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Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Joker in the World Economy

In Economy, Energy on 31/01/2012 at 10:47 am

If the US is Superman and Batman is China, and both want a growing world economy, their enemy is the Joker super-enhanced with kryptonite, or otherwise known as “Iranian oil”.

Extract from BBC Economics blogger, Stephanie Flanders:  

Iranian oil

All the mainstream forecasts for global growth in 2012 assume a flat or falling price of oil. Last year’s updated IMF forecasts, for example, assume the average price of oil falls from around $105 per barrel last year to $100 in 2012 and $95 in 2013.

For the UK, you’ll remember the likely fall in inflation (helped by stable or falling oil prices) was one of my biggest “reasons to be cheerful” in 2012.

US and EU sanctions on Iran could well mess with these hopes, especially if Iran decides to cut oil shipments well before the EU sanctions formally come into force. In the past few weeks, Iran’s leaders – and its parliament – have been talking about doing precisely that.

Iran exported roughly 2.2 million barrels of crude per day in 2010, equivalent to around 2.5% of global demand. A good chunk of that oil went to Europe, unfortunately quite a lot of it to the countries in crisis. Around 15% of the oil imported by Spain, Greece and Italy comes from Iran.

The oil price has crept up in recent weeks, but if you want to insure yourself against a major price spike later in 2012, you can do it very cheaply. The market just doesn’t think it’s very likely.

There are lots of sensible reasons for traders to be relaxed. Saudi Arabia has pledged to increase its production, if necessary, to keep the oil price stable; the US financial sanctions, which would make it very difficult for Iran to get paid for its oil, have quite a lot of flexibility built into them; and the EU sanctions are likely to be phased in.

And yet, this is the oil market we are talking about. And Iran. Neither exactly has a reputation for stability, or predictability.

Senior Israeli politicians at Davos were suggesting privately that there was a one in three chance of some form of violent confrontation with Iran this year.

Of course, Israel has an interest in talking up the threat posed by Iran. But the noises coming out of Tehran are not exactly reassuring. You have to wonder whether the rest of the world – including traders in oil futures – is taking it seriously enough.

Metro: Share price of 0.695 includes 0.36 of net cash

In China, Property on 30/01/2012 at 5:40 am

DMG & Partners Securities on 27 December 2011, issued a “Buy” call on Metro Holdings. As the price remains unchanged at 0.695 (despite a strong market); and given that less the net cash, the stock is only trading at 0.335;  and a yield of almost 3% (historical), it’s something worth exploring despite it being a China play, and a property one at that.

(Background: Metro was founded in 1957 as a department store operator and became a household name. It diversified into property development in the 1990s and was one of the early investors in China’s real estate market, thereby missing the bullet of being a retailer here.)

It has since built up a portfolio of prime commercial properties in Tier-1 cities in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, as well as several property projects and joint ventures in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. Key properties that the group owns include Metro City and EC Mall in Beijing, Metro City and Metro Tower in Shanghai and GIE Tower in Guangzhou.

Leveraging on the group’s retail experience, Metro has chalked up an impressive track record as a mall operator and investor in China. To date, all its property ventures have been profitable, with past divestments making gains of 5-25 per cent premium over book value.

Over the past five years, shareholders’ equity compounded at a CAGR of 9 per cent. This was achieved without the use of excessive leverage given management’s conservative style. Its strong balance sheet (net cash of 36 cents) allows it to deploy capital opportunistically. The ability to recycle capital and profits into new projects has been a hallmark of Metro’s management.

The company is in the midst of selling its 50 per cent stake in Metro City Beijing for 1.25 billion yuan (S$247.5 million), a 50 per cent premium over its latest valuation. Should the deal go through, Metro will be able to book a pretax profit of $87.4 million. We estimate this will lift book NAV by nine cents/share.

On our estimates, the stock has an RNAV of $1.02 billion, or $1.23/share, after netting out liabilities. At current price, the stock is trading at a steep discount of 45 per cent to RNAV. Our target price for the stock is $0.86, based on a 30 per cent discount to RNAV.

State of the Opposition Update: My light-hearted analysis based on gossip heard

In Holidays and Festivals, Political governance, Wit on 30/01/2012 at 5:30 am

This is the “news” I picked up over the last week while feasting and dicing. I have tried to indicate which are the more reliable stories, and which are the more rubbishy ones. As usually I add my very personal takes i.e. analysis.

SPP

Juz before the hols, I was told by a reliable source that Mrs Chiam had said that the coming party conference would be a “non event”. Some non event:

– two men that were expected to lead the SPP post Chiam said they were no longer interested in being on the central executive committee (Mrs Chiam was blamed for their lost of interest); then

– six central executive members (including the above two) resigned from the party juz before the conference with one saying “that one or two key CEC members are not willing (to accommodate) a complete change over for collective leadership and accountability, and that being the case, my presence in the party will not add credible value.”

For jet-setters (like one DYadav) and planet hoppers who were away, read here and here.

Desmond Lim (remember him) was one happy man this hols, people who know him tell me. Remember he had a bad 2011 initially, being slimed by Mrs Chiam as lacking the “X” factor to succeed Chiam and hence the trouble he was giving the Chiams, then losing his deposit in the May GE. Well with the failure of the party to retain Potong Pasir and to renew itself, and the unhappiness of long serving stalwarts and newbie ex-scholars all becoming public before the hols, he feels vindicated in opposing the Chiams in 2010 and 2011. I hope he gambled big time before the Year of Rabbit ended as his luck certainly did improve.

WP

No need to say anything abt Yaw because he said “IF it is rumours …”, the other lady said, ““I hope you will not identify me or the other woman involved,”, his wife withdrew her Facebook comments about irresponsible journalism, WP’s Low Thia Kiang said: “You said yourself that these are rumours, why are you still asking me?”, and deputy treasurer of the WP, a Mr Png, said: “We have to think carefully about our response”.

They shld realise that their comments collectively give the game away. Why so stupid leh, WP Sec-Gen, members and Mrs Yaw?

All I will report is that WP high command and those who should be in the know are saying nothing in private to friendly, influential outsiders (including prominent bloggers: I’m neither a friend nor influential) or “lesser mortals” WP supporters. As they are also saying nothing in public, I conclude that the WP’s attitude is, “Your problem Yaw. You solve it”.

Problem for the WP is that the silence implies that there is a problem that Yaw has to resolve, whatever it is.

But if Yaw is the dad of a bastard (albeit a Dragon), the WP can’t escape collateral damage. He was possibly the most trusted lieutenant of Sec-Gen Low, and if he was as rampant a stag as alleged by TRE, it casts doubt on Low’s judgement. And if Low didn’t know that his Kim Jong-il look-a-like aide was as horny a stag as alleged, it shows the lack of his of intel on members.

NSP

The old guard can’t believe that the newbies are fighting among themselves and with the old guard.

Hazel Poa (Sec-Gen) and her hubbie Tony and other newbies are spitting mad at Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss (VP) who has the support of the people’s celebrity, Nicole Seah. Ms Chong is refusing (and has refused for over six months) to declare her personal wealth. (Reminder: she is hot-shot corporate and shipping lawyer, or so it is claimed. Detractors say it is a two partners and no slaves, legal assistants, firm).

All central executive members have to submit this declaration to the government in order to get the licence for NSP’s newsletter renewed.

Why she refuses to give this declaration or step down, and why Nicole Seah is supporting her is a matter of speculation. One mean spirited view is that she and Nicole realise that moving to NSP was a big mistake and they want to jump ship again. If they leave when Tan Jee Say sets up his party (the two gals got crush on him, it is alleged), there is a danger that they will be perceived as serial, air head rats: first KennethJ, then Goh Meng Seng. If NSP was in disarray, they could excuse their leaving by blaming the NSP mess.

The old guard kicked out one Goh Meng Seng for failing to deliver a breakthrough. He got his revenge. The newbies he brought in are fighting each other and the Malay Bureau (his creation) and the old guard. Want to destroy an organisation, give GMS an executive role: juz kidding.

TJS

Glad to read in ST confirmation of a story I heard: he is pursuing the shared resource centre for the Opposition that he was thinking about before the last general election.

As he is turning 58 soon, why is he working so hard? “Relax. Watching over yr daughters and making sure they hook rich China men and is hard work. Do it well, and can be richer than Peter Lim”.

But seeing that that Dynamic NSP Duo (Hazel and Tony) are helping him recruit people for the centre, does it mean that he is giving Jeannette Chong and Nicole Seah, the brush off? Scholars like the company of other scholars, not pretty air heads who are serial hoppers? Will hope to find out more in the next week of feasting, dicing and Black Jack. No, dicing is not Roulette, it’s Backgammon.

SDP

Michelle Lee is expected to leave SDP soon even if TJS doesn’t set up up a new party for her to join. She didn’t join other SDP members in CNY Chinatown walkabout. She joined the SPP, NSP, RP and TJS in their Ang Moh Kio walkabout which SDP officially declared it wouldn’t join (Danny, the teh tarik bear, doesn’t like competition from Nicole, the people’s princess? Hey Danny, you are cuddily and furry but not sexy enough for boys to fantasise having sex with), clashed with its long planned Chinatown walkabout.

Others

KennethJ is rumoured to be looking for a job in financial services. No surprises there as he was a hedgie and hasn’t been working for a few years, dedicating his time and efforts to politics and keeping dad’s memory alive. What is surprising is that he is rumoured to be looking for a London-based job. Trying to make a graceful exit? Whither RP, which dad founded? RIP both RP and KennetJ’s political ambitions?

And finally, how can I forget Goh Meng Seng? He after all has many, many enemies saying nasty things about him. The least nasty is that he is desperately waiting for a phone call from Lina Chiam who has said SPP “will continue to seek new passionate and talented individuals with the right aptitude and who will pursue the opposition cause cohesively.” His enemies say he has told Lina that he is willing to be co-opted into SPP mgt committee. Err wonder if Lina thinks he has the X factors she is seeking? Somehow looking at his CV, I doubt she would. Anyway, SPP’s loss is TOC’s gain, or is it bane? If he joins SPP, he would have to resign from Team TOC. The Chinese section of TOC that he founded to large self-publicity seems kinda quiet.

Taz all folks. An update next week. One more week of feasting and gambling. Take care, drink or drive, not both.

TJS: The song, not the singer?

In Political governance on 29/01/2012 at 5:40 am

(Or “Why did people vote for TJS?”: Updated at 11 am)

After the 2011 presidential election, in which Tan Jee Say came in a decent third, he made the following points (to mask his second defeat in three months, remember he RI boy and RI boys not supposed to be serial losers, and make himself feel and look good?)

– More people voted for him than for the WP in the May general election (Actually it was even better than that as I wrote recently in TJS’s voice, “someone with 25% of voters behind me (5% more people voted for me than for the WP, and NSP combined and that the combined votes of all the opposition parties was only 40% more than the people who voted for me”): QED he was more popular than WP. Plausible, I tot.

– That many of his supporters would have likely spoiled their votes. This I found a bit rich: 25% of S’porean voters spoiling their votes? Come on pull the other leg. Even 5% would be 4% too many.

Anyway, I tot of  what he said about his popularity and his supporters when reading this recently from in Economist blog: The idea that political behaviour is expressive rather than instrumental—that we vote not to maximise the chances that our policy preferences will be implemented by government, but instead to send a message to ourselves and others about who we are, and what we care about—is meant to overcome a number of flaws in simple economistic accounts of voting … What message, then, does a vote for Newt Gingrich express? What message is so compelling that South Carolina voters were willing to overlook Mr Gingrich’s overwhelming liabilities as a candidate? “We think open marriages are great!”? “We love corrupt Washington insiders”? I guess not. Saturday’s expressive message, I think, comes down to this: “We’re not going down without a fight!

Translated into S’pore politics, could it be the 25% of S’poreans who voted for him, voted not because he was TJS but because he was perceived as the candidate that the PAP and government would have least preferred? If he did not stand, they would have voted for one Tan Kin Lian, who lost his deposit when TJS stood? Nothing to do who TJS is, but everything to do with his perceived anti-PAP and – govmin credentials?

So if he forms a new party, he and his alleged fan gal club (allegedly Jeannette Chong, Nicole Seah and Michelle Lee), may be surprised to discover that the 25% of the popular vote for presidential candidate TJS doesn’t translate into support for their new party (even with gal sepport). These voters have other ways of sending a message to themselves and others about who they are, and what they care about: They can vote WP or SDP.

Juz read this (11 am): He is setting up the the shared resource centre for the Opposition that he was thinking about before the last general election. Gd for him. Gd, astute tactical move. He can use this to research if he has the support needed to set up a new and credible political party. All the best.

(BTW, “The Singet Not the Song” was the title of a 1961 very forgetable British film about a priest and a gay attracted to him but not to his message. Priest was a Roman Catholic.)

Six “generalist” skills to develop

In Uncategorized on 28/01/2012 at 8:05 am

Here are six skills that will complement any creative, technical or analytical talent:

– Mobile App Creation

– Web Development

– Blogging

– Data Analysis

– Coding

– Networking

 http://financialedge.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0112/6-High-Value-Skills-That-Will-Supplement-Your-Career.aspx?partner=ntu12#ixzz1kRwHMs00

S’pore Property: But would banks be allowed to?

In Banks, Economy, Political economy, Political governance, Property on 27/01/2012 at 11:42 am

Mortgage rates make the difference

So what contributed to the recent decoupling of Singapore and Hong Kong home prices?

The simple answer is mortgage rates.

Driven by strong loan growth and rising loan-to-deposit ratios, Hong Kong banks have raised their mortgage rate spreads since early this year [2011]. This has resulted in higher mortgage rates and reduced demand for residential properties, which in turn led to the slide in private home prices since September.

On the other hand, the Government’s property cooling efforts have so far been thwarted by very low mortgage rates. With base interest rates remaining near record lows and Singapore banks charging very low mortgage spreads, affordability remains high.

However, there is a risk that Singapore mortgage rates would rise next year from their current low levels. Like their Hong Kong peers, Singapore banks have also experienced strong loan growth over the past year, which in turn has pushed up their loan-to-deposit ratios – although it must be said that ratios in Singapore dollars are generally still low.

Moreover, with the debt crisis that is plaguing the European Union, there has been anecdotal evidence that some European banks are pulling back their credit lines in Singapore to help boost capital ratios as required by the EU debt plan. If these banks continue to deleverage, it could result in less competition in the lending market for Singapore banks, which may then feel comfortable enough to raise their lending spreads, including mortgage spreads.

In fact, during the 2008/2009 global financial crisis, local banks such as UOB and OCBC were able to increase their net interest margins as foreign banks reduced their lending activities in Singapore.

Thus, while the recent decoupling in Singapore and Hong Kong residential property prices may make for an interesting read, we do not expect it to last for long, especially with the latest round of cooling measures introduced in Singapore.

http://www.todayonline.com/Commentary/EDC111223-0000039/A-tale-of-two-cities

Should happen as this UBS analyst postulated in late Dec 2011. But if the government thinks property prices will tank, not juz fall a little, the local banks will “do the right thing” by home owners, but not investors. It has happened before. In the crisis in the mid 80s, when many home owners had negative equity, the banks “did the right thing” and did not ask for more equity. Home owners had gd reason to vote PAP.  

 

 

The Dark Side is preparing for 2016 GE

In Political economy, Political governance on 27/01/2012 at 5:33 am

(Or “Why the PAP could turn the tables in the next GE: if the Opposition remains complacent)

Although what the PAP is doing is observable to the Opposition parties and their fellow travellers on the Internet, they seem blind or indifferent to the PAP’s actions, or both, because of their assumptions and prejudices. Worse, the major Opposition parties are complacent, what with the problems at WP, NSP and SPP (More of this on Monday in a CNY Special — gossip I heard while feasting and gambling).

Two Sundays ago, (as part of his ang pow strategy?) PM promised that, despite the economy slowing down, the government would improve the education and public transport systems, and build more homes so that young couples can start their families. These remarks were made at a Lunar New Year event  in his Teck Ghee constituency, part of the Ang Mo Kio GRC. He also officiated at the re-opening of a wet market and food centre where he said more of such markets will be built over the next few years, with the aim of keeping food prices affordable. Not long ago, such markets were being to a commercial company which promptly increased rentals. He said nothing then. And the HDB and Comrade Mah gave grumblers the finger.

Then last Saturday in his CNY message he said Having children is ultimately a personal decision for families to make, but Government will do its part to reduce the anxieties and burdens of parenthood. Baby Bonuses already help families with the costs of raising children. We are also doing more to help parents balance work and parent­hood, including extending maternity and childcare leave, and encouraging companies to offer flexible working arrangements for employees with children. We are committed to helping young couples obtain their first HDB flat as soon as possible. With government support, childcare has become more affordable, and childcare centres are expanding and providing many more places than before. The critical factor now is not more financial incentives, but creating the supportive social climate and attitudes that will encourage couples to have more children.

This presses so many “hot” buttons: freedom to choose to have babies, social environment, financial help in raising children and affordable housing for the young.

What with the building of more public  flats (despite the slowndown, and possible recession, Comrade Mah must be rolling his eyes in disbelief) and now taking a serious attitude towards other issues that upset voters (transport, education and the rising cost of living and the cost of raising a family, social and monetary, it looks like the government and the PAP have learnt the lesson that “It’s the voters, stupid”.

In the past, we would be told to tighten our belts to survive the slowdown. But given the still high levels, by global standards, of ministerial pay, and Grace Fu’s bitching about her pay cut, it would not be politic to tell S’poreans to lower their expectations. Better to follow the Roman emperors who made sure the populace of Rome had plenty of bread and circuses (gladitorial games). And S’pore has the money, despite what the SDP and Goh Meng Seng say. Even SDP’s most famous ex-member says so. To TJS, S$60bn from the reserves is “small change”. So does Citi, an investment bank**.

Even as late as November, I wasn’t too sure if the PAP and government had learnt the lessom of the May and August elections. In November, newbie PAP acting junior minister (and ex army brigader) was leading raids on foreign workers quarters. Judging from his remarks on Facebook, I assumed he wanted to see if the quarters were fit for human habitation, not whether there were illegal FT workers.

I was thinking to myself, he had better focus on the latter, given that the PAP is perceived by many true blue S’poreans as the “Pro Alien Party” and that the PAP should learn from the HK experience.

The once popular pro-democracy Civic Party suffered a series of defeats in neighborhood council elections in October last year in HK, as pro-Beijing politicians successfully tapped anti-immigrant sentiment as well as public hostility toward environmental measures perceived as harming employment and increasing the government’s construction costs.

The Civic Party had been gaining ground in previous elections, but ran into trouble this year as lawyers who are prominent in the party took on social and environmental causes that were unpopular among many Hong Kong residents. The most divisive issue has been whether more than 200,000 household workers, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, can eventually become eligible for citizenship.

The government and governing PAP is focusing on issues that affect the lives of ordinary S’poreans, shumething the Opposition parties especially the SDP have done for a long time. I hope bleeding heart liberals (especially those writing on or reading blogs like TOC) understand why. There are no votes (and eyeballs) to be won in helping foreigners, convicted criminals and dolphins.

Charity begins at home. Or to put it more nicely, “Conserve compassion: S’poreans come first, second and last”.

Build more homes, improve education and public transport, and keep the cost-of-living from rising too fast; and we shall see that the following comment by Catherine Lim is nothing but liberal, anti-PAP, bourgeois, elitist wishful thinking, “”PAP fatigue” among Singaporeans that is a result of PAP’s lack of nurturing Singaporeans politically, and failing to provide the proper environment for political education and growth.”

And who will care then if ministers pay themselves millions of dollars. I mean even the WP’s “base’ ministerial salary is $852,500 versus the PAP’s $1.1m. Waz 25%? The voters know that if the WP becomes part of the government, they will take the difference and keep quiet. I mean I don’t hear the WP MPs offering to take S$11,000 each, and publicly donating the balance to a charity.

One way the PAP and government can go wrong is that the PAP and govmin don’t do “circuses”. They don’t know how to spend tax-payers’ monies entertaining voters.

The other way is that they love FTs too much, thereby negating the message they are trying to send S’poreans that “S’poreans matter”. We are always hearing that less FTs, less propsperity from the local MSM, quoting alll manner of ministers, officials and “experts”, usually from local universities (esp from SMU) and broking houeses. The latest is variation on the theme that FTs are good for S’pore: yesterday, ST reported an economist from Merrill Lynch, an investment bank, as saying, “Part of the reason for the sticky inflation is that policies such as the tightening of the inflow of foreign workers are keeping wage costs high. These are being passed onto the consumer.” Knowing the reputation of the economist in question, ST most probably left out the other factors he cited, focusing on FT shortage.

FT love also means that the measures to cut back FTs will be not be serious, and enforced lightly, annoying S’poreans.

So there is al to fight for. The PAP’s continued decline is not assured, neither is its revival.

——–

*In a report dated December 2011, Citi said meeting higher expenditure needs without running a fiscal deficit will not be a problem for Singapore’s government. While the fiscal surplus may shrink, its economist estimates that the government can draw on an additional $1-3 billion in net investment returns, without breaching the 50% cap on the amount of long-term expected real returns on reserves.

“Well-off bear biggest brunt of the price increases”

In Economy, Financial competency, Media on 26/01/2012 at 6:13 am

Taz part of a headline in today’s ST.

In the text of the story, it said “the top 20 per cent … were hit by … rate of 5.7 per cent — much higher than the 4.7 per cent for the bottom 20 per cent”.

(ST’s Breaking News reported, “The lowest 20 per cent income group experienced a lower increase in consumer prices at 4.7 per cent, compared to the middle 60 per cent and highest 20 per cent income groups, which experienced CPI inflation of 5.1 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively.”)

The editors and the two reporters Aaron Low (Econs correspondent) and Melissa Tan obviously don’t know their maths.

Say a poor S’porean is earning $12,000 a year: a 4.7%  inflation rate means he had $564 less to spend in the year on other things. For a rich S’porean earning $600,000, he has $34,200 less to spend.

Whose standard of living or savings rate is affected more? Obviously the poor S’porean, yet ST blithely writes, “Well-off bear biggest brunt of the price increases”.

What can I say?

Apple’s Third Founder

In Uncategorized on 26/01/2012 at 5:13 am

During this period, we traditionally wish one another, “Wealth, prospeity” and  nowadays add, “Good health”. Here’s shumething on a man who missed a fortune by being super KS.  Or maybe it is a lesson on why lawyers’ advice should be sought.

The documents reveal that Mr Wayne was paid $800 when he decided to hand back his 10% stake in the firm. He later received a further $1,500.

Mr Wayne played a crucial role in the firm’s creation, helping Mr Jobs convince his friend Mr Wozniak to leave Hewlett-Packard and set up the new company.

He was given a 10% stake in the company so he could act as a tie-breaker if the other two men had a disagreement.

However, Mr Wayne left the company after less than a fortnight because he was worried that if it failed his assets could be seized by Apple’s creditors.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16170953

 

Antidote on all the gloom towards Euro

In Currencies on 25/01/2012 at 8:23 am

(Or “Why I keep some small change in Euros”)

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/01/24/fate-of-the-euro-a-contrarian-view/?nl=business&emc=dlbkpma21

News submerged in “ponding”?

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 25/01/2012 at 6:12 am

The u/m news report appeared in ST’s Breaking News on 21 January 1012. And a much more detailed version in ST.

=============

Better model to predict floods likely in the near future

It will include 3-D land-height map of Marina catchment area for a start

Published on Jan 21, 2012

National water agency PUB could be using a better flood-prediction computer model in the near future.

It will include a 3-D land-height map of just the Marina catchment area for a start, to predict the direction in which rainwater will flow at ground level during storms, and where flooding might occur.

Such a map, which the PUB has commissioned, will depict land height in that area to within 10cm accuracy.

Computer models now in use only predict how rainwater flows within drains and canals, and the intensity of rainfall they can handle.

=================

So it seems that no detailed studies were done on the catchment area that resulted from the new Marina Barrage.  So how can it be claimed by the authorities that the barrage did not cause the “once in 50 yrs” Orchard Rd floods. They occured twice in two months in 2010. And late last year, parts of Orchard Rd were “ponded”. 

No wonder this news came out on a day when S’poreans  were at the start the CNY hols? It was a gd day to “pond” the news? So did the same PR people who advised the use of “ponding” advise releasing the news on a day it would disappear without trace? If so, VivianB should kick the PUB’s new CEO again, juz as he did over the use of “ponding”. [The last two sentences were only added at 9.00am, hrs after the original posting.]

BTW, the “50-year flood” minister (“Speak to me in English” Yacoob) is now in charge of taming the Internet Tsunami. Can’t solve “ponding”, so moved to handling a tidal wave. Taz meritocracy S’porean-style? He is also a poster boy for a “sacrificing” minister. He was an associate professor at NUS earning at most couple of $100,000. He then became junior minister, with a starting salary of abt a million. Wow some sacrifice!

Refute this question PAP?

In Political governance on 25/01/2012 at 6:07 am

The MPs of the Worthless Party didn’t pose a very simple question in parly to the ex-SAF generals. Instead, it was raised by a  poster on the TRE website, see below. 

(I hope that the WP MPs were not and won’t be distracted by whom Yaw may or not have got pregnant.  I was wondering why I didn’t read abt Yaw asking questions or making points during the recent parly debate on salaries. Was it MSM censorship? Or because he wasn’t a brainy WP MP? Looks like it was because he was going to be a dragon baby father.). As to Mrs Chiam raising this point, pigs would fly first.

The WP MPs should be going for the jagular (like Lawrence Wong tried to do to WP: he failed because the timing waz wrong. Everyone winds down for CNY, even the minorities, not juz the Chinese and Perankan) 

The question I’m referring to appeared as a comment in this on TRE. I don’t think the PAP dares even trying to answer it. (I’ve added my comments: non italics and in square brackets]

Fairy:

January 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm Fairy(Quote)

If BG Tan Chin Juan is now making $1.1 million after 40% discount, do you think BG Tan will have made $1.8 million per annum if he had joined the private sector after SAF instead of PAP? [I would amplify by adding Kee Chiu, Heng , at the $1.8m mark, and Lawrence Wong at the $770,000 mark. Only one Lee Hsian Yang moved from the SAF to SingTel and serious money, and SingTel is not strictly in the private sector.] 

I ask this because the whole premise of the salary recommendation is that these people are making a 40% sacrifice, which with the exception of a few proven private sector cross-overs such as NEH [Ng Eng Hen], [VivianB] and Shanmugam, the rest are from the public sector with no proven private sector capabilities. Off course now they say they are paid high salaries based on “future performance capabilities”. I will be sent to IMH (institute of mental health) if I were to tell my boss to pay me high salary now based on my future performance capabilities!

Turning their arguments around, it means that the private [sector] will surely grab these super capable ministers and pay them full private sector wage the moment they are no longer a minister. After GE2011, there were three “super capable” ministers available, but I don’t see any private sector corporation making a song & dance to celebrate their good fortune to be able to snare one or more of them. [More on this see http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/sph-another-home-for-ex-ministers/]

Think Like a Poker Player

In Uncategorized on 20/01/2012 at 5:50 am

As it’s almost time to take out the cards, mah-jong or backgammon set or dice, I tot that a posting abt investing and poker will be good start to celebrate the start of this festive break (back on Che San). Gd fortune, feasting, and health. Drink or drive, not both.

The Gambler

The wisdom of the late two-time champion world poker player Puggy Pearson offers our last set of rules to follow. “Only three things to gamblin’,” Puggy once said, “knowing the 60/40 end of a proposition, money management and knowing yourself.” Well, those rules apply to investors too.

Here are Pearson’s all-encompassing rules:

Knowing the 60/40 end of a proposition

Understanding the odds of drawing a winning hand is essential to poker. The 60/40 bets are those that offer the best chance of winning given all the options available. If you only play hands that have these odds or better, the statistics are on your side.

As investors, we should strive to put the odds in our favor with every trade. Finding the best 60/40 opportunities takes time and research, as there are many ways to find good candidates. These can be identified through individual stock selection, top-down or bottom-up approaches, technical or fundamental analysis, value-based pricing, growth-oriented, sector-leaning or whatever approach works best for a particular investor. The point is that investors must be constantly working toward finding and recognizing opportunities as they present themselves. Once you have been dealt the right cards, it’s time to take the next step.

Money Management

Managing money is an ongoing process. The first tenet is to minimize losses on each opportunity. Fortunately, investors do not have to ante up to play, as in poker, though investors must work hard to find good opportunities. Once you have a good hand, it is time to decide how much money to commit to the opportunity.

While much is written on this topic, let’s keep it simple. Basically it is a risk-reward decision. The more money you commit, the greater the possible reward and the higher the risk of losing some of that money. However, if you do not play, then you cannot win. (For more on this, see Determining Risk And The Risk Pyramid.)

Basically, when the best opportunities present themselves, it is usually wise to make a significant commitment. For good (but not great) opportunities, committing smaller amounts makes sense as the potential reward is less. As in poker, most of an investor’s money is made in small increments with the occasional big win coming along every once in a while. This requires that an investor evaluate each opportunity compared to others that have shown themselves in the past. Experience is an excellent teacher. Finally, investors can use a stop-loss strategy to mitigate greater losses should their assessment of the opportunity prove to be wrong. Too bad gamblers don’t have such a tool! (To read more, see The Stop-Loss Order – Make Sure You Use It.)

Knowing Yourself

The last gambling rule, knowing yourself, means doing everything you can to stick to your discipline. Everyone wants to get on with it to make the next trade, but if that opportunity does not fit within your measure of a good 60/40 opportunity, then you must force yourself to pass. While you will miss some good gains, this will also save you from some hefty losses. Following your discipline is essential for success as a gambler as well as an investor. You must be extraordinarily patient in your search for the right opportunities and then aggressively go after the best ones.

Think like Warren Buffett and a great trader.

Read more

From Zeroes to Dragons: What KJ, GMS, PS, Tin & Han should do

In Political governance, Wit on 20/01/2012 at 4:24 am

Here’s my equivalent of a Chinese New Year hamper for KennthJ, Goh Meng Seng, Pritam Singh, Kate Spade Tin and Han the “foot-in-mouther”: advice on how to become heroes or Dragons again in the case of the first three and how to become Dragons in the case of Tin and Han

KennethJ wants to relaunch RP after its crew deserted leaving him (just before the general elections) a captain without a crew. Seeing this, the voters never came onboard.

Why not use his undoubted skills as an economist (Double First in Economics from Cambridge) to draw up an index to show S’poreans to see how well-off or worse-off S’poreans have done under PAP rule over the years? The key components would be inflation (including HDB and other property price rises), transport costs and employment (including salary rises or falls).

He can call it the “JBJ-RP Happiness Index”, linking it to both dad and the RP.

I am suggesting the creation of this index because

– I know of younger S’poreans who support the Opposition have found that asking their parents if their standard of living had improved since the last GE (in 2006), was a good way of getting them to vote Opposition for the first time in their lives in May last year.

– And Ronald Reagan won a presidential election by asking Americans if they were better-off than when Jimmy Carter became president.

Of course, KennethJ would be taking a risk. The PAP might get its act together and improve our lives dramatically. But as a hedgie, he would know it’s all about the risk/ reward ratio. On the reward side, if in the next GE the index proves to be a big booster for the Opposition, his reputation would be made. On the negative side, he can’t go lower than showing us publicly that he hadn’t read in detail a report that he attacked.

As to GMS, what about doing shumething, anything with the Chinese section that he founded (to loud self publicity in early December last year)? I mean TOC had a great December (PAP MP’s scalp and detractors grinding their teeth in disbelief at its “lucky” escape) but the Chinese section and GMS were AWOL or MIA, or both.

To be fair, signs are looking gd that the Chinese section will be active in the new yr. It published a translated a Cat Lim article, juz as 2011 was ending and had a piece on ministerial salaries by Goh.

Gd luck GMS, you got three big handicaps to overcome. You were adviser to TKL who lost his deposit in a badly run, ill-funded, eccentric campaign. As adviser you got to take some of the blame. NSP also didn’t make the break through in 2011 and you personally had a weak team and ran a lousy campaign in Tampines. My WP friends think they could have done a better job there.

Juz translate the gd stuff that TOC is already producing. Or joining TOC is juz another Wayang?

Readers might think it strange that I classify PritamS as hero turned zero. In 2011, he got his law degree and made it as a WP MP in Aljunied GRC. Trouble is that he got an undisciplined mouth in a party famous for “Silence is the better part of valour”, and then turning this into an advantage. Twice in eight months, he made comments that the constructive, nation building SPH papers “twisted’ against him. As Kum Hong said of the second time, he should try to avoid getting misinterpreted. I mean even Tin took a pot shot at him and got away with it. How bad can one get? The other time was when he spoke of “coalition” and was rebuked by WP’s Sec-Gen. 

PritamS, is the Weak Link in the WP: “Sit down and shut up” or “Learn from Show Mao” or “Silence is golden”. And if he can’t, Sylvia and Low, tape his mouth.  It is encouraging that he didn’t say anything in the parly debate on ministerial salaries that could be “misunderstood”.

If Tin Pei Ling wants to be a PAP superstar and celebrity that she was earmarked to be,  she should get pregnant this year, and talk about having four kids before the next GE. She never made it as Young PAPpy superstar and celebrity, what with her brain being dead when it comes to social media skills and ideas on helping poor (do the bare minimum to keep them alive is the implication of her speech at some conference). Funnily, I’ve been told that she is conscientious in her ward work, and when she was a grassroot volunteer. And quite a fun person when she isn’t on PAP duty mode.

Still it seems that LKY can’t stand the sight or sound of her. But as he believes in S’poreans breeding more and eugenics (her hubbie is one smart fellow and can compensate for Tin’s defects in the brain department), she could win him over by breeding for S’pore.

Imagine turning up at a MPS, a day before her baby is due with ST and MediaCorp journalists trailing her. She will show S’poreans how devoted a PAPpie can be in serving in the people. Better still if baby wants out and she is rushed to hospital. Betterest, if she miscarriages. Every mum in S’pore will feel for her. And bloggers like me will have to stop taking pot shots at her.

And given S’pore’s fertility replacement rate of 1.16, talking of four babies by the next GE, might inspire other gals to want to have babies. At the very least, Nicole Seah has to keep pace, if her partner has a clue on what to do.

The cultural elite who promote Melvyn the Dodger as heloo also bitch that the govmin should promote Singlish. Now Seng Han Thong shows us the perils of speaking Singlish. Hard to understand,  open to different interpretations. So Han should offer to front a “Speak proper English” campaign.  

So come on Zeroes, time to be soaring Dragons.

OCBC: Standards even lower than PM?

In Banks, Political governance on 19/01/2012 at 5:42 am

PM said abt his ministers as reported in the media: Negligent or dishonest ministers will be sacked, but short of that, there is a need to handle exits decorously and with dignity – and not turn them into public spectacles that deter more good people from entering politics.

“If a minister doesn’t perform well despite his best efforts, then I will move him to a less demanding portfolio where he is able to perform or, if necessary, I may have to phase him out discreetly,” he said. “Not every person who comes into government will succeed as minister. It’s a difficult job.”

What the Fish? Where’s the accountability? Looks like once a minister, can skive or tuang, juz need to show trying. No wonder Lim Hng Kiang is still a minister. Bet you he is the MR3 minister who gets more than other ministers except PM and DPMs. He’s got the senority being a cabinet minister since 1994. Raymond Lim and Mah should cry,”Not fair, PM”, and “Why us, and not Yacoob?”.

But WTF? OCBC is going one step “betterest”.

“After the succession, OCBC’s corporate bank will be divided into corporate banking and commercial banking, which will be led by Mr George Lee, currently head of investment banking, and Mr Linus Goh, currently head of enterprise banking and financial Institutions”.

I mean OCBC’s investment bank is a complete failure and the guy running it will run the corporate bank? Albeit one that is less impt than the previous corporate bank. At least PM moves duds to portfolios where he thinks they can’t do much damage. OCBC moves an underperformer to where he can damage the brand seriously.

Think I’ll stick to UOB, that I hold via Haw Par.

Why PM had three accountants on his pay review committee?

In Accounting, Financial competency, Wit on 19/01/2012 at 5:39 am

There were three trained and highly experienced accountants (the chairman included) on the eight person ministerial salary review committee, the most from any single profession.

Maybe the reason is that accountants can do magic with numbers? At least that is how it appears to us “lesser mortals”?

Example: The accounting profession can make a sum of money appear as US$4bn for the co that is paying out the sum and as US$6bn for the company receiving it.

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/att-and-t-mobile-whats-2-billion-among-friends/?nl=business&emc=dlbkpma22

And there is the old joke that the best accountant is one that will ask you, “What answer do you want?” when you ask him, “What is 2+2″?

He traded contracts for differences

In Financial competency, Financial planning on 18/01/2012 at 6:19 am

Ex-billionaire made bankrupt.

Fermanagh businessman Sean Quinn has been declared bankrupt in the Republic of Ireland.

The High Court in Dublin heard the bankruptcy application made by the former Anglo Irish Bank. It was not opposed by Mr Quinn.

Last week, the bank, now Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) succeeded in having Mr Quinn’s bankruptcy status in Northern Ireland annulled.

The Republic of Ireland has a more onerous bankruptcy regime than the UK.

Contracts for Difference (CFD) were Quinn’s undoing. They are financial products which allows someone  to bet on shares without having to own the shares. They are derivatives  because they derive their value from the underlying shares.

He tot he was clever.

CFDs have three main advantages:

Privacy – your name does not appear on the share register

Tax – you don’t have to pay stamp duty as you would if you bought the shares

Leverage – As you are not buying the shares you don’t have to put down the full amount of the money. You can ‘lever- up’ with borrowings.

But with leverage always lies danger.

Quinn was betting that the price of the shares would rise and he would profit from the difference between the price at which he bought the derivative contract and the new price. Hence ‘contract for difference’.

But when the Anglo Irish Bank share price nosedived Quinn was in trouble. He was hit with a series of ‘margin calls’ which meant he had to keep putting up more and more of his money.

Eventually things got so bad he had to crystallise his losses by buying the shares outright – which he did by borrowing the 2bn euros from the Anglo Irish Bank.

And it’s due to those borrowings that he’s bust.

BBC Online reports

Uniting the Opposition: Framework for Consensus

In Political governance, Wit on 18/01/2012 at 6:17 am

It’s a good time to talk about uniting the Opposition what with the Opposition more-or-less united in attacking the PAP and government over ministerial salaries and train breakdowns.

So is Tan Jee Say doing anything to unite the Opposition?

A usually unreliable source tells that Tan Jee Say has not been doing anything on his pledge to unify the Opposition. Hell’s bells, he can’t be blamed. He fought two elections during period of April – August 2011, and has juz edited, contributed three articles, and published a book. If anything, he needs a break. He is after all turning 58 juz after the Chinese New Year festival’s end. And I would have tot, it would be a full time job keeping away boyars from his daughters.

But after the Chinese New Year hols, to show he is sincere about his promise, he’d better get to work. 

So to help him along, here’s my equivalent of a CNY hamper (snide remarks included as the sour stuff to balance off the sweet stuff).

After PM’s apology in May, juz before the May election, Yawning Bread wrote two manifestos saying, “To mean anything, these words have to be backed by action. I think the following ten-point plan should be the minimum proof of sincerity”.

To help TJS prepare the framework to unite the opposition parties, I’ve amended the manifestos slightly as the basis for a  questionnaire that TJS should use to send to the various oppositon parties.

(Hope TJS doesn’t mind the send-ups in the draft covering letter. Juz having a bit of fun at the expense of a fellow Rafflesian.) 

———

To the Secretary-Generals of the WP, SPP, SDP, RP, SDA and the President of the NSP

Dear Sir

As you are aware, I have made it my mission to unite the various opposition parties, so that come the next general election, they are in a position to form a coalition government that can take the place of the PAP.

Some of you have welcomed my mission with various degrees of warmness, while some have studiously ignored me. Never mind, as an RI boy, I’m used to people ignoring my brilliance.

As I was

– an RI boy;

a scholar with a PPE degree from Oxford (NOT NUS);

– a high-flying civil servant over 20 years ago;

– a top financial wizard (I also got big house despite not getting ministerial salary);

– a smooth operator (“political opportunist” to my detractors) who can talk of providing shared expertise to all the Opposition parties, then lobby to join one, and when that failed, join another and later leave it without upsetting too many people in the process;

– awarded a COE to contest the last presidential election; and

– someone with 25% of voters behind me (5% more people voted for me than for the WP, and NSP combined and that the combined votes of all the opposition parties was only 40% more than the people who voted for me), 

I have a mandate from the majority of those that voted for the opposition parties (40% of the electorate) and I know what needs to be done to unify the opposition parties: make ME your LEADER.

No, juz joking.

Seriously, I know it is it important to establish where the various parties stand on the various issues that affect S’poreans. To that end, I have prepared a draft “manifesto” in two parts in an attempt to tease out where the parties stand on various issues

  • Part 1 contains issues where I think the parties can agree on; and
  • Part 2 is on the issues where the parties may have differences.

I would like you to answer with a “Agree/ Disagree/ No Views” on each maifesto point. If you Disagree or have no views, please give yr reasons. The idea is to try to find some common ground on issues, as well to as to see what separates the parties.

I’ll collate the results, analyse them and publish yr responses and my analysis on a Facebook page

Manifesto

Part 1

Issues the parties can easily agree on

Please state “Agree/ Disagree/ No Views.” beside each point If you Disagree or have no views, please give your reasons separately

1. Halve ministerial salaries from the proposals that the PM has just accepted.

2. Publish the full accounts for the Youth Olympic Games.

3. Publish the transactional prices at which the Housing and Development Board pays the Singapore Land Authority for land.

4. Peg selling prices of new public housing as follows:

(a) smaller flats pegged to the mean of the 3rd decile of household income;

(b) mid-sized flats pegged to the mean of the 4th and 5th decile of household income;

(c) larger flats pegged to the mean of the 6th decile of household income.

5. Complete all urban rail projects on time and initiate construction of two more metro rail lines by the end of the next parliamentary term.

6. Promise to achieve a reduction of the Gini coefficient of household income of Singapore citizen households to 40 by the end of the next parliamentary term, with a longer-term Gini target of something in the mid-30′s.

Remember that the Gini coefficient of household income is a measure of the income gap between the rich and the poor. Reducing the Gini coefficient means the shrinking of this income gap. This means lifting people out of poverty and addressing the problems of an escalating cost of living. There are multiple ways of doing this; the exact tools can be left to the government of the day to decide so long as the target is achieved.

7. No increase in the total population (citizens + permanent residents + foreigners) by more than 0.5 percent per annum.

8. Abolish group representation constituencies.

9. Create a new, independent Elections Commission with rules as to how to draw up electoral boundaries that are compact and topographically sensible and with voter population in any constituency not to vary by more than 10 percent from the mean of all constituencies.

10. Set up a comprehensive healthcare safety net.

11. Repeal the Internal Security Act.

Part 2

Issues the parties may have differences on

12. Introduce proportional representation for at least one-third of the seats in Parliament.

13. Require all members of parliament to work as such (and as heads of respective town councils) fulltime, except if they take up political appointments in government.

14. Lower the candidature qualification requirements for the presidency.

15. Publish accounts of our sovereign wealth funds.

16. Detach all magistrates, judges and judicial officers from the executive branch; locate them in a separate judicial branch overseen by an independent commission responsible to its charter and the President. The commission will have the power to appoint judges and magistrates. All Supreme Court judges should have fixed tenure until they decide to retire or die. No judge will have renewable terms or term extensions as is presently the case.

16. Abolish the death penalty.

17. Abolish the Societies Act.

18. Abolish all censorship, leaving only a rating system in place; abolish collateral controls (e.g. venue licensing, good-behaviour bonds) that make certain rating classifications censorship in all but name.

19. Repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, and have constitutional guarantees for non-discrimination on grounds of gender and sexual orientation, in accordance with United Nations human rights standards.

20. Nationalise the train and bus public transport system.

It’s other people’s money, so spend it?

In Corporate governance on 17/01/2012 at 7:21 am

“SSA president Chng Seng Mok hopes the shooters’ poor form will not affect their application into the OPP’s [Olympic Pathway Programme's] 2016 cycle, but he said: “Of course, the SSA must also explain why they didn’t do well.””

Well the shooters were good in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, winning five gold, four silver and five bronze medals to finish as the third best team in the shooting competition in New Delhi. Their form has dropped since then. And two of the three shooters in the OPP’s 2012, have failed to qualify. A third has one more chance (Let’s wish her all the best). The trio performed poorly at the 2010 Asian Games and last year’s SEA Games.

My question is, “If the SSA president was personally paying for the training expenses etc of the shooters, would the president dare say such a thing?” Obviously not because the bad has to been taken with the good, with the latest scores mattering most because they are the best (if very imperfect) indicators of future form. Ask any EPL footie manager.  

Moral hazard: Ain’t only a problem with ministerial salaries, management and bankers’ excesses, and spendthrift, lying, cheating, lazy, violent Greeks. It’s present every time, when tax-payers’ monies are involved. In fact, every time other people’s monies are used.

Barking show dog gets bitten

In Corporate governance on 17/01/2012 at 6:02 am

It had to happen. Someone got tired of SIAS’ posturings and finger pointings and decided to bite back.

www.profitableplots.com

Let’s see if SIAS has anything to say in response to these allegations, some very serious.

Shan Gao Huang-di Yuan (“The mountains are high and the emperor is far away”)

In China, Corporate governance on 16/01/2012 at 6:01 am

It was SGX managers that were keen on China listings in the late 1990s and early noughties. They got their mult—million bonuses, but minority shareholders in many S-Chips got the worms. Now SGX has all kind of rules to try to ensure good corporate governance. But as this shows, the mgt of a Chinese co listed on NASDAQ, doesn’t care a damned abt US laws, confirming the experience of investors here on the attitude of the management of S-Chips to S’pore laws and SGX’s rules.

If ChinaCast again loses in the Delaware courts, the question is, what will it do afterward? The Chinese company could simply refuse to honor the court’s order. It has no assets in the United States, so it could easily ignore any monetary fine. However, it is listed in the United States and is subject to S.E.C. supervision; such an act is likely to crater its stock price. The likelihood of such a response is low, but it appears that ChinaCast’s current management is going to fight this coup to the bitter end. Expect more maneuvering by all parties involved.

There is a wider lesson here. It is hard to know the real facts in this case given the murky nature and distance of the events, but whatever the truth is, investing in companies based in a foreign country is risky not only because the rule of law is weaker, but also because of cultural differences.

Foreign companies are not as familiar with United States practices and laws governing domestic corporations. They are sometimes more willing to push the envelope, either out of cultural inexperience or simple ignorance. ChinaCast itself appears to have been a bit behind the ball in getting good advice.

 Sigh. Taz the scandal, not PM and ministers earning millions. But SGX listing cos that are difficult for S’pore-based investors to monitor, and police.

TOC’s Fifth Anniversary

In Media, Political governance on 16/01/2012 at 5:24 am

Many years ago, someone who called a party said publicly during the party, “Everyone here is eating and drinking at my expense, but half of you can’t wait to make nasty comments abt me and the party.”

I attended TOC’s do last Friday, and ate more than my fair share. The programme was enjoyable, certainly funnier than if the president had been able to attend. I’m sure that there would be some self-censorship, out of courtesy. One does not offend the guest-of-honour.

So, I hope the Core Team and TOC supporters don’t think that I’m like one of the ungrateful guests at my friend’s party all that many years ago about what I’m going to say.

In 2005, Today newspaper had its fifth anniversary bash. Triumpalism was the in the air, with a slick video boasting of how Today had overcome a dirty tricks campaign by an unnamed media empire.  I don’t blame the staff for doing what they did. It was a natural reaction to what they had done: survive and build a loyal readership, despite everything the SPH group could throw at them.

But one Goh Chok Tong in his speech said,  “Today newspaper is only five years old. Compared to The Straits Times, it is still a growing child. The fifth birthday is not really a major milestone whether for a child or a commercial organisation”.

Many guests, self included, tot this was a most ungracious comment even for a “foot-in-mouther” like him. He was after all the guest-of-honour. And just as a host should not offend the guest-of-honour, a well-brought up guest should not offend his host.

The remarks turned out to a harbinger of the castration of the newspaper’s editorial team. A few months later, Today began its long, slow, painful slide into ST Super Lite, losing, by our admittedly low standards, its edginess.

 So let’s not be too triumpalist, or too optimistic for TOC, as many were on Friday especially Catherine Lim who gave a great acceptance performance* for TOC’s inaugral Lifetime Achievement Award.  Keep Nemesis away. Remember the Gods don’t like Hubris. TOC had two “lucky” escapes or near brushes with death last December when  “A significant part of what has been attributed to Mr Seng [by TOC] is false, to be quite blunt about it,” had been proven true by the time the remark was made. No-one from SMRT was willing to admit that anyone from SMRT made the racist comment that MP Han attributed to “SMRT PR person”. http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20111225-318099.html

I’m sure you know what one “lucky” escape is (It got the facts right). But the other is less obvious. Suppose if TOC had done what Cherian George and the Law minister wanted it to do and what ST would have done (remember Cherian has very, very close connections to ST): print the headline,”MP says SMRT PR person says …”.

TOC would have been soundly beaten up by Cherian, the minister and many others for not checking whether Han had quoted SMRT correctly. Suppose also that sensitive Malays or trouble seeking Indians, or both, had rioted, destroying SMRT property and injuring staff and police: TOC would not have had a birthday do.

The Core Team would be in jail (courtesy of ISA) while the Public Prosecutor decided which law to use to ensure that the judges could throw them in jail, and throw away the key.

So TOC and supporters: be humble, watchful and careful. Better to be alive and productive than to die and be remembered like a legend. Lions like Dr Chee and JBJ live too dangerously for “lesser mortals” like self. Be like Chiam**: Do the right thing in a low-key but determined way. The water buffalo can be just as dangerous to its enemies as the lion.  

Mrs Chiam got it right when she said, “TOC’s now the mainstream, because Singaporeans say so”. So, no more hand wringing Ravi Philemon about not being accepted by the PAP, government and their friends as part of the media*. Vox Populi, the people have spoken.

—-

*I’ll rant abt the substance of her performance after the CNY hols.

**Taz not to say I agree with everything he does. Brickbats after the CNY hols.

***Unless TOC’s Core Team want to be part of the mega-bucks establishment or have the dubious honour of the likes of ministers and MPs like Zaqy acknowledge officially that they “engage” with TOC, or have the honour of the president attending a TOC do, or any combination of the three. Me? Prostitution sounds a more honourable way to earn serious money. And I’m anti-social. Threes a crowd.

China’s collapse ‘will bring economic crisis to climax in 2012′

In China, Temasek on 15/01/2012 at 5:56 am

But it’s sunshine from 2013 onwards, if you still got the money.

A looming hard landing in China will bring the financial and economic crisis of the past five years to a climax in 2012, one of the City of London’s leading analysts has warned.

Albert Edwards, head of strategy at Société Générale and one of the UK’s leading “bears”, said the next 12 months would be the “final year of pain and disappointment”.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jan/11/china-economic-collapse-global-crisis

SDP, KennethJ and the usual grumblers will have a field day if this guy is right (he has a good track record, this last few yrs) what with Temasek’s and its TLCs’ (Think DBS, CapitaLand, KepLand), and other GLCs’ (Ascendas for example)  big bets on China.

Predicting a sharp slowdown in activity in the world’s fastest-growing emerging economy, Edwards said: “There is a likelihood of a China hard landing this year. It is hard to think 2013 and onwards will be any worse than this year if China hard-lands.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jan/11/china-economic-collapse-global-crisis

Investing in Water

In Infrastructure on 14/01/2012 at 9:12 am

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/13/uk-waterfunds-investments-idUSLNE7BC01B20111213?feedType=RSS&feedName=hedgeFundsNews

 

Liberal immigration policies leads to higher property prices

In Economy, Property on 13/01/2012 at 5:39 am

No not PAP propoganda but a sober analysis by Deutsche Bank that looked at the relationship between demographics and house prices in Western economies.

An analysis by Ajay Kapur of Deutsche Bank shows this relationship is pretty robust. He finds a positive relationship between changes in the working age population ratio (15-64 year olds relative to the rest of the population) and residential property prices, real prices almost always rise when the working age ratio is improving. In contrast, real property prices fell in one in three years when the working age proportion was falling. This ratio is declining in many countries; indeed in some the absolute number of workers is set to fall.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2012/01/housing-markets

An annoying ministerial boilerplate remark

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 13/01/2012 at 5:35 am

It was reported by CNA that DPM Teo Chee Hean (one of the better ministers in my view) “said the government’s focus is on ensuring that Singapore remains the best home for all Singaporeans.

‘Beyond developing an attractive living environment and a thriving economy which sustains good jobs for its citizens, Singapore also needs to strengthen the bonds that Singaporeans have with one another and with the country.”

My bitch is about “good jobs for its citizens”. If anything the government has attempted to “developing an attractive living environment and a thriving economy” by making it difficult for the wages of citizens to rise despite rising housing prices and cost of living expenses. It does this via its “FTs are most welcomed” policy, which keeps wage costs down. To be fair, the FT policy also helps keep property prices up. See next posting.

It is a fact that FT HR employees aggressively pitch to the employers, the merits of their compatriots. I know a manager in an MNC wanting to employ a S’pore-trained lawyer, being sent nothing but the CVs of Filipino-trained  lawyers by his, you guessed it, Filipino FT HR manager.

Even though it has now promised to moderate this policy, it has not changed its views on the importance of this policy. Hence its constant ministerial refrain that less FTs means less GDP growth and less jobs for S’poreans. And the constructive, nation building media and academics from SMU keep on harping on the unhappiness of employers who want cheap FTs, and the costs to the economy (including less full time jobs for ploy grads).

Citigroup: Its day is coming

In Banks, GIC on 12/01/2012 at 5:15 am

 UBS and Citigroup are stocks that the SDP, and KennethJ use to beat up GIC (and its then executive director) regularly

This explains why Citigroup might be the stock to own.

 Citi’s a strange creature. It’s dysfunctional. Its never missed a major financial crisis (loans to the developing world and US property loans in the late 1970s and 1980s; LBO loans in the late 1980s; dotcom stock recommendations in the late 1990s; and sub-prime mortgages recently). But at the operational level, it produces good managers who are in demand when it comes to running medium-sized banks in developing countries. The CEOs of DBS and OCBC were from Citi, as was  the CEO of RHB Babk.

Sharebuy backs in 2011: Destroying shareholder value

In Corporate governance on 11/01/2012 at 5:38 am

Around 96 companies recorded 3,007 repurchases worth $1.059 billion in 201 according to the managing director, Asia Insider Limited, in his latest weekly BT column.”The number and value of transactions were second highest yearly totals since buybacks were introduced in June 1999, second only to the buybacks during the global recession in 2008.

‘The number and value of transactions in 2011 were sharply higher than the yearly averages of 1,281 trades and $526 million from 2000 to 2010. The heaviest buybacks occurred in the third quarter with 59 companies posting 895 transactions worth $455 million, which accounted for 61 per cent, 30 per cent, and 43 per cent, respectively, of the totals in 2011.

‘The most bullish sector in terms of value was transport with $276 million worth of repurchases in 2011. In terms of number of trades, property stocks recorded 739 transactions in 2011.”

As companies are supposed to buyback shares only when mgt believes that the market undervalues their shares, the  following revelations are absurdly funny:

– “Only 15 out of the 96 [or 16 percent] listed firms that bought back shares recorded gains from their average buyback prices in 2011. The price gains ranged from 5 per cent to 61 per cent with an average increase of 13 per cent.”

– Some 60 firms or 63 per cent of the companies that bought back shares in 2011 saw their share prices drop by 5 per cent to 47 per cent from their average buyback prices with an average fall of 19 per cent.”

Not mgts’ money leh? Hence the failure to stop buback programmes in a bear market?

1000 S’poreans Benchmark: 2 Questions

In Financial competency, Political governance on 11/01/2012 at 5:33 am

(Update at 12.25pm on 11 January 2011: I goofed on second question, missing a footenote in the report that covers this issue. I plead guilty to the crime also committed by Uncle Leong of TOC and KennethJ: didn’t read report throughly. Sorry for being stupid. Interest, rents and dividends are excluded from the computation.)

New Benchmark

We chose to benchmark the entry MR4 Minister’s salary to the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are Singapore Citizens but with a 40% discount to signify the sacrifice that comes with the ethos of political service. This benchmark is based on a larger pool that does not specify occupations and covers only Singapore Citizens, the pool of talent that political leaders will be drawn from.

Question 1

How many civil servants, and chairmen, CEOs, directors and senior managers of GIC, Temasek, Temasek-Linked companies, and other GLCs are on this 1000-S’poreans list? If there is a significant proportion (say 5% or more), then one could argue that there is a circular argument at work: the pay of ministers are benchmarked to many people whose salaries are determined or influenced directly or indirectly by ministers. The SDP, KennethJ and TR Emeritus could argue that croynism is at work. 

The CEOs (and perhaps some senior executives) of SGX, Keppel, SembCorp, SMRT, Delgro, SIA, DBS, CapitaL, ST and should be on the 1000 list based on their companies’ annual reports.

It would be a gd idea if the number of civil servants, and chairmen, CEOs, directors and senior managers of GIC, Temasek, Temasek-Linked companies, and other GLCs on the list is made public.Pigs would fly first. Sigh.

(Related issue: http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/Story/STIStory_753304.html)

Question 2

Shouldn’t the 1000 S’poreans Benchmark only have on it “incomes that are earned” i.e. salaries and bonuses? All income derived from interest, rental income and dividends should be excluded? I’m sure that many of the people on this list derive significant income from dividends, interest and rents. They could have inherited or been gifted the proprties, deposits or securities, rather than buy these themselves. I mean, surely there is no merit in being rich via marriage or lineage in a meritocracy?

SGDaily points out that I missed a foot note.

In the committee’s full report para 58, it points to a foot note -

[10] The current benchmarks are calculated based on Principal Earned Income (PEI) of the top 8 earners from 6 professions i.e. incomes from only the individual’s principal profession / trade and not incomes from other employment. The revised benchmarks will be based on the Total Employment and Trade income (TEI) of the top 1,000 earners from all professions, i.e. incomes from all employment and trade of the individual, and will no longer include a 50% discount on stock options. The switch is appropriate as the new benchmark no longer focuses on specific professions but on the all-round earning capability of a much larger pool of individuals. Like PEI, TEI also includes monthly salaries, bonuses, commissions, stock options and partnership income but excludes unearned and passive forms of income, such as dividends, rent and interest.

Earlier posting on salaries review

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/maths-not-strong-point-of-gerald-ee-and-friends/

(Yes, Yes I know, I misspelt Gerard’ Ee’s name. Blame TOC, I copied the name from there.)

UBS: View of 2012

In Economy, Financial competency, Financial planning on 10/01/2012 at 1:17 pm

With equity markets likely to be trading sideways albeit in a high volatility range, investors should continue to invest in defensive, high-dividend stocks and complement that with exposure to the fixed income space.

The stock dividends and bond coupon payments will provide a valuable income stream for investors as we expect the current environment of almost zero deposit rates, relatively high inflation to persist amidst slowing economic growth.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16381119

My tots exactly: Go buy stocks that pay good, sustainable dividends http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/a-broker-who-almost-got-it-right

 

When SPH & DBS team up well, S’pore Inc can be Awesome

In Banks, Media, S'pore Inc on 10/01/2012 at 5:51 am

If anyone thinks that SPH’s publications have lost their clout because of new media, citing the bad reception that Pay Wayang, SMRTgate and PondingGate got from the public despite these publications spinning all the way for the White Side, the way that they covered DBS’s CloneGate shows their clout, even in the age of new media.

Customers were reassured, and the usual moaners were ignored by the public even though DBS is part of the Temasek Group (that S’poreans love to hate partly because its CEO is the wife of the PM), and the public and its customers often view DBS as dysfunctional.

SPH’s publications when combined with an effective public communications strategy is a fearsome tool.

DBS got its strategy right, moving “quickly to assure customers that their losses will be covered and investigations are underway. Experts were immediately put on air not to put a spin on why it’s not a big deal, but rather explain concisely how the scam probably occurred and is being carried out,” Words of the Cze. (If it had tried to weasel its way out, I for one would have asked how come the data theft could have occured at two high traffic ATMs, and why OCBC or UOB were not hit first? Why was DBS so dysfunctional?)

Don’t believe me? Reading ST (and MediaCorp’s freesheet) even I tot DBS was being generous in quickly compensating its customers until I read this in ST’s Forum. It reminded me (a trained lawyer who did a lot of banking legal work) that  it was DBS that lost money, not the affected customers, “When someone deposits money with a bank, he is in effect lending money to it. Property rights to the money pass to the bank. In return, the bank owes its customer a debt. At that point, any money stolen or pilfered from the bank is its money, not its customer’s,” SMU academic. (BTW, I get the impression that a very impt KPI for SMU academics is how often they are quoted in the local MSM. One wonders if they have time to do other things.)

The PAP, SMRT and PUB did not get their public communications strategy right (see the above link on what PUB and SMRT did wrong) and SPH could not play its traditional constructive, nation-building role in helping out the White Side.

Coming back to DBS. When its CEO early last week ( his second anniversary at DBS) came out boasting of his achievements, I tot, “Nemesis” and “What bad news is he foreshadowing?”. Well Nemesis has struck and DBS has reacted very, very well to what could have been a major public relations fiasco. As to the bad news, “Watch and wait”.

But DBS is no longer dysfunctional. Could it be a turnaround situation, worth investing in? In Q3 2011, DBS’s return on equity was ahead of OCBC and UOB. BTW I own Haw Par shares which is a play on UOB.

Volatility: What is it?

In Financial competency, Uncategorized on 09/01/2012 at 5:59 am

 Last yr, we heard a lot about this word. This year will be even more volatile. This article explains the term

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/mutualfund/03/072303.asp?partner=basics121511#axzz1gqnpdw71

2012: Not so bad leh?

In Economy, Investments on 09/01/2012 at 5:41 am

The outlook for 2012 is neither promising nor hopeless. Collapse of the global financial system, a return to the 1930s, a new depression, deflation – each threat to the world economy since 2008 has been real and has so far been averted. Euro collapse is the next threat. Policymakers will have to be resourceful again. That the world is still just about recovering shows that unlike in the 1930s they haven’t got everything wrong.

http://www.breakingviews.com/2012-another-year-of-living-euro-dangerously/1621498.article

PAP: Another Unnecessary Self-Inflicted Social Media Injury

In Political governance on 09/01/2012 at 5:40 am

Well Grace Fu’s actions have confirmed that the PAP still has problems using social media, showing that Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad (he is on PAP committee tasked to tame the Internet) was talking rubbish late last year when he boasted, “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.” (Emphasis mine)

Grace Fu’s use of Facebook to bitch* abt her pay cut effective destroyed the PM’s attempt to use a deep ministerial salary cut to rebuild political capital and reclaim the moral high ground for the PAP. Before her outburst, which to be fair, from which she repented rather quickly, or rather claimed that we “misunderstood” her (Like we misunderstood Han or Han misunderstood SMRT’s SVP? Wah PAP sure got great miscommunicators? Or we “Lesser Mortals” are daft?), the critics could only rail in the abstract against the quantum, principles and methodology adopted by Gerald Ee and friends. S’poreans would soon have got bored with the abstractions. All the PAP needed to do was to sit tight for a while, until the critics bored S’poreans with hot air, and exhausted themselves.

(With all due respect to the critics, they have nothing new to say. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”: Ecclesiastes 1:9)

After Grace Fu’s outburst, the critics had an alleged PAP princess** to beat up and abuse. And that they did, inflicting seriously collateral damage on the PM, cabinet and PAP.

This is not the first time that a female PAPy’s use (misuse?) of social media backfired on the PAP and PM.It has happened before.

Tin Pei Ling was earmarked to be Young PAPpies’ superstar and celebrity, showing that one could be young, fun-loving, brainless, parrot-like, wooden in public, marry well and have a career, and be a PAPpy on the make. The narrative didn’t work because the script did not tell her to privatise her Facebook page, making her pixs etc hostages to fortune. She compounded her initial mistake by appointing “Fat Fingered” Denise as her Facebook administrator. Denise He promptly broke the law, getting a serious warning from the police.  Netizens wanted Denise and Tin to be hung, drawn and quartered, which was never going to happen. I mean even drug mules only get hung if convicted.

So should the PAP appoint a social media commissar to clear all messages before they are made public? Take out the spontaneity rather than allow bird brains or air heads to destroy “The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men”?

Or tell ministers and MPs to be like MP Zaqy? A Malaysian Malay told me that his S’pore relations noticed that he (Zaqy) is never a leader, always a follower on Facebook. He allowed Halimah (ladies first?) to come out guns a’blazing at Han before he added his stab wounds. Wait for a cue, then action, is the message he would have told Ms Fu? Read the rest of this entry »

“Could we stop being so outraged when somebody says something stupid?”

In Uncategorized on 08/01/2012 at 5:42 am

At a time when netizens are on a roll abusing PAPpies and their buddies for making stupid, silly, offensive (or any combination thereof) remarks read this on why “we need to calm down when stupid or offensive pronouncements become public”.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jan/05/stop-being-outraged-somebody-something-stupid

What Grace Fu can’t afford

In Political governance, Property on 08/01/2012 at 5:19 am

(or “Why PAP Ministers feel underpaid”) 

So Grace Fu for one is unhappy about her salary cut. At least , for only a few hours sadly, she had the courage to voice her unhappiness. Then she repented her outburst or rather blamed us for “misunderstanding” her? Like we “misunderstood” Han or Han “misunderstood” SMRT’s SVP? At least Han had the excuse of his use of Singlish (his spoken English, let’s face it, is rubbish) for the former.

Well she should be very upset when she compares herself to S’pore’s last Chief Minister. Last March I wrote, Someone in TR wrote that David Marshall in an interview said he was paid $8000 a month in the 1950s as Chief Minister and went on like Marshall to rant against the PAP.

Based on $8000 a month, Marshall was paid $96,000 a year. From what I understand that could buy 3 bungalow properties in a then non-fashionable area in the East, say Frankel or Opera estate. He could have some change leftover. Today, a minister earning $3m a yr, may juz be able to buy a bungalow in these areas with his annual salary.

Well, assuming Grace Fu is earning say $935,000 (her new pay grade according to Gerald Ee and his maths-challenged committee), a 25% drop, she can’t buy nothing in the area on her salary. She can’t even buy a terrace house in a nearby estate.  They are going for around $1.5m.

(Now if this piece cannot find its way into “Petir” or “Fabrications about the PAP”, then Zaqy and friends on PAP’s new media team are sleeping.  As the efforts of Zaqy and gang based on the support the PAP is getting on the Internet, is so bad I’ll end as follows)

Ah well, she can still buy one 5-room and one 4-room HDB flat or a nice private condo apartment. But taz beneath her, I’m sure she thinks.

——

(Note Tan Jee say has a house in Frankel)

Related Posts

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/how-many-houses-david-marshall-could-buy-on-his-salary/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/property-what-a-ministers-salary-can-buy-in-1957-and-2010/

Think you had a bad 2011?

In Wit on 07/01/2012 at 6:12 am

Or think that the PM, PAP, SMRT, Ms Saw and other SMRT managers, Seng Han Thong, KennethJ, Kate Spate Tin (and her side-kick Fat Fingered Denise), the Lions and Young Lions, Tan Kin Lian, Goh Meng Seng, Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan, Raymond Lim, George Yeo, Lim Hwee Hwa, Zainul Abidin and Cynthia Phua  had a bad year?

The Russian space agency had these problems:

The loss of the Meridian satellite ends a disastrous 12 months for Russian space activity with the loss of three navigation satellites, an advanced military satellite, a telecommunications satellite, a probe for Mars and as an unmanned Progress supply ship.

Earlier this month, Russia also failed to launch a Soyuz rocket.

24 December 2011 BBC report

S’poreans got money meh?

In Economy, Political economy on 06/01/2012 at 7:15 am

The SDP, KennethJ, Lina Chiam and many regular contributors to TOC and TR are forever harping that standards of living for the majority of S’poreans have dropped since the 1990s. I take these comments with a large pinch of salt, even though I am an agnostic when it came to the claims of the PAP and government that living standards had improved throughout the noughties. (What am I supposed to think when the CEO of HDB tells me that shrinking flats means a higher standard of living for occupants? Yes I am misquoting but not that blatant leh.) 

They would say that wouldn’t they?

Still I was surprised yesterday evening when catching up with the local propoganda sheets, I read, While Singapore has 900,000 HDB flats and 557,000 car park lots  [or 619 for every 1000 flats by my calculations], Mr Khaw noted the problem of car park shortages was mostly felt in older HDB estates, which were built under old car park provision norms. In estates with four-room flats for example, 560 car park lots were planned for every 1,000 flats.

“This was adequate in the past but not any more. More Singaporeans now own cars and some own more than one car,” said Mr Khaw, who noted that 5 per cent of HDB households own two or more cars. The equivalent norm now is 710 car park lots for every 1,000 flats. With these new norms, Mr Khaw assured that new HDB flats would come with adequate car parks. Today on 24 December.

This means that despite rising public housing prices and COE prices, more HDB dwellers (remember over 80% of S’poreans live in HDB flats) are owning cars than ever before.

Of course, this could be another Khawism like his S$8 heart operation.

Assuming, Khaw was not fibbing about the numbers, will the SDP, KennethJ, Lina Chiam or the many regular contributors to TOC and TR Emeritus who are forever harping that standards of living for the majority of S’poreans have fallen, explain how come so many ordinary S’poreans are rich enough to own cars (some even two) despite rising COE and HDB prices?

Does this have anything to do with the easy availability of credit? And if so, is it good or bad for S’pore?

Maybe the 60% of voters who voted PAP are not deft? And one LKY is right to wonder why 40% of the voters are not gtrateful to him and the PAP.

Come on PAP critics. The silence is deafening.

Maths not strong point of Gerald Ee and friends

In Financial competency, Political governance on 06/01/2012 at 7:08 am

Taz my impression after seeing via the Internet Table A of the Recommendations and u/m from statement by RP. Funny that a commitee where there are two* trained and very, very senior accountants (Gerald Ee and Ms Fang Ai Lien) can make these elementary maths errors. Wonder what other errors of maths and logic, there are? Check this out.

 

Instead of making assumptions abt how much the office-holders would be paid (including bonuses) under the new scheme vis-a-vis their take home pay in 2010 (including bonuses), why not give their basic salaries (less bonuses) in 2010 and compare it to their new basic salaries? No need to make assumptions on the bonuses that will be paid.

Doing it the way the committe did it could give rise to the suspicion (reasonable) that the bonuses are “guaranteed”.

Basic misunderstanding of median calculations
We … would like to draw attention to a fundamental beginner’s mathematical error made by the committee. According to today’s report by CNA,

“The committee said that with the discount, the pay is actually closer to the top 1,400th earner.”

Wrong! The median of the top 1000 is the mid-point between the 500th and the 501st earner. Applying a 40% discount to the amount earned by the 500th earner does not mean that the resultant salary would necessarily be close to that earned by the 1,400th earner or even the 700th earner (which is what 40% more than 500 comes to ). It would depend on the distribution of incomes between the 500th and the 700th earner. A reasonable inference resulting from this kind of elementary statistical mistake leads one to doubt the quality of the statistics used by the committee to underpin the pegging of the salaries and the Key Performance Indicators for bonus awards. We cannot believe that the committee would deliberately be disingenuous or mislead the public with such an erroneous statement so we must assume that this kind of fundamental error is merely indicative of the ‘top talent’ that the government attracts.

A committee that cannot calculate the median of the top 1000 is either deliberately misleading the public or incompetent is the very emotional personal response by KennethJ, son of the late JBJ, a man of strong passions.

———-

Update on 6 January 2012 at 7.12pm: Seems Po’ad Mattar is also a very senior accountant. So three accountants and committee can still goof when it comes to maths. Sigh or LOL take yr pick.

Tony Tan deserves shume credit

In Political governance on 05/01/2012 at 12:55 pm

During the last PE, one Tan Kin Lian offered to take a salary of only S$2m a year, donating the rest to charity. One Tony Tan kept quiet on the issue.  TKL was widely praised by netizens, while TT was condemned for not being like TKL.

Well Tony Tan has accepted the recommendation of Gerald Ee and friends that he gets around S$1.5m. Now taz 25% lower than what TKL was willing to take, so those that condemned TT should retract their comments.  

Fair is fair.

I’m not in the mood to plough (CNY round the corner) thru the details of the Recomendations, and based on what I see on the Internet, one comparison table (Table A) from the Recommendations looks dodgy (bad methodology — why not use minister’s basic pay without bonuses for 2010 compare it to the basic — without all the discretionary bonuses– under the Recommendations). So there will be minimal blogging from me on this very impt issue.   Still trying to find the mood to analyse whether the yield on MIIF is worth the risk.

I’ll leave the heavy lifting on this to others.

Strategy for 2012: Same as in 2011

In Financial competency, Financial planning, Investments on 05/01/2012 at 5:54 am

Go buy stocks that pay good, sustainable dividends http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/a-broker-who-almost-got-it-right/

BTW same as for 2010 http://atans1.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/investment-strategy-for-2010/

Also read

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/primer-on-yields-of-reits-biz-trusts/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/investing-in-reits/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/high-yield-low-pay-out-stocks-are-best/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/buying-for-dividends-know-the-cos-balance-sheet/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/buying-for-dividends-diversify-too/

Three Cheers for VivianB, Pls Go Yaacob

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 04/01/2012 at 5:31 am

No, I’ve not gone wacko like Quan Yifeng on the three occasions she was found guilty of mischief (twice) or criminal violence (one). (Err wonder if the tea or teas she was promoting had the effect of lowering or raising her wacko EQ?).  But despite all my previous rants abt VivianB, I think he deserves credit for acknowledging that there is a problem with the flood control system along Orchard Road. I mean the new CEO of PUB was in late December still in denial over the matter (S’poreans were complacent according to him, imitating SMRT’s CEO), witness the “ponding” media release.

This was shumething Yaacob refused to acknowledge even daring to claim that the flooding at Orchard Road was the fault of a 50-year flood. Yah great excuse. Two such floods in less than two months.

No but thaz not reason why he has to “move on”. As Arts minister, he is responsible for allowing one Melvyn the Dodger to perform at a venue that belongs to the state. The National Musuem website even had this

Dreaming Debussy : Melvyn Tan, Piano Solo

Venue Exhibition Gallery, Basement
Date Thurs 5 Jan & Fri 6 Jan 2012, 8pm.

Melvyn Tan opens the series …

DPM Teo rightly said years ago , Whether such NS defaulters, who have answered for their offences in Court and paid the penalty, should be eventually accepted back into our fold, is not something that MINDEF can determine. It is for society to decide. And society will also look at whether such individuals, apart from having paid a penalty, are sincerely contrite for having failed to serve our nation, and whether they have attempted to make amends.

(Note that DPM Teo admitted that the Dodger had gamed the system, Melvyn Tan’s case has highlighted an inadequacy in penalties for those who have defaulted for so many years that they are no longer able to discharge their National Service obligations in full. Perhaps MINDEF should have acted earlier. I concede that. But MINDEF will now be acting to address this inadequacy by asking the Prosecutor to press for jail sentences in serious cases of NS defaulters. This will help to send a clear signal that defaulting on National Service is not acceptable.

By allowing Melvyn the Dodger to perform in the National Museum (albeit the Basement), Yaacob is saying, on behalf of the cabinet, that dodging NS is acceptable. Will he and Mrs Yaacob grace one of these nights to show S’poreans that NS is for losers? And as a sign that his sons will give two fingers to their NS liabilities?

Yaacob kanna snookered? As I’ve written, Melvyn … gave two fingers to S’pore, and now to the performing arts elite, he is a heloo. What is beyond me is why the performing arts elite want him back? To put the noses of ordinary S’poreans out of joint? Or because he charges nominal fees because the elite treats him as a heloo, not as the pariah he deserves to be treated as? And why does the government allow this elite to get away with this? Hey PM, the voters have spoken. One FT MP sneering NSers is enough.  Voters also don’t care for self-appointed elites too much.

He was back last year for a concert, but ST didn’t cover his return, so only the artistic elite knew he was back. This year, the elite is determined to make us S’poreans eat crow over him?

Why Han sat down and kept quiet

In Political governance on 03/01/2012 at 7:05 pm

(Or “Why Han stopped digging a grave  for himself and the PAP”)

Almost two weeks since Han came up with a new excuse every five minutes for his remarks that had racist overtones. Looks like he left the last word to Indian buddy Shanmugam (Where’s his Malay buddy?). Maybe he realised what he was up against?

To recap.

Here’s what MediaCorp says SVP Goh Kong Chee of SMRT said on radio that is the “source” of Seng Han Thong’s problems, “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.

Han said on his Facebook page:

I notice that the PR mention 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 but I think we accept broken English.”*

Big difference in emphasis. SVP Goh said that there could be language problems, SMRT being a multi-racial workforce. Han’s emphasis is on two specific races, not on a multiracial workforce.

His latest turn in a letter to transport union, “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”.

So he  longer claims that he misheard as ST reported, but that he left out “Chinese” is my understanding of what he is now saying. Was there a need to mention any race at all? Inadvertently or not?

He said he was defending  the use of “broken English” in an emergency. Was there a need to defend this when this wasn’t an issue that SVP Goh of SMRT raised or used as an excuse? He was making a point about SMRT encouraging staff to speak**

Doesn’t this make nonsense of what the Law Minister said when defending Han and “whacking” TOC.*** This I must commend about Shanmugam. He, unlike other MPs, has the courage to make a fool of himself, defending Han. He got balls unlike Zaqy, etc. I’d like to have him (Shanmugam, not Zaqy) beside me if Quan Yifeng went wacko and tried to assault me. Hey Zaqy, being a PAPpie means the balls to be unpopular in yr community. Pandring to yr community is not a gd career move.

The problem that Han (and his apologists like Shanmugam) has is trying to explain why he singled out the “broken English” of two minority races, but omitted that of the Chinese. That is a hard truth. No amount of twisting and turning, or blaming TOC can explain or excuse the singling out by a PAP MP and a unionist of the “Malay” and “Indian” races.

Maybe a more fruitful line for him would be to blame SVP Goh of mentioning race in the first place, and that he (Han) was trying to rebuke him, but his (Han’s) bad English let him down.

And doesn’t this show, to misquote Mr Shanmugam, that “A significant part of what has been attributed to SMRT is false, to be quite blunt about it.” Any this can be said too of the transcription put up on Han’s site. Listen to cooments (link below).

Oh and let’s not forget Han misquoted SMRT’s  PR person. He is the originator of the remarks. He owns them, and cannot disown them.

—— Read the rest of this entry »

“LIES, damn lies and statistics” and two local examples?

In Economy, Financial competency on 03/01/2012 at 7:36 am

Example 1?

So a reasonable interpretation of the minister’s comments below are that the inflation numbers as far as they affect HDB residents and non-car owners are a lot of rubbish because they are not affected. So why not construct an additional index that excludes these costs? The reason that this is not done could be that then other costs have to be included, such as a great weightage for public transport costs, and the cost of public housing. And this could outweigh the costs of rentals and car ownership? Better to talk in general terms, than create a rod to break the PAPpies back?

While Singapore’s economy is headed for a slowdown, Mr Lim noted that inflation is somewhat “persistent” due to factors such as global commodity prices, “particularly fuel and oil prices”. Other causes include the Government’s domestic policies on housing and car ownership, he added.

Reiterating that core inflation is “not unusually high”, Mr Lim said: “So if you are an owner of a HDB flat, the housing prices don’t affect you, and if you are not buying a car, the car prices also don’t affect you.”

Example 2?

 The chart is misleading because the tariff axis is over-extended … the fluctuations in the electricity tariffs are not clearly depicted and it gives a misperception that the electricity tariffs are not rising as much or as fast a rate as the fuel oil price.

To show a better comparison between the electricity tariff and the fuel oil price, I suggest the tariff axis to range up to 35, to just cover the maximum tariff (30.45 in Oct 08).  This will show the fluctuations of the electricity tariff vis-a-vis those of the fuel oil price better, graphically.

Must read: The ugly reality is that anyone in the know can present statistics so as to create the desired impression, rather than the truth. As usual, you need to know whether the source is credible and honest or not. Recommendations, double checking, second opinions and if necessary, hiring an expert, can all be helpful. One is never totally safe from this kind of falsification, but viable controls are possible. And the more you learn and are aware of the dangers, the safer you are. http://www.investopedia.com/articles/financial-theory/11/lie-with-financial-statistics.asp?partner=ntu11#axzz1fElSc8tZ

 Update at 7.20 pm on 3 January 2011: http://theonlinecitizen.com/2012/01/confused-over-u-save-rebates/ gives many more examples of possible misuse of stats.

Sadly Uniquely S’porean

In Uncategorized, Wit on 03/01/2012 at 5:42 am

You may have missed these Uniquely S’porean happenings because they happened during the hols between 23 december 2011 and 2 January 2012:

PUB bans, then unbans the “F” word

Initially PUB called time on the “F” word. It was now called “ponding” . Then PUB dropped the “P” word: “ponding”. It has resumed the use of the word “flooding” and “flash floods” and  as this report shows, at least for what happened at Liat Towers.

So despite a new CEO, PUB is even more dysfunctional than ever. Perhaps more so. As the CEO was previously in charge of coastal defence, Indonesian pirates must be annoyed they didn’t raid Sentosa Cove during his term of office. They would have got away with booty galore. And he would have blamed S’poreans that they were complacent, hence the attack. He blamed our complacency for the two 50-year floods in less than two months in 2010. Funny, he kinda quiet since the “ponding” at Orchard. PUB’s silly, belated reply: denies its own media release.

Elitist attitude condoned?

This JC student is upset because Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students have better facilities than “our brightest students, who will become Singapore’s future leaders” (I assume he includes himself) . Not surprise here given the sense of entitlement that JC students have and the high opinion they hold of themselves even at crappy JCs like Catholic, Temasek, Anderson, Tampines, Hwa Chong, National and Victoria. But no JC principal or MoE minister or official rebuked the boy. This I find astonishing given the results of the two elections in 2011. Government cannot multi-task? Focuing on SMRTgate and HanGate? Even WP NCMP ticked boy off lightly. Worse, TRE was nowhere in sight. Sigh. TRE should have named and shamed his parents and his JC. Boy has a bright future as Young PAPpie. He later said he didn’t mean to “attack” ITE students. Sounds like MP Han.

TV Star from Hell only gets 15 months probation

Many S’poreans were upset that FT “MediaCorp artiste” Quan Yifeng only got 15 months probation after she pleaded guilty to a charge of “mischief after she pulled out the taxi fare meter and spilling water onto the receipt printer of a taxi on June 26 after a dispute between her and a taxi driver. The damage amounted to S$70 … Two other charges – of kicking the right passenger door of the taxi and pushing and attempting to kick the 53-year-old driver – were also taken into consideration.”

This probation was despite her having form in being a dangerous and violent wacko. She was once fined for criminal violence:  getting into a fight with a bowling alley attendant.  And was fined for mischief : driving without a licence and causing an accident.

What was astounding was that despite this history of hurting others, the judge was influenced by a claim of depression more than 10 yrs ago, and that she was on anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and sleep medication when she turned violent. Medicine no work, so not her fault? So considerate leh to a wacko with a sense of entitlement? Look at her record of not caring if she hurt other people? No wonder she is a single parent. No, her hubby didn’t disppear, and his body never found. They are separated.

After her escape, she held a triumphalist media conference and blamed her troubles on everyone (including her beloved child, she claimed she was defending from cabbie. The child’s birth, more than 10 years ago, was the cause of her post natal depression) except  herself.

Her daughter didn’t do well in her Primary 6 exams. The principal and teachers must be worried that this mum from Hell will pay the school a visit?

Even if she doesn’t visit the school, she is likely to get her comeuppance soon. Given her record of being ready and willing to harm others and their property, she is likely to break the terms of her probation within the next 15 months. Then the judge will have no choice but to jail her and throw away the key.

Isn’t MediaCorp indulgent to keep her as an “artiste”. She is not exactly a role model for young S’poreans what with her record of hurting the “little people”. Or is MediaCorp indulgent because its CEO’s wife was once jailed (many yrs ago, when he was only a senior executive) for hurting her maid? Goh Chok Tong “the forgiver of mistakes” (remember ex- PAP MP and convicted criminal now facing three charges of cheating and Criminal Breach of Trust, Choo Wee Khiang, who GCT said we should forgive for his racist remarks) wrote a letter commending her to the sentencing judge. BTW, to be fair to MediaCorp, it fired this convicted maid abuser.

Sack Quan Yifeng. She can go back to Taiwan and hurt people there, if she got the guts. Taiwanese are no sheep. Let’s hope no-one dies because of the judge’s compassion towards her.

Making a mockery of NS

Can you blame 1 in 3 PRs for refusing to do NS? The performing arts elite have invited NS dodger Melvyn Tan for a concert performance. Shows that one can dodge NS , and still be in the in-crowd if one has the talent and the money. Even the constructive, nation building ST is on his side. Telling us to move on?  http://kementah.blogspot.com/2011/12/45-years-of-national-service-ns.html

Sigh. This reminds me why I’m a quitter in residence. At least I did my NS 1973 — 1976. Melvyn, around my age, gave two fingers to S’pore, and now to the performing arts elite, he is a heloo. What is beyond me is why the performing arts elite want him back? To put the noses of ordinary S’poreans out of joint? Or because he charges nominal fees because the elite treats him as a heloo, not as the pariah he deserves to be treated as? And why does the government allow this elite to get away with this? Hey PM, the voters have spoken. One FT MP sneering NSers is enough.  Voters also don’t care for self-appointed elites too much.

He was back last year for a concert, but ST didn’t cover his return, so only the artistic elite knew he was back. This year, the elite is determined to make us S’poreans eat crow over him?

PM’s “give and take”

Err hope his NY message of “give and take” isn’t code for ministries and agencies to start upping their charges to take from us. Juz kinding.

Wishing the PM a gd year. May he will connect with us S’poreans in 2012 now that dad and Goh Chok Tong are no longer in the cabinet to remind him that they know better.

SMRT: Ask judge to step down?

In Infrastructure on 03/01/2012 at 5:38 am

PM did the right thing by us S’poreans who use public transport* by appointing a judge that regularly commutes by train as the chairman of the Commitee of Inquiry that willl look into recent train breakdowns. But is this appoitment open to challenge by SMRT?

If SMRT were keen on shareholder value it should ask the judge tasked to lead the Commitee of Inquiry, Chief District Judge of the Subordinate Courts, Mr Tan Siong Thye, to step down because he was reported by ST as saying:

As a daily user of the MRT myself, to and from work for more than 10 years, I share the concerns of many who want to know what went wrong and how to restore confidence in our MRT system.”

He said the breakdowns on Dec 15 and 17 were “quite unprecedented”, adding that “they caused significant disruption and inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of commuters”.

“Such incidents can also potentially pose a public-safety issue if they are not well managed.”

SMRT’s lawyers could cite the legal principle, “Justice must not only be done, but seen to be done”. They could point out that if the judge has been commuting for over 10 yrs (What no can afford car or cab to work meh?), he would have personally experienced the increase in overcrowding and congestation over the years, and that this would prejudice him against SMRT.

(I was an occasional train user but I tried avoiding the trains for the last  few yrs because of the congestion in off-peak hours.  Only since the May GE, have I resumed using SMRT trains during the off-peak periods given the government’s assurances that the trains are less crowded. But it’s all relative. My 88-year mum recently tried taking the SMRT on Saturday mornings around 7.00am. She has returned to taking the bus because she can’t always get a seat even at this time on the train. The bus is almost empty at 7.00 am. If anyone is wondering, she can afford a cab.)

But if SMRT’s lawyers make such a challenge, we could have riots if S’poreans decide to show SMRT and its controlling shareholder, Temasek, what they think of SMRT.

Looks like SMRT is the stock from hell for the time being, just like  Quan Yifeng is the “artiste” from Hell. Buy ComfortDelgro or SBS instead?

*shumething can be right and popular, PAP. Juz because shumething is unpopular, diesn’t mean it’s right, PAP.

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