Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Due diligence: a cautionary tale

In China on 29/02/2012 at 6:42 am

The fraud at Puda Coal, a Chinese company traded in the United States, was spelled out in documents that were publicly available months before the company raised $100 million from investors, but it appears no one bothered to look, writes Floyd Norris of The New York Times.

More chillingly is that the the Chinese authorities are making it more difficult to inspect publicly-filed documents, often informing the filers who are asking for filings.

So play, play in China at yr own risk. Like having unprotected sex.

China Sky shows how impotent SGX is when it comes to China stocks. Can only reprimand directors. I tot it damned funny that the CEO (and a major shareholder) could juz resign like that,


Beware of distorted markets

In Economy, Financial competency on 28/02/2012 at 2:30 pm

Investors now live in a sort of fairground hall of distorting monetary mirrors. Their perception and motions are twisted by negative real policy interest rates, by topsy-turvy government bond markets, by fiscal deficits which range from large to enormous and by a financial system still considered so fragile that it needs extensive official support. Until the mirrors are straightened – a process that will take years – it would be dangerous to feel too happy about rallying markets.

Another great insight an the Economist blogger

a big enough rise in oil prices that translates into a big enough decline in expected growth and inflation may nudge the Fed from the rates-will-be-low-because-we-want-catch-up-growth interpretation toward the rates-will-be-low-because-the-economy-will-be-weak interpretation.

S’pore politics: Analysis by stat board

In Political governance on 28/02/2012 at 6:14 am

“The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies is a regional research centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment”. It is also a statutory board whose funding comes from the government.

In its inaugral ISEAS Monitor, this is what it says about S’pore.


A series of controversies has cast a shadow on the country’s reputation for non-corruption and efficiency. News broke in late January that the chiefs of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force(SCDF) had been hauled up by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau for “serious personal misconduct”. This investigation is sandwiched between the jailing of officers from the Singapore Land Authority and Ministry of Home Affairs for fraud in November 2011 and January 2012, respectively, and news that civil servants, including a school principal, have been clients of an online prostitution operation.

In addition to these high-profile investigations, the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry into the majo breakdown of the country’s train system last December will soon begin. Already the recent assessment by international experts that Singapore’s drainage designstandards still lag behind those in other places, to explain the regular flooding on the island, put relevant state agencies in a poor light.

The coming months will see the government and the mainstream media attempt to protect and restore the reputation of state agencies and adminstitutions. The government will not down-play these controversies but, instead, seek to win public confidence by demonstrating as clearly as possible how swiftly justice is meted out tooffenders, while bold regulatory steps are implemented to minimise future organisational failings.

Meanwhile, the country’s most established opposition party, the Workers Party, has been rocked by its

expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong, the Member of Parliament for Hougang.

Yaw, who is married, had been rumoured to have had an affair with a married member of the party. His refusal to address these allegations, in addition to rumours of relations with other women, led to his dismissal on grounds of accountability and transparency. His expulsion will trigger a by-election to be called at the Prime Minister’s discretion.

Key points: As there is no fixed time within which a by-election must be held,political calculations will take over. A by-election in the next few of months will probably be to the Workers Party’s advantage given its strong showing in the general elections last year. Calling the by-election later – in a year or two – may be to the ruling party’s advantage as the conspicuous absence of an 0pposition MP in Parliament will serve as a public reminder of the controversy.

I agree with its analysis on how the government and MSM will protect and restore the reputation of state agencies and adminstitutions. The government will not down-play these controversies but, instead, seek to win public confidence by demonstrating as clearly as possible how swiftly justice is meted out tooffenders, while bold regulatory steps are implemented to minimise future organisational failings.

But I disagree that delaying a bye-election is to the government’s advantage by reminding S’poreans about the WP’s failings. If anything, it will remind S’poreans of the democracy “deficit” here.

Offer to buy Richard Wan a cuppa

In Uncategorized on 27/02/2012 at 6:16 am

We now all know how Richard Wan the local editor of TRE looks like. Not only has he been hassled by the lawyers of the PM, and the PM’s younger brother, he has been abused by TRE readers and even a blogger not fit to lick Richard’s posterior.

So if you see Richard at a shopping mall or food court or on the street, offer to buy him a meal or drink. I’m sure he will refuse the offer, but I’m sure he will appreciate the gesture.

If you read this Richard, email me if you want to eat lobster and abalone. On me. And bring the wife and kids. If you want to eat something simpler, no problem. Then you can bring along all the relations who want you to quit.


S’pore: Despite FTs, an expensive place to make pancakes

In Economy on 27/02/2012 at 4:55 am

According to the chart in this link, only Japan, HK, Switzerland and Norway are more expensive places to make 12 -15 pancakes using 110g of sifted flour, 2 eggs, 200ml of milk and 50g of butter. And this was when we had FTs making the pancakes! Soon we will overtake Switzerland.

When Goh Chok Tong talked of a  Swiss standard of living for S’poreans, he must have meant cost-wise. SIGH. Zurich is the most expensive city in the world, and S’pore is eight places behind.

Budget: A Plague on Both Your Houses

In Political economy, Political governance on 27/02/2012 at 4:22 am

(Or “Budget: Missing the point”)

I think the government has “got it”, more or less, in the overall thrust of the Budget. More below. But I’m annoyed (and sad) that it still hasn’t “got it” when it comes to helping the poor. I like the theory behind the GST Voucher for the poor (it helps make the tax on consumption less regressive). But like Workfare (which I support in theory), it is flawed because the poor need money both now and in the future, but both Workfare and the GST Voucher focus on the future.  I’ll leave it to TOC’s Leong Sze Hian to describe the problem.

“A new GST voucher will be given to help particularly lower-income and elderly Singaporeans, comprising three components – cash, Medisave top-up and U-Save.

‘So, you pay for your GST increase in cash, but you get the bulk of it back not in cash, but as Medisave top-ups which you can only use for medical purposes, and U-Save which helps you to pay for what has historically been generally increasing utility bills.”

A wicked, mean tot. Could one of the reasons for putting the money into CPF accounts rather than pay cash be to lessen the cost to the government? The real value of the cash in the CPF accounts are steadily and steathily eroded by inflation. With the Medisave account paying 4%, and the ordinary account 2.5%, and inflation at juz below 5%, could the government be hoping that inflation reduces its headline cost by the time the money is withdrawn? Even if inflation returns to the 2% range, the real cost to the government is reduced. As I said, a wicked, mean tot that would never occur to a PAP supporter or a journalist in our constructive, nation-building local media.

But I have to reseve some irritation for the refusal of usually rational bloggers to recognise as a Bloomberg report puts it, “Singapore Shifts Priority From Growth to Curb Income Inequality” . At best, they say very grudgingly, “OK BUT …” 

Following the removal of deadwood from the cabinet, and the building of more public apartments despite a forecasted economic slowdown, the government has moved to address, by way of more than words, four other “toxic” issues that make S’poreans angry: the sheer volume of FTs flooding the streets, the use of FTs to keep wages from rising, congested public transport and growing income disparity.

Now whether the measures announced in the Budget are sufficient to reverse the problems that these four issues have caused, I don’t know. I suspect not, and more has to be done. Nor can anyone be sure that this isn’t all Wayang.

But a step has been taken. Whether the step is small or big, only time will tell. Whether more steps will be taken, again only time will tell. But a step has been taken, and this should be acknowledged by those of us who are not aligned with any of the opposition parties, whose reason or justification for existence, is rightly, to oppose the government. 

Those of us who who are not aligned with any of the opposition parties should not be professional critics of the government. Which reminds me, I found Lucky Tan’s “Threats of Defamation Lawsuits : Not a way to win over netizens….” amusing because maybe the PAP thinks that trying to make friends on the internet is a waste of time given its failure to make the internet a more PAP friendly place. If so, the likes of Zaqy and Baey could find their cushy S$15,000 monthy stipends history at the next general election.

And if it’s all Wayang, we will soon know, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” And come the next general election, the PAP will pay a heavy price.

Our SWFs owned four out the10 biggest investment flops of the last 10 yrs

In Financial competency, GIC, Temasek on 26/02/2012 at 6:35 am

(Or “GIC may have bot another dog”)

They owned significant stakes of the four (BoA, Citigroup, UBS and Barclays) of the 10 biggest dogs that had fleas on their fleas between 2002 and 2012. To be fair, the big stakes were bought in late 2007 or early 2008. GIC and Temasek each has two dogs to their shame. GIC still owns stakes in UBS and Citigroup. Temasek cut its losses at the nadir of the financial crisis of 2007-2009, in early 2009, allowing hedgies and Arabs to make money on BoA and Barclays.

(Remember how the constructive, nation-building local media were trumpeting the purchases as indication that our SWFs were “the greatest”. Well they were “the greatest”: the greatest mugs. Funny our media never told us that.)

Hope GIC’s big stakes in Glencore and Bunge (both commodities traders, the former in metals, the latter in agricultural products) don’t go the way of UBS and Citigroup (big banks).

GIC now has over 5% of Bunge.

Via shares and convertible bonds that convert into Glencore shares, it also has a significant stake in Glencore. GIC has been doing some financial engineering to reduce its cost of Glencore shares, which I assume it bot at the IPO. The price has fallen 18% since then. As to its convertible bonds, it is getting a good interest rate of 5% but the equity value of the bond is 17% down, I calculated.

GIC recently raised its stake in Xstrata by 20%  and trimmed its holding in Glencore International after the companies said they planned to combine. GIC has increased its Xstrata stake to 29.05 million shares from 24.1 million shares since Feb 8, the day after Glencore offered to acquire the shares in Xstrata it doesn’t already own for US$37.6 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. GIC cut its Glencore stake by 21% t to 33.2 million shares.

Thai co outbids Shell

In Energy, Temasek on 25/02/2012 at 10:36 am

Thai oil and gas company PTT Exploration and Production said on Friday that it had submitted a rival US$1.7 billion bid for energy exploration Cove Energy, trumping a previous offer from Royal Dutch Shell by 12.8%. PTT is state-controlled and is the second largest listco on the Thai stock exchange. It is capitalised at slightly more than US$19bn.

Remember Chips Goodyear? He was going to be Temasek’s CEO before he quit Temasek’s board. Seems he wanted Temasek to make these kind of big mining or energy bids. Seems this was too exciting for Temasek or its shareholder. 

One reason why equity mkts are bullish

In Economy on 25/02/2012 at 5:37 am

BUSINESSPEOPLE around the world are still gloomy about the outlook for the global economy, but they are a bit less gloomy than they were last October, according to The Economist/FT survey of over 1,500 senior executives, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

GIC: A dog of an investment

In GIC, Private Equity on 24/02/2012 at 6:14 am

BAA made a loss as debt payments mount. Rising interest payments on BAA’s debts turned the operating profit of £572m into a pre-tax loss of £256m – a £60m improvement on its 2010 losses.

GIC is a one of three members of a consortium that won a bid for BAA, valuing it at £10.3bn in June 2006. The investment went almost immediately wrong. Fortunately, GIC’s initial stake stake was  a peanutty 5-10%. The exact %age has never been disclosed.

Still it is no surprise that Reuters reports that GIC  “is selling US$750 million of private equity and other funds it no longer wants to invest in, and will redeploy the money to other better-performing managers, according to sources familiar with the matter”.

To be fair,”sovereign wealth funds and pension funds are pruning their exposure to alterative assets such as private equity amid the economic downturn”. Taz the problem when one tries to be hip and sassy.

The testing of Low Thia Khiang

In Political governance on 24/02/2012 at 6:04 am

The first months of the Dragon year has not been kind to Low.  He must be reminding himself, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

First came the allegations about Yaw’s extramarital activities, an issue that Low and the WP mishandled. Instead of either coming out to say that the matter was a private one (and thereby incurring the anger of the moralists*) or saying that the WP was investigating the matter, the WP opted for stonewalling silence and evasion (Examples**). This from a party that fought a general election on the need for transparency, openness and accountability, and the need for a first-world parliament.

When the noise got extremely loud, the WP announced Yaw’s expulsion from the WP. Low explained, “[A]lmost a month had passed between the first media allegations and the WP’s decision to expel Mr Yaw Shin Leong. Mr Yaw continued to remain silent on the matter, and refused to account to the WP Central Executive Council (CEC). The WP had no choice but to invoke clause 22(a) of the WP Constitution to expel him.” 

This reduced the noise considerably, as otherwise rational netizens, and the usual WP and Opposition groupies rushed to blog that the WP was “whiter than white” or at least “whiter than the PAP”. And that Low was a strategist, the equivalent of Mao, Sun Tzu, Sun Pin, Chuko Liang or Fan Li. (One of these days, I’ll blog on why Low is not a great strategist. But I’ll wait until he is riding the crest of a wave again.) 

Then ex-PAP Ho Kah Leong wrote to the Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao’s forum pages suggesting that Low should take responsibility for the matter and scolded him for wasting public funds because a by-election had to be called.

Instead of his usual silence when attacked (remember his silences in parly when asked to state his views on certain issues), Mr Silence became Mr Chatterbox, replying, “Even though I was familiar with Yaw Shin Leong’s background and I have met his family and attended his two wedding ceremonies, I have no way and no authority to inspect his private matters and personal life. I am a Member of Parliament, not a private investigator! Ho …  said I should take responsibility for the Yaw … saga. May I ask how I should take responsibility?”.

Well he may not be a “private investigator”, but having worked with and mentored Yaw for many a year, he has to accept the responsibility of being partly responsible for choosing Yaw to defend Hougang for the WP. He also has to accept part of the responsibility of the WP’s stonewalling silence and evasion. Finally as leader of the WP, he has to accept responsibility (albeit partially) for a systems failure. “The Workers’ Party has a system to select its candidates,” he said, so that Yaw could become a candidate shows some flaw in the system surely?

And on the issue of wasting public funds, he should have kept silent. Ho said a stupid thing. But by citing Goh Chok Tong’s call of a by-election (not a good example) many years ago, Low allowed GCT to take a nasty dig at Low (and the WP) in the process.

All in all, Low’s performance is less than satisfactory.

But don’t count him out yet. Don’t understimate the man. Who would have thought in 1991 that he would lead the WP to its first GRC victory in 2011, and that Hougang would become Fortress WP?

Also, don’t underestimate the goodwill he has from S’poreans, even from critics like me (Even I have said nice things about him). It will take a lot of mistakes to make him lose that goodwill. S’poreans will readily forgive him, or give him the benefit of the doubt. Remember, S’poreans were very forgiving of the PAP, when they perceived it as the equivalent of a bad-tempered and mean hawker who sold delicious food at very reasonable prices, while giving his enemies food poisoning that sometimes hurt accidentally an innocent customer. Even after the food ceased to delicious or good value, S’poreans supported the PAP. In economics, this is called “stickiness”. Low now has stickiness.

Let’s hope he raises his game. Perhaps, a modern-day Wei Zheng should advice him on what to say and do? If that happens, I hope Low can be Tang Tai Zong.


*But the WP would be tapping a new source of voters: the New Paper recently reported that 20% of Singapore women cheat on their husbands based on a survey done recently. And as Lucky Tan says, “For husbands the number is likely to be worse – you can take the 20% and double or triple it.”


— “if it is rumours …” (Yaw),

– “You said yourself that these are rumours, why are you still asking me?” (Low himself), and

– “We have to think carefully about our response” (deputy treasurer of the WP, a Mr Png).

These comments left me wondering if the Law Minister had been moonlighting after his pay cut, or if MP Baey’s PR firm had been advising the WP.

Dow Jones divergence

In Financial competency on 23/02/2012 at 6:36 am

Keep an eye out on the DJ transportion index. The rises in oil prices have naturally affected the stocks on this sub index. Now if the DJ main index keeps going up while the transport index keeps weakening, this could be bearish for US equity markets. Traditionally such a divergence has led to a fall in the main DJ Index.

Don’t underestimate the US

In China on 22/02/2012 at 6:04 am

This is another of an occassional series on why Chinese chauvinists and Cina Tua Kee lovers should be careful about crowing of the coming hegemony of China, and the fall of the US.

A US company is a major beneficiary of the Chinese love of eating fried chicken.

The US-based company that owns the KFC fast food chain has again reported solid growth figures fuelled by demand in China despite increasing food and labour costs in China. Revenue from Yum’s restaurants in China fell 2.4% to 19.7% in the last quarter from the year before, due to wage inflation of 20% and an 8% rise in commodity prices. The company says the Chinese market is crucial to its success.

“We opened a record 656 new restaurants and delivered extraordinary same-store sales growth of 19%,” said David C. Novak, chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands.

“Clearly our KFC and Pizza Hut brands in China continued to strengthen their category-leading positions.”

Yum! Brands has reported better-than-expected profits for the fourth quarter of 2011, jumping 30% from the same period last year. Net income for the three months ending in December was US$356m.

Insider Trading: Law here

In Financial competency on 21/02/2012 at 6:28 am

S’pore’s Court of Appeal has, for the first time, given a detailed outline of what constitutes insider trading here. This outline includes:

— even if the information used by an insider to trade did not affect the share price greatly, it could still be considered material and therefore amount to unlawful trading*;

—  information could qualify as being “generally available” only if the common investor could make deductions, conclusions or inferences from the information of the same quality as the information the insider possessed.

— “‘generally available” information should not be too narrowly defined and a balance should be struck so that the law would not be too onerous on market participants;
— information gained fortuitously or through diligence and a keen analysis of public information should be considered as “generally available”; and
—  the elements of insider trading, as set out in the grounds, applied equally to civil and criminal cases. (Of course, the burden of proof in pro

Related link:
*Even though some foreign courts have stated that if a firm’s disclosure of information has no effect on its share price, then that information is immaterial as a matter of law, this does not apply. Here the approach of using market impact evidence is “relevant but not conclusive”. The relevant test is whether a reasonable person would expect the information to affect a common investor, and not to examine in detail what actually happened to the share price later.

The Evolution of the PAP’s Strategy to the New Media

In Political governance on 21/02/2012 at 5:49 am

Trumpets please. I am quite a prophet, ain’t I. Recently I wrote, “… many more ordinary S’poreans will realise that the internet is not a “cowboy” town or injun territory where one can get away with anything. It is a place where if the authorities are determined, they can identify users … What next? A minister suing someone for defamatory comments made on the internet by the latter, comments he tot was “safe” because his identity was “hidden”?  You heard it here first …”.

Since then, Yawning Bread and then TRE each got a letter from the lawyers of the Foreign Minister and the PM respectively, telling them to remove defamatory articles. I could become a fortune teller, couldn’t I?

Seriously, the letters from the ministers’ lawyers show the fifth phase of the still in progress evolution of the governing PAP’s attitude towards the New Media (internet 2.0 and the social media).

Phase 1 was to ignore the New Media. It didn’t exist, and wouldn’t affect public opinion, unlike the traditional media. Well it existed, and it did affect public opinion (for example in the 2006 general election when a photo of a WP’ rally showed S’poreans that it was true the constructive, nation-building local media were “fixing” the Opposition).

Phase 2 was to pretend to ignore the New Media while actually reading what appeared there. On the surface, the government and the PAP ignored the New Media. Examples:  

— There were no official replies to queries that appeared on the ST’s Online Forum. Official replies were made only to queries published in ST’s Forum pages.

— TOC’s stories on the homeless were referred to by VivianB as “noise”, even after he led raids on the camps of the homeless.  

Well this didn’t work. So Phase 3 was to continue pretending to ignore the New Media while trying to seduce the leading players by making them feel important. Example: Injun Chief bloggers were invited to have tea and biscuits in “secret” with second tier PAPpies (the NCOs) like Zaqy and Baey. Sometimes, a less important first tier PAPpie like George Yeo would grant an audience in secret. Again this tactic didn’t work. If anything, the leading New Media players were annoyed by the hypocrisy of it all, and by being courted by “lesser PAPpies”, not the ones that mattered like the PM, DPM Teo or Tharman.

Then came a phase where the New Media’s existence was acknowledged and where the likes of Zaqy, Baey and Yeo continued in private vainly to seduce the leading players to see things the PAP way.

Well, we are now in Phase 5, which I analyse to be “threatening them lightly”. In both recent cases, my understanding is that the ministers’ lawyers are not asking for damages or costs, juz for removal of the offending article and some form of acknowledgement that the piece shouldn’t have published. 

What’s next? Who knows? The PAP could feel so threatened that it resorts to bankrupting bloggers that defame ministers, or it could organise a counter-insurgency campaign to try to retake lost territory (I’m available to be a hired gun if the pay is good). The Malaysian government has its sheriffs to try to tame cowboy towns. Or it could try a combination of the two.

Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications & the Arts Grace Fu said on Saturday that the challenge of increasing social diversity is likely to become greater as the society evolves and that Singapore must adapt and learn to manage greater diversity in perspectives, value systems and aspirations.

I hope that she is giving the PM and the other PAP leaders the same message and emphasising that the PAP must adapt and learn to manage greater diversity in perspectives, value systems and aspirations. I suspect not. But I’m sure she is telling them that there are emerging trends that “tug” at Singapore’s social fabric. One of these trends is the emergence of social media which has amplified voices beyond what was achievable by the traditional media.

Cheong all the way?

In Financial competency on 20/02/2012 at 7:49 am

This guy’s a bear.

The S&P 500, in the past week, rose 18, or 1.4 percent to 1361, and it is now up 24 percent from its October low and nine points below its 2011 high. The Dow, up 1.2 percent for the week to 12,949 is in reach of 13,000, a key psychological level. It is also at the highest level since May, 2008.

“The market continues to work its way higher. We are knocking on the door of the April 29 recovery high. It feels like there are an awful lot of people calling for a correction—or at least a digestion—and I’m one of them,” said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ.

Stovall said with history as a guide, when stocks rally, off a ‘baby bear’ correction, like the one that ended in October, they on average rebound by about 23 percent within six months. The current market rally is ahead of schedule, and stocks have made similar gains in just 4-1/2 months.

Stocks with highest dividends and lowest price-to-tangible assets ratios

In Financial competency on 20/02/2012 at 6:31 am

BT’s CFAer used ‘indicated’ dividends to calculate stocks with the highest dividends and lowest price-to-tangible assets ratios. The list of stocks which emerged are mostly the real estate investment trusts, and property developers. Hong Leong Finance, UOB-Kay Hian, SIA, Venture Corp, NOL, DBS, SATS and OCBC Bank were the non-property related counters in the list for the big caps. Her methodolgy is explained here.

The significance of stocks with highest dividends and lowest price-to-tangible assets ratios is explained here by the same BT CFAer: Buying stocks with the highest dividend yield, but lowest PTB ratio appears to be a winning strategy. Following that strategy over 22 years would turn $100 into $1,575. That’s a compounded annual return of 13.3 per cent a year.

YawGate: Only Lau Wang Lin comes out with credit

In Uncategorized on 20/02/2012 at 6:28 am

When I read this headline yesterday, “We hope you’re ok, Shin Leong”, I couldn’t help but think of his Mrs, Lau Wang Lin, to use her maiden name. No-one seems to care about her. How uncaring and sad.

Lau Wang Lin is the person S’poreans should be concerned about, not Yaw. She should be praised as a model of a good marriage partner.

The following came out of YawGate without any credit:

— Yaw’s stonewalling, evasion and his silence damaged himself, and the WP and the Opposition (slightly).

— WP showed that at heart, its leaders did not believe in communicating with the public, transparency, and accountability until in the words of WP MP PritamS “silence is no longer an option”*.  Or alternatively the  WP showed that it had no idea of how to communicate with the public. Or a mixture of both.

— The mainstream media showed its “gutter” and “constructive, nation-building” faces.

— NSP, KennethJ and Tan Jee Say, by refusing to rule out that they might contest Hougang, showed that they would say anything for a little publicity even though their comments showed their irrelevance and insignificance.

— KennethJ said, “By sacking Yaw, the WP leadership has denied the people of Hougang and the wider Singapore public, the accountability and transparency they crave.” Bit rich coming from someone who hid from the public how badly RP was affected by defections, juz before the May 2011 general election. 

— The PM’s and Khaw’s comments showed that the PAP doesn’t know the best way of kicking an opponent when he is down. They should have pinned the “And these bunch of clowns want to co-drive?” label on the WP. (Yes, I have no problem with the PM and Khaw trying to savage the WP. It’s first-world politics to attack your opponent’s integrity.)

— Many netizens showed that they were too willing to forgive and excuse the WP once it had expelled Yaw.

— And Tan Kin Lian again showed why the voters were right not to support his presidential bid. 

Wang Lin is, it seems, standing by her husband. This despite the assumption by most S’poreans (self included) that his continuing silence and stonewalling on allegations that he “cheated” on her implies that he did “cheat” on her. Not that he is no longer in the WP, whatever now happens is now a private matter.

I hope Wang Lin’s husband appreciates her love, and bravery in standing by him, “her man”. I also hope that he returns her love, and if he has strayed in the past, he will stray no more. And I hope he never ever causes her to regret her decision to stand by him. He should be like the merchant: “Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

Take care and all the best Lau Wang Lin . May God strike Mr Yaw  “with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown”, if he betrays your love and trust in him.

*Yup, I’m misquoting him but this is gist of what he said, “With more individuals coming to the fore, we do not feel that keeping quiet was an option anymore.”

Keep workers’ slaving away keeps them from dying

In Wit on 19/02/2012 at 9:25 am

Reading in the ST the valiant and sterling  efforts that the government is putting in to help older workers (Employment Credit Scheme for employers to compensate employers for the increased CPF that they will have to pay older employees*, and cutting FT numbers), I could not help but think of a story I recently read.

People who carry on working in some capacity beyond their retirement could live longer, because they are not so lonely. Mr David Halpern, an academic who is a specialist on health and social activity, said a lack of social interaction was “much worse” for elderly people in terms of its effect on their mortality than smoking.

The findings come from a meta-analysis (analysing lots of different pieces of existing research) of 148 studies into the effects of social isolation on mortality conducted by academics at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina in the US.

Well I’m sure this “finding” will find its way into our constructive, nation-building media and into the spin that the government puts out. And I’m sure the SDP and KennethJ will point out the advice, when made here, is part of a plot to get 70-something old S’poreans to slave away to keep GDP high (now that FTs are no longer available to force feed GDP growth) so that ministers can get their millions in bonuses.

If the SDP and KennethJ is right about the confiscation and misinvestment of our CPF monies, shouldn’t the government be forcing S’poreans retire young, the govmin can ensure that the premiums that are paid for old-age annuities are “wasted” by the insured since they will die before the annuities come into effect. This means the govmin can continue hiding the losses it made investing our CPF monies.

So why is the govmin trying to raise the retirement age and wanting people to work beyond retirement? Better for S’poreans to retire early and die before they reach their annuity age?

What say you, SDP?

*The increase in CPF payments will cost companies an additional S$190 million a year, the finance minister said. But, the government will spend about S$470 million annually for the next five years to subsidise the hiring of about 80%  of workers aged above 50, he said.

Warren Buffett: Planet wrecker investor

In Environment, Investments on 18/02/2012 at 5:19 am

His investments are wrecking the world

The Germans tot China could be the next growth market in 1975

In Political economy, Political governance on 17/02/2012 at 5:05 am

The German way:

— Long term thinking; and

do not have ‘return on capital employed’ as their most important goal. Contribution to society is always a very important point.” This should be a lesson to the government, Temasek and its TLCs, and other GLCs who are obssesd with two variants of “return on capital” : “returns on investment or equity.

Did the S’pore government which claims that “too much democracy” (I’m summarising it’s view) is not conducive to decision-making for the long-term, see China as the next growth market in 1975? I doubt it. S.poreans had difficulty getting permission from the S’pore government to visit China.

In October 1975 – 37 years ago, when China was in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution – the Financial Times described German policy towards the country: “China could be the next growth market”.

Talk about long-term thinking. In ultra-unlikely circumstances – where Chairman Mao was excoriating capitalism and the new Chinese constitution talked of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” – German capitalists had identified the big new market: the People’s Republic of China.

“The West German approach is typical of the very long-range view that German industry has taken,” said the FT.

“At the heart of the approach lies the cultivation of a market, even if the short-term results are not over-encouraging.”

Or take this from Die Zeit in the same year: “The image which Germany is trying to project in the largest and most populous developing country in the world is not that of a major political power, but rather of the most important industrial country in the world, a country whose tool-making and mechanical engineering can compete successfully on the world market.”

And this should be a lesson to the govwernment, Temasek and its TLCs, and other GLCs, do not have ‘return on capital employed’ as their most important goal. Contribution to society is always a very important point.”

What would Wei Zheng have advised the WP’s CEC to do?

In Political governance on 17/02/2012 at 4:26 am

After reading the comments about Yaw’s expulsion from the WP, I remembered with sadness what Chen Show Mao said during his maiden parliamentary speech, “In this term of Parliament, I hope the ruling party can be Tang Tai Zong, while we can be Wei Zheng”.

So what would that fearless court official have advised Emperor Low Thia Khiang and the other members of the WP’s Central Executive Council*? Would he have advised them to do what the WP done? Initially, stonewalling, evading and keeping silent, despite calling the PAP to be open, transparent, and accountable to S’poreans. And then expelling Yaw.

As someone who has voted WP all my life (even when it had a mentally ill man as its candidate in Siglap, and believe me, it was hard to vote for him especially as the PAP was doing good things at the time**. It got worse for me when after that election, the WP supporters did not remove the WP signage), I suspect not.

So the PAP can’t be blamed for deciding not to take up Show Mao’s offer. If he knew what was going to happen, would he have used the language he did? Again I suspect not. BTW, I note his absence from the WP’s panel at its media conference announcing the decision to expel Yat.

What would have been the best advice to give the WP CEC, and which it should have accepted?

The WP CEC should have first asked itself if the truth of the allegation against MP Yaw was a matter of public interest.

If the CEC decided that the truth was a matter of public interest***, it should have asked the public to bear with it while it investigated the matter and decided on what to do. It should have promised full and frank disclosure of the facts and its actions within a reasonable time, say eight weeks.

I suspect Wei Zheng would have advised the WP to say,“We recognise the fact that this may be his personal life, so what he does outside politics is something between him and his family. But he’s leading a team of activists who are expected to be examples, good models for our supporters, and other S’poreans. We think it’d be difficult for the team, supporters and other S’poreans to look up to him, if there are moral flaws in his character****. We are investigating the matter. Give us some time. We promise full and frank disclosure.”

But it felt that the allegation, even if true or near the truth, was a private matter (I doubt if Wei Zheng would think it was a private matter),  it should have simply said, “This is a personal, private matter and has nothing to do with Yaw’s ability to perform his duties as a CEC member and MP”. Many S’poreans may have disagreed with this stand, but the CEC of the WP would have been seen as taking a clear, principled stand: the issue of adultery is a private matter. While it not the British way, it is the French and American way. And the French and Americans are first-world democracies.

As it is, the CEC’s stonewalling, evasive silence left the WP vulnerable to “events, dear boy, events”.  Remember Watergate, or our farcial CurryGate.

WP has lost credibility because it is clear that the WP believes that first-world openness, transparency and accountability applies to the PAP and the government, and for that matter anyone else, but not to the WP: until in the words of WP MP PritamS, “With more individuals coming to the fore, we do not feel that keeping quiet was an option anymore.”

Right, silence is the default option until forced to be open and transparent. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and LKY could not have said it better.

While we should cut the WP some slack for the reasons stated here (even though this was written before Yaw was expelled), we should hope that Emperor Low and his fellow council members will learn lessons from this fiasco that need not have been. They should learn to think thru the issues, and here a lawyer-scholar like Chen Show Mao should be useful (forget about SMU law grad PriramS or NUS law grad Sylvia Lim: Show Mao is from Harvard, Oxford and Stamford), and not instinctively think, “What would Lenin. Mao or the PAP do?” And use Gerald Giam’s skills and connections in the new media to communicate.

Here’s hoping the WP moves on in the right direction.


*Interesting the use of the word “Council” and not “Committee”. The word “Council” implies that it is an advisory body to the leader of the party, whereas the word “Committee” implies that decision-making is a group effort.  But then the PAP uses the word “Committe”, not “Council”. And for many a year, we know that the PAP was not run by consensus.

**I’m not one of those who are rabid anti-PAP haters. I voted for the WP because it was the only party that stood against the PAP in my constituency. I voted for the opposition candidate even when I tot the PAP was doing a great job because I felt that the day would come when S’pore would need an Opposition to articulate the views of ordinary S’poreans. That day has come. And because there is an Opposition to vote for, the PAP is listening.

***My tests for whether it is a matter of public interest in this case are very simple:

— “Would the voters of Houygang have voted for Yaw (and the WP) if they had known of the allegation?”

— “Would the voters of Houygang have voted for Yaw (and the WP) if Yaw and the WP had opted for stonewalling, evasion and silence?”

— “Would the WP dared to have fielded Yaw, if the WP knew of the allegation (not the truth mind you)?”

****Yup I adapted this from PAP MP Lim Biow Chuan’s comments about a former school principal.

Do Reits have unintended commercial consequences for SMEs?

In Political economy, Property, Reits on 16/02/2012 at 6:45 am

I invest in Reits for the yields and the brokers and local media have discovered Reits as a great defensive play. But SMEs claim that Reits have caused their rentals to escalate unreasonably.  JTC has been asked to review its current policy of divesting industrial space to private entities (like its Ascendas).

Business Times – 02 Feb 2012

SMEs blame Reits for growing rental pains

JTC asked to review its current policy of divesting industrial space to private entities


(SINGAPORE) Rising rentals for commercial and industrial space have emerged as a pressing issue for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the fingers are pointed squarely at the dominance of real estate investment trusts or Reits as landlords.

The Reits’ drive to enhance yields and returns for unit holders – which usually translates into rental hikes – have left many SME owners, who feel they have limited alternatives here, fuming.

It has also led to calls – including a recommendation by the newly formed SME Committee – for JTC Corp to review its current policy of divesting industrial space to private entities like Reits and return to its previous role of an industrial landlord, so that it can provide ready and affordable industrial space to SMEs.

‘Rentals and capital values of properties are going up, impacting business costs for SME owners and eating into their bottomline,’ said Lawrence Leow, chairman of the SME Committee.

Read the rest of this entry »

WP: Keeping quiet no longer an option

In Political governance on 16/02/2012 at 6:19 am

“Whiter than White”, taz how the WP and its groupies (including an SMU academic) would like to spin the sudden change in direction, from stonewalling silence ( “You said yourself that these are rumours, why are you still asking me?”: WP’s Low Thia Khiang) to expelling Yaw and crowing, “”The Workers’ Party has not let the people down. Whatever is wrong, we’ve put it right.” (the same Low).

Come on tell me another tall tale.

Ms Sylvia Lim said that the party leadership only learnt of the accusations against Mr Yaw when the media approached them for comments. But because they had “very limited information”, the party was not in a position to address the substance of the allegations.

But then why did the party not simply say then, “We recognise the fact that this may be his personal life, so what he does outside politics is something between him and his family. But he’s leading a team of activists who are expected to be examples, good models for our supporters, and other S’poreans. We think it’d be difficult for the team, supporters and other S’poreans to look up to him, if there are moral flaws in his character*. We are investigating the matter. Give us some time. We promise full and frank disclosure.”?

As someone who has voted WP all my life (I’m in my fifties and Siglap has always been contested by the WP)  but who was until the early 1990s pro PAP (I’ll explain it one of these days), Khaw is right to say, “The Workers’ Party needs to come clean with the people what information have they got about Mr Yaw and in particular, what did they know about him prior to the May election. And if they know, why did they field Mr Yaw. I think it is sad that the voters have been misled by the Workers Party.”

And, “Is this an attempt at trying to conceal something they knew, first through silence, and then when they found it is not possible, then they get rid of the liability and blame everything on him?”

Let the last word go to WP MP PritamS (the guy who wants to go into coalition with the PAP), “With more individuals coming to the fore, we do not feel that keeping quiet was an option anymore.”

Taz the truth, damage control not trying to be “Whiter than white”.

*Yup I adapted this from PAP MP Lim Biow Chuan’s comments about a former school principal.

S’pore: 9th most expensive city in the world

In Economy, Political economy on 15/02/2012 at 6:02 am

(Update at 9.00am on 15 Frbruary 2011: Headline rewritten, and changes made in text. “kbs” pointed out (see comments) that I misread the 2001 figures. Apologies for being daft. Will try not to be daft again.)

In 2001, it was ranked 97th. The survey uses prices of goods and services such as food, transportation, housing, utilities, private schools and domestic help to calculate scores for each city, using New York as its base with a score of 100. To be fair, most S’poreans do not rent homes in prime districts or send their children to private schools.

And the strength of S$ in 2011 can distort figures. A kilo of bread would have cost US$2.86 in 2010, according to the Economist’s data, but last year cost US$3.19 – an 11% increase. But, 6% of this is due to weakening US$. In S$, the price of bread would have gone up 5%.

Still 88 places in 10 years being number 9 is not shumething to crow about because

If we look at the data for the last 10 years, for example, the income of Singapore citizens at the 20th percentile level, grew by only 25%, from $1,200 in 2001 to $1,500 in 2011 (excluding employer CPF contributions).

In real terms, I estimate the annualized growth to be about 0.2%.

This is a far cry from the 2.2% real annualized growth for the last five years (including employer CPF contributions).

(Full article)

And the “new poor” continue to face the triple whammy of high living costs, low wages & purchasing power.

The cultural ignorance of SPH staff and other S’poreans

In Media on 15/02/2012 at 5:44 am

(Or “Another Example of Ang Moh Tua Kee?” Or “Aping the Prejudices of the West Mindlessly”)

SPH’s Jennani Durai ranted in SunTimes (FB link to story) about some UOB staff who painted their faces black for a Bollywood theme party. The FB link attracted over 300 comments, mostly negative.

 This blogger tells us:

I believe these breed of netizens do not watch televisions movies & dramas or SBC productions. Probably these are the netizens who feel local productions are crap and thus watching TV will minus their IQ points by half. I urged these netizens who slammed the offensive act to take further actions against Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow, Taiwanese Television Channels, local cinemas and Mediacorp

Over the past 2 decades,  there were several TV & Movie productions which depicts Chinese painting their faces black.

(I will cheerfully admit that I didn’t know most of this: I knew of the Justice Pao black-face tradition which my amah told me indicated that he was non-Chinese*. But then I am Perankan, watch very little TV, and most importantly, I didn’t find the actions offensive*, and neither did I post critical comments.) 

It is sad that it seems neither Jennani Durai nor the editors responsible checked with their colleagues in the Chinese media papers of SPH on a Chinese cultural perspective . Instead, they imposed an American  perspective on the story: that it was culturally insensitive in the US to do such a dark deed, and hence it was culturally insensitive to do so here.

It is also sad that many netizens made critical comments based on the SunT story alone. I mean it’s part of the SPH media group, that many netizens love to hate. But if it confirms their prejudices or beliefs, it is halal, not haram, it seems.

Finally it is extremely sad that it seems the critical posters who were Chinese did not know of a facet of popular and traditional Chinese culture.

Another example of the culture of ang mog tua kee here? It’s not only found in the Home Team.

A final wicked tot. Would Jennani Durai and others have been so upset if the Chinks had painted themselves “wheat-coloured”? I can’t think of a single Bollywood star that has anything other than “light” skin. And Indian newspaper ads for suitable marriage partners have no qualms of requiring the other party to have “light” or “wheat-coloured” skin. I suspect, Jennani Durai  and the other critics would have applauded the Cina for their cultural sensitivity, even though the preference for “light” skin shows that Indian culture has colour undertones, juz like other cultures.

Related post:

*Her spin was that the Chinese respect anyone, even a non-Chinese, if that person has “virtue”. Her way of telling me that it’s OK not being Chinese. She also told me that the founder of Zen Buddhism and the martial arts tradition was an Indian monk.

**I posted a comment saying UOB and the staff concerned had no need to apologise.

Buffett on Gold

In Commodities, Gold on 14/02/2012 at 2:30 pm

Today the world’s gold stock is about 170,000 metric tons. If all of this gold were melded together, it would form a cube of about 68 feet per side. (Picture it fitting comfortably within a baseball infield.) At $1,750 per ounce — gold’s price as I write this — its value would be about $9.6 trillion. Call this cube pile A.

Let’s now create a pile B costing an equal amount. For that, we could buy all U.S. cropland (400 million acres with output of about $200 billion annually), plus 16 Exxon Mobils (the world’s most profitable company, one earning more than $40 billion annually). After these purchases, we would have about $1 trillion left over for walking-around money (no sense feeling strapped after this buying binge). Can you imagine an investor with $9.6 trillion selecting pile A over pile B?

(Apologies for not crediting where I got this from: feeling tired)

Vice ring investigation: Sending a message to S’poreans?

In Internet, Political governance on 14/02/2012 at 7:17 am

I’m sure many netizens are thinking that the willingness of the police to reveal their investigations into an internet prostitution ring; and the publicity given in the local media to the former school principal, and other professional people who are alleged to use prostitutes is meant to sabo the WP, Yaw and indirectly, the Opposition*.

Here is a more chillingly tot.

As more names come out, many more ordinary S’poreans will realise that the internet is not a “cowboy” town or injun territory where one can get away with anything. It is a place where if the authorities are determined, they can identify users.

Netizens got worked up over the possibility of S’pore imposing stricter rules on the internet (shumething which the US tried, and failed), but which India succeeded in doing. Instead, the government is using the indirect approach. An approch which preys on the fear that many S’poreans have that they will be “fixed” if they are known to be critical of the government or PAP?

What next? A minister suing someone for defamatory comments made on the internet by the latter, comments he tot was “safe” because his identity was “hidden”?  You heard it here first.

Finally, netizens should be happy that one Tan Kin Lian never became president. He is an advocate of posters and bloggers registering their monikers using their real names. China has introduced something along similar lines.

*I’m surprised the SDP has not come up with a rant on this. But then the SDP is rumoured to be as puritanical as the PAP, unlike the WP where sexual acts are accepted as normal, even, it seems, adultery between party members. Maybe, the WP should brand itself as, “The Sexy Party”.  Juz joking.


A game where the underdogs sometimes still triumph

In Footie on 14/02/2012 at 6:04 am

The Zambian footie team won the African Cup. Along the way they beat three West African teams, Ghana , Senegal and Ivory Coast (in the finals).

More than half the men in the three west African squads play for clubs in England, France, Germany, Italy or Spain …,  which boast the world’s best leagues. In theory, the Zambians looked much weaker: most play at home, in South Africa or in the Democratic Republic of Congo; only two are with European clubs—in Russia and in Switzerland, which are far from the best. The captain, Christopher Katongo, the player of the tournament, turns out for Henan Construction, in China. So much for statistics: on Sunday night, precision from the penalty spot, and no little emotion, mattered more.

Lions, keep on trying. And local fans, keep on supporting and hoping.

Another reason not to buy a structured product

In Banks, Financial competency on 13/02/2012 at 7:13 am

(Or “Another reason not to trust yr bank”)

“Exactly how did Wall Street price the loans that it bundled into securities and sold to investors?”

Answer: There is evidence that “prices on some of the loans … were artificially inflated at the time of purchase”.

Heads must roll in the Home Team

In Political governance on 13/02/2012 at 6:00 am

Disgusted to read that another violent ang moh FT is allowed by the FT-loving Home Team to run away  and for the ang moh tua kee Home Team taking so long to investigate the matter. After another violent ang moh FT ran away in the middle of last year, why didn’t the appropriate squad in the Home Team (the police force or immigration department, or both?) take action to ensure it didn’t happen again, and to hurry the case along. Really, for two out of three suspects in an assault case to be allowed to run away while the case drags on, is a cock-up and outrage of major proportions. (BTW, looks like the mat salleh FT (from Oz) that got jailed is really, really very stupid. No brains to run away. So much for the “T” standing for “Talent”*? At least the other two violent ang moh FTs had the talent to run away.)

In addition to taking internal action against the ang moh FT lovers and ang moh tua kee people in the Home Team, and assuring the public publicly that violent ang moh FTs do not have an option to assault and injure people here and run away, the government should publicly assure the public that it is trying its best to bring these fugitives to justice. If the Saudis can get Interpol to help them catch a twitter, why can’t Interpol be used to catch these violent FTs?

Contrast the lax attitude towards these violent FTs with the attitude taken towards a S’porean. She is not allowed to keep her passport even though she resides in Johor. She has to rent. Her crime? Her company is being investigated (over a year now) for cheating greedybut brainless investors. The judge and police think that she may run away.

Didn’t anyone in the Home Team think that the violent ang moh FTs would run away? Stop loving FTs and treating ang mohs as tua kee, Home Team.

I doubt if any MP will raise this issue in Parliament. Mrs Chiam is consolidating her power and perfuming her hands. The WP believes in the power of silence. And the PAP MPs are PAP MPs. Since Siow Kum Hong was not renominated for a second term, and Eunice Olsen served the maximum two terms allowed: NMPs know their place, not seen and not heard. Jos and Terry are the model NMPS.

Update at 8.15 am on 13 February 2011:

*Look up “talent” in a dictionary, and it means “special natural ability. By definition, most people don’t have it, including  the 85,000 foreign workers brought in in 2011 (up from 53,000 in 2010).

Updated in May 2012 (related post)

Latest Chinese NBA Star

In Uncategorized on 12/02/2012 at 10:14 am

And he graduated from Harvard with an econs degree too.

Two “unknown” great investors

In Uncategorized on 12/02/2012 at 7:02 am

First of an occassional series.

How is an IPO valued?

In Financial competency on 11/02/2012 at 4:43 am

Some very basic pointers.

A worrying economic signal?

In Banks, Economy, Shipping on 10/02/2012 at 9:46 am

Investors are in the mood to take more risk in return for higher rewards. They are in “risk on” mode.

Recently, the Baltic Dry Index has fallen to a 25-year-low (since then it has risen by 1.9%) prompting concern that history is about to repeat itself. In the past, say 2008, a weak index foretold a recession, or at least an economic slowdown.But this time there been some special factors at play, according to conventional wisdom. The boom in the Baltic Dry seen before the financial crash and recession was in large part the result of a shortage of ships, which pushed up the cost of carrying freight. There are now far more ships with greater capacity and, because it has taken time for the vessels to be built, the extra capacity has become available when ship owners least want it. A, short-term factor, has been that the Chinese New Year holidays fell early this year, depressing trade in Asia.

Still a 2.9% fall in German industrial production in December suggests that the index might have collapsed due to both increased supply of shipping and weak demand. Germany is the world’s biggest exporter and the hefty slump in output at the tail end of 2011 coincided with the intensification of the crisis in the euro zone. Remember, too, that Germany exports machines to make goods to China.

Update on !0 februart 2012 at 7.05am:

Imports into China fell by 15.3% In January, and this cannot be all due to the Chinese New Year holiday factor. Exports dipped 0.5% from a year earlier hurt by sluggish demand and factories being shut during the Lunar New Year.

This resulted in a trade surplus of $27.3bn which was a six-month high.


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

In Holidays and Festivals, Political governance, Wit on 10/02/2012 at 4:41 am

I was “challenged” by a SDP groupie to write about what I heard about the PAP during my recent feasting and gambling, expecting me to wimp out. I have good reasons not to write about the PAP, other than that the cadres are a litigious bunch and have a code of silence as tough as that of the Mafiosi. One reason is that they are not into feasting and gambling. They lead very healthy life styles where abalone and lobster are out, and even roast duck and pork, and suckling pig are banned. They may have the money, which they apparently invested in products like DBS HN5 Notes and Mini-bonds, but where’s the fun? Another reason is that they are boring and humourless.

But there are people who I gamble or feast with who claim to know what is happening in the PAP. They tell me they get “intelligence” from senior officials of neighbouring countries who have active spy rings here.

There is gossip going around the highest circles in Jakarta, Bangkok and KL, that one LKY called the PM, “weak”, and who now thinks that Teo Chee Hean would have made a “stronger” PM. The rumour is that LKY is upset that the PM did not take his advice to sue Nicole Seah down to her panties (sans bra) for defaming the latter during the May 2011 general election (Yes, legally she did) and for reopening the ministerial salary issue. Seems the Lee family reunion dinner was a tense one. Apparently, the M’sian, Indonesian and Thai secret service each had a spy as a waiter or waitress.

All I will say is that if LKY called the PM “weak”, it is most unfair because the PM contradicted LKY over the latter’s remarks about the Malays (when the Malay Minister, “Speak to me in English” Yaacob muttered “worst case scenario” and other Malay PAP MPS went AWOL or MIA, even action-mouth Zaqy; and implicitly rebuked his father after LKY’s “repent” comments, after which LKY stopped (or was stopped from?) campaigning (a great and sad loss for the Opposition?). And the PM did apologise to S’poreans, accepted the resignations of ministerial deadwood (I exclude LKY from this group) and reduced the size of the cabinet. Not the actions of a Clark Kent is it? More like Superman it seems?

The hard-line wing of the PAP or the “Lee Kuan Yew is always right” faction (irrelevantly also known to the PAP moderates as the “LKY is greater than God” cult) is losing its influence. The suspension of the heads of the anti-drugs unit and the civil defence force is another blow to the reputation of Wong Kan Seng, the cult’s high priest. He was Home Affairs minister from 1994 to 2010, so these officers spent almost their entire careers as senior officers of his Home Team. He therefore cannot evade responsibility for nurturing or mentoring them, or both.

With his reputation in tatters, the “LKY is never wrong” faction has no-one that has the credibility to put forward credible and reasonable hard-line solutions to the PAP’s problems. The hard-liners can only repeat mindlessly the mantras from “Hard Truths”. Maybe, they should produce a pocket size edition of “Hard Truths”. At the very least, it will make it easier to memorise the wisdom of LKY. Remember Chairman Mao’s little “Red Book”? It was a commercial success when it was first published, and is a collectible today.

(For the record, Teo Chee Hean is too intelligent to belong to this faction. So, BTW, is LKY.)

But the “liberals” (or “talk cock, sing song brigade” as I call them) have had their ranks decimated what with the loss of George Yeo, Mah and Raymond Lim. (BTW, I don’t consider Tharman a member of this group. He doesn’t juz talk the talk. Workfare for all its imperfections is his baby. The deformities were caused by having to tailor it to prejudices among the then leaders.)

George Yeo, it seems, still has presidential ambitions. But his public criticism of the PAP has not gone down well with some cadres. They tot it was a bit rich for him to attack the PAP, to win votes. They liked this piece I wrote about deserters being shot in times of war.

Anyway, let’s not be too hard on these three ministers as they are living proof that the private sector is not exactly clamouring to pay ex-ministers millions of dollars for their skills or advice.

Finally, Kate Spade Tin has “fixed” her fellow PAP MPs. She boasted in ST, juz before the CNY hols, that she would be spending about $10,000 of her MP’s allowance of $15,000 a month on CNY dinners for her grass-root activists. That figure immediately became the base line for the other PAP MPs. Match or exceed it, or look cheap-skate by comparison. Err what abt telling their activists, that Tin’s activists have to be rewarded with sharks’ fin, abalone and lobster, and not juz suckling pig and roast duck, given that they have to put up with her silly antics and remarks, and her stomping?

And her sabotaging has continued what with her $150,000 fund (err who is funding the fund?) to help “squeezed” elderly constituents with their SingHealth medical bills. I personally applaud her move, but her fellow PAP MPs have to follow her lead, or look mean. I can imagine one VivianB grumbling that the poor always need help, and Grace Fu bitching on less money to spend on herself.

Tin, the Sabo Queen? It was a black day indeed for PAP MPs when Tin was nominated to be a candidate PAP MP. The PAP should have looked up her record at NUS and Ernst & Young.

Taz all folks. Happy SDP groupie?

Related posting:

How Facebook defines “active users”

In Financial competency, Internet on 09/02/2012 at 5:21 am

On the first page of Facebook’s prospectus, it puts the number of its “monthly active users” at 845 million people. It reports the “daily active users” as 483 million people.

Err: According to the company, a user is considered active if he or she “took an action to share content or activity with his or her Facebook friends or connections via a third-party Web site that is integrated with Facebook.”

Come again?

In other words, every time you press the “Like” button on, for example, you’re an “active user” of Facebook. Perhaps you share a Twitter message on your Facebook account? That would make you an active Facebook user, too. Have you ever shared music on Spotify with a friend? You’re an active Facebook user. If you’ve logged into Huffington Post using your Facebook account and left a comment on the site — and your comment was automatically shared on Facebook — you, too, are an “active user” even though you’ve never actually spent any time on

Read more here

DBS customers and investors: Be glad that hackers were only M’sian

In Banks on 08/02/2012 at 6:34 am

If I had an internet banking account with DBS, given its track record in IT , I would be afraid, very afraid. Read how smart hackers can be:

If you bank with HSBC, Citi, OCBC or UOB, relax. These banks have gd IT track records here, even though HSBC and Citi have a lot of FTs from India, more possibly than DBS. UOB and OCBC: true blue S’poreans in their IT departments (OK, more than in DBS).

If I had shares in DBS, I’d be afraid that another security problem could cause very serious damage to DBS’ reputation and pockets.

The “new poor” revisited

In Political economy, Political governance on 08/02/2012 at 6:05 am

“Tan Jee Say, an opposition politician, said such global accolades [“the top marks S’pore scores in global surveys on the ease of doing business and low corruption levels”] often had little bearing on the lives of Singaporeans, many of whom who have seen their incomes stagnate over the past decade” (article), reminded me of what the Sage (not Stag) of Hougang said in 1997 or 1998 during the Asian financial crisis.

Low Thia Khiang (then the sole WP MP) spoke of the “new poor” and was roundly condemned and attacked by PAP ministers and MPs, and the local media for using of this term.

Well he was right wasn’t he? “The new poor” S’porean is a growing species. Leong Sze Hian pointed out a few days ago that wages have stagnated for many S’poreans for the last ten years:

10 Years – hardly any increase?

If we look at the data for the last 10 years, for example, the income of Singapore citizens at the 20th percentile level, grew by only 25%, from $1,200 in 2001 to $1,500 in 2011 (excluding employer CPF contributions).

In real terms, I estimate the annualized growth to be about 0.2%.

This is a far cry from the 2.2% real annualized growth for the last five years (including employer CPF contributions).

(Full article)

And the “new poor” continue to face the triple whammy of high living costs, low wages & purchasing power.

And didn’t Low have foresight when he asked in the late 90s for help for the “new poor? Something that was again rubbished by government ministers, PAP MPs and the local media, but which is now the part of the PAP’s strategy for regaining lost ground in the next general election: Bread and perhaps Circuses. The government is even planning to strengthen the almost non-existent social safety net, something which was taboo in the past.

So while S’poreans are rightly upset with the silence of the WP (Low is the leader) and MP Yaw (a married man) over whether Yaw had an affair with another married WP member, let’s not go overboard in flaming the WP, even though Yaw’s demotion (OK resigning as Treasurer and leaving the party’s politburo) tells us everything.

Cut it some slack because Low got the issue of the “new poor” spot on all those many years ago, and because he (and Chiam) kept the flame of opposition alive in parliament and on the ground, when it was most unfashionable to be associated with the Opposition.  Example: one TJS was quietly working away in fund management. Remember too, Low has played a big part (he became the party leader in 2001?) in the WP becoming the force it has become. And finally, he did nuture two next generation leaders Yee Jann Jong and Gerald Giam.

So while I think the WP is damaging itself by being more PAP than the PAP itself by refusing to comment on “rumours” about Yaw, let’s hope the damage done is not too great.

In case if anyone is wondering, the WP did not pay me for this “ad”.

A final mean, very mean, unrelated tot: “Is TJS speaking from experience when he talks of ‘incomes stagnate’?”. Declaration of interest: My income has collapsed in the last decade. And even then it was a fraction of what I was earning in the mid 90s. I was, and am, part of the “new poor”. But no need to cry for me. Being poor is relative as Grace Fu and friends should realise.

And anyway:

Let what will be, be.

Tis labor lost thus to all doors to crawl,
Take thy good fortune, and thy bad withal;
Know for a surety each must play his game,
As from heaven’s dice-box fate’s dice chance to fall.

David Choe was fated to be very rich?

In Internet on 07/02/2012 at 6:51 am

David Choe, who first spray-painted the walls of Facebook HQ in 2005, accepted shares in payment for his work.

Now the site is planning to float on the stock market, its thought his share could be worth around $200m (£126m).

Writing on his blog, Choe said he was the “highest paid decorator alive”.

Although he had initially thought the idea of the social network was “ridiculous and pointless”, the artist decided to take the stock option instead of cash “in the thousands of dollars” according to the New York Times.

‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
     Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.”

“Let what will be, be.”

‘Tis labor lost thus to all doors to crawl,
Take thy good fortune, and thy bad withal;
Know for a surety each must play his game,
As from heaven’s dice-box fate’s dice chance to fall.”

Someone not fated to be wealthy

Focusing on failure to build resilience

In Uncategorized on 06/02/2012 at 5:12 am

A top girls’ school In England is planning a “failure week” to teach pupils to embrace risk, build resilience and learn from their mistakes. The emphasis will be on the value of having a go, rather than playing it safe and perhaps achieving less.

Pupils at Wimbledon High School will be asked how they feel when they fail. The headmistress said she wanted to show “it is completely acceptable and completely normal not to succeed at times in life.”

This school achieves some of the highest exam scores – but from today they will be invited to focus on failure.

There will be workshops, assemblies, and activities for the girls, with parents and tutors joining in with tales of their own failures.

There will be YouTube clips of famous and successful people who have failed along the way and moved on.

The emphasis will be discussions on the merits of failure and on the negative side of trying too hard not to fail.

Something worth copying?

Chiams: Please “go gentle into that good night”

In Political governance on 06/02/2012 at 5:11 am

(Or “Why the Chiams should sit down, shut up and fade away”)

Second nasty piece in a row abt opposition parties. No, I’ve not been seduced over to the Dark Side or being paid by the PAPpies to slime the Opposition, or gone wacko like QuanYifeng (I mean she seems to take pride in being violently wacko: she gave an interview in “8 Days” before the CNY hols justifying herself. Wonder when she will trash her daughter’s primary school and beat up the daughter’s teacher, given that the gal “did not do well” in the PSLE?).

But the WP’s and MP Yaw’s silence (my rant here) and now the Chiams talking nonsense have gotten my blood pressure to very dangerous levels. Even medicine doesn’t help bring it down. So to lower it, I got to to rant (my version of trashing stuff and beating up people, less violent, and safer for everyone. QuanYifeng might want to start blogging as therapy).

Before CNY, I wrote this of Chiam: Better to be alive and productive than to die and be remembered like a legend. Lions like Dr Chee and JBJ live too dangerously for “lesser mortals” like self. Be like Chiam**: Do the right thing in a low-key but determined way. The water buffalo can be just as dangerous to its enemies as the lion.  (***Taz not to say I agree with everything he does. Brickbats after the CNY hols.) I had planned to grumble that there was no renewal at the juz concluded party convention. I didn’t expect the resignations etc.

Now this got me very upset. In particular:

I am aggressively building up the next batch of potential leaders, consistent with the public statement the party made recently.

 — I believe in the merits of a consultative, collective leadership.

S’poreans may admire him, but we are not stupid. As this vv gd analysis  by Yawning Bread shows Chiam has a bad track record on these two “motherhood” statements. Juz reasserting these “motherhood” statements will not convince S’poreans. S’poreans are not “daft”. Actions are need.

Talking of “motherhood”, I tot it was extremely silly of Mrs Chiam to gush, “Alex … He is like a son to me”. I was planning to let readers read for themselves and decide whether Mrs Chiam is right to dote on him. But unfortunately, Alex Tan’s FB note is not available anymore. So readers have to read this instead.

The Chiams should realise that Mr Chiam’s “sell-by date” has expired. Pls leave the stage, so that Mr Chiam’s reputation is not damaged any further. Please.

Or if the Chiams want to hog the limelight, they should get some professional public relations and communications help on how to present Mr Chiam in a better light, or at least gild the wilting lily or rotting woodwork.

Rolls-Royce’s S’pore workers more productive than UK workers

In Economy, Political economy on 05/02/2012 at 5:21 am

Bang balls, SDP, NSP, KennethJ and TJS. Hey not all the govmin’s initiatives fail. Witness this new aero engine plant.  And S’pore-based workers can be more productive than British ones: by six days.

What the report does not tell us is that SIA’s (along with Qantas’ ) Airbus 380s use RR engines. RR only has a 9% share of the Western-made aircraft engine market share.  This again shows that there are benefits to Singapore in SIA being owned by the state. Bang yr balls harder SDP, NSP, KennethJ and TJS.

The Greatest: Angelo Dundee

In Uncategorized on 04/02/2012 at 7:26 am

RIP, Ali’s and Sugar Ray Leonard’s trainer. And when Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994 to become the oldest heavyweight title-holder in history, Dundee was in his corner.

Fairness: What is it?

In Political economy, Political governance on 03/02/2012 at 1:40 pm

When one Tan Kin Lian was attempting a political career (while pretending not to do so) and, later, a presidential bid, the one thing that irritated me no end was his constant call for “fairness”. And when asked to define it, he said it is common sense.

I wish this had been written then so that I could post it, to get my blood pressure down.


fairness is, as Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, puts it, “a concept invented so dumb people could participate in arguments”.

To get a “fair shot” is to be offered the opportunity to participate fully and succeed within the country’s institutions … Conservatives who strenuously object to the idea that the American system should aim at “equality of outcomes” will sometimes affirm “equality of opportunity” as an alternative. But this is a mistake. To really equalise opportunity requires precisely the sort of intolerably constant, comprehensive, invasive redistribution conservatives rightly believe to be required for the equalisation of outcomes. If one is prepared to accept substantial inequalities in outcome, it follows that one is also prepared to accept substantial inequalities in opportunity.

Getting a fair shot doesn’t require equalising opportunity so much as ensuring that everyone has a good enough chance in life. The content of “good enough” is of course open to debate, but most Americans seem to agree that access to a good education is the greater part of a “good enough” and thus fair shot. Naturally, there is strong partisan disagreement over the kinds of education reform that will do right by young Americans. And there is also disagreement over elements of a “fair shot” beyond education. For example, many liberals believe workers don’t have a fair shot at achieving a decent level of economic security without robust collective-bargaining rights. And many conservatives believe that an overly-strong labour movement invites outsourcing by raising domestic costs, and thereby deprives American workers of a fair shot at employment. There may be some fact of the matter about which policies are most likely to benefit students or workers. But if one is more fair then the other, how would we know?

What is it to do one’s “fair share”? In small groups, it’s clear enough. If my friend and I are shoveling the front walk, my fair share of shoveling, and his, is about half. Often we adjust for differences in ability. If I am big and strong and my friend is small and frail, his fair share may be as much as he can manage. That won’t mean that the whole remainder is my fair share, though. If we’re going to get the walk shoveled, I may have to do a bit more than my fair share. These things get complicated quickly. That’s why the question of what it means for an American do his or her fair share, qua citizen, is completely baffling.

Are you doing your fair share? How would one know? Actually, I just made myself feel slightly guilty for not going to med school and joining Médecins Sans Frontières. But unless government can come up with a way of taxing the leisure of people who aren’t doing as much as they might for kith and country, I reckon I’ll just stick to part-time pro blogging and let all you 9-to-5 suckers finance the necessary road-building and foreigner-bombing.

tempts me to agree with Mr Adams when he argues that fairness is “purely subjective”. But I’ll resist the temptation. I don’t think judgments of fairness are entirely whimsical. It really is unfair to eat more than your share of the cake, or to do less than your share of the shoveling, or to get ahead by flouting reasonable rules to which others faithfully adhere.

Not so easy, is it TKL?

Does the WP sincerely want a First-World Parly and Media?

In Political governance on 03/02/2012 at 6:32 am

That question struck me when I follow the reports on Yaw.

Imagine what would happen in the British parliament (“The Mother of Parliaments”), and presumably a model for the WP’s ideal of a “First World Parliament”, if Yaw was an MP there. When he next tries to speak, the other side’s MPs will be shouting “Angela”, or “How’s the Dragon bastard?”. And make cockerel, rutting stag or bull-like noises, or “horn” signs. I exaggerate not. Somehow I don’t think our Third-World PAP MPs will behave like rowdy English public school boys. (BTW, for “lesser mortals”, in the great English tradition of confusing foreigners, “public school” means “private school”.)

As to the media, any cursory look at the British media (again presumably an example of what the WP wants here) will show how the media treats any allegation of MPs misbehaving. No matter what S’poreans about the ST and the New Paper, they ain’t as vicious as the British tabloid media.

So, if the truth be told, I suspect the WP would like things to remain as they are, so long as Yaw remains a celebrity.

All in all the central executive committee WP should fall on their knees that they repent that ever wanted anything First World. I mean the party’s communication strategy isn’t exactly First World, more like the Chinese Communist party or the North Korean Communist Party:

— “if it is rumours …” (Yaw)*,

— “I hope you will not identify me or the other woman involved” (the other lady said),

— his wife, it seems, withdrew her Facebook comments about irresponsible journalism*,

— “You said yourself that these are rumours, why are you still asking me?” (WP’s Low Thia Khiang)*, and

— “We have to think carefully about our response” (deputy treasurer of the WP, a Mr Png)*.

Meanwhile, the PAP got rid of a candidate MP when there was nothing more than a whiff of a sexual scandal. It would seem that even if there is a photo of Yaw having sex with a goat, the WP will not do or say anything. Is it because, Yaw (pre the allegations) had a reputation as being Sec-Gen’s Low protégée, and most trusted lieutenant? Is there favouritism at work? Or is the WP afraid that “condemning” Yaw, casts a shadow on Low’s judgement, or, intelligence on party members, or both?

WP should put the interests of S’poreans above that of a Kim Jong-il look-a-like, who voted for the PAP, while campaigning for the WP.

If WP doesn’t, and Yaw turns out to be an adulterer and father of a Dragon bastard, S’poreans will punish the WP in Hougang and Aljunied, come the next GE. I’m sure PM will oblige the voters, by moving forward the general election.

Sorry WP, this strategy of saying nothing and treating S’poreans as stupid is not helping the WP. It is in fact harmful. Many S’poreans think of WP MPs and other activists as the Jedis fighting the Emperor. But by saying nothing and treating S’poreans as stupid, they resemble the Seth Lords (aka the PAP). How can you speak for S’poreans on the need for the government to be transparency and accountability, when the WP and Yaw hide behind “these are rumours”* (Sec-Gen Low), and “if it is rumours”*(MP Yaw)?

Yaw please for the sake of Singaporeans who support the Opposition and the WP, deny or confirm the allegations for the reasons stated here. and here.

And hey Mao and Pritam, do you want to remain in a party that is so Chinese Communist party or North Korean? Or is the money that important?


*Juz wondering if the Law Minister has been moonlighting after his pay cut or if MP Baey’s PR firm has been advising? (Update on 3 February 2012 at 7.40am)

FBI in US, SIAS, SGX here

In China, Corporate governance on 02/02/2012 at 8:49 am

FBI investigating adviser on Chinese reverse mergers following a spate of problems with these listcos. No such luck here for investors here in S-Chips, despite the well documented problems. Investors only got SIAS and SGX.

I mean even HK securities authority seems to be more active in taking action against Chinese listcos (see bit towards end of article).

SMRT: Stating the obvious

In Infrastructure on 01/02/2012 at 11:20 am

At SMRT’s 3Q financial results briefing yesterday, chief financial officer Catherine Lee said that, while “expenses arising from the recent MRT disruptions incurred this quarter were not significant … the profitability of the train operations will be impacted by the consequential costs” in the next 12 months. SMRT has to wait for the Committee of Inquiry to complete its investigations into the recent train disruptions and release its findings before SMRT can make an assessment on how this will affect profits, she said.

For the record — “SMRT posted S$37 million in net profit for the three months ended Dec 31, a 13.9 per cent decline from S$43 million in the corresponding period a year ago, even as revenue rose 10 per cent to S$268.2 million.
The increase in turnover was driven by higher train and bus ridership, higher taxi rental revenue, as well as higher rental and advertising revenue, the SMRT said. But costs surged due to higher headcount after the opening of Circle Line stages 4 and 5 and increased train runs as well as higher energy prices.” Quote from Today.

PM’s salary in 1970 and in 2012

In Financial competency, Political governance, Property on 01/02/2012 at 7:07 am

(Or “PM’s salary in 1970 and today using a terrace hse’s price as a reference point” or “Fooling around with numbers: Can prove anything with numbers”)

According to this, LKY’s annual salary in 1970 was $42,000 a year. The value of my parents’ home was then $35,000  based on a neighbour’s transaction if I recollect correctly). So LKY could have bot the house and have $7,000 spare cash left over (17% of his annual salary).

His son now gets under the revised salary scheme a yearly salarly of $2.2m (assuming he gets his bonuses). My parents’ house now is valued at $1.5m (based on a neighbour’s 2010 transaction). The PM can buy the house and still have $700,000 in his pocket (32% of his salary). And this after a 36% pay cut. At his 2010 salary, he could have bot the house and have $1.5m (50% of salary) spare change.

Bottom line: LKY had a bad deal relative to that his son gave himself, and the one he has now accepted.  Even taking into account inflation, our PM is earning much more than his dad. In fact, the PM’s pay rose a lot more than the sum of the inflation rate, and rate of the appreciation of the terrace house’s value.

And unlike dad, who allowed ministers to earn more than he did, our PM is the top earner in the cabinet.

On how much David Marshall was earning (see this), I’ve been told that he could be wrong to claim he was getting $8,000 a month when he was Chief Minister in the late 1950s. When he gave the interview that mentioned that figure, he made several mistakes that were corrected before publication. This could have been one mistake that went uncorrected.

Will keep readers informed as this $8,000 figure had been widely (and unthinkingly) used to beat up the PAP: bunch of greedy pigs. As I’ve tried to show, it “proves”, if anything, PAP ministers are grossly underpaid using Marshall’s numbers. Juz as today’s example ‘proves” that our PM is overpaid.

My wider point is that numbers can be manipulated to support any view. There is no “truth” in numbers per se.

Finally, maybe Marshall was not mistaken over his $8,000 monthly salary because LKY was earning $3,500 in 1970. When he came into power in 1959, he slashed civil servants’ and ministers’ salaries by about half. And given the economic and political problems of the 1960s, he might not have dared to give himself a raise.

For that thank the Communists and their fellow leftists. They kept LKY on the straight and narrow,’cause he knew their power to cause trouble. If they were unhappy, they got protestors onto the streets, not mobilise anonymous grumblers on the Internet.

Finally on the performance bonuses.  The way the bonus scheme  is drawn up, esp how easy it is to achieve the targets (see here somewhere),  reminds me of the Caucus-race in Alice in Wonderland (a favourite book). This was a race where the runners all started in different positions, ran for as long as they liked and stopped in different places. Then everyone got a prize.