Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

Bearish news for First Reit?

In Indonesia, Property, Reits on 31/08/2012 at 9:59 am

Background info

Lippo Karawacial is First Reit’s financial sponsor: “On 11 December 2006, Lippo Karawaci became the first company in South East Asia to list a Healthcare REIT on the Singapore Stock Exchange with Indonesian assets. Assets in the First REIT includes the Siloam Hospitals Lippo Village, Siloam Hospitals Kebon Jeruk, Siloam Hospitals Surabaya, Siloam Hospital Cikarang, Mochtar Riady Comperhensive Center and The Aryaduta Hotel and Country Club Karawaci, and four Singapore based properties.”

Now the bearish news

One of the sources told Reuters that first-round bids were below expectations, but the sale process will continue to give the buyers an opportunity to bid higher. It wasn’t clear how much the bidders had offered for the stake in the first round.

 Blackstone, Bain Capital, KKR & Co and Dubai’s Abraaj Capital have been shortlisted for the second phase of an auction of a fifth of private Indonesian healthcare operator Siloam in a deal that could fetch as much as $300 million, sources said.

Seller PT Lippo Karawaci is seeking a valuation of more than 20 times Siloam’s forward core earnings for the stake, they said, declining to be named as the discussions were private. Siloam is the country’s biggest private hospital firm.

“Lippo may be back in the market next year if the valuation disparity is too big,” said one of the sources.

Lippo plans to sell a minimum 20 percent of unit Siloam Hospitals for between $200 million and $300 million, but could increase the stake to 49 percent if the price is right. It hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to run the auction, sources have told Reuters earlier.

So there may be no revision of First Reit’s NAV

Might even be revised downwards. But Global buyout firms are keen on Indonesia’s consumer and healthcare sectors despite steep valuations, as they are betting on the country’s fast-growing economy.

Indonesia has one of the world’s lowest healthcare spending-to-GDP ratios, but its rising middle class – which represents more than half of its population of 240 million – is expected to sharply increase its medical spending and drive growth in the sector over the coming years.

“The healthcare sector still continues to remain the darling of private equity. Even with rich valuations it is easy to find bidders for this sector,” said Krishna Ramachandra, head of corporate finance and investment funds at law firm Duane Morris & Selvam LLP.

But a growing number of investment banks are advising clients that south-east Asian rivals such as Malaysia and Thailand now look more enticing than Indonesia. Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse say the Indon economy is overheating. Barclays is relaxed abt the “problems”.


PM’s speech: Not juz a change of format

In Political economy, Political governance on 31/08/2012 at 6:32 am

(Or “Why LKY would not have made this speech” or “Two cheers for PM”)

It’s been five days since the speech and the air is thick with analyses and commentaries of what PM said last Sunday. Most of them are noise or smoke or hot air.

While the constructive, nation-building media gushed (like a teen-ager about her puppy love) over the PM’s speech, netizens were not too impressed. Typical reactions:

PM Lee, to no one’s surprise, did not address the root cause of the many issues troubling Singaporeans. The lack of accountability and transparency, civic and political freedoms, freedom of the media, human rights failings, gerrymandering and discriminatory upgrading projects have their roots in repression.

How can there be hope, heart and home when the real issues – foreigner, infrastructure, housing, transport and healthcare – are still outstanding?

Come on netizens: Look on the bright side. He

— Pledged to ensure sufficient affordable housing for citizens, and built more nursing homes for the elderly.

— Said the government will decide on measures to encourage Singaporeans to marry and have more children after consulting the public. Areas being considered include better work- life balance, flexible work arrangements, priority housing for couples with young kids, paternity or shared maternity leave, defraying childhood medical expenses, better pre-school, childcare and infant care, and improving cash benefits for having children known as baby bonuses, he said.

— Pledged Singapore will have two more universities to increase educational opportunities and the government will invest S$60 billion over ten years on the island’s subway system. Bloomberg report.

What this means is that the government is finally going to spend our money on us. No more of his dad’s “frugality”* on spending S’poreans money on S’poreans.

He is saying, “It’s yr money, let’s spend it on making you happier”.

To reinforce the point, he implicitly promised that there would be no near time tax rises, saying (correctly) that Singapore will need to raise taxes in the next two decades (but not now) as the government boosts social spending to support an aging population.

In the past ministers like Tharman and Raymond Lim (remember him?) threatened to raise GST whenever S’poreans asked for more govt spending.

So netizens, give the PM more rope to hang himself or show us that things are a’changing. The assumptions and prejudices of the PAP remain (see here) but at least he is spending our money on things that we want or need to make life more comfortable.

For that let’s give him two cheers. Give him a third if he rethinks the aforesaid prejudices and assumptions inherited from dad.

*An economist lecturing at SMU once commented (when LKY was MM and in rude health) that LKY would die if the government spent a cent more than absolutely necessary on making life more comfortable for S’poreans. Having read his daughter’s comments on his wanting Mrs Lee to change the elastic band on his underwear when she was recovering from her stroke, I think the economist had a valid point, and wasn’t joking.

Noble’s into base metals with a Latin beat

In Commodities, Energy, Logistics on 30/08/2012 at 6:41 am

The search for base metals will likely focus on major producing regions such as South America … It is also one of the few merchants still doing business in Venezuela, where the aluminum industry is in crisis.

Noble already has an array of iron ore and coal offtake deals and strength in alumina and aluminum through tolling deals. Last December, it signed a pact to supply a smelter in Azerbijan with alumina in return for aluminum output.

Stock could fly again but its up against shume big mean boys. And is the founder still active in mgt? And if so gd or bad for co?

Don’t denigrate LionsXII draw, ST

In Footie, Media on 29/08/2012 at 7:20 am

I am annoyed with ST’s comments on the team’s performance against Johor FA. Team did what they had to do.

As a famous Arsenal manager once said,”Strikers win games, defenders win trophies”. Look at today’s Arsenal. Stylish play but where’s the trophies?

Wilmar: Doing deals with what?

In Commodities, Financial competency on 29/08/2012 at 6:26 am

(Or “Why analysts are talking rubbish” or “Bond issue coming up”)

Analysts are telling Wilmar to do deals to get its share price up. Remember they have been fans of Wilmar and need the share price to recover to look gd.

This Kuok wants to do deals. Its in his blood.

But the analysts forget one thing. How is Wilmar going to finance its deals. Not thru a share issue: because as they are pointing out the shares are “super cheap”. Borrowing more money ain’t that easy because co has net debt of US$12.5bn on a market captalisation of US$19bn. True got gd cash flow and interest cover. But it would need brave bankers. Not many around nowadays as the irrational French frogs are nursing losses.

Err what a bond issue aimed at the retail investor? Why not call DBS? Reason:

Ravi’s case: No more play play

In Uncategorized on 29/08/2012 at 5:32 am

It’s deadly serious. Reputations will be made or lost.

Last week:

— the Law Society of Singapore and one of its members, Wong Siew Hong, indicated that they will defend the legal suits filed against them by lawyer M Ravi (he is now suing them for $36m); and

— Ravi told us that the Law Soc had petitioned the court to compel him to see a doctor (CNA article).

And on Monday evening, the Law Soc informed its members of a requisition to convene an EGM to explain its dispute with Ravi.

So it isn’t a wayang by Ravi, the performance artist, who put on a singing and dancing show at Hong Lim Green sometime back. Reputations are at stake, not only Ravi’s.

We will soon know

– Was it true as reported in ST (sister publication of STOMP, where a content provider employee fabricated a story) that he was involved in an incident at a temple (the police came but did not arrest anyone) the day after he saw Dr Fones and the day before the doctor’s letter about Ravi’s mental health was written and leaked? (Note Ravi has never denied this report.). And if so, did this incident this influence the actions of Dr Fones and Wong Siew Hong? And how did they get to know about the incident since it wasn’t reported at the time?

— Was it true Ravi intimidated a MediaCorp producer? She has filed a police report. Again, Ravi has not denied her account of what happened. He juz kept quiet.

— Had he stopped taking his medication, at the time of the above and his performance at Hong Lim Green? I’ve heard allegations that he had stopped his taking his medicine at said times.

– The circumstances in which Ravi give KennethJ (the son of JBJ, and a failed politician and attention-seeker) authority to release the letter?

– Why did said KennethJ release the letter without giving any it any context? Intentionally saboing his lawyer and ally, or sheer incompetence, or tidak apa, or was that what Ravi wanted initially?

– Why did the Law Soc withdraw its initial comment ”that LSS had initiated the intervention in the court proceedings.” – Did Wong act on his own initiative, or was he asked to do so by someone higher up in the Law Soc?

If Ravi is found not to have been ill, there will a big row on the competency of the Law Soc, and the general public will be inclined to accept the allegations of KennethJ and those who allege that Ravi was being fixed were right.

If Ravi is found to have been ill, what does it say about

— the said KennethJ who wrote a piece comparing Ravi’s row with the Law Soc to the practice in the USSR of certifying dissidents as loonies. Is KennethJ a loonie himself in writing such rubbish? Or juz an opportunistic trouble maker?

— And what does it say about the netizens who took the view that Ravi was being fixed? Nothing wrong with him, they yelled in TRE and various other blogs. Their hatred of the establishment warped their judgements?

If Ravi is found to have been ill, only the SDP will have come out with credit in this sorry tale.  Remember, the Singapore Democratic Party called on all parties to “give (Mr Ravi) the space that he needs while he is going through a difficult period”. In a statement on its website, the SDP noted, among other things, that “those who recommend Ravi’s absence from court for him to seek treatment may not necessarily be wishing him ill and those who are treating him are not his enemies.”

And actually the Law Soc should get (it won’t partly because of its mistakes) credit for trying to ensure that clients’ lawyers have their wits around them, while protecting the interests of  lawyers who may have mental problems. 

Whatever the result, I hope Ravi remembers who his friends are. And S’poreans should remember that we should never let our prejudices rule us. “Seek facts from the truth”, as Chairman Mao would say. 

Related posts:


*Ravi had accused the LawSoc and Mr Wong of failing to investigate content of a doctor’s letter that he was looney before it was made known to the public. He also claimed that Mr Wong’s actions had breached the confidentiality of the letter. He alleged that it caused him to be “injured in his professional reputation and has thereby suffered loss and damage”.  He claimed millions of dollars in damages.

Rubbishing M’sia’s IPO streak

In Malaysia on 28/08/2012 at 5:06 am

The spate of M’sian IPOs rubbishewd by S’porea-based analysts.

Shumeone doing covert black ops. I mean SGX’s FTs have failed: No MU, no F1. IHH Medical was courtesy of Temasek being foundation investor and of presence of Parkway’s S’pore hospitals inside IHH.

But FTs hold top two posts in SGX.

Tharman admits FTs can become citizens without integrating?

In Political governance on 27/08/2012 at 9:27 am

I juz read this in amazement: “DPM Tharman urges new citizens to form ties with S’poreans”.

Shouldn’t these new citizens have “formed” ties with S’poreans before they become citizens? What he says implies that FTs who become citizens are allowed to do so in a bubble. They don’t have to integrate with us. They are juz “urged to” after they become citizens.

If so, then this is another example of shumething “Uniquely S’porean”.

In other countries, FTs are not made citizens until after they undergo citizenship training, and passing tests to show they understand what being a citizen means. The training includes integrating with locals. Juz ask the British, US, Australian and NZ governments. FTs have to undergo integration training before they become citizens.

DBS screws its customers again, and again?

In Banks on 27/08/2012 at 7:26 am

A few years ago, DBS sold HN5 Notes to its valued Treasure customers, blowing the buyers to kingdom come and discriminated against locals when it came to compensation.

So when early in 2011, when it started pushing yuan deposits and other investments linked to the yuan to its customers, I tot “No, not again”. By early May 2011, it had sold more than 27 billion yuan (S$5.2 billion) of investments linked to the Chinese currency to wealthy investors here it boasted.

Well 2011 wasa not a gd year for the yuan, and 2012 has been a disaster. 

While most economists expect the renminbi will stay flat or rise slightly over the next year, financial markets tell a different story.

In the non-deliverable forward market, where traders place bets on the future exchange rate, the yuan or renminbi is priced to fall 1.3 per cent against the dollar over the next 12 months.

Some experts say the decline will be much more substantial. Jim Walker, an economist who predicted the 1997 Asian financial crisis, forecasts a 5 per cent depreciation over the next year because “corporate financials in China are deteriorating dramatically. Extract from last week’s FT.

And we know S$ has been appreciating vis-a-vis the US$.

 Interestingly OCBC, Singapore’s second-biggest bank, was not aggressively promoting offshore yuan deposits to Singapore customers due to the risk of near-term losses as the local currency is likely to appreciate at a faster pace.

“We’re pretty cautious with regard to offshore RMB business in terms of deposits. For a Singaporean, we think it is not very wise,” CEO David Conner said at an earnings briefing in May 2011.  

“Our forecast has always been that the Singapore dollar will appreciate faster than the renminbi so we are not pushing that hard with our customers.”
OCBC’s comments came shortly after aforesaid boast by DBS. So it looks like although Rajan the FT Indian who blew up the “treasured’ clients moved on, the culture of screwing clients still remains?
(BTW, O’Connor is the kind of ang moh FT, we don’t get enough of. We get trashy FTs like SGX’s CEO (ang moh) and president (Indian Indian) who talk the talk of attracting IPOs but who underperform.)
And DBS is now using rocket science to make customers spend and spend More “treasures’ getting shafted?

Kindergartens & the ruling PAP

In Media, Political economy, Political governance on 27/08/2012 at 5:31 am

So the PM in yesterday’s speech promised that the government will play a more active role in pre-school education to help S’poreans “level up”*. Actually it already has a very active role**.

Ever since the Lien Foundation came out with its report earlier this yr which in its media released stated, “Singapore’s preschool education placed 29th amongst 45 countries on the Starting Well Index” and reported that  South Korea (10th) and Hong Kong (19th) were ahead of us,there has been the usual hot air from the government, the constructive, nation-building media, and S’poreans, largely off-line via the media***.

One issue that all three groups skated around are the two elephants in the ice-rink: the PAP Community Foundation (PCF)  which is the dominant provider of kindergartens in S’pore, and its smaller cousin NTUC; and the ring-master (the governing PAP). Remember that the NTUC and PCF are “teeth” to the lips of the governing PAP.

It’s not surprising that the government and its minion, the media, avoided talking abt the role of the PCF and NTUC (until last night) and the government in the failure of kindergarten education here (PM skated over why the system needed fixing). So let me lay it out thickly.

The report says that where S’pore falls short is on quality issues: “Most of Singapore’s weaknesses showed up in the area of‘quality’, which includes factors like ‘student-­‐teacher ratio’,‘average preschool teacher wages’, ‘preschool teacher training’and ‘linkages between preschool and primary school’. All top ten countries on the Index have ratios ranging from one teacher to five to 11 children, compared to Singapore’s 1:20 ratio.”

It’s a question of funding.

While the NTUC and PCF cannot be blamed for the lack of funding because they are, unlike private kindergartens serving the moneyed, trying to serve the masses, not the children of elite, middle class bloggers: they can be blamed for not lobbying the government for more money to rectify ‘student‐teacher ratio’,‘average preschool teacher wages’, and ‘preschool teacher training’.

So until the government increases its funding (which the PM now has), the children of S’pore’s masses will continue suffering from low quality kindergarten education.


*He said: “First of all, we’ll establish a new statutory board to oversee pre-school education. Secondly, we’ll provide and upgrade pre-school teacher training to raise standards. Thirdly, we’ll bring in new anchor operators, in addition to PCF and NTUC.

“And fourthly, we’ll upgrade the anchor operators — the existing ones as well as the new ones — so that they can improve the careers they can offer the teachers.

“They can offer structured development opportunities for the staff, they can introduce creative learning methods for the students but to raise the base — the quality of the mass market.” CNA

**I read with amazement last week the spate of articles in, and letters to our constructive, nation-building media on whether kindergarten education should be “nationalised”.

***Not surprised netizens have been quiet. They don’t breed. Or if they do, they send their kids to gd, expensive kindergartens. They are middle class elitists.

Double confirm, F1 not listing here

In Uncategorized on 26/08/2012 at 7:15 am

A few months ago, MediaCorp reported that it heard that F1 was not listing here, not juz postponing its IPO. 

On Friday MediaCorp reported, Singapore Exchange CEO Magnus Bocker said he expects a few big ticket initial public offerings (IPOs) to come into Singapore for the rest of 2012.

These listings are expected to come from local and regional companies.

F1 is not a regional or local company.

And “big ticket”? Not USA$1bn and bigger IPOs aka M’sia. We had two sub billion USD IPOs of Reits and another hospital Reit of similar size is coming. Reuters reports: “Religare Health Trust is set to launch an up to $400 million initial public offering in Singapore, a source said, in a move that will allow the backer of the trust, Indian hospitals group Fortis Healthcare, to cut its substantial debt level.”

When is the ang moh FT CEO and his Indian FT president (“Tonto” is his name?) going to deliver on a US$1bn IPO. S’pore has never played second fiddle to M’sia in capital markets, except in Islamic finance. Now in IPOs, the FTs have S’pore down.

Related rant:

Like playing Toto?

In Uncategorized on 25/08/2012 at 3:33 pm

Remember that like any other form of lottery game your chances of winning are not greatly increased by playing.

Another classy Burmese lady

In Uncategorized on 25/08/2012 at 1:18 pm

Something in the air that develops such ladies? Juz like something in the air that develops feisty wimmin in M’sia.

Interesting Indon play

In Indonesia, Telecoms on 25/08/2012 at 6:48 am

Ward Ferry Asia Fund returned almost 16% in the first seven months, according to the July newsletter that Hong Kong-based Ward Ferry Management estimates that PT Tower can double its profits in the next three years partly because Indonesia has half of the number of towers per capita as the U.S. and has been increasing them at 26 percent a year since 2006, according to the letter. The stock is up 18% since June 1 to Aug 15.

Bank run in Vietnam UPDATE

In Banks, Vietnam on 24/08/2012 at 9:16 am

Depositors in Vietnam have withdrawn hundreds of millions of US dollars from one of the country’s largest banks after the arrest of one of its founders. StanChart has a 15% stake in this bank.

The CEO of Asia Commercial Bank, Ly Xuan Hai, has been arrested on suspicion of committing economic crimes.

What this run shows is that:

— Doing biz in Vietnam can be dangerous if the authorities don’t like you.

— Banks like StanChart and HSBC do biz in some dangerous places and their high capital ratios and conservative loan to deposit ratio have a purpose.  But really do all three S’pore banks need to be among the 10 safest banks in the world?

Why Tharman will be the next PM

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 24/08/2012 at 6:21 am

(Or “How S’pore’s PMs are chosen”)

We know that Tharman as finance minister has failed to control inflation (Yes, yes, I know latest number is 4% but remember grain prices are flying), when all he can do is to make jokes about it, and that the government (where he is now the senior most minister in charge of the economy) has consistently failed to raise the productivity of S’pore workers* despite talking the talking on this since I started working in the late 1970s. I’m now a man of leisure and the government is still talking about raising productivity. SIGH.

I was reminded of another failure of the government’s economic policies when the July export data came out last week.  No it wasn’t the failure of the government policy to diversify away from electronics. If S’pore has a comparative edge here, so be it.

No, it was the failure many yrs ago to realise that pill-making is not a steady business. Example: in July, while pharmaceutical shipments were up 1.3% after rocketing 24% in June. It was brought in to smooth the volatility of an economy dependent on the export of electronics, a volatile commodity.

It didn’t work because while selling drugs is a steady business in gd times and bad (unlike electronics), making pills is not. It’s a very volatile business. Drug cos are forever tweaking their supply chains to minimise production costs and inventories. Production is not smooth.

So while pill-making has become an important driver of economic growth, it has not made the economy any less volatile. In fact combining it with the manufacturing and export of electronics causes the economy to gyrate wildly at times.

Guess who introduced pill-making? One Lee Hsien Loong. He was once responsible for raising the productivity of S’porean workers? In the UK, a Chancellor of the Exchequer, who goofed on two major policy decisions, would not get to be PM.

Looks like better not bet against Tharman being PM. With the failures on inflation, productivity and the following on his CV, nap that he will become PM:

— Another failure is the rise in the number for homeless S’poreans at a time of reasonably gd economic growth.

— They are exemplars of the “working poor”, something articulated so well here. Read it.

— Article also explains why Workfare, as it is constructed, doesn’t help the poor. Related posts:

Update after posting: Promotion here is via failure? Presidency of S’pore and Temasek. So the PAP’s meritocracy is achieved via failure, not success? So Orwellian. Reminds me of Beckett’s, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Not reported here: another “little speck” wins 7 Olympic gold medals

In Media on 23/08/2012 at 5:16 am
5.3m people: 7 gold, 2 silver & 3 bronze medals. Puts “our” one bronze medal for 5.2m people in perspective doesn’t it? 
The place is Yorkshire, England, which is celebrating after its athletes won a total of 12 Olympic medals, which would see Yorkshire placed 12th  or 13th (Khazakstan had 13 medals but it had only one silver medal) in the medal table if it was an independent country*. Read more:
(BTW, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, a cricketing power in English county cricket  “put themselves at a disadvantage from 1968 until 1992 by insisting that all its players must have been born within the historic county boundaries of Yorkshire while all the other county teams strengthened themselves by signing overseas Test players. In 1992, the birth qualification rule was first modified to include those educated within the county, a dispensation that allowed Michael Vaughan to play; and was then abandoned altogether. Yorkshire’s first overseas player that season was 19-year old Sachin Tendulkar.” Wikipedia entryn on Yorkshire County Cricket Club)
We got one bronze, courtesy of three PRC she gladiators. What price glory? 
And this shows countries that underperform or overperform at the Olympics. Although S’pore is not mentioned, HK is. It undeperperforms winning only one bronze, when it should have won seven medals. Our PRC gladiator team with two bronzes would put us above it, but still an underperformer.
**Australia and Japan were 10th and 11th with seven gold medals too.

While SGX’s FT CEO wanks, KL bags yet another mega IPO

In Infrastructure, Malaysia on 22/08/2012 at 5:30 am

1Malaysia Development Bhd., the state investment company known as 1MDB, plans to raise as much as $2 billion in an initial public offering of its power assets, Reuters reports. The IPO may take place in the first quarter of next year.

M’sia Boleh, what with Felda Global Ventures Holdings and IHH Healthcare completing two of the world’s three biggest IPOs this year. Companies have raised a combined US$5.1 billion in Kuala Lumpur this year, compared with US$2.9 billion in Hong Kong and US$2 billion in Singapore, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

SGX’s ang moh FT has yet to get on his own bat a mega IPO. Can only talk.

Related rant on ang moh tua kee:

Double confirm, MU’s Jewish

In Footie, Humour on 21/08/2012 at 6:15 pm

The billionaire investor George Soros has bought a stake in Manchester United football club, a US regulatory filing showed.

Mr Soros’ investment fund bought about 3.1 million Class A shares in the club, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission …

His shares equate to a 1.9% stake in the entire club, worth about [US]$40.7m (£25.8m) at Monday’s closing price.

So with Sity owned by the Arabs, EPL title is shaping up to be another Arab-Israeli conflict. Or Allah versus Yahweh. Last season, Allah won, but only because manager and strikers went to mass (Roman Catholic version).

Thailand: A lot better than expected GDP numbers

In Uncategorized on 21/08/2012 at 1:48 pm

Thailand’s economy grew more than forecast in the April to June period helped by domestic consumption and continued recovery in manufacturing.

Growth was 3.3% in the second quarter, compared to the previous three months. Analysts had forecast growth of 1.7%.

Thai market as of 15 August was +19.7% on the yr in US$ terms, slightly behind S’pores 20%. Explain this Dr Chee, KennethJ, EJay and other haters of all things PAP.

S’pore Gal becomes Auntie SIN

In Airlines, Humour, Vietnam on 21/08/2012 at 6:51 am

VietJetAir, a budget airline. had beauty contestants in bikini-tops dance aboard a plane on its first flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, Tuoi (Waz that?). The airline said it wanted to capture a “holiday atmosphere” for its new flight route to one of the country’s most popular holiday destinations. “Once passengers stepped on board they were met by flight attendants dressed in beach holiday attire [who] performed a sexy Hawaii dance,” it said. BBC article. Authorities were not amused: it was fined for not getting prior approval. Sounds so S’porean, this fine.

Back to the gals in bikini tops: they make S’pore Gal look like auntie:  like SIA falling behind its rivals from the Middle East in the premium business, JetAir and AirAsia in the budget segment.

So rather than juz redesign its cabins and seats, as SIA announced last week, time to replace Auntie and rethink strategy?

Its got the brain power. Senior mgt are SIA veterans. There was an attempt a few yrs ago to put a scholar, ex-general as a senior VP with the aim of making him CEO. He didn’t get the job and disappeared without a trace. Thank God, even though he RI boy, as I got one lot of SIA.

National Conversation? Nah sounds like another attempt at Conversion

In Political governance on 20/08/2012 at 5:56 am

As regular readers will know, I’m quite happy with PM’s performance so far.

But on his call for a national conversation, I have no intention of wasting my time joining in, even though as I’ve said, I have plenty of time.

Why? For a start I’ll be in my 70s then.

Seriously, the reason is that I don’t believe despite the latest attempt to kill sacred cows (great take here from a Ravi*), the basic tenets of the PAP have changed. Based on the comments of PM and his ministers,I don’t see any change in the following articles of faith, not even the slightest evidence of a willingness to rethink any of them:

— FTs are needed.

— S’poreans must breed.

— Free** markets are the best way of allocating of resources.

— GRCs are a must.

— PA, although funded by the tax payer, must remain part of the PAP machinery.

— Newspapers need a yearly licence.

— SPH and MediaCorp publications and channels must be constructive and nation-building.

— Racial quotas are a must in HDB estates.

— Ex senior servants and SAF officers make good ministers and business leaders. Funny thing is that our best performing TLCs (SIA and Keppel) are not headed by these people.

— Details of our reserves must remain secret.

— Not a cent less than 25% of the annual budget must be spent on MINDEF.

— ISD is needed.

— Malay Muslims must be watched, and treated with kid gloves and the iron fist.

— PAP is never wrong.

— PAP is misunderstood.

These have been the articles of faith of one LKY (Hard Truths he calls them). The only thing that has changed since his retirement is that the government doesn’t feel the emotional pain*** of spending more of what is our own money on making life more comfortable for S’poreans. Witness the money being spent on public transport, public housing and healthcare, and welfare (albeitly wrongly by refusing to give the needy cash now).

No, what will happen is that it will be a dialogue of the deaf. The government will hector and lecture S’poreans while closing their eyes and ears to S’poreans. S’poreans, in turn, will ignore the noise from the governing PAP.  The only way to get the PM’s and ministers’ attention is by holding the PAP to account at the next GE. Would the PM have apologised if there was no need to shore up the vote? I doubt it?

Read the rest of this entry »

Islam allows alcohol: Time for a Scotch or Tiger today?

In Holidays and Festivals on 19/08/2012 at 7:04 am

Debauched nights in the courts of caliphates were enshrined in the khamriyaat, or odes to wine, by Abu Nuwas, an eighth-century poet. Nobody knows exactly when Islamic scholars decided that booze was sinful … A handful of scholars permit alcohol as long as it is not made from grapes and dates, because these are specifically mentioned in the Koran. But nobody dares open the debate. “No religious scholar is ready to accept the consequences of a fatwa by now saying that beer, spirits, vodka are halal,” says Anas Aboshady, a scholar at the influential al-Azhar University in Cairo.

Three cheers for CJ

In Banks, Financial competency on 19/08/2012 at 5:57 am

Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong said in a written judgment: “In the light of the many allegations made against many financial institutions for ‘mis-selling’ complex financial products to linguistically and financially illiterate and unwary customers during the financial crisis in 2008, it may be desirable for the courts to reconsider whether financial institutions should be accorded full immunity for such ‘misconduct’ by relying on non-reliance clauses which unsophisticated customers might have been induced or persuaded to sign without truly understanding their potential legal effect on any form of misconduct or negligence on the part of the relevant officers in relation to the investment recommended by them.”–Time-to-reconsider?

Related posts:

MU shares worth only US$5?

In Footie on 18/08/2012 at 5:38 am

MU’s purchase of Robin van Persie caused a little wobble in its share price because analysts said he cost too much.

MU’s shares are worth just US$5, well below the US$14 they IPOed at recently, according to an unknown US reseach team.

Hong Leong Finance sues Morgan Stanley for deception, selling investments designed to fail

In Financial competency, Media on 17/08/2012 at 8:52 am

(I’m reporting this as our constructive, nation-building media only reported this story very briefly when it became public last week. Wonder why?)

“Morgan Stanley secretly, deceptively and wrongfully invested the investors’ principal in very risky underlying assets,” according to the complaint.

The investments were described to Heong Leong as synthetic collateralized debt obligations based on the performance of major corporations and sovereign nations with high credit ratings, according to the complaint.

Morgan Stanley instead tied the notes to much riskier investments in real estate-related companies and troubled Icelandic banks, including Glitnir Bank HF and Kaupthing Bank HF.

Morgan Stanley issued the notes through a special-purpose entity it controlled called Pinnacle. Italso positioned to profit when the notes failed because it had entered into swap transactions with the noteholders through another affiliated entity, Morgan Stanley Capital Services Inc.

“When Morgan Stanley’s ’rigged’ underlying assets failed, money from customers was transferred to MS Capital,” Hong Leong said in the complaint.

Questioning the conventional wisdom on 50-yr loans

In Financial competency, Financial planning, Humour, Property on 17/08/2012 at 5:23 am

When netizens like Ryan Ong and the readers of TRE, the government, and the constructive, nation-building media agree that 50-yr mortgages are bad for the borrowers and S’pore, I had no alternative but to think about the issue. Surely, they can’t all be right. A waste of my time as I’m unlikely ever to want, or to get approved for such a loan: I’m past 55. But then, I got plenty of time.

Let’s start with the most blindly obvious fact. The very long period, more than half the average life span of a S’porean*.

— “Borrowers could easily get stuck … if the market crashes”. This was written by an apprentice of the Dark Side (which confusingly in the context of S’pore belongs to the the Men in White) in yesterday’s ST.

— Or that interest rates can go up beyond our wildest imaginations. Well according to the government, a 30-yr mortgage on a 99-yr lease is “affordable”. So waz another 20 yrs?

— Anything can happen (PAP loses power and Gerald Giam leader of WP becomes PM?).

Seriously, the deified Lord Keynes said the only reasonable response to the question “What will interest rates be in 20 years’ time?” is “We simply do not know”. And he was talking only about 20 yrs. The point I’m trying to make is that even the 20-yr standard mortgage is problematic and risky. So don’t over exaggerate the risk for 50-yr mortgages, when 20-yr mortgages are already risky.

(BTW, roughly 20 yrs after Keynes made that remark that, Britain was fighting the Third Reich: it was losing. Any intelligent nation would have surrendered. After all, the Fourth Reich rules the Eurozone on which Britain depends for its propsperity.)

Next, we are told that the interest payments are “humongous”. True. But has anyone done the sums to see if someone had bot a bungalow in the mid-1950s on a 50-yr mortgage (didn’t exist then: in fact mortgages were for very short periods only, and only available to rich people), would he or she have made money in the mid-2000s? Would the cost of repayments be worth it? I think, we know the answer.

I’m not saying that history will repeat itself. We are unlikely to have a competent PAP government bullying ruling us for another 50 yrs (And the PAP started getting incompetent 21 yrs ago). And anyway, men like Dr Goh Keng Swee are  dead, or retired like Ngiam Tong Dow and one LKY.

What about nothing left in the CPF account for old age? Seriously, does anyone think that the cash put aside in the account will be worth much?

What I’m not saying is that a 50-yr mortgage is good for borrowers, or S’pore. What I’m saying is that it’s juz the logical extension of a 20 or 30-yr mortgage. Its cons are equally applicable to a 20 or 30 yr mortgage. Does anyone who takes out these mortgages expect to continue financing the mortgage for said period? No, the plan always is to refinance on better terms a few yrs after taking out the mortgage. Same for 50-yr one too. The interest rate and other risks are similar, juz magnified.

The issue in taking out a mortgage is not affordability but one’s risk profile, reasonably and rationally considered. But thinking rationally and reasonably is not easy.

Interesting post: Some useful number crunching


*82.2 for a male S’porean and 85.6 for a female.

Maersk sails to profit while NOL loses another mast

In Shipping on 16/08/2012 at 5:48 pm

(Or “Scholar, & ex SAF chief & Temasek MD runs Temasek aground”)

No need to try to do detailed study of Maersk line’s results vis-a-vis NOL.

Maersk Line, operator of the world’s largest container ship fleet, steamed to a profit of US$227m after losses of US$95m a year earlier and US$599m in the previous quarter. NOL “on underlying earnings” made US$7m. Actually “Net loss for the three months ended June 29, 2012, stood at US$118 million, which widened from a net loss of US$57 million for the same period a year ago. This result – which marks the sixth straight quarter of losses – missed market expectations of a net loss of US$67.6 million, a Bloomberg poll of six analysts showed: by 76%,” earlier post .

And Maersk Line is expecting to be profitable this financial year, while NOL says “outlook is uncertain”. And our guy’s a scholar, general, ex SAF chief and ex Temasek MD. Interestingly Maersk turned around despite the problems in Europe. For historical reasons, most of its revenue comes from ships sailing to Europe, unlike NOL which depends on revenue from ships sailing to the US, which is in better shape than NOL.

Sure hope this CEO is not from RI.

Even Chinese manufacturers are moving to Vietnam & Bangladesh

In China, Vietnam on 16/08/2012 at 5:24 am

Earlier this week FT reported that an online Chinese retailer was trying out manufacturing in Vietnam. At about the same time, CNN reported that  Chris Devonshire-Ellis, founding partner of Dezan Shira & Associates in Beijing, which advises firms on foreign direct investment (FDI), as saying,”Companies are starting to think twice before building in China.”

He said the cost of running a factory in Dongguan, China with 300 workers would be about US$2.3 m. The same factory in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam would be US$650,000, and a similar factory in Chennai, India would cost about US$346,000.

“About 50 per cent of our work in Vietnam is setting up factories for companies which have relocated from South China because they want to add more (manufacturing) capacity (in the region), but they don’t want to have Chinese costs. Vietnam and Bangladesh are becoming subsidiary manufacturing nations to make goods for sale in China.”

Earlier this month, the Economist wrote, “Another manufacturing firm [making flags]moved its operations to Vietnam in 2004. “We have to migrate, like herdsmen chasing water and pastures””. Love the way moving to a cheaper place is described.

Another M’sian mega IPO

In Infrastructure, Malaysia on 15/08/2012 at 9:58 am

MMC Corp has hired CIMB, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and Maybank as the joint global coordinators of a US$ 1 bn IPO of its 51% of power unit, Malakoff Corp, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile SGX’s FT ang moh CEO has failed to attract mega IPOs here. M’sian stock exchange, no FTs there, has had a string of mega IPOs: Felda, IHH (also listed here but no thanks to FT ang moh), Astro (coming) and now this. One of leading bourses for IPOs this yr.

M’sia Boleh! And no FTs to teach locals how to do things.

STB & MDA missed a trick here

In Tourism on 15/08/2012 at 6:52 am

One of the reasons given for the staging of the Kiddie Games (Youth Olympic Games) and the annual inconvenience that is F1, is that it promotes S’pore as a place to visit; even if it costs the taxpayer serious money. F1 loses money for us. No wonder, S’pore is still trying to get the fees lowered if it agrees to stage race permanently. Minister’s comments last yr and earlier this yr, the govmin denied it had agreed terms.

Well if promotion is what we are after, how come the various govmin agencies and in particular the STB and the Media Development Authority division that promotes films missed getting “Supercapitalist” made here. A just released independent movie, “Supercapitalist”, has HK as a backdrop.  It opened last “Friday in New York, and later in Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and is also available on video on demand on cable and on iTunes,” reports NYT’s DealBook.

Or they didn’t even know this movie was being made? Or they knew, but tot the subsidies it would need to come here were “peanuts” to the subsidies shelled out for the Kiddie Games and F1. Or see unknown producers and directors no ak?


The Hougang by-election judgement

In Political governance on 15/08/2012 at 5:49 am

(Update on 17 September 2015 In 2013 The Court of Appeal said on Friday that Singapore’s constitution does not give the prime minister unfettered discretion in calling for an election to fill a vacated seat of an elected Member of Parliament.

The court’s three-judge panel said this in a 57-page document in which, at the same time, it dismissed the appeal of Hougang resident Vellama Marie Muthu against a High Court ruling last year that the prime minister does have the discretion.–within-a-reasonable-time–074517450.html

Actually since technically the decision is “by the way”  because the CA dismissed the appeal, and can be ignored. But it would be a brave lower court judge who decides to ignore the CA.)

Remember the Hougang by-election case? The bloggers have moved on, disappointed with the judgement*.

As I’ve juz heard that the petitioner, a part-time cleaner who resides in Hougang will not appeal the judgement that the PM is not obliged to call a by-election because the constitution does not require a by-election to be called if there is a vacancy, I tot this would be a gd opportunity to post on the judgement: raising points not raised by other bloggers.

First, let me commend the judge for not dismissing the case on technicalities, and on his diligence: 53 pages!

His judgement that the PM is not obliged to call a by-election because the constitution does not require a by-election to be called if there is a vacancy — surprised the legal academics and one Siow Kum Hong who the media had been regularly quoting on the case, and netizens.  But should the academics and Siow have been surprised?

In this , I had asked: I wonder why no-one had petitioned the court to get the government to call a by-election until this year? Surely there were lawyers* at that time who are as smart and brave as Ravi** ? As Chiam was an MP on two of the above instances, perhaps someone should ask him why he never bothered to bring a case? Does he agree that the PM has an unfettered discretion on whether to call a by-election or not to fill a vacancy?

*There was JBJ who although, not very smart, was brave. And there was Francis Seow, a former Solictor-General, a good litigator with the brain of an intellectual, and the heart of a lion. He is still alive though not in practice. He is a Harvard Fellow, wanted by the S’pore government on some tax charge. He was detained under the ISA for a short while in the late 1980s.

It could explain why the WP (its MP lawyers were called “cow dung” by the petitioner’s lawyer, Ravi, for not lending WP’s weight to his client’s case) did not raise the issue in parly or in the courts. The three MP lawyers may have advised that a court petition to compel the PM to call a by-election would not succeed.

One grumble that I hear the academics quietly muttering against the judgement is that it was a formalistic interpretation of the constitution, not taking into account the intention of the constitution. (Siow has said on Facebook that it is formalistic.)

Well, have they ever tot that the drafters of the constitution were men of their time? At that time, the dominant view among the English and other British judges was that the executive could be trusted because ministers were “our kind of chaps”, and that because the executive had the mandate of the voters (which could be lost if the voters were angry with it), it could and should have largely unfettered discretion: the courts should only intervene when it was clear on the face of it that something was wrong. It should never question the motives of the executive unless there was blindly obvious evidence that shumething was wrong.

Witness, the slew of cases that allowed detention without trial on the say so of the minister, and the refusal of the courts to question the executive’s motives even in the UK. Times have changed.

Our constitution had to be amended because the Court of Appeal here ruled that it could judicially review the reasons behind an ISA detention, over-ruling a long-established local ruling. I once heard the senior state counsel in that case explain that the judges were influenced by changes in judicial thinking in other Commonwealth countries. My take is that our judges wanted to be part of the “in” crowd of judges. They wanted to continue being invited to the lunches and dinners of the ang moh judges.

Penultimately, going by the media reports, it seems the judge never asked the lawyers to argue the point on which he decided the case. When I was studying law in London, we had the benefit of hearing eminent judges talk on their decision-making process. One thing they insisted on: they would only decide on the points argued before them. If they had any original ideas, they would put it before opposing counsel and ask them to argue the point. Seems this was not done here. Reminds me of a defamation case brought against JBJ by some ministers. The judge found against JBJ on a point neither side had raised, nor had the judge asked the lawyers to argue the point. Never ever heard of that principle invoked ever again. Can’t even remember what it was.

Finally, by deciding the issue on the grounds he did, it is unlikely that the petitioner would have to pay the AG’s cost which would have been substantial, especially as AG used a Senior Counsel in private practice. Guess who pays? We the tax payer. SIGH.


*Their restraint in commenting on the case could be due to their fear of being “forced” to retract their comments by the Attorney-General, like one Alex Au was “forced” to do as regards on the decision in the Wally Woffle’s case. He subsequently “repented” of his act of removing the offending post (bit like Peter denying that he knew Jesus and then feeling upset with himself). Actually, as a trained lawyer, I agreed with AG. Wonder if AG repented of being nice to Alex Au?

Seriously, perhaps the NSP, with a lawyer as its VP, could conduct a seminar for bloggers on how to criticise judges’ decisions without running foul of the AG.

Independent directors can continue sleeping on the job

In Corporate governance on 14/08/2012 at 6:58 pm

Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong’s recent acquittal of two former board members of Airocean Group should make it harder to prosecute independent directors of Singapore-listed companies.

He made it clear that companies may not have to disclose information because it is trade (business not market, I assume) sensitive: the information has to be likely to significantly move the share price as well. And directors in most instances should not be expected to question professional advice that they receive with respect to how they discharge their duties.

Independent directors were scared after a district judge convicted former Airocean independent directors Peter Madhavan and Ong Seow Yong on charges related to disclosure lapses from 2005 relating to the corruption investigation of ex-Airocean chief executive Thomas Tay.

Another nail in the coffin of our regime of disclosure. If can suka-suka no need to dislose WTF! I prefer DJ’s reasoning. Hope AG “appeals”.

S-Chip after S-Chip shows that corporate governance didn’t work. Yet independent directors never ever were held accoutable except in one case: directors there were slapped lightly on the cheek by SGX. WTF!

Scholar, ex-SAF chief & Temasek MD fails to turnaround NOL

In Media, Shipping on 14/08/2012 at 7:00 am

Last week, NOL posted a larger than anticipated bigger net loss (by 76%) for the second quarter compared to a year earlier, dragged down by one-off expenses linked to impairment losses and restructuring charges, it said.

Net loss for the three months ended June 29, 2012, stood at US$118 million, which widened from a net loss of US$57 million for the same period a year ago. This result – which marks the sixth straight quarter of losses – missed market expectations of a net loss of US$67.6 million, a Bloomberg poll of six analysts showed: by 76%. Loss per share for the second quarter stood at 4.57 US cents, against a loss per share of 2.21 US cents.

Excluding these charges, NOL would have registered a turnaround for its core earnings before interest and taxes (Ebit) over the year on higher freight rates and cost savings, NOL claims. It said that market conditions remain uncertain.

Funnily our constructive, nation-building media didn’t remind us of its CEO’s credentials for becoming CEO: great experience except in shipping, a specialist industry. He ain’t even a navy man.

When, Maesk’s container division reports its latest results, I’ll compare its performance (boss is a true blue shipping man) to scholar’s performance at NOL. Last time, he did badly

Wonder how the soldier boy going to be SMRT’s CEO will perform? As a ex-SAF chief, the trains should run on time, and safely: unlike when a retailer ran it. Also train depots would be secured against vandals and terrorists.  But can he improve its financial numbers, something the NOL CEO (another ex-general) failed to do at NOL.

Update on 16 August at 1.06pm: How the constructive, nation-building BT on 14 August reports CEO’s achievement of making US$7m on its core earnings. Sounds a story from a celebrity magazine or from the North Korean media on its new leader.

How SMRT can spend more on maintenance while cont’d paying gd dividends

In Infrastructure on 13/08/2012 at 6:55 pm

Find sponsors for MRT stations Dubai style.

The station at Changi Int’l Airport can be renamed after Changi Airport, or SIA or any airline wanting publicity. Raffles City can be renamed after Robinsons or Westin. Raffles Place can be named after a bank sponsor while Temasek can sponsor Dhoby Gaut.

While new CEO as an ex-SAF chief and senior civil servant (also a scholar) should ensure that the trains run on time (in the early 20th century in the US, retired generals were in demand to run railwa s because the army like the railways were complex organisations), he might not be gd for profits. As I explained here, SMRT is now seeing itself as an engineering co, not a transport co, but problem is that engineers tend to gold-plate their operations.

StanChart: A buy for the bold & canny?

In Temasek on 13/08/2012 at 6:28 am

Looks like Jewish-American NY regulator is a “rogue regulator” in it for the publicity (new boy in town) or to shake down StanChart for US$700m.

Meanwhile some combination of a massive fine (say US$1.5bn),  mgt changes (both looking unlikely as is the  loss of US licence) or Temasek doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of the allegations and wants out (unlikely too), someone like JP Morgan or BoA who covets StanChart’s trade financing biz in Asia and other emerging markets might bid

Anyway it is cheap. Trading at about 1.17x book (HSBC trades at 1x book) even after its recovery. It usually trades usually at 1.3x book.

Hurry, hurry before the discount disappears. Buying at this level gives exposure to S’pore and HK where banks trade at around 1.3x book), and Msia and Indonesia (where banks trade at around 2x book minimum) at a discount.

Inflation: Why the misleading picture, minister & media?

In Economy, Media, Political governance on 13/08/2012 at 5:12 am

(Or “Think short-term, not long-term says minister Lee or “MTI minister does not know econs?” or “Govt’s spin machine is stuck in the stone age”)

The Retail Price Watch Group (RPWG) last week emphasised that the slower pace of food inflation impacted positively on household expenditure as food expenses take up a considerable portion of each household’s monthly budget. This slower pace of food inflation is good for S’poreans is the message that the constructive, nation-building media is spreading, not challenging. Example of how inflation is reported . At the end of this piece are two links on the numbers on inflation, and what they mean.

Earlier this year, when inflation was hitting new highs, in addition to the sick jokes by Tharman and Hng Kiang on “no worries” if “you don’t rent private housing, or want or need to buy a car”*, S’poreans were told to look forward, not back. Inflation would “moderate”. It hasn’t has it? The rate of growth has slowed a tinny winny bit, taz it.

Now the message seems to be look back, not forward. If you wonder why, read this, “Another food crisis looms”: grain and meat prices are rising fast (not rice though but note “Rising wheat prices and a failure of America’s soya harvest might scare nervy Asian countries into a rice-export ban just as during the food crisis of 2007-08.”).

And there is this: Global food prices sharply rebounded in July due to wild swings in weather conditions, a UN food and agricultural body has said.

The rise has fanned fresh fears of a repeat of the 2007-2008 food crisis which hurt the world’s poorest. BBC report

But when asked about the current drought in the United States Midwest which is affecting corn and soybean crops, Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development and chairman of RPWG said it is not likely to have an impact here in the near term.

This is because Singapore imports a negligible amount corn, and only seven per cent of its soy beans from the US.

But a sustained price hike for the grains, which are used for animal feed, he said, may raise commodity prices in the long term.

So said minister is downplaying the effect of drought in the US on food prices. And our media is not questioning him. And they all are wrong to downplay the rise in retail prices.

There are floods in Brazil, the other large exporter of soya. So it isn’t juz the US. 

There is no getting around the fact that two of the staples of the world food industry are about to become scarce commodities.

That means they will also become more expensive. Soya beans and corn make oil, animal feed, and ethanol (to be added to petrol), and are used in snacks, fast food, even soft drinks. America’s drought is going hit us all.

FT gave a concrete example: Based on the numbers of a big US producer of chickens, Sandersons, a US$2 increase in corn, like the one that just took place, adds about US7 cents to the cost per pound of chicken meat. And as the margins are tiny, so prices of chicken have to rise unless there is a serious recession.]

Then there is the issue of time frame. The USDA expects further rises in prices, and it is predicting that global corn trade will be sharply lower this month “in response to tighter US supplies and higher prices” reports the BBC. So minister, if “this month” is “long term”, what is “short-term”? Ten minutes? 

But this downplaying of inflation and the misuse of the term “long term” is not all.

But a sustained price hike for the grains, which are used for animal feed, he said, may raise commodity prices in the long term.

So after always being tot to think long-term, and with the government always praising itself that it takes the long-term, strategic view, and taz why we should always vote for the PAP, we are now told to think short-term? 

Whatever happened to thinking and planning long-term? Retired juz like one LKY?

And why is the media not pointing out and commenting the change in govmin thinking? Are they waiting for approval?

Could minister and media been trying hard to avoid spoiling the national mood ahead of 9th August?

Or waz it all, “An honest mistake?” Or is this Lee trying to ape Tharman and Hng Kiang as a standup comic?

Or, as is most likely, could the government PR and corporate communications machine still be in the pre-internet age when real-time information was expensive and limited to traders in financial institutions? Then media releases, and ministerial statements and Q&As could be crafted days or weeks ahead of time, with each officer in the pyramid making changes until the final draft reached the minister. Now when communicating to any audience, ministers and their minions must be aware that real-time info is available at a touch of the screen.

(Links on inflation

Inflation has accelerated, fueled by rising housing and private transportation costs … The monetary authority last month estimated consumer-price gains will average 4 percent to 4.5 percent this year, compared with the 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent range it forecast previously.

DBS says S’pore facing stagflation with one of highest inflation rates in region.


*OK, OK I exaggerate but only a little.

India following S’pore, rewarding failure

In India, Political governance on 12/08/2012 at 6:23 am

New finance minister in India. Previous one became president. What a country. Mismanaged the country’s finances (high inflation, falling foreign direct investment, retrospective taxes etc) but moved onto the highest post in the land.

Bit like S’pore? Tony Tan as executive director of GIC presided over purchase of “two 30-yr” investments (UBS and Citi) that tanked within months of purchase. He became president.

Seriously, the actions of new Indian finance minister is gd news for stale Indian bulls like self.

Err Tharman for president? We could do with a finance minister given our problems with inflation:

— Inflation has accelerated, fueled by rising housing and private transportation costs … The monetary authority last month estimated consumer-price gains will average 4 percent to 4.5 percent this year, compared with the 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent range it forecast previously.

— DBS says S’pore facing stagflation with one of highest inflation rates in region

How to detect lying executives

In Financial competency on 11/08/2012 at 9:08 am

Value investors must read this.

Apple: US$117 billion to spend

In Uncategorized on 11/08/2012 at 6:01 am

So what can it buy? It can even buy Sprint, a US telco: only US$13.6bn. This list explains why a buy would be a inreresting idea at integrating the Apple experience,which is so impt for Apple’s profits.

The funny thing is that even if it buys everything on the list (Twitter, RIM, maker of Blackberry, are on the list suggested), it still has US$20bn in spare cash.

Vietnam: Desperately seeking stock investors

In Vietnam on 10/08/2012 at 6:51 am

Vietnam plans to ease rules on equity trading and accelerate initial public offerings (IPOs) of state-owned companies this year to attract investors to a market that’s valued almost 15 times less than Singapore’s.

The State Securities Commission is preparing to cut the minimum holding period for stocks, Nguyen Doan Hung, vice chairman of the commission, said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg on Aug 2. The regulator is also considering widening stock trading bands and starting an online auction system to boost volumes and speed up sales, he said, without specifying when the measures may be started. . The value of stocks changing hands on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange dropped 40% from June. Vietnamese companies only raised about US$10 million from IPOs in the first half of this year. Peanuts.

Vietnamese stocks are valued at about US$37 billion, compared with around US$552 billion in Singapore, South-east Asia’s largest market, even after the benchmark VN Index jumped 19%  this year

Indon growth exceeds expectations

In Indonesia on 10/08/2012 at 5:33 am

Indonesia’s economy expanded more than expected in the second quarter as domestic consumption helped offset a decline in demand for exports.

Trumplets pls. Few days I wrote

But Indonesia has a few things going for it:

— two major exports are recession-proof

    — lower cost producer of thermal coal and closer to China (tpt costs lower) than Oz means there will still be demand for its coal; and

    — palm oil cooking oil is the cheapest cooking oil;

— cheap labour attracting the likes of Foxcomm;

— last yr’s floods in Thailand are prompting MNC manufacturers to a “Thailand + one” strategy; and

— consumption now accounts for two-thirds of gross domestic product in Indonesia.

Is PAPpie Ong Ye Kung behaving like a bad Goldie investment banker?

In Corporate governance on 09/08/2012 at 6:16 am

So SMRT bus drivers have given a tight slap to their union chief* and  NTUC’s deputy secretary-general, who is also a board member of SMRT Corporation, Ong Ye Kung. He also happens to be part of the PAP GRC team that lost Aljunied. He had told them that working six days a week is a fairly standard arrangement, and insisted that with the increase in basic pay, their salaries will be higher, compared with what they had earned in a five-day work week plus an additional day with overtime pay**.

They have complained to his NTUC boss, a cabinet minister.

He is lucky he is not in the US, and not an investment banker. A few months ago, a judge’s ruling made Goldman Sachs potentially liable for some pretty serious damages if shareholders of a company wanted to sue it (Some are). Anyway, the ruling was another hole below the hull in Goldmans fast sinking reputation.

Goldman was on every conceivable side of a deal involving the sale of El Paso. As a result, El Paso may have unwittingly sold itself far too cheaply. Goldman was inherently conflicted because it represented El Paso for part of the time in the sale negotiations with Kinder Morgan, the buyer, and advised El Paso on a possible spinoff of its pipeline business. But Goldman’s private equity arm also owns 19.1% of Kinder Morgan and has two appointees on Kinder Morgan’s board. For more details see links below.

Sounds a bit like Ong’s position. He is everywhere in the proposed pay deal: union leader of the drivers, negotiating for drivers, leader of the constructive, nation-building NTUC, SMRT director, and who knows where else.

No wonder, the drivers don’t trust his judgment.

And then there is a big question mark on his character. His dad, now deceased, was a fierce opponent of the PAP. So fierce, that he was detained under ISA. Yet he joined the NTUC, a training ground for Sith Lords. And became a PAPpie after dad died, standing in Aljunied GRC and helped create history by being part of George Yeo’s losing team: first PAP, and combine ministerial and NTUC team (two cabinet ministers and one jnr minister and two NTUC leaders) to lose a GRC.

Links mentioned above


*The executive secretary of the National Transport Workers’ Union.

**To be fair to him, it sounds like a gd deal. But I defer to the judgement of those affected. I’m no elitist even though I’m from RI. I even once won a prize for academic excellence.

Kee Chui misreps our views on FT gladiators

In Media, Political governance on 09/08/2012 at 5:15 am

(Or “We don’t like cheating or cheaters”)

But first things first. It’s National Day and let’s celebrate it even if the PAPpies insist on trying to confuse us that the PAP is S’pore and S’pore is the PAP. Reclaim the Crescent and Stars. We can be proud to be S’poreans without subscribing to the Gospel of Harry.

Now back to Kee Chui and his misrepresentations

“Let’s not just look at where people come from. It’s not just where people come from that we should be concerned with, it’s also what they’ve done for the country,” said Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Chan Chun Sing, commenting on public criticisms at the “buying” of Olympic medals by the use of foreign-born sportsmen.

S’poreans who criticise the use of FT gladiators to win medals are doing so largely because they do not believe that national sporting glory should be bought by using “instant citizens”, the way the Parks Division plants “instant” trees.  

We would view things differently if our talent scouts brought in kids from overseas, and these kids are nurtured into champions here, and then later overseas. Our wimmin ping-pong team became S’poreans when they were already mother hens, not chicks. And it is rumoured that even their toilet cleaner had to be imported from China (OK, OK, I made that one up).

The critics of this FT gladiator policy are not uniquely S’porean.

A lady who writes regularly on British affairs and who is an advocate of a more liberal immigration policy, a controversial issue there too, writes: To come in late in the day with imported talent and claim they are British success stories isn’t about being open to migrants. It’s just cheating. Nobody watching will be fooled. If they get medals, we’ll feel a little embarrassed. Whether it’s swimming or anything else, let’s have a sporting culture strong enough for us to know, when we win, that it’s a real, homegrown achievement, not a fiddle. Otherwise, frankly, I’d rather we lost.

Taz my view, and I know the view of many of my fellow citizens. We have nothing against these FT gladiators who fight for S’pore, and I’m sure many of those who don’t think much of the FT gladiators policy, honour these women as Olympians. My only exception is that lady who attacked the German table tennis federation after she lost her match.

Want us to agree with the government on the use of FT gladiators? Switch  from the emphasis on national pride and glory to the monetary benefits of sponsoring these gladiators. Show us the cost benefit analysis

If the numbers stack up, I’m sure I and my others would have no problem with S’pore sponsoring them: bit like Nike sponsoring athletes.

Finally on an unrelated topic, did you know that a M’sian Chinese air condition repairman can be a PR? ST revealed this yesterday. Add him to slutty looking, violent cheating shop assistants, and hawkers who became PRs from PRC.

Selling an insurance biz is not easy

In Insurance on 08/08/2012 at 6:16 am

In fact sounds harder than flogging life insurance. ING’s attempts is case in point.

ING may break up its Asian life insurance operations and is holding talks with buyers interested in the business in different countries.

The company is currently in discussions with Manulife Financial and AIA Group Ltd or the Southeast Asian operations, and with both firms as well as KB Financial Group Inc for those in South Korea.

ING is also in talks with a consortium led by Mark Wilson, the former head of AIA. Backed by Blackstone and Swiss Re. Wilson bid for the entire Asia business. m Richard Li, son of Hong Kong’s richest man, bid for ING’s operations in Southeast Asia and Japan.

Two private equity funds have bid for the Japanese operations.

Meanwhile UOB, among many others, are interested in ING’s fund mgt unit.

Peril of being at the cutting edge of high tech, high frequency trading

In Financial competency, Infrastructure on 08/08/2012 at 6:08 am

Trading algorithms are potential weapons of mass destruction: here they blew up their creator.

And here is SGX trying to encourage more of this type of trading here, which incidentally affects adversely (even if nothing goes wrong) other players esp retail investors. And meanwhile SGX is using SIAS to get heartlanders to play in the casino. I was present when Dr Goh Keng Swee called the stock market a casino.

SIGH! Our FT coaches have no brains

In Humour on 07/08/2012 at 6:24 am

Juz read ST’s report on how China’s C team lost to Japan. Looks like it was the fault of the PRC coaches’ failure to anticpate the Japanese switch of players in a doubles game.

They are a disgrace to PRC. Mao will not be happy. Did he defeat the Japanese only to lose to them in China’s national game.

StanChart in v.v. serious trouble

In Corporate governance, Temasek on 07/08/2012 at 5:51 am

Opps spoke to soon abt StanChart According to the FT, it could lose its NY licence. Price fell 6% on the news. Wonder if our MSM will report this?

Standard Chartered Accused of Hiding Iranian Transfers Calling the British bank a “rogue institution,” New York State’s financial regulator has accused Standard Chartered of enabling Iranian businesses to hide illegally more than $250 billion in transactions, Jessica Silver-Greenberg reports.

Show the cost benefit analysis of sponsoring FT Olympians

In Uncategorized on 07/08/2012 at 5:43 am

The government and the constructive, nation-building media, and the inhabitants of “cowboy towns” are engaged in a dialogue of the deaf.

The government and the media are shouting at S’poreans to be proud of our PRC FT gladiators who win Olympic medals. “It’s for S’pore” the govmin and media shout. I’m waiting for one Goh Chok Tong to come out to say that those of us who are not proud of our FT Olympians are unpatriotic, and are not real S’poreans, unlike the PRC gladiators who are the true blue S’poreans.

 (BTW PM, BG Tan: OK to spit, stone and despise those like our PRC men gladiators or Tao Li who don’t win medals?)

Netizens are screaming that the medals these instant citizens win are worthless; like many of the FTs allowed in by the cattle truck load.

Well the conversation is getting boring.

So here’s my solution to get some civilty and rationality. A solution that is in keeping with our uniquely S’porean tradition of trying to put a monetary value on everything — even the value of being a citizen.

Netizens and the government should think of S’pore as the equivalent of a Nike or Adidas who regularly sponsor athletes.  They do a cost-benefit analysis to see whether they should sponsor someone, and then regularly monitor and update the analysis to see if the sponsorship should continue. If the athlete does not add value to the brand, either by helping sell more goods, or by bringing in additional intangible goodwill (yes, this is measured in $ terms by corporate sponsors), the person gets dropped, or the fees get reduced.

So show us the cost-benefit analysis to justify why money spent on FT gladiators is worth it. If it can be done for F1, why not for FT gladiators. Be prepared to monetarise the intangibles. Don’t be like one VivianB who overspent by three times the original budget on the Kiddie Games while being mean and insulting to the poor*: didn’t get any return did we? Also show us the assumptions used and make sure the assumptions can stand scrutiny: don’t be like Tharman and his jokes on inflation,  GST and owning a flat on a salary less than S$1000 a month.

The PM talks of having a more open, inclusive society.

Let’s have a proper debate on whether the FT gladiators add value to S’pore. After all, realising the data will not affect national security.

Somehow I think the government prefers to shout us down.

Far East Reit refuses to increase yield

In Property, Reits, Uncategorized on 06/08/2012 at 6:30 am

Here I prophesised that Far East Reit would be forced to increase the expected yield on its trust from a niggardly 6-6.5%.

Well Morocco Mole (sidekick to Secret Squirrel) tells me that the Reit, which owns hotels and serviced residences in Singapore has not changed its pricing, despite CDL’s yield of 6ish% and Ascendas Hos of almost 8%.

So don’t subscribe if you are hoping for a pop in the price on listing day. CDL looks a better yield play. Got public track record.

Related post:

Yikes! Prosperity Gospel works!

In Corporate governance on 06/08/2012 at 5:49 am

(Or “Gd PR for Kong’s message that donors’ wealth multiply will manifold” or “Other people’s money: taz the Prosperity Gospel’s message”)

When I read that Kong Hee ‘s fellow defendants had all engaged Senior Counsels to defend them*, I tot, “Where get money leh?” A SC is not cheap. In a recently concluded case, the SC’s fees (including that of his team of junior lawyers), I know, amounted to over S$1m. And it was rumoured that Susan Lim, the surgeon, sold her Sentosa Cove bungalow for over S$30m, partly to fund her ongoing case that the medical authorities took out against her.

So I expected the question of whether the City Harvest Church  was funding the defence to be raised by netizens or the MSM, and if the CHC was funding their defence, how come the Commissioner of Charities allowed it?

Or, I tot, maybe CHC had the foresight (thanks to the God its members worhip?) to have bought a “water-tight” insurance policy that covered its managers legal liabilities? Bit like indemnity policies that doctors, lawyers, accountants, company directors etc take out, except a lot more generous.

Then CHC announced that it was not funding the defence. And there was no mention of an insurance policy.

I then tot, “Wah maybe Auntie Sun’s hubbie’s and CHC’s message that donations to the church would cause donors personal wealth to multiply manifold, is true?”

After all, his co-defendants were at best middle management level professionals earning at best decent salaries, so how can afford SCs? They were not like Kong and Auntie Sun who were entrepreneurs: they spotted a gap in the market that other Christian churches were not exploiting, and went for it. The result: a Sentosa Cove penthouse for Kong Hee, and a rented Hollywood mansion a singing career for Auntie (even then she got other people’s money to fund her fantasies). .

Well turns out that Kong Hee’s friends (and him) are “blessed” by their God. According to a  ST report on Saturday, members are rushing to fund the defence of them and Kong. As it’s not via the church, it’s legal. Maybe when the dust clears over the criminal charges, the members should fund Auntie’s Hollywood lifestyle and her singing career Crossover Project direct? But then all the details of all her expenses might become public.   

In “high finance”, a central premise is that the ability to mobilise funds or in the jargon “using other people’s money” is the best indicator of one’s success as a deal maker, and vof one’s influence. By that criteria, Kong and friends are very, very succesful. They can mobilise other people’s money for their own ends. QED: “Prosperity” gospel works.

S’porean Chinese who worship money: forget about going to the Middle Road Quan Yin temple or its branch at Tembling Rd or any other temple famous for rewarding devotees. Juz attend CHC, and make a mega donation.

Leave the rest to the God of the Prosperity Gospel.


*While Kong did not engage a SC, his lawyer charges about the same rates as a typical SC, if not more.

Africa’s next megacity wants to be like S’pore

In Africa, Humour, Political governance on 05/08/2012 at 6:15 am

Eat yr hearts out, and bang yr balls in frustration, KennethJ, EJay, Goh Meng Seng and other S’porean critics who hate all things PAP even when they work and are to the benefit of S’poreans: an African wants to model his hometown on S’pore (the S’pore before Raymond Lim and Mah Bow Tan messed up throughly its infrastructure; and the S’pore before the PAP let in the FTs in by the cattle truck load to overrun the likes of SGX, DBS, SMRT, and Geylang.)

Nimrod Mushi is a lecturer at Ardhi university, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and is one of the experts commissioned by the government to produce a “master plan” to overhaul the city’s infrastructure. Singapore is his role model, and he favours big projects to clear slums and build bridges, roads and out-of-town settlements.

“When we went to Singapore, we could see their satellite towns, their ring-roads, their skyscrapers and their decentralised services, and it’s working very nicely there,” he says.

Where’s the cheers for Temasek?

In Temasek on 04/08/2012 at 3:20 pm

It got 19% of StanChart in its portfolio.

Bucking the industry trend of weak earnings, the British bank Standard Chartered reported on Wednesday that its net income rose 11.3 percent in the first half of the year on strength in Asia and other emerging markets.

While many of its peers, like Deutsche Bank and Barclays, are scaling back their operations after the global financial crisis, Standard Chartered said it planned to increase its presence in Asia, Africa and the Middle East …

… said that it would open more branches in countries with fast-growing economies, like China and India, and that it was looking to exploit the decrease in its competitors’ trading activity.

Wonder if Bank of S’pore provides this kind of service?

In Banks on 04/08/2012 at 7:15 am

Or if DBS’s and UOB’s private banks are even trying?

Coutts recalls a story when a client dropped his wallet over the side of his yacht. One satellite-phone call later and the bank couriered out cards and cash to the next port he was going to. Then there was the diabetic client who got straight off an aircraft and into back-to-back meetings. When he finally checked into his hotel, there was nothing on the menu he could eat, so he called his bank – obviously – which duly sent a taxi there, complete with restaurant recommendations.

Private banks even send their clients’ children on boot camps for offspring of the ultra-rich. AH Loder Advisers has an annual dog sled expedition across the Arctic. While billed as leadership training, these trips are as much about ensuring the children stay with the bank when they inherit.

F&N/ APB: Slightly better terms

In Corporate governance on 03/08/2012 at 6:02 am

Secret Squirrel tells me that the F&N Board would recommend a marginally improved offer by Heineken for F&N’s share of APB. Given that Heineken already has more than 51% of APB, no one would bid against it. So if F&N rejected the offer, and the Dutch walked away, ang moh fund mgrs would be howling in pain and anger, rightly so.

Now let’s see if ThaiBev can block the bid via its stake in 24.1% in F&N. Or will it try to make a deal with the Dutch in exchange for supporting the deal. Kirin, with 15%, will be talking to F&N, to see if can gain shumething for supporting the deal.

Kirin and Coca-Cola interested in F&N’s soft drinks biz which has bigger market share in S’pore and M’sia than Coca-Cola’s: 26% versus 13%. Grewing faster too 10% average growth versus 5% in last five yrs.

F&N on its way to be a property co. Think it will have problems.

FT she-gladiator shames us; SPH papers & STTA shamefully silent

In Uncategorized on 02/08/2012 at 2:00 pm

But first things first: Congrats Feng Tian Wei for winning an Olympic bronze medal. You’ve joined a elite club. Gd for you.

Now to the rant of the day.

Our FT gladiators are supposed to bring glory to S’pore. Err thaz the theory.

PRC FT ping-pong player Wang Yuegu bitched about the umpire and his selection after her quarter-final defeat in the women’s singles competition on Tuesday. Unless Wang Yuegu can substantiate her allegations about the Germans trying to “fix” her , she has tarnished S’pore’s reputation, more so since “there were hardly any umpiring decisions made against her”: in point of fact there was only one. Details below*

She shamed us several times over. She was undignified in defeat, not for the first time**. What will people think we are? Nothing more than Chinese peasants, without manners?

There’s something more important. We native S’poreans have over many decades built a reputation as people whose words have to be taken seriously because we do not say things that are unreasonable, or which we cannot substantiate or prove.

One LKY set the standard. Pre the collapse of the USSR, his geo-political analyses were taken serious by the likes of Dr Kissinger. He also sued people who defamed him, daring them to provide the basis of their defamation. They never could.

So while Wang is a team silver medalist in the 2008 Olympics and in the last world ping-pong championship, her behaviour shames us. The medals she won are not worth the stain on our national reputation.

Even her personal groveling and that of the entire ping-pong association (headed by another uncouth and undignified FT, a PAP female MP) will not remove the stain.

To their credit, our constructive, nation-building media did not suppress news of this disgraceful behaviour by an FT.  But I note that the behaviour of the said FT was not condemned by the publications belonging to SPH***, or the association. If it had been the sport of us native S’poreans, footie, I’m sure ST and FAS officials would have howled their disapproval. And ministers would have joined in.

I hope the silence is only due to the hope of another team silver ping-pong silver model, and not because FTs have to be treated like “gods”.


*Moments after her 4-1 defeat to Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa at London’s ExCel Arena, Wang stunned the Singapore media when she hit out at the appointment of German Claudia Moller as the umpire for their match.

“As soon as I saw I had a German umpire, I knew I was going to lose points,” said the 31-year-old, who is ranked world No 11, and who could be competing in her last Olympics.

“My husband is German, and I have a private problem with them. Someone from their team is abusing their relationship with officials and has arranged for me to have a German umpire.

“They’re abusing their power and I can’t respect that.

“Today, I feel fine personally about the match, but I feel bad for the sport and bad for the Olympic Games that this is allowed to happen.”

This despite Today reporting  “there were hardly any umpiring decisions made against her during her clash with Ishikawa yesterday, it is unclear what the real reasons are behind her surprise and unusual outburst … Wang could not be contacted later to further explain her verbal lashing.

When approached after the incident, table tennis team manager Loy Soo Han declined comment. Likewise, Singapore Table Tennis Association Chief Executive Officer Wong Hui Leng did not want to speak on the matter”.- TODAY

**However, at the World Championship in Dortmund, Germany, in March this year, Wang was shown the red card for protesting a series of dubious service calls by German umpire Klaus Seipold and Kosovo’s Jeton Beqiri during Singapore’s 3-0 win over Taiwan in a Group B match.

She initially refused to leave, and women’s team coach Zhou Shusen and assistant coach Jing Junhong were also involved in the incident.

Afterwards, the Singapore team were also given a formal warning by the tournament organisers on their conduct.

***Three cheers for Today which had words for her and STTA, pointing out that her outburst was an attack on the German table tennis federation, and yet STTA remained silent. Another reason that S’pore is shamed by the FT and her FT-loving PAP leader.


Thailand & Philippines hip: Indonesia is history

In Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 02/08/2012 at 5:53 am

But Indonesia has a few things going for it:

— two major exports are recession-proof

    — lower cost producer of thermal coal and closer to China (tpt costs lower) than Oz means there will still be demand for its coal; and

    — palm oil cooking oil is the cheapest cooking oil;

— cheap labour attracting the likes of Foxcomm;

— last yr’s floods in Thailand are prompting MNC manufacturers to a “Thailand + one” strategy; and

— consumption now accounts for two-thirds of gross domestic product in Indonesia.

Malaysia is one of the most vulnerable Asian economies should a “perfect storm” of a disorderly debt default in Europe, a slowdown in China and the United States and rising tensions in the Middle East materialise, Roubini Global Economics said in a recent report.

The research firm, which predicted the 2008 global financial crisis, said Malaysia had the highest exposure to a pullout of capital as its euro zone and US bank claims amount to more than 25% of GDP.

The report said Malaysia was among the lowest ranked in terms of monetary and fiscal capacity to respond to a crisis, coming in ahead of only Thailand, Japan and Indonesia.

“Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam appear to be the most exposed to a perfect storm through their trade and financial linkages, while South Korea, Australia, Vietnam and the Philippines … have the most policy space to offset such an external shock.”

Scoring PM 14 months on

In Political governance on 01/08/2012 at 5:45 am

This piece is in response to PM’s cabinet changes 14 months ago and to this on reasons for moving ministers around and out, someone commented, “How about getting a more decisive PM now? A new PM will be much more receptive to new ideas and fixing failed policies.”

Who knows? Will Teo Chee Hean, Tharman or Ng Eng Hen be any better? Could be, but only one of them has held a major economic portfolio for a decent period of time, and in recent months fumbled badly. Teo  is a “security” man and Ng is shaping up that way: surgeon turned security guard.

And in favour of giving our PM a bit more rope before condemning him, he has only been able to choose his own cabinet since May 2011: something Goh Chok Tong, never had, despite him being PM for over a decade. Even PM in his first term had to live with “legacy” ministers: his dad, and duds like GCT, Wong, and Mah.

Post 2011 GE, the PM has done the following to appease our righteous and reasonable anger:

— cut ministers’ salaries;

— accepted the “resignations” of underperforming ministers  (Wong, Mah and Lim);

— thrown money at the public transport and public housing infrastructures; and

— taken measures to control property prices.

He and his government has “talked the talk” of limiting FTs. But while there have been measures to curb the inflow of FTs, many S’poreans (self included) think it is all “wayang”. Even a government think-tank is sceptical about how long the measures will last. As I wrote: ‘the May issue of the ISEAS Monitor, ”[it] serves as an early warning of a possible relaxation of recently tightened immigration policies.” ISEAS is the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies , a think-tank that is a statutory board that needs government financing.’

His government has failed to control inflation: ministers can only make sick jokes about S’poreans who don’t rent homes, or buy cars not being affected.

And in the 1990s, he approved the diversification of the economy into making pills, saying it would help counterbalance the effects of the volatile electronics cycle. Hasn’t worked has it? The economy is even more volatile because pill-making while independent of the electronics cycle, is even more volatile. 

Despite these failures, he could still do good. ISEAS in the said issue points out that the public criticism of govt policy by professors Lim Chong Yah and Phua Kai Hong, respectively, on wages for the and the cost of  medical care for the elderly could

— change the character of public debate from a pro-government versus anti govt dynamic to “a more ‘substantive national conversation”;

– indicate “the rise of a non-partisan intelligentsia” that does not agree with the premises and assumptions of the government.

But then, he could be trying to do the S’pore version of “Let a 100 flowers blossom and hundred schools of thought contend”. The council on internet literacy could be the prequel to a “Night of the long knives”.