mainstream media for favourable coverage, in short, is an important part of any protest movement, and while Mr Keller is right that formulating demands for things the political system can deliver is a crucial step towards effectiveness, he should also recognise that the drubbing he’s just received is also a step towards effectiveness. Piece

 So keep on shouting and bullying. It works! Read the rest of this entry »

Why investors are bullish on Indonesia

In Indonesia on 15/12/2011 at 5:35 am

The Indonesian stock market was the best performer in emerging Asia in 2009 and 2010 when it was up 87% and 46% respectively. So far this year, it is Asia’s second best performer behind the Philippines’ 2.05% rise. It has risen 1.26%. According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, the market is trading at 13.4 times this year’s projected earnings. Thailand is trading at 11 times, Singapore is at 12 times, the Philippines 12.2, Malaysia at 13.3 and the whole of Asia at 10.9.

Indonesia has one of the fastest growing middle classes in the region – up from 80 million five years ago to 130 million now. That’s more than half of this country’s 240 million strong population. That number is expected to grow. By 2020, many think that Indonesia’s middle class will be wealthier than many in Asia.

Largely insulated from the troubles overseas (but remember that China is a big importer of Indonesian exports like themal coal and palm oil) because of strong domestic demand, economists say Indonesia will see growth rates stay stable or possibly even rise next year, at a time when many in the region are cutting their growth forecasts.

So it is not surprising that Indonesian consumers are feeling far more confident about their prospects than ever before, and they consistently rank as some of the most optimistic in Asia about their economic future.

Even a Rothschild can get screwed in Indonesia

In Corporate governance, Indonesia on 14/12/2011 at 6:46 am

I’m a bull on Indonesia* for all my sins and it hasn’t done me much gd. It is a treacherous place, navigating through opaque regulations, erratic business relationships, changing policies and deeply entrenched corruption.

Nat Rothschild, son of Jacob Rothschild (a semi- retired leading London- based financier), a good dealer-maker and savvy investor has found that out the hard way. He is chairman and a major shareholder of London- listed Bumi plc which  owns a 29% stake in Jakarta- listed Bumi Resources, and 75% of Berau. He wrote in early November a very nasty letter to the CEO of both Bumi compaines (same man), complaining that

–  despite being heavily in debt, Bumi Resources had US$867m of assets that had nothing to do with its core coal business;  and

– these assets were held by “connected parties”.

It seems he has yet to receive an official response.

RElated post:

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/nomura-bullish-on-indonesia/#more-5517

——————————

*Long on Lippo Malls Trust and hoping First Reit’s share price falls so I can buy.

What the PAP knows about Web 2.0

In Internet on 14/12/2011 at 6:03 am

Regularly, the government tells us it wants S’pore to a leading player in Web 2.0. Funding is supposedly there for technopreneurs (Remember this term from the dotcom days?) . And we know that the infrastructure of cables, modems and servers are being upgraded all the time.

But the government seems to forget that new media and social networks are part of Web 2.0.

Nothing illustrates this better than an article , early last week in Today, on the governing PAP’s online initiatives. What I found interesting were the comments of two PAP MPs which, incidentally, should reinforce prejudices about the PAP. But here the focus is on what their words showed S’poreans about the PAP’s thinking on Web 2.0.

We are always told that PAP MPs are allowed to think for themselves, and that they are not programmed to obey orders. Well Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Edwin Tong implicitly said this is not true, at least as far as the Internet is concerned. He said “Not more than half a year ago, the PAP thought that this was noise – it was not relevant and this was a small proportion of people. I think that has changed. And that viewpoint change is very important to me because that means it’s a recognition that you can look into what are on the blogs and websites to get a sense of what the ground sentiment is.”

Wow, MPs were only recently given permission to use the Internet to get a feel of “ground sentiment”. So they are not allowed to think for themselves unless permission is given? In the world of Web 2.0

  • people are not supposed to be told what to think; and
  • no-one needs the permission of higher authority to do anything that is not harmful to others.

And we also learn that instant and unwelcome feedback is not welcomed by the PAP. But these are part of (and, part of, the attraction) of the world of Web 2.0.

Next, Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad (he is on PAP committee tasked to tame the Internet) told us how slow the PAP was when it comes to using Web 2.0 platforms, “The first few years were about the PAP sensing* the platforms and understanding how to use it. Now it’s really (about) how to use these platforms for political mileage and political advantage.”

Huh? Obama was using new media and social networks in 2008, three years ago and here is the PAP only now using “these platforms for political mileage and political advantage”. Waz the point of getting S’pore all wired up and connected?

 The use of “sensing” is interesting. It conveys two different mental pictures

 — a blind man feeling an object to discern its shape and feel; and

a dog sniffing an object to try to identify it. Remember dogs have bad eyesight.

Both images also convey the sense of bewilderment to the sniffer if the object is shumething that the blind man or dog have never come across before, and have nothing in the memories that they can relate the object to.

Not good ways to explain the PAP’s initial attitude towards Web 2.0 platforms. It also conveys the sense that the PAP leaders are not rational when thinking of Web 2.0.

All of which reminds me of what Thomson Reuters’ chief technology officer Andrew Jordan told the BBC last week: I used to be the CIO (chief information officer) of a business called Complinet which was an information business to the compliance industry …

The chief compliance officer sat through the demonstration for 45 minutes and said: “I understand exactly what you just said to me, but we’re probably two years away from anyone having any understanding of how valuable that is.”

They’d just come to grips with the idea that things were computerised let alone the idea that they need to collaborate using technology.

But the PAP did get one thing right. Tin Pei Ling was meant to be the PAP’s celebrity and poster material gal for the age of new media and social networks. Unfortunately for the PAP and herself, she

didn’t have a clue about Facebook privacy; and

– employed “fat fingered” Denise He as her website administrator.

What a pair of clueless airheads when it came to knowledge of new media and social networks. Well, at least, Ms Tin no longer features in the PAP’s plans for engaging the new media and social networks.

Coming back to the government’s Web 2.0 ambitions, I think it is all about creating apps and games. Fair enogh. But can these be created if the environment and attitude is all wrong? Can dolphins thrive in a concentration camp where they are used to teach conservation to the kiddies?

Taxi fare rises: Notice the attempt at emotional blackmail?

In Media on 13/12/2011 at 5:50 am

No-one believes Delgro’s and the National Taxi Association’s claims that the taxi fare increases are meant to help taxi drivers.  Stockbrokers are already factoring into their forecasts, the assumption that sometime soon, Delgro will increase the rentals it charges taxi drivers.

So it wasn’t that surprising that yesterday, the constructive, nation-building ST carried a big headlined article on the front of its “Home” section on how “peanutty” were the earnings of the average taxi driver.  Of course, it wasn’t written that way. The headline and story were about how an enterprising taxi driver can take home S$3,000 a month. The sub- text was, however, two-fold:

– S$3,000 wasn’t that much, taking into account the long hours, worked; and

– most tax- drivers took home S$1,500. “Peanuts” by any reasonable standard. But then how come taxi drivers “cheery pick” their customers? They can’t be that poorly paid? Read this on how they “cheery pick” customers by gaming the system.

The message at this time of the year, when charities round the world, resort to emotional blackmail to part consumers from their cash, is, “Spare the taxi drivers some money, don’t complain”.

This is a variant of the government’s much vaunted tripartitism at work. Usually the parties are the government, the employers and the NTUC. Here the parties are Delgro, SPH and the taxi drivers out to con the public.

No wonder SPH, and Delgro are good dividend-paying stocks.

Update on 12 December 2011 at 9.55am

Notice how the ST and other local media are playing down the drop in the number of people taking taxis? The cabbies they are quoting are talking rubbish. They notice the drop, blame it on the fare rises, but then say its the school hols. Sigh.

Primer on Yields of Reits & Biz Trusts

In Investments, Reits on 12/12/2011 at 5:57 am

The u/m is an extract from a BT article written by Teh Hooi Ling. Senior Correspondent and CFAer, published on 3 December 2011. It gives some very interesting insights on the yields offered by the various types of Reits, shipping trusts and other business trusts*. (Note some bad news for shipping trusts) 

Thanks BT,  Ms Teh and the unnamed fund manager, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”.

For investors who are keen on Reits and other business trusts, here is some advice from a fund manager friend on how to go about picking the right ones.

Industrial properties usually have 30-year leases, or 30+30. Assuming a 30-year lease, it means it depreciates at a rate of 3.3 per cent pa, versus one per cent pa for a 99-year lease for a retail or commercial building. So the yields for industrial Reits have to be up to 2.3 per cent pa higher than retail or commercial Reits. Usually however, it is less due to the time discount factor.

‘Ships are usually scrapped after about 25-30 years. I think typically they are depreciated over 15 years or so. Even if ships are scrapped after 30 years, shipping trusts should command a higher yield than industrial Reits because the ship lessee can ‘disappear’ with the ship, but not the industrial building tenant.

‘Hospital Reits like Parkway Reit is a rare breed as its revenue is based on a consumer price index formula. You can think of it as having zero vacancy rate (but the main issue is counterparty risk). So given the same counterparty risk, it should trade at a lower yield than retail Reits, which should trade at lower yields than commercial Reits, given the same tenure (because it’s easier to lease out retail units).

‘In turn, commercial Reits should trade at lower yields to industrial, which should trade at lower yields to hospitality (as vacancy rates of hotels/service apartments can be quite high during recessions).

‘Hospitality Reits should trade at lower yields to shipping.

‘But note that industrial can trade at higher yields to hospitality as the former has shorter tenures.

‘As for Hutchison Port Holding Trust and SP Ausnet, I would value them as companies rather than Reits, as usually the rates they charge are prone to fluctuations – unlike Reits and shipping trusts which usually lock customers up for years.

‘SP Ausnet is not structured even as a business trust and pays its dividends out of net profit rather than cash profit. I think every year, it pays out the same dividend per share even though its earnings fluctuate. I would value it the same way I value SingPost.’

Note that unlike a company, a Reit cannot maintain payouts if it hits a bad patch because, at least, 90% of net income has to be paid out. While this is not true of biz trusts, their attraction is that they promise to pay out most of their free cashflow. Companies usually pay out only a portion of their net income, hence there is something in reserve, if they hit a bad patch, and dividends can be maintained for a while more. Hence the importance to investors of what analysts call “dividend cover” which shows how many times over the net income could have paid the dividend. For example, if the dividend cover was 2, this means that the firm’s profit attributable to shareholders was two times the amount of dividend paid out. Not true of Reits, and biz trusts. Got problems, payouts get cut.

*Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/reits-and-business-trusts-similarities-differences/

Why I miss TR

In Media on 11/12/2011 at 10:15 am

(Or “Why I would as a Christmas present the return of TR”)

The headline “Former table tennis president and manager charged with corruption” reminded me of TR because of  the Wayang Party’s (TR’s original name)  campaign against his successor, MP Lee Bee Wah.

And that reminded me of the promise by “reliable sources” that TR will return by mid-November. It’s almost mid-December. Still waiting leh.

But then remember the footie authorities have broken their promises again and again. And it seems that the Sembawang Soccer Academy has yet to pay an outstanding bill to an overseas footie academy (making Fandi Ahmad look silly), despite repeated claims it has the funds.

So let’s not be too upset with the boys and gals at TR for being S’porean i.e. rubbery with their time-line. They are true blue S’poreans. They are also  unpaid volunteers doing a dirty, despised but essential job: spreading rumours and gossip without any regard of the truth**. And providing some gd analysis. I miss “Grey Hippo” and another writer (can’t remember his name but he rubbished a NTU professor and got under his goat).

I was thinking of TR a few weeks ago when I read a stream of hot air from the local media and bloggers on the social worker that rejected an award. Just before the news broke, I had heard about the rejection, and the rumours surrounding it. The bloggers commenting on the issue (example here) must have heard of the rumours but must have decided not to report them**.

Because they did not repeat the rumours, the story did not gain traction. It was forgotten almost as soon as it surfaced, which is a shame if one is into these kind of things (I’m not).

But if TR had been around, I’m sure the rumours would be published as facts, giving some context to the bloggers’ tots on the matter.

So I’m still hoping for a return of TR. The inhabitants of the Wild, Wild Internet need the Comancheros*** to return especially to name and shame FT loving managers and employers http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/three-cheers-for-tr/.

But I won’t miss the demise of the Satay Club which went AWOL or MIA in early September. Bit too pretentious for my taste. As it had shume kind of affiliation with TR, did the closure of TR affect it? Maybe the people behind TR were behind the Satay Club? I raise this possibility because the founder of the Satay Club claimed to have a PPE degree from Cambridge. Cambridge does not award a PPE degree, only Oxford does. A TR joke?

Oh and I won’t miss Tan Kin Lian’s SGEP portal which has also entered the land of the living dead. Since October, updates had been getting rarer and rarer. And there have been no updates since 16 November. Another one of TKL’s failures?  Like his petition to himself to stand for president (which only got 1,200 signatures despite his call for 100,000 signatures), his presidential election campaign, and his forfeited deposit.

Update: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/in-praise-of-tr-emeritus/

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*Almost like the night-soil men who serviced the house I lived in when I was young. Great place with an indoor court-yard. But there were no flush toilets. So people were paid to cart away something mucky. But these guys were paid.

**Let me be clear, I’m not condemning them for not spreading the rumours. There are very good, sound, ethical reasons for not doing so: like not being able to make a judgement on the credibility of the rumours, or the impact of smearing someone unfairly if it is untrue.

***In Westerns, the Comancheros were the “bad” white guys who sold modern rifles to the Comanches (“Lords of the South Plains”) and other “lesser” Red Indians resisting the white settlers’ and US cavalry’s attempts to “civilise them”. More like genocide than civilising, if you ask me.

Dedication to all serious minded activists

In Wit on 10/12/2011 at 5:43 pm

As 10th December is Human Rights Day, I dedicate this DH Lawrence poem to all the serious-minded activists in the SDP (except Danny), human rights movement (GLBT, no-hanging, abolish ISD, no tortue, etc etc), wimmin causes, animal rights movement, TOC, the boys at New Nation (the funny thing is that they think they are entertaining: they try too hard to be entertaining), Donaldson Tan and his friends at New Asia Republic, WP, NSP, SPP, RP, SDA and the PAP. And don’t ever do what the S’pore SlutWalkers did. They tried to be provocative but howled like wild animals when they were mirepresented or mocked. And the SlutWalkers (S’pore Chapter) event turned out to be beyond parody. See this and this. The US and other SliutWalkers should disown the S’porean SlutWalkers, juz like the international socialists once disowned the PAP.

Chill out and make yr messages entertaining. An American civil rights activist who went on to make a fortune in the media said something to the effect, “Entertain the people first, then make them think”. (I can’t remember the chap’s name).

A Sane Revolution

If you make a revolution, make it for fun,

don’t make it in ghastly seriousness,

don’t do it in deadly earnest,

do it for fun.

Don’t do it because you hate people,

do it just to spit in their eye.

Don’t do it for the money,

do it and be damned to the money.

Don’t do it for equality,

do it because we’ve got too much equality

and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart

and see which way the apples would go a-rolling.

Don’t do it for the working classes.

Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own

and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.

Don’t do it, anyhow, for international Labour.

Labour is the one thing a man has had too much of.

Let’s abolish labour, let’s have done with labouring!

Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it’s not labour.

Let’s have it so! Let’s make a revolution for fun!

(Tip of the hat to Jim Henley.)

Reits and Business Trusts: Similarities & Differences

In Reits on 10/12/2011 at 5:45 am

In Reits, property assets are held in trust by a trustee and a separate manager is appointed to manage the Reit. The rental income is used to pay out dividends to unit holders.

Like a Reit, the business trust is created by a trust deed. The trustee has legal ownership of the assets, and is also the manager.  The business will be in a sector that provides stable income like utilities.

Reit or Business Trust by MoneySense looks at the two different structures in more detail and also spells out the key differences.

Equities: Sluggish Recovery?

In Economy, Investments on 09/12/2011 at 5:52 am

Jeremy Grantham, chief investment strategist of GMO, writes in his latest quarterly letter that the bursting of the two most recent equity bubbles was historically unusual in that stock prices soon recovered to their trend. The next bust, he writes, may not be as forgiving.

http://www.gmo.com/websitecontent/JGLetter_ShortestLetterEver_3Q11.pdf

Another way of looking at the situation is that these two recoveries were bear traps.

Note he called the 2008 crisis before it was fashionable, and he was never someone who was forever and a day prophesying the end is nigh.

NMP Selection Criteria

In Political governance on 08/12/2011 at 6:13 pm

Nominations for NMPs closed earlier this evening.

As there is always an NTUC NMP, I hope NTUC asked, its nominee, Ms Mary Liew Kiah Eng, Executive Secretary and Deputy Executive Director of the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union, this question, “Are you willing to talk more in Parliament than comrade Terry Lee?”, and her reply was “Yes”. For the record, Terry Lee, a unionist and a NMP in the last parly, was the “King Skiver” when it came to speaking in parly. He made 10 speeches in 20 months (an average of once every two months) or S$4,000 a speech.

And, I hope, the committee in parly selecting the NMPs will ask all nominees, “Do you plan to beat Jos Yeo’s “tuang” record?” She spoke seven times in 20 months (an average of once every 2.9 months), earning S$5,700 a speech.

Nice work if you can get it.  Remember the cliche, “Talk is cheap”? Err when it comes to Jos and Terry, talk ain’t cheap. They cost the taxpayer serious money.

Seriously, nominees should not waste taxpayers money  if they have no interest in being NMPs except to collect their monthly allowance. NMPs are there to raise issues and provide views. This can only be done by opening their mouths and talking sense like Siow Kum Hong, who when NMP outperformed the WP’s Low and Sylvia. Silence is not an option. MPs who don’t talk much or raise issues in parly can always fall back on the reasonable excuse that they prefer to focus more on serving the needs of the people in their words. NMPs don’t have this excuse.

It’s all about dignity, the dignity of the position of NMP, and personal dignity.

Related posting: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/best-nmps-jos-yeo-and-terry-lee/

Comfort Delgro: Give CEO and PR people credit

In Infrastructure, Wit on 08/12/2011 at 8:37 am

Amid all the rubbish and abuse thrown at them, let’s remember that the CEO and his PR team are not like those of SMRT. I hear the lady in charge of public communications, an ex-ST biz editor (must be a rare breed) is one smart lady who likes Victoria’s Secrets underwear.

Taxi users have not been told, “You have a choice. Don’t like our fare hikes, talk a walk, train or bus, or buy a car.”

Instead of complaining so much, if you use taxis and buses a lot,  think of buying Delgro shares to hedge against taxi and bus fare rises. Management in Delgro are smarter than the average SMRT managers.

Update at 10am 8th December 2011

Profit boost for ComfortDelGro unlikely: analysts. Fare hikes not likely to see immediate cab rental revision, they say.

Fifty / Fifty Approach in Investing

In Financial competency, Investments on 08/12/2011 at 5:13 am

 Some research from America, and how it can tried out here.

Vanguard created a model portfolio divided equally between stocks and bonds, and compared the returns in periods of economic expansion and recession. It found that “the average real returns of such a portfolio since 1926 have been statistically equivalent regardless of whether the U.S. economy was in or out of recession.”

Vanguard’s founder, John C. Bogle, popularized index funds, and the study tracked the stock and bond markets using indexes that mirror the broad markets. Individual stock and bond selection wasn’t involved at all.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/your-money/half-stocks-half-bonds-a-solution-for-turbulent-times.html?src=me&ref=business

What accounts for these results? Put simply, bonds tend to outperform stocks when a recession is on the horizon, while stocks tend to rally when an economic expansion is in the offing. “The financial markets themselves tend to move in advance of the economy,” Mr. Davis said.

Predicting the economy’s direction is famously difficult. So unless you have substantial bond holdings in your portfolio well before a recessions begin, you’ll miss upturns in the bond market. And unless you’re holding stocks before an economic recovery has started, you’ll miss those big rallies.

By holding stocks and bonds in equal proportion — a portfolio that’s easy to construct by using index funds — you won’t need to be prescient; you can stick to your portfolio and ride out the storms.

Of course, a 50-50 stock-bond division is relatively conservative. Alter those proportions and the results will shift significantly. During recessions, for example, a portfolio containing 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds fared worse than the 50-50 portfolio, with an average real return of 4.9 percent annually. In expansions it did better, with an average real return of 6.8 percent, according to Vanguard’s calculations.

That points out the allure of market timing. In an ideal world, if you knew in advance where the economy was heading, you’d be a market wizard. You would shift your entire portfolio into stocks during expansions, for example, and put all of it into bonds in recessions. If you could actually do this, the results would be impressive. In expansions, Vanguard found, stocks have gained an average of 11.9 percent annually, after inflation, while the comparable figure for bonds in recessions is 7. 2 percent That kind of timing is ideal.

BUT it’s easy to shoot yourself in the foot. Get the timing wrong and hold only stocks in recessions, for example, and you’d have an annual average gain in those periods of 3.3 percent, after inflation. And if you hold bonds in expansions, you’d lose an average annual 0.7 percent, also after inflation.

 Want to try this here? http://www.nikkoam.com.sg/files/documents/funds/phs/phs_homebalanced.pdf

 The term sheet says, among many other things:

WHAT ARE YOU INVESTING IN?

You are investing in a unit trust constituted in Singapore that passively invests its

assets primarily in S$ denominated fixed income securities and Singapore-listed

equities in the proportion of approximately 50:50 respectively (proportionate

allocations are subject to a 5% variance).

The Managers intend to invest all or substantially all of the Fund’s assets in the

following exchange traded funds (“ETFs”), namely the ABF Singapore Bond Index

Fund and the Nikko AM Singapore STI ETF (the “Underlying Funds”).

Both of the Underlying Funds are managed by the Managers.

The base currency of the Fund is S$.

This is for yr further study. I’m not recommending either the 50/50 strategy or the product.

Diagram to remember

In Financial competency, Investments on 07/12/2011 at 8:45 am

Us Netizens: Comancherios of the Internet?

In Internet, Media, Political governance on 06/12/2011 at 8:11 pm

(Note: In Westerns, the Comancherios were the bad guys who sell guns and whisky to the Comanches, “Lords of the South Plains” and other “lesser” Indians of the North American Southern Great Plains*.)

Last Thurday, I analysed how the NSP could be perceived given that three active actors in the “Jason Neo” and “Donaldson” cases were NSP supporters.

Here the focus is on counterfactuals. What if Neo had been an opposition party “volunteer” while Firdaus, the chap who exposed him, was a Young PaPpie or “volunteer”; Abdul Salim a PAP member; and Amran Junid (the person who complained about Donaldson) a PAP supporter?

Would:

 – netizens have focused not on Jason Neo and Donaldson, but on the complainants and their perceived motives; and

 – the local MSM be so laid-back in reporting the“Jason Neo” and “Donaldson” incidents?

Why were netizens so “easy” on Firdaus who spread the photo? The misdeed had been pointed in March 2011 by Neo’s Facebook’s “friends”. He explained that it was not meant to be taken seriously, and apologised. But he did not remove the post which he should have done. As none of them thought to advise, suggest or demand that he remove the post, I suspect, he tot he had done enough to “purge” himself, not that this excuses him.

But no-one it seems has “condemned” Firdaus for spreading the story even after Neo had apologised and taken the photo down

 Nor has anyone except http://piaroh.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/bababa/ and me (in a round about way) questioned his motives. Was he (and others) trying to “fix” the YPAP, the PAP and the government, by associating them with Neo and his caption? A complainant, Abdul Salim, was a NSP member according to TOC; and Firdaus, remember, was a “volunteer” at NSP according to Yahoo!.

 But what if Firdaus was a known YPAP member and Jason Neo was known as a NSP “volunteer”. Would the story have attracted so much interest on the Internet?

I’m sure that many netizens would have dismissed his actions as a Young PAP plot to discredit the NSP, the other opposition parties, the new media and us netizens, especially since a PAP member, Abdul Salim, made a complaint to the police . They would defend Neo, pointing out that he had apologised twice, the first time in March 2011 when his Facebook friends “scolded” him, and had taken down the photo after Firdaus complained to him. But still Firdaus “poured kerosene over the fire” by spreading the photo over the Internet. If anyone should be charged for sedition, it should be Firdaus the Young PaPpie, not Neo the NSP “volunteer”, I’m sure, netizens would say in this parallel world.

(As it is, someone posted on TOC, “This saga is pre-planned by PAP so they can used this excuse to formalise new laws to control the cyberspace to restrict ppl’s freedom of speech.”)

Can we therefore be surprised that the government and PAP view the Internet as Comanche territory (many of the real cowboy towns were in Comanche territory or Comancheria) and netizens as Comancheros?

But the government and PAP should realise there is a reason (or is it an excuse?) why we netizens tend to be so sceptical or cynical of them.

Would the local MSM’s coverage of this incident and that of the Donaldson case have been so low-key as to be almost non-existent, if Firdaus had been a Young PaPpie, and Neo the NSP “volunteer”? I think most readers would agree with me we would then have had story after story covering every angle. Especially since Abdul Salim was a PAP member, and Amran Junid was a PAP supporter (Remember we are in a parallel world) who exposed Donaldson.

We netizens would be guillty of sedition, irresponsibility, racism maybe even sodomy and pimping: by association.

The local MSM editorials and commentaries would be calling for more than a code of conduct. They would call for cyber laws to punish the likes of Neo and Donaldson.

 Can the government, PAP and the local, constructive, nation- building media be surprised that more and more S’poreans are turning to new media for their news and analysis of local current affairs?

 And can they blame bloggers and other Commancheros for trying to put some balance on the news and analysis S’poreans get, by putting more emphasis on what the Opposition and other ignored (by the government, PAP and local MSM) voices say. Why not give more space (plenty more) in the local MSM to “other” voices and see if more friendly injuns appear in Comancheria? (Remember the US cavalry relied on non hostile Indian scouts to track and locate the Comanches and other hostile Indians.) If no non hostile Injuns appear,, the PAP and government can revert to the status quo.

———-

*The truth is more complex. The word “Comancheros” was the name gven to people in New Mexico who traded with the Comanches, the dominant tribe (think PAP and you get an idea of how dominant the Comanches were) of the Southern Great Plains of North America. They traded guns, ammunition, tools, cloth, flour, tobacco, and bread for hides, livestock and slaves from the Comanches. As the Comancheros may not have had sufficient access to modern rifles and ammunition, there is scholarly disagreement about how much they traded these to the Comanches. They were funded in part by US army officers based in New Mexico.

Naming & shaming underperformers in footie and other national teams

In Footie on 06/12/2011 at 6:16 am

I knew our footie teams were not gd. But I didn’t know they were this bad, winning in 2011 only 24%, or seven of 29 matches, across all age groups. The full national squad won only one of seven games (14.2%) played this year, not counting friendlies.

A year ago the Lions team could only remain in the group stages of the AFF Suzuki Cup, and the players and coach Radojko Avramovic were criticised. Our footie authorities did shumething unique, not seen in footie. They sacked the team but kept the coach even though the coach had been around for a decade. When an EPL, Serie A or La Liga team does badly, the manager (we call him “coach”) gets sacked. They don’t dismiss the players and build a new team around the manager.

But if the Lions are replaced again, but the Lions’ coach remains unchanged, it would again remind me of what Bertolt Brecht German and Marxist playwright and poet   wrote. After an uprising in East Germany that was brutally crushed, he wrote:

After the uprising of the 17th of June

The Secretary of the Writers Union

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?

And while I’m on failure in sports, three cheers for Dr Tan Eng Liang. After the SEA Games in November, he clinically and dispassionately assessed the athletes and sports bodies, giving grades A to D based on medals won, or not won. He gave a D to eight sports – sepak takraw, weightlifting, archery, basketball, football, golf, dragon boat and petanque. They didn’t win a single medal.

He said, “I will make some recommendations to the SNOC and expect the players and NSA (national sports association) to do something with the situation. There could be tightening of selection criteria for example, sports that didn’t get any medals, we might be more strict with selection.”

As taxpayers money and national pride are involved, he is right expect high standards from the sports bodies and athletes.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/?s=footie

Using yr CPF OA as a savings account

In CPF, Financial competency, Financial planning on 05/12/2011 at 5:49 am

If you are in a position to withdraw money at age 55 from your CPF accounts, given the pathetic S$ interest rates offered by the banks, you may want to use your CPF Ordinary Account as a savings account that pays higher than S$ bank or finance company fixed deposit rates.

But make sure you know how often a year you can withdraw your money if you want to use your OA as a savings account, or more accurately as a “betterest” way of managing your cash. The laziest way to find out is to call up the CPF help line.

You also have to be aware of the following: http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20110715-289391.html.

THE scheme is stated in the Central Provident Fund (CPF) website.

But Mr Jerry Low, 58, was not aware of it.

So the retired bank trader got a surprise when the CPF Board transferred $10,000 into his Medisave Account (MA) without his permission, after he applied to withdraw $37,000 from his Ordinary Account (OA) in June this year.

Mr Low had chosen to not withdraw all his money from his OA when he turned 55.

He opted for a partial withdrawal, leaving some money in his OA as the CPF interest rate of 2.5 per cent was higher than what the banks were offering.

He could do this as his Medisave Account and Retirement Account (RA) had the required amount.

Since 2008, Mr Low had used his Medisave to pay for some medical expenses, whittling away his Medisave Required Amount (MRA), which was $14,000 as of Jan 1, 2008.

However, the required amount was raised to $27,500 as of Jan 1 this year [2011].

Said Mr Low: “I was shocked to find that $10,000 from my OA had been moved to my MA without my approval.

“I did not even know that the money was moved, let alone the amount moved.”

As to the danger of the government not allowing you to withdraw your money by changing the rules yet again, assess the risk of the government taking this action in the light of it only getting 60% of the popular vote in the May 2011 GE, and it’s determination to win back Aljunied. Besides, the government actions, so far, on CPF issues, are never retrospective.

As to the CPF being or going bankrupt, remember that Tan Jee Say (25% of voters voted for him at the 2011 presidential election and he was once a senior civil servant specialising in economic matters) doesn’t worry about the solvency of the CPF system. To him, the S$60bn he proposed spending on his plans was “small change”. So the CPF amount due to members, as of August 2011, S$204 billion, cannot be an issue, despite what the SDP (his ex-party) and his supporters at TR and Singapore Election Watch say. Reminder: they say that the CPF is bankrupt because of the losses at Temasek and GIC. Hence the introduction of the Minimum Sum and CPF Life Plans schemes.

Did you know that until a few years ago, once you reached 55, the staff there hassled people to withdraw their surplus funds? It happened to a friend in 2004. He told them he as a Nantah graduate and retired central bank employee, trusted the S’pore government.

Now, the staff encourage people to keep funds they don’t need in their OAs.

Aftertot 5th December 2011 at 12.55pm

See abc’s comment below. He has a point on Medisave increases. My counterpoint is that Medisave account sure to be used and anyway it attracts 4% interest a yr.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/best-cpf-life-plan/

 

CPF system like this meh?

In CPF, Wit on 04/12/2011 at 6:09 am

If SDP members had a sense of humour (which they don’t, Danny the teh tarik Bear excepted)*, the SDP could use this joke to illustrate its view of how the CPF system works.    

A Scotsman goes into a brothel in Amsterdam one night and finds himself a nice-looking prostitute.

He asks her, ‘How much dae ye charrrge forrrr an hourrr?’

‘£100,’ she replies.

So he asks, ‘Okay, dae yee dae it Scottish style?’

She says ‘No!’

He then asks her, ‘I’ll gie you £200 to dae it Scottish style – please?’

She then says, ‘No’, not even knowing what ‘Scottish style’ was!

So he then offers her £300. Again she declines his offer.

So, finally he says, ‘I’ll gie ye £500 to gaun Scottish style wi’ me!’

Finally she agrees, thinking, ‘Well, I’ve been in the game for over 10 years now. I’ve been there and done that, had every kind of request from weirdos from every corner of the world. How bad could Scottish style be?’

So she goes ahead and has sex with him, doing it in every kind of way and in every possible position. Finally, after several intense hours they finish.

Exhausted, the hooker turns to him and says, ‘That was really fantastic. I’ve never enjoyed it so much. But I was expecting something perverted and disgusting. Where does the ‘Scottish style’ come in?’

The Scotsman replies, ‘I’ll pay ye next week…’

————————-

*To be fair, none of the political parties have a sense of humour. They are all too earnest and straight laced for my taste. Oh for Wayang Party.

Best CPF Life Plan?

In CPF, Financial competency, Financial planning on 03/12/2011 at 6:36 am

 CPF Life Plans

CPF LIFE Plans (With Refund) Monthly Payout Bequest
LIFE Basic Low High
LIFE Balanced Medium Medium
LIFE Plus High Low
CPF LIFE Plans (Without Refund) Monthly Payout Bequest
LIFE Income Highest No bequest

Source: CPF Board

From 1 January 2013, those turning 55 will have to opt for one of the CPF Life Plans. They will no longer have the choice between the Minimum Sum scheme (payouts for about 20 years from age 65) or the CPF Life Plans. “With rising life expectancy, 1 in 5 Singaporeans is expected to be aged 65 and above by 2030. Out of which half can expect to live beyond 85. Therefore, an income for life to help you meet your basic retirement needsis very important,” is what the CPF Board says.

Various people (self included, a retired senior bank executive, and a scholar working in a GLC ) who have the choice of choosing between the CPF Life Plans and the MS scheme, have opted for the latter because the CPF Life Plans’ calculations are in a black-box. As a financial planner pointed out, “The CPF Life Plans come without a benefits illustration, something the law requires insurance agents and financial planners to show life insurance buyers”. The plans could be better, but we just don’t know.

The CPF Life Plans are also more risky.  There is a provision in the law governing the CPF Life Plans which states that payouts are contingent on the Plans being solvent. This is because premiums that are paid in to get the annuities are pooled and collectively invested. If the plan you chose doesn’t have enough money to pay out, you die. This is unlike the MS scheme, where account holders are legally entitled to the monies in their CPF accounts. Though accessing the monies in one lump sum after 55 is an issue.

The government has said the provision on solvency is only a precaution unlikely ever  to be used. If so, why have it?

Of course those who opt for the MS assume that in the event they are still alive in their late 80s and even 90s, they can support themselves financially, or have children and grandchildren that will support them

If

– longevity* runs in your family and you think you can live well past 80; and

– ‘you think you will run out of money in your 80s,

you are probably better off with a CPF Life Plan.

If you choose a plan, or have no choice to choose a plan, you may want to opt for the “Basic” plan. This is the closest to the MS scheme. In fact, Doctor Money, Larry Haverkamp (whose views I respect) thinks it is superior to the MS scheme.

 Remember, if you don’t opt, the default is the “Balanced” plan. In this, the annuity element starts from age 80, while in the “Basic” plan the annuity starts from age 90. Hence one of the reasons why your beneficiaries should get more under the latter plan. Another is that the latter attracts a smaller premium, 10% versus the former’s 30%.

—————————-

*Some useful statistics (from a 2008 Department of Statistics paper based on 2006 preliminary data) on how long you have live:

– If male aged 65 – can expect to live another 17.2 years – 82.2

– If female aged 65 – can expect to live another 20.6 years. — 85.6

– Proportion of Singaporeans aged 65 expected to be alive at age 85 is

      — Male 39%

      — Female 55%

CPF and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

In CPF, Wit on 02/12/2011 at 5:48 am

I’ve been reading shumething by Lewis Carroll and came across Sylvie and Bruno. Am surprised that the Young PAP and that unemployed chap running the Facebook page on “Fabrications about the PAP” are not defending the CPF system in the terms below what with the compulsory minimum sum scheme and the CPF Life Plans were introduced, and promises of better rates of interest in exchange for monies being locked up beyond 55.

But then maybe they don’t read and appreciate the works of Lewis Carroll of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland fame? They can only read and understand our nation-building, constructive local media and Petir?

From his Sylvie and Bruno:

How much is it, this year, my man?”… “Well, it’s been a doubling so many years, you see,” the tailor replied, a little gruffly, “and I think I’d like the money now. It’s two thousand pound, it is!”

“Oh, that’s nothing!” the Professor carelessly remarked … “But wouldn’t you like to wait just another year, and make it four thousand? Just think how rich you’d be!”  …  “But it; dew sound a powerful sight o’ money! Well, I think I’ll wait–“

“Of course you will!” said the Professor. “There’s good sense in you” …“Will you ever have to pay him that four thousand pounds?” Sylvie asked as the door closed on the departing creditor.

“Never, my child!” the Professor replied emphatically. “He’ll go on doubling it, till he dies. You see it’s always worth while waiting another year, to get twice as much money!

The novel was published in 1889 and in 1987 or 1988, Ralph Wanger (a then leading investment fund manager, now retired) told author John Train that the sum would have grown to £1 followed by 33 zeros. The magic of compounding on funds not drawn on. No wonder Lim Swee Say has a special monthly CPF statement so that he can see every month how much his millions are compounding. 

Coming soon http://feed.theweek.com/article/index/221651/retirement-is-80-the-new-65?

Supporters in the limelight, boon or bane for the NSP?

In Political governance on 01/12/2011 at 6:54 pm

Until the 16th of November, the NSP (Nicole Seah excepted, and she has been keeping a low profile for sometime) had a very low Internet profile. Things have changed because three persons openly associated with the NSP have played leading roles in two of the three “sedition” complaints (three in the space of five days) made to the police asking the police to investigate whether “sedition” had been committed. All three complaints have been well publicised and commented on on the Internet (including Facebook) with most “voices” “hammering” Neo, the Young PAP and the PAP, and Donaldson.

That the three leading complainants in the drama were NSP supporters, and that NSP released a statement* on one of the three incidents were also well publicised. But there was very little comment on their association with the NSP, none of which was negative of the NSP.

This posting is about whether the public’s views of the NSP could change even though it is clear that no-one reasonably thinks that these actions were sanctioned, approved or pre-planned by the leadership of the NSP or its Malay Section.

Noor Firdaus (the exposer of Jason Neo) is, according to a Yahoo! report, “a volunteer with opposition National Solidarity Party (NSP)”. Note that on Facebook there is a “Firdaus Venezio (Noor Firdaus Abdul Samad)” who says his political views are aligned with those of those of the NSP.

But the circumstances surrounding the exposing of Neo were strange.Neo’s Facebook’s “friends” had pointed out in March 2011 that he was wrong . He had then explained that it was not meant to be taken seriously, and had apologised. That he should have removed the picture is beyond doubt. But as none of his “friends” had thought it necessary to advise, suggest or demand that he remove the post, I suspect, he thought he had done enough to “purge” himself of his mistake.

When Firdaus saw the image sometime in November, and complained to Neo, Neo apologised again and took down the image. It could have ended there.

But Firdaus made copies of the image and spread it on the Internet: after the original had disappeared. He sent it to various PAP MPS (Neo was a member of the Young PAP), TOC and NSP member Abdul Salim. Abdul Salim was quoted by TOC as saying: “I have just make a Police report against Jason Neo Tiong Yap. Was updated by the officers on duty that the Principal of HUDA Kindergarten has also lodge a report early in the afternoon.”

Then one Amran Junid was unhappy with a Facebook post of one Donaldson Tan. He made a police report, and told TOC about it. TOC, in turn, wrote a story on the matter. According to the New Asia Republic (which Donaldson Tan founded and where he is an editor), “Checks on Amran’s background have shown that he is closely linked with an opposition party, the National Solidarity Party …”.

I never did think these actions were sanctioned, approved or pre-planned by the leadership of the NSP or its Malay Section, but were the individuals’ initiative.

A cynic could reasonably conclude that, given their association with the NSP, Firdaus and Abdul Salim could be trying to score political points by damaging the reputations of the Young PAP, PAP and the government. And raising their party’s profile to boot. Politics is a dirty game. Other more personal motivations could have be dreamt up by a cynic too.

But netizens know that NSP supporters were prime actors in these actions.

Whether the publicity is beneficial, or not, for the NSP has yet to be seen. For a party often perceived to be Chinese-based, the high Internet profile of three non-Chinese NSP activists could change perceptions of the party, and attract more non-Chinese supporters. The party has Malay and Indian Bureaus to focus on the specific needs and concerns of S’porean Malays and Indians.

But it does seem strange that people associated with a party that Firdaus calls “Libertarians” resort to “flaming” or making police reports because their feelings were hurt. These supporters do not seem to be aligned with libertarian principles, as I understand them to be. Worse for the NSP, their actions could be seen by many voters as irresponsible, disproportionate, reckless and possibly causing more harm than the original misdeeds they were trying to highlight.

All of which goes to show the wisdom of the WP in being very careful and cautious in accepting new members and “volunteers’.

As Nicile Seah is in PR and is the people’s poster gal of what a young activist is all about, she could lead NSP’s efforts to make sure that its members and supporters are “on message” and that other S’poreans get the “right” impression of the NSP?

Let me be clear, I

  • don’t condone what Neo and Donaldson did;
  • say they were wrong and irresponsible to do what they did;
  • think the actions of Abdul Salim and Amran Junid were not an appropriate response to the original misdeeds;
  • say Firdaus was irresponsible and reckless, and his actions were not an appropriate response to Neo’s misdeed; and
  • have no issues with TOC covering the stories, or the way TOC handled them. News is news.

And, for the record, I know and like the core team members of TOC; and I help out occasionally in subbing, and non-editorial matters.

 Finally, I have more reflections on this issue, which I plan to blog next week. Still reflecting.

 —-

*I, and others, were wondering why NSP issued the statement until it became clear that Firdaus was an NSP supporter. 

PM should read this report

In Economy on 01/12/2011 at 6:17 am

PM should look this up given his recent call for more R&D spending by the private sector.  One lesson: home grown cos needed, not MNCs. UK is nowhere to be seen because like S’pore most of its manufacturing is done by MNCs HQed abroad.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/11/innovation

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