atans1

Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page

Dr M, like one LKY, is losing his memory

In Malaysia, Political economy, Political governance on 31/12/2013 at 4:46 am

(There is some analysis of what one LKY said tagged on at the end but yes it’s analysis about M’sia week (previous) ).

Going by this extract from BT, seems that Dr M has forgotten that there was almost no money left in the Treasury when he stepped down.

FORMER Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that Putrajaya should cut its own costs before burdening the public with higher taxes and tariffs.

It was his first public comment on what has fast become a contentious issue among Malaysians: an increasing cost of living that is set to escalate in 2014.

After the general election (GE) in May, Malaysia was put on notice by the international rating agencies that it had to get its fiscal discipline right. Prime Minister Najib Razak responded by first cutting fuel subsidies and raising petrol prices by 10 per cent in September.

In his October Budget, Mr Najib abolished sugar subsides and pledged to cut total subsidies by 17 per cent in the financial year. The Budget did not achieve that, so most commentators expect more fuel subsidy cuts possibly in the second half of the year. Mr Najib also promised a 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST) by next April.

Yes, yes, I know Badawi accused him of over-spending. But the fact that Badawi and now Najib are having to cut back govt spending shows that Dr M overspent when he was in power. Sadly this never happened here. If only GCT had spent more, LHL, would not be in so much shit. But don’t pity PM: he was DPM then, and in charge of economical and financial matters.

Coming back to Dr M. We can’t be too hard on him given that one LKY said that S’pore was a “barren rock” before the PAP took power. He must have got HK in mind when the British seized HK from the Chinese. I’ll let a HK official tell the story, It was on this day, January 20 in 1841 that a treaty was signed ceding Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

 To cut a long story short, Captain Charles Elliot of the British Royal Navy had negotiated the terms of the agreement and reported them to Lord Palmerston who was then the Foreign Secretary in London.

Lord Palmerston was outraged that Britain had got such a raw end of the deal. He promptly dismissed Captain Elliot from his post and famously declared that Hong Kong was, and I quote: “A barren rock with nary a house upon it. It will never be a mart for trade.”

S’pore as all TRE readers will be able to tell you was the second most important port in Asia, though they may not tell you (because they may not know)  that it had problems, problems  outlined below*.

LKY would have been on safer ground if he had told S’poreans what might have happened if S’pore had gotten bad govt (like in Burma). But then S’poreans could rightly have asked if there were credible alternatives. The answer to that is not so obvious and detracts from the narrative that the PAP made S’pore. It didn’t: S’poreans of my parents’ generation made  modernS’pore on the colonial foundation. The PAP helped in the making.

*Singapore Correspondent. Political Dispatches from Singapore (1958-1962)

(http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/mai/new-book-singapore-correspondent/)
by Leon Comber*

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish International Asia

Singapore Correspondent Book CoverSingapore Correspondent” covers five years of Singapore’s colourful political past – a period of living turbulently and sometimes dangerously. It is a collection of eye-witness dispatches, sent from Singapore to London, spanning a time when Singapore was emerging from British colonial rule and moving forward to self-government and independence. Many of the early struggles of the People’s Action Party (PAP) are described as the focus is on the political struggle taking place in which the PAP played a major part. Many important events which have long been forgotten are brought to life. These dispatches prove that political history need not be dull, and indeed can sometimes be entertaining and lively.

* MAI Adjunct Research Fellow

Reviewed here: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/im-invested-in-spore-spore-in-50s-60s/

Related: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/when-55-of-voters-were-fts/

Why democracy is not a Hard Truth

In Political governance on 30/12/2013 at 6:29 am

I juz came across this quote from the novelist EM Forster who gave two cheers for democracy: “One because it admits variety, and two because it permits criticism.”. Need I say more on why the PAP doesn’t do democracy?  It doesn’t like variety or criticism. and 60% of S’poreans like it that way. What more can I say? Except that those who want the PAP out have four five choices;

– sit down and shut up;

– be prepared to persuade at least 11% more of voters to join the 40% (actually maybe even more, maybe 24% of the voters, see why here);

– turn to revolution;

– despair and “move on” overseas (BTW, ESM’s daughter is overseas though she’s no “quitter” it seems: LKY’s children are still here by contrast); or

– bitch online (TRE, TOC posters and many Facebookers seem to prefer this option).

BTW, the quote (from a 1938 essay) goes on, “Two cheers are quite enough. There is no occasion to give three.” Forster, according to John Gray, a political philisopher,”thought that no political system – not even democracy – should be turned into an icon. What mattered, he thought, was that individuals should have the chance to live as best they can.”. If anyone is interested, here is John Gray on why  “Human rights are important, but they will never be a solution to ending conflict”. Our HR kay pohs should read it and draw lessons on how they go about rights advocacy here. Example: Human rights have two large virtues – they empower us against governments, and anyone can claim them. If we have rights we needn’t approach power on our knees, as supplicants begging for favours. We can demand that our freedoms be respected. And it doesn’t matter who governs us. Human rights can be invoked wherever they exist.

Can I ask the SDP member who follows this blog to pls pass on this message to all his HR kay poh friends and his party members. They tend to talk about HR in abstract terms allowing the PAPPies cheap, easy, and unnecessary victories.

1Malay not 1M’sian

In Malaysia on 29/12/2013 at 5:55 am

The u/m extract reflects the consensus among analysts (not connected to the govt or oppo) on how UMNO will behave.

Umno’s three-pronged strategy towards GE14
 
This conservative logic formed the bedrock of the “back to basics” strategy that was spelt out by Najib, whose speech was themed “Fortifying the Future”. Going forward, Umno will pursue three strategic thrusts – or what Najib called the “three messages from the assembly”: The first is a turn towards Islamic Shariah; the second is a stronger Malay and bumiputra agenda, for which, he said, Umno need not be apologetic; and the third a “transformed Umno” as a “party of the 21st century”. It is significant that Umno as the “party of the future” will become not just more Malay, but Islamist at the same time.    

Becoming more Islamist for a Malay-nationalist party like Umno is an equally significant shift. Ideologically-driven Islamist parties actually find ethno-nationalism objectionable. Umno clearly is positioning itself as the primary political vehicle for the Malay and Muslim constituency, thus raising the prospects of an all-out contest for power with the opposition Islamist PAS, even as Umno – paradoxically – woos PAS for unity talks. Umno’s drift towards a more Islamist identity was marked by a highly controversial drive to pitch itself as the defender of Sunni Islam in the face of what it paints as the growing threat of Shiism in the country. The federal constitution would be reworded to define the official religion as “Islam Sunnah Wal Jamaah” or Sunni Islam, not simply Islam. That this move is partly politically-motivated is seen in the immediate targeting of the PAS deputy leader as a closet Shia and therefore a threat.

The second thrust of a greater push for the Malay and bumiputra agenda is clearly aimed at solidifying the Peninsular-East Malaysia axis around the Malay core. Najib conceded the crucial role of the “fixed deposit” states of Sabah and Sarawak in BN’s ultimate win in the last GE. As many see it, if not for these two states, there would have been a change of government in Malaysia. With Najib’s renewed emphasis on the Malay and bumiputra agenda, the New Economic Policy that officially ended in 1990 but was unofficially continued, has finally been resurrected in all but name. CEOs of all government-linked companies have been given KPIs to realise this goal on pain of seeing their contracts not renewed.

To complete the three-pronged strategy, Umno will go all out to win the young voters. In the next GE, some six million new voters will be casting for the first time. The majority are likely to be anti-establishment and anti-Umno. They could make a difference whether there will finally be a change of government or not in GE14. No wonder Najib made it clear: UMNO must win over the young voters and master the social media with which the young are savvy.
 
Implications

Umno’s eagerness to recover its eroded political ground has seen it responding in unexpected ways, with implications yet to be fully fathomed. Its readiness to march to its own drumbeat is a warning to friend and foe alike that the rules of the game will be set by Umno alone. 

To its ethnic-based political allies in BN, which are facing their own internal crises, the message is that the BN power-sharing system will be on Umno’s terms. To the opposition, the message is clear: whoever controls the Malay and Muslim ground will control power – and it is not going to be the opposition, which is not homogenous ethnically and ideologically. 

Umno is desperate to win. Going forward, all communities will be forced to ponder what this means for them and the country.

http://www.rsis.edu.sg/publications/Perspective/RSIS2362013.pdf?utm_source=getresponse&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=rsis_publications&utm_content=RSIS+Commentary+236%2F2013+Malaysia%E2%80%99s+Political+Outlook+2014%3A+Key+Challenges+Facing+Najib+by+Yang+Razali+Kassim+

Waz interesting is that PAS or a faction of PAS will decide if this strategy works: DAP and Anwar’s gang can only hope the moderates in PAS continue to hold power, and that UMNO doesn’t succeed in splitting PAS. In PAS, the conservatives outnumber the moderates among the PAS supporters. At the leadership level, there is an uneasy consensus between the moderates and conservativesnot to team up with UMNO. Even the conservative leaders have their doubts given that PAS was once a jnr partner of UMNO’s and got stabbed in the back repeatedly.

Now if UMNO decided that it would support the cutting off of limbs, the conservatives of PAS would have no choice but to team up with UMNO. Of course, there is likely a step too far for even UMNO.  But the logical remains (and tempation) remains for UMNO.

BT: Comparing apples to oranges again?

In Emerging markets, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 28/12/2013 at 7:27 am

(Or “Anti-PAP bloggers share LKY’s Hardest Truth)

Schroders plc and Baring Asset Management Ltd are avoiding Singapore stocks, the cheapest in South-east Asia, as slower economic growth in the region and cuts to Federal Reserve stimulus drive capital outflows.

The fund managers expect property to lead declines in Singapore amid a real-estate slump and the prospect of higher interest rates. The Straits Times Index was the worst-performing developed market in 2013, dropping 9.5 per cent since Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said in May that bond purchases may be reduced on signs of sustainable US recovery.

Surprised constructive nation-building (but mathematically challenged) BT reported things this way.

In US$ terms, among the bigger Asean stock mkts, only the M’sian stk mkt was better than us. Taz not saying much as only M’sia index ended in positive territory (juz) juz before hols

M’sia:          +3.2%

S’pore:          -6.0

Thailand:     -8.5

Indonesia:   -23.0

Got subversives in BT meh?

In the minnow Asean mkts Vietnam  was +24%, while Manila was +3.4% according to the MSCI indices.

Next yr is not going to be a gd yr for Asean countries, so the fact that Schroders and Barings are “avoiding” S’pore is no big deal for anti-PAP bloggers to brag about. Don’t know about you, but I get the sense that some of them hate the PAP so much that they end up cheering and being cheerful when S’pore tanks, for whatever reason. Looks like they agree with one LKY that S’pore and the PAP are one. They may hate him but they accept his premise?

Asean round-up returns next yr, god willing.

Pls spare migrant workers pennies from the $2.5bn++ they “gift” S’pore

In Economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 27/12/2013 at 4:30 am

(This is a follow-up to this on how Santa 2.0, the govt and Scrooge are related.)

TOC’s Terry Xu commented on Facebook a few days ago: The total foreign worker levies collected were S$2.5 billion for the Financial Year 2011 and S$1.9 billion for the Financial Year 2010. Similar to other sources of Government revenue, the foreign worker levies are not ringfenced for any specific purposes. All Government revenue collected would go into the Consolidated Fund used to fund Government expenditures in general.”

And it goes up even more in the year 2012, 2013 given that there are more workers and that the levies have increased since then … (Thanks Terry for this info. I’d been meaning to check up the quantum and use of the levies, but never got round to googling)

This means the govt can do more, a lot more, to ensure that these workers have better living and work environments, and are not exploited (This is how bad things can be: http://www.lianainfilms.com/2013/12/the-singapore-way/), without increasing the tax burden on S’poreans and others living here, or on the workers’ employers, and biz in general.

Surely some of this money can be used to set-up a medical insurance fund and a general welfare fund for these workers? Surplus for our SWFs to use to place bets on juz a bit smaller. True, we pay them wages but those wages are off-set by the Hard Truth that if they were not available, we’d be paying serious money to get workers or robots to do what they are currently doing for “peanuts”.

But I would like to remind the activists that there are worse places that migrant workers are willing to go to.

A November report produced by Amnesty International, the British-based rights group, found the Qatari construction industry to be “rife with abuse”, including forced labour and virtual slavery. Workers complained that their salaries were half what they were promised, or that they had not been paid at all for months. Others said their wages had been docked for taking five-minute breaks during 18-hour shifts in the searing summer heat. Sponsors routinely confiscate their employees’ passports, preventing them from changing jobs or leaving the country. In the most extreme cases, workers have paid with their lives: this summer 44 Nepalese migrants died in two months from heart failure or work-related accidents. The International Trade Union Confederation warns that as many as 4,000 labourers could perish during the next nine years of construction.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2013/12/football-and-labour-rights-qatar)

I’m not using the fact that are are worse places than S’pore to defend the S’pore Way: juz to try to put things in perspective. We are not “Swiss” enough, but we are not cruel slave masters, far from it. Interestingly, about 10 yrs I met an Iraqi who was working in ST. We got talking and somehow touched on employer/ employee relations: and he reminded me that the people of the Gulf had only stopped owning slaves legally in the early 20th century, and that there was a slave, master mentality there even in 2003.

Workfair and Maruah should campaign for the use of some of the $2.5bn to be used to provide medical insurance and other benefits, not against the deportation without, what they claim, is due process. I’ll blog on the deportation issue next week.

Ho Ho Ho: Santa = S’pore govt = Scrooge?

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 26/12/2013 at 5:54 am

Santa’s critics note that higher profits and productivity have not resulted in higher pay for the elves. They were seeing their real incomes squeezed even before the Fairy Tale of Wall Street had an unhappy ending in 2008, and then took pay cuts rather than lose their jobs. With welfare being cut, most plumped for a job over the dole even if it meant a cut in living standards.

Santa accepts that the workforce has made sacrifices. But he insists these are vital to keep the company going at a time of cut-throat global competition. The elves have to understand, he adds, that the alternative to zero-hour contracts and pay cuts would be that the jobs would be outsourced from Lapland to a lower-cost grotto in the far east.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2013/dec/22/santa-elves-living-standards-surveillance

Doesn’t Santa sound like PM or his dad or VivianB or “cheaper, faster” Zorro  etc? I’m so confident that readers will agree that I wouldn’t give examples. This isn’t ST.

As to Scrooge, this is how Dickens described Scrooge before Scrooge repented and became a Dr Chee type of person (actually better than Mad Dog  as Scrooge had his personal wealth to spend on the poor, Dr Chee is depending on our reserves and higher taxes)

“Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

“Even the blindmen’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

Mean of Dickens? Scrooge when asked for donations for the poor, “There are many things which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited” and  “Are there no prisons?”. Sounds very much like our very own VivianB when he was welfare minister?

Merry Christmas.

11 finance” movies worth watching over hols

In Uncategorized on 25/12/2013 at 4:49 am
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2013
 ‘Wolf’ Martin Scorsese’s film about Jordan Belfort is set join a long list of Wall Street movies that are focused more on frat-boy antics than financial wizardry.

The caricatures personified by Mr. Belfort, Gordon Gekko and the brokers in “Boiler Room” are well-known. “Boiler Room” even includes a long scene with the characters quoting from “Wall Street.”


Here are options for 10 very good (and some so bad they’re great) movies on finance that we’d rather see instead of spending time with our family this holiday.

  1. Trading Places” Money quote: “The people who own the pork belly contracts are saying, ‘Hey, we’re losing all our damn money, and Christmas is around the corner, and I ain’t gonna have no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip!'”
  2. Floored” Money quote: Almost every quote in this documentary on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is unprintable.
  3. Barbarians at the Gate” Money quote: “Kravis will eat you alive if you let him in.”
  4. The Secret of My Success” Money quote: “That was the best damn memo I ever read.”
  5. Other People’s Money” Money quote: “I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company?”
  6. Working Girl” Money quote: “I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”
  7. Rogue Trader” Money quote: “One of our traders in Singapore got drunk the other night and pulled a moon.”
  8. American Psycho” Money quote: “I can’t believe that Bryce prefers Van Patton’s card to mine.”
  9. Too Big to Fail” Money quote: “We don’t do this now, we won’t have an economy on Monday.”
  10. It’s a Wonderful Life.” Money quote: “Look, we’re still in business, we’ve got two bucks left!” This 1946 film may be the last time a banker was portrayed on film as a decent person.       From NYT’s DealBook

BT inflation headline talks sucks, really sucks

In Economy, Financial competency, Holidays and Festivals, Media on 24/12/2013 at 6:28 am

I recently blogged that the PAP should approach mrbrown to help PAP MPs in particular Baey and Tharman. Looks like BT needs his help in getting the facts “right”.Let me explain.

I waz planning to take a break from nasty, vicious blogging as it’s the time of peace and gooddwill towards men.

Happily for my inner Grinch , I read this

Core inflation inches higher, forecasts up
Economists point to higher inflation for next year with pressure from wages, business costs, COEs
… Inflation rose to 2.6 per cent year-on-year in November, from 2 per cent the previous month, with private-sector economists forecasting higher inflation for next year. In a statement yesterday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said core inflation – which strips out accommodation and private road transport costs – also picked up pace to 2.1 per cent in November, compared with 1.8 per cent in October.Based on the above, core inflation was up 16.7%. Taz’s “inching” in a month?

Trying to spin gold out of bull dust? Or is shumeone seriously drunk or mathematically challenged? BTW, inflation was up 30% in a month.

Santa, I want for Christmas “Headlines from a Mathematically Literate World”

Our World: Unemployment Rate Jumps from 7.6% to 7.8%
Mathematically Literate World: Unemployment Rate Probably a Little Under 8%; Maybe Rising, or Not, Can’t Really Tell

Our WorldFirm’s Meteoric Rise Explained by Daring Strategy, Bold Leadership
Mathematically Literate WorldFirm’s Meteoric Rise Explained by Good Luck, Selection Bias

Our WorldGas Prices Hit Record High (Unadjusted for Inflation)
Mathematically Literate WorldGas Prices Hit Record High (In a Vacuous, Meaningless Sense)

Read more

http://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2013/12/02/headlines-from-a-mathematically-literate-world/

And if interested on why core inflation was up 16.7% (can’t help think of “ponding”)

A higher headline inflation figure in November – marking the first time since March that inflation has risen beyond the 2 per cent level – was generally expected as it had been flagged by MAS and MTI previously.

The biggest driver was higher accommodation costs, which rose 3.3 per cent year on year from 1.9 per cent in October, when service and conservancy charges rebates to HDB households had kept housing-related costs down.

 

FTs: Humour free zone? Jokes prohibited?

In Humour, Internet on 23/12/2013 at 4:48 am

This blogger is ambivalent about Bertha Henson. The conventional wisdom is that this once Sith Lord in the making changed her spots after retiring from SPH* where she was a cyber warrior (general rank) at ST, no less, into a Jedi warrior. One of these days, I’ll go into the conspiracy theory as to why she could be a Trojan horse (and explain the inconvenient fact to said theory that MDA fixed her). But as this is Christmas, I’ll not be that Gringie.

Whether on not she is part of a black ops against us cowboys of S’pore’s cyberspace, she writes well, very well. She’s pretty witty too, and has mastered the dark art of black humour, if not satire. Example: http://berthahenson.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/personally-speaking-no-fund-intended/. And she loves journalism; she did a lovely piece on her accreditation  to an activist event: sorry lazy to find the article to link to it.

But despite being treated as Jedi both by the cowboys and the MDA and ST, she recently was attacked by two tua kee cyber activists (both ladies) on Facebook for writing  http://berthahenson.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/a-sunday-problem/. Read it for yrself  before going on to read their comments, and my take on the piece and them.

I’ll not name them, ’cause its Christmas and I’m no Grinch or Krampus. A man dressed as Krampus in Austria … pretty scary, huh?

One said: What a lovely way to dehumanise a group of people: make assumptions and fall back on stereotypes, while coming across as reasoned and reasonable. Dear Bertha, the problems facing migrant workers go beyond what happens to them on a Sunday. Of course, we only notice them on Sundays because they’re busy working themselves to the bone, building our city, cleaning our loos, clearing our trash and staying out of YOUR way the rest of the week. Where they go on their rest day really isn’t anyone’s problem but their own. Would YOU like your boss to tell you what to do when you’re not working?

Another wrote:

It is a very condescending article. From the very first paragraph you can see the belittling and patronising: “We have a problem. We have hundreds of thousands of foreign workers – and we don’t know what to do with them on Sundays. And they probably don’t know what to do with themselves on Sundays either.”

Why do we need to do anything with them on their off day – it is THEIR off day. And who are we to say that they don’t know what to do with themselves, simply because from our standpoint that don’t seem to be doing what we would prefer them to do (which is what, attend Alcoholics Anonymous and play friendly games of basketball in their dorms?)

The second paragraph is just as facepalm-worthy: “The foreign maid can stay “home” and be paid for not taking the day off. And even if they are out, they’re not likely to get into a drunken stupor and throw pieces of concrete around. They’ll just crowd somewhere until someone shoos them somewhere else.”

The fact that foreign domestic workers stay “home” on their day off potentially means that they will also be made to work on their day off. This is not a situation we should be okay with, much less use as a sort of “ah this is okay for FDWs, but what about the other migrant workers” example.

Also, migrant workers in Little India are also “not likely to get into a drunken stupor and throw pieces of concrete around”; just because a group of men did it once on one Sunday night – out of all the many Sunday nights over the many years that they DIDN’T do it – doesn’t make that entire group of people suddenly prone to doing it.

And the last sentence of that paragraph: “They’ll just crowd somewhere until someone shoos them somewhere else.” Like that’s an okay state of affairs too! Oh, these FDWs don’t bother us, they just hang about with their friends and if we Singaporeans don’t like it just shoo them away lah! <- How condescending and dehumanising is that?!

So just in the first two paragraphs already almost every single sentence is offensive. Wah lau.

Foreign workers should be able to do whatever they want on their days off. It is the Singaporean mindset – the one that tells us that we enlightened beings must take care of “those from the Indian subcontinent” because they don’t know what to do with themselves – that should change.

I think Ms Henson is having a dig at the govt’s uncaring attitude to solving a problem, any problem: everything has to be neat and tidy, and damn the human cost.

My take on her critics is that these two gals don’t do humour, at least when it comes to FTs. Or they may think that the issue should not be the subject of any humour: too serious to joke about. Bit like the attitude of the authorities in the aftermath of the riot: no alcohol, and apparently no Maruah meeting in restaurant private room which employs FTs. On the latter, scared that FTs will riot? Come on Maruah are wimps in action: talk cock, sing song. Sorry KH, can’t resist that.

But to be fair to the gals , one of Henson’s BN team “Liked” the second entry.  So maybe I’m wrong about said lady activists. Either that or her disciple is a Judas, or a sotong boy. I suspect the last is most likely.

Merry Christmas. Keep on feasting.

*A more classy, intelligent version of what Tan Kin Lian did after he retired from NTUC Income: resigning from the PAP and standing as the People’s Voice in the presidential election, where he lost his deposit and deprived us of cocking a snook at the PAP. The PAP’s preferred candidate won by around three hundred votes. But to be fair, TKL fought the gd fight for those who invested in securities that invested in credit-default notes. (Declaration of interest: I helped out there) Investors got a raw deal, but it could have been worse if not for TKL.( http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/helping-retail-investors-the-hk-way-and-the-spore-way/#more-7316 and http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/what-abt-high-notes-sm-goh/)

StanChart losing its shine

In Banks, Emerging markets, Temasek on 22/12/2013 at 7:08 am

Standard Chartered had a bad start to the hols. Last Monday, its shares fell sharply on the possibility that it might call for a rights issue in the wake of weakish results. They’ve since recovered but there was another sharp fall on Fridaty, albeit from a much recovered position.

It has also been forced to strip its finance boss of his responsibilities to oversee the lender’s risk division following pressure from the Bank of England.

Richard Meddings, who has been group finance director of Standard Chartered since November 2006, had to hand over governance responsibility of risk to Peter Sands after the Prudential Regulation Authority said it was concerned with Meddings holding two conflicting roles, according to news reports.

In particular, the PRA, the Bank of England’s financial watchdog, was concerned with the potential conflict between Meddings’ finance responsibility and his duty to oversee risk operations.

All this against the background that it is no longer  an ang moh favourite because emerging markets are no longer in fashion. Their economies are slowing while the Western economies are recovering. And the wall of money is returning to the West.

BTW, those readers of TRE who bitch that Temasek lost money on StanChart and say that I didn’t know this fact are daft: all they needed to do is to google up StanChart’s 10 yr price. But if anyone wants to see the numbers: here’s why.

 

Thailand: Huge ad, gd PR for PAP govt?

In Political economy on 21/12/2013 at 9:12 am

The PAP govt is forever warning that if it loses power, or even loses one more parly seat, chaos will ensure.

Happily 40% of voters no longer believe this self-serving nonsense (hence LKY had to warn Aljunied voters that they would repent; and sneerer of the elderly poor, ACS boy is highlighting every molehill of the WP Aljunied town council), though I must point out that .70% of voters voted for two prominent ex PAPpies in the presidential election. The ex-PAP man who denounced PAP lost his deposit. Dr Chee’s man only got 25%: credible but only ’cause there were two credible ex-PAPpies challenging one another.

So all the more surprising that our constructive, nation-building media hasn’t been highlighting the dire economic situation in Thailand which can be reasonably blamed on Thailand’s more democratic system. Now that BN has closed down, time to bring back Bertha Henson to ST and make her editor? Yaacob’s sis (and Cherian George’s Mrs) isn’t doing the “right” things by the PAPpies, Spock – another bald, pointy ears: SPH’s Managing Editor elder brother?– could conclude.

So far as investors and businessmen crave certainty and predictability, the only thing certain in Thailand these days is unpredictability. The prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, Mr Thaksin’s sister, now seems to have only the shakiest grasp on power. It’s a fair bet the election she has called for February 2014 will never even happen. She has assembled forums to discuss vague concepts of “reform”, to appease Mr Suthep. At the same time Mr Suthep pushes for a completely new government to be run by an unelected “people’s council”. That is also known as a coup.

For Thai businessmen, this is coming at the worst possible time: the beginning of the tourist season. Tourism is vital to the national economy. Last year the country pulled in about 22m visitors. Overall, the tourism-and-travel sector contributed about $28 billion to Thailand’s economy, which would make it worth 7.3% of GDP for 2012, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Including tourism-and-travel’s indirect impact on the economy would make the sector’s value rise to $64.3 billion, or 16.7% of GDP. The sector employs about 2m people directly, and far more indirectly.

There are already signs that the ongoing street protests and occasional political violence and thuggery are putting plenty of people off coming to the country—hardly surprising, as dozens of foreign governments have issued warnings against travelling to Thailand. The political situation is estimated to have reduced the number of inbound tourists in the month to mid-December by 300,000 people, or 8% of the number expected, says Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel.

That is worrying, as is the thought that the current turmoil could drag on to the election in February, or even longer if that proves inconclusive—in other words, throughout the high season. Mindful of the value of the tourism industry, Mr Suthep’s mobs have promised not to occupy and close down Bangkok’s international airport, as their predecessors, the “yellow shirts”, did in 2008. That is now well understood to have hurt the tourist industry, and the wider economy.

That will not be enough to offset the difference however, as even more tourists are now attuned to Thailand’s problems and willing go elsewhere on their merry ways. Bangkok also makes a bundle as a destination for conferences and conventions, but now organisers are actively considering going to other South-East Asian venues rather than endure the road closures and traffic chaos that accompany endless rounds of street demos (to say nothing of the threat of violence).

The government’s own grandiose spending plans have been thrown up in the air too.A key part of the government’s economic strategy had been to boost domestic demand by Keynesian-style spending, the political failure to have a functioning government has effectively undermined that whole strategy. Plans to borrow as much as $68 billion for new railways and roads are to be put on the back-burner as parliamentary and constitutional approval for these bills is delayed indefinitely. Many businesses, such as construction companies, stood to benefit from those expenditures, and now their plans have been derailed as badly as any holidaymaker’s. Thailand’s growth rate for 2013 is likely to weigh in at 3% or so, relatively modest for the region. The government’s hope to achieve a rate of 7% for 2014 now looks wildly optimistic.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/12/business-thailand

Merry Christmas, all, PAPpies and TRe readers, included.

No other Asean news for this week’s Asean-round-up. Lazy leh.

What mrbrown can teach PAP MP Baey

In Humour on 20/12/2013 at 4:56 am

Some time back, I read on Facebook a comment by mrbrown to the effect that in his line of work getting his facts “right” (Yaacob would be proud) is very important. Otherwise, no one would believe him in the future. And this from a joker.

Going by the grave that tampon-detective Baey is digging for himself, the PAP should be arranging for mrbrown to coach Baey and other PAP MPs* on the importance of getting their facts “right”. I mean Yaacob’s too busy on the nightmare that is Bertha Henson: like “Freddy” Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street film series, she keeps on haunting the MDA, and can’t be killed off. But the staff of MDA, and Yaacob should be glad that she is only haunting their dreams, she hasn’t killed any of them, yet.

I’m sure you all know about Baey’s $2.50 nasi padang. If not read, this account by TRE (only available for three months unless you are VIP member: even TRE agrees with the PAP govt  that those who pay, get better treatment. Taz the S’porean way given the many cheapos around.).

He wouldn’t have got himself into said hole if he had checked the cost of the dish before blogging on it. Instead he guessed and got netizens’ tits in a twist at the price.And on whether he lived in a bubble: “the elite’s bubble”.

He then compounded his initial mistake by explaining that he tot it cost $2.50 because, he gave $10, and got back $7, and as the bandung drink must have cost 0.50, the rice was $2.50.

So since when did bandung cost $0.50? More nasty comments followed.

But now it’s more than an issue of credibility and being out-of-touch with us common folks. He said, [The stallkeeper] acknowledged that his staff had recognised me that day and out of respect for my work and service in the community, charged me only $3 when it was more than $4.

Well as a TRE reader put it: If only ex chief of SCDF knew how to word his defence in getting bj from the woman out of respect and goodwill, he would not have been convicted of corruption.

Or as another reader put it: … Cecilia Sue also respect Ng Boon Gay’s work and gave him goodwill blowjobs. Why Ng Boon Gay got to resign? …

The issue is as SgCynic put it: Based on Baey Yam Keng’s reasoning, a lot of people are waiting to give presents to ministers and MPs out of respect and public service officers out of goodwill for the work they do.
We also respect our police officers for their beat and shall we give them gifts “out of goodwill”.
The glacerial slide to corruption begins…

To move on, Baey should do what this TRE reader suggested:

I remember a Minister once visited a Singapore departmental store on an official visit and was given a gift as a souvenir. I remember it to be a wallet or a belt or something like that. After some hoo-ha, the Minister admitted he was not aware of the price of the souvenir, and offered pay for the souvenir.

I suggest in this case, Baey should admit he was wrong not to be more careful about hawkers offering discounts to MPs , and that since it happened, and he is now aware such a favour was given, just pay for the balance and apologise for the ignorance of the market prices of food.

To mention anything else is pathethic [sic] and to link this to some charity now to score point is to add insult to injury.

But then Baey is a PAPpy and PAPpies don’t do apologies. And if Baey is any guide, they can’t even compare like to like. They prefer apples to oranges. I let TRE explain:

To find out the actual price of a typical nasi padang meal, Mr Baey ordered mutton, egg and a veggie from the nasi padang stall on Sunday (15 Dec). This time, the owner charged him the “full price” of $3.70.

“However, some netizens still refused to accept that it was the reality and insisted that I had been ‘corrupt’ again. I decided that any explanation was futile and I would just let actions speak for themselves,” Mr Baey concluded.

Actually, if Mr Baey had wanted to compare apple with apple, he should have ordered a piece of chicken and two veggies, plus a bandung drink – the exact same food he ordered on 11 December. Then Singaporeans would know how much actual “goodwill” he received from the stall owner that day.

BTW, Siew Kum Hong said on FB that he doesn’t  “see the point in making so much of” Baey’s mistakes.

My FB avater posted in response: PAppies are nowadays always fair game juz as JBJ and Dr Chee were fair game for the PAP and our constructive, nation-building media when LKY was in charge. Change under son is commendable but the past is still catching up with the PAP. Karma.

On this cheerful note, have a gd time but don’t drive and drink.

*Esp ministers

– Tharman

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/tharman-trying-to-tell-jokes-again/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/will-hougang-make-the-pap-moan-the-inflation-blues-not-joke-abt-it/

– Hng Kiang

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/will-hougang-make-the-pap-moan-the-inflation-blues-not-joke-abt-it/

– Lee Jnr on world food prices

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/err-lee-what-did-you-say-abt-food-inflation/

TRE readers are illiterate in economics and finance

In Economy, Financial competency, Property on 19/12/2013 at 4:51 am

Or at least many are. Let me explain.

TRE posted this piece of mine on Reits.

It provoked a long rant* from someone called Armchair Anarchist. His or her basic grumble against the govt was that interest rates should have been raised a few back to curb various ills including rising property prices. It received huge positive ratings. And there are no dissenting views, not one.

Last yr around this time, I met an old friend at a function. He was an ISD detainee (short while and it seems ’cause dad was Barisan partisan)) and a strike leader. He later got a MA in Econs and was in admin service (taz meritocracy at work in S’pore, TRE readers, at least 30 yrs ago) before becoming a wheeler-dealer.He was, and is a proud S’porean. No S’pore hater he.

We were discussing what Tharman would do in 2013 to control inflation and property prices given that he couldn’t use interest rates, and the policy of strengthening the currency slowly was not working to control inflation or property prices.

We knew that raising interest rates would only make things worse. Given that everyone (except TRE, TOC and TRS readers) think that S’pore is a safe haven, raising interest rates will result in more foreign money pouring in to take advantage of the better yield here. The currency will be pushed up and exports and services will become uncompetitive. Prices of  most properties (and other assets) will rise. FTs will be willing to accept lower wages, ’cause S$ worth a lot more in their home currencies.

The result: a recession, unemployment among locals, deflation and rising asset prices (except possibly for HDB flats and low end condos: S’porean PMEs default ’cause they lose jobs to FTs). He and I and others with access to credit would make a killing buy low-end condos and renting them out to FT PMEs.

Is this what TRE readers want for Christmas and Chinese New Year?

Are they that deft?

—-

*Armchair Anarchist:

S-REITs payouts lean towards the high side of the global REIT market (e.g. average dividend yield of around 6+% compared to less than 5% in Japan and Germany, 6% UK). If dividends are cut by 20-25%, the yield is still relatively attractive given the dearth of high yielding instruments in Singapore.

But I do find MAS’s warning rather strange. If they are indeed worried about such things as REITs and the health of the Singapore financial sector in face of a potential rise in interest rates, the MAS ought to have engineered such a rise in rates at least 2 years ago and taken the froth out of REITS, the property market and reduced the risk in Singaprean banks’s balance sheets. Why issue warning now that the Fed may begin to taper when the MAS ought to have acted long ago? The easy financing for real estate speculation and the rise in inflation are not new. These had been with us for a few years now and are clear warning signs that interest rates are too low and liquidity too plentiful in Singapore. Look at bank deposit rates and CPF ordinary account rates: we suffered from negative real interest rates when adjusted for the underlying inflation rate (CPI is too crude, PCE deflator is a better indicator). When real rates are negative, the ordinary savers suffered as the value of their savings are inflated away. But it is great for speculators and big companies because it provides a very cheap source of debt financing.

Seems to me, the MAS is probably basking in the reflected glory of superior GDP growth while sleeping on the job in terms of forecasting the real threat to the economy. Another bunch of over-paid, incompetent elites?

Rating: +25 (from 25 votes)

Armchair Anarchist:

I like expand a little bit more on MAS caution regarding rise in interest rates.

My view is MAS left it rather late in the day to caution and to act if necessary. Certain sectors will be hit, not least real estate which had several adrenalin shots that propel values ever higher. But, for our savings and long term investments, it is no bad thing if interest rates are going up. It is my conviction that not just exercising political repression, the govt also exercise financial repression. I said before our AAA-rating is absolutely great for GLCs and big companies but a total disaster for ordinary citizens who have to save and invest for retirement and the rainy day. The Govt incessant extraction of revenues from all sorts of economic activity (tax, COE, surcharges etc)result in persistent budget surplus because in their anti-welfare extremism, the govt do not spend much on social, health and infrastructure programmes. Therefore, our bond yields are artificially low because the govt do not really need to borrow. The govt actually pretend that our CPF rates are pegged to market but in effect the govt control the levers of the bond markets giving themselves a low financing rate. The effect is that we received bugger-all out of bank deposits, CPF and bonds. Singapore company dividends are lousy because whatever crap they pay is still higher than CPF and bond yields.

So let interest rates go up. At least it reverse the equation slightly in favour of the man in the street rather than have the Govt, the GLCs and the big companies indulged themselves in winner-takes-all.

Rating: +20 (from 20 votes)

From the wearing of tudung to single mums, govt always got excuse to do what it wants to do

In Political governance on 18/12/2013 at 5:52 am

A few weeks ago, there was a media report that Halimah Yacob, our tudung-wearing Parllimentary Speaker, had said at a NUS forum that the govt could only help unwedded mothers more only to the extent that society allowed it to: implying, to me, that the govt wanted to offer more help but couldn’t because of societal constraints. How convenient, I tot, to blame the views of society for not doing the right thing by the children of the mums.

Funnily, earlier this year, when there was a call to allow the use of the tudung in the uniformed services, the Malay minister mumbled that it was a complex issue*. The govt could have said “Yes. Society has accepted the wearing of the tudung in public”. After all, it’s a common sight in govt offices, and official spaces where the public is served by un-uniformed staff. It’s common in the private sector, even when uniforms are used. Contrast that with the time when Ms Yacob was in NUS Law School. She wore the tudung but it wasn’t a common sight on campus or in public.

Given the complexities of S’pore’s mix of cultures, religions and ethnicities, one can understand the govt’s caution on the issue of allowing the use of the tudung in the uniformed services. This is compounded, by as I understand it, that the use of the tudung is not banned as such in the uniformed services. It is “banned” in the sense that what is not allowed is prohibited. Only Sikh men are allowed to have traditional headgear in the uniformed services.

The issue that the govt and we have to be wary about is changing the existing rules in a secular society when religious practices  have “moved on” even though secular society here does not have a problem with accepting the said practice. We have to avoid unintended consequences i.e. fear the “unknown unknowns”**.

But, based on the comment that more help for unwedded mums depended on society’s views of their status, made by a lady who always wears a tudung in public even when presiding in parliament I cannot help but feel, no matter how irrational the tot, that the govt is not interested in deciding whether to allow the tudung to be used in the uniformed services. It’s muttering that the issue is complex is an excuse not to make a decision, any decision.

I raise the tudung issue because of something I read recently.

In the UK, there was a public row when Universities UK (UUK) said that, under some circumstances, segregated seating would be allowed if requested by speakers from orthodox religious groups. It now seems that UUK has withdrawn that “advice”.  Below is an extract from the BBC on how commentators and newspapers see the row. Read it to see the ethical issues that can arise when thinking, discussing the ethics of religious freedom and social values.

Class apart

Discussing the papers for the BBC’s News Channel, Westminster editor of the Daily Record Torcuil Crichton said it was no surprise to see the Times reveal that Universities UK (UUK) had “folded” over its policy of allowing the segregation of men and women at certain Islamic events.

“It’s an interesting ethical argument,” he said, “You get religious freedom… but when that comes up against social values and social laws and the law of the land, for example on equality, something has to give and usually it’s the religion.”

Broadcaster and campaigner David Akinsanya agreed the policy had to be “quashed”, but added: “There are other areas within society where people are being segregated, within different communities in the country.”

The Sun says Britain’s universities have long been “the standard-bearers for free speech” – something that has only been achieved “by sticking rigidly to the principle of equality, irrespective of gender, race or religion”.

Linking the situation to that in South Africa, Graeme Archer, in the Daily Telegraph, says UUK “has given succour to injustice merchants whose politics are just as wicked as those who devised race-based apartheid”.

Lastly, in the Times itself, Janice Turner says the UUK ruling may have been defeated, “but the challenges to secular principles that enshrine equality will go on”. Gender segregation, the veiling of women, the push for sharia, all demonstrate, she writes, that “gender apartheid is not a sideshow of radical Islam, but intrinsic to it.”

*He great mumbler. Remember?

– “Worse case scenario” when one LKY said incorrect things about M– alays

– Floods that happen only once in every 50 yrs when they were happening every few months.

– People must get the “right” facts.

“*In Indonesia, where there is an ongoing flip-floping on the use of the tudung by policewomen:

You allow one [religious] symbol, what if other officers from other religions what to have their symbols [displayed on their uniforms] too?” asked Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia, a Muslim scholar and researcher on gender in Islam. “I think officers should never accentuate their [personal] identities.”

Pietri Dona, a 26-year-old police officer who works at the National Police’s communication department in Jakarta and is a Muslim, said that while she respects her fellow officers who want to wear headscarves, she felt that wearing the same uniforms is best, since allowing some officers to dress differently might create divisions in the police force.

http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/12/15/viewpoint-indonesias-headscarf-debate/

Temasek’s had gd yr on US energy investments

In Energy, Temasek on 17/12/2013 at 4:39 am

Many moons ago TRE told us that Temasek owns bonds in Chesapeake that are convertible at US$27 (issued when stock was around 23-25). And that the bonds were deeply underwater: the shares went as low as below 15 (Sorry the TRE link no longer is working ’cause of TRE’s new system of trying to get money from stone) Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/gd-news-for-temasek-on-chesapeake/

Well over a yr later, the shares closed yesterday at  26.79, having traded as high as 27.50 in recent months. Let’s see if TRE updates its story on Chesapeake. Suspect pigs will fly first. What say you Richard, TeamTRE?

There’s more. On 16 August, MediaCorp’s freesheet (ST Lite) reported: Temasek Holdings has sold its 4 per cent stake in Cheniere Energy after a surge in the share price of the United States natural gas importer, just 15 months after it unveiled the purchase as part of its “longer-term interest” in the energy sector.

The move is a sign of Temasek’s willingness as a self-professed “active investor” to realise profits. But it also comes after Temasek last year billed the stake as part of a broader plan to cooperate with Cheniere and US private equity group RRJ Capital to take advantage of the US shale gas revolution.

“The shares had a decent run over the past year,” said Mr Enrico Soddu, an analyst at the London-based Institutional Investor’s Sovereign Wealth Center. “Temasek just seized the opportunity to make a solid profit.”

Temasek sold 9.2 million Cheniere shares either directly or through affiliates in the second quarter, valuing the stake at US$257 million (S$326.2 million), according to a quarterly filing of its US stock holdings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shares in Cheniere had climbed as much as 200 per cent by the end of the second quarter after Temasek and RRJ announced in May last year they would spend about US$468 million on an equity investment in Cheniere.

Temasek and RRJ were to have formed a marketing company with Cheniere to sell liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia in a bet on rising shale gas production and exports to the region.

Pisa’s defects as the benchmark of educational excellence

In Uncategorized on 16/12/2013 at 4:40 am

Yes, I’m making a conscious effort to sit down and shut up on the two topical issues of the day: the riot and Breakfast Network’s suicide. Both issues have had some netizens talking sense, but more often than not rubbish.

The Pisa league table which ranks test results of students from 65 countries is taken very seriously b y the govt and media here because S’pore’s educatio system does very well on the results. They can throw this ranking at the face of pushy, aggressive parents whose kids can’t get into RI, St Nick or SCGS, or at the kay pohs who believe that ang mohs are tua kees (ang mohs do badly relative to the slit eyes of East Asia).

Maths scores

But do realise that S’pore is being compared to entire countries

Are regions a better way of measuring results?

The headline results for these tests are about the performance of countries or at least big Chinese regional education systems that are as big as countries, such as Shanghai or Hong Kong.

But this year’s results show much more local detail. And it often entirely contradicts the national picture.

For instance, the education system in the United States has been seen as one of the great under-performers, struggling among the below-average stragglers.

Go down to state level and it can be an entirely different story. Massachusetts would be a match for the best European systems. There are similar examples in Italy and Spain. Wales is a long way behind the other parts of the UK.

What this means, the OECD says, is that there are often bigger differences within countries than between countries. And if one region can perform so well, why not the rest of the country?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25205112

This aside, there are things that are wrong other than the fact that only the Chinese provide their own, unverifiable data.

– Different questions

About 4,000 children in each of the 65 countries are subjected to the test, which lasts for two hours.

But only a small number of pupils in each school answer the same set of questions.

The reason for this is that Pisa wants to measure a comprehensive set of skills and abilities, so it draws up more questions than a single child could answer (about four-and-a-half hours’ worth) and distributes them between different exam papers.

Pisa then uses a statistical model, called the Rasch model, to estimate each student’s latent ability. They also extrapolate from each student’s answers how they would have fared if they had answered all the other questions, had they been given them.

This approach has its critics. One is quoted below.

David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, says this practice raises its own questions.

“They are predicted conditional on knowing the difficulties of the questions – as if these are fixed constants,” he says.

But he thinks there is actually “considerable uncertainty” about this.

Furthermore, a question that is easy for children brought up in one culture may not be as easy for those brought up in another, Spiegelhalter says. “Assuming the difficulty is the same for all students around the whole world” is a mistake, he argues.

So when you see the league table of countries, the first thing to understand is that each country has been ranked according to an estimate of national performance.

– Educational attainment against well-being

South Korea might have come near the top of the educational rankings, but they come bottom in the rankings of happiness at school, Spiegelhalter notes – and Finland is only just above Korea.

– Drop-out rates matter:

But Mr Bodewig adds that the score may be impressive in part because so many poor and disadvantaged Vietnamese students drop out of school. The World Bank reports that in 2010 the gross enrolment rate at upper-secondary schools in Vietnam was just 65%, compared with 89% and 98% in America and Britain, respectively. South Korea’s rate was 95%.

Are TI students included in S’pore’s students that are tested? I assume normal stream students are? If not …

– Tuition helps:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/12/education-vietnam

Finally, I hope netizens stop pushing the Finnish model: it’s now crap

Seekers after educational excellence once used to head pilgrim-like towards Finland. This was the most quoted example of a high performing school system, even though in many ways it was a very distinctive and individual system. Scandinavia was the education world’s sensible successful neighbour.

But Finland has slipped downwards and the gloom has spread across Nordic countries, with Sweden among the biggest fallers. Norway and Denmark are absent from the top end of the tables. Their sluggish performances has been overtaken by countries such as Estonia, Poland and Ireland.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25205112

Mandela’s economic and sporting legacies

In Uncategorized on 15/12/2013 at 8:33 am

On the economy, his legacy is mixed. In sport, he used rugby to unite a nation, especially getting the Boers to accept black rule by getting the blacks to accept the ‘Boks.

No Keynesian he

Nelson Mandela, who has died aged 95, was a rare and brave leader. But economically he was, ironically enough, too timid. He set post-apartheid South Africa on course toward a mostly free market economy with stable finances, avoiding the errors of others like neighboring Zimbabwe. But he left the country slow-growing and still suffering from inequality.

Mandela was an orthodox follower, reining in government spending so that public debt gradually declined as a percentage of GDP while pursuing a government-directed industrial strategy that encouraged the development of major black-controlled industrial groups. Foreign investment by multinationals was tolerated, provided the government and favored domestic groups were involved.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/12/05/mandelanomics-was-too-conventional-to-shine/

n some senses, Mr Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) inherited an economy that was heading for bankruptcy.

So, it was to prove a difficult task to create a silk purse of an economy from the pig’s ear that Apartheid had left behind. However, many analysts point out that great strides were made in delivering some of the Freedom Charter aspirations in the early years of the new South Africa.

Dawie Roodt, chief economist at the Efficient Group, says: “Many millions of people got running water, electricity, etc.

“But the infrastructure was neglected, and slowly state inefficiency and corruption became serious problems.”

A good start but efforts faltered esp after he left office

On the surface, at least, things looked good at the start. Inflation, which was running at 14% before 1994, fell to 5% within 10 years.

South Africa’s budget deficit, which was 8% in 1997, fell to 1.5% in 2004. Interest rates dropped from 16% to under 9% in the first decade of the ANC government.

Once sanctions were dropped, South African exports blossomed. Before Mr Mandela took the oath of office, just 10% of the country’s goods were earmarked for export. By the turn of the century nearly a quarter of them were.

It wasn’t just economic numbers on sheets of paper. In the 14 years after 1996, the proportion of South Africans living on $2 (£1.22) a day fell from 12% to 5%.

Annabel Bishop, group economist at Investec, says South Africa’s economy has “essentially doubled in real terms” since the fall of apartheid, growing at an average of 3.2% a year since 1994, as opposed to only 1.6% per annum for the 18 years prior to the end of white minority rule.

She also points out that the real tax revenues have effectively doubled since 1994, which has enabled the government to expand social welfare.

“The state provision of basic services has been extensive,” she says.

But the early years still had to contend with huge problems. Apartheid had created rampant unemployment among the black population, an albatross that continues to hang around the economy’s neck almost two decades later.

South Africa’s official unemployment rate has hovered around 25% for years, and youth unemployment is much higher. By some measures half of those under 25 are out of work.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23041513

Nelson Mandela with Francois Pienaar

Nelson Mandela may have been the first global leader to use sport as a tool to unite people and to redefine a country’s international image.

And even before he was released from prison, Mandela had identified sport as a way of achieving a multi-racial country.

It’s hard to believe now but at the time the green and gold shirt was still deeply associated with the racial struggle in South Africa.

Mandela defied his advisers to wear it, knowing in an instant how the gesture could do more for harmony and equality than years of talks.

Pienaar, like most young white men in the country, had grown up believing Mandela was a terrorist. And the Springboks captain had to convince his team to learn the words to the country’s new national anthem, previously a song of black protest.

And yet after meeting him in the dressing room before the final and that presentation on the pitch at Ellis Park, Pienaar described him as the “symbol of everything that is good about humanity.”

http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/25262862

“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers,” Mandela.

LKY must be angry LOL

In Footie, Malaysia on 14/12/2013 at 6:43 am

(Asean round-up)

Remember LKY saying Johor was full of crime?

Well whatever the truth of that, at least FTs have not rioted in M’sia. Taz, the message MediaCorp’s ST Lite has reported on an inside page: The police and Immigration Department have been put on alert at foreign worker enclaves across Malaysia after the riot in Singapore last week, the country’s Home Minister said in a report in The Star newspaper yesterday …

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said officers have been instructed to monitor areas where foreign workers congregate, especially those identified as potential hot spots for outbreaks of violence.

Dr Ahmad Zahid was quoted by The Star as saying: “We are always observing the activities of foreign workers and are ready to overcome any potential threat … We are also looking at workers’ quarters nationwide, so the public need not worry.”

Locations under surveillance include landmarks in the heart of the capital, such as the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, which houses the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

Between May 30 and June 4, three Myanmar nationals were killed and several others injured in fights in various areas in Kuala Lumpur. The authorities subsequently arrested more than 1,000 Myanmar nationals during raids in Kuala Lumpur and parts of Selangor. [Had to tell us this]

But ST Lite saboed our govt’s attempts to say that there was no evidence working conditions were a cause of the riot (How ministers know leh? If so why call CoI?) by reporting: Growing discontent among foreign workers in Malaysia due to poor working conditions, discrimination and low wages is like a “time bomb”, Bernama yesterday quoted the leader of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) as saying.

MTUC President Khalid Atan said the riot in Singapore should serve as a wake-up call and the organisation called on the Human Resource Ministry to hold a tripartite meeting between the government, employers and employees to map out a strategy to prevent rioting by foreign workers.

He said the MTUC felt the government should take steps to reduce and even curtail the recruitment of foreign workers until it has a plan to address their basic needs and rights.

Anyway, let’s cheer on our LionsXII. Looks like the game against Laos was the exception due to the courage of Laos’ ten men. Credit to Laos, not shame on our LionsXII. If our XII do well in this tournament (gold medals) Fandhi will have a problem. But taz his problem, not ours.

 

 

Why a 2015 GE is now more probable

In Economy, Political governance on 13/12/2013 at 6:03 am

(Note there is an update since first publication at the end to reflect the PAP’s calls for ideas on how to celebrate a coming 50th anniversary.)

I’ve been beating the DRUMS that 2014 is the last window that the govt can raise prices because the GE has to be held sometime in 2016 and raising prices in 2015 is too close for comfort. I’ve also been drumming that an election in 2015 is possible.

Well going by one report and one speech. last week,  an election in mid 2015 is  more than probable

The report: Singapore’s economic growth will stay strong in the next two years relative to the other countries in Asean, despite the cooling of China’s economic engine, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has predicted.

The independent consultancy said in its latest quarterly report that healthy increases in consumption and strong exports will boost Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 per cent this year.

Next year, strong momentum and greater demand will push up its economic growth to 4.1 per cent.

In the year after, 2015, Singapore’s growth will ease, but remain robust at 3.9 per cent, said the Cebr report entitled “Economic Insight, Southeast Asia”.

(http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/spore-economy-stay-pink-next-2-years-20131205)

The speech: Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing  said the PAP has to deliver a better life for Singaporeans during its term of government, and also convince the people that it is the best party to deliver beyond this term. He was addressing addressed 1,000 PAP members at the party’s annual gathering on Sunday morning.

He, who is also the PAP Organising Secretary, said the party will act to “deliver, enable and communicate”*.

(Aside, netizens are missing the point by focusing Chan’s call for party members to “continuously and strenuously defend the common space for people to speak up”.

“If we do not stand up for what we believe, other people will occupy that space and cast us into irrelevance. We must not concede the space – physical or cyber . . . We will have to do battle everywhere as necessary.” 

And netizens are not making hay that the FT rioters really listened to him, unlike Sheep, Singkies S’poreans)

So, returning to the issue of a GE in 2015, the ground is likely to be sweet in mid, late 2015. In addition to a decent economy (other Asean countries too will do well), S’poreans would have forgotten about the early 2014 price rises in public tpt etc, lulled by the goodies in the 2015 Budget, improving public tpt, steady HDB prices, and propaganda that the govt is no longer pro-FTs and that it cares for S’poreans.

On the last point, there will a lot of smoke about the need for FT manual workers for the infrastructure projects. Already an ex-ST editor (who is it is alleged had designs on the top job in ST) was quoted (singing for X’mas goodies?**) as saying,  “It will be tough for the (government) to fulfill its promises on infrastructure development without foreign manpower,” observed Singaporean blogger Bertha Henson. “And it would not make sense for citizens to advocate such a tightening of the tap that it compromises our own future.”. One of these days I’ll blog on why her first statement is an exaggeration, that is straight out of the PAP’s spin book.

Then after the GE, and PAP has its more than two-thirds majority, and its toilet-trained WP***, the balance, let rip the GST increase, price rises and resume the flood of FTs?

What can the paper warriors do to counter the paper generals? In late 2014, and in 2015, it is impt for S’pore Notes, TOC, TRE (if it hasn’t closed down in disgust at the failure of its ungrateful readers to fund its continued existence: they expect Andrew, Richard etc not only to work for free, but to fund the servers needed), the other tua kee bloggers, and the ikan bilis to keep reminding voters to ask the PAP if after the GE, the govt will increase GST, or other taxes, or the cost of services, or allow in more FTs (to achieve a population of 8m, more than the White Paper projection of 6.9m). Of course, the PAP leaders and ministers will will say not say, “YES”, lest they lose a few more GRCs.

The PAP will then be held accountable for their pre-election promises, if the promises are broken, somewhere down the line, hopefully. But then, the PAPpies may play the same cyclical, cynical game again, knowing that S’poreans got short memories: even sheep got better memories.

Update on 27th January at 4.05am: I’ve been asked why I didn’t mention the 50th anniversary celebrations as an election feel good factor. The reason is that this is a two-edged sword. If handled in the traditional PAP manner (Soviet, Chinese, North Korean parades) style, it would remind older S’poreans (like self) of the difference in the quality of the PAP leadership. I think the PAP realises this. Witness the spate of ministers asking S’poreans for ideas on how to celebrate 50 yrs of independence? Since when has the PAP listened to the people?

—-

*“The world has changed, and so must we,” declared Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Mandarin yesterday at the biennial People’s Action Party (PAP) convention.

To that end, the ruling party has adopted a new resolution statement – its first in 25 years – which reinterprets the PAP’s goals so as to stay relevant “in this new phase and with the new generation”.

“This is a strategic shift,” said Mr Lee. “Although the content looks similar, its meaning is different. This is a new frame of thinking for the PAP, to make the party’s long-term goals more relevant to the needs of society today.”

As the culmination of five engagement sessions with party members (spread over the course of three months), the main thrust of the new eight-point resolution involves upholding an “open and compassionate meritocracy” in a “fair and just society” with “opportunities for all Singaporeans”.

“We rely on free markets to grow the pie but will moderate its excesses . . . We support a progressive system of benefits and taxes to enable all to enjoy quality education, good housing, and affordable healthcare,” (Extract from BT)

**She juz kanna saboed by MDA as readers will know.

***

Men in White wearing blue

Men in Blue wearing white. Yup Auntie’s a man. Wonder if Kim Song noticed? (OK, OK, I sorry for being mean to an old RI boy).

MU’s woes attract a Bear

In Footie on 13/12/2013 at 4:57 am

 The British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey is making a multimillion-dollar bet that MU’s shares will fall. Moysie will prove him wrong!

Not yet reported by MSM: Google builds HDB-type data centre here

In Economy on 12/12/2013 at 6:40 am

And it’sw a global first

Google has opened its first ever data centres in Asia as it wants to grow further in the region: one is in S’pore, the other in Taiwan. The one in Taiwan is bigger.

Singapore’s small size inspired us to try something a little different. Instead of spreading the data center out, we built it up, creating our first urban, multi-story data center. Our neighbors include a local primary school and several HDBs (for non-Singaporeans, HDBs are publicly run housing, which around 85% of Singaporean’s call home).

Our first multi-story data center

http://googleasiapacific.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/our-first-data-centers-in-asia-are-up.html

Bang yr balls in frustration all you S’pore self-haters, esp the cheapos who read TRE but who are unwilling to fund it.

 

Central bank cautions on Reits

In Property, Reits on 12/12/2013 at 6:02 am

[A] Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) report … warned that a rise in rates will hit Reits – and lower their dividends.

Reits own a portfolio of property and pay investors regular dividends out of their income – the property rentals received.

The central bank’s financial stability review noted that Reits need to distribute 90 per cent of any taxable income to unitholders.

So these vehicles have limited retained earnings and are dependent on capital markets and banks to meet their financing needs.

The MAS estimated that the ease with which Singapore-listed Reits would be able to pay their interest bills would fall markedly once interest rates headed north.

The median “interest cover” for Singapore-listed Reits would fall from 6.8 to 3.5 times if interest rates were to rise by 3 percentage points, the MAS estimated.

The interest cover is a ratio used to determine how easily a company can pay interest on its debt – the higher the ratio, the easier the interest can be paid.

The MAS also warned that higher interest rates would likely increase interest expenses and lead to lower dividend payouts. Reits might then appeal less to investors, capping their ability to raise more cash from capital markets.

On the bright side, the debt maturity profile of Reits is better now than before the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

A smaller proportion of borrowings by Reits are due for refinancing in the next two years.

The MAS also issued a warning over the larger corporate sector.

“If interest rates were to rise from their currently low levels, firms’ debt-servicing burdens could increase significantly.”

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={1011063489-19666-9955500363}

Don’t blame govt if Reits tank after you buy buy.

Possible gd alt to Reits for the KS: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/temaseks-fab-5-spore-blue-chips/. While the yields are not as high, some pretty lowish in fact, they are not highly leveraged and have maintained steady pay-outs.  And think ComfortDelgro and even SMRT (fare rises leh)

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/where-reits-can-go-wrong/

S’poreans are over-reacting to the riot

In Political governance, Public Administration on 11/12/2013 at 5:26 am

But first, really I expect more of the president and the police commissioner

– President Tony Tan Keng Yam has urged Singaporeans not to let the violence in Little India last night undermine their confidence in the society. Instead, he said, the people should redouble their commitment to keep Singapore safe, peaceful and strong.

– Police commissioner Ng Joo Hee said of the riot,”It is not the Singapore way.”

Lest they forget, the riot was not started by S’poreans. “Police in Singapore have arrested 27 South Asian suspects after hundreds of people took part in a riot sparked by the death of an Indian national …About 400 foreign workers took to the streets, hurling railings at police and torching police cars and an ambulance.” BBC report.

So why should the president ask us to redouble [our] commitment to keep Singapore safe, peaceful and strong? What did we do wrong? Taz the typical reaction of a PAP govt minister: blame S’poreans. But the president? He is above politics.

Of course ,”It is not the Singapore way.” The rioters were FTs.

And what by the way, one can reasonably ask is the S’porean way in a place where the foreign workforce is 25% of the population?. There are  1.3 million FTs as of June, out of a total 5.3 million people: 25% of the population. The 1.3m figure excludes the 0.54m (as of 2011) PRs who are counted as local. Include them as FTs and at least 35% of the population is foreign.

But I won’t go into a tirade about the presidency or the police because I’m willing to assume that the president and the police chief are like most S’poreans (self excluded) shell-shocked by said riot.

Let’s start at the top. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to convene a Committee of Inquiry (COI), which will look into the factors that led to the unrest and how the incident was handled on the ground. “It will also review the current measures to manage areas where foreign workers congregate, whether they are adequate, and how they can be improved.

What for?

After all, he did say it was an “isolated incident caused by an unruly mob”.

The riot was contained pretty fast and efficiently with no loss of life except of that of the accident victim. One could have reasonably wondered why the police allowed their vehicles to be overturned so easily. I tot they should have fired warning shots which might have “sobered” the rioters. But I’m happy with the explanation that the police took a deliberate decision to be “restrained” even if such restraint resulted in my friend’s car being burnt and police-cars being overturned. So I ask again , why a CoI?

Waste of time and tax-payers’ money with money being spent on expensive lawyers, if as I expect, lawyers are allowed to be used.

And at the other end of the spectrum, the human rights kay pohs are filled with angst and self-examination. They are talking (they great at talking the talk, bit like the PAP govt on FT policies) of organising shumething, anything, to achieve reconciliation and gd karma. What for?

The vast majority of the visitors to riot area are not violent, aggressive people. They are there to have a gd time after labouring hard.

And in between, TRE and TOC readers are blaming the govt for everything, Gilbert Goh’s fans are stroking hatred of non-S’poreans, and PAPpists are blaming S’poreans (esp netizens) for being anti-FT and anti-PAP. Mercifully, none of the usual suspects are shouting, like some of them did, at the height of the panic for face masks (remember that?) thaz it’s OK to spread allegations to Facebook friends and that by so doing they are helping the govt. They argue that the govt can counter the rumours that said activists are spreading to their “friends”. If the actions weren’t dangerous, reckless behaviour, the self-justifications would be laughable.

That there has been no riot since 1969 prior vto this riot is neither here nor there. Given that S’pore has always been one of the most densely packed places in the world, there was (and is) the possibility that something like this could happen at any time. That it didn’t happen could be due to luck (juz like two once-in every-50- yr floods occurring in the space of months). Or it could be due to the way LKY ruled the place (remember he retired as MM only two yrs ago and he approved of how  Deng Xiaoping dealt with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests*)? Or it could be due to the changing composition of S’pore’s work force** and population.

My personal view is that we were juz lucky especially in having Sheep S’poreans whose reaction to the fatal accident that started the riot would be to take a look, take a few pics and then move on muttering: “Not my biz”. If Napoleon had S’poreans in Animal Farm, he wouldn’t have needed such brutal dogs.

Wouldn’t it be better to have for the CoI to look into whether the changing demographics of S’pore have caused cultural and societal changes, building-up tensions that can explode given the right mixture of ingredients.

But then PM isn’t that shell-shocked.

I wonder if the PAPpy FT academic calling for a population of 8m by 2030 will be allowed to continue shouting his message. If  there is a riot (a riot that causes so much angst) in a population of 5.3m, 25% of whom are FTs, imagine a scenario where there are 8m people here where 37% are FTs***? If one includes PRs, then the percentage of FTs would jump to 53%. I’m use simple extrapolation to derive these numbers.

Update at 8.50am after first publication

Related article that I urge social media users and the usual suspects who argue that sharing rumours helps the govt rebut them:

Sharing information without context can inflame a situation 

From

Frances Ess

10 December

While the riot in Little India has saddened and shocked many Singaporeans, all of us must be responsible when we share information on social media. I have always reminded my children that “a text without context is a pretext”.

For example, one website used emotional words to describe how the riot was handled. Others were more responsible and reported only the facts, so as not to stir up unnecessary anger against all foreign workers.

Based on what was trending on Twitter, I am glad that most Singaporeans possessed the critical faculty to check for the facts and not believe everything they read.

For example, it was claimed at one point that three civilians and two policemen had been killed. Thankfully, that message died in time.

Most Singaporeans are angry that police cars and an ambulance were overturned and burnt.

It is easy to share such graphic videos online. But let us press the pause button, and ask ourselves what our purpose would be in sharing a video, photo or tweet and whether we are aware of the outcome that would be achieved. What about unintended outcomes? Is there a hidden agenda to the information provided on social media and are we being manipulated?

Do I have all the information on hand to make a rational, informed opinion or am I only parroting some views that excite us but, on deeper reflection, are untrue? Finally, when will the information be processed into accurate knowledge?

Discrete data shared without context can inflame a situation, and perhaps now is a good time to be reminded of the story of the blind men feeling an elephant for the first time.

While our individual, subjective experience can be true, such experience is essentially limited by its failure to account for the whole truth.

 

http://www.todayonline.com/voices/sharing-information-without-context-can-inflame-situation

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/riot-proves-point-about-community-relations/

—-

*He took over, and he said: ‘If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it.

**An ex-policeman wrote a commentary in MediaCorp’s ST Lite that “[S]ome may be tempted to link the large presence of foreign workers at Little India to the population augmentation strategy. Again, this is a far stretch. Foreign workers, on work permits, have been a presence in Singapore for decades. They are essential to the urban renewal effort in Singapore.  Their numbers today are not much larger than the historical mean.”

The ex-cop obviously never studied maths at other than a very basic level. If he had, he would realise that using this “fact” would be an insult to the intelligence of more literate S’poreans. The “mean” especially the “historical mean” (whatever this means) is not an argument that one should use in dismissing that the argument of the growth of the FT population is a worry. Example: Isn’t the fact that 25% of the population is foreign a better indicator of anything to do with population than the “historic mean”?

***Given that S’poreans (even new citizens according to LKY) don’t want to breed babies. S’poreans prefer keeping dogs and cats, so much so that there is now a Minister for Pets.

Tan Kuku for tsunami of Jap $ in 2014

In Japan on 10/12/2013 at 5:42 am

When the BOJ under governor Haruhiko Kuroda launched its monetary base-doubling quantitative and and qualitative easing (QQE) policy in April, there were strong expectations that a “tsunami” of Japanese funds would rush into Southeast Asia in search of higher yields.

So far, that has not happened even though Japanese institutional and individual investors are said to be eager to increase their exposure to Southeast Asian markets. A principal reason for their hesitancy, officials say, is Japanese investors’ fear of being exposed to exchange rate risk.

As a result, there is “intense discussion going on now between Japanese and Asean officials on ways to improve and enlarge the (currency) hedging markets” in Asean, according to Iwan Aziz, head of the Office of Regional Economic Integration at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).– BT report last week

Well can tan kuku for an agreement. Asean officials more noted for talking cock than doing something, anything.

And anyway, this region will not be flavour of the month early next yr. The West is. Don’t count on a wall of Jap money.

Riot proves point about community relations?

In Political governance, Public Administration on 09/12/2013 at 5:04 am

(Update 10 December at 6.50am: Great summary of article quoted below by a TRE reader: The Wobbly Guy:

Let us decode the Beeb study:

‘non-segregated’ = assimilated

‘relatively prosperous’ = educated middle-class

So we find that assimilated and educated middle-class people have high social capital regardless of ethnicity. Gee, like that wasn’t obvious from a look at a typical HDB estate and what the immigration realists have been saying all along.)

One of the arguments made against the govt’s liberal FT policy by us citizens of “cowboy towns” is that it is bad for community cohesion.Well the FT riot* yesterday would seem to be proof of this. S’poreans would not resort to such violence. They would shrug their shoulders, take a few pixs and, like sheep, move on.

Seriously,it is accepted wisdom globally that there is a negative correlation between diversity and community cohesion with studies proving that link. Even the govt accepts this as a Hard Truth: otherwise how to explain its quota system in public housing for Indians and Malays, and its constant emphasis on the need to maintain racial and religious harmony, given the British legacy of bringing in FTs. It’s juz that this Hard truth is over-ridden by the Harder Truth that FTs are needed, never mind the side effects.

So here’s an interesting article on, “Is diversity good or bad for community cohesion?”, which would make  Gilbert Goh more frus because the findings of a study in the UK say it is gd.

“In ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’,” Putnam’s study concluded. “Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer.”

But now comes new academic research looking at London which turns this idea on its head.

Social cohesion in the capital, it concludes, is “significantly higher in more ethnically diverse neighbourhoods”, once deprivation has been taken into account.

This is a startling assertion. The accepted wisdom among academics and policy makers, as the paper reminds readers, is that “ethnically diverse communities are characterized by distrust, low levels of social cohesion and disputes regarding the equitable provision of public goods”.

But diversity may not be the cause of social tension. “In fact, in the highly diverse neighbourhoods that characterise modern London, the opposite appears to be the case,” the research finds.

Diversity emerges as a positive predictor of social cohesion, the paper asserts, a finding that runs counter to the large majority of published studies.

But what this paper suggests is that where you have non-segregated and relatively prosperous communities, diversity is likely to improve community life, not damage it.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24761954)

Taz the key, if everyone has a highish standard of living, diversity is gd. But mix rich and poor and one is asking for trouble. Here in S’pore, the highish gini is not gd news for the govt’s very liberal immigration policy. Yes, I’m sceptical that the govt is walking the talk on tightening its immigration policies until I see a decent, medium-term decline in the numbers. Something I doubt would happen.

*The bare facts as reported by BT: Singapore Police Force has classified Sunday night’s unrest at Little India as a case of rioting with dangerous weapons, and has arrested 27 subjects from South Asia. The SPF says it expects to make further arrests “in the hours and days that follow”.

Yesterday’s riot was sparked by a fatal traffic accident involving a private bus and a pedestrian, who was a 33-year-old male Indian national. The police say the unrest was not pre-meditated, and no Singaporean presence has been established amongst the rioters.

The mob-which swelled to a 400-strong crowd-damaged and burned police and SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) vehicles, and left 10 police officers injured, out of the 300 who were deployed to the site.

Bare facts added after first publication.

Why S’poreans are materialistic, impatient?

In Uncategorized on 08/12/2013 at 4:27 am

Blame the fact that S’pore is a city? Not ’cause of PAP or LKY.

Mark van Vugt, of VU University in Amsterdam, and his colleagues found that country scenery … inspires people to think about the future; concrete cityscapes encourage quick decisions aimed at immediate rewards.

What, then, is it about brooks and meadows that propels thoughts of the beyond? Dr van Vugt speculates that competition—for jobs, attractive partners and large bank accounts—is concentrated within cities, rendering them unpredictable. Unpredictability may in turn shunt people onto the fast lane. He admits, however, that the study does not determine whether cities spur impulsive behaviour, or whether the countryside inspires patience.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/11/psychology

Asean’s prospects in 2014

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 07/12/2013 at 6:25 am

(Asean round-up)

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) says Asean is looking gd: Asean as a whole to grow 5.0 per cent this year, still weighed down by Thailand’s recession. And although the country is tipped to recover in the second half of this year, it may be affected by China’s soft landing, which is projected to extend into next year and dampen its demand for Asean’s goods and services.

As for individual countries (I’ve excluded S’pore as I will analyse it next week with reference to politics):

Not only is economic growth in the Philippines expected to take a hit, the report says intra-regional trade will suffer, hampering growth in other Asean countries.

Strong government spending and higher exports to China in the second half of the year were tipped to boost the Philippine GDP to 6.9 per cent this year, but Typhoon Haiyan is expected to make growth “noticeably weaker” in the final quarter of the year.

Slower government spending and a tighter US monetary policy will cap growth at 5.8 per cent next year, said the report.

Stubbornly high unemployment and extreme poverty, along with the need to lift interest rates to attract capital, will trim the country’s GDP growth to 4.8 per cent in 2015, it added.

The Cebr report’s prediction for Thailand is that its economy will grow 3.4 per cent this year. Thanks to healthier consumption and export growth, it will jump by 4.4 per cent next year; stronger exports to Western markets will nudge the Thai economy up 4.5 per cent in 2015. [Note thar report was written before the recent bout of trouble]

In Malaysia, growth will be at 4.6 per cent courtesy of a lift from China’s economy. But weakened Chinese growth will depress Malaysia’s growth to 4.2 per cent next year.

A revamped general sales tax in 2015 could further hinder growth, but a stronger global economy should ease this somewhat. Cebr forecasts that Malaysia’s GDP growth will be 4.1 per cent in 2015.

Indonesia, Asean’s biggest economy, is likely to grow 5.7 per cent this year, as a slight uptick in the Chinese economy in the second half of the year is expected to soften the effect of China’s cooling economy on Indonesian exports.

But the report said the US’ tighter monetary policy and higher interest rates will lower Indonesia’s growth to 5.6 per cent next year and the year after.

(http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/spore-economy-stay-pink-next-2-years-20131205)

Relax leh Brudder S’pore Notes, things going yr way

In Political governance, Public Administration on 06/12/2013 at 6:25 am

Things not as bad as you paint it in “Is Cyber City Burning?”

You raised the MSM smear of Nicile Seah, and Alex Au’s and Breakfast Network’s legal problems as the PAP govt’s desperate, vicious attempt to stifle dissent..

Honestly, the SPH slimes that went wrong on Nicole Seah is an added bonus for her attempt to refresh her celebrity status by going public about her personal life to her thousands of Facebook friends. Well she did her publicity, and the slimes gave her even more publicity. So these slimes made her day. An added bonus for us netizens is that it showed that Alex Tan has changed for the better: his response to Nicole’s post was matured and totful, showing a different Alex Tan: and ’cause of an FT gal? http://therealsingapore.com/content/alex-tan-words-encouragement-nicole-seah

As to Alex Au’s situation, I think he welcomes the AG’s suit. It makes his day too. AG has been consistent in his views and actions.

On waz happening to the retired Imperial Storm  Trooper general (paper, cyber branch), it shows how moronic the govt is. Their reaction to the govt’s action show that netizens and the govt deserve one another: both assume a static, non dynamic world. As I’ve argued before, the internet, social media is like water. Really those ethnic Chinese S’porean cyber warriors have no excuse. They should know their Lao Tzu even if (like me) only in translation.

And lest we forget, or didn’t notice TOC had another narrow escape* for which we and TOC should be grateful for: http://www.sammyboy.com/showthread.php?169215-TOC-apologise-to-Wanbao and http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2013/11/unwilling-to-burden-family-95-year-old-samsui-woman-commits-suicide/

Team Yaacob could have played the DRUMS to the tune of RAVII (Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications, Insinuations & Insults)  but didn’t. The issue is as Holmes would have asked,”Why didn’t the dog bark?”. Well maybe the SPH cock-ups made it difficult to beat-up TOC without having to beat up SPH too. Though there is a distinction: one might have injured a gal’s reputation, the other was an attack against the state. Big difference leh.

So most likely Team Yaacob was asleep. Remember that Yaacob failed to prevent floods unlike that hard-hearted sneere of the elderly poor who has done I must admit a pretty decent job as flood minister, though he has failed as dengue preventer.. But I cut him some slack as the contractors have been busy cutting the grass and shubbery, and filling potential ponding areas in my area. .

Next, Brudder Notes, you and other bloggers are untouched. Still fighting the gd fight, unhindered. 

And you (and others) have won: More and more fret that S’pore is threatened by inequality, and rampant, uncaring capitalism and the govt? They are insecure and fearful. They feel poor.

So as the super long hols are coming (Chritmas, New year and CNY at end Jan) let’s make merry before the price rises hit us in our pocket. As I’ve argued before, first half 2014 is the last window of opportunity to whack us before the next GE that must be held sometime in 2016. Whack us hard in early 2014, and then in 2015 and 2016 Budget give us the goodies. And if the ground is sweet in 2015, hold a GE and promise goodies for 2016.

Relax, Brudder Notes. Getting angry like the Hulk or P Ravi doesn’t do one any good. Look at P Ravi now. He seems less angry nowadays and he looks like a Bollywood star. So long as you (and others) can protest, things are never that bad. As a foot soldier of the UK’s Labour Party who died recently at 104 once said, “We may not win by protesting. But if we don’t protest we will lose.”

With 88% of people here owning smartphones, you protests (and that of others) will be heard, more and more.

*Earlier lucky break: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/toc-more-than-meets-the-eye/. Background: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/smrt-racist-pr-team/

:

An outdated economic Hard Truth

In Economy on 05/12/2013 at 5:19 am

Uncle Leong wrote recently, “How many more years and how many times must we hear the same old pledge and rhetoric that with productivity, the pay of low-wage workers will go up?”

The PAP has at least since 1965 stressed that productivity and wage rises must go hand in hand (BTW, taz not the case when they came into power in 1959. If you read the book I reviewed here, there was a huge increase in strikes when the PAP came into power, and workers and their employers tot the PAP was pro-labour.In 1959, 26,000 man-hours* were lost as a result of strikes, in 1960 125,000 man -hours were lost. a 481% increase.

How times have changed. Actually as late as 1971, as this book shows, activists tot of NTUC and the PAP govt as pro-labour: a minister, no less, assisted in a strike that brought ST to its knees.)

Sorry for the digression. Back to the Hard Truth that wage rises and productivity go hand in hand. It’s Economics 101:IMAGINE the proceeds of economic output as a pie, crudely divided between the wages earned by workers and the returns accrued to the owners of capital, whether as profits, rents or interest income. Until the early 1980s the relative sizes of those slices were so stable that their constancy became an economic rule of thumb. Much of modern macroeconomics simply assumes the shares remain the same. That stability provides the link between productivity and prosperity. If workers always get the same slice of the economic pie, then an improvement in their average productivity—which boosts growth—should translate into higher average earnings. [Emphasis mine]

(http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588860-labours-share-national-income-has-fallen-right-remedy-help-workers-not-punish)

Well it may be Economics 101 but it ain’t the reality, the article goes on: More recently, however, economics textbooks have been almost the only places where labour’s share of national income remains constant. Over the past 30 years, the workers’ take from the pie has shrunk across the globe (see article). In America, their wages used to make up almost 70% of GDP; now the figure is 64%, according to the OECD. Some of the biggest declines have been egalitarian societies such as Norway (where labour’s share has fallen from 64% in 1980 to 55% now) and Sweden (down from 74% in 1980 to 65% now). A drop has also occurred in many emerging markets, particularly in Asia. [Emphasis mine]

So the PAP’s Hard Truth that productivity goes with wages is not going to solve the problem of stagnant wages. The Economist gives two suggestions:  Govts should focus on improving the prospects of the low-paid and low-skilled. And they should aim to spread capital’s gains more widely.

The govt here has always talked the talk of improving the prospects of the low-paid and low-skilled. As to whether it has walked the talk, ask yrself are TRE readers right to fret that S’pore is threatened by inequality and rampant, uncaring capitalism and the govt? They are insecure and fearful. They feel poor. They feel so poor that TRE has problems raising money to fund itself: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/12/04/tre-to-cancel-one-of-its-servers-to-remain-within-budget/.

On the latter, privatise Temasek?

*Bang yr balls, AWARE When are the gals going to bitch that MoM should not use the the word Manpower in its name?

Cost of chicken rice, FTs and the BBC

In Economy on 04/12/2013 at 6:08 am

This blog is critical of our ministers’ attempt in the past to talk down inflation (Tharman and Hng Kiang. Lee Jnr) To be fair, they’ve been quite on that front recently, cause of the numbers that keep coming out.

Here’s a practical example, courtesy of the BBC: for our chicken rice, the prices of its key ingredients – chicken, rice and the vegetable oil to cook the food – have all about doubled since 2005.

Chicken — 84%

Rice — 90%

Vegetable oil — 100%

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25147402)

So don’t think ill of the seller for increasing his prices since 2005. In addition, he got to pay the rent.

In the above link, which talks of global food inflation, the reporter interviewed a PRC FT (in a hawkers’ centre) on the rising cost of food in S’pore and in Mandarin. Clip is towards end of article. GG and TRE readers will not be happy that a PRC FT is interviewed instead of a local. and P Ravi will be upset that Mandarin is used, not English. Seriously even I think that the BBC is wrong to give the impression that S’pore is part of greater China, or FT heaven (5 people interviewed for another series, three are FTs, one true blue S’porean and one first gen. P Ravi will be fuming that the two locals are ethnic Chinese.He should complain to the BBC that 7% of the population are ethnic Indians and that they play a huge role in the governance of the country: two out of four of PM’s most trusted ministers are Indians. AWARE will be not be their usual bitchy selves as both are women. Yes, I’m fed-up with AWARE’s triumphalist, patronising and ang moh attitudes-are-best attitude.)

BTW, in general as countries develop people spend proportionally less on food.

Well timed warning for merry hols, going into 2014

In Financial competency on 03/12/2013 at 6:42 am

I have never seen the sell-side predict a recession. There are a number of reasons for that but key among them is the personal career risk of calling a recession and being wrong. Both the sell-side and the buy-side tend to do much better when the economy and markets are doing well so who wants to be a party-pooper.

(Perpetual but respected bear)

He and another have gd points on why a recession is coming. Pls read http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2013/11/economics-and-markets-1 if thinking of cheonging market esp reits or when reading broker reports or ST stories about 2014 prospects.

For S’pore; remember first half of 2014 is the last possible time PAP govt can make us pay and pay and not suffer the consequences in next GE: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/2014-last-chance-for-govt-to-increase-prices/

And here’s a great quote from the Economist that applies to Tharman as he tries to keep inflation under control while keeping a lid on property and COE prices: THE role of central bankers is often compared to that of a sober adult who has to take away the punch bowl just as the party starts getting a little too rowdy. But what happens when the party as a whole is pretty glum apart from a small group of hooligans in the corner? Take away the booze then and you ruin the party for everybody else. Instead the answer is to pay particular care to who gets another drink.

The Economist was talking about the British situation where the economy is slowly recovering (faster than even the US) but residential property prices are flying again.

PM shld remember he isn’t mrbrown

In Political governance, Public Administration on 02/12/2013 at 4:55 am

PM’s recent attempt to crack jokes about those who use the internet and the govt’s policy on welfare did not go down well with the audience. They also showed thinking unbecoming a Cambridge double first. PM should focus on reminding S’poreans that they can sell that 4-room HDB flat and buy that house in Iskandar or condo in KL.Taz the success of the PAP way of doing things: not mind control or welfare.

Remember, PM joked:

Online views are not representative of the majority. True but then neither are the pro govt or PAP views expressed in the constructive, nation-building media, or  the answers given to surveys carried out by organisations linked to the gocvt or the PAP. representative of the majority. Yet the govt and the media place  a lot more emphasis on these views or surveys. If the net were pro govt, he’d change his tune.

– “Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there.”. Trying to tell us he unhappy? How else him to explain that he can find time to post the tale of owl in Istana? Seriously, there are some people who like me go on the Internet ’cause we got leisure time and we don’t like travelling, golfing or some other leisure pursuit. And we grumble about the govt because while he are too cowardly or lazy to do something physical about it, we have social consciences that still work, and are trying to assuage said consciences even if such grumbles work against our economic interests.

– Next, the comment on “no dead poor” here in S’pore completely misses the point, juz like little Ms Kate Spade Tin did when she said “let the poor remain poor”**. Morally and more to the point, economically, it’s all about the relativity inequalities in a society, not the absolute levels

In a recent posting on an Economist blog: the indignity of the wealth gap. T.M. Scanlon, a Harvard philosopher, catalogues several reasons inequality is objectionable. The stigmatisation of the lower orders would remain a problem in highly inegalitarian societies like America:

One consequence of extreme inequality in income and wealth can be that it forces the poor to live in a way that is reasonably seen as humiliating. As Adam Smith observed, there is a serious objection to a society in which some people are so much poorer than others that then have to live and dress in such a way that they cannot go out in public without shame. Here again, the evil is comparative—it is not merely an objection to having ragged clothes, or poor housing, but of having to live and to present oneself in a way that is so far below the standard generally accepted in the society that it marks one as inferior, and as someone that others would not want to associate with. This provides a reason not only to improve the lot of the poor, but also, even if their lot is, in absolute terms, not so bad, to object to the creation of a much higher standard of living for others. This may not, in some cases be a sufficient reason to deny others these benefits, but it is a recognizable cost that these benefits bring, and one that cannot be put down to irrational envy.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/11/government-guaranteed-basic-income)

– Then there is the reasoning that there is no need for a “fixed” poverty line because there are all kinds of targeted schemes. In the same economist post, there is a point about the inefficiencies of various schemes both for the recipients and the state:“A single father with two jobs and two children would no longer have to worry about the hassle of visiting a bunch of offices to receive benefits,” Ms Lowrey writes. “And giving him a single lump sum might help him use his federal dollars better. Housing vouchers have to be spent on housing, food stamps on food. Those dollars would be more valuable—both to the recipient and the economy at large—if they were fungible.” The economic benefits are that the state (and tax payers) benefits as less bureaucracy is needed to administer a fungible welfare scheme, and resources are better allocated by the spending of beneficiaries.

Contrast this to PM’s,“Some are broken family problems. Some are problems of children not managing in school and therefore have difficulty. Some are low-income, they don’t have the skills, we need to raise their skills and jobs and pay. Focusing on all these things is productive, then you know what you want to solve, and deal with it.”

The govt should think about the benefits of productivity in designing a welfare system.

So PM, pls stop telling jokes. Leave to Tharman, who 7% of the population are rooting to be the next PM. Actually to be fair, it’s more than 7% of the population: throw in the liberal Chinese and Malay voters.

*The context of his comment:“To have a definition of poverty that encompasses all different kinds of problems and to say, this is the poverty number in Singapore, that is the scale, and it’s a very big number and we are very alarmed, because we have been ignoring this problem and now let’s focus and solve the problem and put the resources in. I don’t think that is the situation and that is the good approach.

Mr Lee said: “Some are broken family problems. Some are problems of children not managing in school and therefore have difficulty. Some are low-income, they don’t have the skills, we need to raise their skills and jobs and pay. Focusing on all these things is productive, then you know what you want to solve, and deal with it.”

The government has said that its approach is to have multiple lines of assistance, and help schemes are also flexible enough to ensure that those who miss the criteria are also helped.

Mr Lee said: “We cannot avoid a social judgment of which needs the society considers meritorious, which needs we consider urgent, which needs we consider well, it’s a problem, but we can leave them to sort out.

“Or it’s a problem but it’s really something that somebody has caused to happen because of his own doing and he has to sort it out. Otherwise, there’s no end to him coming to me to say ‘I’ve got myself into trouble, please bail me out’.”

**OK, OK, I exaggerate. She was only repeating parrot-like the Hard Truth that only absolute (i.e.minimal) help was necessary: don’t fill their bellies lest they be lazy. To quote PM, “Or it’s a problem but it’s really something that somebody has caused to happen because of his own doing and he has to sort it out. Otherwise, there’s no end to him coming to me to say ‘I’ve got myself into trouble, please bail me out’.”

What a 4-room HDB flat buys in Iskandar & KL.

In Malaysia, Property on 01/12/2013 at 4:28 am
Why it’s right to vote for the PAP if one has fully-paid up or even if 50% paid up,  landed, condo or HDB flat:
While Horizon Hills surrounds a golf course and is luxurious by Malaysian standards, homes cost far less than in Singapore. Four-bedroom houses in the 1,200-acre (487-hectare) development, popular with expatriates, are advertised online at $270 per square foot, compared with the $503 per square foot asked for a four-bedroom public-housing flat in Singapore’s central Bishan district.
The average price of a new 1,000-square-foot (93-square-meter) condominium in Singapore is between $800,000 and $960,000, according to London-based broker Savills Plc. A similar-sized place in Kuala Lumpur costs about $374,000, according to CBRE Group Inc.’s Malaysian unit. [[Less than 4-room HDB flat too.]
(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-19/singapore-property-boom-fuels-malaysia-spillover-bubble.html)And property in Iskandar will only get cheaper:
Iskandar developers seen taking a big hitHeftier taxes, scrapping of easy financing will deter buyers, says RHB ResearchDEVELOPERS with substantial exposure to the Iskandar Malaysia region are expected to be the “worst hit” by recent property measures, as heftier taxes would deter short-term foreign purchasers who also account for a significant portion of residential sales in some areas, a research house has said.

At the same time, overseas developers are expected to be more cautious about land transactions as more punitive taxes could lead to higher landholding costs, said RHB Research.

CBRE data indicates that foreign buyers account for 54 per cent of total high-rise residential sales (by developers) in Nusajaya, and 39 per cent in Johor Baru and major suburbs.

But the new 30 per cent RPGT (real property gains tax) on foreigners who gain on disposals within the first five years of acquisition is likely to “wipe out short-term foreign speculators to a certain extent”, RHB observed in a real estate report dated yesterday. (Friday’s BT)

Related posts: http://atans1.wordpress.com/tag/iskandarland/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/paps-view-of-us-40ers/

2014: Last chance for govt to increase prices?

In Economy, Indonesia, Political governance on 30/11/2013 at 5:51 am

(Asean round-up)

Ministers no longer joke about COE prices not affecting core inflation, (related post) ’cause increase in food prices is affecting core inflation.

In addition to Thai meat, maybe Burmese rice (see below) will help curb food inflation prior to next GE. Remember that public tpt fares are going up soon despite lack of much improvement. This is ’cause SMRT needs $ (scholar, ex-SAF chief says biz model broken, but nothing that higher fares can’t fix) and 2014 is last possible time that fares can rise. GE must be held in 2016, and increasing fares in 2015 may be too risky for PAP. As an election may be held in 2015, January to June 2014 is the last window of opportunity for us to kanna pay and pay.

Burma plans to more than double rice shipments as the country that used to be the largest exporter embraces trade and opens its economy, challenging Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia for sales amid a global glut.

Shipments may increase to 2.5 million tonnes in 2014-2015 from an estimated 1.8 million tonnes in the year that started on April 1, according to Toe Aung Myint, director-general of the Department of Trade Promotion at the Ministry of Commerce. Exports are targeted to increase to 4.8 million tonnes in 2019-2020, he said when Hong Kong.

Indonesian coal and property firms could find obtaining loans increasingly difficult next year as banks tighten their lending due to higher interest rates, slowing economic growth and a weakening rupiah, industry officials said. The rupiah has fallen nearly 20 per cent so far this year, hitting 12,000 per US dollar yesterday for the first time in almost five years.

The central bank this month issued guidance to banks to slow loan growth to 15-17 per cent next year, from 18-20 per cent this year, in an effort to protect the financial system from potential turbulence amid heightened global uncertainties. In response, Bank Mandiri, Bank Central Asia (BCA), Bank Tabungan Negara, and other top financial institutions are becoming more particular about companies they lend to.

“We haven’t turned cautious for any sector, but we see challenges in infrastructure, construction, coal, cement, and real estate because of several policies. We are expecting a slowdown,” said Eugene Gailbraith, a BCA director, at an investment conference. He said that the country’s biggest bank by market value plans to “take a breather” and will lend less than its expected 45 trillion rupiah (S$4.79 billion) target this year.

Loan growth at Bank Mandiri is seen slowing to 17-18 per cent in 2014 from 19-20 per cent this year, while Bank Jabar Banten eases to 22 per cent from 33 per cent, company officials said. “We will be more cautious on sectors that are sensitive to interest rates,” said Pahala Mansury, Bank Mandiri chief financial officer. Indonesia’s increased hesitation to lend to coal companies comes as no surprise with banks around the world curbing their exposure to the industry due to a sharp fall in demand and prices. For the property sector, Bank Indonesia has made the industry less attractive to banks by implementing several policy measures to curb the purchases of second homes. Financial institutions are expected to favour consumer driven industries, such as retail and food companies, as domestic consumption continues to remain strong. – Reuters. (BT report)

Indonesia’s most aggressive rate tightening in eight years has barely dented a current account deficit, prompting calls for more increases and other measures before the Federal Reserve cuts stimulus.

Bank Indonesia has raised borrowing costs by 1.75 percentage points to 7.5% since early June, the quickest since 2005.

Following data which recently showed the country recorded its second-highest current account shortfall on record in the three months through September, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Standard Chartered now see a further 50 basis points of increases in the first half of next year.

Foreign funds pulled US$3.8bn from Indonesian stocks and local currency bonds in June after the Fed said it could cut stimulus, and a lack of progress on improving the current account before the US does eventually taper leaves the country vulnerable to another sudden outflow.

In addition to ongoing political unrest in Thailand:

Thai factory output shrank more than expected in October, adding to a string of weak data that prompted the central bank to unexpectedly cut interest rates to support the economy as mounting political tension dents confidence.

The Industry Ministry now expects output to fall 2.8 per cent this year, rather than growth of 0.5-1.0 per cent projected earlier, but predicts a rise of 2 per cent next year.

October was the seventh straight month in which output has declined, falling 4.02 per cent from a year earlier. The median forecast of a Reuters poll was for a decline of 3.3 per cent.

In September, output dropped 2.9 per cent. (BT report)

– Thailand’s central bank unexpectedly lowered the cost of credit Wednesday as escalating protests to topple the government add to pressure on the economy.

The central bank lowered its policy interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 2.25 %, hoping to stimulate lending and investment, saying  in a statement that the “ongoing political situation” could compound existing weaknesses in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Business confidence is fragile and government plans for $69.5 billion of spending on high speed rail and other transport infrastructure have been delayed by legal challenges.

Thailand’s third quarter economic growth was weaker than expected and a recovery in exports has not gained traction, the bank said. Earlier this month, Thailand’s economic planning agency cut its growth forecast for this year to 3% from 3.8-4.3% predicted in August.

Alex Au doing a Dr Chee?

In Uncategorized on 29/11/2013 at 5:12 am

Alex Au’s at it again. No I’m not referring to the allegations of contempt by the AG against him yet again. That’s par for the course, and not really news anymore; anymore than that he is a gay rights activist and internet tua kee.

No, I referring to being so subtle so as to be misunderstood yet again by other netizens (self excluded). Remember, I defended him against charges by his fellow tua kee bloggers and lesser lights, and PAP stooges like an ex-NMP that he was advocating violence against the state?

This time a figure no less than the hubbie of ST’s editor misunderstood his latest mischief: If Au – one of Singapore’s most conscientious and civic-minded bloggers – cannot avoid the contempt minefield, then perhaps the problem is actually with the law. Is it getting in the way of intelligent critique of important issues?

The rejoinder would probably be that there are ways to comment without scandalising the court. In theory, perhaps. But again, I would have to ask, if even Alex Au cannot find the path through that minefield, perhaps the fault is with the treacherous terrain?

Au is a meticulous and gifted writer. If he is charged with contempt, there would be a significant chilling effect on other citizens who do not consider themselves anywhere near as polished in their use of words. 

(http://journalism.sg/2013/11/26/why-alex-au-deserves-a-break/ The writer is Associate Professor Cherian George described on Facebook by someone whose views I respect as “one of Singapore’s most accomplished and civic minded media commentators”.)

Sorry, but I have to disagree with Cherian whose views are always worth a reading, at the very least.

It is precisely because Au is a meticulous and gifted writer that we should discount the so-called chilling effect. on other citizens who do not consider themselves anywhere near as polished in their use of words.

This is not a case of someone not knowing the law. In my view, Alex Au is deliberately baiting the AG.

A Facebook poster put it better than I can (though I wish he’d not use exclamation marks), “[H]e is in the business of pushing boundaries, he choose to explore the “treacherous edge”. That business of his carries well-understood risk. He wasn’t out of words, he chose them carefully from abundance. In short, he is asking for it!!”. A PAPpy wants him in jail, “If guilty, he should spend a couple of months in prison so that he will know that there are consequences for his actions.”

As to why “he is asking for it”, I can only speculate.

Maybe, it is a follow-on from the recent pieces that were mischaracterised, misunderstood or misrepresented as a call for violence against the state. He wrote“[I]f the king has made something a criminal offence, then no one should ever try to flout it, no matter how horrible you think the king is?. On this I commented, “Shades of Thomas Aquinas, Locke etc. Look up these names if you don’t recognise them, or have forgotten their arguments on the nature of justice, among other things.”

He could be doing, something other than talking the talk of disobedience. He could be doing what Dr Chee and gang were doing earlier this decade, before the RI doctors put him on medication (anti-mad dog pills and “Think Economics, not HR”if you must know): civil disobedience, Gandhi-style.

Let me be very clear, I’m not commenting or taking sides on whether Alex Au is right or wrong in taking on the AG, or the rights and wrongs of civil disobedience.

I’m simply observing that given his skills as a is a meticulous and gifted writer who has recently written,” [I]f the king has made something a criminal offence, then no one should ever try to flout it, no matter how horrible you think the king is?”, and his history of social , activism, I think he is following in the footsteps of Dr Chee and Gandhi.  I could be wrong. He could be clumsy in his use of language when it comes to issues on the judiciary, though I suspect that pigs would fly first, or VivianB apologises to the elderly poor for his sneers.

I could also be wrong about Cherian. He could be juz trying to portray Alex Au juz as another ordinary S’porean, clumsy with words, like the tpical TRE poster, knowing full well that Alex is baiting the AG. I mean no disrespect to Cherian: he is no-detached ivory-tower observer. He too is a civil society activist. In fact, he was one before it became fashionable (and reasonably safe) to be one. And he has suffered for his sins.

One final tot. When people like Dr Chee and Au take on the state are they not accepting that the PAP govt isn’t that bad? Let me quote Orwell when he criticked Gandhi and his civil disobedience methods: The important point here is not so much that the British treated him forbearingly as that he was always able to command publicity. As can be seen from the phrase quoted above, he believed in “arousing the world”, which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing. It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practise civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference.

But then I could be wrong again. Orwell was writing in the pre-internet dark ages. We don’t have a free press and the right of assembly but the internet  and social media has got the govt terrified that S’poreans can voice their opinions publicly.

Where S’porean traits produce world-class TLCs

In Energy, Indonesia, Temasek, Vietnam on 28/11/2013 at 6:25 am

More to irritate Temaeek and S’pore (self) haters, especially TRE readers*. There are advantages to S’poreans’ reputation as the Prussians of the East: hardworking, careful, conscientious and mindlessly efficient. These are very qualities that make Keppel and SembCorp world beaters in rig-building.

Singapore’s two main yards, Keppel and SembCorp Marine, have also invested heavily in quality and efficiency. They specialise more in deep-sea rigs than in drill-ships and carriers. Keppel, the bigger of the two, is building a record 20 such monsters this year; next year it will deliver the first of three giant, $600m “jack-up” rigs (ones that are floated into place then jacked up on their legs).

Time is money

The Singaporeans are also good at building things on time, which is vital in an industry where late delivery can cost the operators of rigs and drill-ships over $500,000 a day. Over the past five years, rigs ordered from Keppel and SembCorp were, on average, delivered ahead of schedule, whereas Chinese yards delivered 50-250 days late, says IHS Petrodata, a research firm.

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21590496-korean-and-singaporean-yards-have-adapted-well-chinas-challenge-deeper-better

As to China’s cost advantage, having facilities in Indonesia helps provide cheap labour for SembCorp’s rig building biz. Keppel too has an Indonesian operation, though its tiny compared to SembCorp’s.

And with Vietnam having problems with China over maritime boundaries, one wonders if Chinese built-rigs are allowed in its waters. Remember, energy cos are exploring for oil off Vietnam. Still, the waters do not require the sophisticated rigs built by these TLCs.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/?s=Temasek+Fab+5

*Though TRE readers will be pleased that these TLCs are not led by ex-generals or ex-Temasek MDs. The CEO of Keppel is a scholar, but I’m not sure of the background of CEO’s SembCorp. But both have worked that these TLs for many yrs. They were not parachuted in like in NOL to teach executives to suck eggs.

Govt faciliates spying and tax avoidance, but bans Ashley Madison: Uniquely PAP

In Economy, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Political governance, Telecoms on 27/11/2013 at 5:05 am

In the space of a few days, the govt is facing or is likely to face uncomfortable questions from other govts about its activities: activities that the usual suspects, could reasonably argue, show the two-timing nature of the PAP govt that they (they the usual suspects) detest and wish it all the ill-will in the world.

Malaysia said it will summon Singapore’s high commissioner today to respond to allegations of spying which risk damaging improved political and business ties between the Southeast Asian neighbors.

Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and U.S. intelligence cooperation since the 1970s, facilitated in part by Singapore, the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday, citing documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it was “extremely concerned” and had already acted against earlier claims of espionage by the U.S. and Australia.

The reports could also spur friction between Singapore and Indonesia, Tan said. “The Indonesians would probably be concerned whether the information is also being shared with Singapore intelligence, besides the Australians*.”

(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-26/malaysia-summons-singapore-commissioner-as-spying-claims-widen.html)

As SingTel was singled out for mention by the Oz newspaper**, and as it has extensive mobile operations in Indonesia and Thailand, and a major stake in a major Indian telco, it could face problems in these countries.

Then there is the issue of how European and US cos are using S’pore to avoid taxes, at a time when there is growing resentment among politicians and voters that these cos are not paying their fair share of taxes. The Indian, Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean govts will also not be too happy too with S’pore’s corporate tax-regime if they read the Economist.

“Taxing times for Singapore as corporate strategy faces scrutiny” was a Reuters headline on 24 November 2013 (BT and Today carried the report too). It gave details of how Apple used S’pore as a tax-saving centre and went on, “Companies justify booking significant amounts of revenue and profits in Singapore by the fact they often run key business functions such as finance and operations, hold intellectual property rights there or base regional executives in the city.”

The chart below (via the Economist) shows a hypothetical scenario where a company moves its headquarters from Singapore (a very low-tax economy) to another country. http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2013/11/corporate-tax-rates

S’pore very cheap place (tax wise) esp compared to Japan. Minister Zorro must be happy: juz as happy as looking as his monthly CPF statement.

The Reuters article went on: Singapore has so far largely stayed out of the debate raging in Europe and the United States about the ways multinationals try to lower their tax bills.

But revenue-hungry governments are looking to impose tougher rules on so-called transfer pricing that could make it harder for firms to trade goods, services or assets between their Singapore and overseas entities.

As a result, accountants warn that the city-state will need to review the level of transparency in its tax incentive schemes and get stronger justifications from companies on their transfer pricing arrangements to fend off challenges from other jurisdictions.

“Singapore’s challenge is to ensure that it stands ready to adequately address any kind of unilateral tax action taken by other countries,” said Abhijit Ghosh, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Singapore.

“In this brave new world of fiscal competition for the tax dollar, dispute resolution will be on the increase and Singapore will need to focus more resources on enforcing and defending its principles of value creation in international forums.”

The city-state’s government says it is against artificially contrived arrangements constructed “solely for the purpose of flouting or exploiting loopholes in tax rules”, according to a spokeswoman from the Ministry of Finance.

However Singapore is also arguing that it should not be singled out because it has low tax rates.

“We must guard against new forms of protectionism masquerading as tax harmonisation,” the spokeswoman said. “We should avoid converging on high taxes globally as this would only hurt growth and jobs.”

Looks like the owl that visited PM was a harbinger of bad news for PM.

Seriously, the “usual suspects” could reasonably argue, if they tot about it, that the “chickens are coming to roost”.and that while moralising on adultery, the PAP govt helps the ang mohs spy on our neighbours, while helping ang moh and other Asian cos avoid tax. And PritamS wants the WP to be in coalition with the PAP?

*Remember that Indonesia suspended military co-operation with Australia, after allegations emerged of Australian spies bugging the phones of the president and his inner circle.

**Access to this major international telecommunications channel***, facilitated by Singapore’s government-owned operator SingTel, has been a key element in an expansion of Australian-Singaporean intelligence and defence ties over the past 15 years.Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/new-snowden-leaks-reveal-us-australias-asian-allies-20131124-2y3mh.html#ixzz2lkSC0P8c

***SEA-ME-WE-3 cable as well as the SEA-ME-WE-4 cable that runs from Singapore to the south of France.

Temasek tales: TLC overpaid?/ Olam: Cheong?/ Won’t read this in TRE, TOC?

In Africa, Airlines, Commodities, Temasek on 26/11/2013 at 5:54 am

Changi Airport Group: Winner’s curse?

The Aeroportos do Futuro group led by Odebrecht SA, and including Singapore airport operator Changi Airport Group, offered 19 billion reais (US$8.3 billion) and won the right to run Galeao airport in Rio de Janeiro, which will host tourists for the soccer World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympic Games, for 25 years. The consortium offered nearly four times the minimum bid for the right to operate Rio’s Galeão airport for the next 25 years.

We will only know the consortium overpaid if we know the next highest bid. Will let you know if this info is made public in Brazil )))

Last chance to buy Olam?

More bull points to add to this:

– When Olam released its quarterly results in early November, it showed it  had generated positive free cash flow – the first time in four years for a seasonally weak quarter.

Its executive director of finance and business development A Shekhar told analysts and reporters: “We’re very pleased that we’re striking the right notes on both objectives of profit growth as well as free cash-flow generation.”

– Ang mohs are still sceptical about the parts of the stock’s biz model.

– But they bulls on Africa and Olam got an edge there. Africa is now seen a destination mkt, not juz an exporter of commodities i.e. origination mkt:

The commodities houses are attracted to the African destination business for three reasons. First, demand is rising fast, in many cases at double-digit annual rates. Second, many African governments subsidise basic commodities such as petrol and wheat, in effect guaranteeing a return to the traders. Third, most African countries lack the infrastructure needed to import raw materials, from silos for storing wheat and rice to terminals for unloading petrol. The commodities houses say that, as they build this infrastructure, they will be able to secure a market and benefit from years of rising demand. (FT report on Africa dated 10 November 2013)

Even Chris Balding flies SIA

Would the Temasek model help improve the efficiency of China’s state-owned enterprises? Only one (Singapore Airlines) or possibly two (DBS bank) of Temasek’s GLCs have established themselves as international brands, according to critics such as Chris Balding of Peking University*. SingTel has made successful foreign acquisitions, but other GLCs have fared less well. STATS ChipPAC, a semiconductor firm, lost money in the second quarter of this year, as a result of the costs of closing a factory in Malaysia.

The few academic studies of Singapore’s GLCs are more encouraging, however. A 2004 article by Carlos Ramirez of George Mason University and Ling Hui Tan of the IMF showed that the country’s GLCs enjoyed a higher market value, relative to the book value of their assets, than comparable private firms. They also generated a higher return on assets, on average.

In judging the performance of Temasek’s GLCs, the counterfactual is important. They may not be as obviously successful as private titans from the region such as Samsung or LG. But they are not nearly as bad as most SOEs, including China’s. The enthusiasm for reform of SOEs in China reflects their deteriorating returns and accumulating debt. According to M.K. Tang of Goldman Sachs, their return on assets was 6.5 percentage points below that of other Chinese firms in 2012 and their shares trade at a growing discount. Even Mr Balding, meanwhile, is happy to fly Singapore Airlines.

http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21590562-chinas-rulers-look-singapore-tips-portfolio-management-soe-glc

*Cock Balding forgets Keppel and SembCorp in rigbuilding. More on these two cos later this week.

Why the govt consults and then ignores

In Political governance, Public Administration on 25/11/2013 at 5:40 am

This is not uniquely S’porean: happens in the UK too, What is the point of government consultations? I pose the question at the end of a week in which ministers responded to three official consultations on three controversial proposals – and appeared to ignore the results from them all, the BBC’s Mark Easton wrote recently. He is the BBC’s Home Editor: “Home” here means British domestic affairs

When he goes on to explain (see below) why this happens in the UK, the explanation rings true here here too, even though S’pore is a defacto one-party state. So if in a functioning democracy where the govt is a coalition of two parties, the govt consults then ignores, we shouldn’t get too upset that in S’pore, a defacto one party state, the same happens because:

The public consultation is an opportunity for ministers to test their ideas with experts, those directly affected and voters more generally. Community participation on proposed legislation is seen as a key component of “citizen power”.

But formal public consultation exercises very rarely result in a government re-think – even if they reveal profound concern. That is not the point of them, and we should not pretend otherwise.

Anyway, here’s why the UK govt consults then ignores:

It is, of course, the democratic right of ministers to consult and to listen and then ignore. The arguments put forward by the [govt department] may be compelling. But it does lead some to ask whether the consultation really had much value.

Consultations are not referendums.

But having conducted a public consultation and expressing gratitude to all those “who have taken the time to respond and to those who have contributed their experience and insight to what is a complex issue”, one is left wondering what the point was.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “public consultation is one of the key regulatory tools employed to improve transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of regulation”. But there has long been scepticism as to whether such exercises are anything more than cosmetic.

The public consultation is an opportunity for ministers to test their ideas with experts, those directly affected and voters more generally. Community participation on proposed legislation is seen as a key component of “citizen power”.

But formal public consultation exercises very rarely result in a government re-think – even if they reveal profound concern. That is not the point of them, and we should not pretend otherwise.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24670413).

Tuition works according to UK study

In Public Administration on 24/11/2013 at 4:54 am

So how come PAP govt says tuition not necessary?. In the UK, some enlightened schools pay for tuition for less well-off kids because data shows that tuition works

Every ethnic-minority group that trails white Britons in GCSE exams, normally taken at age 16, is catching up. Bangladeshis used to perform worse than whites; now they do better. Indians have maintained a huge lead. All this despite the fact that ethnic minorities are poorer than average. Control for that, by looking at pupils who are entitled to free school meals, and all ethnic-minority groups now do well. That is in part because parents are increasingly turning to private tutors. In a survey of 11- to 16-year-olds by the Sutton Trust, an education charity, 45% of Asian children said they received some kind of private tuition compared with 20% of white pupils. See full article.

(Related article: http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21583707-private-education-becoming-more-egalitarian-premium-economy)

And

Many parents rely on private tutors to boost their child’s chance of a grammar school place, suggests a small poll.

The research suggested that 67% of the grammar school pupils polled had received one-to-one coaching with 5% tutored as part of a small group.

Of those who had been tutored, eight out of 10 (78%) believed that tuition helped them to pass the entrance exam.

Only 6% continued to be tutored during their first year in grammar school.

“One of the key factors is that tuition gives these pupils confidence and helps calm down pre-exam nerves,” said Prof Ireson, Emerita Professor of Psychology in Education at the Institute of Education, University of London.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23547666)

(Grammar schools are the only part of the English pre-university public education system that selects students based on academic ability.)

 

Still want to buy M’sian properties?

In India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Uncategorized on 23/11/2013 at 6:00 am

(Asean round-up)

KL property owners, an estimated 10-16 per cent of whom are foreigners, are facing sharply higher assessment payments of up to 300 per cent following the latest move by City Hall (DBKL) to boost its coffers. http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/kl-homeowners-facing-sharp-assessment-hikes-20131119

But otherwise M’sia’s looking pretty gd

– ECONOMISTS have turned more bullish on the Malaysian economy as a result of its unexpectedly strong showing in the third quarter.

They have upgraded their forecasts, and one has even dismissed the second quarter’s sharply reduced current account surplus on the balance of payments as an “abnormal”, one-off glitch.

Malaysia’s growth accelerated to 5 per cent in the third quarter, above the street’s 4.7 per cent, and sharply higher than the 4.4 per cent posted in the second quarter. The expansion was largely driven by domestic demand and a turnaround in exports.

The figures suggest that, despite criticism from rating agencies such as Fitch and an uncertain global economy, the Malaysian economy remains resilient, and continues to maintain steady economic growth.

– THE ringgit is undervalued as it has underperformed its peers since Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Budget almost a month ago, a British bank said.

In a report yesterday, Barclays Bank said the currency’s underperformance stemmed from doubts over the country’s “fiscal credibility”. But it said any such doubt should now be “diminished” after international rating agency Moody’s raised Malaysia’s sovereign outlook to “positive” from “stable” in a report released on Wednesday.

The news should boost Mr Najib’s credibility as a finance minister; he has been flayed by critics who have accused him of going on a profligate spending spree to boost the Barisan Nasional coalition’s popularity. In the run-up to the May 5 general election, government debt had ballooned to more than 54 per cent of GDP, just a whisker away from the legally mandated debt ceiling. Although the BN won, it did so with a weaker mandate.

In July, global rating agency Fitch had affirmed Malaysia’s investment-grade sovereign rating but cut its outlook to “negative” from “stable”. That raised the level and intensity of the criticism against Mr Najib.

(Excerpts from BT)

But M’sia (like Thailand) is doing less than Indonesia to prepare for tapering: Indonesia has raised short-term interest rates and India has attracted deposits from its large diaspora. Both are now accumulating foreign-exchange reserves to help prepare them for the eventual end of quantitative easing. So are South Korea and Taiwan.

Malaysia and Thailand are not taking the same precautions. Neither country has managed to recoup the reserves it lost in August. That’s a worry, considering foreigners own 28 percent of Malaysia’s sovereign bond market. Pending the implementation of a goods and services tax from 2015, the country’s public finances remain shaky. At the peak of the summer turmoil, the cost of insuring against default on Malaysian government bonds was slightly higher than for Philippines debt, which carries a lower credit rating. The gap has widened since.

Finally, debt is soaring. In Thailand, bank loans to individuals have jumped 20 percent in the first nine months of the year, higher than last year’s 18 percent growth. Meanwhile, the Thai economy has lost momentum, the politics has become unstable, and the current account has tipped into a deficit. Instead of easing, Asia’s fear of the Fed is spreading wider.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/11/21/asias-fear-of-fed-is-now-infecting-more-economies/

Infocomm Dysfunctional Authority

In Infrastructure, Internet, Public Administration on 22/11/2013 at 5:01 am

Yaacob the Info minister wrote on Facebook a few days ago that many agencies have worked hard in the past weeks to strengthen the security of Singapore’s computer systems and websites*, and those responsible for the recent hacking incidents have been arrested or are being investigated**.

Taz gd, but what about making sure that IDA works hard and competently to give the public info on cyber security accurately, and in a timely manner? Rather than inaccurately, and only after cyber leaks and DRUMS.

Going by its recent ingloriously track record, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) should be renamed   Inforomm Dysfunctional Authority  because it’s so dysfunctional  in communicating info on cyber security and ICT matters.

It can’t even explain to our constructive, nation-building local journalists that the PMO’s website was not hacked. Granted that our well-paid hacks are not the most intelligent people in S’pore, but surely Yaacob’s finest could have told them in simple English, “PMO’s website was not hacked into”?

Singapore ICT regulator Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) was cited by local media reports to blame a vulnerability in Google’s search bar, embedded in the two websites, as the cause of the breach. In a media briefing to which only local media were invited …

… a Google spokesperson told ZDNet in an e-mail Wednesday: “It has come to our attention that the PMO’s website recently experienced an attack in the search functionality of the site run by Google’s Custom Search Engine site-search widget.

“After investigation, it appears that the code in the Google custom search engine is safe and the vulnerability lies with the coding on the webpage.”

While IDA declined to comment further on this issue as it is currently under police investigation, ZDNet understands the regulator was misquoted in local news reports. Rather than Google’s search bar, it had instead pointed to a vulnerability in the search function which the hackers were able to exploit and redirect visitors to the external webpages.

(http://www.zdnet.com/sg/google-denies-its-search-bar-caused-singapore-websites-breach-7000023129/)

At the very least, IDA gave the impression that our cybersecurity machinery was the equivalent of the flood prevention team  when Yaacob was “flooder-in-chief”.

Now onto an earlier, and more major, failure to communicate. Remember the Saturday a few weeks ago when govt websites suddenly closed for “routine maintenance’? Although they were soon up, netizens suspicions were aroused and they started playing DRUMS in the absence of authoritative info.

And they were correct to think that there problems, only not hacking but cock-ups.

Only on Monday evening (after a memo surfaced on the internet), IDA admitted the problems in accessing several Singapore government websites over the weekend were due to technical problems that arose during maintenance on Saturday afternoon. While the glitches have been rectified, people accessing these websites may continue to face intermittent access as maintenance was still ongoing.

In this day and age, IDA should communicate openly with the public. After all, this is not North Korea, even if our media ratings are close to that of the North Koreans than that to the US or UK.

I leave it to this blogger who wrote before IDA admitted that there were cock-ups, not juz “routine maintenance” to explain what I mean:

“It’s strange that the IDA did not deem it fit to update people more regularly when so many sites were out of service. Not only were they unable to transact, say, on SingPass, they were also wondering if indeed a cyber attack had been carried out against government agencies, as part of a bigger wave of attacks.

Ironically, the IDA can look at the way SingTel updated its customers in the hours after a fire at a telephone exchange just weeks ago. Though the damage was way bigger, angering a lot more customers, at least they knew what was going on.

And fall short, it definitely did this time. While there is speculation on why and how the sites could have been down, one thing is clear – this maintenance caused the sites to go down longer than expected.

That itself reflects badly on the nation’s cyber security efforts. “Self pwn” is the phrase that comes to mind when you bring down your own networks inadvertently.”

(http://www.techgoondu.com/2013/11/03/commentary-should-maintenance-bring-down-government-websites-for-hours/#.Ungbl1Nfp-d)

Recently, CNA reported, Singapore’s Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, has said that countries in Asia need to adapt to emerging trends in social media, in order to get the new generation more engaged in literature and the arts.

Maybe he sould have a talk with  Yaacob and s/o Devan Nair who seem clueless about the effect of social media and the internet on public communications and PR in general. Strange this cluelessness, given their roles in govt as public communicators and PR. or they juz there for wayang.

One final tot. I’m surprised that neither GG nor TRE nor TOC tot it fit to ask if the people responsible for website security in general or the maintenance cock-ups, in particular,  were FTs or true-blue S’poreans.

This blogger has argued we need a S’porean core in cyber security.

One “career path” often joked about, but taken somewhat seriously, is to get into an IT management role in a bank then outsource the dirty work to vendors, sit back and enjoy a Dilbert moment every day.

Now, when that dirty work is cyber security, there is a problem. It’s an area where you can’t be an expert without getting your hands dirty. Yes, there are security solutions out there to tap on, but it is important to know your own servers well. How can you secure your home if you don’t know where the holes are in your fences?

Similarly, when it comes to defending national infrastructure, it pays to have a ready pool of experts, with actual hands-on experience.

This work cannot be easily outsourced, since it may involve getting access to sensitive information, say, military secrets. A Singaporean core, to borrow the government’s term, may be needed in such as an operation.

http://www.techgoondu.com/2013/11/12/commentary-singapore-hacking-cases-show-importance-of-deep-infocomm-expertise/comment-page-1/#.Uofv9idfp-c

But will our FT-loving govt listen? Worse it seems the govt’s model of “Talent is two-timing new citizen Raj or Tammy’s killer or the FTs that beat up S’poreans and then fled S’pore (one was even given PR after the beating), or a violent, cheating PRC shop assistant, or PRC hawkers or a looney, violent bank director.

*“A quote from a decade and a half ago: ‘Secure web servers are the equivalent of heavy armoured cars. The problem is, the roads are subject to random detours, anyone with a screwdriver can control the traffic lights and there are no police.’”
—Richard Guy Briggs on “Besieged”, Nov 9th 2013

**Taz before the latest reported hack of schools’ sites and a local museum’s mailing list was made public in NZ. Don’t know if you notice, but the local media is downplaying the security implications of the hacks by making them sound trivial.The schools’ hack is “defacement” and the mailing list was described as being on the website. The Hard Truth is that in these cases, servers were broken into.

This is in contrast to the “hack”of PMO’s site which was over-sensationalised. (There was no hack there as reported above. In the PMO’s case, at no time was there any server intrusion. The server was secure.) One wonders if IDA has finally educated the hacks on the basics of cyber security or did it order them to downplay the hacks as the hacks would imply that contrary to Yaacob’s comments about working hard to fix security issues, the cyber security teams are not working hard, or worse, working hard incompetently.


More nails in Iskandar’s coffin

In Malaysia on 21/11/2013 at 4:38 am

JOHOR is planning to impose a 2 per cent levy on foreign buyers across all segments of the property market and the secondary market in the southern Malaysian state from May.

The rate is lower than the 4 per cent to 5 per cent mooted earlier, but will still amount to more than twice the current RM10,000 (S$3,895) fee foreigners pay to buy properties in the state. Since foreigners are required to purchase units valued at RM1 million and above, the RM10,000 fee was at most a one per cent levy.

The levy comes on top of the Malaysian government’s recent measures to cool the property market. (BT on 13th November)

Crime in Johor, and the authorities’ denial attitude: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24924283

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/246559

And it has been reported that Johor is considering changing its weekend from Saturday and Sunday to Friday and Saturday. Not exactly S’porean and investor friendly is it?

What Iskandar repeated shows is that there is a reason for the huge price gap between properties in Johor and S’pore. The issue for buyers is whether the lower prices there compensate for the risks they are assuming.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/sporeans-fleeced-in-johor-yet-again/

Ageing population Hard Truth is cock and bull?

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 20/11/2013 at 4:25 am

The govt and the constructive, nation-building media keep shouting at us that a rapidly aging population (and the stas do show this aging as a fact, no bull here) will lead to disaster if FTs like two-timing new citizen Raj or Tammy’s killer or the FTs that beat up S’poreans and then fled S’pore*, or a looney, violent bank director are not allowed in by the container load. They point to Japan as what can happen if FTs are not allowed in: economic stagnation. The truth is more complex. As I reported here HSBC, a bank, in 2012 published research that Japan is doing pretty well when compared to other developed countries, including immigrant friendly countries like the US and the UK (though the UK is now repenting its liberal immigration policy)

Whatever the impact of an ageing population on S’pore’s prosperity, here’s a piece of evidence casting doubt on the assumptions (stated or unstated) behind the need to have a population of 6.9m by 2030. It comes from academics from the University of Edinburgh.

The idea that dependent older people represent a great demographic challenge of our age has been turned on its head …The research questions an assumption behind arguments for health, social care and immigration policies … The paper demands society rethink some of its assumptions about elderly dependency – drawing a distinction between the ‘young old’ and the ‘old old’

Here’s more from the BBC’s Home (i.e. domestic affairs) editor (Note that the paper in question is based on British statistics but the argument seems applicable elsewhere as he points out)

“The extent, speed and effect of population ageing have all been exaggerated and we should not assume that it will strain health and social care systems,” Professor John MacInnes and senior research fellow Jeroen Spijker write in the article ‘Population Ageing: The timebomb that isn’t?’

Healthier and fitter

The mistake people have been making, the paper suggests, is to assume that all pensioners are dependent and all working-age adults are workers.

They point out that, while it is true there are now more people over 65 in the UK than children under 15, rising life expectancy means older people are effectively “younger”, healthier and fitter than previous generations.

Instead of simply looking at how old someone is, the research focuses on how long they might be expected to live.

“Many behaviours and attitudes (including those related to health) are more strongly linked to remaining life expectancy than to age,” it says.

In 1841, life expectancy at birth was 40 years for males and 42 years for females.

By 1900 it was 52 and 57 and today it is 79 and 83. So the point at which we enter ‘old age’ has also been changing.

Equally, using age to define the adult working populations makes little sense, the authors suggest, because “there are more dependents of working age (9.5 million) than there are older people who do not work”.

So they calculated an alternative measure, what they call “the real elderly dependency ratio”, based on the sum of men and women with a remaining life expectancy of up to 15 years divided by the number of people in employment, irrespective of age.

Important implications

Using this measure, the paper calculates that old-age dependency in the UK fell by one third over the past four decades – and is likely to stabilise close to its current level.

The measure suggests similar falls in many other countries.

“Our calculations show that – over the past four decades – the population far from ageing, has in fact been getting younger, with increasing numbers of people in work for every older person or child,” the authors say.

“The different story of population ageing told by our real elderly dependency ratio has several important implications for health policy and clinical practice.”

In policy terms, this analysis to one of the central challenges of an ageing population might be something of a game changer. Rather than seeing longevity itself as an expensive problem, focus could shift towards managing morbidity and remaining life expectancy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24921171

The continued refusal of the govt to accept that the issue of ageing population is a complex one and the unwillingness to question its Hard Truth on the issue continued in the face of evidence that the Hard Truth is doing real harm looks all too similar to the intellectual fetters that led central bankers to persist in tighten monetary policy in the early 1930s when faced with a global Depression.

It also shows that they are unlike LKY and Dr Goh Keng Swee who were willing to challenge the conventional wisdom that allowing MNCs in amounted to neo-colonialism. And demographics is not the only issue where the PAP govt is wedded to Hard Truths. Take welfare, where there is evidence that gd welfare systems do not reduce the will to work: they do not make people lazy e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24974745: another University of Edinburgh study.

Maybe, time to send scholars there to learn to walk on the wild side, and think unHard Truths? After all  University of Edinburgh is a great university. It juz doesn’t produce the ruling elite of the UK or the US. Our scholars to to unis where the UK and US ruling elite are educated.

BTW, here’s an article on using robots to as carers for the elderly: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24949081

*PR was given to one after he beat up the S’poreans.

Scholar can’t repair NOL; Maersk steams ahead

In Public Administration, Shipping on 19/11/2013 at 5:40 am

The continuing contrasting tale of two shipping lines, one led by a scholar who attended elite ang moh uni ( also an ex-SAF chief and ex-Temask MD with a Stamford postgrad biz degree thrown in); and the other led by a graduate from Copenhagen University, who has an an MBA from IMD, Switzerland, who has only worked with one co. all his life.

NOL is still stuck on a reef, with water pouring in. Neptune Orient Lines Ltd said on 30th October that its net profit fell sharply in the third quarter as the container shipper battled weak demand.

Net profit fell to US$20 million in the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with US$50 million in the same period last year, Neptune Orient said in a statement to the Singapore Exchange.

Revenue fell 10% to US$2.06 billion, it said.

“This is one of the weakest peak seasons we have seen in recent years, characterized by depressed freight rates and industry overcapacity,” the statement quoted group chief executive Ng Yat Chung as saying.

It said general market conditions had not improved in the third quarter, resulting in a muted peak season, adding that the company expects volatile freight rates and overcapacity in the industry to continue.

On 13 November, A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S’s container-shipping line, the world’s largest, reported an 11 percent increase in third-quarter profit after cost cuts countered a decline in freight rates.

Maersk Line’s third-quarter net income rose to $554 million from $498 million a year earlier, the Copenhagen-based company said today in a statement. Its parent, A.P. Moeller-Maersk, raised its full-year forecast and said net income rose 23 percent to 6.36 billion kroner ($1.14 billion), beating the 6.14 billion-krone average estimate in a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-13/maersk-line-profit-advances-as-cost-cuts-counter-rate-decline.html)

True  most shipping lines are struggling to reach break-even amid volatile freight rates, and even Maersk has warned of a much weaker fourth quarter, following a 12% drop in container cargo rates in recent weeks. Freight rates “deteriorated significantly during the quarter and hence the seasonally low fourth quarter 2013 has started with low freight rates, which will result in a significantly lower fourth quarter result” than in the third quarter, Maersk Line said. Still, the result for 2013 will be “significantly above” the $461 million profit in 2012, it said.

But hey tot scholars and ex-SAF chiefs are paid serious money because they are S’pore’s finest? Juz like ministers like Raymond Lim, Mak Bow Tan and Yaacob. Remember ex-SAF chief Kee Chui said juz like XO carrot cake is more expensive ’cause of the taste, scholars and ministers deserve higher pay ’cause they better?

(Related posts:http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/why-nol-has-problems/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/nol-underperforms-maersk-again-as-predicted/)

BTW, our constructive, nation-building media have failed to report Maesrk’s gd results, even though BT reported that NOL’s CEO grumbled that giant ships are undercutting NOL’s freight rates. Maersk owns these ships.

This NOL CEO gives scholars like TRE’s Richard and NSP’s Hazel and Tony a bad name. But then VivianB is a scholar.

Gaming the system: Unsaid assumptions of PAP, NTUC MP

In Political economy on 18/11/2013 at 5:29 am

This call by a PAP,NTUC MP provoked me and someone else into some chim tots, MWC [Migrant Workers' Centre] cautions workers and employers alike to access the Work Injury System honestly and fairly so that it can provide meaningful compensation to workers who have suffered physical incapacity or impairment from legitimate injuries suffered in the course of their work.

(http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/change-mindsets-employers-workers-needed-20131115)

Someone posted on Facebook: From the way the statement by MWC is phrased, I think they should seriously rename themselves the Migrant Worker EMPLOYERS’ Centre, as it is clear they are more concerned about the employers’ interests than they are with the workers they claim to represent.

If the employer alienates the migrant worker for fighting for what he believes he truly deserves, shouldn’t the MWC take the employer to task for such a clearly discriminatory practice that is against MOM’s employment guidelines? Why side with the employer?

I responded to the poster: The unsaid assumptions (reasonable for a NTUC and PAP MP) are that the employers are usually fair-minded people, while migrant workers are out to cheat their fair-minded employers. LOL

I also posted:No matter how gd any system is, it can be gamed. The only way out is to give someone discretion to catch the gamers. Problem is that this leads to other problems*. BTW, gaming the rules is the reason the govt gives as an excuse not to legislate rights to many things that in other societies are accepted as part of the social fabric. Sadly the co-driver tends to agree with the govt. Only the SDP is prepared to challenge this self-serving excuse, not that I’m saying gaming will not happen. We juz have to accept that fact and change the rules, and accept that there will be abuses. Juz try to minimise it.

And as cutting and pasting this post, it struck me that the MAP, NTUC MP does not take into account in the statement, the imbalance of power and resources between the aggrieved migrant worker and an employer. One is on subsistence wages (by our standards at least), the other most probably drives a BMW or Mercedes and owns an apartment or two. This PAP, NTUC doesn’t know the meaning of social justice, and the need to level the odds in favour of the migrant worker.

*I was thinking of corruption. S’poreans are always complaining of the rigidity of the public service. One reason for such rigidity is that giving discretion to public servants, opens the doors to their exercising their discretion in return for monetary and other incentives. Hence the rule book.

True blue S’porean FT applies for citizenship

In Humour on 17/11/2013 at 4:34 am

Yesterday’s ST carried a story about a young S’porean athlete, 14-yr old Olivia Marsden, who is applying to be a citizen. Father’s British, mum’s from Oz, and they’ve been living here since since the early 1990s.

Hope she gets citizenship. Home Team should grant it in repentance for the following sins:

new citizen Raj who boasted his son will get PR despite not doing NS*; and

FT** Alison McElwee who killed Tammy. Tammy was a true blue S’porean: mongrel, ill-treated and traumatised. McElwee has defended killing Tammy and insisted that the rehomer refused to take back Tammy, despite text messages indicating the contrary

BTW,here’s someone who S’pore must attract: Aged 11, most boys can do little other than watch television, play football and fight with their sisters; this child blagged his way past at least three security checks onto an international flight.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2012/07/ticketless-travel

*Interestingly, co-driver has never raised the issue in parly.

**Earlier this week, ST reported that she’s British and working in a healthcare centre. This was the first time, since the killing of Tammy was reported by our constructive, nation-building media that her nationality was given. Wonder why it took ST so long to report her nationality. Wonder if  is related to two accidents where PRC drivers were involved, but where the nationality of the drivers never disclosed? Note it was SOP for ST to give the nationality of a person it is reporting on.

Indon origins of our Batman Suparman

In Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 16/11/2013 at 4:59 am

(Asean round-up)

Batman bin Suparman’s family appear to be originally from the Indonesia island of Java – where the name Suparman is very common, explains Ben Zimmer, a language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, who has worked in Indonesia and who has written about Suparman.

“Su” has Sanskrit origins and is a common prefix in Indonesia, featuring in a whole rung of Indonesian presidents’ names – including the current one Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. “Bin” means “son of” in Arabic, making it very likely that Batman’s father was also called Suparman.

The Batman part is a bit harder to explain, however says Zimmer, as it’s not a traditional name in the region. The most likely explanation is that his parents chose it as a joke – Batman the superhero is popular there, and Indonesians are often playful in the names they choose, says Zimmer. “I see the name as this interesting juxtaposition of local naming with Western pop culture.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24911186

Illegal logging and mismanagement of Indonesia‘s forestry industry may have prevented more than US$7 billion flowing to state coffers from 2007 to 2011, costing the government more than its health budget, Human Rights Watch said.

In contrast, the Indonesian government’s 2011 revenue from timber royalties and reforestation fees was US$300 million, said Emily Harwell, the lead author of a report released by Human Rights Watch.

“This is a very conservative estimate,” Dr Harwell, a partner at Natural Capital Advisors LLC, said at a briefing in Jakarta on Nov 8 of lost revenue. “The calculation doesn’t include any wood that’s smuggled.”

The report indicates that weak governance is chipping away at revenues in the world’s fourth-most populous nation, as budget and current-account deficits this year hurt the rupiah. BT report.

Malaysia has the highest English language proficiency level in the entire Asian region, according to a latest research by Swiss-based international education company EF Education First (EF).

The nation also climbed two notches higher to 11th place from 13th position last year in the EF English Proficiency Index which saw over 60 countries being surveyed.

The results revealed that Malaysia, which was placed in the ‘High Proficiency’ category, had overtaken Singapore who fell behind to 12th position in the world ranking. Malaysia scored 58.99 points in the survey while neighbouring Singapore received a 58.92 score.

Money for Vietnamese start-ups and buy-outs

– Ministry of Science and Tech in Vietnam pours $110 million into startups

http://www.techinasia.com/ministry-science-tech-vietnam-pours-110-million-startupsministry-science-tech-vietnam-pours-110-million-startupsministry-science-tech-vietnam-pours-110-million-startupsministry-science-tech-vietnam-po/

– Franklin Templeton Investments (BEN)’ venture in Vietnam said the time is right for buyout firms to invest in the country as it expects monetary and fiscal reforms to take effect over the next three to five years.

Low valuations, constrained bank lending and an improved corporate landscape mean private-equity investors have an opportunity to buy companies in the Southeast Asian country before the economy picks up again, said Avinash Satwalekar, chief executive officer of Vietcombank Fund Management, Templeton’s venture with Joint-Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam.

“The best time to make investments is when the water is murky,” Satwalekar, 39, said in an interview in Singapore yesterday. “When its gets clear, that’s when everybody can make investments.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-06/buyout-opportunities-seen-in-vietnam-imbalances-southeast-asia.html

Philippine Finance Minister Cesar Purisma has told the BBC that the devastation caused by the Typhoon Haiyan Mr Purisma says that the worst affected region accounts for 12.5% of the Philippines economy and a steep slowdown there could slow the overall economy by one percentage point next year. IMF has earlier this yr said GDP growth would be 6% next yr.

Mr Purisma also said it would take “many years” to rebuild the infrastructure damaged by the storm.

Culture ministry morphs into Quant Ministry

In Public Administration on 15/11/2013 at 6:01 am

Robert McNamara when he became Kennedy’s Defence Secretary expected everything to be quantified at the Pentagon. He was previously president of Ford Motor Company. A team of which he was a part had transformed Ford by using quantitative methods*.

Sadly, for the US,using inappropriate quantitative methods was one reason why the US was defeated by the North Vietnamese. An example was the focus on the number of Vietcong guerrillas killed. This encouraged the US army to prefer “kicking ass” rather to “winning hearts and minds”. The latter didn’t show up on the army’s KPIs.

I was rereading something about Robert McNamara (inevitably the Whiz Kids and the Vietnam war are mentioned) around the time when a person familiar with the local arts scene posted a Facebook comment that he had never seen so much data from the culture ministry before. Feel free to skip the italics bit below: it gives the data that made got the “expert” commenting

Singapore’s arts and culture sector continues to grow, with more reported arts activities and more people attending and participating in arts and culture events compared to a decade ago.

According to the Singapore Cultural Statistics 2013 Report, there was an average of 23 arts performances and 49 exhibitions happening each day in 2012, as compared to about 10 arts performances and 30 exhibitions 10 years ago.

Ticketed attendance at arts events increased from just under a million in 2003 to almost two million last year.

Meanwhile, total tickets sold for performing arts events increased from 0.7 million in 2004 to 1.2 million in 2012.

Total gross takings have also increased from S$32.8 million in 2004 to S$80.6 million in 2012.

Year-on-year comparison showed that ticketed attendance and gross takings for performing arts events fell in 2012, after an all-time high the previous year.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said this was due to the market adjusting itself after the initial spike of popular musicals brought in by the Integrated Resorts when they first started operations.

Non-ticketed attendance for heritage events dropped in 2012.

MCCY said this was a result of the National Heritage Board’s shift from large-scale events to more targeted ones with better quality of engagement.

The report also noted the growing interest of youths in pursuing an arts education in Singapore.

The number of students enrolled in full-time tertiary arts courses has also increased from 1,860 in 2004 to 4,492 in 2012.

More arts companies and arts societies are also entering the scene.

In 2012, there were 1,260 companies and 386 societies, compared to 302 arts companies and 247 societies in 2003.

Government funding for arts and culture has also increased to S$478.9 million last year, up 10 per cent from 2011.

(http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-s-arts-and/867778.html)

Despite the failure of the US to win the Vietnam war by quantitative methods, there is a place for appropriate data collection and analysis, as the Ford experience showed. Bloomberg who recently finished two terms as NY city’s major, leaving office with a reputation as one of the best mayors the city has ever had, has said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”**

He used data to do boring things well—an undervalued virtue. His analytics team pools data from different agencies to inform decisions. For instance, it tracked complaints from 311 calls, a municipal hotline, and linked them with information about such things as tax irregularities to pinpoint illegal building conversions, which are fire hazards, quickly and fairly accurately. Mr Bloomberg listened to ideas if his staff had supporting evidence. (Economist)

But somehow, I don’t think the data cited above by our culture ministry cited above serves any purpose. It doesn’t even make the ministry look gd: except in the eyes of bureaucrats  and accountants ruled by engineering scholars led by a maths scholar. As Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong is in Hong Kong from November 13 to 15 attending a regional forum on collaborations in culture and arts,maybe he can pick up tips from cities like KL, Manila and HK on how to make S’pore less of a culture desert.

—-

*In 1946, Charles “Tex” Thornton, a colonel under whom McNamara had served, put together a group of officers from his AAF Statistical Control operation to go into business together. Thornton had seen an article in Life magazine portraying Ford as being in dire need of reform. Henry Ford II, himself a World War II veteran from the Navy, hired the entire group of 10, including McNamara.

The “Whiz Kids“, as they came to be known, helped the money-losing company reform its chaotic administration through modern planning, organization and management control systems. Whiz Kids origins: Because of their youth, combined with asking lots of questions, Ford employees initially and disparagingly, referred to them as the “Quiz Kids”. In a remarkable “turning of the tables”, these Quiz Kids rebranded themselves as the “Whiz Kids” and backed-up their new moniker with performance driven results. Starting as manager of planning and financial analysis, he advanced rapidly through a series of top-level management positions. (Wikipedia)

**The danger is that this often becomes, “If you can’t measure it, you can ignore it.”

Costs savings in airlines: every little bit counts

In Airlines, Financial competency on 14/11/2013 at 7:21 pm

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has reported a 78% rise in net profit for its second quarter*.

This reminded of a story in the New York Times, some time back, that Delta Airlines by slicing an ounce off its on-board steaks saved US$250,000. It even calculated that removing a single strawberry from its First Class salads would save US$210,000.

Talking after looking after the pennies, and the dollars will look after themselves.

In investing, John Bogle, the founder of indexer Vanguard, keeps stressing the importance of buying funds that charge low fees. The expenses saved when compounded over time adds to performance. Besides most active fund mgrs underperform the market., so they mare a waste of money. Indexers charge very little in comparison with active managers.

Related posts:

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/the-perils-of-indexation-revised-and-updated/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/even-the-rich-should-use-index-funds/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/rebalancing-can-lock-in-profits-trim-losses/

 

——–

*Asia’s second biggest carrier was boosted by the sale of aircraft, spare engines as well as increased passenger traffic.

The firm posted a total net profit of $128.6m (£80.9m) for the quarter, up from $72.1m a year earlier.

But it warned it was facing tough competition and a strong Singapore dollar. (BBC report)

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