Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

How TRE can monetise its popularity

In Media on 31/12/2012 at 4:19 am

— By taking a page from successful US-based webcomics

I came across this while reading an article on the rise of webcomics in the Economist:

One thing they have in common is how they make their money. The typical audience for one of the leading web comics is between 1m and 10m unique browser visits per month, comparable to a medium-sized newspaper website (the website of the Daily Mail, the best-read newspaper on the web, gets around 48m per month). But unlike on newspaper websites, where advertising is the main source of revenue, the audience on web comics are not just readers—they are also customers. Most artists sell T-shirts, books, mouse mats, posters and other paraphernalia. The most successful at monetising content is said to be Mr Inman: his site, “The Oatmeal” made $500,000 in 2011 from its audience of around 7m unique visitors per month.

Try this. If it works, gd for S’pore and TRE. TRE  may be ableto cover costs and pay the team shumething. If it doesn’t, then S’poreans, especially TRE’s “We hate the PAP” readers, deserve the PAP as the ruling party.

And the article goes on:

Amplified by social media—Mr Inman has some 700,000 Facebook followers—this audience can be powerful. One extremely long and exceptionally geeky comic last summer on “The Oatmeal”, extolling the virtues of the inventor Nikola Tesla and attacking his better-known rival, Thomas Edison, somehow snowballed into a campaign to save one of Tesla’s labs on the outskirts of New York. By leveraging his immense traffic to attract donations and to sell T-shirts and other gear, Mr Inman raised $1m in nine days—enough, with matching funding from New York State, to buy the building.


For 007 fans: Holiday treat

In Uncategorized on 30/12/2012 at 5:32 am

How the various Bonds stack up against one another on booze, violence, gals

Great piece: warning only those who know something the main UK political figures will appreciate the jokes.

Jappo banks step up presence in ASEAN region

In Banks, Japan, Vietnam on 29/12/2012 at 10:09 am

This week:

— Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFJ), Japan’s biggest bank, bought a 20%  stake worth US$743m  in state-owned VietinBank, the largest-ever merger or acquisition deal in Vietnam’s banking sector. The deal aims to boost “support for Japanese companies operating in Vietnam”, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ president Nobuyuki Hirano said, and to tap South-east Asian markets; after seeing its profits tumble this year, like other Jappo banks.

The Japanese bank last month reported profit in the six months to September dived 58 per cent year on year to US$3.6 billion, due partly to declines in stock holdings.

VietinBank, or Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade, said State Bank of Vietnam will still own the majority of its shares. For the record, it is Vietnam’s second largest bank by asseys.

— SMFG said it plans to expand its consumer finance business to target the growing middle classes in South-east Asia.

The new Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere?


No ASEAN round-up this hols week.

Li Jiawei proves TRE readers right

In Political governance on 28/12/2012 at 6:21 am

When she retires, what does she do? Move on from S’pore, back to China.

Juz shows that the many TRE readers who doubted her loyalty to S’pore were right! Readers that were criticised by govt ministers with lots of academic qualifications.

Ministers, in yr NatCon, listen to TRE readers, though I must admit some of them are wackos. The wackos are the s’pore self-loathers.

Indons no “hue” UK governance rules

In Corporate governance, Indonesia on 28/12/2012 at 5:58 am

UK Takeover Panel is asking questions of Bakries and another Indon investor in Bumi for time being can only vote 29.9% of their shares.


Why S’pore wants to be Arctic Council Observer

In Economy, Energy, Logistics, Shipping on 27/12/2012 at 5:50 am

And it’s not because of the polar bears, or Santa and his elves (FTs?) or reindeer.

It’s the new sea route: the NE passage. It’s nothing for the “We love to rubbish S’pore” readers of TRE and TOC to get worked up about. Very few ships use this route (I think 40 this year). And while this number will increase, most ships will sail the traditional route via the Malacca Straits. For one, ships have to be specially built for this route. First gas tanker crosses the Arctic to Japan.

Polar route

Antidote to the PAP’s tales of doom and gloom

In Uncategorized on 26/12/2012 at 5:51 am

Watch the BBC video on the Encyclopedia Paranoiaca by New York humourists Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf. It is a semi-serious cross-referenced compendium of hundreds of household items, activities and illnesses that – the authors say – could seriously ruin your day.

Wimmin, keep away from our cocks: PAP, Govt

In Humour, Political governance on 24/12/2012 at 10:43 am

Here’s what of JG (smart gal except she believes in WP) view of why Laura Ong was exposed: to tell gals to lay off PAP MPs. The punishment is being exposed publicly. Or put put it another way, cut off the supply of gals so as not to put temptation in the way of the PAP MPs.

Hey, you got it wrong!! How dare Laura sleep with Palmer??? She’s the one who is in the wrong!! Let the media dogs go after her!!

How dare Laura’s BF expose the affair to TRE and TNP? He’s also in the wrong!! Let the media dogs go after him too!!

Hence most of the expose is about Laura and his BF. Including camping outside their house, or their parents’ house, or asking neighbors about their actions. None of these stuffs when it comes to Palmer.

Seen in this perspective, everything makes sense. The PAP is whiter than white. If they are blemished, its the blemish-er that’s in the wrong. Let everyone learn his lesson – don’t ever touch a PAP MP, OK??

And maybe this is why Sue’s pix appears so often in SPH’s publication. The govt wants to send the message to customer service ladies that customer service does not include providing sexual gratification to civil servants.

Postings may be light until after 2 or 3 January. Happy partying or whatever you may be planning to do or are already doing.

HSBC: great customer & shareholder service

In Banks on 23/12/2012 at 10:12 am

Among the details to emerge in the US investigation of HSBC as the narco barons banker of choice were the larger-than-usual cashier windows in Mexican branches to get more notes through. Nice to see that the bank that I use and invest in is so customer-friendly.

And its continuing to try to improve investor returns:

— The selling selling of its entire 15.6% stake in Ping An Insurance, the big insurer based in Shenzhen, to Charoen Pokphand Group* means HSBC has sold more than 40 noncore assets since the beginning of 2011 and booked about $4 billion in gains on those sales this year alone, DealBook reports.  HSBC expects to book an after-tax gain of US$2.6 bn on the Ping An sale (more than enough to pay the US$1.9bn US fine).

— In October, it announced that it will close its Islamic finance operations in six markets, maintaining its presence only in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and a scaled-down operation in Indonesia.

*controlled by the Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont. The deal is to be financed partly by the state lender China Development Bank,

Lions YES! FTs YES! FAS NO ((((

In Footie, Humour on 23/12/2012 at 6:33 am

Glad the Lions were parking five buses outside the goal mouth. Glad they were SBS buses. If SMRT buses, the PRC FT drivers would have driven the buses away.

I’ve bitched about Roman before here, but gd for him, and our other FTs in footie team: Duric and Evertonian Bennett. The last two are the kind of FTs I want here. They are part of our community.

But FTF, FAS appointing Roman as Technical Director: the Serbians tua kee BS continues. FAS kept him five yrs too long. The “S” is FAS stands for Singapore, not Serbia!

Asean round-up

In Uncategorized on 22/12/2012 at 6:44 am

“President Thein Sein of Burma is The Straits Times’ inaugural Asian of the Year. Mr Thein Sein, 67, was chosen by top editors of this newspaper for his role in making his country oosening political and economic controls in Myanmar. This has led to democracy icon and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi taking a seat in Parliament, the lifting of Western sanctions and a surge of investor interest in the once-reclusive nation.”

Constructive, nation-building ST at its best. LKY’s remarks about Burmese generals (they are stupid) and PM’s public row with the Burmese govt few yrs back means that TLCs, GLCs and ordinary S’porean cos are finding it difficult to get the goodies in Burma, unlike the Thai, US, Brit, EU companies. So ST trying to improve relations. BTW, the Lady’s team has no time for S’pore too. S’pore upset both sides. George Yeo’s fault.

The Teletubbies, 24-hour news and Doctor Who are being introduced to Burma as the BBC launches three pay-TV channels there next January.

KKR has achieved its goal of raising $6bn for its new Asia fund making it the largest such regional fund.

Palmer’s no gentleman, PAP’s double standards, & PA & MSM are scum

In Political governance on 21/12/2012 at 5:49 am

No goodwill from me for Palmer, the PAP, PA and our local media, this season of goodwill to all men because of the way they treated Laura.

When Laura Ong was unmasked by PA, Palmer should have asked the media to respect her privacy. He didn’t. Shows that he doesn’t care. She was juz another sex object. Shows his wife, and us, the public, what kind of man he is. But to be fair, maybe the public castration, left him in shock*. One day, a tua kee strutting cock, the next day the balls were brutally hacked-off in public, albeit humanely.

As for PA, it had good reasons for naming her, which strangely it didn’t use. PA has an interest in ensuring that staff not  sleep around with PAP MPs, in order to advance careers. So naming here would be a good deterrence. It also needed to show the tax-payer that the close relationship between PAP and PA doesn’t include providing sex for PAP MPS and cadres.

Where PA went wrong, morally and ethically, was not asking for her privacy to be respected, when it made the announcement  If Zorro Lim had at that time asked for space for her, I’m sure our constructive, nation-building media would not have disturbed her and the others.

(“PA deputy chairman Lim Swee Say said on Friday that the organisation deliberated at length on whether to identify Ms Ong as the woman involved in the Michael Palmer affair but ultimately felt they could not keep it under wraps.

He said that although they did not want to “add to her pain” by identifying her, they recognised that the case had attracted much public attention.” — MediaCorp report)

(Of course, PA might have motives for not behaving properly ethically and morally.)

The call of the CEO of PA to give her space came too late. Her space and that of others were brutally violated by our constructive, nation-building media.

As to the constructive, nation-building media’s behaviour, what can I say that David Boey (once someone who walked on the Dark Side: he was a ST hack) hasn’t already said. If they didn”t dare hound the Palmers, they should havethe  decency to leave her and her connections alone.

But there is justice after all. The media did the PAP and PA no favours because the public saw the contrast in the behaviour of the media, ministers, PAP and PA:

— minister and PAP leader told media to respect Palmers’ privacy: they did;

— but because another PAP minster and a PA leader, didn’t tell  media to give other lady space, they violently violated her space and that of others.

Net result: public disgust and disquiet. The public castration of Palmer did not have the effect that the PAP wanted: that it is puritanical when it comes to the sexual behaviour of its MPs, and that, unlike the WP, it is willing to publicly humiliate MPs who break its rules. There isn’t any of the “rumours, what rumours?” that the PAP’s near-clones used to justify keeping on Stag Yaw until public disquiet made the WP’s defence of Yaw untenable.

LKY is right to despise the local media. It can’t even do the right thing by its masters, the MIW.


*Sima Qian could not bring himself to describe the horror of castration. He talks instead of going down to the “silkworm chamber”. A castrated man could easily die from blood loss or infection so after mutilation the victims were kept like silkworms in a warm, draught-free room.

I look at myself now, mutilated in body and living in vile disgrace. Every time I think of this shame I find myself drenched in sweat.”

SMRT: Buying target price

In Infrastructure on 20/12/2012 at 7:03 am

OSK DMG has a target price of $1.60 (6% above current price) and a Neutral call. I’ll monitor price to see if it falls to below or near that level. And then evaluate it to see if worth buying for dividend yield. The CEO’s talk of getting rid of FT drivers’ supervisors, could if carried out herald a change of culture.

BTW broker has a  Nneutral” call on the sector, with preference for ComfortDelGro (S$1.72 BUY TP S$1.85) for its cheaper valuations and overseas growth potential.

Lions pls park the bus

In Footie on 20/12/2012 at 5:37 am

When in Bangkok park two buses in front of the goal mouth.

Productivity in action in retailing

In Uncategorized on 19/12/2012 at 6:25 am

In Seattle. No need for grumpy local aunties or clueless kiddos. And no need for smooth-talking Pinoys who help remove $ from yr wallet or purse for things you don’t need.

But you gotta buy a smartphone first.

Govt may be right on limiting access to uni education, discuss.

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 19/12/2012 at 5:46 am

Given that Christmas is the season of goodwill to all men (including the PAPpies) and given that the PAP has had a torrid time, and given that Fabrications about the PAP is not doing its job, I tot I should post some facts and analysis (not Hard Truths) that support a policy that has pushy parents and netizens upset.

Sometime back, when

— PM said the desire  for “personal growth” 9i.e. a university degree has to be balanced with jobs; and

— the education minister said that while the govt would increase the number of places in local universities for locals, there would be a limit (I think he said 40% of some “mark”),

both were given a hard time by netizens and pushy parents.

I was reminded of the above recently, when I surfed across a few articles recently that discussed the skills needed to get jobs in a developed economies.

In a McKinsey survey of Western countries, nearly 70% of employers blamed inadequate training for the shortfall in skilled workers, yet 70% of education-providers believe they suitably prepare graduates for the jobs market. Similarly, employers complain that less than half of the young whom they hire have adequate problem-solving skills, yet nearly two-thirds of the young believe that they do have such skills.

Perhaps the young and their teachers need to take a reality check said the Economist writer who reported this.

Then there is thisAs some Canadian industries struggle to find skilled workers, others face a glut of qualified candidates and not enough jobs to go around. University professor Peter Fragiskatos says emphasising the importance of a university education only makes the problem worse.

He writes: Notions of success in Canada have been, and remain, intimately connected to obtaining a university degree. Why? After all, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche and Heidegger can be discovered just as easily at a public library and for a much cheaper price.

All of this might sound strange coming from someone who teaches at a university. While the joy I feel when working with my students cannot be put into words, the experience has made me realise that a love for learning is not their leading motivation, if it ever was.

Most have been raised with the idea that a secure future will only be possible with a BA or a BSc, and they enrol in university for this reason. As they get older, today’s students are likely to pass along the same message to their kids.

The reality is that Canadians are living in a new era, one where a technical education – usually obtained at a community college – has the prospect of delivering not only a steady job but better pay than what university graduates typically make.

Engineering, mining and many health-related professions – the three areas identified by Tal’s report as most in need of qualified applicants – do not require a university degree.

Finally from an Economist blog  the work of Cambridge economist Chang Ha-Joon, has noted that Switzerland*—one of the richest countries in the world and the nation with the third-highest ratio of Nobel scientists per person—has a lower rate of college enrollment than every other rich nation, as well as other beacons of prosperity like Argentina, Lithuania, and Greece. In fact, once a country has crossed some very low threshold, there is no relationship between the number of graduates and national wealth. The explanation is simple: a typical college education does not linearly increase labor productivity. This is not necessarily a bad thing—there is more to life than making money, after all.

So maybe, the govt is right to put the emphasis on vocational education, with scholarship schemes like this?

Fat chance that most readers of TRE and TOC, and pushy parents would concur. For the former, the govt, PAP, NTUC and related entities are always wrong. Take Zorro Lim’s statement that NTUC says ‘no’ to equal pay for all nationalities because “Same job-equal pay” rule will put local workers and families at a disadvantage. Facebookers and some bloggers were bitching about this. If he had said “yes”, they would be bitching too.: S’poreans must come first. Wonder how these people feel, now that ST (whom they rightly bitch abt) agrees with them that sMRT should only use the English station names in its public announcements. LOL


*S’pore’s spending on education is only around 3% of GDP (about halve of Switzerland which is in line with developed countries), so we got to spend a lot more to have a Swiss-style standard of education. Unless the govt wants us to be third world in education, like on workers’ and refugees’ rights.


AirAsia is eating SIA’s lunch

In Airlines on 18/12/2012 at 7:17 am

(And that of every other Asian legacy airline like Cathay, Qantas, Thai and MAS)

When SIA sold to Delta its 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for US$360, which it has owned since 1999, it said it was selling because of increased competition in its local market, where it wants to keep its focus.

In the same week, last week, AirAsia announced a US$9bn order for 100 A320 planes. AirAsias’s order is for 64 of the A320neo (new engine option) and 36 of the A320ceo (current engine option) aircraft.

M’sia Boleh!

Background info on SIA sale, so I don’t get dumb comments

Why is son of JBJ wayanging with WP?

In Political governance on 17/12/2012 at 5:47 am

(Update after 16 January 2012: Opps waz wrong. He didn’t back out as I expected. Must think loss of cred if he skunked away again with tail between his legs, would be too great. Will lose his deposit.)

“Furthermore in GE 2011 we were prevented from being able to contest any SMC, even in areas where we had been conducting outreach for some time. For these reasons we are strongly considering contesting this seat if and when a by-election is called”.

Why is KennethJ, son of JBJ and self-styled and self-appointed keeper of JBJ’s flame, seemingly picking a fight with the WP? It was NSP that refused to allow RP to contest a SMC, not WP.

Goh Meng Seng, wayang kung fu artiste extraordinaire, after being humiliated by the WP over Moulmein-Kallang GRC,  vented his anger on KennethJ, the paunchy. GMS gave flying kicks to said KJ’s face, paunch, balls and behind, refusing to allow the son of JBJ to contest in Radin Mas, which said son said had some affinity with said father. GMS had the quiet support of the ex-RP members that joined NSP. They were getting their own back on KennethJ’s ill-considered, ill-judged and ungracious remarks on their motives and character in leaving him alone to play with his toys in the RP mud play-pen. Their behaviour was dignified and gracious, and showed up KJ’s low EQ, up-bringing and manners. He behaved like a PAP man, not the son of JBJ, who for all his low IQ (unlike said son), was a man of dignity and charisma, not petulance.

As this is the second time, he is “seriously considering” peeing on WP’s territory (remember Hougang?), one can only assume he is sore with WP: for dethroning daddy from his throne (which he KJ had expected to inherit?)?

Anyway, somehow I don’t think KJ got the balls to fight in a WP area. Even his dad would have lost his deposit in a three-way fight there with WP and PAP. Palmer won the seat because the Chinese PAP grassroot activists brought out the votes for a non-Chinese. Who would want to help bring out the heartlander votes or vote for someone who can’t recite the Pledge correctly, and who talks in an ang moh accent, despite being back for many a year?

If KennethJ wants us to continue putting JBJ on a pedestal, he should move on out of politics. If he continues, the bravery and idealism of JBJ may be forgotten. He may be remembered as the dad of one KennethJ, a clownish opposition politician: more suited to be a PAP member because of his arrogance, petulance, and low EQ and inter-personal skills.

Update: See comment below on another reason why he is more PAP than JBJ: high IQ. LOL

The Wisdom of Psychopaths

In Uncategorized on 16/12/2012 at 9:14 am

Embracing the psychopath within. Sometimes psychopaths are needed.

Asean round-up

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 15/12/2012 at 6:14 am

The government in Burma has apologised to Buddhist monks for the injuries sustained during a police operation outside a copper mine two weeks ago.

Indons love their Blackberries (still): now they can transfer money to one another using their Blackberries. Maybe some rich Indon should save RIM, Blackberries’ manufacturer.

The BTS Group, a Thai elevated-railway operator, is looking to raise at least US$1.5 billion through an I.P.O. of its infrastructure fund, “which would make it the country’s largest-ever I.P.O.,” WALL STREET JOURNAL 

Iskandar getting desperate: want our SMEs. One time, see our SMEs no ak. Only wanted MNCs, TLCs and Arabs.

Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan, who owns 75% of the HK-listed Guoco Group, offered to take the company private for about US$1.1 billion, WALL STREET JOURNAL 


WP changes mind on nationalising SMRT & SBS

In Political governance on 14/12/2012 at 6:08 am

This blog at regular intervals reminds readers that the Wankers’ Workers’ Party had been silent on public transport nationalisation, despite it being in the Wayangs’ party’s 2011 manifesto and despite Gerald Giam advocating it in ST in July 2011 (here, here); and despite the seeming failure of the govt’s public tpt policy (I mean does the pumping in of S$1.1bn show that the “for-profit” policy working?)

Finally WP and GG have broken their silence: “If PTOs are unable to do so because of their obligations to shareholders, public transport should be taken out of private hands and run by a not-for-profit corporation which focuses on providing efficient and quality public transport, instead of generating shareholder returns.”

Err this was what is written in Manifesto: “Instead of public transport being provided by profit-oriented companies, all public transport including the MRT & public buses servicing major routes should be brought under a National Transport Corporation, a public body, to ensure a smooth integration of the overall national transport network and to avoid unnecessary duplication of services and overheads incurred by multiple operators.”

Spot the difference? The Manifesto call was unconditional. Now the operative word is “IF”.

Second time WP changing its mind on a Manifesto call. The first was on the benchmarking of ministers’ salaries. Like this change, one GG was behind that one too. Maybe Eric Tan (remember him?*) was right to rubbisg GG.

If the Manifesto is juz toilet paper, pls tell us WP. And tell us which first-world opposition party treats its manifesto with such contempt?

Related post

*GG called him his Si-Fu. Si-Fu lost NCMP seat to GG. Si-Fu had been promised NCMP seat before GE 2011, if East Coast team was entitled to one.

Corporate governance Indon style cont’d

In Corporate governance, Energy, Indonesia, Uncategorized on 14/12/2012 at 6:00 am

The  Bakrie Group said this week some documents used to justify an investigation at Bumi Resources PLC were stolen or accessed by hacking.

“Some of these documents appear then to have been ‘doctored’ to give a purposely misleading impression of a number of business transactions at Bumi Resources,” a Bakrie Group spokesman, said on Dec. 10. The Bakries plan to submit a report to U.K. police and regulatory authorities, while Indonesian police are probing the hacking complaints, Fong said.

Nathaniel Rothschild described the allegations as a “desperate attempt to divert the inquiry” by the Bakries and Chairman Samin Tan. He said e may seek to remove the board of the coal venture he founded with Indonesia’s Bakrie family in the coming weeks because it has failed shareholders.

How to be a hi-tech entrepeneurial hub

In Uncategorized on 13/12/2012 at 6:34 am

Berlin is fashionable, edgy, artistic: cool. And Berlin is the home of choice for many new hi-tech entrepreneurs from around the world. With global giants like Google now opening offices in the city, the German capital’s “Silicon Allee” is now rivalling London’s Silicon Roundabout as Europe’s tech hub.

Forget A*STAR etc. Juz be a place that cool people want to live in. And cool people don’t want to live in a place where marital fidelity is a must. Adultery is cool, not a hanging offence.

Lions! Lions!

In Footie on 13/12/2012 at 6:32 am

Well done boys.

Thinking about it, the Filipinos have an interesting FT policy that S’pore should think about. Their FT footie boys play in the lower European leagues: there being no footie in the Philippines where basketball rules.

But let’s not take anything away from our boys!

How S’pore can win Nobel Prizes, and pushy parents’ kids ace exams cheaply

In Financial competency, Humour on 12/12/2012 at 5:17 am

(Or “Uniquely S’porean: Correlation = Hard Truth)

Forget about spending money on R&D or attracting FT researches. Or spending money on tuition.

The govt should juz give S’poreans lots of free chocolates, and parents top up the govt’s supplies to their kids.

I kid you not. Look at this chart: The Swiss who eat lots of chocs are runaway winners when it comes to winning Nobel Prizes. So do the Danes, Austrians, Norwegians and Brits.

Graph showing countries' chocolate consumption per head and Nobel Laureates per 10 million people

“When you correlate the two – the chocolate consumption with the number of Nobel prize laureates per capita – there is an incredibly close relationship,” Franz Messerli of Columbia University says.

“This correlation has a ‘P value’ of 0.0001.” This means there is a less than one-in-10,000 probability of getting results like these if no correlation exists.

Link here and here.

My serious point is that juz because there seems to be a correlation (like 48% of druggies are Malays) doesn’t mean that we should get worked up. This is something that the Malay MP who highlighted the issue and ST who headlined it should appreciate. And so should the ladies who bitched about the ST report, who I criticised. Article

There may be cause and effect somewhere in a correlation, but there may be not. This is a genuine Hard Truth of Science.

Maybe the PAP and the ST should send its MPs and journalists (including the Deputy Editor who tried, but failed, to talk sense on the issue of Malay druggies) to a course in stats and causation. And the PAP should include one LKY in the course.

FTs running SGX wanted this turd

In Corporate governance, Financial competency, Uncategorized on 11/12/2012 at 6:40 am

Earlier this year F1 annced that it would list here. It then pulled back its listing citing market conditions. This could have been true as markets were volatile when it pulled its IPO. But F1 is now shown to be in one big legal mess.

On its face, the investment by CVC Capital Partners in Formula One seems like a winner. But thanks to recent lawsuits, “this enormously rewarding investment may now be in jeopardy,”Steven M. Davidoff writes in the Deal Professor column. A firm that was a competing bidder for Formula One, Bluewaters Communications Holdings, recently sued CVC, the bank BayernLB and Bernie Ecclestone, the Englishman who built the racing business. The claims are over a payment that has already been a source of legal headaches. Bluewaters says the payment was to “steer the sale of Formula One to CVC,” Mr. Davidoff writes, and the firm is “claiming at least $650 million in damages, the lost profit it would have earned had it bought Formula One.”

Well investors and S’pore have been spared this dog with fleas. No thanks to the CEO and COO of SGX, FTs all. And they are advertising in FT, six other posts hoping to get more FTs to keep them company.

And this despite S’pore slipping further down the IPO league tables, with KL at 5th place and HK at 4th. There are no FTs in KLSE.

Meritocracy’s feet of clay: Ong Ye Kung

In Corporate governance, Political economy, Political governance on 10/12/2012 at 5:29 am

(Update on 3 January 2013: He has joined Keppel Gp, a TLC, and not as expected his father-in-law’s property company. I’ll be blogging on this next week. Want to try to find out if his in-laws scared that their workers’ will go on strike or be unhappy if he joined them. I mean his record at SMRT/ NTUC not too good.)

Our nation-building constructive media are ignoring the white elephant in the space where of the circles of TLCs/GLCs, PAP, NTUC and the civil service meet: sometimes also known as S’pore Inc.

Once upon a time, Ong Ye Kung, was S’pore Inc’s poster boy of meritocracy.

Just in April 2011, before the May GE, our nation-building constructive media praised him as an example of meritocracy at work. Son of a Barisan Socialist MP (and no friend of one LKY), he was a scholar* who rose to a senior civil service post**, then became a senior NTUC leader, and then a PAP MP candidate. It was whispered that he was Zorro Lim’s anointed successor as NTUC chief; and was tipped by ST as a future candidate for ministerial office. He did became the NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General in June 2011.

But by then his slave worker drawn chariot had gotten stuck in the mud . He was a member of George Yeo’s losing Aljunied GRC team. Worse was to follow in 2012: the wheels came off his chariot of gold and ivory and he was thrown-off, and cast into the darkness and mud and became a person that the constructive, nation-building media knew not.

Earlier this year, SMRT’s S’porean drivers made known publicly their unhappiness over pay proposals that had his endorsement as Executive Secretary of NTWU (Nation Transport Workers’ Union). As he was also a non-executive director of SMRT, if he were an investment banker, a US judge would have rebuked and censured him for his multiple, conflicting roles.

Then he resigned, effective last month, from NTUC to “join the private sector”.

In perhaps a farewell, good-riddance gesture, FT PRC workers went on strike (illegally) and we learnt:

— they lived in sub-standard accommodation (SMRT admitted this);

— unlike most SBS FT PRC drivers, most of SMRT’s PRC drivers were not union members; and

— Ministry of Manpower reprimanded SMRT for its HR practices.

All this reflects badly on Ong: NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General,  Executive-Secretary of NTWU and SMRT non-executive director. And on the system that allowed him to rise to the top. After all his ex-boss said the following reported on Friday, which given Ong’s multiple roles in SMRT, can reasonably be interpreted as criticism of Ong:

In his first comments on the illegal strike, which saw 171 workers protesting over salary increases and living conditions, the Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said the labour dispute “shouldn’t have happened” and “could have been avoided”. [So where was Ong: looking at his monthly CPF statements and being happy?]

NTUC is thus reaching out to SMRT’s management to persuade them “to adopt a more enlightened approach to embrace the union as a partner”, he added. [Hello, NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General was on SMRT’s board, so what waz he doing?]

Mr Lim, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Labour Movement Workplan Seminar, cited the example of SMRT’s rival SBS Transit where nine in 10 of its China bus drivers are union members. Only one in 10 of SMRT’s China bus drivers are union members, according to union sources. [So, why didn’t Ong advise SMRT to help unionise these FTs, and if he did, why didn’t NTUC push harder ehen SMRT refused?]

SBS Transit’s management “recognised the constructive role of the union”, while union leaders “played the role of looking after the interests of the drivers”, said Mr Lim.

“And as a result … they work very closely as one team, it’s a win-win outcome. In terms of how workers are being treated and respected, how management are responsive, how they work together, I think it’s a kind of model that we ought to see more and more in Singapore.” (Today)

Apparently, Ong is supposed to join his father-in-law’s property development business: but with this revelations, it should come as no surprise if his in-law’s family has reservations about him: he might mismanage and upset the workers. Property development companies are fragile because of their leverage: they can’t afford executives who can’t execute.

And if anyone is wondering about the origins and meaning of the term “feet of clay”:

Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.

This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,

His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. (Daniel 2:31-33)

And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.

And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. (Daniel 2:41-43)


*From 1993 to 1999, he was in the then Ministry of Communications, where he helped develop the Land Transport White Paper and was part of the team which established Singapore’s Land Transport Authority. Taz right, he was there at the beginning of the great SMRT cock-up.

**He was the Principal Private Secretary to one Lee Hsien Loong, then became the CEO of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

Buffett talks to NYT

In Financial competency on 09/12/2012 at 7:05 am

Enjoy ))). Love the bit about starving broker: I was one. Broker that is, not starving.

And he thinks short-selling is hard. He gave it up many yrs ago. I’m sure Olam would like to prove him right.

Asean round-up

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 08/12/2012 at 9:12 am

Indonesia’s  increased piousness has led to a demand for the services of Islamic or Sharia banks: growth is at 40% a year.

In the report*, called Emerging Trends in Real Estate Asia Pacific 2013, Singapore fell to third place in the rankings, losing the top place it held for the last two years to Jakarta. “The main issue in Singapore is a glut of new supply that’s arrived just as financial sector firms have been shedding headcount,” said Mr Colin Galloway, ULI’s Research Consultant and the author of the report.

Jakarta is seen by the 400-over industry experts surveyed for the report as the best bet, especially in the retail and office segments. Its jump to the top from its previous mid-table position has been driven by strong investor interest tied to the country’s economic growth. “It’s really boom times in Indonesia now,” said one of the surveyed developers. “The demographics look good, it’s a country as big as America in terms of headcount and corruption seems to have been at least partly reined in.”

Singapore may face further competition in attracting real estate investment as it may lose out to countries offering better yields across the region, such as emerging and frontier markets like Cambodia and Myanmar, the report said.

Thai coup coming? An analyst speculates.

S’pore minister endorses Iskandar.

So does Peter Lim. And why he likes it.

*According to a report co-published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

SMRT did not brief FT drivers on labour law?

In Infrastructure on 07/12/2012 at 5:17 am

I’m glad that the four FT PRC drivers that are facing charges for instigating an illegal strike are going to get help from some civic-minded lawyers.

Following the guilty plea by one driver who it seems had no lawyer to advise him, I was dismayed.

I had heard via Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole that the PRC FT drivers had never ever been briefed on the labour law here: particularly that there was a procedure to be followed before striking. And that SMRT has no documentary evidence that it ever briefed its FT drivers.

So when I read that one driver had pleaded guilty, I tot it was unlikely that these issues,  assuming they were true, or even probable would be raised in public by the drivers.

Now that the remaining four charged drivers have legal advice, if these allegations are probable, they would be raised, in mitigation.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. But ignorance of the law particularly when it is in a foreign language should be taken into consideration when passing sentence: especially if the employer did not brief its FT employees about the legal process involved in taking industrial action.

As to whether SMRT could have been so dysfunctional as not to brief its FT drivers on labour law, fact is that its HR department is pretty dysfunctional.  “MOM [Ministry of Manpower”] said it has reiterated to SMRT that labour and contractual grievances raised by the workers should be a priority and addressed quickly.” And after all, SMRT only introduced the following after the strike:

— “[T]old its drivers at the sessions that it has set up a 24-hour hotline for drivers to call if they have concerns or grievances”; and

— “They have also appointed liaison officers who can speak Mandarin to deal directly with the drivers, said SMRT.”

(CNA report)

Avoid the stock especially as SMRT’s focus on profit is one of the many factors why SMRT has been facing problems, according to its CEO Desmond Kuek. If the CEO talks like this, you can be pretty sure good dividend payouts are not one of his KPIs.

Have kids, live longer

In Humour on 06/12/2012 at 6:27 pm

Not having a child “may increase likelihood of early death”. This is not government propaganda or a LKY Hard Truth.

Dr Helen Nightingale, a clinical psychologist, said: “Being childless without a doubt reduces your fight for life.

“If you draw on cancer as an example – the support of a family, the focus on your children – your grandchildren and the desire to watch how they will turn out drives your psychological resistance to survive. 

Olam: Snake bites itself

In Accounting, Commodities, Corporate governance on 06/12/2012 at 10:00 am

Opps looks like Olam tried to be too clever by half. By calling a rights type issue but not answering two of Muddy Point’s questions (that it is spending lots of $ on lousy investments and the restatements), investors have decided to sell given that there will a lot more debt, at expensive prices, a possible dilution, and that Muddy Waters might just be right.

Then there is the cred of management: saying it had lots of cash but then calling yet another bond issue. And having to retract a statement on the approach to Temasek.

In such a confused situation, investors might as well sell esp with the year end in sight.

And on a technical issue: leaving the warrants to be priced tomorrow was asking for trouble.

All in all, management and its investment banks have not covered themselves in competency.

Update:  “The latest Temasek-backed transaction raises significant issues, as it is extremely expensive debt and equity capital, capital that Olam spent a week telling the market it didn’t need,” said Dee. “Muddy Waters is not the issue here, it is Olam’s strategic and financial decisions that have brought this situation to a head.”

Good-bye Kra canal, Hello Thai-Burmese highway

In Logistics on 06/12/2012 at 4:54 am

Burma and Thailand want to build a highway linking a to-be built port in Burma to a port in Thailand. This will enable cargo to by-pass the congested Malacca Straits.

Will this remain a dream like the Kra canal, then the Kra oil pipeline? I suspect not as there are benefits for Thailand and Burma.

Might even attract TLCs: there will be a need for industrial and logistic parks.

As for the Straits of Malacca as a shipping lane? Well the development of the US inter-continental port, highway rail system to move containers from the West Coast to the East, hasn’t affected the traffic using the  Panama Canal. It is being enlarged to take bigger ships.

S’pore: A great place to be born in

In Economy, Humour, Political economy on 05/12/2012 at 5:39 am

In 1988, S’pore was the 36th best place to be born in: same as East Germany. M’sia was 38th and HK was 7th. In 2013, according to an article (The lottery of life) in an Economist publication, S’pore will be the 6th best place to be born in, M’sia will be 36th and HK 10th.

Switzerland will be 1st, followed by Oz, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Bang yr balls in frustration S’porean self-loathers: KennethJ, Goh Meng Seng, Tan Kin Lian, Tan Jee Say, Ravi, and born- loser readers of TRE and TOC.

Maybe the WP MPs have a point in being so supportive of the PAP govt? Maybe NSP is right that the party is not ready for govt: PAP still going strong?And maybe PM Lee and Chief Clerk Goh ain’t that bad?

I’m surprised that ST didn’t see fit to publicise this. Must be full of subversives.

But this good ranking does raise a question: If so good leh, home come S’poreans are refusing to breed? Shumething must be wrong? Maybe with S’poreans?

Or do the stats leave out things that matter most to S’porean couples that decline to breed or stop at one.

NTUC leaders would never say this

In Humour on 04/12/2012 at 9:47 am

“If at any point the owners start singing my praises, there’s only one thing for you to do, and that’s fire me.”

Union members would fire them from their million-dollar jobs.

The above words were said by Marvin Miller, a former head of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), who has just died. According to an Economist blog. “Mr Miller’s canny collective bargaining led to …  the majority of each dollar spent on baseball in the United States (in the form of tickets, broadcasting contracts or merchandise revenues) now ends up in the pockets of the athletes who provide fans with entertainment.”


What our MSM doesn’t tell us about Virgin Atlantic

In Airlines, Humour, Media on 04/12/2012 at 6:40 am

It’s in crisis. Deep crisis.

Auntie’s still a great way to fly but its record in investing in other airlines is horrible: think NZ Air.

And now the Arab airlines are stealing its premium customers via slightly better service, and just as good connections via the Gulf hubs. And lower costs: our S’pore Aunties are no longer that cheap. But bit susa to pass of PRC, Pinoy FTs as S’pore Gals. Only M’sians can get away with pretending to be S’poreans.

Good backgrounder (added at 8.50am on day of posting)

Olam: Snake confuses mongoose

In Commodities, Corporate governance, Temasek on 04/12/2012 at 5:58 am

Olam proposed an underwritten rights issue of US$750m in principal amount of 6.75% bonds due in 2018, along with 387.4 million free detachable warrants. The issue price of the bonds will be 95% of the principal amount and the gross proceeds from the issue of the bonds are US$712.5 million. Terms of bond are generous.

Olam said the transaction was fully backed by  Temasek which owns a 16% stake in the company. Temasek’s commitment “is a very strong, decisive action (for investors) not to have any worries about any of the allegations,” Olam’s CEO said.

The issue is underwritten by four major bank creditors: Credit Suisse, DBS, HSBC and JP Morgan. Again another sign of confidence.

So Temasek and the banks are onside. Goes without saying that the Indian conglomerate controlling Olam will subscribe for its share: It would, wouldn’t it?

And the shortists will have to cover their positions as investors recall their shares to make sure they get their rights.

Yr move, mongoose.

PS (at 8.50am): Gd counter by snake (must be King Cobra) to offer to pay for credit rating. Ang Moh Kaws must never underestimate Indians.

Update (1.15pm)

Shares of Olam climb more than 8%

Olam: Mongoose bites snake

In Commodities, Corporate governance on 03/12/2012 at 7:25 am

Muddy Waters offers to pay for Olam to get debt rating. It is a cheeky response to Olam’s “shock and awe” response (constructive, nation-buildingST’s description) to its allegations.

Wonder what excuse Olam will give when refusing to accept offer? After all Temasek, its investee, has a debt rating. And it is a SWF

Wonder what Olam’s banks’ will think if it rejects offer?


NatCon: Dialogue in the Dark

In Political economy, Political governance on 03/12/2012 at 7:09 am

“Dialogue in the Dark (DiD) is a social enterprise that aims to educate the public on the experience of blindness, ” writes MSF S’pore (Kee Chui Chan’s ministry)

Tot it should be appropriated as a description of NatCon.

Now to more serious matters.

PM on Wednesday talked of the need to have a government prepared to plan long-term. Bit rich of him to talk about this given the admitted problems in public housing and public transport that the govt’s policy of bringing in FTs by the container-loads have caused. I mean what were Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim doing? They even denied there were problems in public housing and public transport.

And waz the point of long-term planning if the plans are  lousy or execution bad? I’ve remarked before that the drive for greater productivity began around the time I started work: in the late 1970s. I’ve retired since then, and still there is a problem about productivity. And in the early 1980s, one LKY was ordering graduate S’porean mothers to breed, lest S’pore depopulates. His son is pleading with S’poreans to have more babies.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the National Conversation important in govt’s decision making. So important that the govt finds it necessary to frame the questions that we can ask it? “By early next year, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat expects to announce themes which the committee spearheading a national conversation about Singapore’s future will focus on,” CNA report.

Might as well prepare model answers? From the papers coming out from the Institute of Policy Studies (like the one setting out various growth scenarios dependent on the level of immigration) and government ministries (like the one on growth and population by the National Population & Talent Division of the PM’s office), and the articles in the constructive, nation-building ST by its economics correspondent and various senior writers, I will not be surprised if “model” answers will soon be available.

(Even the BBC and BBH, an ad agency, are helping out on the birth rate issue.)

And there will be prizes for the WP MPs who recite these answers perfectly. Yes, yes I know WP will not take part in NatCon, but they regularly support the PAP, after saying they disagree with the govt (instances).

And yesterday, PM highlighted three key goals (OB markers?):

—  “a vibrant economy by creating good jobs for everyone, as well as a harmonious society where people can enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life.”

— “a meritocratic system where people succeed based on their effort and contributions, along with special effort to help those who start off with less to do well in school and upgrade at work.”

— “to build a Singapore where citizens belong and feel as one, as well as an open, cosmopolitan city that welcomes foreigners with the skills and talents to help the country succeed.”

Mr Lee said the balance between these goals — just like yin and yang elements — will change will over time.The government, he said, is in the process of adjusting them.”

Right, so on top of given questions and model answers, boundaries are set. We can only talk about asking govt to adjusting them.

Err, is there anything left to discuss?

And if get scared by all the talk about the future doom and gloom if the PAPpies don’t the rule the roost, this is a useful antidote from America: it may not be our problem. We might be dead by then.

Two simple diversification strategies

In Financial competency on 02/12/2012 at 5:25 am

a native diversification strategy for those who do not know what the future holds (which means all of us). A 50% bonds/50% equities split would have worked well over the last 20 years, but would have been disastrous in the stagflationary 1970s. So he suggests a four way split – 25% equities, 25% government bonds, 25% cash and 25% gold.

The annual return from this strategy would have been highly respectable – 5% real since 1971, compared with 5.5% in equities and 4% in government bonds. But the volatility is much lower – the maximum drawdown was 20% in the early equities, compared with 50% (twice) for equities and 40% for government bonds. Investors would have found it easier to sleep at night.


similar naive strategy, involving just equities, bonds and cash; one took the expected return from the three asset classes and dividend the portfolio accordingly. The expected return on bonds and cash is the current yield; the expected return on equities was the dividend yield plus nominal GDP growth. So if cash yielded 4%, bonds 5%, equities 3% (with nominal GDP growing at 4%), expected returns were 4/5/7. The three returns added up to 16, so one put 4/16 in cash, 5/16 in bonds and 7/16 in equities. The beauty of this system is that it made you rebalance when asset classes looked expensive; at the time (back in 2005), it also had a record of low volatility.

Asean round-up

In Malaysia on 01/12/2012 at 5:33 am

The Philippines economy grew 31.5% more than forecast in the third quarter, boosted by increased consumer and government spending and a recovery in exports.

Following violent anti-govt protests at the weekend, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, on Wednesday, easily survived a no-confidence vote. She was accused her of failing to crack down on corruption.

The actions against this protest shows that the changes in Burma are still a work-in-progress. The protest also highlights China’s growing image problems amid intensifying local opposition to its extensive natural resources and infrastructure projects. In fact, one of the reasons why the generals opened up was their fear of Chinese domination.

“Najib said the 13th general election would be the decisive point for the future of the country and the people should be able to judge for themselves the advantage of choosing BN over the opposition.” (CNA). Actually what he means is that it determines his wife’s position as FLOM: First Lady of M’sia. LOL. She gets heself called FLOM, even though she is not the queen. Non-parisan analysts don’t expect Bn to lose power, but neither do they expect BN to regain its two-thirds majority in parliament, UMNO’s holy grail. If Najib can’t deliver this, there will be a new PM.

SMRT: Better not take the bus

In Infrastructure on 30/11/2012 at 5:16 am

(If you are short of time, juz read the last two paragraphs on why taking SMRT buses may be dangerous, otherwise read on.)

TRE reprinted this and Neutral responded as follows:

To be fair, “ex-SAF chief and scholar” was only in charge recently and so not really his problem. More like it’s “Miss colour hair” legacy.

 However, it is interesting to see how he handle this situation and if he applies a military approach, these “strikers” can jolly well go home to PRC for christmas.

I disagree.

Ever since the illegal strike began, SMRT has goofed in its handling of it:

— Came out to say initially 102 didn’t turn up: later said 171. If it got it wrong by 10%, fair enough, but it got it wrong by 67%. If it didn’t know how many drivers didn’t turn for work, it means it didn’t know how many drivers extra it would need. If a transport company can’t keep track of attendance, there is something wrong with its management info systems.

— But maybe it wasn’t the fault of the mgt info system but of the internal communications system?

— Then there was SMRT saying that striking workers were sacked; and then saying more had returned to work the next day. If they were sacked, how can return to work?

— As the law is very clear on what constitutes a strike (minister’s comments), management did not take decisive action in calling it an “illegal strike” until after the minister said so, it seems. This did the constructive, nation-building no favours, forcing it into some contortions to explain the initial non-use of the word “strike”. The media will not thank the management for the public ridicule it got.


— SMRT has admitted that “swifter actions could have been taken to improve dormitory conditions”. It should have admitted it could have communicated better with the PRC workers. It said on Wednesday, “the additional pay adjustment of S$25 a month for drivers from China was finalised last week and that it is in the process of communicating this to the drivers.” (CNA). Couldn’t they have told the drivers, before they saw their pay slips?

— The dormitory conditions should not have been so bad. SMRT is a TLC and GLC, not any SME.

— SMRT should have encouraged the FT PRCs to join NTUC. SBS did this. If they were part of Zorro’s gang, maybe things may not have reached this point. As Siow Kum Hong wrote on his FB page, “[A]ctually, i think people go on strike only if they feel disenfranchised and after they think they’ve exhausted other options.”

— As the strike took place when the CEO was away on overseas leave, it showed a lack of foreknowledge of worker unhappiness. Or worse: SMRT knew but CEO couldn’t be bothered to change his vacation plans.

These failings reflect badly on the ex-general, ex-SAF chief and scholar. And shouldn’t he be on the first plane back? After all, first illegal strike in Singapore since 1980 and in a TLC. The CEO was an ex-SAF chief and then senior servant: is this boh chap attitude a reflection of the ethos of public service?Thank God, there was no military or national security crisis during his stint as SAF chief.

Avoid the stock. It’s a dog that has fleas on the dog’s fleas.

And what happens if one of the FT drivers is so frustrated that he turns suicidal when driving a bus full of commuters. Or if he runs amok? Has the ex-colonel and scholar in charge of bus operations tot about the possibility that putting unhappy drivers on the road is endangering S’poreans and FTs. Imagine the damage that pictures of passengers being burnt alive will do to S’pore’s reputation as employers’ paradise?

Better give SMRT bus services a miss if you can. And if you have to take a SMRT bus, better make your will first, and check your insurance cover. Better safe than sorry?

Better visit the Pandas quickly

In Humour on 29/11/2012 at 9:38 am

It was reported they made their first public appearance yesterday. Hurry to see them.

They might decide to stay inside their apartment to show sympathy with their comrades in SMRT, especially those helping the police with their investigations.

Wonder what will happen if they offer to share their apartment with their comrades at SMRT. They are all from communist China and I’m sure the pandas are Communist Party members.

Why it’s a gd time for Najib to call a GE

In Malaysia on 29/11/2012 at 5:26 am

Monday’s newspapers reported that Najib was hinting on Sunday that he would an election in December. Tuesday’s papers quoted analysts as saying it was a bad idea because the rains will make campaigning dificulty.

The analysts are missing the point. The sooner he calls an election the better for him because when the Chinese and Indian and more secular Malays watch CNN, Al Jazeera or BBC, they will see how the Egyptians are repenting (see pics) the election of a member of the Muslim Brotherhood as Egypt’s president. The Arab spring overthrew a president who ruled like a pharaoh. The Brudderhood president has just assumed pharaohnic powers: a decree, issued last week, said

— no authority could revoke presidential decisions;

— judges cannot dissolve the assembly drawing up a new constitution; and

— the president is also authorised to take any measures to preserve the revolution, national unity or safeguard national security.

Is this what change Muslim Brudderhood style is what about is a question relevant to M’sian voters.

By voting for DAP and PKR (Anwar’s gang) the Indians, Chinese and secular Malays know that they could be strengthening the hand of PAS, a branch of the Muslim Brudderhood, a party that has just called for the choppin- off of limbs as punishment for certain crimes.  The scenes in Egypt should remind them that they want change, not chaos or an Islamic dictator. BN’s message should be simple: better the corrupt devils you know, rather than chaos or an Islamic despot.

Olam: Ang Moh Kaw bites

In Commodities, Corporate governance on 28/11/2012 at 5:21 am

It’s been over a week since  Muddy Waters made allegations about the accounts of Olam. Since then Olam has come out swinging, refuting the allegations and suing.

Yesterday evening, the report was made available. Most of the issues have been flagged by analysts earlier. But there are issues about the restatements of accounts that don’t affect profits and capex that need addressing by Olam.

Remember Temasek owns 16% of Olam. So it too will be studying the report.

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”

In Economy, Infrastructure, Political economy, Political governance on 27/11/2012 at 6:01 am

Well, well. So 102 FT drivers recruited from China (5% of all SMRT’s drivers) refused to work yesterday, disrupting SMRT bus services. They were not happy about their pay. Happily for commuters using the affected bus services, they agreed to return to work while talks continue.

Whither the FT policy, and LKY’s pride in FTs? Striking was a no-no for workers (except, as I recounted yesterday, when the govt had another agenda). S’porean sheep workers did not strike partly because they were afraid of retribution. Now FTs have led the way and have so far got away with it. They might even get more money. If they do, will locals realise that they too can get away with striking? If immigrants whom LKY respect can strike, why can’t they?

And if S’poreans start striking, will the MNCs move on?

Something for the cabinet, PM and his dad to ponder.

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.”

As for SMRT, time to forget about the stock. Management is still dysfunctional, despite having a ex-SAF chief and scholar in charge. Err might even turn into another NOL, where as I have recounted another ex-SAF chief and scholar has run it aground (Search “NOL”  on this site).

Subsidised hawker food book

In Humour on 26/11/2012 at 1:25 pm

Remember sometime back, I blogged on a food book that one should get if moving overseas for an extended period or as a gift if a friend is moving on overseas?

Here’s another book that is worth getting: “Every … lover of food should acquire a copy of this book.” —Prof Tommy Koh, Chairman, National Heritage Board. “There’s No Carrot in Carrot Cake” tells you what are the ingredients in 101 favourites hawker dishes. Get it. The pics alone are worth the $.

And its price, I suspect, reflects some funding from STB and the Heritage Board, so when you buy it you can feel good about getting back some of the money that you pay in taxes and imposts, even if the subsidy was meant for FTs.

The full quote from Prof Koh’s words is, “Every foreign diplomat, visitor, expatriate and lover of food should acquire a copy of this book.” Taz right, it was meant for the FTs, and but S’poreans can still buy it, so no bitching about unfairness. Go get it.

When Devan Nair was Jedi

In Uncategorized on 26/11/2012 at 6:08 am

(And ST journalists were Jedi cadets)

Yes, t’was a long, long time ago: 1971 to be exact.

A forthcoming book (Yup this was the book I was talking about here) portrays the ex-president who resigned in disgrace as someone unhappy, underpaid and bullied workers (OK  ST journalists) could turn to for help against a management dominated by FTs (not Pinoys or Indians but ang mohs), and that he helped them get justice. The book, “The Last Great Strike” tells the story of the life and times of a ST reporter in the days leading up to a strike in 1971: a strike which had the backing of a government that had just passed new draconian laws curbing the right to strike; before recounting the strike and its aftermath.

The author is Clement Mesenas. One of the other strike leaders singled him out, praising him as the leader. I know both of them*: the tag “running dog” or “castrated” cannot be tagged on their shirt collar.

I hope younger activists buy the book. There is much they can learn from Clement’s experiences as an “angry young man”, organisationally and emotionally  Don’t worry, I’ll remind readers of the book by reviewing it one of these days, when I’m sure it is commercially available.

There are plans for a website to be set-up for the strikers and their friends to contribute their “war stories” and reminiscences; about the direction ST took after the strike; and their tots on new media especially its impact on ST. Auntie Lucia, your contributions will be welcomed. Contributions defending ST’s “constructive” role in nation building, as distinct from the ang mohs’ idea of supporting the government of the day while being editorially independent will be most welcomed. As are articles on whether there is a difference between the two approaches? To me, the result is the same, so any discussion is akin a discussion on how many angels can dance on a pinhead. But it obviously mattered to one LKY and his govt, and I think to Clement and some of the strike leaders when they reflect back.

Hopefully, I can provide details of this website when I publish my review of the said book.

As for Devan Nair, maybe he didn’t deserve what Nemesis (in the form of LKY) meted out to him. A sentence in his obituary in the NYT reads: “As a trade union leader, Nair was considered to have shaped Singaporean workers into a restrained, but economically effective force that helped the country develop one of the strongest financial positions in Asia.” What S’poreans, past and present, think about him will depend on whether they think the workers got their just rewards, or were enslaved in fetters made from their mortgage payments for their “subsidised” public housing. But even if the workers were enslaved, their fate is still better than what happened to Boxer and the other non-pig animals,  of Animal Farm.  At least the workers can read in ST how rich they are, and feel happy.


*Though I’ve not spoken to one of them for years.

Does ex-CNB chief & scholar have a malfunctioning organ?

In Humour on 25/11/2012 at 5:33 am

Have you, like me been, puzzled by

— his lawyer’s comment that there was no bribery because Sue’s BJ left him frustrated rather than ratified; and

— his testimony that he didn’t complete the sexual act with Sue the only time that they had “normal” sex?

Could it be that Ng Boon Gay suffers from premature ejaculation? Hence nothing satisfies him, nor can he complete any act? Maybe that is why his wife is standing by him? She understands his pain, and is powerless to help? Previously, I had tot that his wife stood by him because she felt guilty that the refusal to do BJs and being mean with him by limiting his pocket money, resulted in him asking Sue for BJs, and wrecking his career.

As his name is Gay, could his organ malfunction disappear, it he has sex with men.? LOL. OK this was a sick schoolboy joke.

EPL available in Burma

In Footie on 24/11/2012 at 12:39 pm

Burma’s SkyNet has bought TV rights for the English Premier league football games. It will show all the matches in the next two seasons.

Wow I didn’t realise that the Burmese too follow EPL teams.


Asean round-up

In Malaysia on 24/11/2012 at 7:45 am

This week, shares in Universal Entertainment, a Jap co fell on reports that one of its affiliates made illegal payments to an associate of the former head of the Philippine gaming regulator.

Last Tuesday, it was reported that Thailand’s economy has slowed in the third quarter after weak global demand dented exports to the US and Europe.Gross domestic product increased by 3% in the three months to the end of September from a year earlier. That is down from 4.4% in the second quarter. Analysts expect growth to pick up in the coming months as domestic demand offsets weaker foreign sales. Thailand’s GDP increased by 1.2% when calculated on a quarter-on-quarter basis, slightly more than many analysts had forecasted.

Carrefour sell Indonesian Operations for US$672.7m. Another French biz bites the dust in region. French car makers rarely sell cars in the region, and major French banks have ceased providing US$ trade financing.

And fly AirAsia at yr own risk? The M’sian authorities have renewed its safety licence for only six months, instead of the usual one year. More probably, shaking mgt for money? Elections are coming.

And talking of elections, Indian and Chinese voters will be most “daft” to vote for PK. While Anwar’s gang and DAP are secular parties, PAS is a branch of the Muslim Brudderhood. Not only do the Brudderhood want to cut-off limbs and ban partying, but in Egypt it has just reinstated a regime based on a presidency that  has the powers of a pharaoh: something that secular Egyptians died to overthrow just over a year ago.

Why WP MPs are not First World parlimentarians

In Political governance on 23/11/2012 at 6:45 am

Last week, two WP MPs, Sylvia Lim and PritamS made impassionate pleas against the amendments the govt was proposing to the law on the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. They said the amendments were wrong morally wrong and not logical and did not do justice. So I was surprised when I read that they voted for the bill. Stupid me because this isn’t the first time that the WP has “wayanged”.: grandstanding against the govt but then quietly supporting the govt, when the spot lights have moved on.

DPM Teo told us in the Hougang by-election campaign that the WP had voted in favour of the Budget earlier this year. I had assumed because of the criticism that the MPs had been making, that they had voted against it or abstained.

(And I will be not surprised if I learn that GG had voted in favour of the ministerial salary changes, despite criticising the changes).

They have promised to be First World Parliamentarians. But they don’t even behave like honourable men and ladies. And in the UK and US, when the Opposition voices unhappiness with govt bills, its legislators vote against the bills, not for them. At worse, they abstain.

The WP Mps are like PAP MPs who speak out against policies and then vote for the measures they juz spoke against. They do so because party discipline (the whip) requires that of them. Netizens and others sneer at this behaviour but are accepting of the WP MPs’ behaviour.

Given this hypocrisy by WP MPs, no wonder the party forgave Stag Yaw when he admitted after the 2006 election that despite standing against PM in AMK GRC, he voted for the PAP. He was later anointed by Low to be his proxy in Hougang. It’s in the WP’s genes to talk bad about the govt, but then support it. Remember Show Mao’s analogy of the WP wanting to like an adviser to the emperor? Well to stretch the analogy, the official would publicly criticise the emperor for an action, and then privately assure the emperor that the emperor was right.

A member of the Communist-dominated parliament in Vietnam has in a rare show of dissent told PM Nguyen Tan Dung that he should resign for his mistakes in handling the economy, it was reported last week. Bet you a WP MP will never ever ask the PM to do this. Remember Low refused when challenged by the PM to say that Wong Kan Seng should resign when a Muslim “terrorist” escaped.

But what do you expect when a party ignores its Manifesto twice:

— on the nationalisation of public transport: and

— on what to peg ministers’ salaries to.

The “W” in WP stands for “Wankers”, “Worthless” or “Wayang”: anything but “Workers'”

Sorry JJ, if there is no change in this behaviour, next time I won’t vote WP, even though I voted WP all my life, and even though I think you are doing a good job in parliament, questioning the govt’s education policies. And if Charles Chong, is still my MP, I’ll make sure I’m not in S’pore on election day. (Charles Chong is worse than VivianB when it comes to sneering at the needy, even though he ain’t as rich and high-class as VivianB.) Join the SDP, JJ.

I gave the WP MPs in the last parliament a lot of slack because Low’s strength is not being a parliamentary speaker or debater. He is a backroom fixer and organiser. And Auntie was new. And there were only two of them. Hey but now there are 6 MPs and two NCMPs. And the PM is moving in the right direction, even if the PAP has yet to shed its old ways. But the WP MPs are juz taking the money, and looking after their own interests so that they get re-elected.

Indons buys S’pore telco biz

In Indonesia, Private Equity, Telecoms on 22/11/2012 at 5:14 am

Indonesian private equity firm Northstar Group is expanding into take-private deals, agreeing to buy a majority stake in Singapore-listed Nera Telecommunications and offering to buy the entire company for around US$146m

Norway’s Eltek ASA said it has agreed to sell its 50.1% in Nera to Northstar, part-owned by TPG Capital, a major US private equity firm for S$88.8 m  (US$72.6 mn) or S$0.49 a share. Northstar will extend the same offer for the remaining shares in a mandatory unconditional cash offer.



Typical S’porean way

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 21/11/2012 at 6:29 am

In a 2010 paper in the journal Tobacco Control, a group of Singapore-based cancer specialists proposed phasing-out tobacco by denying access to tobacco for anyone born from the year 2000 onwards. The researchers said their idea introduced the concept of tobacco-free generations that would “never legally be able to take up the harmful habit of smoking, at any age”

So very S’porean.

I came across the above when I read Should you need a licence to smoke?  This is something experts in the West are now thinking of recommending.

S’pore’s juz the place to introduce it, less draconian than banning youngsters from smoking.  We got licences to own cars (COEs) , licences to drive into the city (ERP charges),  licences to buy “subsidised” public housing (got to have marriage licences first), and local media journalists need licence to think (juz kidding).

And the govt could introduce the mandatory death penalty for smoking without licences. Shan could justify it on the grounds that smokers are all going to die one day, anyway.

Olam: Temasek’s actions key

In Commodities, Temasek on 20/11/2012 at 1:45 pm

Olam fights back.

As Temasek is the second largest shareholder, will be interesting to see what it does. If it doesn’t buy Olam shares, Olam will remain under a lot of pressure. If it does buy, TRE, TOC readers and other cowboys (esp from Facebook) will be mindlessly attacking Temasek, juz because ang moh says Olam shares are a short.



Asean round-up

In Energy, Indonesia, Malaysia on 20/11/2012 at 6:17 am

Last week, Indonesia’s constitutional court ruled that BPMigas, its upstream oil and gas regulator should be disbanded, adding to the growing legal uncertainty that has hampered investment in its natural resources sector. BPMigas is responsible for negotiating with oil and gas contractors such as BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil.

On Sunday, Thailand’s PM announced her country’s intention to join a US-led regional trade pact after meeting the US president on Sunday.  M’sia and Vietnam signed up a long time ago.  Surprising, S’pore has not signed up yet.

Not all roses from the US for the Burmese govt when POTUS visited Burma on Monday: US demands that the Burmese govt makes “unconditional release of remaining political prisoners, an end to ethnic conflicts, steps to establish the rule of law, ending the use of child soldiers and ensuring the safety and welfare of the people of Rakhine state”. The Burmese government is not the only group the US will work with. The US will also work directly with opposition groups, backing demands for the rule of law and human rights. This is like saying US will work with SDP in S’pore to ensure the rule of law and human rights.

In pictures: Obama in Burma

Great cartoon

PAS still wants to chop off limbs even if it gets into power with Anwar and DAP. And the Chinese and Indians still support DAP and Anwar? Juz look at the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East. Sharia law rules OK when the Brudders get into power. PAS is a Brudders branch.

Great comment on FT influx

In Humour on 19/11/2012 at 10:24 am

Came across a great comment on another blogger’s rant on the number of jobs created for FTs versus that for S’poreans(sorry not linking to it, as I got issues with his simplistic analysis of some ministerial numbers):

Looking at the current situation, it seems history is repeating itself. During WWII, British based its guns at Sentosa pointing towards the main island. Now we have the strong army with NS men ready to prevent an invasion NOT knowing that invasion has started years ago with the influx of our FTs at our backyard. Will they ever learn???

Actually the guns were pointed seawards, they only pointed inwards when the British wanted to fire on the Japanese troops crossing over from Johor. Unfortunately, wrong type of shells. The guns fired armoured piercing shells, useful against warships but not against soldiers. For that a different type of shell was needed. But that again shows the establishment was fighting the wrong kind of war, against the wrong kind of enemy.  Very familiar.

(Note I cleaned up several spelling errors.)


A plague on both PAPpies & some Facebookers

In Uncategorized on 18/11/2012 at 9:57 am

Recently, there have been quite a number of remarks made by the Dark Side and the residents of cowboy town, Facebook, that had me reciting Shakespeare”A plague o’ both your houses!”

The PAP ministers first.

Many Singaporeans have not grasped the implications of low economic growth in light of an uncertain economy, or even the effects of an aging population, Minister K Shanmugam said.

How about taking the time and effort trying to enlighten us minister? I mean all we get are variations of “We need FTS”. I have yet to see any serious attempt at quantifying the effects of low growth or an aging population. In the UK and the USA, there have been independent, academic studies quantifying the benefits of immigration. Here IPS doesn’t even pretend to quantify the numbers.

Minister … Grace Fu said the package of baby bonuses and subsidies are to help parents mitigate costs – not a “prize” for having children.

At least she said “cost”. The constructive, nation building ST used the word “burden”, when reporting her comments.

As S’poreans are not breeding, obviously the intangible rewards of parenting do not exceed the monetary costs, even taking into account the subsidies for breeding. So maybe the monetary incentives are not enough?

Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said public housing has to keep up with the rising aspirations of Singaporeans and that the facilities and design of older estates should also not fall behind newer ones. So if public housing has to keep up with rising aspirations, why shouldn’t the government listen to the calls for more transparency, and accountability. And for more freedoms. These too are rising aspirations. BTW, MediaCorp, it is wrong correct to call him ex MM. He should be called ex PM.

“Parents have to know that the PSLE is just one examination for the kids. Important, yes, but it’s not the only exam, not the be-all and end-all,” said PM. Well with all the six-year programmes, how can pushy kiasu parents be certain that their late blooming geniuses can get into an elite school, at 16?

“We offer many pathways to success. We make every school a good school. and even if you didn’t get into a secondary school you wanted, there are many other good schools you can go to,” PM again. So long as the government defines “meritocracy”, some schools are “better” than just “good schools” in achieving “success”

But the PAP are not the only ones who annoy me. Take this: Central Narcotics Bureau’s recent report says that there has been a slight dip in the number of drug abusers arrested, but there has been an increase in drug seizures (link:

 The worsening situation of increasing drug seizures is proof that mandatory death penalty may not be as effective a tool of deterrence as enforcement against this drug menace.

Hello, the mandatory death penalty has been around in both period. So the the rate of drug seizures have nothing to do with its existence. Criminals could be getting careless, police intelligence could be getting better. Many possible reasons. Let’s not use PAP type-or style arguments. Luke Skywalker was cautioned by Yoda not to try to use Dark Side techniques to fight the Dark Side.

In response to a headline in ST that 48% of druggies in detention are Malays

As a Chinese of mixed origin, I urge the government to take action against ST for inciting racial and religious disharmony.

— Amazing. Baffling too. Perhaps the alternative headline was “52% of drug offenders were Chinese, Indians and Others!”.

Well with 15% of the population being Malays, reasonable to headline fact that 42% of druggies held are Malays. Of course one can analyse the situation differently: say by family income or education levels. But statistically the fact that 15% of the population contributes 42% of something is statistically significant. Nothing wrong in drawing attention to the fact.

And while the ladies were bitching at ST, why didn’t they bitch at the PAP Malay MP who made the comments. If they think ST was wrong to report this statistic, surely the MP was wrong to make the comment? Malay PAP MP tua kee is it gals? Or hate ST is much? Remember what Yoda said: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.”



Why productivity is so low here?

In Humour on 18/11/2012 at 5:49 am

Could what Homer Simpson says applies here: “If you don’t like your job you don’t strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way.”? Substitute “American” for “S’porean”?

Think about it when you go to work tom.

And another thing for Grace Fu to think about. Maybe people will be productive if they are paid more? After all, one reason why they may not like their jobs is because of lowish pay caused by her beloved FTs. As to her comment that higher pay leads to great productivity, if it were so how come in the 1990s pay rocketed but not productivity?

How S’pore didn’t help the Republican cause

In Casinos, Humour on 17/11/2012 at 10:00 am

We didn’t give a casino licence to this guy.

“Sheldon Adelson: gambling magnate and also world’s biggest mark”: MSNBC host Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes). He spent more than US $50m to defeat President Obama.

SMRT is in the biz of transporting people

In Infrastructure on 16/11/2012 at 6:31 am

TRE republished this and improved on it by adding part of  the newspaper report that annoyed me.

Here are some great comments posted on TRE about the “unprecedented offer”


The SMRT’s attitude is typical of the legacy left behind by LKY. If SMRT makes a generous compensation, people will throw themselves on to the MRT rails. If we have too generous welfare benefits, people will laze around and not work. If we have good health benefits, people will fall sick, get cancer and not take care of their health. If we don’t pay our civil servants and ministers the highest salaries, they become corrupt. If we don’t have the ISA, people will become militant. If we don’t have a meritocratic law of the jungle system, every Singaporean will become lazy and indolent. If we don’t bring the thousands and thousands of foreigners, Singapore will collapse and your mothers, wives and sisters will become maids. And the list goes on….. It just shows how much confidence LKY and the PAP has in its citizens! No other country in the world in all history has its leaders, as Singapore has, condemned, spoken derisively and rubbished its own citizens. This is the wonderful legacy that LKY has bequeathed to all Singaporeans! His money of course goes to his family and the ten generations of descendants after him.

One Eye Dragon In Your Pants:

Wow, so that’s what SMRT thinks of us. Money grubbing opportunists who would do anything (even getting our limbs amputated!) to get some compensation. Yeah, in their eyes, we are all lesser mortals who deserve nothing. Have they looked at themselves in the mirror lately? If only public transportation isn’t monopolized by SMRT & SBS, I would outright boycott their services.


It is shameful that SMRT has such bad social grace to say such words of the public , implying the young Thai girl has a motive to lose her legs to get some money. Are we in some foreign lands where people sell their body organs to get some money ? Then why the need to say such unkind words of your commuters, to the effect that they would intrude on the SMRT tracks and implying try some antics to get some donation.

Lousy public relation, presenting a inhumane image of SMRT. These words are really mean and uncalled for.

Thought those infamous word ” opportunity to make money ” sent to the taxis after the breakdown of the trains last December was bad enough, and now these words. The SMRT never learn, or with a new PR people, has still not got its acts together again.

By the way, why is the PaaPa government making the common folks pay for upgrading and repairs bill $1.1 billion for the SMRT ? The Board of directors( past since 2002 )each receiving $200,000 annually and the chairman $500,000 should contribute their fees to the repair bills if they have some conscience. They failed in their duties as directors, and yet keep this money for private enjoyment . Shame on them, especially on Mr Chew Choon Seng, now chairman of SGX, who was the chairman of the board in 2002 that appointed a wrong unsuitable person to be CEO. They got away scot free, enjoying their director fees privately, but now the taxpayers have to bear with the cost of the repair , through no fault of theirs.

Today had reported that the ang moh FT I tot had joined SMRT had still not joined, and is unlikely to do so: Smart “Talent”. When you have a PR person, unapologetically, saying that $15,000 was an “unprecedented” offer to a girl who lost her legs; and that non-payment policy is to deter people from deliberately losing their limbs or lives  to get money from SMRT, it shows the kind of culture ( “choose not to board crowded trains” and “trains can be packed more” and “opportunity to make money” and “never ever damage SMRT property even if you are suffocating in a train that has stopped, and there is no electricity and you are left in the dark”) he would have to defend about if he signed on. Maybe the previous PR boss, an ex-army colonel, should reapply for his job?

He fits the culture to a “T”, blaming the bad English of the staff for them not communicating with the public. He was the person who also said that SMRT should never ever be damaged. Wonder why did he “move on” if he fitted the culture to a “T”. Goh Chee Kong approved comments like this.

Finally, we get to the title of this post:  SMRT is repositioning itself as an engineering company. I’ve commented on why this may be a bad idea: engineering companies tend to gold plate operations.

SMRT should think of itself as a “Mass Rapid Transit” biz: moving crowds of people quickly, in reasonable comfort and efficiently at low cost. Be like AirAsia, EasyJet or Ryanair, the best low cost airlines: decent customer service at lowish prices. And handicapped and elderly people: take a taxi if you are not happy with the service. Don’t bitch too much. Ryanair tells them in no uncertain terms, not to use it. It tells them there are alternatives.


StanChart not looking too gd

In Banks, Temasek on 15/11/2012 at 6:33 am

Standard Chartered graphic
“Analysts at Barclays recently highlighted concern over StanChart’s bad debt trends, evident in a 42 per cent increase in loan impairments in the first half of the year, compared with pre-tax profit growth of only 9 per cent,” reports FT. The growth is fastest since 2002.

So as StanChart still trades at a 25% to HSBC (1.5x book value versus 1.2X), this may account for the stories that Temasek wants out of its stake.

S’pore in the 12% that made it (M’sia didn’t)

In Economy on 14/11/2012 at 6:34 am

Look at this chart from the World Bank (via BBC). Of the 101 countries that were “middle-income” in 1960, only 13 had managed to break from the pack to become advanced economies by 2008. S’pore is there. While one LKY was wrong to say S’pore was “barren” when he, Dr Goh Keng Swee and gang took power in 1959, let’s give them credit for getting us to be an “advanced” country. And even Goh Chok Tong and Lee Jnr, even though during their time (1990s- 2011), there were no new ideas: juz following the old road map and Hard Truths. Even now, PM Lee doesn’t have any new Hard Truths. But at least he is trying finally to force the SMEs to restructure. But no thanks to George Yeo, Raymond Lim, Minister Mah or Lim Hng Kiang.

And of course we must give credit to civil servants like Hon Sui Sen (also a technocratic minister), Sim Kee Boon, Howe Yoon Chong, Pillai, Herman Hochstadt (my ex-boss), Ngiam Tong Dow and many others. Err but not including Philip Yeo and one TJS. And in response to this, Ngiam never ever wanted to be a minister or the president.

KennethJ, TJS, Dr Chee and readers of TRE and TOC: don’t always say bad things about the PAP. Be more nuanced. But pigs will fly first.

World Bank chart

The Link between Chinese Philosophy and Financial Gains

In Financial competency on 13/11/2012 at 5:24 am

Zen, I-Ching and Taoism, and investing.

Signs of being an opium smoker investor.

God’s a Jew, and polls aggregators face same bitch as fund indexers

In Financial competency, Humour on 12/11/2012 at 10:29 am

Because he’s not a Christian, Catholic or Mormon. And Muslims don’t matter in US elections. In fact Pakis voted for Romney.

Aggregators got it right. And the bitching sounds familiar. Could be an “active” fund mgr speaking: “If we don’t do the polling these aggregators have nothing to put into their model, [but] they sit back and take the benefit of our hard work and our toil.

Already the number of state polls conducted this year was lower than last time. If everybody decides they’re just going to aggregate in the 2016 presidential election they’ll have no polls left to aggregate.”

Finally: “So I think as an industry we really have a little issue here about the virtues of doing original polling versus just sitting back and taking other peoples’ polls and putting them in models.”

Horrible possibility: if the geeks are right about Ohio, might they also be right about climate?

 Daily Beast writer David Frum (@DavidFrum) examines the consequences of the 2012 election. Namely, if the statistical analysis so accurately predicted the winner of a tough swing state, might statistical analysis be correct on climate change predictions? (via BBC)

Indians: Lots to celebrate

In Humour, Political governance on 12/11/2012 at 7:02 am

TOM will be the second Deepavali since the cabinet reshuffle after last year’s May GE.

And my contacts among the Indians in the PAP have plenty to raise their glasses to as they feast and booze. Two out of four of PM’s most trusted ministers are Indians, the Indian PAPpies crow to their Chinese and Malay comrades. One is, allegedly,  descended from the wolf in Red Riding Hood, and the three-headed dog with a serpent’s tail, a mane of snakes, and a lion’s claws, that guarded Hades. The other is the PM’s Brains and Heart. The other two Chinese ministers are the PM’s hewers of wood and water? I.e. Dalits crow the Indian PAPpies. Some even wonder if they should PM an “honorary” Indian.

And VivianB is being given a chance (final one?) to show what he can do: tame the regular 50-year floods that happen three times in two years.

And there is another “countryman” cabinet minister in the PMO’s office. Earlier this year, ignorant Americans in the US State Department might be forgiven for thinking  that S’pore is on the Indian sub-continent or in the Indian Ocean given that he and Tharman visited the US at about the same time.

Then there is the Hard Truth that no Chinese or Malay has become a minister after becoming a divorcee.

And juz recently, another Indian has been made senior junior minister.

Juz calculate the percentage of Indian MPs to the total.

Funnily, Indians are the  most vocal critics of the PAP or the government. Take a stone a throw it into that crowd, and you are more likely to hit a Wijeysingha,  Ravi, Yadav, Nair, Tambi, Cherian or Braema than a Kum Hong, Alex Au, Teo Soh Lung Dr Chee or his sister.

The other funny thing is that the local Indian population are not impressed by the important role that Indians play in the the governance of S’pore. They grumble about the “lack of meritocracy  in the admin service and senior management of government ministries and agencies, Temasek and its TLCs, and other GLCs, and in private companies. This even though they dominate the legal profession and the print media.

We Chinese should be happy that there is division among the Indians. Imagine if the PAP Indians and the anti-PAP Indians unite: they will run S’pore. Err maybe taz why Wong Kan Seng allowed the Aryans in. They tend to look down on their S’porean cousins because they are darker than said self-proclaimed Aryans and high castes. LOL

And because of a Hard Truth (that Indians have been discriminated against) they are great sniffers of perceived discrimination, being able to sniff a Higgs particle of discrimination in the atmosphere. This helps keep MNC employers on their toes: not to discriminate in favour of Pinoys, ang mohs etc.

Have to a good holiday all.

Asean round-up

In Malaysia, Vietnam on 11/11/2012 at 7:49 am

Shareholders of KFC Holdings in Malaysia voted in favor of a US$1.7 billion bid by a group that includes CVC Capital Partners, REUTERS 

Msian IPO boom set to continue, leaving our SGX in the dust. The top two jobs in SGX are held by FTs where the “T” seems to stand for “Trash”. KLSE is run by a local.

QE-lenient world gives Vietnam financial pardon.

Why POTUS is visiting Burma.

Tips for online CVs

In Uncategorized on 10/11/2012 at 9:11 am

  • Clear layout: The more complicated it is, the harder it is for the technology to process
  • Key words: Find out the key words used for your role in the industry, and place those words near the top of your CV
  • Skills, skills, skills: When you list each piece of experience on your CV, mention the skills you obtained
  • The right heading: Don’t just put your name, also put the description of the role you wish to perform

Source: James Brian, Monster (via BBC)

The genius of Bill Gates

In Uncategorized on 10/11/2012 at 5:18 am

He made us overpay for his stuff.

“It’s kind of odd to sell something, then spend ten years sending free fixes to the consumer, who must have overpaid at the start to finance all the ongoing labour to keep it running. What if you bought a car, then received free repairs over its lifetime? How much would the car cost at the front end?”
Bkj3CBBzz3 on the end of Windows XP, November 5th 2012

Why history is not on the side of the PAP and WP

In Political governance, Uncategorized on 09/11/2012 at 9:18 am

But on the side of the SDP and NSP (maybe, if it keeps on its present busy beaver path).

There is every reason to believe that these developments [states approving initiatives on gay-marriage and marijuana] reflect national trends in public opinion. And these national trends are driven in turn by the same general processes of social change behind the gradual liberalisation of values in Europe and around the globe. Ronald Inglehart, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, was first to document this process in detail. Mr Inglehart’s well-confirmed thesis is that, roughly, as societies become increasingly secure in material terms, each new generation is predictably less “materialistic”—less focused on merely economic concerns—and more concerned with equality, autonomy, and the injustice of arbitrary authority. If we take the long view, we can see the success of this cycle’s gay-marriage and marijuana initiatives due to the inexorability of death, which in time disposes of antiquated mores, and to the relentless liberalisation of cultural attitudes in well-functioning market democracies. Thus are the young ever the vanguard of progressive social change. And the young stayed away from Mr Romney in droves

Extract from an Economist blog. No link as the rest is very, very US centric

SPH reporter can’t do %ages and other SPH horrors

In Media on 09/11/2012 at 5:26 am

So Ms Maria Almenoar defended herself (here’s her defence and a critique).

Forget about who is at fault (most probably both made mistakes), I have two issues with her.

She made the point that since she knew taxi drivers could earn up to $5,000 a month, $7,000 is possible. Well, I suspect that she didn’t realise that $7,000 is 40% more than $5,000. It may be possible but because it’s a big percentage jump, she should have been sceptical.

Next, what is clear from her account, is that my take on how SunT covered the story is correct: no attempt at verification. She says this was not possible.

I am willing to concede this point. But it was possible to see if the number made sense. The backlash against the story was made credible and respectable because a cabbie blogger came out with a detailed analysis on why it was impossible for said driver to earn $7,000 consistently working just eight hours a day. Later there were other pieces explaining that working 12-16 hours to earn that kind of money was not physically sustainable over long periods of time.

Ms Maria Almenoar being a seasoned transport correspondent could have done her sums and confronted the cabbie with her numbers. She didn’t.

But, SPH is being unfair in making her shoulder the defence of the story. It’s not only her mistake. There is an editorial process in any newsroom to see if a story meets certain quality standards before it is published. It clearly failed.

Here’s another case of bad reporting.

Last Friday (2 November), this appeared online: The chief executive of Malay/Muslim community self-help group Mendaki has come out to clarify that Indian-Muslims do receive help from the organisation, contrary to what several netizens had written on the group’s Facebok page.

Madam Moliah Hashim said in a note on the page on Monday that only two of the group’s many schemes are exclusively for Malays, and invited those concerned to a dialogue session with her. ST report.

Note ST’s definition of  “several netizens”. It means “almost 800 comments which were overwhelmingly in agreement with” the complainant. Don’t believe me? Read the whole story.

Now for something more substantive, than juz sniping. Mendaki was described as  “Malay/Muslim community self-help group”.  But ST reported PM saying this about Mendaki, on 29th October:  “he said in a recent interview with the Malay media to mark the 30th anniversary of Malay self-help group Mendaki”.  Which is it ST? Adding to the confusion, SunT, last Sunday, used the term “Malay-Muslim organisations” to describe Mendaki, among others, something pM used in the speech SunT was reporting.

There are differences between “Malay/Muslim”, “Malay” and “Malay-Muslim”. The last term implies that the Malays must be Muslims while the first term carries the implication that there is no nexus between Malay and Muslim.

So what is Mendaki, SPH?

I’ll end with some tots about the Malay* community.

Notice that the Malays* don’t have their own exclusive race-based help or support group unlike the Chinese or Indians. They got to share Mendaki programmes with Indian-Muslims, except for two programmes . Why this state of affairs  when PM has said that there is a role for race-based self-help groups in said story of 29 October?

Snide remarks aside, what it shows is that contrary to a few Hard Truths, the Malay community is not exclusive and in-ward looking. Shouldn’t ST be pointing this out?

One of these days, I must blog on what a M’sian Cina activist is saying: that in M’sia, Malay activists will die to save Chinese and Indians activists from attacks by Malay ultras or the police.

Maybe the purveyor of Hard Truths mixes with the “wrong” Malays? After all, Malay minister Yaacob muttered “worse case scenario” when LKY made his comments about Malays not “mixing”. Indeed his sister was present when LKY made the comments, and she didn’t challenge him did she? Watch the DVD.


*Ya, I’m avoiding the issue of whether Malays in S’pore must be Muslims. Unlike in M’sia, this is not in the constitution. If our constitution avoids the issue, so can I. Anyway it is a verifiable Hard Truth is that every Malay, S’porean or M’sian, I know is a Muslim. So the point is an academic one.

LKY gets kicked in the balls

In Financial competency, Footie, Humour on 08/11/2012 at 10:28 am

“I’ve seen their property values going up, five times, 10 times, 15 times, 20 times,” our MSM reported him as saying recently.

This is what the SDP said in response, “Yes, and what for? To feel rich? Under the SDP Plan, Singaporeans don’t just have to feel rich. They can have their NOM flats and not be indebted for the rest of their lives. They can have financial security and lead fulfilling lives.”

No comment about about SDP’s plans (this is what ST reported “experts” say): thinking about it. But it sure got great PR people team. Maybe PAP or govt should offer them jobs? MP Baey should recruit them for his firm? Can’t be good for H&R’s local and Asean practice that SDP is running rings round PAP and govt? The Dark Side can offer serious money, unlike the SDP. Unless of course, the rumours of CIA funding are not true. An SDP groupie assures me that CIA funding rumours are juz rumours. SDP as poor as Anglican church mice. Catholic church mice got serious money, what with Tony Tan (the president, not Hazel Poa’s hubbie) and George Yeo as members. Goes without saying that Methodist mice got $. Think Ng Eng Hen and wife (SingHeath CEO), and TJS’s in-laws.

Indonesia: Fight connections with connections

In Corporate governance, Indonesia on 08/11/2012 at 6:48 am

SMRT: $15,000 not enough

In Infrastructure on 07/11/2012 at 7:26 am

Talk of bad PR.

When I read that the Thai gal sued SMRT, I didn’t think much of her case. I tot that she should have accepted reasonable compensation and moved on.

But when I read that SMRT says that its $15,000 offer was “unprecedented”, I tot what a dumb, mean company.

I don’t know waz a fair amount would be taking into account her injuries and that it isn’t SMRT’s fault. But $15,000 is not it. Its legal costs would easily exceed $100,000.

I had been looking to buy shares in SMRT, but I’ll give it a miss for the time being. Want to see if mgt changes are working.

Anyway, hopefully the FT brought in to replace an ex-SAF officer will do something to change SMRT’s bad record in public communications. The SAF officer said once “Better you die, than damage SMRT property”.  Ya I exaggerate, but that was the message he gave when a commuter smashed a glass panel to let air into a train stuck in a tunnel.

NSP: Not in hibernation, but beavering away

In Humour, Internet, Political governance on 07/11/2012 at 6:10 am

So the NSP has not gone into hibernation. It is co-organising this seminar entitled “How to Survive the Perils of the Online World?” . Pretty impressive speakers: three lawyers (one an academic, while another is a former president of the Law Soc and former DPP) and Cherian George. New NSP member, Ravi Philemon, ex-TOC chief editor, blogger, do-gooder and social activist is moderating. It should be an interesting, entertaining and educational do. Do try to attend, but make sure you park carefully*.

Traditionally the NSP (referred to by trolls as the “No Substance Party”) falls asleep after a GE, to waken just before the next GE. It happened after 1996 and even after 2001, when Steve Chia became a NCMP. He, and the NSP, didn’t build on that position for the 2006 GE. After the 2006 GE, it went into hibernation to be roused in 2008 by one Goh Meng Seng, who had joined NSP from the WP.

After the 2011 GE, GMS resigned from the NSP (a troll said he is a serial resigner from parties after GEs, having resigned from WP after the 2006 GE: if he set-up his own party, he would quit it after losing a GE.).

The expectation was that the party would go into hibernation what with internal disputes earlier this year.

Well the party has proven us sceptics wrong. It is walking the ground regularly in Tampines GRC. I hear Nicole Seah is doing something in Marine Parade GRC, Hazel and hubbie are wading in the North Western marshes and recreational farms, and Jeannette Chong is cycling (though there are trolls saying she is doing so to lose weight) in Mountbatten.

As befits a party with two scholars (Hazel and hubbie) and a lawyer (Jeannette), NSP is planning to do a policy paper entitled: “My Singapore: Identity, Population and Manpowe”’. To help it write the paper, is doing a survey. The survey format is undergrad stuff but it shows NSP is trying to solicit people’s opinion, not hectoring while ignoring them (PAP). Nor ignoring them, unlike WP.

It holds regular legal clinics to advise S’poreans. After Alex Au’s row with AG on his comments on a legal judgement, I had suggested to a NSP member I knew, and on Ms Chong’s FB wall, that maybe it should use one of its legal clinics to advise netizens on how to avoid upsetting the AG. It would have the additional advantage of getting some PR and goodwill from netizens. So maybe, I should get a bit of credit for this Saturday’s seminar? But easy to propose, organising isn’t so easy.

But more needs to be done. NSP’s website is pretty basic (Rumour is that GMS designed it). As at time of writing 5th November, it didn’t even advertise  “How to Survive the Perils of the Online World?” on its website: this appeared on 6 November. But it is advertising a 2011 November event, I kid you not. So its online presence is even less than that of the WP or SPP, and miles behind that of the SDP.

The good thing is that with such a low starting point, there is no further downside. Can’t get any worse.

My suggestion to NSP is to anoint Ravi as online Czar, responsible for online strategy and delivery. He did a gd job at TOC, when he was editing the contents: claiming Han Seng Tong’s scalp, getting minister Shan say nasty things about TOC, and making KennethJ angry (Ravi didn’t publish his rants).  Against that, Mrs Chiam has said nice things about TOC under Ravi’s editorship.

To conclude, NSP is shedding its “No Substance Party” image and the hibernation habit between GEs. But it has a long way to go in building its cred among voters. Giving Ravi the online portfolio will help built cred online. But NSP should make sure Ravi doesn’t skive when it comes to walking the ground: not because he needs to shed kilos, not juz pounds (he does) but boots on the ground are needed to win a seat (Juz ask auntie Sylvia, and he-man Steve Chia). Every member must do the walking or cycling.


*LTA might not be happy that Ravi is kicking up a big fuss over how LTA exercises its rules when an MP intervenes. He has also alleged that an MP had parked illegally.

HSBC: Better than the average bank

In Banks on 06/11/2012 at 6:14 pm

While many bank chiefs have scaled back their financial ambitions, HSBC’s chief executive is persisting with the goals he set for the lender 18 months ago.



Even pros don’t read to fine print

In Financial competency, Uncategorized on 06/11/2012 at 5:14 am

So the call for more transparency and disclosure is BS!

Sophisticated investors are supposed to read the documents. We all know that retail investors don’t often take the time to read disclosure, but the securities laws are based on the idea that information is filtered into the markets through disclosure to sophisticated investors who then set the real price of the security … If sophisticated investors can’t be bothered to read the documents and act on them, then we have a real gap in the entire disclosure regime and asset pricing generally.

Unfortunately, this is what the evidence from the C.D.O. market before the financial crisis shows. And because of this, the idea that requiring still more, better or clearer disclosure is likely to be unfruitful in many cases … Until we better understand how sophisticated investors process and read disclosure, regulators should be wary of trying to solve the problem by simply requiring more disclosure.

Three cheers for ST: for once

In Humour on 05/11/2012 at 8:09 am

ST has been getting a lot of flak from me and others recently. And I got a few more bitches lined for later this week and beyond.

But it does shumethings right. MediaCorp’s free-sheet today described one LKY as “former Minister Mentor” which I tot was pretty insulting. While technically not wrong, describing him “former prime minister” is not only more respectful but the proper description, protocol-wise. ST got it right!

Though if ST describes one GCT as  “former prime minister”, one might raise an eyebrow at this description. Many S’poreans (self included) didn’t think that he was running the cabinet, let alone the country.

It would be most correct to call ESM, “former Prime Minister”. Note this sentence was added at about 9.50am on day of publication.

Pricing is not the only way PM! Try cooperative game theory?

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 05/11/2012 at 4:57 am

The Economist, a British weekly newspaper, seems to the PAP’s bible*. It believes that pricing is the best way to allocate scare resources and long before the government introduced road pricing, the Economist was advocating it: just like high taxes on petrol (we got this) , permits to drive cars (our COEs), consumption taxes with rebates for poor (GST and rebates) , low rates of corporate and personal income taxes, and no tax on savings (All present and reporting). Oh yes and it believes low fertility rates are bad and that immigration is to be encouraged, screw the social problems.

But even the Economist accepts that there are limits to using prices to allocate resources. It recently wrote:

People often exclude financial considerations from their most important decisions, from the person they marry to the foster child they adopt. Even some transactions that do involve money are not really about price. Universities in America do not admit students based on who pays the most, for example. Rather, they select students based on complex criteria that include grades, test scores and diversity. Similarly, students choose their university on more than just financial factors.

Money is not essential to a market. After all, economics is about maximising welfare, not GDP. But the absence of a price to allocate supply and demand makes it harder to know whether welfare is being maximised. This year’s Nobel prize in economics went to two scholars—Alvin Roth, who has just joined the economics department at Stanford University, and Lloyd Shapley, a retired mathematician at the University of California, Los Angeles—who have grappled with that very problem

— Mr Shapley’s and Mr Roth’s Nobel prize illustrates a larger point about economics. Undergraduates often study “utility functions” to learn how people choose alternative consumption baskets in a way that makes them better off. Once they go on to graduate school and then a job, they deal almost exclusively with priced transactions: for wheat, autos or equities.

Yet in countless private and public policy questions, welfare can be improved in ways that do not show up in the price. Mr Roth’s work on public school admissions and kidney donations are an obvious example, but there are countless others.  I recall reading that Starbucks had a plan that would let an employee in one store trade jobs with an employee in another so that both could work closer to home. The result would not change either employee’s output or wages, or Starbucks’ profits. Conceivably GDP would fall because the employees would spend less on petrol or bus fare. But provided the swap was voluntary, the welfare of both would without question rise

(Cooperative game theory is waz the above is all about. It looks at how well people can do when acting together; by examining all the possible combinations, theorists can spot outcomes that individuals acting alone cannot achieve

Well one hopes that the government too recognises the limitations of using prices to allocate everything. And that bit about “maximising welfare, not GDP”. It’s in the PAP’s bible. Juz read it, not juz Hard Truths which incidentally is derived from this book book.

*Where they differ is on democracy and a free media. The Economist is a strong advocate and proponent of both these principles, unlike the PAP. BTW I used to joke that the government doesn’t need high-salaried ministers and civil servants to think up policy. They need to read the Economist. Declaration of interest: the Economist is my favourite source of info and analysis. I like its combi of social liberalism and conservative economics and its style of prose, entertaining, and irrelevant irreverent.

It says things like: “The branding function of philosophy in politics is to give individual conscience a form congruent with group interest, to transform the mathematical necessities of coalitional partisan politics into many millions of separate acts of self-congratulating private virtue. It’s a neat trick. It would be neater still if fewer pundits played along.”

Asean round-up

In Uncategorized on 04/11/2012 at 9:35 am

Burma’s president signs into law a bill designed to attract foreign investment on 2 November.

The World Bank has approved an US$80m grant and pledged lending for Burma for the first time in 25 years. The money will go to rural communities to build roads, bridges, schools and health clinics.

The Yingluck Shinawatra administration’s new cabinet appointees were sworn in before the King on 31 October. FT earlier in the week reported that the changes strengthened the PM’s position vis-a-vis Thaksin, her brother.

Diverging commodities

In Commodities on 03/11/2012 at 9:49 am

The food index soared to a new high in August after America suffered its worst drought for 25 years … Metal prices, meanwhile, have been hit by the euro-zone crisis and the slowdown in China.



S-Reits: start thinking of taking profits?

In Financial competency, Reits on 03/11/2012 at 7:03 am

The demand for S-reits is resulting in falling yields.

But the demand is underpinned by macroeconomic uncertainties that are expected to linger, and the fact that S-Reits’ yield spread remains one of the highest in the world, when compared to other major Reit markets, said Credit Suisse in a report issued on Thurday.

“In our view, S-Reits still offer an attractive investment proposition given yields of 5-6 per cent on average,” said Credit Suisse.

The weighted-average yield for S-Reits trading above US$1 million per day is at 5.5%, which implies that a further yield compression of 50 basis points should easily translate into about 10% share price appreciation, offering a total return of about 15%, added Credit Suisse.

The only problems, I have about trimming my portfolio is that that I hold “risker” Reits, and the payouts could increase.

But it’s “watch and watch” from now one.

Alternative economic cultures, a topic for SDP or NSP’s conversations with the public?

In Uncategorized on 02/11/2012 at 1:22 pm

Prof  Manuel Castells suggests we may be about to see the emergence of a new kind of capitalism, with businesses growing out of the counter-cultures of the last 20 years: alternative economic cultures.



A Hard Truth about SPH reporting

In Media on 02/11/2012 at 5:15 am

There were two full-page articles in the Sunday Times on Oct 28, 2012 about two cabbies earning $7,000. per month. Since then there’s been plenty in the “cowboy” town about the accuracy of these stories. This piece in TRE has prompted me to share what I’ve learnt about how SPH reports stories.

SunT regularly features the investment “geniuses” of S’pore. They all so smart, always make money. In the past, these stories regularly appeared in ST and, even BT.

Many years ago, I asked people in SPH, editors and reporters, how SPH goes about verifying these tales of investment prowess. The answers were evasive, avoided the issue, when they were answered at all. Often I was ignored.

Only one person, someone who had moved on from SPH, gave me a straight answer. She told me to read the stories carefully. It was always “XXX said he made millions” etc. It never (well almost never) said “XXX made millions’. So it seems that the stories on these investment “geniuses”, were stories based on what they said, not on verifiable facts.

Now go read those SunT pieces again. In the main, it is a straight forward piece of “he said”. No attempt at verification or analysis like like when SPH  reports ministerial statements. But this doesn’t mean the SPHreporters and editors are “not professional”: readers are daft. They “have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not”: “O foolish and senseless people”.

“Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?”

“They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not”.

Waz pt of scholar, ex-general, ex-Temasek MD as NOL’s CEO?

In Media, Shipping, Temasek on 01/11/2012 at 5:48 am

When NOL is listed as the least preferred Asian container line?

When NOL annced its turnaround last week and a sale of its building, I tot “Waz wrong?”: boast turnaround yet indulge in financial engr for short term gain. Didn’t have to wait long to find out.

This is what BT, part of the constructive nation-building, 30-pieces-of -silver(?) SPH wrote earlier this week 

NEPTUNE Orient Lines has disappointed some analysts with its third-quarter numbers even though it fought its way into the black with US$50 million in net profit, its first after six consecutive quarters of losses.

NOL, which owns the world’s seventh largest container line APL, fell 2.5 cents yesterday to end at $1.145.

“It underperformed just about everyone’s expectations. I’m not sure if people were expecting profit of that magnitude when the street’s view was about US$150 million,” said Timothy Ross, Credit Suisse head of transport research, Asia-Pacific. NOL is now among the least-preferred counters among Credit Suisse’s basket of seven Asian container companies.

Joining Credit Suisse in a dimmer view of NOL was CIMB, which downgraded NOL to “underperform” from “neutral”.

The problem with comparisons as distinct from Hard Truths (like Scholar is “betterest” for anything) is that they are so inconvenient that shumetimes the constructive, nation-building media must report them. Even thouh, ST has made him out to be a genius on par with the North Korean leaders who advise experts on how to do their work, BT had to report the facts saw them.

Hope this ex-general and Temasek MD doesn’t run NOL aground! The gd thing abt NOL is that it is lightly ge as the analysts sred, unlike other container lines. FTR, I got few lots. Better yield than FD.

But there are times when having scholars in senior posts helps. NSP used to hibernate between general elections. With two scholars on the executive commitee (Hazel and hubbie), NSP has decided not to indulge in its usual hibernation. It is actively walking the ground, and is finally planning a mone online. More next week.  

Related post

Reasons why Cina banks deserve their deratings

In Banks, Temasek on 31/10/2012 at 10:18 am

For the record, Temasek has big stakes in three of the four biggest banks. Cheong all the way?

MFA is not as productive as its US, UK counterparts?

In Financial competency, Humour, Political governance on 31/10/2012 at 6:04 am

I came across the above table in a Special Report on India in the Economist. Tharoor was using this data to show that India was shortchanging itself diplomatically because it had about the same number of diplomats as S’pore. From my perspective, it is not productive that S’pore, a little red speck, has one diplomat for 6,000 S’poreans. Even the hegemon makes do with only one diplomat for every 16,000. people. It isn’t only SMEs that contribute to the productivity gap.  And the British, supposedly overstaffed, have one fat toff per 10,000 people.

No wonder the photo in ST of one George Yeo shows a rather thin man. No more living off the fat like his diplomats?

Wonder what our Asean neighbours’ per capita numbers are? I’m sure that they have numbers  closer to that of China or India than to the US.

Yes, yes, I left out the fact that the population of S’pore is “peanuts” compared to the US etc, and that there is likely to be an absolute minimum number of diplomats needed for efficiency, but if ministers and the local media regularly boast about S’pore’s per capita numbers, I’m juz using the same stick: to beat the BSers.

Finally, I wonder if our NS men are given the same line I waz given yrs ago. When I waz doing NS in the mid 70s, I waz told that we, had to fight, to buy time for our diplomats, to get the UN, USA etc to intervene. In the early 80s, I attended a course with some senior diplomats. I told them what I was tot. They rolled their eyes and said if the SAF had to go to war, MFA had already failed. No point asking US, UN for help.

Given one LKY liked to annoy the neighbours regularly, maybe MFA was doing a good job?

Private equity increases focus on SE Asia

In Indonesia, Malaysia, Private Equity, Vietnam on 30/10/2012 at 5:58 am

Buyout Firms Increase Focus on Southeast Asia Moves by the Carlyle Group and K.K.R. show their “increasing interest in one of the world’s most promising, but complicated, emerging markets: Indonesia.”

Indonesia attracted a record US$5.9 bn in foreign direct investment in the third quarter. It is a hot despite a bleak global outlook and worries about corruption and corporate governance

Note KKR has juz opened an office in S’pore.

FT says the economies of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are being driven by relatively strong corporate balance sheets, commodity exports and robust consumption amid the emergence of a rapidly urbanising middle class with purchasing power, hence the PE interest.

If Vietnam gets its act together, it could join these countries. Thailand has the corporates and the middle class but not commodities. It manufactures. So it too will be on PE radar.

And taz why the PEs have set up shop here. Convenient hub.

Not Yoko’s fault Beatles broke-up: McCartney

In Uncategorized on 29/10/2012 at 9:34 am

Sorry Yoko for thinking you the reason.

Scandis, Dutch, Germans & Poles speak better English than us!

In Humour, Media on 29/10/2012 at 6:41 am

In the light of the ongoing PSLE debate, I tot I should draw readers attention to this chart.

It is no surprise that our constructive, nation-building, 30-pieces-of silver media did not reproduce this chart. But I’m surprised that our alternate media too did not, despite a very anti-PAP blog being given this (by me).

Circle Line: the unasked questions

In Infrastructure, Media, Political governance on 28/10/2012 at 6:06 pm

I’m writing this on Sunday evening.

On Saturday morning, I read that replacing the Circle Line ‘s power cables would take 18 months, beginning from January next year.

SMRT said the areas between Dhoby Ghaut and Dakota Stations are more problematic, compared with other parts of the network, as the cables sit in an area that is prone to water seepage from the ground.

SMRT’s executive vice president for trains, Khoo Hean Siang, said there are plans to replace all the cables.

He added: “We want to change out to a higher grade cable that can submerge, (be) more water resistant to make sure … the system will last for 20 to 30 years.” CNA report.

But neither, MediaCorp nor SPH reporters asked:

—  “The North-South Line only started giving serious problems last year. It was opened in 1987. Why is the Circle Line giving problems so soon?”

— “Given the newness of the line, first opened in 2009, and with the latest stations connected just last year, how come the electric cables need replacing so fast?”

— “Why were these cables used?”

— ” As the total cost was nearly S$10bn, not peanuts, by any measure, why were these cables chosen?

— “What other problems could possibly happen, given the cables gave problems much earlier than anticpated?”

— What is the cost of replacing the cables?

— Who is bearing the cost of replacing the cables? SMRT? Or the govt? If SMRT, will dividends be affected? Or will fares have to rise?

And neither did they ask these questions on Sunday. and my Secret Squirrels and Morocco Moles in both these constructive, nation-building media organisations, tell me that tonite’s programmes and tomorrow’s editions will not ask these questions.

These are the questions that the media should be asking. I’m sure PAP MPs  and Lina Chiam will be asking some of these question in parliament.  And I’m sure netizens are already asking these questions. But I’m sure the WP MPs will be silent. Too busy looking at their bank statements to see if the 30 pieces of silver ++ have been paid into their accounts? Taz what my disillusioned Morocco Mole in WP is wondering.

At the very least, S’poreans must be told why the decision to purchase a cable, now known to be sub standard, was made or allowed to be made? Was it an “honest mistake” by someone or an entire organisation, or an organisational failure, or was there corruption?

My very simplistic answer is that in the 1980s when the first lines were being built, one LKY was PM. No-one wanted to explain to him why the trains would not be running on time. The Circle Line was largely built when the PM was one Goh Chok Tong, and his DPM was one Lee Hsien Loong, today’s PM, his chosen successors. Whatever history may say about LKY, the train lines built when he was PM lasted over 20 years, before giving serious problems. Under his chosen successors, the Circle Line didn’t even last fault-free for five years.

Sometimes change is not for the better, even ifthuggish methods of management have been replaced by more civilised, possibly less effective, methods.  

And while there is no longer fear in the air the media breathes, the mental “knucklebusters” still remain in the minds of the media.

Asean round-up

In Malaysia, Vietnam on 28/10/2012 at 6:32 am

Vietnam’s prime minister admits ‘faults’ on economy

And its China-plus-one Asean country for MNC manufacturers: In contrast to 2005, the previous time anti-Japanese riots flared, China is not the only fast-growing, well-populated, low-cost market around. Back then, Japanese firms hedged their China risk with a “China-plus-one” strategy, implying that they would find an extra Asian supply hub, such as Thailand. Now, that has grown into a wider “China-plus” strategy, because their options these days have widened to include Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines and India. (From the Economist’s last but one issue).

Will Laos join the other Asean countries now that it’s in WTO? Unlikely, but its been growing fast (and under the radar) Stag Yaw should pop across from Hanoi to check out the gals biz prospects?

M’sia’s Westport is planning a US$500bn IPO for the first quarter of 2013 reports Reuters.  Thirteen companies have raised US$6.4bn so far this year on KLSE making it the 4th biggest IPO mkt after US, China and Japan. And CEO and COO are locals, not FTs like those of SGX.

Apple’s in-house fund mgr

In Financial competency on 27/10/2012 at 9:51 am

Managing US$120bn from near Las Vegas


Why the powerful (and investors) regularly screw up

In Financial competency on 27/10/2012 at 5:01 am

“a disorder of intelligence”

Applies to investment decisions too.

Jos too is talking cock

In Economy, Political governance on 26/10/2012 at 5:42 am

Shouldn’t Jos Teo bitch about the Integrated Programmes that make PSLE such an impt exam today, rather than against employers that offer PSLE leave for their employees, and parents that take time off to coach their kids. In my time, PSLE was important to get into RI, Victoria and Serangoon English: once in if no major balls-up could do PreU in these schools (Integrated Programme is juz modern variant), but if one went to mission primary schools, going to mision secondary schools (and PreU) wasn’t that dependent on PSLE results, unless one was stupid. Things got even better when the govt started NJC.  More places for PreU studies.

But then the cycle turned and now PLSE is the exam to pass.

“We are quite mistaken to behave as if PSLE is THE defining moment in a child’s development.”: Err not all parents can afford to send their kids overseas to make sure they get a good education, if the kids get culled here.

And following the logic of her outburst, wouldn’t the logic of her argument mean that the government is wrong to continue curbing the number of COEs? As even ministers and MAS concede that the rising costs of COEs adds to inflationary pressures, even if ministers are wrong to say that rising COEs don’t affect the cost of living of us plebs (those unable to afford owning cars, and have to use public tpt).

Which brings me to the inflation situation.

Remember me bitching in early August that MTI jnr minister Lee Yi Shyan, and the local media covering him, were misrepresenting the pix on food inflation? I had pointed out that there were reports of rising food prices.

Well now MAS validates what I was saying. MAS warned on Tuesday about upward pressures in imported food prices over the next few months and into early 2013 due to weather-related supply disruptions.

Jos has gd company. And this ST guy should be in line to be a jnr minister.

Note: Last sentence and link to Jos piece added at 9.09am on day of publication.


Why Najib keeps delaying elections and why Borneo makes BN nervous.

In Malaysia on 25/10/2012 at 6:50 am

Attended a seminar last week  on M’sian politics:

 — It was analysed that Najib’s lack of confidence in achieving a two-thirds majority was the reason he kept postponing the elections. If he doesn’t get a two-thirds majority, Muhaddin would replace him as UMNO leader, even if BN won again, as widely expected. UMNO kingmakers expect any UMNO leader to deliver a two-thirds majority for BN.

(Note that CIMB’s CEO is Najib’s brudder, so if he goes, CIMB will have a new boss even if the current CEO is the best man for post. I’ve blog on this before, somewhere: type CIMB in Search). To the victors, the spoils.

— Although the Opposition is likely to win a maximum of 6 seats in Sarawak (out of 31) and 8 in Sabah (out of 25), Borneo is a problem for BN because  if PR won a substantial number of seats in Malaya, and would command a majority if combined with BN’s Borneo seats, BN parties in Borneo (even UMNO Sabah) would have the excuse to switch if the terms were right. Victory for BN in Borneo was meaningless if it suffered serious reverses in Malaya.

LKY’s favourite editor

In Media on 24/10/2012 at 5:50 am

Don’t rush out and buy the book by LKY’s favourite ST editor, despite the rave reviews from SPH journalists, past and present.

I hear that in November a very reputable int’l publisher is coming out with a book by ex-ST journalist on his experiences at about the same time. Guy never made it to top. And NO, not by Cherrian George. ))))). Nor by Mano Sabnani, Balji, Conrad Raj, Ravi Vellu, Lee Hans, Ho Chin Beng, Maurice Neo, Edmund Wee or Bertha Henson.

Wait for this book to come out and if it is ignored by Team SPH, then go and buy it. It will be commercially available in all bookshops.

Maybe the Grand Historian of China, Sima Qian, who accepted castration as the price of not being executed for upsetting the emperor  (he had promised his father that he would finish his father’s book) could give us an insight into the thinking of the LKY’s favourite editor and his ilk.

Sima Qian could not bring himself to describe the horror of castration. He talks instead of going down to the “silkworm chamber”. A castrated man could easily die from blood loss or infection so after mutilation the victims were kept like silkworms in a warm, draught-free room.

I look at myself now, mutilated in body and living in vile disgrace. Every time I think of this shame I find myself drenched in sweat.”

But he also wrote that if, as a result of his sacrifice, his work ended up being handed down to men who would appreciate it, reaching villages and great cities, then he would have no regrets even after suffering 1,000 mutilations

Maybe they think the same way. Maybe it’s not juz the 30 pieces of silver multiplied manifold.

Citi: Last dog in the race

In Banks, Corporate governance, GIC on 23/10/2012 at 5:15 am

And we own a big chunk of it still. ((((((

FT’s banking editor suggested that it could be split five ways: “into an equity and fixed-income trading entity; an advisory platform; a US retail bank network; a global trade finance shop; and an emerging markets retail bank.” [This para added at 6.07am on day of publication.]

Having a free media doesn’t mean better quality

In Media on 22/10/2012 at 7:19 am

Netizens seem to think that a media not controlled by the govt will offer better and more sophisticated analysis. These comments from young journalists covering the crisis in Europe  indicate that even in a “free” media, the media often does do not explain the social effects of what is happening and, “Often journalists themselves do not know and do not make an effort to understand what is really going on.”

LKY has always defended the PAP’s stance on the media by pointing out that the Rupert Murdoch’s of this world use their media interests for their personal agendas.

Super wimps, elitism, double standards & other mean tots

In Political governance on 22/10/2012 at 6:06 am

I never had much respect for George Yeo, believing he wasn’t one of those people who one could trust in a crisis. This proves my point : suddenly turned critic of PAP when he sensed he was going to lose, “In war deserters are executed.” And a recent ST article double confirms me right: blames the political climate for his loss, not himself. Aljunied was targeted because  were runours since the late 90s that George Yeo wasn’t taking his MP duties too seriously. Only a WP goof-up (Gabra Gomez)  prevented WP from challenging him there in 2001. 

Worse, for the PAP, the ST piece confirmed what sceptics had always said abt the “younger” ministers: only committed when the going is gd.

ArchieB should juz release his letter. DPM Teo’s comments, last week, did ArchieB no favours. Anyone ever tot ArchieB shld not have sent the letter? He shld make the letter public so that S’poreans can decide if the govt was right or wrong to counsel him on the letter. Anyway, those who got him to sign the original must be happy: makes the government look bad.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong says Singapore has to stay exceptional by remaining cohesive as a nation, with first-rate leaders to navigate the choppy seas of the changing world order.” So why didn’t he sack DPM Wong, Minister Mah, VivianB, Raymond Lim, George Yeo, Lim Hng Kiang and Balaji when they underperformed? So easy to talk now. PM Lee got rid of the first three, and GY lost his seat.

James Buchan, an author, has noted, that “economists, like royal children, are not punished for their errors”. Well by ESM Goh’s record, ministers too are like “royal children”.  

And yes, Lawrence Wong, there is nothing wrong with meritocracy: the problem is that those who mess up often don’t pay for the consequences of their failures. In a meritocracy, failures get shown up, to encourage the others.

And it’s over a week since it was announced that two “terrorists” who juz happened to be Malay Muslims were detained without trial under the ISA. But Function 8, and other bleeding heart chattering human rights chatters and bloggers are deafening in their silence. If the govt wants to detain anyone under ISA, use the terrorism label. No-one will say anything. And to be on the safe side, add the “Islamist” label. That will do the trick. And to be super KS, add “drug dealer”.

But I’m being unfair. There is one very good reasons for the silence. No bleeding heart kay poh wants to be associated with a suspected drug dealer or Islamic terrorist, forgetting that the same arguments that apply to their educated, middle class, English-speaking friends who get ISAed, apply to “drug dealers” and “Islamic terrorists”.

And no, the Kay pohs are not Amy Cheongs.

There are two other good reasons for the silence on the “Islamic terrorists”. If the Malay Muslim community keeps quiet, it doesn’t make sense for the kay pohs (can’t think of any Malay Muslims among them) to get involved. I mean the community may very well agree with the detentions. After all, elements of the community were very vocal last year over perceived insults to Islam, filing police reports, and flaming.

The activists in the Muslim community also tend to keep to themselves. I have heard of occasions when Muslim activists quietly admit that they did not come out in solidarity with other activists because while grateful for the help that they (the Muslim activists) get on issues like homelessness, joblessness, HDB and utility arrears and single mothers, they don’t extend help or even recognition to the non-Muslim activists because the latter support haram causes like gay rights and sex education. Wonder if these activists are willing to share a meal with these infidels?

So why should the kay pohs still their necks out?

Funny thing is that in M’sia, Muslim activists (think PAS) have no compunctions working with the people in the DAP and non-sectarian NGOs. And even UMNO doesn’t dare attack the Islamic credentials of PAS. So it isn’t a racial or religious matter.

Finally, MP and committee member WP PritamS said: “Don’t mistake timidity for inaction. With more experience, we hope to get better.” Err wondering what he means by “get better”? “Get better” in keeping quiet?

For the record, WP has

— stopped talking about nationalising public transport despite it being a Manifesto promise and the govt throwing money at the system while enabling SBS and SMRT to have private shareholders;

— made it clear that it wants to be the PAP’s trusted adviser (Show Mao didn’t tell us that a trusted, loyal adviser can have his balls cut-off if the hegemon is upset* ; and

— told us it is willing to help out PAP in a coalition govt. Err why WP changed its mind on ministerial salaries, another departure from its Manifesto?

Heard that in WP HQ toilets, copies of Manifesto used as toilet paper. And members use it as cat litter. Can’t be true, can it?


*Guess this is the reason why the WP MPs are so quiet. Easier to juz take the money.


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