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Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

“How’s Harry doing?”

In Economy, Political governance on 17/09/2014 at 4:26 am

Castro* was asking Xi Jinping, earlier this yr when Xi visited Cuba.

He went on,”S’pore’s an exemplar for our way of doing things, a one-party state that is economically successful. According to leading Cambridge economist, Ha-Joon ChangThe country is usually known for its free trade policy and welcoming attitude towards foreign investments, but it has the most heavily state-owned economy, except for some oil states. State-owned enterprises produce 22% of Singapore’s national output, operating in a whole range of industries – not just the “usual suspects” of airline, telecommunications and electricity, but also semiconductors, engineering and shipping; and its housing and development board supplies 85% of the country’s homes.

‘But I hear that being kinder, more compassionate, tolerant hasn’t worked for the PAP’s popularity. Can only get 60% of the votes. Harry got high 70%s votes by intimidating his opponents, and bullying, haranguing the voters . Still he couldn’t beat my 99.9%, or Mao’s, Deng’s and yr popularity.

‘Any idea why his son is called Pinkie? And can you bring back a box of Havanas for his birthday: S’pore’s juz a bit further South. Yes, I know he doesn’t smoke, but he should start. I smoke a Havana a day and I think I’m fitter than he is.”

Above waz what I tot when I saw the u/m caption, pix and remark.

Party time for the one-party survivors

Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, speaks with China's President Xi Jinping in Havana, Cuba on 22 July 2014Xi Jinping and Fidel Castro met in Havana on 22 July

Caption for this photo anyone? asks the BBC’s Carrie Gracie.

My way of sending one LKY a belated birthday greeting. I’m sure the curses of the TRE ranters and other born-loser anti-PAP activists will invigorate him. Sith lords thrive on being hated.

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*Lest anyone forgets, Castro is LKY’s contemporary. Came into power the same yr as LKY did (1959) and is still the ultimate arbiter in Cuba, ruled by younger brudder. To be fair to LKY, he was a lot less brutal in dealing with dissidents than Castro was.

Precisely why many are concerned about immigration, Khaw

In Economy on 05/09/2014 at 4:33 am

“Against the many racial and religious conflicts elsewhere that we read about almost every day, the state of affairs here in Singapore is truly extraordinary. We must treasure it,” said Minister Khaw at a ceremony to hand out 194 citizenships to new arrivals. A total of about 3,150 new citizens were given their citizenship dog-tags slave collars papers in ceremonies across the island last weekend.

It’s precisely because we want to avoid racial and religious conflicts that we are concerned with the creation of new citizenas, the way we plant “instant” trees. The latter is good, while the former harks back to the bad old* days.

In 1959 (the 50s and early 60s* were according to the PAP and the constructive, nation-building media bad. (Actually they were paid bad according to my parents, only PJ Thum, TOC’s favourite authority on the period, seems to think that juz because S’pore was second biggest port in Asia, things were great then.). In 1959, only 270,00 out of the 600,000 voters were born here. When one LKY revealed the above fact in 1959, LKY also said,”we must go about our task (of building up a nation) with urgency … of integrating our people now and quickly”.

So waz his son doing? I tot it took the third generation to destroy the prosperity, fortune built up by the patriarch. Is Pinky trying to destroy dad’s legacy in the second generation, even if as it seems dad may have repented of his decision to integrate S’poreans?

(Relevant, related post )

So the PAP and other FT lovers like Kirsten Han and William Wan should stop calling those who are concerned about immigration, xenophobes. They should be talking about the unfairness of PRC thugs bullying old-age aunties trying to earn a living: the PRCs it seems came here to do what the old aunties were doing, scavenge for cardboard waste. Tot PM says S’pore imports FTs to do jobs S’poreans can’t, or wont do. So how come PAP govt allows these PR FTs to steal from aunties, the way Indian, Pinoy FTs steal jobs from local PMEs?

But being FT lovers, they won’t. Btw, be thank for small mercies: the FTs still don’t have their very own NMP since William Wan didn’t get to becpme NMP. Taz far, if the hard core anti-PAP voters didn’t get Roy Ngerng, FTs too shouldn’t get their very own MP.

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*Racial tensions, racial riots, political riots, massive unemployment.

 

PAP’s bible challenges “market-based solution”

In Economy, Political governance on 21/08/2014 at 4:47 am

I’ve blogged before that the PAP doesn’t need that many smart people as it follows most of the Economist’s prescriptions (except on hanging, drug legalisation, free media and a liberal democracy). It has been an Economist mantra that market pricing is “betterest” because it uncovers the “correct” price. It is also a PAP Hard Truth.

But now the Econimist seems to have second tots.

What if the “correct” pricing level were so high that it prohibited all but the rich from driving in the city? Gulliver paid £9 ($15) to park for a couple of hours next to a horribly overcrowded Dorset beach over the weekend. It was a scorching day, there was only one parking option and it was the first weekend of the school holidays. Unsurprisingly by the time I left attendants were turning away a long queue of cars. There was no public transport, and even if there had been it would have been impractical for Gulliver’s family and its array of apparently-essential beach tat. Who knows what the sweet price-spot on such a day would have been? Enough to put a day out on a public beach out of reach for many, I suspect. 

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2014/07/parking-apps

Think CoEs and public housing. Is the “correct” pricing out of reach of most without access to cheap credit? I suspect so.

“A Changing world means changing policies and a changed party,” Tony Blair told a flock of die-hard supporters in London on July 21st reported the Economist.

Trouble is that the PAP’s other bible is “Hard Truths” by one LKY. But given that Tony Blair is now rumoured to be worth more than US$100m (he denies the allegation), maybe the PAP should respect his views on the need to change. A PAP MP eye doctor surely would.

 

What Big Ass teach our govt and SME employers

In Corporate governance, Economy on 20/08/2014 at 4:25 am

The recent dip in labour productivity has the govt denying that restructuring is a failure. This and PM’s NDR speech reminded me that on 7 May, BT reported:  The government will help small and medium enterprises maximise their local and foreign workers’ contributions, amid the ongoing manpower crunch*.

They also reminded me about an article I had read about a US SME.

Big Ass is a US manufacturer of industrial and commercial fans. It makes its fans in the US (a high wage country), pays workers’ well (almost 30% above the national average wage, and nearly 50% above the Kentucky average) and is profitable and thriving. Surely it can teach the govt and our local manufacturers something about productivity in a high-wage environment?

The firm pays almost 30% above the national average wage, and nearly 50% above the Kentucky average. It also returns 30% of profits to its 500 employees in the form of bonuses or share programs. As a result, it can hire the best people, and keep them: in 2013 its retention rate was 88%, compared with a national average of 62%. It also gets a lot out of its workers: productivity is up by 175% since 2009 on one industry measure. Any profits that aren’t returned to workers are ploughed back into the firm. “If we have any money over at the end of the year, we’ve missed an opportunity to invest,” observes Mr Smith.

No rocket science or magic formula. It’s about paying gd wages and reinvesting in the biz, not being mean on wages, so that the SME owner can buy more properties or new super cars.

And its about growing “our own timber” (Ngiam Tong Dow, remember him?, not importing FTs:

Mr Smith’s biggest challenge today, he believes, is ensuring that Big Ass becomes what he calls “a 200-year company”. Part of that is down to people: he believes in hiring out of college, and moving those new hires through a range of different jobs. “We want young people to understand the whole company, because they’re going to be running it 40 years from now,” he says. Another part is hardwiring long-term thinking into the firm’s processes.

It’s also about spending on R&D

Big Ass invests nearly 9% of its revenues in R&D, more than twice the manufacturing-industry average in America. A lot is spent on hit-or-miss blue-sky research.

And it’s always about the long term future (think LKY in the 60s, 70s and 80s):

Privately held firms are not subject to the short-term whims of shareholders, but they face their own hurdles. Mr Smith’s son, Tristan, works for the company, but will his heirs want to cash out, offshore production or change the culture? To ensure that the firm’s values endure, Mr Smith is exploring ways to separate management and ownership, and embed the way the company does business into its formal structure. He has spent a lot of time looking at long-lived firms in Germany, Japan and elsewhere for inspiration. “For me, this is the most complicated and difficult problem to solve.”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2014/04/making-it-america

If Big Ass was a local SME, it would have brought in FTs by the container-load so that the owners could buy that Ferrari and luxury pent-house.

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*This was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s assurance to firms at the Malay-Muslim Business Conference held on Wednesday.

He said the government cannot ease up on the limits it has imposed on foreign worker inflows to Singapore.

However, Mr Lee added that the number of foreign workers in the country is still growing, though not as fast as before. [Interpretation: FTs will grow by the 747 and A380 cattle class, not by the container-load.]

He noted that small businesses are very worried about manpower and that many of them want more foreign workers. Those unable to find workers have had to turn away business.

Mr Lee’s advice to firms was to offer higher wages and exciting jobs as the best way to attract good people.

He noted that this is only possible if companies raise productivity and climb up the value chain.

Mr Lee said firms can tap the various government schemes available to do that.

He also encouraged companies to venture overseas, with the government’s help.

 

NatDay wish: Govt stop aping other places

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 08/08/2014 at 4:37 am

S’pore’s govt is forever trying to copy the successes of other places. Examples

– Israel’ and Silicon Valley’s tech prowess (forgot about Estonia meh?);

– Germany’s SMEs’ structure;

– China’s internet, social media censorship practices (thank god we got Yaacob, a Malay, doing it, not the People’s Voice, TKL who wants S’pore to adopt the Chinese practice of all bloggers and posters registering their identities with the govt before they can comment);

– Scottish biotech prowess (the imported Scots went home);

– Swiss standard of living (apparently we reached it but don’t realise it; costs compared); and

– American social conservatives’ values on family (though not on abortion).

The has been adding to global warming (all that hot air, and methane from BS) and a waste of effort, money.

The govt  should heed the words of a reader of the Economist (required reading of cabinet, civil service but apparently not Jason Chua and the other morons of that pro-PAP FB page, “Fabrications about the PAP”):

“What politicians and policymakers are looking for is a panacea. Imitating Germany will not work. There have been many attempts to imitate Silicon Valley, but no one has succeeded. It is impossible to copy the culture, thinking and collective experience found in a company or a country.”—on “German lessons”, July 12th 2014.

I could add that stopping aping might even help the PAP . I mean we like Israel got NS and high tech weaponry. But why we no got Iseal expertise in civilian high tech meh?. Btw, why NS and the welfare state go hand in hand.

The PAP should walk the talk of what DPM Teo said on 21 July

Singapore has to strengthen its track record of trust, knowledge, connectivity, and livability to attract global companies to set up shop in the country, but must also position itself where it can add most value, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

“To achieve sustainable growth, Singapore cannot simply continue to do more of the same, or to put in more resources in a linear fashion,” said Mr Teo, who was speaking at an annual scholarship award ceremony for the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Monday (July 21). (CNA)

The govt should remember that the world class port and the airport and the financial centre were developed without aping any other place. As was SIA, and Keppel Corp’s rig-building businesses. The starting point was the expertise already here, expertise that juz needed nurturing. And Dr Goh aped no-one when he developed Jurong and let the MBCs in.

 

 

 

GIC: Rubbing salt into S’poreans’ CPF woes

In CPF, Economy, GIC on 03/08/2014 at 4:42 am

This is how our constructive, nation-building BT reported how GIC is adding insult to injury:

AMID a gloomier outlook for fund managers globally, GIC has racked up annualised real returns of 4.1 per cent over the past 20 years to end-March this year, up from 4 per cent as at end-March last year. This return – above global inflation – was underpinned by a strong recovery in global financial markets, said the Singapore sovereign wealth fund.

Waz the point of this inflation-beating return when the 2.5% CPF rate is below S’pore’s inflation rate? Remember that until recently, we were told the 2.5% rate was justified given that inflation was oneish?

In late July after the June inflation numbers were released which showed core inflation slowed for a second straight month to 2.1 per cent after May’s 2.2%, but a drop to below 2% will be unlikely this year, OCBC economist Selena Ling told MediaCorp..

CIMB economist Song Seng Wun agreed: “The domestic pressure on core inflation hasn’t disappeared. In fact, the pass-through of wage costs to consumer prices has so far been slower than expected, but may become more visible as the economy further recovers.”Core inflation, which excludes accommodation and private road transport costs, is regardeded as a reflection of the wage cost pressure, and the MAS and the MTI retain their 2 to 3%  forecast given the tight labour market. Govt’s way of saying, “You want less FTs, we give you slower growth of FTs and higher inflation.”?The official forecast for all-items inflation is being kept at 1.5 to 2.5%, as the Government expects overall prices to ease in the second half due to lower imputed rentals and car prices, with Certificate of Entitlement quotas expected to rise more than expected*.

Especially as our CPF monies do find their way into the pool of funds managed by GIC. Not that this s any secret exposed by Roy Ngerng. I blogged about this in 2009. And I think TRE reproduced it then.

And one LKY spoke in 2000 or 20001 at a GIC anniversary do about how the CPF monies were converted into a special govt bond and the proceeds flowed into GIC after being mixed with govt surpluses in the Consolidated Fund.
*Update at 5ooam: Extract from BT of 24 July on inflation
The government has cut its 2014 inflation forecast amid lower car prices and housing costs expected for the second half of the year: it now sees headline inflation coming in at the lower half of its 1.5-2.5 per cent forecast range.

But with domestic cost pressures remaining the primary source of inflation, the government reiterated that core inflation (which strips out accommodation and private road transport costs) will stay elevated at 2-3 per cent in 2014.

The impact of rising consumer prices on households varied across different income groups in the first half of this year. Worst hit were the bottom 20 per cent of households: their larger expenditure shares on food and healthcare costs meant they experienced a higher inflation rate (excluding imputed rentals on owner-occupied accommodation) at 2 per cent, compared to the middle 60 per cent income group and the richest fifth of households (both at 1.7 per cent).

CIMB and DBS economists agreed that much of the increase in food and healthcare costs was the result of ongoing restructuring efforts, where a tight labour market has pushed costs (and therefore prices) up.

Said DBS’s Irvin Seah: “Restructuring is inflationary in nature, and it will affect everything. Even if we are unable to bring healthcare costs lower, we should try to moderate the pace of increase.”

According to a report released by the Department of Statistics (DOS) yesterday, Singapore households experienced a 1.7 per cent inflation rate in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2013. This was lower than the 1.9 per cent rise seen in the preceding six months.

Excluding imputed rentals on owner-occupied accommodation, the consumer price index (CPI) went up by 1.7 per cent in H1 2014 – slightly higher than the increase of 1.5 per cent in the second half of 2013.

As for the second half of this year, the government expects headline inflation to ease, due to lower car prices and accommodation costs.

ICT: To export, we import

In Economy, Uncategorized on 26/07/2014 at 5:02 am

What the charts show us that we import ICT stuff (5th in the world), add value then export them (4th).

Trade of ICT goods

Want slower GDP growth? Ok if property prices fall more than 20%?

In Economy, Property on 17/07/2014 at 4:56 am

When TRE republished this, Chris K* commented:
In short there is as much risks in an economy growing too fast as in growing too slow. The authorities had to be counter-cyclical i.e. push in the opposite direction to lessen the risks. In Singapore, the govt is cheering on the economy on, adding fuel to the fire. Stratospheric property prices, elevated cost of living, growing disparity in incomes are the result. They are irresponsible and unfit to run the economy*.

Because of its housing policies (keep on raising the prices of affordable public housing ’cause not to do so would be raiding reserves), a property crash (not juz the expected 20% fall)will result in a gloomy 50th yr anniversary next yr and the possibility*** of a freak election result. All the govt’s attempts to spend more of our money on ourselves in the hope of shoring up the vote for the PAP will go to nought.

As it is, the 20% fall is among other things based on GDP growth this yr of around 3.5%. If this turns out to be too optimistic (remember analyss have been busily revising downwards their above 4% growth), maybe property prices could fall 40%? A crash.

Those who want a slowing economy, esp those TRE posters who want a property crash should think of the hard working S’porean home owners (many of who whom are their friends and relatives), mortgaged to their eyeballs for basic shelter, not speculators (whose ranks are alleged to include millionaire ministers who have plenty of spare cash) that will be affected by a crash. Why should anyone be happy or gloat that others will suffer if property prices crash, unless the gloaters are lifer’s born losers.

(Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/why-banks-tested-for-50-plunge-in-property-prices-and-other-wonderful-tales/)

And engineering slowdowns can be tricky. Ask the Swedes. They tried and now face deflation http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21606895-interest-rates-are-back-crisis-lows-sub-zero-conditions.

Let me be clear, I speak as a retiree who stands to benefit if the economy crashes: prices come down and I can eat gourmet meals every day. So I’m not talking my book in understanding the dilemma that the govt faces, even if it is responsible for the mess we are in.

But don’t worry. All the PAP govt needs to do is to allow borrowers to borrow more: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/property-prices-valuations-are-irrelevant-its-all-about-credit/

All those TRE born losers will be left leaving frus and banging balls again.

*He knows his financial stuff esp risk mgt. He had better. He works as a risk mgr  in a nearby financial centre that is bigger than ours.

**His preceding comments: The comparison to the UK right at this moment bears watching. 1 year ago John Carney took over at the head of the Bank of England. He said at the time that interest rates will stay very low for a long time to come. Then the economy began to pick up steam and is now at around 2.9%, strong by European standards and close to the top of its long term growth potential. Last month John Carney has signalled to the markets that the central bank will be moving up its time frame to raise interest rates and head off risks. What are those risks? Strong growth raising the inflation rate. House prices shooting up causing instability. At the same time, the new financial stability committee is called to look into measures to mitigate these risks.

***Only possibility ’cause of GRC system. Anyway WP will support PAP if PAP doesn’t get majority. Low has said as much. PritamS wants it.

Property: Tharman trying to crack jokes again

In Economy, Property on 10/07/2014 at 4:34 am

I’ll not comment on Tharman’s CPF speech as Uncle Leong and many others have covered it. Instead, I’ll focus on a sppech he made last week congratulating himself on “cooling” the property market.

On 5th July BT reported that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman ShanmugaratnamHe told a conference that Singapore had responded early enough to raging property prices with a set of cooling measures.

Err is he living in the same S’pore as I am or is he in S’pore (Roy Ngerng’s version).

Here’s what the FT reported on 30th June

Over the past four years, the Asian city state has implemented more than a dozen measures to cool its housing market and stem a growing tide of protest from locals that rich foreigners are making home ownership unaffordable.

If this sounds like an echo of popular sentiment in London, that is because these are very similar economies. A big financial services industry, paying generous wages, sustains demand for high-end housing. That, in turn, pulls up prices further down the price scale, a dynamic accentuated by the availability of mortgage finance at record low rates. Both cities are also regional hubs for wealthy foreigners, with solid legal systems and relatively open borders attracting property investment from Chinese, Russian and Middle Eastern millionaires.

Back in 2010, when Singapore began to tighten mortgage conditions, the initial moves were similarly token [Talking of recent UK measures]. Stamp duty was imposed on property sellers, and the cap on the size of a buyer’s loan relative to the value of the property being bought was trimmed from 90 per cent to 80 per cent. Every few months since then, there have been further, ever more desperate measures. Stamp duty was raised, to punish quick purchases and resales; the LTV cap was cut to 50 per cent; higher taxes were imposed on foreign buyers; and a tradition of 50-year loans was cut to 30 years. None had much of an effect.So much so that this normally politically conservative island nation has been rebelling. The popularity of the ruling PAP party – in power since the formation of Singapore as an independent state 49 years ago – has plummeted. Disaffection with rising property prices is widely cited. [Emphasis mine]

It was only recently that Singapore’s cooling measures finally had a clear impact on runaway house prices, following introduction of a new “total debt servicing ratio” – a metric that limits a borrower’s aggregate debt repayment commitments to 60 per cent of income. Property purchase volumes have duly fallen by 50 per cent. Prices are down by 6 per cent and are forecast to fall by as much as 20 per cent.

Or is he trying to entertain his audience? As he’s an intelligent, no BS person, I have to conclude that he’s out to entertain.

Isn’t his comments on govt acting quickly on property prices, bit like his jokes on inflation, wages?

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

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

BTW, according to the BT report, he raised the possibility of a further correction in property prices, “I think further correction would not be unexpected.” but added that a crash in the property market was unlikely. The PAP would hope not given that next yr is an impt yr to remind the sheep of the PAP’s good deeds in the 60s, 70s and early 80s (before PM became a cabinet minister and too bad about the late 1990s and noughties, when he was DPM, dauphin and economic czar).

And On the subject of keeping track of the market, he called for more emphasis on monitoring banks. “I don’t want to quarrel with the Basel recommendations. They are basically in the right direction; they are good for the long term. If anything our banks are over-monitored (which is why the intellectual financial stuff gets done in HK, while the commoditised trading gets done here) , not that this over-monitoring has done the “little people” any gd: ask the mini-bonders.

 

FTs in HR & recruiment jobs, no gd for locals & other job issues

In Economy on 01/07/2014 at 4:36 am

Restrict HR, recruitement jobs to true-blue S’poreans

Because people tend to look favourably on candidates similar to themselves, a significant reduction in discrimination in the labour market may require the hiring of new recruiters in order to increase diversity among those who screen applicants. However, this study suggests that there is trouble ahead if prospective recruiters are to be evaluated by the current ones.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/06/labour-market-discrimination

So if the govt is serious about restricting the growth of FTs here, it should not allow businesses to employ FTs in HR and recruitment posts. Plenty of stories about Pinoys flooding mgrs with only Pinoy applicants. M’sian Chinese and Indian Indians too are allegedly big offenders. As are ang mohs. PRCs got good record here as only $ talk, blood doesn’t.

No wonder S’pore NSman is a rare and endangered species in the corporate suite. AWARE wimmin will be very happy, esp for their FT partners.

MoM’s data proves that liberal FT policies hurt S’poreans

On 14 June, BT reported that

In April, MOM had put the preliminary figure of March’s jobless rate at 2.1 per cent.

But in its Labour Market First Quarter 2014 report released yesterday, MOM noted that its final figure for March was still higher than that of December.

It attributed this to more Singaporeans – particularly the less educated – joining the labour market seeking employment because more jobs with higher wages had opened up, thanks to the tightening of the tap on foreign workers.

And earlier in June, BT reported that MoM data showed that wages went up as a result of less FTs being allowed in

Salaries in the private sector grew 5.3 per cent on the back of a tight labour market and improved economic conditions last year, up from 4.2 per cent in 2012.

Taking into account lower inflation, real total wages rose by 2.9 per cent in 2013, after declining by 0.4 per cent in 2012, according to the latest report on wage practices released by the Ministry of Manpower’s Research and Statistics Department.

As of December 2013, 77 per cent of private establishments with employees earning a monthly basic salary of up to $1,000 gave or intended to give wage increases to these employees in 2013, up from 60 per cent in 2012.

This included the 57 per cent that gave at least $60 built-in wage increase as recommended by the National Wages Council in 2013, up from the 28 per cent that gave at least $50 recommended in the preceding year.

Rank-and-file employees received a basic wage increase of 5.4 per cent, the highest in 16 years and up from 4.3 per cent in 2012. This was the first time since 2002 that the basic wage increase for the rank-and-file exceeded that of the non rank-and-file at 4.7 per cent.

DBS economist Irvin Seah said that the salary growth was in line with his expectations. “In terms of real wage growth, it is quite a significant improvement as inflation was actually higher in 2012. This reflects an improvement in productivity and a tighter labour market,” he said.

Toby Fowlston, managing director of Robert Walters Singapore, said: “There has been an increased focus on hiring local talent, resulting in greater competition for this limited talent pool, especially in certain sectors with high demand. This drives wages up, but not for every industry.”

(Emphasis mine)

And flexi-wages remain a WIP

The MOM report also revealed that there has been a general uptrend in the implementation of flexible wage measures. In December 2013, 86 per cent of private sector employees worked in establishments which had at least one of the flexible wage components recommended by the tripartite partners – employers, workers and government.

Having a narrow maximum-minimum salary ratio was the most common wage recommendation adopted at 63 per cent. This was followed by linking variable bonus to Key Performance Indicators (51 per cent) and having the Monthly Variable Component (34 per cent) in the wage structure.

Bonuses did not go up as much as basic wages in 2013 as the annual variable component in the private sector averaged 2.21 months of basic wage in 2013, up by 0.9 per cent from the 2.19 months in 2012. Consequently, the annual variable component formed a slightly higher share of total wages at 15.6 per cent in 2013, than the 15.4 per cent in 2012.

Cham Hui Fong, assistant secretary-general, National Trades Union Congress, said that the labour movement will continue to push for the Progressive Wage Model to be pervasive in all sectors.

“This will not only raise productivity and upgrade skills, our workers can also look forward to better wages and better career progression. We also call on employers to tap on the various funding schemes and programmes, so as to achieve higher productivity growth,” she added.

Economists like Selena Ling, head, treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank, added that the wage growth is expected to continue.

“The economic and business cycle is picking up globally, albeit at a choppy pace, and it is not unexpected that more firms are turning the corner. Real wage growth should be sustained this year, especially since inflation is subsiding. It will be very encouraging if the wage share increases over time as well,” she said.

No Country for above 40s

49% of unemployed S’poreans are above 40

http://sbr.com.sg/hr-education/news/mid-life-crisis-bulk-singapore%E2%80%99s-unemployed-are-older-40

 

MoM’s Labor Market survey showed that there were 29,000 unemployed residents older than 40. This is equivalent to 49% of the 59,300 unemployed residents for March 2014.

There are also more older residents who suffer from long-term unemployment. MoM’s data showed that out of 12,900 residents who had been looking for work for more than 25 weeks, almost 8,700 were older than 40.

- See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/hr-education/news/mid-life-crisis-bulk-singapore%E2%80%99s-unemployed-are-older-40#sthash.XQSoHV2X.dpu

 

CIMB’s Cost of Living Survey reflects reality better than Hard & Heart Truths

In Economy, Financial planning on 13/06/2014 at 4:25 am

Going by the CIMB survey and the attendance at Roy’s rant, Hard Truths is closer to reality (slightly only leh) than Heart Truths:

The CIMB’s Cost of Living Survey revealed that 87% of Singaporean households can still save a porti:on of their monthly income. Outside property expenses, people are spending mostly on basic necessities, cars and transport, and retirement savings.

And

We think that the idea that households are struggling is not quite right. That people are quoting the last as one of their biggest expense items does not quite gel with the idea of hardship.

Are households overstretching themselves to pay for their properties and cars? Our survey indicates that about 87% can save a portion of their monthly income (13% have no savings). Most manage to stash away
20-50% of their income.

https://sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/chart-day-graph-shows-no-021300551.html

Well this is certainly not the pix that PAP ministers and the constructive, mainstream media portray: S’poreans are living the gd life under the benevolent rule of the PAP.

And this is certainly not the pix one gets of the standard of living of ordinary S’poreans going by what Ngerng’s gang said last Saturday. Maybe taz why they only attracted a crowd of 2-3,000*.

Most S’poreans including most of the 600,000 (30% of voters) that will always vote against the PAP, simply don’t recognise the S’pore that Roy and gang paint? I certainly don’t recognise it, when I observe the lives of my relatives. Most live in public housing, have salaries around the median,  and have kids in school or uni.

The CIMB survey captures them better than Roy’s rants or the PAP’s propaganda: so long as got job, no serious illness, life is comfortable.

There is a core of elderly S’poreans, who need and deserve, a lot more help from the state. But for most younger S’poreans only a few major renovations to the gospel of Hard Truths are needed, to help them: really affordable HDB flats (15 yr mortgages, not 20 yr mortgages), improved public transport services, universal healthcare (improved Medisave is the first step towards that destination), and a lot less FTs. The last is the most impt, cause FTs suppress wages for S’poreans esp the PMETs.

BTW, these comments appeared on FB below the link to the CIMB story:

Gotta laugh at the holiday part…it’s true. People in my circle of friends who complains about cost of living; these are the people who travels for leisure more than I do*.

– And the same crowd of people will curse Yahoo for exposing their hypocrisy.

Have to agree with them.

Enjoy yr weekend esp if you are an ISD employee. No comedy routines at Hong Lim this weekend. Can look at yr monthly CPF statement and smile, thanking the govt.

*The former was the figure reported by WSJ and the latter by Yahoo.  “Singaporeans, there are 6,000 people here today,”  Roy’s gf, New Citizen Han claimed. Maybe Roy should get her a new pair of glasses, courtesy of his defence fund? And a pair of hearing aids? Remember he denied her reported comments that he wanted to be a martyr and was planning to seek asylum in Denmark. She never denied the report.

 

“E-Friction” index: HK’s 5th, S’pore’s 15th

In Economy, Hong Kong, Internet, Public Administration on 01/06/2014 at 4:48 am

Interesting that this never ever got reported by our constructive, nation-building media or mentioned by Yaacob, the propaganda ministry, MDA and IDA

The solution to improving our score is ensuring speedy and cheap online access should top the list. So come on Yaacob, MDA and IDA: stop trying to fix netizens and get us cheaper online access. Example the 4G charges were added on.

More on the index:

A new study by the Boston Consulting Group, to be presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week … “Greasing the Wheels of the Internet Economy”, its purpose is to make it easier to identify points of friction that hold back the digital economy.

At the heart of the report is an “e-friction” index. The authors took no fewer than 55 indicators (from “internet bandwidth per capita” and “average mobile connection speed” to “strength of intellectual property protection” and “press freedom”) and calculated a score for each of the 65 countries covered, which rises the higher the friction (see chart on this page. The full country ranking can be found here).

The usual suspects from northern Europe (Sweden, Finland, Denmark) end up on top, with HK 5th, Oz 14th and S’pore 15th.

… Such rankings often depend on how the indicators are weighed. BCG argues that infrastructure factors, such as the quality and cost of internet access, are the most important sources of friction, and bases half of its index on these. Other types of indicators, such as those that measure barriers that deter companies and consumers from adopting the internet, count much less. But even with a more even weighting, the authors say, the results would not be much different.

A more interesting finding is a clear correlation between a country’s rank in BCG’s index and the size of its internet economy: the lower the friction, the larger the share of online-related activities as a percentage of GDP …

What can countries do to move up the curve? Each country is different, the authors of the study argue. But ensuring speedy and cheap online access should top the list.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2014/01/digital-trade

Event planning Pinoy style?

In Economy on 31/05/2014 at 5:22 am

The way the Pinoy party was planned and organised, then cancelled reflects badly on the claim that “T” in FTs stand for “Talent”. Skip the next four paras if you know the facts.

The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS) is a non-profit umbrella organization representing the Pinoy community in Singapore. It is made up of Pinoy professionals, skilled workers, and cultural societies who planned to celebrate the 116th independence of the Philippines at Ngee Ann City, Orchard Road on 8 June 2014.

The announcement drew a chorus of boos and protests from Singaporeans with Goh Meng Seng and Gilbert Goh shouting louder than others. Turned out no application had been made to hold the function, let alone secure the funds.

PIDCS then lodged its application for a permit, then withdrew it. The police said the withdrawal follows public order and safety concerns about the venue. A police spokesman said, “Police had also advised the organisers to consider alternative locations used previously for the event, such as Hong Lim Park in 2013 and Suntec City in 2012.”

The PIDCS then cancelled the event which meant that for the first time in 20 yrs (Yup that long) saying various other venues – including Labrador Park – were considered for this year’s Philippine Independence Day celebrations. The police would have likely granted a permit for the use of such venues. But a PIDCS statement said these venues did not “pan out for various reasons” including “accessibility to public transportation and capacity constraints”.

If the above is the result of Talents planning an event: Talents? What Talents?

– Announcing the event before getting permission, let alone applying for permission.

– Deciding to ignore the “noise”, and applying for permission.

– Not being aware that holding a function in the middle of Orchard Rd is different from that at  Suntec or Hong Lim.

I understand from police sources that the organisers were surprised that the police wanted to know how the organisers planned to handle the additional influx of up to several thousand visitors to an already crowded stretch of Orchard Rd on a Sunday. (I’ll go into more detail on what happened between the police and the Pinoy Pride people sometime in the future. Rest assured that if the Pinoys had come come up with credible plans, the SPF would have allowed the event, Gilbert Goh’s call of disrupting it notwithstanding.)

– Not having a plan B.

– Not securing the funds ($50,000 for the Orchard Rd party)

S’pore doesn’t need these type of Talents to organise events. We can call on Tan Kin Lian and Goh Meng Seng (TKL’s adviser) to organise events badly. Think of TKL’s badly organised election campaign. Three things stand out. The

– Rally that had to end just when TKL started speaking. The other speakers had talked more than they should.

– Plan, abandoned, to raise the deposit (TKL knew he was going to lose it?) via public donations.

– Appearance at a memorial commemoration in campaign tee-shirts, followed by the excuse that they didn’t know it was a memorial commemoration.

To be fair to GMS, the NSP’s 2011 GE was at least in Marine Parade well organised. Example: the posters were better positioned than the PAP ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Analysts too agree we need FTs

In Economy on 29/05/2014 at 4:53 am

So TRE readers and other anti-PAP paper activists, are the analysts mentioned in u/m Bloomberg articles (and the many others who hold these views)  PAPpy moles?

My point is that on the issue of FTs (esp in the manufacturing sector), the govt ‘s pro FT stance has the support of conventional wisdom.

One striking fact is that even among the best performing metropolitan areas, overall increases in output per capita have been hard to come by. They have been limited to a handful of very brainy cities, especially West Coast tech centres. In general, growth has been a product of population increase large enough to offset falling output per person.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/05/migration

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/us-experience-on-growing-gdp-via-productivity/

That the conventional wisdom may be flawed is another issue though.

But those of us who don’t want FTs by the container or cattle truck load or even by the 747 or A380 cattle class, must recognise that the govt’s view is that of conventional wisdom.

—-

“This manufacturing recovery that we’re all hoping for seems to be sputtering again,” said Chua Hak Bin, a Singapore- based Bank of America Corp. economist who worked at the country’s central bank for six years. “Foreign-worker restrictions will be tightened further in July. We think Singapore may not be able to fully capitalize on a global demand upswing because of these constraints.”

Singapore in February said it will tighten rules for companies hiring foreign workers for a fourth straight year, with the next round of measures scheduled to take effect July 1. Manufacturers including Western Digital Corp. have moved operations to other Southeast Asian nations, as employers on the island grappled with the restrictions that raised costs and helped push unemployment to a five-year low in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Singapore’s exports declined in nine out of 11 months last year, faring worse than neighbors from South Korea to Malaysia. Manufacturing output shrank in the fourth quarter from the previous three months, and has grown at about 60 percent the pace of the services industry in the past two years as companies struggled to expand, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“The restructuring has diluted our overall competitiveness,” said Irvin Seah, an economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore. “It’s not just higher labor costs but it’s also the labor crunch, because when you don’t have enough workers, how are you going to meet that order?”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-12/singapore-exports-recovery-seen-limited-as-worker-shortage-bites.html

CPF: Answering TRE poster & supporters/ NMP on inconvenient CPF truths

In CPF, Economy, Political governance on 28/05/2014 at 4:09 am
Toast Bread:

Will LHL answer just one question please?
Did any Singaporean authorize or consent to CPF locking up our CPF retirement money at 55 ?

Rating: +34 (from 34 votes)

 (On TRE)
Person seems to have forgotten that ever since the PAP introduced the Minimum Sum, PAP keeps getting re-elected. Ever heard of implicit consent? Last election the PAP got 60% of the votes. Still some way to go.
Seriously, elected govts round the world run on their record and the promises they make. By re-electing a govt, the majority of voters accept the entire package.
 …..
Never tot much of this NMP who uses a lot of mascara, was a PAP member (expectations were that she would be a PaPpy MP. But she surprised with her frank remarks on inflation (domestic pressures) and CPF rates( lower than inflation will erode our CPF savings):

Nominated MP Tan Su Shan said that it was probable that Singaporeans had to factor in a higher rate of inflation when calculating their retirement adequacy.

This, given the fact that CPF members enjoy a risk-free interest rate of 2.5 per cent per annum on their Ordinary Account savings, but bearing in mind that inflation in Singapore has averaged 4.1 per cent over the last three years since the economic restructuring journey began.

“This is double the historic average inflation rate of about 2 per cent and will erode our CPF savings,” she said, adding that it would be “useful” for the government to provide a medium-term projection of the country’s inflation rate.

Ms Tan … noted that since the Monetary Authority of Singapore had chosen to maintain a strong and stable Singapore dollar, it was likely that most inflation costs could come from domestic pressures.

“Being able to project the growth rate of our cost of living expenses will help us make the right choices, outside of parking our surplus funds in cash deposits,” she said. (Yesterday’s BT)

Ms Tan is the head of private banking at DBS Bank and is considered to be a possible future CEO, by no less than the chairman. She is a S’porean birther, not a new citizen.

S’pore’s trade and debt vis-a-vis other Asean countries, China Japan and India

In Economy on 24/05/2014 at 5:48 am

If S’pore is as bad as anti-PAP cyber warriors say, why is the data showing that things are pretty decent?

We are certainly not the paradise that our constructive, nation-building media say it is, but the media is more accurate than the paper-activists. Let’s not deny reality. Don’t be like the PAP on the need to love FTs. LOL

Example: South Korea has a debt-to-output ratio of 103%, Singapore (105%), Thailand (127%), Malaysia (134%), and Hong Kong (208%).

http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/88906250-b9cc-11e3-957a-00144feabdc0.img

http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/88906250-b9cc-11e3-957a-00144feabdc0.img

 

PM’s idea of saving our lunch

In Economy, Malaysia, Public Administration on 07/05/2014 at 4:54 am

Is to let FTs come in and eat it? And our dinner, supper and breakfast too.

“We can’t tell our competition to go away. They want to eat our lunch, we know that. They want to eat our dinner, we suspect that. We can’t stop them from wanting, but we can make sure we can hold our own, and we can eat our own lunch.” (PM’s May Day speech)

So long as the govt allows PMET FTs in by cattle-class on A380s and 747s (an improvement from the container load, I must admit), taz the effect even if  as PM cont’d*, “We can provide you the resources and the means to stay one step ahead of the competition, and we will have a Singapore system which we can work together to build, to maximise your potential, maximise your contributions.”

From this week’s Economist, “Bill Martin and Robert Rowthorn, economists at Cambridge University, argue that one reason for Britain’s poor post-crisis productivity is that low wages encouraged firms to rely on human labour for low-skilled work, rather than investing in machines and software. Wage rises should start to reverse that trend, boosting investment and workers’ productivity.” Emphasis mine

This stands the Hard Truth that productivity must come before wage rises on its head.

But maybe this Hard Truth will be ditched before the next GE, even if LKY hasn’t “moved on” by then?”

Yesterday, ST reported, Singapore cannot be a First World economy with Third World costs, said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang yesterday at a lunch dialogue with prominent European diplomats and business leaders based here.

But he also assured them that Singapore will stay competitive and business-friendly even as it restructures the economy to achieve quality growth.

Responding to a question from the floor on rising business costs, Mr Lim said: “We have to acknowledge that, over time, Singapore cannot be a First World economy with Third World costs.”

Actually the only thing here about “third world” costs is that our PMETs and other true blue S’porean workers are paid “peanuts”. Other costs like property rentals, petrol, utility bills are among the highest in the world. and the cost of cars are out of this world. Remember the govt tried to debunk a UBS survey of cities which showed that KL had a better ranking because the cost of living there was more in line with wage levels than S’pore? Though to be fair, public tpt fares are reasonable by NY, or London standards, or even that of Brisbane.And healthcare is reasonably priced if one uses the public healthcare system.

So oldies like me who are not 110% behind the PAP had better watch out: wage repression has been gd for us. We are like suckling pigs voting for CNY, sheep for Ramadan or turkeys for Christmas. If LKY calls me “daft”, he is right as usual.

Coming back to PM, and saving our lunch while continuing the “FTs are best” policy, PM should remember what an American officer asked,during the battle of Huế**,“Did we have to destroy the town in order to save it?”.

He should be asking himself if Hard Truths require that FTs eat locals’ lunch and more so that S’pore’s GDP can continue to grow?

——-

*[Update at 1.33pm} I juz read that PM said yesterday that “the number of foreign workers in the country is still growing, though not as fast as before.” (CNA). It was so fast, that if it had cont’d at the rate between 2006- 2011, we’d be having serious overcrowding problems.

** The Battle of Huế during 1968 (also called the Siege of Huế), was one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Vietnam War (1959–1975). Battalions of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), two U.S. Army battalions, and three understrength U.S. Marine Corps battalions defeated 10 battalions of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN or NVA) and the Viet Cong (Việt Cộng or VC, also known as National Liberation Front or NLF).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hu%E1%BA%BF

Who is right? PM? Heart Truths? Consumer survey?

In Economy, Humour, India, Indonesia, Political governance on 05/05/2014 at 4:51 am

Recently PM said the problems S’pore were facing were the results of success*. Here I asked: Success what success? Real wages grew by only 0.4% while GDP grew by 5.9% . while the prices of public housing apartments went up in a recession.

Meanwhile, many new media warriors (posters on TRE; Heart Truths, near relation to Hard Truths; Han Hui Hui, an FT turned new citizen, who is proof that the Bumis in M’sia are right not to trust the local Cina: Uncle Chua etc) are always full of how hard life is for the average S’porean.

This so-called suffering doesn’t chime with what I observe in shopping malls, restaurants, or even hawkers’ centres or coffee shops, or what my friends, relations or biz connections tell me: S’poreans are  feeling more confident of confident of their prospects, and hence are spending more. Note, I’m not saying that there are no S’poreans suffering, but I take issue that the majority of S’poreans are suffering.

Well a recent Nielsen survey** of 501 S’poreans seems to confirm my view: that things are OK and improving, but not as great as PM is spinning. After all he got a GE to win.

Consumer confidence in Singapore is at its highest level in 10 consecutive quarters, with people remaining upbeat about personal finances and being more willing to spend.

According to the latest consumer confidence index released by Nielsen, Singapore recorded an index score of 99 in the first quarter, up two notches from 97 in the previous quarter … but still shy of the 100 baseline, has yet to reach optimism. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism. [If things are as great as what PM, his ministers and their trumpeters*** in the constructive, nation-building media saying, shouldn't the score be 150 and rising?]

The head of Nielsen Financial Services in Singapore and Malaysia was quoted as saying “The positive outlook on the economy and personal financial circumstances is starting to trickle down to consumers’ spending intentions: we notice an increase in the number of Singaporeans who are willing to spend money on discretionary expenses . . . if these intentions materialise, they could act as a further stimulus to the economy.”

So am I, Nielsen and those S’poreans spending more living in the same S’pore as our PM, or the people complaining via new media? Who is more reflectively of the reality of life in S’pore? PM and Heart Truths and friends are aliens that landed here on UFO Goh Meng Seng, the scourge of Pinoy Pride here?

Jokes about aliens and GMS aside, maybe

– PM and his ministers are out of touch, what with their huge salaries? Yesterday, I wrote “Of course Mah Bow Tan http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/05/01/netizens-agog-at-mah-bow-tans-fortune/and other millionaire ministers (present and retired) are not among these ‘lesser mortals”” in a piece of  EFTs that mimic the strategies of hedge funds.

– It’s these new media warriors who are the suffering underclass and they think that they are representative S’poreans? Or they are fruscos who think that they should have been talent-spotted by the PAP? They are always claiming that the suffering is always the fault of the PAP govt, never an issue of personal responsibility or sheer bad luck, so maybe they have personal grievances against the PAP? BTW, I exclude TRE’s Richard Wan as he knows he has a comfortable living, and knows it.

My serious point is that whatever new media or PAP media or anyone says about any topic, those of us who are rational have to ask ourselves,”Chime with what I observe?”. Don’t get carry away with the views of others. They could have agendas, delusions to propagate.

BTW, more details from BT (1 May) on the Nielsen survey:

– Some 54 per cent of respondents from Singapore consider their finances to be “good” or “excellent”, unchanged from the previous quarter.

– There is an uptick in Singaporeans who intend to invest in stocks and mutual funds, up six percentage points at 32 per cent … continue to be prudent with their money. Some 70 per cent would channel their spare money into savings, up six percentage points compared to the previous quarter and well above the global average of 47 per cent … more Singaporeans intend to increase their discretionary expenditure on a vacation and new clothes. Some 54 per cent intend to spend their spare cash on a holiday, while 37 per cent would spend it on new clothes, a quarterly increase of five and 11 points, respectively.

Interestingly, two of the three countries with the highest consumer confidence levels are in Asean Indonesia (124),  and the Philippines (116). BTW, India (121) is in between.

*Singapore’s economy has fared better than expected over the last decade, but the country’s success also brought about its own set of challenges.  PM Lee made this point in a wide-ranging discussion with regional newspaper editors  recently.

He said the country had paid the price of this fast growth, as infrastructure wasn’t able to keep up with the rapid development.

Mr Lee was asked about Singapore’s success during his time as Prime Minister and if anything exceeded his expectations.

He said yes, the country had done economically better than expected and grown faster — attributing it to favourable conditions.

As investments poured in, the government had put in resources and brought in foreign labour needed to grow. As a result, developments at the Marina Bay area sprung up in within a decade, instead of the expected 20 to 30 years.

He said that in terms of infrastructure, the country had not been able to catch up and had paid a price, and added that the government had been working hard over the past three to four years trying to come back up to speed.

He said that if the government had been able to foresee the outcome, it would have acted sooner.

But that, he said, was with the benefit of “20-20 hindsight”.

“We succeeded more than we expected, and so in terms of the infrastructure, we were not able to catch up — our public transport, building houses,” said Mr Lee. “And we paid a price.”

“We have spent the last three, four years working hard to try and come up back to speed. I wish we had been able to foresee this outcome, and then we would have acted sooner.

“But that’s 20-20 hindsight.”

Mr Lee also emphasised that it’s important for Singaporeans to feel they have a sense of belonging to the country — and that is something that is still a work in progress.

But Mr Lee acknowledged that this growth had come with a cost.

CNA extract

**The survey, conducted from mid February  to  early March this year, polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries,

***These public grievances [on healthcare costs immigration, ministerial salaries] and expert doubts did appear in the media; they were not completely blacked out. But, they were always toned down and set in a context that ensured that the government’s voice remained dominant. When there was undeniable distance between public opinion and the government’s position, leaders required the press to work towards a consensus by shifting the ground rather than nudging the government.

By dampening doubts and dissent, by allowing government to operate in an echo chamber, the media gave yesterday’s policy makers an easier ride. But, today’s policy makers are paying the price. There is now more for them to undo as they move their frame of reference back to the centre-left. Furthermore, a lack of responsiveness resulted in lower levels of trust, which now make it harder for the government to persuade the public when it needs to.

The flawed media policy is behind the current government’s biggest failure – its inability to sell its Population White Paper, which by its own reckoning was a vitally important strategic blueprint for the future. Because it had been unwilling to subject its immigration policies to even the gentle probing of friendly national media in the past, it lost touch with public sentiment and lost precious political capital. Today, it is unable to carry the ground on immigration issues.

Even when it speaks sense – like when the Prime Minister chided Singaporeans for their irrational, tribal response to the upcoming Philippine Independence Day celebration – it meets a wall of cynicism and hostility.

http://www.mediaasia.info/how-singapores-media-restrictions-have-hurt-even-the-pap/

Author is hubby of  ST’s editor.

PM, police chief, Kirsten Han, Heart Truths are aliens?

In Economy, Financial competency, Humour on 01/05/2014 at 5:07 am

Here via UFO Meng Seng?

This funny take on a recent scientific finding* http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/04/11/pap-makes-use-of-oxytocin-to-manipulate-us/ provoked the usual “PAP will be defeated in the next GE” BS.

Well after the next GE, when the PAP wins (albeit hopefully with only 51% of the popular vote, and a GRC or two falls to the SDP, and the WP retains their seats), I wonder if the same TRE posters who proclaims victory in the next GE will blame the PAP for for putting oxytocin into the water supply? They might as well start blaming VivianB now?

After all these TRE posters who say the PAP will be defeated in the next GE belong on the same planet as the PM**, police commissioner (he excluded NS men from his calculations of police to people ratio http://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/inaccurate-police-force-to-resident-ratio-figure/)***, Kirsten Han (who thinks that S’poreans can have a dialogue with the govt on its pro-FT policies) and Heart Truths ****.

Their reality of S’pore is different from that of mine, and I suspect of most ordinary S’poreans (esp the 35% whose minds can be changed by rational arguments), Their reality is only slightly different; but juz enough to tell us that they are aliens from an alternate S’pore, in a different time and space, who came here on a UFO piloted by one Goh Meng Seng, assisted by his buddy Tan Kin Lian.

My serious point is that no-one group has a monopoly of saying or thinking irrational, stupid things. We are all stupid. It’s juz that are more stupid than others, and don’t realise their stupidity.

Good long weekend.

————————————————

*Members of a group are more likely to lie after they inhale the “love hormone” oxytocin, a study has found.

This hormone is known to be released during close bonding between groups, and mothers also release it during childbirth and breastfeeding.

The results suggest that individuals in closely bonded groups are more likely to lie when it benefits the group than when it only benefits the individual. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26771703

**Singapore’s economy has fared better than expected over the last decade, but the country’s success also brought about its own set of challenges.  PM Lee made this point in a wide-ranging discussion with regional newspaper editors  recently.

He said the country had paid the price of this fast growth, as infrastructure wasn’t able to keep up with the rapid development.

Mr Lee was asked about Singapore’s success during his time as Prime Minister and if anything exceeded his expectations.

He said yes, the country had done economically better than expected and grown faster — attributing it to favourable conditions.

As investments poured in, the government had put in resources and brought in foreign labour needed to grow. As a result, developments at the Marina Bay area sprung up in within a decade, instead of the expected 20 to 30 years.

He said that in terms of infrastructure, the country had not been able to catch up and had paid a price, and added that the government had been working hard over the past three to four years trying to come back up to speed.

He said that if the government had been able to foresee the outcome, it would have acted sooner.

But that, he said, was with the benefit of “20-20 hindsight”.

“We succeeded more than we expected, and so in terms of the infrastructure, we were not able to catch up — our public transport, building houses,” said Mr Lee. “And we paid a price.”

“We have spent the last three, four years working hard to try and come up back to speed. I wish we had been able to foresee this outcome, and then we would have acted sooner.

“But that’s 20-20 hindsight.”

Mr Lee also emphasised that it’s important for Singaporeans to feel they have a sense of belonging to the country — and that is something that is still a work in progress.

But Mr Lee acknowledged that this growth had come with a cost.

CNA extract

Success what success? Real wages grew by only 0.4% while GDP grew by 5.9% . while the prices of public housing apartments went up in a recession.

And belonging? What belonging? When FTs can hold events in public spaces, and S’poreans are ghettorised in Hong Lim?

***Wonder what the ratio would be like if  Cisco officers are included (they still wear uniforms that look like police uniforms) are included. I tot of calculating the ratio but there doesn’t seem to be any information available via a google search.

****On govt stealing interest from CPF http://sonofadud.com/2014/04/04/cpf-and-hdb-10-real-dirty-tricks/

And on CPF contributions being a tax and CPF being theft despite this study ranking S’pore’s CPF system as the  7th best out of 20 pension systems analysed http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/042914/top-pension-systems-world.asp?utm_source=newstouse&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=NTU-4/30/2014

MH370 fallout hurts us too

In Economy, Indonesia, Malaysia, Tourism on 06/04/2014 at 4:49 am

The incompetency of the M’sian defence officials (no explanation yet on why aircraft were not scrambled when aircraft veered off course) and there are allegations that the veering off course was not detected forb hours), and the perceived failures may affect us.

Demand for inbound tours featuring Singapore and Malaysia could see some ripple effect, following the backlash that Malaysia has received in China …

SA Tours’ manager for inbound tours, Dan Tan, said that he has seen a 40 per cent decrease in demand for such combined packages. Mr Tan said that the bulk of the drop comes from Chinese tourists, as demand from tourists in other countries have held steady.

At this time of the year, SA Tours usually receives enquiries from Chinese tourists for large tour groups of 80 to 100 people for the mid-year holiday period. However, for now, the company has received enquiries only from small groups of three to five people.

Mr Tan said that while business has already declined because of a weaker global economy, he believes the MH370 incident is another reason behind the drop in numbers for combined inbound tours. “There’s a lot of debate online between Malaysians and the Chinese, and the Chinese are saying they won’t come to Malaysia again,” said Mr Tan.

To assure tourists, Golden Travel Services’ managing director, Cindy Chng, has told them that travelling to Malaysia is still safe, that the incident “should have no linkage with the place itself” …  no cancellations thus far from Chinese tourists coming in July for combined tours … they have expressed some concerns. “They may not have a good impression of Malaysia and don’t want to travel there,” …

She added that she is open to making changes for tourists if they want to forgo the Malaysia leg of the tour. [Package with Bali leh]

While CTC Travel does not have combined tour packages … said that he expects such sentiments to cause a drop in Chinese tourists coming to Singapore. “We’re pretty close neighbours, and people tend to link us together,” …does not think the impact will be huge … CTC … not been affected much as the company does not have many Chinese customers and focuses more on outbound travel.

Timesworld Travel & Educational Tours and Chan Brothers said that the incident has not impacted combined inbound tours, possibly because they run more corporate and educational tours which could be less affected.

But Timesworld … said that they could face a 10 to 20 per cent drop in demand for the peak season. People are still unsure and are waiting for others to take the first step, she said.

Tour operators say that the number of Chinese travellers on combined tours in the upcoming months will depend on how the situation is handled and resolved …

(BT 5 April)

PAP govt missing the point on how to grow the economy?

In Economy, Political economy on 27/03/2014 at 4:54 am

Growing the economy doesn’t mean more FTs, nor more start-ups, nor more financing of SMEs (owners use money to buy property, flashy cars and donate to WP LOL), but an innovation ecosytem.

This comment by someone analysing the stagnation in the West applies here too

What we need if we are to avoid the much-feared “secular stagnation” is not many small startups—or an obsession with financing “SMEs”–but an innovation ecosystem in which these new firms are made relevant through a dynamic interaction of public and private investments. This requires a public sector able and willing to spend large sums on education, research and those emerging areas that the private sector keeps out of (because of high capital intensity and high technological/market risk); large firms which reinvest their profits not in share-buybacks but in human capital and R&D; a financial system that lends to the real economy and not mainly to itself; tax policy that rewards long run investments over short run capital gains; immigration policy that attracts the best and the brightest from around the world; and rigorous competition policy that challenges lazy incumbents rather than letting them get away with high prices and parasitic  subsidies.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2014/02/invitation-mariana-mazzucato

Given the importance the PAP places on growth (a growing economy translates into voters: a Hard Truth that went wrong when the PAP forgot that growth must benefit voters), one can only hope it focus on creating an innovative ecosystem, rather than talk about it, as it has done for yrs on end.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/productivity-ageing-population-immigration/

Finnish education system aimed at creating unemployment?

In Casinos, Economy, Financial competency, Uncategorized on 26/03/2014 at 4:38 am

S’poreans who laud the Finnish education system may want to think again. Look at the unemployment figures in this chart. Look st the Finnish the S’porean figures. Finnish education better than ours leh? Our system not that bad leh? worse for rapid PAP haters, govt is promising change. LOL

Here’s another inconvenient fact for those who want us to be more Finnish. A S’porean studying there tells me that slot machines are everywhere: in convenience stores, shopping centres etc.

On gambling on per capita basis and because of our casinos, we juz behind the Ozzies. Restrictions for locals? What restrictions? Only restricted if cannot pay and pay. OK, OK, terms and conditions even then apply. Finland is a distant third.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2014/02/daily-chart-

Coming back to education, the fact that PISA ranks China (OK Shanghai as tops) in education, doesn’t deter wealthy Chinese parents from wanting a posh, private British education (think s/o JBJ). No they want potatoe speaking, half Chinese, half ang moh sons: they want a better education for their kids.

My serious point, is that education is a very complicated topics. And we shouldn’t trivalise a debate on education with throwing data willy nilly to support an ideological position, even if one LKY (the PAPpy haters tremble and cross their hearts at the mere mention of his name) does it. Remember his remarks about the kids in neighbourhood schools that gave the govt grief?

In fact, data has to be analysed, not used as sticking plaster to support or denounce any given position on any issue. There are no “right” facts, juz facts.

 

WP should resurrect its 1984 manifesto and 1991 speeches?

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 21/03/2014 at 4:55 am

(Or “Back to the future for WP in next GE?

In the course of helping the author of Dissident Voices in the research for the sequel, I borrowed the WP 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book from the National Library, Marine Parade branch. I couldn’t find it on the shelves so I asked the librarian if it was “protected” by an invisibility field or was only available to the “right” people. No, it wasn’t hidden away under lock and key. It was openly displayed on the shelf near the PAP’s 50th anniversary book. But it is such an inconspicuous volume that I missed it.

The book told me things that the ST never reported about the 1984 and 1991  general elections. Remember that these events happened before the internet age. If the media didn’t report something, it didn’t exist for practical reasons (Somewhere I blogged on how the 1988 results for Eunos GRC came as a surprise: WP nearly won).

I learnt that the 1984 election manifesto was entitled”Wake Up to Your Freedom , It’s Time”. calling for the people to vote for “the Hammer for a caring society”. The WP called for

– Free and adequate medical care for the needy

– Commission to review education policy

–Free schooling and equal opportunities in education for children from poor families

– Workers’ rights

– Reduced CPF contributions and the right to take your CPF savings at 55

– Adequate care for the aged

– Greater share forSsingaporeans in the economic wealth

– Help for the disabled

– Abolition of tax subsidies and privileges for the rich

– Reasonable compensation for acquired properties

– Abolition of tax on water, light and telephone services

– Review of all fees paid to government and statutory boards

– Guaranteed personal for every citizen

– Freedom from exercise of arbitrary power and protection of citizen’s rights

All this in response to the younger PAP’s ministers call to vote for the PAP for a Swiss std of living.

Compare this to the 2011 manifesto (Key Highlights) which has since been watered down. No more public tpt nationalisation.

I find the 1984 manifesto more stirring and, more importantly, rationally relevant today. True the ideas in the manifesto sounded like pie-in-the-sky in 1984 (when I voted for the WP because I believed that a one-party state was bad for S’pore even though I was happy with most of what LKY, Dr Goh and the other Water Margin “bandits” were doing for us: ya I that ungrateful), but the ideas are no longer rubbish.

According to the PAP we now have a Swiss standard of living (huh? OK, like us the Swiss are unhappy about immigration, so unhappy that in a recent referendum they told the govt to restrict immigration)), and it’s a fact that we got oddles of money in the reserves (though you wouldn’t think so reading Chris Balding and his mindless “hate S’pore” groupies) thanks partly to Dr Goh’s ideas: doesn’t this mean we can now afford the things WP was calling for in 1984?

As regards the danger of overspending, we got the capital, and part of the income from it locked away from the govt in power, whether it be PAP or not. So the govt can only spend what it raises in taxes and the like, what with borrowing requiring the president’s approval.

So the ground is fertile for trying shumething new without worrying that the new policies cannot be reversed.

Another interesting fact I learnt is that according to the book in the 1991 GE, speeches centred mainly on bread-and-better issues:

The PAP would give beautiful promises before elections but there would always be strings attached — service charges would see a hike soon after.

– Under PAP’s reign, it would be difficult to maintain a family and provide decent education for the next generation.

– Their policies have promoted social inequality and a widening of the rich-poor divide.

– Job security for the workers was pathetically limited.

Sounds familiar?  Back to the future?

So, all in all, JBJ and his merry men of bicyle thieves*, ex-Woodbridge patients* , opportunists and economic illiterates were prescient. More prescient than me at least (trained lawyer and wannabe corporate financier). They were prescient earlier than Dr Chee who was still in shorts in 1984. Remember he had been banging away since the 1990s about growing inequality etc as the SDP rightly never fails to remind us. Well JBJ and his merry men had been doing so earlier.

With this track record, why doesn’t WP remind us that it called the future right in 1984 and 1991?

One reason could be that Low is a modest man, not prone in triumphalism; he was Organising Secretary in 1988. Another reason could be that the WP thinks that in the real world the public has a bad impression of the WP in those years even though JBJ is fondly remembered in cyberspace. History began only in 2001, after Low took power from JBJ.

It’s a fact (not a Hard Truth or a Heart Truth) that after the 1997 GE, the WP went AWOL (or is it MIA?).

It went so AWOL or MIA that it could only field two candidates in 2001. It had wanted to field a GRC team too but one James Gomez** it is alleged screwed up, even though publicly Low took responsibility for the balls-up. In 1988, in the first GE under the uber gerrymandering GRC system, it fielded 32 candidates of uneven quality and contested 6 GRCs and 14 SMCs. In 1991 it fielded 13 candidates in 2 GCs and 5 SMCs. in 1996 it fielded 14 candidates in 3 GRCs and one SMC (Houygang). The candidates in 1991 and 1997 were the kind of people voters were comfortable with.

True the leadership had a major distraction that started when JBJ as the editor of the Hammer, even though he didn’t understand written Tamil, published a letter written in Tamil. Let these extracts tell the story.

Legal Action: An Tamil Article Published on THE HAMMER
In November 1995, the Party and the whole of its Central Executive Council found itself the object of two defamation suits filed by five PAP Tamil MPs and eleven members of the Organising Committee of the Tamil Language Week arising from an article published in the Party organ, “The Hammer”. The Plaintiffs’ complaint in both suits was that the article implied that their efforts to promote the Tamil Language had been less than sincere.Members of the Central Executive Council under suit by PAP Tamil MPs and the Organising Committee of the Tamil Language Week were:-
Chairman Dr Tan Bin Seng
Vice-Chairman A. Rahim Rahman
Secretary-General J. B. Jeyaretnam
Assistant Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang
Treasurer Sim Say Chuan
Organising Secretary Ng Ah Chwee
Committee Member Lim Ee Peng
Committee Member James Teo Kian Chye
Committee Member James Tan Joo Leng
Committee Member K. Mariappane
Committee Member Chan Keng Sieng
Eventually, in September 1997, the Party and its Central Executive Council members agreed to pay the five PAP Tamil MPs by 6 instalments, damages for defamation of $200,000/- (inclusive of legal costs). The suit by the eleven members of the Organizing Committee was in the course of hearing at time of writing.
 …

Judgment: A Tamil Article Published in THE HAMMER
By the said Judgment given at the High Court on the 30th November 1998 that Jeyaretnam, A Balakrishnan and the workers’ party were collectively and severally ordered to pay ten of the plaintiffs in the said suit a total sum of $265, 000/- for damages and costs to be taxed.The Worker’s Party’s appeal against the said judgment was dismissed on 21 April 1999. By then the total sum had snowballed to close to half a million dollars, inclusive of legal costs.

(Above extracts from http://archive.is/lSomP#selection-1561.0-1583.184)

(Update at 6.52 on day of publication: More on nuances of the defamation case: http://article14.blogspot.sg/2012/03/who-got-facts-wrong-kenneth-jeyaretnam.html and http://www.google.com.sg/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lrwc.org%2Fws%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F03%2FDefamationinSingapore.pdf&ei=N3ErU56GM877rAfhr4D4BA&usg=AFQjCNEGC0kB5Gwv5vdRztQr1ooO1060KA&bvm=bv.63316862,d.bmk)

Whatever the reason for not invoking the past in the past since 2001, the WP should seriously rethink the strategy of trying to be near-clones of the MIW. It was the right strategy in the noughties, and it culminated in the victories in 2011 (it campaigned as the voters’ co-driver to the PAP), 2012 and 2013. Huat ah.

But is it the right strategy for the next GE? For the reasons given above, I think not. It’s like the by-election strategy that was adopted by accident in 1991 (JBJ didn’t want it but he couldn’t get enough WP candidates); gd idea for its time but by the end of the decade had outlived its usefulness.

What do you think?

Especially if the ideas expressed here (http://thehearttruths.com/2014/03/19/truth-exposed-how-the-pap-will-crash-the-singapore-economy/take root in the real world), not juz  cyberspace i.e.”cowboy towns” (actually paper-warriors’ alternative reality).

As someone who wants for starters, an opposition that deprives the PAP of a two-thirds parliamentary majority, I don’t want the next GE to be a rerun of the 1997 one.

*OK, OK . Only one of each.  But there were many “strange” MP candidates, pre 1988. But thinking about it only those who perceived reality differently from other S’poreans would have dared take on the PAP in the 70s and 80s.  Remember LKY was no wimp like Goh or Pinkie; he was the leader of Water Margin “bandits”.

**Yup the same Gabra Gomez of 2006. His instructors in BMT would sure have been real nervous during range, and grenade throwing. In 2011, SDP made sure he kept away from the form filling.

When global rankings don’t flatter, PAP’s evolving response

In Economy, Humour, Political economy on 19/03/2014 at 5:03 am

“Troubles come in threes” is an old English saying.

he PAP may have reason to agree. The PAP has had three unflattering rankings. First off was the one early this yr from the people behind the Corruption Index.

Remember Ng Eng Hen getting upset with Transparency International (TI) for giving Singapore a “poor” rating last year for the way it spends money buying weapons. He said that TI’s assumptions for its assessment were flawed. He questioned its move to group Singapore in the same category as Iraq and Afghanistan. TRE rightly pointed out that given if the government finds TI not to be credible as Dr Ng has alleged in Parliament, perhaps the government should stop using TI’s rankings and surveys altogether.

For a start perhaps, CPIB could stop using TI’s rankings on its website. Presently, it prominently displays TI’s CPI on its home page.

Next, CPIB could remove all references to TI on its website [Link]:

[Err don't think this is done]

Also, PM Lee should remember not to quote TI in his speeches anymore [Link]:

(http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/02/19/dr-ng-condemns-tis-defence-spending-rating-for-sg/)

Smart people TeamTRE. TRE readers should note that the public face of TRE is a scholar and elite schoolboy. And they hate elites even though one of elites is on TeamTRE. Kinda irrational?

This was followed by EIU naming S’pore as the most expensive city in the world. Tharman rubbished this: My take on Tharman’s take.

BT, part of the constructive, nation-building SPH came out with a piece rubbishing the basis of the index Index and saying that it was not applicable to locals. Extract from BT is at end of article. Kinda long and boring.

Finally there was S’pore’s appearance at 5th spot in the Crony-Capitalism Index http://www.economist.com/news/international/21599041-countries-where-politically-connected-businessmen-are-most-likely-prosper-planet.

So far, there has been conspicuous silence from the govt and its media running dogs (apologies to the dogs) allies, even though the new media is flogging the story with glee, together with the takeover of Olam: anything to do in the PAP?

Could it be that the PAP has realised that silence is golden when it comes to responding to unflattering rankings. Perhaps it  has realised the self-defeating nature of rubbishing the unflattering ranking. It gives more publicity to the ranking, shows how hurt it feels and its rubbishing leaves PAP supporters wondering if the assumptions or basis of flattering rankings too are rubbish especially if the rankings come from the same organisation like in case of TI’s rankings.

As someone who hates triumphalism of any sort (the fates get tempted), I hope that the PAP’s silence extends to flattering ratings too. Pigs likely to fly first.

SINGAPORE may have climbed five spots to claim the “unenviable title” of the world’s most expensive city, according to a bi-annual ranking compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), but economists downplay the significance of the results.

While acknowledging the undeniable existence of rising price pressures here, economists The Business Times spoke to cautioned against extrapolating that the cost of living for locals has skyrocketed.

This is because two key factors – currency fluctuations and the survey’s expatriate focus – would “automatically limit” such deductions.

In order to achieve comparative indices, EIU’s Worldwide Cost of Living survey converts each country’s prices into US dollars. Therefore, a weaker yen pushed Tokyo – last year’s most expensive city – down to sixth place, and this paved the way for Singapore to claim the dubious honour this time around.

Therefore, Singapore’s ascent to costliest city was due in part to currency fluctuations – EIU noted that over the last decade, Singapore has seen 40 per cent currency appreciation.

Said UOB economist Francis Tan: “There’s so much (buzz) about Singapore taking the top spot, but a lot of this has been fuelled by the fluctuations in different currencies. I wouldn’t read too much into it, because next year we could be number 6 again.”

Mizuho Bank economist Vishnu Varathan added: “If one were to look at cost of living from the point of view of a domestic person, then currency movements arguably don’t matter as much.”

CIMB economist Song Seng Wun was also keen to highlight the survey’s expatriate focus and its purpose as a tool for determining foreigners’ salaries.

In its description of the survey, EIU said: “The survey itself is a purpose-built Internet tool designed to help human resources and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers.”

Still, emphasising that the basket of goods is “fairly broad to address a lot of essentials”, Jon Copestake, editor of the report, told BT: “The survey is also comparative between locations so it could be argued that if a city is most expensive for expats, then why not for everyone?”

But Mizuho’s Mr Varathan pointed out that “the survey has got inherent biases”: “As they’re looking to compare (like-for-like) items, they probably missed out on some local stuff, and that’s going to work against us. For example, if we take the price of a cappuccino, it will likely set you back about $5. But that’s not the same as getting Ah Poh’s coffee at Golden Shoe.”

Limitations aside, all three economists agreed that the survey results are worth reflecting upon, especially since currency fluctuations only tell part of the story.

Noting that Singapore’s rising price prominence has been “steady rather than spectacular”, EIU said that the city-state was the 18th most expensive city 10 years ago.

It said that Singapore has some structurally expensive items that “skew the overall cost of living upwards”, including cars. This has meant that transport costs in Singapore are almost three times higher than in New York.

Added EIU: “In addition, as a city-state with very few natural resources to speak of, Singapore is reliant on other countries for energy and water supplies, making it the third most expensive destination for utility costs.”

Although the survey’s findings could suggest that Singapore may be losing its cost competitiveness, UOB’s Mr Tan thinks otherwise: “There’s a reason why Singapore is expensive, and there’s a price to pay for everything. If (multinational corporations) want to be in a country where you push a button and things work, where there is near-zero political risk, where the business environment is vibrant – they’ve got to pay a premium for that.”   5March BT

Expats & us kanna pay & pay these bills

In Economy, Footie, Humour on 14/03/2014 at 4:44 am

(Update on 19th March at 9.55am: We most ex in Asia for World Cup http://sg.sports.yahoo.com/news/singapore-costliest-place-watch-world-cup-000511872.html. Thank you SingTel and MDA and Yaacob. PM, tot cabinet ministers chosen and remain on merit? What about the minister responsible for Malay affairs and info, formerly of environment ? Meritocracy? What meritocracy?)

One’s a necessity, the other’s a human rights issue for most, even PAPpies, which that brave but blur barking dog, Maruah, fails to highlight, even though it affects FTs, Maruah’s favoured group. Think I’m mean? Think the alleged “rioters”, drug mules, but not true blue S’porean Dan Tan or the alleged Jihadists.

Seriously, the PAP and its allies in the media must be shell-shocked going by their reactions to the EIU’s survey that ranked S’pore as the most expensive place to be an expat. Tharman’s explanation implies (unless he is trying again to be a comedian) that cars are only for expats: true blue S’poreans and ministers can only use public tpt? And I can’t stop laughing at the misreps in this http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/03/11/cnas-editor-the-high-cost-of-singapore-living/

There is one item that affects both locals and expats that Tharman, and Nicolas Fang and other members of the constructive, nation-building media running dogs don’t tell us Utility bills are also listed as big-ticket items by the EIU, but there is not much anyone can do to save there. Unless, of course, one were to turn off the air-conditioning.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2014/03/world-s-most-expensive-city)

So why don’t they tell us aircon only for FTs? Or when will they tell us this? Giving ang moh lover Bernice Wong another opportunity to diss local buyah males; not that they don’t deserve it. BTW, she might now prefer this woman basher. http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/03/11/ft-accused-of-punching-sg-singer-resigns-from-company/

The human rights issue?  The cost of watching footie: We now know the cost of watching the coming World Cup but remember that EPL  and Champions’ and Europa leagues watching ain’t cheap: M’sia and HK are a lot cheaper. For that we have to thank SingTel’s aggressive bidding, its corporate ambitions (err its run by true blue S’poreans not FTs) and Yaacob’s finest at MDA.

But let’s be fair, the strong S$ that makes it cheap for us to shop in JB and other Asean cities has played its part in making S$ S’pore that expensive: Singapore, which has seen its nominal exchange rate appreciate by 40 percent over the past decade, will obviously have higher U.S. dollar prices. But that only matters to the shrinking group of expatriates who are paid in greenbacks. Most consumers care about costs in the currency in which they earn their living.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2014/03/05/singapore-is-not-the-worlds-most-expensive-city/

Here’s another good point: [These surveys] fail the simple test of people revealing their preferences by their decisions. Imagine a company that used the EIU study to ask its employees in Mumbai to tone down their wage expectations in 2014. They will make a beeline to recruiters’ offices – to search for jobs in Singapore.

Majulah Singapura. Despite what TOC and TRE readers claim, S’pore’s an attractive place: I’m still here for starters. So is Jack for all his grumbling. The PAP must have done shumething good? Right Jack? Think about that when S’pore Inc jacks up GST, utility bills, tpt fares, utility bills etc despite the budget surpluses or profits..

Let’s leave the last word to Banyan:

Much has changed in this part of the world since the original writers of the Lonely Planet series chose Singapore as the place to hole up and write their second volume: South-East Asia on a Shoestring. In sum, to survive on $10 a day (well, a bit more) in Singapore these days: don’t touch the cars, drink beer instead of wine, bake your own bread and eat your meals out at the hawker centres. And then it’s all a bit more reasonable. Which is more than can be said of foregoing the air-con.

————-

*World Cup costs from yesterday’s BT

All 64 of the matches will be free for people who either sign up for – or extend existing – mio TV Gold Pack contracts or standalone Barclays Premier League (BPL) contracts for 24 months.

The Gold Pack is a combination of entertainment and BPL content on the mio TV platform. The standalone BPL content package is available to both mio TV and StarHub subscribers.

Viewers who want a World Cup-only deal will pay a one-time price of $105, excluding GST. This is the most expensive World Cup fee to date – 19 per cent higher than the pre-GST price of $88 and 59 per cent higher than the early-bird price of $66 for the 2010 World Cup.

2014 World Cup pricing for business owners will be announced “shortly”, the operator said.

And http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Insight-Down-South.aspx/?c={3054A244-0EAD-4847-A743-A2610B82E86B}

 

Productivity, ageing population & immigration

In Economy on 13/03/2014 at 4:37 am

It’s time for the govt to release productivity data on the various sectors rather than juz harp that productivity levels are not gd enough.. We can then see if the govt is telling us the truth that productivity increases lead to pay rises.

Cleaning and F&B are examples, however, of Singapore’s less productive sectors. These and sectors such as construction, security and retail have been hiring more workers and thus continue to pull down Singapore’s overall labour productivity growth, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Swee Say.

 This is why Singapore’s labour productivity was flat last year, a cautionary sign that despite “healthy signs that the economy is shifting to a new trend … we are not full steam ahead yet”, said Mr Lim. Singapore thus needs a “greater and broader sense of urgency” in its productivity efforts, he said.(5 March wed BT)

I read some where recently that Japan is one of the most productive nations as a result of aging and the refusal to let in the dogs FTs. The Japs use robots, lots of them.

But despite Japan’s success in growing per capita better than other Western countries (something we don’t hear from our Jap bashing ministers and their media allies) giving the lie that more FTs are needed, we need to accept that the PAP is not BSing completely when it comes to the consequences of ageing population and immigration.

Watch this “Face the Facts” BBC video

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25968269: Focus on why the US will still be growing faster than Europe Or Japan.

The number of people across the world over 65 years old will triple by 2050, drastically altering some countries’ demographic make-up, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Perceptions of this shift vary widely across the globe, the report says.

While 87% of Japanese believe the ageing population poses a problem to the country, only 26% of Americans agree.

The survey of 21 countries found that most people believe governments should be responsible for the care of their older populations.

These demographic shifts may adversely affect economies, as more elderly people depend on working-age men and women.

It’s a complex issue. And both the PAP, and GG and friends are not telling the truth.

Here’s another angle: http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2014/02/10/age-shifts-weaken-global-economys-shock-absorbers/

The ratio of middle-aged to young matter because matters because the global economy’s ability to withstand deflationary shocks is lower when the middle-aged cohort starts dominating the young. That’s because the former saves more for retirement. In the United States, the median householder in the 45-to-54-year age group has 6 times more assets excluding home equity than someone younger than 35. But it is young peoples’ spending that spurs new investment, which in turn soaks up the savings of the middle-aged.

When the ratio is rising, as it is today, a bigger group of the middle-aged are trying to deploy their savings. But because the younger group is smaller in relative terms, its consumption is inadequate to encourage investment. As a result, the savings chase a limited number of investment opportunities, pushing up prices. Even a minor shock can lead to severe market fallout.

This phenomenon has many names: some call it a “savings glut,” others prefer “secular stagnation”. But the global population’s age structure has a message for policymakers: don’t underestimate the risks from turmoil in even minor emerging markets. With its shock absorbers frayed, the world economy will struggle to negotiate deflationary speed bumps. As the ratio of the middle-aged to the young is forecast to carry on rising for the next two decades, markets are in for a rocky ride.

The fact that those of us who disagree that we need a lot more FTS must be prepared to acknowledge is that the PAP has conventional wisdom on its side. We cannot deny this. What we have to do is keep reminding the PAP and other voters that LKY, Dr Goh and gang went against conventional development wisdom by allowing the MNCs to invest here. MNCs were seen as the new “colonialists”. Today, every country (bar a few) want them to invest in their countries.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/us-experience-on-growing-gdp-via-productivity/

Cleaning and F&B are examples, however, of Singapore’s less productive sectors. These and sectors such as construction, security and retail have been hiring more workers and thus continue to pull down Singapore’s overall labour productivity growth, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Swee Say.

This is why Singapore’s labour productivity was flat last year, a cautionary sign that despite “healthy signs that the economy is shifting to a new trend … we are not full steam ahead yet”, said Mr Lim. Singapore thus needs a “greater and broader sense of urgency” in its productivity efforts, he said.(5 March wed BT)

Shows us the numbers ex these sectors then

Cleaning and F&B are examples, however, of Singapore’s less productive sectors. These and sectors such as construction, security and retail have been hiring more workers and thus continue to pull down Singapore’s overall labour productivity growth, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Swee Say.

This is why Singapore’s labour productivity was flat last year, a cautionary sign that despite “healthy signs that the economy is shifting to a new trend … we are not full steam ahead yet”, said Mr Lim. Singapore thus needs a “greater and broader sense of urgency” in its productivity efforts, he said.(5 March wed BT)

Shows us the numbers ex these sectors then

Iskandar, answer to rising costs, Reits & other cost tales

In Economy, Malaysia, Property, Reits on 09/03/2014 at 4:16 am

“The government has underestimated the impact of high business costs on our future economy,” said Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio), urging the government to set up a cost competitiveness committee to tackle the root causes of soaring costs before SMEs and MNCs relocate with jobs in tow. He also asked the government to reverse its land divestment policy, which he deems a key reason behind high industrial rents.

Companies are facing a “triple whammy” of rising rents and utility bills, growing wage costs, and a shortage of workers, said Mr Singh, himself a businessman. And this “chronic” cost issue does not affect SMEs alone. “The top management of some large MNCs here … have expressed their serious concerns about the unrelenting increases of the cost of doing business coupled with the unavailability of workers,” he said.

Iskandar’s industrial parks are a “huge threat”, he said. If Singapore’s SMEs are forced to move to Johor, MNCs may follow their SME suppliers and subcontractors. “The exodus may be larger than we imagine … We risk hollowing out our economy in the future, and I would like to sound an alarm that we are close to the tipping point.”…

Though he acknowledged that PIC and PIC+ would help with topline revenues growth, Mr Singh said: “We are just trying to do too many things too fast, and this is hurting many companies.”

Both he and nominated MP R Dhinakaran, who is also managing director of Jay Gee Group, pointed to rising industrial and commercial rents as a key culprit of the high costs of doing business in Singapore.

Citing Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee’s comment at BT’s Budget Roundtable that rents rise as much as three-fold when leases are renewed, Mr Dhinakaran said: “In this economic climate, rental increases of this magnitude will be fatal for a large number of SMEs.”

Both Mr Singh and Mr Dhinakaran also linked the high rental costs to the government’s land divestment policy. “JTC was a landlord for 18 per cent of industrial property some 10 years ago, but today manages only 3 per cent of the market. This is a huge shift, and the government lost the ability to influence rental prices resulting in developers and investors making the money,” said Mr Singh.

“We have to reverse this policy, even if it means the government having to buy back some of the Reits. In any case, the biggest Reit players are government-linked entities like Mapletree and CapitaLand,” he added.

Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang) felt that certain cost increases – the restoration of CPF contribution rates for older workers, higher progressive wages for low-income earners and cost hikes due to tighter low-skilled foreign manpower policies – are justified, with “strong rationale”.

But she also said that business rents need “the touch of the State”, and asked the government to consider “cooling measures, especially for business rents”.

BT 5 March

Given that Ascendas (a GLC) is the biggest player in the industrial land arena: why do you think when the govt says this?

The government will intervene if it sees evidence of collusion or the abuse of market dominance by any landlord – including real estate investment trusts (Reits), said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck … in Parliament … calls for help with climbing business costs (and in particular, the affordability of business space) have grown louder both in and outside of Parliament in recent months.

Reits – some of which were formed after JTC and HDB divested space to private owners – have been blamed for shorter lease renewals and sharper spikes in rentals.

“We know that it has come up as an issue, many of you have raised it. We will monitor it,” said Mr Teo.

At the same time, he noted that “Reits are not necessarily the leading players in the rental space market, because they currently only own about 13 per cent and 16 per cent of retail and industrial rental spaces respectively. Like any other landlord, they have to compete in the rental market to attract tenants and cannot charge excessive rents”.

Mr Teo also said that rents for space are likely to moderate in the medium term, as the government has released a “significant amount of land”.

Over the next three years, about 145,000 square metres of new shop space will be completed each year. Over the same period, an average of 500,000 square metres of multiple-user factory space will come on-stream each year.

For the former, that represents more than double the average annual demand for such space in the last three years; for the latter, it is just under double.

(BT 7 March)

Silicon Valley S’pore style?

Entrepreneurship will also receive a boost, since by the end of this year, JTC will open two more blocks to incubate start-ups, as part of a cluster called JTC LaunchPad@one-north.

“It’s our answer to Silicon Valley,” said Mr Teo.

Beer, real wages & next GE

In Economy, Humour on 02/03/2014 at 4:25 am

The news that beer costs $1.30 more at Kopitiam after the increase in excise duty reminds me of something I heard at CNY.

A senior marketing officer at APB told me that while Tiger still dominates the beer market here, sales of Anchor (APB’s value brand) have been up 60% (I think) since the noughties. He said S’poreans were economising. With the rise in duties, APB might be advertising,”Make mine an Anchor” or “It’s Anchor time”?

We’ll know when S’poreans really feel that they have more in their pocket when they switch back to Tiger from Anchor. That’ll be a gd time for PAP to call a GE. They can remind S’poreans that “Only the PAP fills yr belly with Tiger”.

BTW, Kopitam’s explanation that it conducted a survey before settling on a price that was within the survey range had me thinking that it must have got the constructive, nation-building Institute of Public Studies (independent think-tank that is part of the LKY School of Public Administration) or the ST to conduct the survey. My marketing friend tells me that generally coffee shops increased the price by about 50 cents (to cover the duty increase). Typical of ST or IPS to get the facts wrong. They must learn to get the facts right, not the right facts.

S’pore: Asean bridgehead for Jap cos, GM & Oz retailer

In Economy on 01/03/2014 at 4:44 am

Banzai! She’s OK mate.

Japanese companies are returning to Singapore at the levels before the global financial crisis, as look to tap growth opportunities in Southeast Asia reported MediaCorp recently, shortly after this

According to the Japanese Embassy in Singapore, it says,  businesses are gradually returning as the region recovers from the crisis and as the strengthening yen adds to their potential investment ambitions.

Primarily, though, it is the growing economies of South-east Asia which are a major draw that many companies, said Mr ShinichiOnishi, Counsellor at the Japanese Embassy.

“Many Japanese companies like to have their headquarters in Singapore, so they can cover the South-east Asian region. There are many big markets around Singapore, such as Indonesia, and the country is a convenient base said Mr Onishi.

Figures provided by the embassy show that 760 Japanese companies had operations here last year, up from 729 in 2007 and 719 in 2008, when the global financial crisis was starting to cause chaos and many foreign companies were forced to pull back fromthe region.

At the same time, the number of Japanese citizens based here is on the increase: Last year, more than 31,000 Japanese citizens were living in Singapore, up from 25,969 in 2007, according to embassy figures.

Design and architecture firm Nikken Sekkei was one such company. It returned to S’pore earlier this year, after leaving in the early 2000s because of an economic slowdown. It has gradually been expanding in the region following the financial crisis, said its Senior Executive Officer Akihiko Hamada. He said it decided to pick Singapore as it is easy to serve neighbouring countries from here and it was already familiar with S’pore.

“We wanted to set up a regional officeto serve the ASEAN region, because of its prospective marvellous economic growth and its large populationof 600 million people. In the next 10 years, there is also an anticipatedinvestment growth in real estate. Aftersome extensive research, we decidedto establish ourselves in Singapore.”

He added that talent is also readily here. Apparently, we got positive and earnest workforce. And presumably the FT policy helps.

This influx has made its impact felt on the Singapore economy. Figures provided by the Economic Development Board (EDB) show that Japan accounted for S$0.6 billion (7.2 per cent) in Total Business Expenditure and S$0.7 billion (5.5 per cent) in Fixed Asset Investments last year.

BTW1, GM has relocated its Asia Pac (ex China) HQ here late last yr ’cause of its thrust into Asean (think Indonesia, it has manufacturing facilities in Thailand) and India. It was AP HQ until it moved to Shanghai in the early noughties.

BTW2, Oz retail giant Cotton On Group yesterday announced the opening of its Asia headquarters in Singapore, which will boost investment and create 200 jobs here.

The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) said that as part of the investment, the group has committed to hiring that number of people by June 2018 to drive its Asia operations.

Since its inception 23 years ago, the Cotton On Group has grown to more than 1,300 stores across nine brands in 16 countries. In 2007, the group established its first store in Asia here.

Today, it has more than 160 stores throughout Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, and plans to open several hundred more in the region in the next five years, at a projected investment in excess of $100 million.

PAP must be doing something right?

Gilbert Goh is this true?

In Economy, Public Administration on 27/02/2014 at 6:02 am

Singapore Business Federation chief operating officer Victor Tay said: Measures taken to tighten the inflow of foreign PMETs “are already quite comprehensive and align with the American and European standards” and he doubts the government will go further. (Monday’s BT).

Can GG tell us if Victor Tay is telling the truth? And if he (GG) is satisfied?

If he isn’t satisfied, pls tell us why. If he is, no need to organise demonstrations that no-one attends. Juz tell local PMETs to vote PAP in next GE. They listen.

Err pigs will fly first or GG becomes attractive to S’pore wimmin. LOL.

S&P: Tough year for S’pore and regional banks

In Banks, Economy, Property on 20/02/2014 at 4:14 am

Lower economic growth prospects and tighter credit conditions could create a tougher operating environment for the banking sector here and in the region, said a report by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) late last week.

S&P expects S’pore’s GDP) growth to fall to 3.4 % this year, from 3.7% last year.

The report also notes that corporate and household indebtedness has been on the rise here. The situation could worsen this year, in anticipation of interest rates rising; higher borrowing costs amid rising. See DBS’s CEO’s tots below* and related post http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/why-banks-tested-for-50-plunge-in-property-prices-and-other-wonderful-tales/

Related articles: The three local banks posted their reports last week too and for quick snap-shots (not the usual ST or BT fluff)

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/5-highlights-you-should-know-about-uobs-2013-results

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/find-out-what-badly-hurt-ocbcs-fy13-results

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/dbs-braces-itself-looming-30-35-drop-in-mortgage-loan-applications

Charts on banks’ loans etc

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/10-charts-prove-singapore-banks-mixed-finish-2013

Cheap way of owning UOB shares

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/haw-par-rediscovered-yet-again/

Update at 6.ooam:

South-east Asia’s three biggest lenders, DBS, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and United Overseas Bank, have seen their share prices rise this week after posting solid results last Friday. Common trends in the fourth quarter were better margins, trade finance-driven loan growth, seasonally softer treasury earnings and no asset quality weakness, CIMB noted.

UOB has been the star performer this week, gaining 3.5 per cent, while OCBC has risen 2.3 per cent and DBS 0.4 per cent.

UOB, despite being the smallest of the trio, has been particularly impressive with its fee income and regional strategies, CMC Markets Analyst Desmond Chua told TODAY.

“In terms of fee income, it has performed relatively well while the market has been lacklustre, in part due to a higher interest outlook. Its diversification to grow in regional emerging markets has also helped it maintain loan growth despite weaker mortgage demand in Singapore,” he said.

“On the other hand, OCBC’s share price might have been affected by the prospect of its overpriced acquisition of Wing Hang Bank in Hong Kong while DBS hasn’t been able to impress with its fee-based revenue in recent times despite aggressively attacking this space,” he added.

UOB’s net interest margin, which is the highest among local banks at 1.72 per cent full-year, is another advantage for the lender, Voyage Research’s Deputy Research Head Ng Kian Teck added. “UOB has historically been good on this front, and it means the bank can churn the most value out of every dollar loaned — that’s what’s attracting the investors,” he said.

All three banks ended last year on a positive note, with their fourth-quarter net profit rising between 6 and 11 per cent on the back of strong growth in net interest income.

The banks have also continued to solidify their regional presence, drawing more revenue from overseas than before.

….

“Their return on equity is healthier vis-a-vis the other industries, which are facing greater margin pressure due to higher wages. But the banks have been able to control this issue better.”

CMC Markets’ Mr Chua is also bullish, saying: “I’m looking at the banking space being an outperformer this year even though interest rates are bound to rise. Their tactical diversification across this region allows them to tap into Indonesia’s emerging affluent segment, for example.

Update at 5.15pm:Can Singapore safely deflate its property market? http://www.cnbc.com/id/101409247

————————

*DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta expects home prices to fall by 10-15 per cent this year – more than the 10 per cent forecast by property consultants – but says that this decline would not make a material impact on the bank’s loan book. Speaking at DBS’s Q4 results briefing, he said it is likely that the prices of high-end homes will slide 15 per cent, and that for lower-end ones, by 10 per cent.

As for the higher interest rates expected with the shrinking of monetary stimulus policy by the US, he said he was not expecting it to have any effect on DBS. “The Singapore portfolio is really driven on income considerations . . . As I’ve said before, the pressure will likely start coming when unemployment rises – more than when property prices change.” Singapore’s unemployment rate is now at a low 1.8 per cent.

Mr Gupta said: “All our stress tests in the past have shown that we can easily withstand a 20 per cent reduction in Singapore property prices without material impact on our portfolio. We stress-test (for a) 20 (per cent fall in property prices), but don’t expect it to happen; our stress tests are always calibrated to go off the charts. My own sense is that there will be a correction of 10-15 per cent.”

He noted that the market was already stabilising and that the froth was running off, but that if this continued, the government would roll back some of the macro prudential measures. Sales of new mortgages have plunged 30-35 per cent at DBS, and by 40-50 per cent at OCBC Bank as a result of the stricter loan rules.

Mr Gupta likened the Singapore property market to that of New York and London, where prices held up even during the financial crisis between 2008 and 2012. While prices in the rest of the US fell by about a third, prices in New York slipped by only 10 per cent. It was a similar situation in London, another city where the demand is not dependent on the state of the domestic economy.

Mr Gupta said he expects regional money buying properties here to also put a floor under prices. With the slower sales, DBS’s $49.1 billion mortgage book is likely to grow by $2 billion to $2.5 billion this year, down from $3.5 billion last year and $5 billion the year before that, said Mr Gupta.

OCBC Bank chief operating officer Ching Wei Hong said of the new mortgage sales having declined across the board: “That’s expected, given all the cooling measures that have been imposed. We’ve built up a healthy inventory level. The inventory drives the growth of (the loan) book, going into 2014 and 2015. Beyond 2015 H2 and 2016, if conditions remain the same, we’ll see a bit of tapering in that period.”

(BT article last Saturday)

We really poor? Why we don’t have Swiss standard of living?

In Economy, Hong Kong on 19/02/2014 at 4:51 am

The u/m perhaps explains why the PAP despite the triumphalism  of itself  and its wallies of our Swiss standard of living, our massive (but  “secret” reserves), and massive budget surpluses (last yr’s estimated $2.4bn is likely to be $6.5bn according to economists. Gd TRE post on this http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/02/18/sg-surplus-for-this-fy-may-hit-6-5-billion/) refuses to spend our money on ourselves. I’ve always blogged that a Hard Truth born of meanness is, “Don’t spend money on making life more comfortable for S’poreans, better to cheong on markets”. But maybe we juz don’t have the $. It belongs to MNCs.

Incidentally, the article shows why local investment is preferable to foreign investment: the profits stick around. The PAP govt rightly takes credit for attracting MNCs here in the 60s and 70s to create jobs. So it should accept responsibility for not diversifying away from this reliance on MNCs, especially as attracting MNCs is not conventional wisdom. In the 60s and 70s, attracting MNC was seen as neo-colonialism.

In Singapore, personal consumption expenditure has steadily fallen over the years as a percentage of GDP and, at 35 per cent, is now barely half of what it is in Hong Kong. This is an oddity characteristic of a startup economy, not of a wealthy town like Singapore.

But it means that, on the basis of our money-in-your-hands measure, Hong Kong at US$24,000 per capita still outranks Singapore at US$21,000.

The second chart gives you a clue as to why the two economies are so different on this measure. Industrial investment in Singapore, always predominantly foreign, has become even more so in recent years, accounting for an average of about 80 per cent of total investment over the past 10 years. I do not have the equivalent figures for Hong Kong but, at a rough guess, the foreign-local ratio would be the reverse.

This foreign investment in Singapore has in turn produced a huge trade surplus in both goods and services. Over recent years, it has run at about 30 per cent of GDP. And most of this money goes right back out again to pay foreigners for all the confidence they have shown in Singapore by investing in it so heavily.

In short, Singapore’s high GDP numbers are mostly an anomaly created by very generous industrial concessions to foreigners. They do not really reflect domestic wealth.

In another way, however, these GDP measures of Hong Kong and Singapore do not mean much as a yardstick of the comparative efficiency of either system. The fact is both are parasite economies feeding off much larger neighbours, the mainland in Hong Kong’s case and Indonesia and Malaysia in Singapore’s. They are both wealthy because they perform services that their neighbours cannot or, for reasons of policy, will not perform.

http://www.scmp.com/business/economy/article/1420215/singaporeans-not-wealthy-gdp-figures-suggest

Buying, renting or the Korean way?

In Economy, Financial competency, Property on 18/02/2014 at 4:23 am

Recently, the FT carried a commentary (behind pay-wall) on why a leading UK architect was renting, not buying (UK has a home-purchasing culture which one LKY imported and made S’porean for reasons explained below).

Here are two gd responses to the article:

– “People are obliged to borrow to buy property because they need a roof over their heads when they retire and do not want to be at the mercy of a landlord, who will increase the rent annually and reserve the right to serve notice three months after signing the annual shorthold tenancy agreement.” (a reader)

–“As everyone knows, buying property used to be like standing in front of a fruit machine that was jammed on three cherries. Wealth came pouring out. And as everyone also knows, that machine has now stopped dispensing cash. You can’t buy a house that will change your life like my grandmother did, nor buy a flat that makes you rich, like I did when I was only 23. Most people can’t afford to buy anything at all.” (Lucy Kellaway, an FT columnist)”

She also reminds, “It has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with culture, emotion and family.” The very reason why the PAP govt wants S’poreans to own their homes, never mind that most of them are buying 99-yr leases.

At the end of the day as she points out, buying “is a wise move” when property prices go up, “renting is smarter” when prices go down. So long as S’pore is a one-party state with the PAP in charge, property prices may keep on rising*. With WP or SDP in charge, what do you think?

—–

In Korea, there is an unusual rental system, known as jeonse, does not involve monthly rental payments. Instead, tenants provide landlords with a deposit, typically between a quarter and half of the property’s value, to invest for the duration of the lease. Property owners keep the returns and then repay the lump sum at the end of the tenancy … Tenants’ deposits financed landlords’ properties, interest-free, while pushing renters to pool savings: over time, the deposit would become their own home-purchase fund. For decades, monthly rental was synonymous with poverty.

Yet interest rates and property prices have sunk since 2008. To earn a decent return on their investments, landlords have been raising jeonse prices.

(http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21596566-landlords-are-having-ditch-century-old-rental-system-lumping-it)

Related article: This S’porean bot http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={157655219-19866-5631219744}

Related posts

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/bring-back-super-mah/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/why-banks-tested-for-50-plunge-in-property-prices-and-other-wonderful-tales/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/property-khaw-must-be-doing-shumething-right/

———————————————

*But not in 2014:

DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta expects home prices to fall by 10-15 per cent this year – more than the 10 per cent forecast by property consultants – but says that this decline would not make a material impact on the bank’s loan book. Speaking at DBS’s Q4 results briefing, he said it is likely that the prices of high-end homes will slide 15 per cent, and that for lower-end ones, by 10 per cent.

As for the higher interest rates expected with the shrinking of monetary stimulus policy by the US, he said he was not expecting it to have any effect on DBS. “The Singapore portfolio is really driven on income considerations . . . As I’ve said before, the pressure will likely start coming when unemployment rises – more than when property prices change.” Singapore’s unemployment rate is now at a low 1.8 per cent.

Mr Gupta said: “All our stress tests in the past have shown that we can easily withstand a 20 per cent reduction in Singapore property prices without material impact on our portfolio. We stress-test (for a) 20 (per cent fall in property prices), but don’t expect it to happen; our stress tests are always calibrated to go off the charts. My own sense is that there will be a correction of 10-15 per cent.”

He noted that the market was already stabilising and that the froth was running off, but that if this continued, the government would roll back some of the macro prudential measures. Sales of new mortgages have plunged 30-35 per cent at DBS, and by 40-50 per cent at OCBC Bank as a result of the stricter loan rules.

Mr Gupta likened the Singapore property market to that of New York and London, where prices held up even during the financial crisis between 2008 and 2012. While prices in the rest of the US fell by about a third, prices in New York slipped by only 10 per cent. It was a similar situation in London, another city where the demand is not dependent on the state of the domestic economy.

Mr Gupta said he expects regional money buying properties here to also put a floor under prices. With the slower sales, DBS’s $49.1 billion mortgage book is likely to grow by $2 billion to $2.5 billion this year, down from $3.5 billion last year and $5 billion the year before that, said Mr Gupta.

OCBC Bank chief operating officer Ching Wei Hong said of the new mortgage sales having declined across the board: “That’s expected, given all the cooling measures that have been imposed. We’ve built up a healthy inventory level. The inventory drives the growth of (the loan) book, going into 2014 and 2015. Beyond 2015 H2 and 2016, if conditions remain the same, we’ll see a bit of tapering in that period.”

(BT article last Saturday)

Baer says Nay to S$ in 2014

In Currencies, Economy on 04/02/2014 at 4:27 am

THE one-way bet on the Singapore dollar which had a pretty good run the previous five years is gone, and with foreign investors staying away, expect private property prices to fall 10 per cent in the next 12 months, said Mark Matthews, Bank Julius Baer head of research Asia.

Singapore, the most expensive city in Asia is fast losing its lustre for many expats, noted Mr Matthews.

It is also the seventh-most expensive city to live in the world, while traditional rival Hong Kong is cheaper at 12th place, and Tokyo is a relative bargain at 19th, according to the website Expatistan. (BT on 31st January 2014)

BTW, Baer means bear. So bear mauls horse? TRE, TOC readers will he happy. A weak S$ leads to higher inflation*, leads to higher interest rates, leads to collapsing property market, leads to PAP defeat will be their reasoning.

Related posts

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/tre-readers-are-illiterate-in-economics-and-finance/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/why-banks-tested-for-50-plunge-in-property-prices-and-other-wonderful-tales/

Happy Neigh Year as the Disney channel cartoon characters will say.

*Update at 9.00am on 4 February 2014:

I juz came across this report again  http://sbr.com.sg/economy/news/singapore-inflation-moderated-24-in-2013yesterday, while looking for something else. It was trupeted by ST as a triump by the govt- moderating inflation

It reminded me of an interesting observation juz before CNY. At the Outram MRT stn there is shop selling rice dishes like chicken rice. In mid November when I exited the station, it was selling the dishes at $2 (a price I know it has held for several yrs). When I next passed the stall on 29th January, the price was $2.20.

Inflation moderating? What moderating? To misquote the sleeping co-driver.

HK, S’pore, Bangkok, KL: What neither MSM nor new media tell us

In Casinos, Economy, Malaysia on 31/01/2014 at 4:20 am

But first Happy Neigh Yr .

S’pore had the second highest number of int’l tourists after HK in 2012. Distant third is Bangkok. KL is 6th. All benefit from Chinese tourists.http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2014/01/popular-cities

PAP govt must be doing shumething right, TRE , TOC readers? The casinos perhaps, Tan Jee Say?

RHB Capital says S’pore is gd place to expand

In Banks, Economy, Malaysia on 22/01/2014 at 4:40 am

So gd, that RHB Bank S’pore expects to triple profit by 2016.

RHB Bank will aggressively expand its Singapore business by three-fold within the next two years, by focusing on the small and medium enterprise business, wealth management as well as corporate and investment banking.

To meet the increased business needs, RHB Bank Singapore will be doubling its staff strength from the current 500 to 1000, the bank said Thursday.

The aggressive expansion in Singapore is part of the group’s regional strategy, said to U Chen Hock, director of group international business at RHB Banking Grou… the official opening of RHB’s latest branch in Westgate Mall in East Jurong. . (Last week’s BT)

Maybe RHB’s mgt doesn’t read a certain Forbes contributor (no not refering to one LKY), or TRE readers’ comments on S’pore’s prospects or that  more than 90% of the Marina Bay Suites are unoccupied: only 20 of the 221 units at the 66-storey tower are occupied. . But I do know that the RHB research institute has a well respected economist.

IE S’pore & Jos’ point about perfection

In Economy, Humour on 21/01/2014 at 5:24 am

Readers will know that I recently commented (here and here) on Jos Teo’s tots as articulated to ST: comments that have annoyed netizens no end. Juz read the comments posted by TRE readers grumbling that she gets so many things so wrong. “We cannot have the attitude that everything will be perfect from Day One. If we go in with that attitude, it can only mean that we have to build in a lot of redundancy, in particular came in for a lot of flak.

Well getting things wrong also seems to apply to her hubbie’s organisation (According to ST,”Her husband, Mr Teo Eng Cheong, is chief executive officer of IE Singapore …”)

IE S’pore has goofed big time. according to a BT report dated 18 January 2014:

ERRORS in trade data collection meant that International Enterprise (IE) Singapore wrongly reported two months of exports data, with possible implications for fourth-quarter GDP estimates.

October 2013’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) was said to have grown 2.8 per cent, when in fact it had shrunk 2.7 per cent. Data for September was also overstated – NODX was initially said to have shrunk 1.2 per cent when the actual contraction was a larger 2 per cent – due to the “multiple counting of some trade permits”.

As trade data for both months have been corrected downwards, total trade and NODX for the full year 2013 will now come in lower than expected, IE said in an annex to its trade report for December, released yesterday.

IE will only announce Singapore’s full-year trade data next month, but UOB economist Francis Tan estimates that full-year NODX would have dropped 5.4 per cent, taking September and October’s erroneous figures, but could now fall a sharper 6 per cent. Both are worse than IE’s forecast of a NODX contraction of 4 to 5 per cent for 2013, last revised down in November.

It was an honest mistake. Maybe it was also example of what Jos Teo said, “We cannot have the attitude that everything will be perfect from Day One. If we go in with that attitude, it can only mean that we have to build in a lot of redundancy.

BT wrote: IE said yesterday that the errors were traced back to changes to a trade declaration system known as Access, which is used by four air express companies to declare their consolidated imports and exports. In August last year, changes were made to this system to allow the companies to make amendments to their trade permit records, such as flight details.

However, all amended permits were counted as new ones when transmitted from the Access system to the Singapore Customs’ Trade Statistics System, and then to IE Singapore. In nominal terms, the counting errors meant a difference between an originally tabulated NODX value of $15.599 billion for October, and a corrected value of $14.757 billion.

In response to BT’s queries, IE explained that the over-reporting was not immediately apparent as the values of the individual records still fell within the expected range. “When unusually large numbers were picked up, IE Singapore worked with Singapore Customs immediately to investigate and rectify the issue,” IE said.

For trade data, Singapore Customs conducts selective checks of trade permits against the commercial documents to verify the accuracy of data submitted by traders. “IE Singapore also conducts checks on a monthly basis to track trends based on the value of goods and large ticket items. Export and import categories with significant data swings will be picked up for further verification and analysis in consultation with Singapore Customs,”  …

One economist is annoyed:

DBS economist Irvin Seah thinks internal processes need to be tightened when it comes to collecting official data. “We have seen quite significant revisions, not just in NODX, but also in the advanced GDP estimates. Whether these are estimates or actual figures, there ought to be as little revision as possible. These numbers are important to everyone who wants a good gauge of where the economy is going, not just economists,” he said.

But another was relaxed,“no great damage was done”, said Barclays economist Joey Chew. “After all, the October red herring of a recovery was quickly refuted the very next month when November exports fell sharply, indicating that Singapore exports are clearly not yet out of the woods. The continued slump in electronics in December further confirmed that,” she said.

Whatever it is, S’pore’s reputation remains intact according to BT (But it would say that wouldn’t it?)

As for whether these errors undermine the reliability of Singapore’s statistics, Credit Suisse economist Michael Wan said that he sees them as inherent to the “messy affair” of collecting data. “I don’t think it raises questions about the integrity of Singapore’s statistical collection fundamentally. It’s always an ongoing affair to reduce the number of errors,” he said.

UOB’s Mr Tan said: “The good thing is that they are at least signalling that they are doing the right thing, by coming out and correcting the errors.”

A couple of errors ought not to affect credibility, said Barclays’ Ms Chew. “Especially if the errors are due to technological problems rather than data collection issues, or people gaming the system – for example Chinese exporters reporting fake trade.”

But IE S’pore should not be complacent: Barclay’s Ms Chew does have other issues to raise about Singapore’s data though. “First, the timeliness. We are one of the last to report CPI (consumer price index) in the region, and I don’t understand why. Also, IE Singapore does not release a lot of the export data they collect.”

Jos and hubby should be hoping that the recent bad publicity is part of the karma of the year of the Goat, not the karma for 2014. If the latter, expect more to hear more nad publicity from Jos and IE S’pore?

Intellectual netizen hero critiques doom monger & govt policy

In Economy, Indonesia, Malaysia, Property on 18/01/2014 at 4:56 am

(Or “Are S’pore & other major Asean economies are doomed?)

Even though Singapore is no longer an emerging market nation, I consider its bubble economy to be part of the overall emerging markets bubble that I have been warning about due to its strategic role and location in Southeast Asia, which is also known as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). My recent reports on Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia show that the entire region is caught up in a massive bubble, and Singapore is benefiting from this bubble by acting as ASEAN’s financial center.

(http://www.forbes.com/sites/jessecolombo/2014/01/13/why-singapores-economy-is-heading-for-an-iceland-style-meltdown)

This piece and its sequel have been well publicised, and the central babk has critiqued the first piece (It would wouldn’t it?)

Readers may recall that Donald Low is a scholar who has liberal viewers despite being the Associate Dean (Executive Education and Research) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He served fifteen years in the Singapore government and I’ve been told he was one of the fathers of Workfare (a scheme I support though I think it’s too mean). He critiqued the article on Facebook as regards S’pore. I’ve paragraphed hos comments to make it easier on the eye:

Donald Low’s FC

There’s a Forbes article on an impending crash in Singapore circulating widely on FB. I won’t dignify it by posting it but here are my thoughts about it: I read the article a while ago and wasn’t at all convinced with his line of argument. It’s just far too sweeping.

Above all, if you look at the usual triggers of financial crises, they are mostly non-existent in Singapore. We don’t have a large current account deficit – on the contrary, we have a huge current account surplus. We don’t have a large fiscal deficit – we run structural budget surpluses. And we don’t have an highly leveraged/indebted household or corporate sector.

On his point about a housing bubble in Singapore fueled by low interest rates, he is partially correct. But to claim that we are on the verge of financial collapse on account of that is utter nonsense. Our leverage ratios are still healthy and I suspect a large part of the run-up in housing prices in recent years is inadequate supply – a problem which has now been largely corrected. Will we see house prices fall this year? Yes, quite possibly. My guess is 10% but even if house prices were to fall 20%, I don’t think it will impact the health of our banks or even our households. There will be households that have negative equity, but as long as they have the cash flow to service their mortgages, it will not precipitate a financial crash.

But there is one argument from the article that is worth highlighting and which I mostly agree with. And that is booms which are led by real estate development and the financial sector are mostly illusory. They create the impression of economic dynamism without creating any real productive capacity in the economy (think back to Bangkok, KL and Jakarta just before the Asian crisis). They also distort and re-direct resources away from productive activities. Real estate and finance are inherently distributive, not creative, activities – they move money and wealth around, but they don’t produce any productive capacity and technological capabilities for the economy.

So when I argue that the Singapore government should look not just at the quantity of growth, but also the quality of growth, I have in mind not just equity and distributional considerations, but also the composition of growth. Is the growth coming from manufacturing and high value-added services, or is it dominated by real estate and finance? If it’s the latter, we have a structural problem.

Finally, I would also highlight that what this article reveals is the failure of government efforts to attract high net worth individuals to Singapore, to make Singapore a wealth management hub for the rich, and to bring in more billionaires even if they increase inequality. I think the costs to the economy and society of such efforts far outweigh their benefits. What productive capacity do property speculators and HNWIs who park their monies in Singapore help to create? So yes, we get a tiny wealth management industry that employs a few thousand people and manages several billion dollars. We can easily do without these ‘benefits’. Meanwhile, their costs in terms of raising property prices, the competition they create for positional goods, and their ostentatious lifestyles undermine our egalitarian norms and values. They also reduce the trust and mutual regard citizens have for one another, undermining their willingness to contribute to more redistribution. All in, I would say that the efforts to attract rich foreigners to Singapore are incredibly misguided.

Why banks tested for 50% plunge in property prices and other wonderful tales

In Economy, Property on 16/01/2014 at 4:23 am

Singapore banks are so well-buffered that they will be able to withstand even a 50 per cent plunge in property prices here if this were to occur over the next two years, say stress tests done by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). (BT late last yr)

I waz wondering when I read the above, why 50%?

Now I know: typical govt over-reaction:

BOTH public and private housing prices in Singapore have finally come down after a raft of government market curbs.

Prices in the once red-hot suburban private home market dropped in the fourth quarter of last year for the first time since 2009, new data yesterday showed. This dragged down overall private home prices.

Housing Board flat resale prices also tumbled in the October to December period, hard on the heels of a third-quarter decline.

This marked the first time public housing prices have slid for two straight quarters since 2005.

Consultants said weak demand for homes could mean that sellers will finally be at the mercy of home buyers this year, adding that a bumper crop of upcoming homes will swing things more heavily in favour of buyers.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={417120496-19741-7479931115}

Well if property prices ever fell 50%, the PAP govt would be overthrown overnight. And the co-driver kicked out with it. mad Doc and his RI doctors will be in charge Actually it would be the end of the world as we know it.

But maybe the govt isn’t over-reacting: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jessecolombo/2014/01/13/why-singapores-economy-is-heading-for-an-iceland-style-meltdown/. Note that the article conveniently forgets that the banks have been stress-tested to survive even a 50% fall in property prices. Lots of other things wrong with the analysis that I’ll cover one of these days. But for now juz remember that one LKY was a regular contributor to Forbes. Taz the quality of their contributors? Oh, the central bank has come up with a rebuttal: read it in yesterday’s constructive, nation-building media.

Next tale: the cowboys were correct that the govt should restrict HDB sales to PRs:

The proportion of Permanent Residents (PRs) buying Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale flats has gone down in the last few months.

This comes after new rules to stabilise the HDB resale market were announced in August.

PRs now have to wait three years after obtaining their Singapore PR status before they are allowed to buy an HDB resale flat.

According to HDB, in the three months after the new rules were announced, PRs made up 12 per cent of all HDB resale transactions, with 528 units sold to them.

This is down eight percentage points from January to August, when PRs made up 20 per cent of all HDB resale transactions.

There were 2,581 resale flats sold during that period.

HDB also noted that the decrease is not unexpected, as there are now fewer PRs eligible to buy a resale flat.

It also pointed out the drop may not be solely due to the three-year waiting period. (CNA 23 december 2013).

Maybe PM should outsource policy decisions to the masses. Even IT operations are being done by the masses via crowdsourcing http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25714443.

Cost benefit analysis: PAP govt underestimating the value of human life?

In Economy, Financial competency, Political economy, Political governance on 12/01/2014 at 6:27 am

I came across this in the latest copy of the Economist in the letters section:

Petty’s cash ledger

SIR – You credited William Petty with inventing economics in the 17th century, but did not do full justice to his cost-benefit calculations (Free exchange, December 21st). The good doctor estimated the value of a person to be somewhere between £60-90 and in “Political Arithmetick” he suggested these values could be used “to compute the loss we have sustained” from the plague and war. In 1667 he argued that given the value of an individual and the cost of transporting people away from the plague in London and caring for them, every pound spent would yield a return of £84 as the probability of survival increased. (He also suggested that an individual in England was worth £90, and in Ireland £70.)

In a lecture on anatomy in 1676 Petty argued that the state should intervene to assure better medicine, which could save 200,000 subjects a year and thus represented a sensible state expenditure. Today’s economic estimates are more refined and the data are more exact, but the arguments presented by Petty still resonate in public policy.

Rashi Fein
Professor emeritus of the economics of medicine
Harvard Medical School

This set me thinking that since the govt is forever touting the importance of costing out the benefits of any spending proposal (something I agree with), maybe it should tell us how much it values a S’porean in monetary terms? Esp since the PM has just said that that more social spending does not mean better results http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/01/11/like-a-war-zone/

As pigs are likely to fly first maybe the SDP RI brains trust (Paul A, Wee Nam, Ang -Drs three- etc) can  “force” the govt to do so by coming up with their own SDP valuation, and what they calculate is the PAP valuation.

As to the co driver doing something? They wearing white?

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/why-a-2015-ge-is-now-more-probable/

Alcohol, Little India and the migrant worker

In Economy on 06/01/2014 at 5:24 am

It’ll soon be a month since the disturbance in Little India which has rattled S’poreans (that they over-reacted). Even the PM was rattled, so much so  that he still talked a lot of cock about it at Christmas http://singaporedesk.blogspot.sg/2013/12/taking-easy-way-out.html.

Here are some relevant facts that I’ve discovered that are not reported in our constructive nation-building media or in the usually anti govt alternative media that I hope will help S’poreans towards a right understanding of the riot and surrounding issues:

– Alcohol is available in the dormitories’ supermarkets. I had tot they were banned from selling alcohol. The most popular brands are two imported brands from India (one is Kingfisher, the other I can’t recall), followed by our very own ABC. Needless to say, the beers are not yr  normal strength beers: they have alcohol content sof 10-12% versus the usual 4%.

– To avoid problems, the beer is only sold in cans, not bottles. For those who’ve not been involved in drunken brawls: broken beer bottles are useful in a fight. Just grab the handle of an empty bottle (no point wasting gd beer), and smash it against a wall and you are ready to maim or kill. But if the police catch you with it even if no-one is injured by it, it’s the cane after “due process”.

– Despite these sales, there are no reports in the alternative media about brawls, scenes of drunkenness near the supermarkets. Maybe, the workers are responsible drinkers? Or TOC, TRE reporters don’t do dorm visits (unlike Lianain Films)? As for ST and other MSM publications reporting such fights, they wouldn’t report such frights even if they happened outside their doorsteps would they? They will call Yaacob and ask,”Is there a fight? What are the right facts for us to report?”?

– The Little India shopkeepers (and their landlords) made great money off these workers. I’ve heard that a small shop selling veggies could gross S$90,000 in sales on a gd weekend day. When you hear media reports of the bizmen in the area moaning, bear this in mind. BTW, I understand that the dorm supermarkets’ prices of Indian, Bangladeshi favourites and staples are competitive. It’s juz that the workers love shopping in Little India: it’s their home away from home.

– Prior to the riot, Little India on weekends wasn’t a nice place to hold seminars on “the struggle for workers’ rights” (Maruah tried to hold its do on a Monday) or for romantic dates. A beer marketing executive,who regularly tours outlets, says that fights and drunkenness were a common occurrences in the area. Guess minister Lui didn’t speak up about too many alcohol outlets because of the previous observation about the profits being made. Let me very clear, if Boat Quay or Clarke Quay were as crowded as little India on weekends, they too would be unpleasant places. No ang moh tua kee pls. Besides our manual worker guests don’t beat up taxi-drivers for sport: only drunken ang mohs do it, then flee or plead they are depressed.

– Since the riot, I’ve seen more workers going to and returning from the the Marine Parade sea front on weekends and public hols. I expect the area to remain peaceful and crime free.

They come hear to earn a living, a hard one: not to get drunk, brawl , steal or molest. They are like us

                                                                                               Hath
 59   not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
 60   dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
 61   the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
 62   to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
 63   warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
 64   a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
 65   if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
 66   us, do we not die?

(Shylock in The Merchant of Venice)

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.

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.

 

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)

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).

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.

 

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.

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.

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