Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

No wonder S’pore’s productivity so low

In Humour on 30/09/2012 at 5:20 am

Did you notice that last Friday’s front page pix of our defence minister entering a helicopter had three S’porean military personnel pointing the way into the helicopter? Surely two too many?

Why the PAP needs new ideas

In Humour, Political governance on 29/09/2012 at 7:55 am

“We usually find gas in new places with old ideas. Sometimes, also, we find gas in an old place with a new idea, but we seldom find much gas in an old place with an old idea. Several times in the past we have thought that we were running out of gas, whereas actually we were only running out of ideas.”
Parke Dickey, geologist (1909–95), quoted in Encyclopaedia of Petroleum Science and Engineering

If the PAP wants to rule Singapore for another 50 years, it needs new ideas. Having NatCon isn’t going to help.

Time for a new idea?

Still got time as the “new idea” (for PAP at least) of bribing us with our own money, will keep it in charge until a few years after the next tax increase. PM’s dad had a good point when he didn’t think goodies made much of a difference in the long term. But PM would agree with Lord Keynes, “The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.”


An idea for the Bukit Browners

In Uncategorized on 29/09/2012 at 7:25 am

While surfing the internet, I came across these articles on how a city in England is using its graveyard as a wild life reserve.

There will be parts of Bukit Brown that remain untouched. What abt telling us what you want done to these areas.

Creative Indonesia: The gd and the ugly

In Indonesia on 28/09/2012 at 6:32 am

Batik entrepreneur and designer

Comic book writers

The ugly side of creativity

Talk big, do nothing. Nothing heard since 2010.

And this

What a country of contrasts. Taz why I’m cowardly bullish.

S’poreans urged to keep “open mind”: Err what abt PM and other senior PAPpies?

In Political governance on 28/09/2012 at 6:05 am

Singapore’s Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin has urged Singaporeans to keep an open mind as the country engages in a national conversation about its future. This appeared last Monday.

Given the storm in a tea cup over the Catholic Archbishop of S’pore’s withdrawal of a letter to Function 8 that did not correctly express his views on detention without trial (if so why send it ArchieB?), PM’s assertion at a NatCon dialogue* (despite , and after, the closeness of a poll decrying single motherhood), that mums shld only breed if they are married, the previous week, and Lawrence Wong and  Sim Ann  who “demonised”** critics as anti-PAP, the former, and “spew[ers of] hate and prejudice against individuals or groups”, the latter: I couldn’t help but recall several verses from the gospels of Matthew and Luke:

(Note “mote” means “a particle of wood or chaff” i.e. it’s very, very tiny) 

— And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

— And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

— Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

The PM’s dismissive attitude to the poll, and Wong’s and Sim Ann’s attempts to demonise critics is good evidence that the PAP hasn’t changed its mind on all but one of its Hard Truths. The only Hard Truth that has it revised is that it is no longer mean about spending our money on making life more comfortable for ourselves.

Or are PM, Sim Ann and Lawrence Wong mindlessly reciting from the PAP’s now obsolete SOP manual, rather than thinking for themselves.


*Thinking about it, MediaCorp’s decision to have so many PAPpy zombies and other “running dogs” makes sense. I mean if there were less of them, the vote on single mums breeding for S’pore could have gone in favour of them breeding. Then PM would have very serious PR issues, no matter what he said.

**OK, OK I exaggerate but juz a little.

Relax LionsXII

In Footie on 27/09/2012 at 5:52 am

You did well keeping other side to two goals, and to scoring an away goal.

So don’t let the pressure get to you. Juz go out on 2 October and show the FT loving FAS and its Serbian coaching staff that S’poreans don’t need FTs to teach us to play footie!

Education: England learning from S’pore

In Political governance on 26/09/2012 at 1:15 pm

Aimdst all the angst (a foreign publication’s take) about our educational system (tuition, PSLE exams etc), pause and reflect please especially netizens.

In England, reforms are underway so that

— Slower learners will try to pass the new exam a year or two later than their peers (like our 5 yr  O levels and 3 yr A levels, while

— “using the best performers in international tables as a guide (expect things to look a lot more Singaporean in the next few years)”.

And the Philippines is looking to S’pore for inspiration utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed&WSJASIA_article_outbrain=&obref=obinsite

What say you haters of all things PAP: KennethJ, GMS, Dr Chee and groupies, TOC*, xmen and various bloggers? Bang yr balls in frustration. Stop living in an echo-chamber.

The policies of the governing PAP are not all bad. And S’poreans know this.

*I exclude TRE because it is very clear that its mission is to counterbalance the constructive, nation-building local media. Juz like them, it makes no pretensions of being objective.

Another “best” analysis from a govt funded think-tank

In Political governance on 26/09/2012 at 5:25 am

ISEAS is technically a stat board (and it receives regular govt funding), so one would have tot it would produce Institute of Policy Studies/ ST kind of constructive, nation-building BS analysis. But it has again surprised* with this from its latest ASEAN Monitor (a quaterly publication). Power to ISEAS’ academics and staff. IPS should learn from it on how to avoid writing rubbish that does it no gd.

Very few countries are as self-conscious as Singapore. This is true for image as well as policymaking. The education minister and former economist, Heng Swee Kiat, has been tasked by the Prime Minister to lead a committee of younger ministers to review policies across the board, ostensibly to better prepare the country for the next 20 years. The challenge would be to enthuse the general public who may have come accustomed to such ‘re-thinking committees’ which have, over the years, included the Economic Review Committee (2001) and the Remaking Singapore Committee (2002).

A potentially divisive issue brewing is the ruling by the Court of Appeal to allow a legal challenge to 377A of the penal code which criminalises sex between men. In 2010, Tan Eng Hoon was arrested and charged under Section 377A for engaging in oral sex in a shopping mall toilet. Tan, represented by human rights lawyer M Ravi, applied to the High Court to declare Section 377A unconstitutional because it violates Article 12 of the Constitution which guarantees equal protection and treatment under the law; an application the High Court subsequently turned down.

The Court of Appeal has, however, overruled the High Court, and decided that there are sufficient grounds on which 377A may be legally challenged. The legality of homosexual acts is an emotive one given the significant Christian and Muslim communities. Observers may recall the highly, not to mention religiously, charged parliamentary debates over 377A five years ago and conclude that old wounds may soon be scratched open.

Finally, after years of campaigning from local activists, the government announced that the death penalty would no longer be mandatory for certain drug trafficking cases. If the courts are satisfied that the drug trafficker was not involved in drug distribution activities, cooperated substantially with the authorities or suffers from amental disability, the judge may exercise discretion. This qualified concession, nevertheless, represents a small victory for activists who will be encouraged to further press for the abolishment of the death penalty. Their growing momentum may soon see signs of a conflict between progressive and conservative forces shaping up within the country.

Key points: The country is becoming increasingly polarised over a vast variety of issues from politics to morality. Expect more frequent debate and confrontation, not necessarily always playing out in the mainstream media.


*Other posts containing ISEAS’ analysis on S’pore

Indonesia: Even friends get screwed

In Corporate governance, Indonesia on 25/09/2012 at 6:21 pm

Samin Tan, an Indonesian entrepreneur who bought 23.8% of Bumi Plc at almost £11 pound a share from the Bakries last year after the family was unable to top up a loan guaranteed by Bumi Plc shares. He now has 29% and is executive chairman but yesterday the shares fell a further 25% and closed eventually at 148p. But the Bakries still control PT Bumi where the alleged irregularities occur.

A Bakrie is the chairman of the Golkar party (part of the ruling coalition) and is a presidential candidate in next year’s Indon election.
God what a country and what a family.
More on the family . Updated on 26 Sept at 8.16am.

Talking cock Kadir, Hariss?

In Uncategorized on 25/09/2012 at 6:23 am

Waz this rubbish abt wanting to attack when playing away?

“Strikers win games, defenders win trophies,” said a great Arsenal manager who won the double when it meant something.

Hope that these LionsXII guys are playing mind games, not being talk cock artists.

Another interesting Cramer tactic

In Financial competency on 25/09/2012 at 5:04 am

Monitoring stocks that make new highs, then pull back. Then buy BUT he advises doing homework on why it shouldn’t fall further.

How Microsoft avoids US taxes using S’pore

In Uncategorized on 24/09/2012 at 5:10 am

The US started kicking the Swiss banks in the head over US citizens evading US taxes via Swiss banks.  Will the US “tighten the screws” on the likes of MS, and will S’pore get caught in the row? Watch and wait.

The hearing featured a case study involving Microsoft’s shifting of IP rights for software developed in America, and the earnings that flow from them, to divisions in lower-tax Puerto Rico, Ireland and Singapore. One witness, Professor Stephen Shay of Harvard Law School, pointed out that in 2011 these three units enjoyed an average effective tax rate of just 4% and managed to book $15.4 billion of pre-tax profit—55% of Microsoft’s worldwide total. Their 1,914 employees generated an eyebrow-raising $8m of profit each, compared with $312,000 each for the 88,000 working in the rest of Microsoft. Whether or not this apportionment of profits complies with transfer-pricing rules, it is “not consistent with a commonsense understanding of where the locus of Microsoft’s economic activity…is occurring,” said Mr Shay. The claim that fair transfer prices were paid is “just not credible given the bottom-line outcome,” he added.

In 2011, the Senate investigators asserted, Microsoft’s parent company was paid $4 billion by Ireland and Singapore for rights that the two subsidiaries used to generate three times that amount in royalty payments from other bits of the group …  A Microsoft man who was grilled at the hearing said the staffers’ sums ignored hefty, regular “buy-in” payments that the foreign subsidiaries have to make to the parent.

“Is WP living up to expectations?” “Yes” says JG

In Political governance on 24/09/2012 at 5:04 am

Below is a longish piece from a reader, JG, defending the WP’s actions (or is it inactions?): it worked in the past and will work in the future. Pls read it. It has some gd points.

My contention is that what worked in the past, may not work in the future. From 1991 till 2006, Low was alone most of the time (and JBJ wasn’t much of a help in parly or out of it). From 2006 to 2011, he had Tonto, aka Sylvia Lim. But now there is a team of five MPs and two NCMPs.

Expectations are different. The WP has to manage expectations, or live up to them. Or do both. It cannot continue doing things the old way. It must also communicate more. Pre-new media, it could get away with silence because the constructive, nation-building media dominated the info flow. And S’poreans knew it.

But now things are different. Yet while SDP is using the new media to put across its messages (free from MSM distortion), the WP is not using new media much. The initial stone-walling over Stag Yaw showed the WP up. Effective communications should have it saying, “We need some time to investigate the allegations”: not “Allegations? What allegations?”. 

I had promised to do a list of things WP did not do. I now won’t because between above, and below,  the criticisms of WP have been covered. I hope, in the future, JG will give me her take on the following “Not First World” WP parly practice:

— WP voting for PAP’s budget after criticising it.

— Keeping quiet on public tpt nationalisation despite it being a manifesto promise and despite the failure of the rojak system that the govt defends. It is so succesful that the government has to subsidise the bus system to a tune of $1.1bn.

— Tweaking its position on ministerial salaries contrary to manifesto.


“Is WP living up to expectations?”

If you read Temasek Times, its 100% no (“wayang party”). And everything is derived from 1 single sentence that Pritam once uttered : If PAP loses majority one day, we WP will work with them to form a coalition govt. One single sentence from one MP – and the entire party is disqualified. Can anyone find one single sentence from one MP from PAP which you strongly disagree with (eg: “repent”? “grow more spurs”?) for which you will also disqualify the entire party of 81 MPs? So Temasek Times is an extreme case. They, and probably some netizens too, prefer the “fire brand” type opposition that CSJ or SDP seems to offer. So if you’re not the fire-brand type, you’re not “effective”.

[Actually JG, it’s more than one sentence. Remember Show Mao’s Tang Dynasty allusion? Came across to some of us that he saw WP as at best as assistant to the PAP government: juz as official accepted his status vis-a-vis the emperor in the imperial system. And Low had often come across as accepting the hegemony of the PAP. But that could simply be his acceptance of the reality on the ground between 1991 and 2011. He is no idealist and rabble-rouser like the late Saint JBJ.]

But what you’re pointing out is a more moderate opinion that I’m also hearing from other sources – the WP are just not speaking up on issues of importance.

I’m not here to defend them. But everyone will have different expectations of WP. Some supporters of Obama are disappointed that he hasn’t rescued the world in 4 years, some are not so disappointed. In general, the higher one’s expectations, arguably the bigger the disappointment.

My personal expectation wasn’t high in the first place.

Before 2011 GE, when LTK was MP and Slyvia Lim was NCMP, you can already see the “style” in which they are comfortable in. At critical junctures, they will speak up. I still remember vividly how LTK berated WKS over the Mas Selamat screwup, and Slyvia berated the Ministers of having no shame for their pay. But they do not speak up on every issue. And many of their speeches are not memorable, they are basically not orators. They are more “ground people”. Personal touch, work the ground, take care of bread and butter issue and preferably in a low key fashion. In fact, if you ask LTK, I guess that he will say to him, the relative importance of ground work vs rhetoric is maybe 80 : 20. I sometimes think netizens weigh it the other way around.

So post-2011 GE, this was the tone adopted by WP team. So one part of “have they lived up to expectations” must surely be weighed in terms of whether they’ve met the expectations of people on the ground in Aljunied. Their bread and butter issues, their constituency issues. Running a Town Council is not rocket science and I think that in general, if you’ve got an experienced team (from Hougang) and you don’t screw up, you should be OK.

That said, I also think that many netizens do not bother to find out, or read up on, issues raised by the WP in Parliament. Not having made a combative speech, doesn’t mean not having raised an issue. When good points are made, they are also not necessarily covered in the ST, perhaps deliberately so.

But again, at critical junctures, they do speak up. The recent memorable ones are Sylvia raising the Woffles Wu issue, Gerald calling out the PAP for labelling Singaporeans dissatisfaction with the Govt’s immigration policy as “xenophobia” (and provoking a stupid response from Sim Ann) and Yeoh JJ speaking out on unfair subsidies by the Govt to PAP Kindergarten and NTUC in the private pre-school market.

Are they the best debaters? No. Could Sylvia have handled the cut-and-thrust of the debate with Shanmugam better? Yes and she didn’t. So maybe she scored say 6 out of 10? But that’s Sylvia. No different from the Sylvia of NCMP days. Its easy for netizens to, on hindsight and out of the line of fire, come up with more robust responses. But just take a look at the recent PM Lee tea-party with bloggers – when PM asked whether anonymity is supportable, look at the weak responses the bloggers give. Even seasoned bloggers like Andrew Loh literally “peed on their pants” when confronted with unexpected questions at the spur of the moment. I’m sure if you ask Sylvia to respond the next day, she will probably come up with a better answer. Just like all bloggers did, when they commented on the anonymity issue the next day.

My point then is this – It takes time to build up a credible opposition team. Its one thing to have only 1 or 2 opposition members, its another to have 8 or so members and quite another to have or to want to have 20 or 30 members. With WP, you know (or should have known) from the start that they’re not a fire-and-brimstone type party and see it as much more important that you do not screw up publicly and you work the ground. We do need to give them time and of course, constructive criticism is needed too.

But have they met my initially low expectations – yes. I want more of them in, so that when it comes to critical decisions in the future, it will not be a guaranteed “law is passed” vote in Parliament.

 Below is a longer comment by the same said JG defending the WP’s actions (or is it inactions?). My point to JG is that what worked in the past, may not work. From 1991 till 2006, Low was alone most of the time (and JBJ wasn’t much of a help). From 2006 to 2011, he had Tonto, aka Sylvia Lim. But now there is a team of five MPs and two NCMPs. Expectations are different. The WP has to manage expectations, or live up to them. Or do both. It cannot continue doing things the old way.

Archie goofed? Saboed? Tea cup storm ensues with credit to no one

In Humour, Internet, Political governance on 23/09/2012 at 5:33 am

I must say the Archbishop has no brains. Otherwise why would he write the original letter. None of church’s biz who the state locks up without trial. And there is the back story of liberation theology and the 1987 “Marxists”. Why get involved? What was he thinking or not thinking? Was he on a high after communion, what with the wine and incense?

Or was he misled into signing the letter? Some liberation theology, Marxist subversive friend of Function 8 and the SDP could have slipped the letter in among other letters to be signed. If so church shld root out the subversive. Call in ISD if nec. Even so shows Archie was careless. And a bad judge of character. 

If anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about, read this summary:

And waz this other rubbish Archie?

[T]he Archbishop said his letter to the group was intended as a private communication.

He added if the the group was going to publicise it at a political event – something which he did not intend – then they should have asked for permission first.

The Archbishop said they did not do so.

So why withdraw the letter if it was private and could not be released? [B]ecause the contents did not accurately reflect his views.

So why so careless or stupid? Vatican should investigate his suitability to be the leader of S’pore Catholics.

But God is great, everyone else involved in F8Gate goofed.

Home Team did Archie no favours with its letter attacking Function 8. Sit down and shut up. [Update after publication: Gd link on whty it shld not have said anything]

And if it was unhappy with the original letter, juz get MFA to complain to the Vatican. Knowing the Pope’s views on liberation theology, Archie would have been beaten up in-house. No need for ISD to intimidate him, as alleged.

So why have tea and lunch with him and tax-payers’ expense?

Function 8 didn’t do itself any favours with its various remarks. Dignified silence would have served it better: at the very least shown up Archie’s unsuitability to be a religious leader. All respectable S’poreans (self especially) should avoid it. Must be Dr Chee’s and SDP’s evil spirits finding a new home after he and SDP exorcised themselves.  

And Maruah, “civil society” is more than Function 8, Alex Au and friends.

And I suppose Maruah, Alex Au etc will have no issues with any religious leader if said religious leader comes out in support of the govt’s immigration policy, or its sexual education policy or the view that adults must be married before breeding for S’pore. Careful for what you wish.

Finally where being an internet activist can get one arrested and beaten up (see below) So give PM, DPM Teo, ISD and Home Team a break, Alex Au, Function 8, Maruah, TOC, and other “subversives”. Wonder why our constructive, nation-building media doesn’t highlight what real repression is all abt?

ISD sleeping on the job in vetting local media appointments, and ferreting out subversives?. I mean hard to believe MediaCorp and CNA could be so cack-handed in choosing panelists. Conclusion: trying to sabo NatCon by deliberately choosing so many PAPpies and friends?

And if you don’t think this is funny enough, read this


With the effectiveness of the mainstream opposition hit badly by the repression and by its own lack of unity, many young Belarusians have turned to internet activism. The regime clearly wants to nip this in the bud as quickly as possible. In August several pages on social networking sites were shut down, their administrators arrested and beaten. Raman Pratasevich, who at 17 has already seen the inside of several prison cells, beamingly says the page he runs, Stop Luka, is currently live again. When I met him on Independence Square, the scene of the 2010 protest, four plain-clothes police officers immediately appeared.

This time, they merely took down our names and let us carry on the interview. But earlier that day, several journalists had been detained and roughed-up alongside the activists they were filming. Their footage was deleted. The same day a number of foreign youth activists from the International Federation of Liberal Youth were detained and told to leave the country on the grounds that they had violated their visa rules. Some OSCE election observers have been denied visas. It seems in the run-up to polling day, the regime is turning up the heat, just to be sure.

Extract from Economist blog

Vietnam: “A toxic cocktail”

In Vietnam on 22/09/2012 at 3:17 pm

From the September issue of the ISEAS ASEAN monitor

“A toxic cocktail” – the words of economist Le Dang Doanh – aptly describe Vietnam’s situation for the fourth quarter of 2012. The ingredients are economic stagnation, banking scandals, political insecurity caused by Party rectification and anti-corruption drives, and challenges to Vietnamese sovereignty in the South China Sea. Party rectification aims to curb abuses of power and corruptive behaviour by government officials in cahoots with businesses to enrich both sides. Politician banker, Nguyen Duc Kien, and the head of the Asia Commercial Bank, Ly Xuan Hai, have been arrested. Notably, while the rumour mill has for years linked Kien to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the Chief of Police has declared that it was the Prime Minister himself who directed the arrests. Earlier reports gave credit to the Minister for Public Security but the order probably came from the Political Bureau.

The arrested pair of Kien and Ly could reveal the extent of illegal activities in the banking sector. Rumours are pointing to imprudent bank loans arranged by Kien, as well as his role in the merger/acquisition of another bank, an act perceived as political bullying. In the next two months there will be an intense struggle over how the official reports regarding Party rectification should be written. Individual leaders would want to avoid blame, and most important, retain their positions. Party rectification would also go down to provincial level and lower. Greater conservatism and caution in officials’ behaviour, if only to avoid making mistakes, leading to riskaversion,is to be expected.

The economy has not lived up to earlier optimism. Imports have decreased and analysts note that this would impact negatively on exports in the next quarter. Credit growth is at an unhealthy low while the burst of the real estate bubble has turned speculation into locked investments. Speculators are not realising losses and banks are unable to recover loans. Close to 100,000 companies, mostly from the private sector, have ceased operations.

On this downward spin, there are yet no signs of external help, be it from a buoyant world economy or the IMF. The stagnation is expected to be relieved slightly as the end of the year usually sees a rise in consumption, but the overall trend is a downward one.

Key points: While Vietnam and China appear to have reached a quiet and uncomfortable détente over the South China Sea, expect more bilateral problems as the fishing season resumes this September.

Economist on Vietnam

Vietnam’s banks are in dire shape; and that corruption and waste pervade the economy.

This was never a secret, but during the boom years in the middle of the past decade, when the economy was growing by 8% a year and foreign investment was pouring in, nobody much cared. Now, with slower growth, huge business debts and more competition from places such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar, the problems loom large. It did not help when, two months ago, the central bank admitted that bad debts amounted to up to 10% of all bank loans, double the level previously admitted to. The real figure could be two or three times that.

The hitch in Hanoi

And so confidence in the Vietnamese economy, especially among Western investors, is tumbling. Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Vietnam, at $8 billion for the first seven months of the year, is a third lower than a year earlier. Japan accounts for fully half of all the inflows.

Time for a SME bank?

In Banks on 22/09/2012 at 5:58 am

Even the  govt in UK is setting one up to bring together ‘alphabet soup of existing schemes’

We too have  ‘alphabet soup of existing financing schemes’ to help SMEs. But SMEs are always asking for more for whatever reason.

And this. A new institute has been set up to offer subsidised business consulting for SMEs. United Overseas Bank (UOB) and the Singapore Management University (SMU have set up the UOB-SMU Asian Enterprise Institute,  which aims to equip local firms with information and expertise to help their regional expansion.

Burma: Developments this week

In Uncategorized on 21/09/2012 at 6:46 am

Earlier this week, FT reported Burma is to delay the implementation of controversial foreign investment legislation passed this month, but will step up reforms in areas like financial services, land use and government structures.

Seems the president will ask parly to make changes to the foreign investment law. So this compromise did not work.

This is what the ISEAS Monitor (Sept issue) wrote juz before the compromise and its analysis is spot-on.

Myanmar is being confronted with a serious challenge to the rule of law and the integrity of the constitutional arrangement by a controversy over the ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal (CT) regarding the status of parliamentary bodies. It began when parliamentarians insisted that committees, commissions and bodies formed by parliament be accorded the status of “Union” (central) level organisations in order to fulfill their ‘check and balance’ function.

A request to clarify the issue was sent to the President early this year. The Attorney-General, on behalf of the President, submitted the issue to the CT for a ruling. The CT ruled, in February, that the interpretation of committees, commissions and bodies “formed by each Hluttaw [parliament] as Union Level Organisations” was unconstitutional. Many parliamentarians did not accept the verdict and 191 MPs from the Pyithu Hluttaw (PH; lower house) informed its Speaker in April theirintention to table a motion calling for the impeachment of the CT chair and members.

When negotiations to resolve the dispute failed, 301 MPs from the PH again prompted the Speaker, on 8 August, for the impeachment citing breach of constitutional provisions and failure to fulfill their duties. The Speaker sent amessage to the President on 14 August suggesting that the Attorney-General’ssubmission to the CT be withdrawn and the CT chair and members should resign voluntarily before 21 August. The President replied in a message, dated 20 August,to the Speaker that the submission could not be withdrawn because the verdict hadalready been reached and he could not act to make the CT chair and members, who had independently made a decision in accordance with the Constitution, resign as that would be unfair and against the law.

The CT also held a press conference on 20 August to explain its position and reaffirmits commitment to stand by the decision and to carry on its tasks and duties.

Subsequently, it was announced that the impeachment process would be initiatedby the Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house) in the current parliamentary session. The spectre of political division looms.

Key points: The CT and MPs are on a collision course. This could arrest the momentum of much-needed political and economic reforms, and erode the legitimacy of the democratic institution. In the worst case, it could be an excuse for the return of authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is visiting the US, has said she supports further easing of sanctions against Burma’s government.

And M’sian retailer, Parkson, plans to expand into Burma, despite its not so happy experiences in Vietnam.

Reacting to other bloggers’ tots

In Humour, Media, Political governance on 21/09/2012 at 5:38 am

There are several pieces the last few days that I wanted to respond to. So here are the quotes and  links to the pieces and my reactions to them.

These u/m bloggers have got it absolutely right. S’poreans should empower themselves by PM’s NatCon for our own ends, subverting it. Let’s use NatCon constructively to build civil society in our nation.

My point is that we should stop relying on the government, for them to handhold us all the way; we, as citizens, have the abilities and intelligence to bring something new to the table. Guanyinmao’s Musings

This is not to say that a national conversation is useless. Instead of criticising it, those of us who care should seize the agenda, put the issues we are concerned about on the table by blogging about it, emailing it to the government ministries and make them public on our blogs, speak to MPs (both opposition and ruling party), organise forums, create a movement. Andrew Loh,

In the bad old days, these two bloggers would be detained under the ISA for being too clever by half. But heck, PM’s different. So give him credit for not using the ISA, and for being willing to be generous with our money: spending it to make life more comfortable for ourselves. Teachers, and doctors and other healthcare professions should be happy with their pay rises. GE sooner than later?

Propaganda machine dysfunctional? Or is it juz MediaCorp and its CNA? SPH hasn’t goofed yet? One can only hope.

So far, out of the 50 people supposedly from all walks of life who were invited to share their thoughts (except dirty ones) with Our Supreme Leader, it has been discovered that more than a handful have applied for membership with the ruling party. New Nation

National Conversation has rapidly degenerated into ‘Spot the secret PAP member’ contest. Donaldson Tan

Six or seven out of 50 seems a lot, and then there the PA people and family relations. What abt trade unionists? On Wednesday, a picture began circulating on Facebook giving the background of 36 participants. Netizens accused them of being “running dogs” of the PAP.

The above shows how new media makes it difficult for traditional media to be constructive and nation-building.

And while the governing PAP takes seriously the task of using the media to “guide public opinion”, with a friend (or is it a “running dog”?) , in the constructive, nation-building MediaCorp, the PM doesn’t need “cowboy town” bloggers to cast doubts on NatCon. First there was the uninviting blogger Ravi and friends (“because PM had met the bloggers”), then this. What next MediaCorp?

Actually, given that a PAP MP is the MD of the S’pore operation of an int’l PR firm, it’s a bad reflection on that firm’s capabilities that these things can happen. He shouls know better.

But the fact that bloggers focus on the numbers and not on what the PAPpies and friends said, gives the impression that these PAPpies and allies didn’t contribute to the conversation. So why bother abt naming and shaming them, except that it’s a great blood sport, discrediting them and the governing PAP? Now if they had skewed the conversation, then bitch abt their skewing of the conversation, not juz their numbers. Sorry, I no watch television, so no imput there.

It’s private and public LOL!

My avatar commented on Facebook when he read this SDP rant abt Dr Chee being prevented from selling his books at a spot where he was arrested for protesting.: “It’s public space for purpose of  “protesting”. It’s private space in terms of selling stuff. I kid you not: law like that LOL. Dr Chee shld go to spot in Raffles City where JBJ used to sell his books. And see what happens. ))))”. AG confirms this view this correct.

Trying to manufacture a controversy to sell more books in a very worthy cause? Plenty of lawyers associated with SDP, so could have advised it on the law. But then they are “trouble makers” like Teo and Ravi. LOL.

[T]he summary removal of my piece has damaged my reputation suggesting as it does that I would write material that was defamatory and untrue. It goes to the heart of my credibility. KennethJ

He shld stop taking  himself so seriously and stop sliming others, this son of the much-loved JBJ. He is doing himself (and memory of dad) no favours by being so childishly petulant regularly. Take his  response on Alex Tan, vis-a-vis Mrs Chiam’s classy, high EQ response. She didn’t have a First Class in econs from Cambridge (she’s only a British-trained nurse), but she sure knows how to handle a tricky situation, unlike him.

Funny thing is that despite being so full of himself, he made a fool of self when he publicly got the words of the Pledge wrong at a public rally last yr. And in an ang moh accent too. Govt scholars (including Tony and Hazel) went to posh British unis. They don’t speak in ang moh accent. But he wants to show that he is different? The excuse that he worked many yrs in London, cuts no ice with me. Know someone who went to a really posh (and intellectually demanding) English public school, and then went to work in the City when it was a racist place before finally returning home. Speaks English like LKY.

And talking of LKY, I come back to the tot of throwing people into jail.

It would be the sadness of all the world if Mr Lee were to shy away from doing the one thing which would leave a lasting legacy for all of us, before he eventually passes on. And this one thing is to offer an apology to those whose lives were torn apart by his actions. Andrew Loh,

If you read the piece, the examples of “wrongs” that need to be apologised for are things that LKY tot he was right to do. And which many S’poreans at the time gave him the benefit of the doubt for doing (me for instance), if they didn’t outright support him. It is only with hindsight that these decisions seem to many, especially younger S’poreans, to be wrong.

Take the 1987 Marxists’ arrests: liberation theology worried even the Roman Catholic church. The insurgencies in Latin and Central America, partly inspired by liberation theology worried the US government who feared that the USSR was using the insurgencies to attack the USA in a vulnerable area. And if you have heard as I have, a Filipino priest, expound on the need for the church to fight social injustice, one can be reasonably afraid of the do-gooders: that they will be taken advantage of by the USSR and friends.

We now know who won the Cold war. But in 1987, the USSR was the evil empire. And LKY was planning to pass on power.

SDP groupies, other do-gooders and TJS ACHTUNG

In Political economy, Political governance on 20/09/2012 at 9:48 am

Read this

[M]odern states have tended to extend benefits to the better-off, partly because of lobbying and partly as a way of buying the support of the wealthy for the welfare state. All this is well illustrated in Suzanne Mettler’s book “The Submerged State”, which shows how these hidden subsidies can distort voters’ view of the way that government policy works; a 2008 poll found that 57% of Americans denied ever using a government programme. But when shown a list of 21 actual programmes, including student loans and home-mortgage interest deduction, 94% of the deniers turned out to have benefited after all.

[Would be interesting if TJS’s research centre could do something on whether the middle class benefits from govt subsidies: could kill the PAPpies pt abt housing and education subsidies]

Universal benefits are very expensive. But targeting benefits requires means-testing, an instrusive process that causes hard cases at the margin. And restricting benefits to the poorest may weaken political support for the whole system, along the lines highlighted by Mr Romney; people may believe that the hard-working “us” are subsidising the feckless “them”.


Heineken’s nuclear option

In Uncategorized on 20/09/2012 at 5:09 am

(Or “Why Thai billionaire settled”)

Thai billionaire, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, offered S$8.88bn (US$7.3 bn) in cash for the 70% stake in F&N that he did not already own. The belief was that that he wanted to kill the sale of F&N’s APB shares to Heineken.

Well he didn’t. Instead he has agreed to support the sale of F&N’s stake in APB to Heineken NV. As part of an agreement, Heineken said it will not make a general offer for shares in F&N under the Singapore merger code.

Below was the analysis I was planning to publish before news of the deal. Tot readers might be interested in my analysis on why he wouldn’t block the APB deal, and why he wouldn’t get F&N at $8.88.


The shareholders of F%N should note that about a third of APB’s revenues come, not from Tiger, but from products licenced from Heineken. And some licences are going to renewed soon: in Indon and Vietnam. So if F&N shareholders reject the sale of F&N’s share of APB to Heineken, and if Heineken cuts its nose to spite its face, APB is worth only S$36.7. Actually, this fact explains something I never understood: Tiger was not APB’s premier offering in a number of regional products; a Heineken product was. Now I know why: ang mohs (APB is managed by Heineken) clever to ensure that Heineken products have a presence.

So this is shumething the Thai bidder of F&N has to take into consideration given that he is geared to his eyeballs and beyond. He also has to take into account that APB could be delisted if the free float drops a little more. Co must have free float of at least 10% of shares.

All F&N shareholders also have to take into account that

— Heineken’s shareholders don’t want it to overpay for APB,

— Heineken has mgt control of APB, and

— even if Heineken withdraws its bid, it can take control of APB via arbitration and has the right of first refusal over F&N’s APB shares. F&N directors have said that in case of dispute over valuation, the mechanism is not related to its share price. So could get less.

My guess is that he will not try to block the sale at the coming EGM of F&N. He wants the cash and other assets of F&N (soft drinks?) in a break-up of F&N. But his offer of S$8.88 is too cheap. F&N closed yesterday at 8.97. Note F&N plans to return effectively S$2.12 a share if its shareholders approve the sale of APB shares.

Why the moderately well-off don’t feel that rich

In Economy, Political economy on 19/09/2012 at 5:37 am

The rising inequality of incomes mean that even moderately well-off people do not feel that rich; not least because the elite have driven up property prices in desirable areas … to levels that those not working in the finance sector cannot afford. Meanwhile, the very elite can insulate themselves from everyday life. Think of the experience of the average first, or business, class air passenger. They sit in a different lounge from the other passengers, enter the jetway through a different door, sometimes enter the plane through a different door as well, sit in a curtained-off section and then leave the plane before everyone else. They could make an entire transatlantic flight without coming into contact with the hoi polloi.

The problem is that the political elite tend to mix with the financial elite … and, for security reasons, also have to cut themselves off from the average voter. So it may be doubly hard for them to understand the pressures of those who are actually on median incomes.

PAP will fail ’cause “always behind the curve”

In Political governance on 19/09/2012 at 4:52 am

In response to this on why the Opposition should “wake up their ideas”, and not be complacent abt the PAP’s message of, ”It’s yr money, let’s spend it to make you happier”, JG, a reader, responded with u/m which I am reproducing because it makes some very valid points.

By its nature, LHL is an incremental type person. So yes, they want to move in the direction of “more inclusive growth”, but the way they do it tend to be very slow. Lets take Tharman’s recent budget for eg. In one stroke, every low income family is reportedly getting more in subsidies than they are paying out of GST. Ask any man on the street today – do you feel it? Do you feel less “squeezed” economically? No.

Why is this so? Because the effort is half-hearted – existing policies are repackaged to be part of the mega subsidies. Because they are always behind the curve – transport fee increase, conservancy fee increase, etc etc – every little thing adds up to negate the impact. And fundamentally, it boils down to top leadership – for LHL to even say “20 years later”, shows how snail-pace his mindset is.

In other words, rhetoric aside, my guess is that the people will feel that PAP is too slow to change. The big wayang about “National Conversation” which has drifted slowly to “National Recalibration of Expectations” will be one of the final nail in the coffin.

As the earlier comment also pointed out, it is not just because of the fact that the bottom rung of society is left to fend for itself, that is a megabug. Immigration, cost increase are others. Fundamentally, there is the pervasive feeling that there is no security anymore – you may lose your job anytime to a “faster, cheaper, better” foreigner, your children won’t be able to afford a house or a car in Singapore, you’re left to fend for yourself in your old age. There is no game-changing policy the PAP has announced or implemented to address these. And my perception is, because they have run out of ideas. Or, are too boxed into their ideological boundaries, that they cannot offer anything new.

My point to JG is that there is no need for new ideas: juz spend our money, and promise not to raise taxes for the foreseeable future.

Unless the Opposition finds a strategy of countering PM’s new strategy*, come the next GE (which could come sooner than later if the ground is sweet), 2011 will be like 1991, another false dawn.


*Maybe NatCon is a diversionary tactic, aimed at keeping netizens and the Opposition away from the realisation that the PAP is implementing a new strategy.

I could be wrong.

But the Opposition shouldn’t be complacent, especially the WP.

This guy is awesome!

In China, Internet on 18/09/2012 at 7:18 am

That is what Mr Moncayo did when, at the tender age of 23, he devised a grand plan to forge a whole new trading relationship between Latin America and China

Despite knowing very little about manufacturing and unable to speak a Chinese language, he decided to build a career negotiating and supervising deals between firms in his native Latin America and Chinese suppliers. It was an obvious gap in the market.

“We were the first ones to really connect these two regions,” he says.

Just eight years later, Mr Moncayo is the chief executive of Asiam Business Group, handling orders from Asia worth $35m (£22m) per year, mainly on behalf of Latin American fashion houses.

Premium or regular petrol?

In Uncategorized on 17/09/2012 at 8:08 pm

An interesting and informative post on the difference.

Jap stocks cont’d trading below book value

In Accounting, Financial competency, Japan on 17/09/2012 at 7:06 am
On Wednesday last week “the broad Topix index closed at 0.89 times book value, a whisker away from its widest discount to the MSCI World for five years, and near its lowest level relative to the S&P 500 for almost eight years,” reported the FT.
What is cheap can stay cheap. But do remember that in the 1950s and 1960s, a few ang mohs bot Jap stocks because they were very cheap by Western standards. They became investment legends.

Rewriting LKY’s views on FTs? And, if so, why?

In Humour, Political economy on 17/09/2012 at 5:57 am

(Or “LKY has repented? No we got him wrong” or “LKY, no FT lover, no hater of locals”)

I came across this about a month ago, but didn’t comment, waiting to see if anyone other self had picked it up No blogger did, and I forget abt my plans to blog on it until a few days ago.

“If we go on like that, this place will fold up, because there’ll be no original citizens left to form the majority, and we cannot have new citizens, new PRs to settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms …
accept migrants at the rate at which we can assimilate them and make them conform to our values, ” LKY.

I was stunned and shocked to hear him talk of  wanting “original citizens” (who he said need spurring ’cause they are less hard-working than his beloved FTs)  “to form the majority”, and that his beloved FTs (“new citizens, new PRs’) cannot and should not “settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms”.

I had tot he wanted S’pore to be over-run with FTs because he was liked the solution proposed (ironically) in this poem

After the uprising of the 17th of June

The Secretary of the Writers Union

Had leaflets distributed …

Stating that the people

Had thrown away the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?

(The writer, Bertolt Brecht, was a famous playwright,  a Hollywood screen writer in the golden years of Hollywood in the 1930s) and a Marxist activist.)

What next from him? Malays are loyal to S’pore?

A few days ago, I was reminded of the above remark when I read this from a PAP apologist from the top of our constructive, nation-building ST: seems as far back as 1971, LKY has been concerned abt FTs over-running S’pore. If so how come his acolyte Wong Kan Seng when he was head of Home Team allowed PRC hawkers, a slutty looking, violent, cheating shop assistant, and an ang moh awaiting trial for beating up a S’porean PR status? Or that the government from the late 1990s onwards imported FTs by the cattle truck load.

Well the piece fooled many thinking S’poreans.  S’poreans who saw it as vindication that even a worm like a true blue ST man can turn on a  PAP policy i.e. ST is changing for the better. I had no such tots. I focused on the dates when LKY said:

— “And if you take too many, then instead of our values being superimposed on them, they will bring us down to their values because it’s easier to be untidy, scruffy, dirty, anti-social than to be disciplined, well-behaved and a good citizen.” (1971)

— “There will be cultural, linguistic, social and political problems. /Well, those cultural, linguistic, social and political problems have now come to roost, 40 years on.” (1978).

Err, these were the two examples quoted in 1971 and 1978. Then we have to jump to to August 2012 for the third one which I quoted above. Nothing in between?

A cynic could conclude that there is some rewriting of history, that despite all his praise of FTs and denigrating locals, and the pro FT policies, LKY cared about S’poreans being swarmed by FTs, and that he expressed this in 1971 and 1978.

Possible motives:

— To correct the perception (or is it misperception?) that LKY prefers FTs to S’poreans in S’poreans. The aim is to protect his legacy as one of the founders of modern S’pore. Bit difficult to have an icon of S’pore who prefers FTs to locals, even if he did a lot for S’poreans, which he did, and all but the likes of KennethJ and Dr Chee would agree he did.

— Another could be to show that when he was in charge, he had different views on the role of FTs then Goh Chok Tong or his son.

The spin doctors have to do better. They had better look for statements post 1978 but pre August 2012, expressing the view S’poreans should not be swamped by FTs. LKY was PM until 1990, and S’poreans believe that until recently, he had the final say on any important policy. And then there are all the pro-FT statements. And those denigrating locals.

Whatever it is, join me in a belated birthday greeting to LKY. The team that he headed in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and S’poreans made S’pore a developed world city. Too bad abt the team in the 90s and noughties, of which he was a part. And the son’s doing a decent job of correcting the mistakes of the 90s and noughties (despite being a leading player in the mistakes). But I wish he hadn’t started NatCon.

BTW, I taking up the challenge of compiling a list of things that the WP did not do in response to a challenge from a WP groupie upset with last Fri’s piece. Looking for sponsors to fund it (No peanuts pls). Or for help to draw up the list. Against my principles to do anything for free for the PAP, who always say, “No free lunch”. But who have a freebie via the PA, widely perceived as an arm of the PAP, even if it is tax-payer funded.

Investors Don’t Understand ‘This’ About US Rally: Jim Rogers

In Uncategorized on 16/09/2012 at 6:43 am

It’s all abt Fed printing $. And he said this before last Thursday when  the US Federal Reserve moved to pump even more money into the economy by injecting US$40bn a month into the US economy.

Three cheers for LionsXII

In Footie on 15/09/2012 at 6:33 am

They did what they had to do. Praise them, not jeer them.

Footie is also abt brains. Better safe than sorry.

Burma: Think small, think basic

In Emerging markets on 15/09/2012 at 6:12 am

“What Myanmar needs now are more 7-11s, not more Walmarts,” said Lex Rieffel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was quoted by FT.

Garments, footwear, frozen seafood and other food products were among Burma’s main exports to the west until sanctions 10 to 15 years ago. Expect foreigners (think Chinese) to invest in these labour intensive businesses for a start.
A Chinese bizlady told the BBC: “In my factory in China, the salary of workers has been increasing steadily over the last few years,” she told me during her recent visit to Bangladesh to look for opportunities here.”It has reached around $400 to $500 (£250 – £315) a month per worker. If I continue to produce there, our business will disappear.”In Bangladesh the average monthly salary for garments workers is only around $70 to $100. If I produce here, price is much more competitive.”

She can now scout out Burma, next door.

Finally for this week, Myanmar launched its first debit cards on Friday, giving customers the chance to use plastic for shopping, dining and travel for the first time in the latest leap forward for its cash-dominated economy.

MayBank touted as buyer of Thai bank stake

In Banks, Malaysia on 14/09/2012 at 6:43 am

General Electric is analysing options for its US$2.1 bn stake (33%) in Bank of Ayudhya. MayBank touted as possible buyer.

Buying this stake would add one more piece to the jigsaw being built after the purchase of Kim Eng (has big presence in Thai stk mkt). As usual MayBank is playing catch up to CIMB.

Time for Opposition to rethink assumptions, lest it repents after next GE

In Political governance on 14/09/2012 at 6:01 am

Shumetime back, I blogged that PM in his National Day Rally speech came out with the message,”It’s yr money, let’s spend it to make you happier”. I’m glad to read that TJS has written, “PM talked about increased social spending supported by tax increases not now but in 20 years’ time, DPM Tharman laid out a case for active government policies “tilted in favour of those with less””. Well nice to know I and TJS have come to the same conclusion, more-or-less.

Which brings me to TJS’ main point, “Events in recent years have shown that the PAP is both incompetent and insincere. To save Singapore from the PAP, we have to focus on regime change … We do not need a national conversation to generate ideas on how to bring Singapore forward …

‘But the current leadership is not equal to the task – what can one expect from a PM who has no vision for the country or an ill-conceived one based on wrong facts, and a DPM who is full of hindsight but empty of foresight? The real salvation for Singapore lies outside the PAP and there are enough talent out there to form an alternative leadership team. It’s time for them to come together, get organised and stand ready to take over. A regime change is long overdue.”

I’m sure his sentiments are shared by the Opposition, even the WP.

But if as TJS is saying the PM is calling for “increased social spending” and “DPM Tharman laid out a case for active government policies “” why shouldn’t some of the 40% of the S’poreans (self included) who voted for the Opposition, vote for PAP in the next GE? If the PAP government starts “walking the walk” of spending more to make life more comfortable for S’poreans, especially the poor, and “squeezed” middle: i.e. more than “talk the talk”, why shouldn’t some of us switch our votes. Remember that in last presidential election, 70% of the voters voted for two men closely associated with the PAP. What it shows that 10% of all the voters are willing to vote for the PAP. They are not members of the “PAP are bastards” platoon like KennethJ, TJC, and Dr Chee and groupies

The only answer to my question is that “The Opposition can deliver better policies and execute them better”.

My next question then,”Where’s the evidence?” Whether TJS and other members of the opposition like it or not, they had better hope the WP MPs start raising their game. So far, three are non-entities, one has underperformed expectations (Show Mao) by doing bugger-all, and two are clowning around (GG* and PritamS). Only JJ is showing his mettle. .

And I’m sure S’poreans remember that the WP have gone quiet on their manifesto call to nationalise the public transport system, shumething I’ve grumbled about regularly. I mean, it’s an open goal what with the tpt minister admitting openly of the heavy subsidies being given. So why is GG** and the WP refusing to take a shot at goal. Scared to miss? Or kelong?

So if there is regime change, there may be no change if the WP is the dominant party in the new government.

So getting rid of the PAP when it is using our money to make life more comfortable for us would seem to be a dangerous and dumb thing to do, neh?

Might as well back the PAP in that case.

The point I’m trying to make is that the governing PAP seems to have ditched the sacred cow  (no longer a Hard Truth) of being mean to S’poreans despite extracting money from S’poreans via all kinds of levies and imposts: it is now willing to spend S’poreans’ money on making things better for S’poreans.

If it spends our money on S’poreans, the Opposition should rethink their assumptions and premises, and the messages they want to send to voters. If not, come the next GE (which could be held before 2016, if the PAP senses that S’poreans have been won over by the spending), the Opposition will be repenting, not the PAP. The ground may be shifting.

Oh and I hope that this is the last time TJS imitates KennethJ’s attempts to portray changes in government policy as evidence of KJ’s genius his genius in pointing out its errors. S’poreans are not stupid, and neither is TJS. He is an RI boy and scholar, unlike KennethJ.

*Eric Tan (remember him) must be v.v. happy. I tot that GG was brilliant in 2009 or 2010, putting online the questions Sylvia and Low were asking in Parly and the responses they got. This showed S’poreans that they were not as quiet as the constructive, nation-building media made them out to be.

**In July 2011, GG wrote an ST article explaining why nationalisation is a gd idea. So it was surprising that went the trains started failing, that the silence from him and WP was deafening.

Gd news for Temasek on Chesapeake

In Energy, Financial competency, Temasek on 13/09/2012 at 7:18 am

This investment has been problematic for Temasek

The shares closed at US$19.89. Temasek owns bonds that are convertible at US$27 (issued when stock was around 23-25).

It has many problems but the most pressing problem it spends more than it makes. It expects to spend roughly US$14bn on capital expenditure, acquisitions, interest, dividends and taxes this year, against about US$3bn in operating cash flow.
So it has to sell.  This year, the company has reached agreements to sell US$11.6 bn worth of properties (including the ones reported below). It is aiming to raise a total of about US$13 bn to US$14 bn. S’poreans can only hope it succeeds.

The Chesapeake Energy Corporation said on Wednesday that it had agreed to a series of asset sales (US$6.9bn) as part of an effort to reduce its considerable debt burden.

ThaiBev?F&N: Reason no funding required?

In Uncategorized on 12/09/2012 at 9:31 am

 Yesterday, ThaiBev said it was “not seeking funding for a potential general offer for F&N”. Previous post

Seems that there was no appetite among the S’poran and M’sian banks it approached to fund the takeover. So it didn’t try to get funding.

Oh and the party acting in concert with it is the controllling shareholder’s son-in-law’s co that bot the APB shares from OCBC and friends ($45) and in the market.

Give us facts NMP Janice Koh: not juz hot air

In Uncategorized on 12/09/2012 at 5:33 am

In this piece, NMP Janice Koh laments the govmin is not funding S’pore’s participation in a very “chim” arts festival: Are we intending to backtrack on the last ten years of work in profiling our best artists internationally? Why bother investing millions of dollars in art schools and scholarships to develop artistic talent each year, into encouraging greater arts participation on the ground, if there is no concerted and consistent effort to create a track for our top creative talent to showcase Singapore’s artistic excellence at the most critical platforms? And despite all the rhetoric on wanting to encourage dialogue and engagement, was the visual arts sector and the artistic community consulted at all on this issue before the pull-out?

As shumeone who knows very little of the arts scene here, and who knows many S’poreans who are like me, when the piece was edited from her Facebook post to an online article in an online magazine (not TRE), she should have:

— given more information on government funding for other show case events: is the Venice do juz one of several, some of many, or the only one (If it was the only one, she should say so. If she doesn’t know, why write about it on an on-line magazine?); and

— told us whether the government consulted with the community. This: “And despite all the rhetoric on wanting to encourage dialogue and engagement, was the visual arts sector and the artistic community consulted at all on this issue before the pull-out?” seemed to imply that there wasn’t. After all, if there was, she would have surely known?

Sadly as it stands, S’porans like myself who are not into the artsy, folksy scene, are left wondering whether this is a “rant”, well intended doubtless, by a member or a friend of the arts community, against an action of the government that she and the arts community does not like? It is certainly no critical analysis of the role of govt spending or priorities in the arts.

This point of view is reinforced by the minister’s comments in parly that the arts community were consulted  He also gave details of the cost of participation in that chim do.

Janice Koh on her Facebook page or even on her personal blog has every right to rant and rave. But Janice Koh (the “arts” NMP — a title she has not cried off)  has no such right when writing in a more formal setting, and a wider audience. She should also bear in mind that society has a view, wrong of course, that actress are “air heads”. So she shouldn’t add to that view.

My wider point, is that us netizens have to do more than rant and rave. We got to share facts.

S’pore’s paralympian & our “fact free” media & social media

In Media on 11/09/2012 at 6:40 pm

“You all know how free the Filipino media is; they can even be very free with the facts,” was a statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Having worked and lived in Manila, I can understand the sentiments behind the statement. The Filipino media does “invent” facts to fit the points they are trying to make. The media are free (and journalists have been murdered because someone powerful is upset) there, but hardly fair.

But having found out that Laurentia Tan, the paralympian, is based in England because of the facilities there, I can only shake my head in sadness and annoyance that our constructive, nation-building media, Yahoo! and all but one of the bloggers who raved on her performance and what it means to be a S’porean, failed to mention that fact.

She retains her S’porean nationality but otherwise she like the Chinese ping-pong gal Olympians moved on to better herself.

I’m not criticising her or her parents. They did what had to be done for her to get a better quality of life. But I’m criticising our “fact free” media and social media. The former for not telling us that she had lived in England for many yrs, and the latter (with one honourable exception) for talking rubbish, assuming that she was based in S’pore.

As Cherian Georger has written (no link*), bloggers here are dependent on the constructive, nation-building media for the facts. They rave and rant based on what the constructive, nation-building media.


*I disagree that our MSM journalists and editors are professional. As I’ve often pointed out, they have problems reporting financial and economic news that could be politically sensitive. They obviously don’t believe Goh Chok Tong. When he was PM, he talked at a MediaCorp dinner of a servile media doing the government no favours . Shortly afterwords, an inconvenient editor was removed.

ThaiBev: Time for a Pause that Refreshs? Time for a Tiger?

In Vietnam on 11/09/2012 at 5:46 am

Why Thaibev and friends are trying to line up S$9bn from banks for a general offer for F&N, and so derail the APB sale.

Problem is that if they win and block the sale, APB could still go to Heinken on worse terms. Heineken has the right of first refusal over the APB shares held by F&N/ Heineken jointly and there is a formula to resolve valuation questions: not based on stk market prices. Meanwhile, Heineken still has mgt control. So far, the Thais have played the game shrewdly, but things could go wrong. And they are highly leveraged.

Asia overtook Europe and the Americas in 2007. In 2011 it drank 67bn litres of beer, to the Americas’ 57bn and 51bn in Europe, according to Euromonitor.

Top consumers of beer by region

What’s more, as developed markets such as Europe, the US and Australia stagnate, Euromonitor forecasts that beer consumption (by volume) will grow by 4.8% in Asia Pacific every year between 2011 and 2016.


 the countries with the biggest growth prospects in the region are Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, where Euromonitor forecasts that volumes drunk will grow at up to 9% per year between 2011 and 2016.

Burma: Even ltd democracy can be bothersome

In Uncategorized on 10/09/2012 at 6:01 am

(Or “Why LKY did things “My way or the highway”)

Burma has finally passed a new investment law acceptable to the govt and parliament (govt supporters and opposition had problems with govt’s original proposal)

There was a constitutional row

Govt backed down: judges resigned, and opponents of the above law passed it in a form acceptable to govt. Even ltd democracy can be bothersome. The army represenratives kept neutral. They were meant to give government an in-built majority.

Best to do it the LKY way? “I ignore polling as a method of government. I think that shows a certain weakness of mind – an inability to chart a course whichever way the wind blows, whichever way the media encourages the people to go, you follow. You are not a leader.”

NatCon: What Dale Carnegie & dad can teach PM

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 10/09/2012 at 4:46 am

Two quotes from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, that could teach PM, Heng, Sim Ann and other ministers a trick or two:

— “No one likes to feel that he or she is being sold something or told to do a thing. We much prefer to feel that we are buying of our own accord or acting on our own ideas. We like to be consulted about our wishes, our wants, our thoughts.” (Actually Auntie Sun’s hubby, pastor Kong, could teach them this, what with his Sentosa Cove penthse to prove it. But PAPpies prefer to learn from FTs.)

— “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

The second quote explains why PM’s dad (and a hero, flawed, of mine) was successful in getting S’poreans to vote for him and the PAP despite his bullying, thuggish ways.

He spoke to S’poreans of his and older generations what they wanted to hear: “A better life for yrself and yr family.”

And how to achieve it: “Vote for the PAP and accept my policies be they throwing dissidents into prison without trial (anyway they are commies who want to steal yr money or work you to death), and have union leaders like Devan Nair who are my running dogs, and accept my lectures, hectoring, thuggery and bullying.”

He got the message right* and delivered the prosperity bit (whether or not the prosperity was the result of his** policies and methods is open to debate***) for most elderly S’poreans. True, there are some elderly S’poreans who missed the prosperity (and who now need to be helped), but in general, many are reasonably well-off, especially if they suffer from severe illnesses. I’ve relations much older or juz slightly older who have benefited from the then HDB housing policies of the 70s and 80s. And who are benefitting from the present healthcare system.

(One said during the Chinese New Year, “We were poor when we were young. Thank the Lord (her family are Christians) that in our old age we are comfortable. Nothing worse than being poor when old.”)

They are the first to admit it, their children and grandchildren are not finding life that easy. But hey LKY’s only a mortal, even if at times the constructive, nation-building media, esp ST, portrayed him as a demigod.


*And he is a genius when it comes to marketing “Authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make.” Philip Kotler, academic (1931–), Marketing Management (1967)

Above and more marketing quotes from

The problem. is that since the late 1980s or early 1990s, the PAP wants S’poreans to do want the PAP wants them to do; but it is unwilling (and unable) to promise S’poreans material prosperity in return. It is only willing to say,”We will try to help you achieve material prosperity. But we still want yr soul.”

The governing PAP used gimmicks, like asset enhancement inflation and indiscriminate importing of , that have backfired on the PAP because of their negative consequences, intended or otherwise, on S’poreans.

**And don’t forget the role that Dr Goh Keng Swee, Lim Kim San, Hon Sui Sen and Ngiam Tong Dow played in the economic policies. They wisely left the bullying, lecturing hectoring and thuggishness to LKY.

***Remember that in the 1960s and 1970s, S’pore was one of the few places (HK was another) that welcomed MNCs to set-up factories. MNCs were looked upon as a form of neo-colonialism by most of the developing world. Today, every developing country wants MNCs to set-up factories. So credit must be given to the PAP for this policy. But as we know, this policy resulted in the lack of home-grown companies like Foxcomm and HTC in Taiwan and Samsung in Korea. But breeding these cos led to problems in these countries.

How the govt can tap Gal and Auntie power to make babies

In Humour on 09/09/2012 at 9:42 am

Earlier today, I blogged that since women still earn less than men doing the same work and don’t do NS, entrepreneurs ahould have all-aunties and gals staff and then watch their profits outstrip those of competitors.

Well the government can take a leaf from this insight and import more FT aunties and gals.

And give all school gals (but skip the KC gals: the Sarong Party Gals)  a copy of “Sex and the Single Girl” and every issue of Cosmopolitian, the US version. The author of the former also edited the latter for 32 yrs, and the “magazine became famous for encouraging women to have sex, regardless of marital status.”

Remember babies can’t be made without sex.

Gal and Auntie Power

In Humour on 09/09/2012 at 4:44 am

Women still earn less than men doing the same work is the conventional wisdom. Appoint an all-aunties and gals staff and then watch profits outstrip those of competitors? And gals and aunties don’t do NS.

Buy super blue chips BUT

In Financial competency, Financial planning on 08/09/2012 at 5:59 am

leverage up to the eyeballs for super. super returns.

Taz the unstated premise of modern portfolio theory.


Thailand: Less complacent than our very own Yaacob when it comes to flooding

In Uncategorized on 07/09/2012 at 10:11 am

Lsst yr this time, Thailand was hit by a massive flood that left the country and government floundering. This yr, it seems Thailand is prepared for another massive flood despite the prediction that the rains will not be so heavy.

More tots on the National Conversation

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 07/09/2012 at 5:09 am

Shumething I came across on Facebook: To be frank, I think the default is now, “Why should we listen to the government?” and we should all realise that they’re listening more and we’re listening less. Old knee-jerk political reflexes are not useful anymore. We need to be clear-minded and work on both qualitative and quantitative data and input, not just the same old stories on all sides.

He is spot-on.

Then this: “S’poreans [are] urged to share and listen with open minds and  hearts” said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat who “is heartened by the many conversations that are going on about the national conversation and follows them with great interest.” Mr Heng had been tasked by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to lead a team of younger ministers to engage Singaporeans in a national conversation about the country’s future direction.

So how come

— a “CNA producer rescinds invite to bloggers to a forum with Prime Minister because her ‘bosses bosses have decided not to have bloggers on the forum because apparently bloggers have already had a private session with the Prime Minister already”

–” TOC was uninvited to the Singapore National Games”

Now to a suggestion of a topic.

The conversation, to be meaningful, must include the issue of public access to govt data bases. This explains why it should give access: In knowledge discovery in datasets, the major barrier to entry is access to the data. When corporations, governments or other private firms jealously guard their proprietary data, the number of people playing with the data and trying to discover valuable things, or putting that data to good use, will remain small. When data is made public, anyone can put that data to work. In recent years governments have begun making large troves of their data publically accessible. The U.S. government’s open-data project,, for example, has begotten over 200 citizen-developed apps. Similarly, the city of Vancouver, an early mover in the municipal open-data space, opened up their data in 2009, spawning valuable mashups of transit data, the water grid, and common spaces.

It’s gd for a knowledge-based economy.

Netizens who want to take part should take time to read this Written by some of the best economists in S’pore (Jedi Knights all: wonder who is their Yoda? Tommy Koh?), it gives plenty of information to counter the governing PAP’s Hard Truths.

Finally, the calls by some netizens for a debate rather than conversation are misguided. Debates are by their nature rigid. The emphasis is on point scoring. This format suits the government. So better to keep it at the conversational level.

Related post:

PM: This is xenophobia

In Political governance on 06/09/2012 at 6:06 pm

It’s different from disagreeing with you and the PAP on the need of FTs or being “ungracious” towards them, as mee siam hum (yr speciality) is from kway teow char with hum. Remember you got the two dishes mixed up yrs ago?

 … a video I had watched on the internet before setting out. It showed a man – possibly from central Asia or the Caucasus – being dragged through a forest. It’s like some dark horror movie, but this is real.

There are screams, which may have been added later. But then, the man is tied up and killed. The details of how he is savagely murdered are too horrific to watch. Those who have studied the video assure me of its authenticity and say the killing is the work of a far-right gang.

No authority seems to have the power or desire to take it off the web.

SGX/ Bursa M’sia: Back to the future UPDATE

In Infrastructure on 06/09/2012 at 11:12 am

Err spoke too soon of returning to the old days. Today’s BT reports:

KEY questions about the long-delayed Asean trading link continue to confound investors even as the tie-up between the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and Bursa Malaysia (BM) is slated to finally begin in less than a fortnight.

Details about custody, costs and other operational matters are still unclear ahead of the Sept 18 launch, observers said. And while traders and investors on both sides of the border think the link could fly in the long term, no one, it seems, sees an immediate need for the change …  But the implication of the tie-up on basic operational details remains a mystery to many investors and professionals.

Sigh: SGX goofs again? Is SGX paying for Foreign Talents or Foreign Trash? The CEO is ang moh FT, while its president is Indian FT.

SGX/ Bursa M’sia: Back to the future

In Infrastructure on 06/09/2012 at 4:59 am

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) and Bursa Malaysia will once again be reconnected from September 18, allowing easy trading access to investors from both sides of the Causeway.

Thailand will join the system later.

I joined a stockbroking firm in S’pore in 1987. Then M’sian and S’porean shares were jointly listed. Then the two exchanges split and there was CLOB. Then in 1998, CLOB was closed.

Why not to expect recovery anytime soon

In Economy, Emerging markets on 05/09/2012 at 7:48 am

(Or “Kishore Mahbubani’s thesis about Asian power proven wrong again”)

It seems likely the long-term recessionary scenario as described by Mr Taylor, Mr Reinhart, and Mr Rogoff is what economies in the West are now experiencing. Within developed markets, the financial sector occupies a larger proportion of the general economy than ever before. In the 1990s and 2000s, the level of private debt on bank balance sheets far outweighed that held by sovereigns, despite a simultaneous increase in sovereign debt levels. Given the greater severity of recession Taylor concludes is likely following a period of both private and public debt accumulation, the damaging effects could go on for some time.  Warning: very chim

Let’s see if the BRICs and other Asian economies can save S’pore from a recession or slow down like what a certain PAP apologist is implying about the days of ang moh and Jap tua kee are over: now China, India and Asian (ex Japan) tua kee. He got his balls blown-off over Standard Chartered!

Ravi’s friends and “not friends”

In Uncategorized on 05/09/2012 at 6:18 am

(Or “Ravi is lucky to have four trusty friends” or “A friend in need, is a friend in need”)

Last week, I wrote that if Ravi is found to be mentally sick, only the SDP would come out of the sorry tale with credit.

Well, whether Ravi is found to be ill or not, TRE would come out with credit. This piece explains very clearly the circumstances behind Ravi’s latest action against the Law Soc (asking the court to sack all the council members): Ravi has a letter from a very qualified and eminent doctor, clearing him of being a loony, and a danger to his clients.

If only Ravi had given us the info contained therein last week, I for one would have been more sympathetic towards him. But I must add, even after reading TRE’s piece, I can understand the Law Soc’s court petition*. But I now understand why Ravi is so angry. He gave Law Soc a letter saying he is fine.

So now other than SDP and TRE who else are Ravi’s friends?

Andrew Loh and But they tend to report Ravi’s version without giving background info. With the constructive, nation-building as his opponent, context is always impt in getting Ravi’s side of the story understood.

I hope that Ravi will use TRE, Andrew Loh and Publichouse to tell his side of the story in a timely manner and not allow the media to misrepresent the facts. The task then to explain his side of the story is made more difficult. Take his action to petition the court to remove the Law Soc council last Friday. The TRE article should have ideally appeared the day he announced the petition.

As to who are not his friends, one is possibly KennethJ who leaked without any context, Dr Fones’ letter to the Law Soc . The twit did Ravi no favours: made Ravi’s looniness a fact, rather than juz an opinion of a doctor. KennethJ went on to compare Ravi to a USSR dissident being certified loony.

The problem that KennethJ and are netizens who shout “repression are three-fold.

Ravi has a documented history of mental illness and forgetting to take his medicine.

He accepts these facts, most of the time.

And Ravi has not denied the following serious allegations: that he

— was involved in a row outside a Hindu temple;

— shouted vulgarities at a MediaCorp producer (who filed a police report); and

— stopped taking his medicine

Whatever it is, let’s hope Ravi listens to those who have his interests at heart, and not those who want to use him for their own ends ( Example?: This lady is trying to mix up the mental health issue with the “repression” issue. And she seems to have conveniently forgotten that the publicity and leaks came from Ravi, not the Law Soc ).

And if they advise him to take his medicine regularly, I hope he takes his pills.

Three cheers for SDP, TRE, Andrew Loh and Publichouse. So far, only they are doing the right thing by Ravi.

I will cheerfully admit that I’m no friend. In this blog, I ( as a trained lawyer ) ‘ve criticised the legal positions he has taken. But of his courage, I’ve never said a bad word: as brave, if not braver, than the late Saint JBJ.


*The latest twist in the story

Not reported: banking jobs being relocated out of S’pore systematically

In Economy, Media on 04/09/2012 at 7:10 am

Credit Suisse is relocating dozens of back-office jobs from Singapore to India and Poland as part of efforts to cut costs, the FT reported on Monday. It also reported that Morgan Stanley last month completed shifting about 80 back-office jobs to India and Hungary, from Singapore.

And that other banks were planning to move back office jobs to “cheaper” countries.

Our constructive, nation-building media were very quick to report a survey that UK investment bankers wanted to come here, but while Today and BT (online) reported bits of above, ST never did. And BT (the paper) does not seem to have reported it.

AND they all don’t publish the bit about Morgan Stanley and the other banks. Remember you read it here.

Long term investor while trading a stock

In China, Financial competency, Temasek on 04/09/2012 at 7:00 am

Jim Cramer’s “trading round a position”. Got to try it. Locks in profits.

Maybe Temasek is trading round its position in the Chinese banks it holds, given that China will not be pleased if it sells out of them.

18.6% of AIA for sale

In Insurance on 03/09/2012 at 7:08 am

American International Group becomes free after September 4 to sell a US$7.6 bn stake in former unit AIA. If AIG does decide to sell the entire18.6% , the deal would be Asia’s biggest-ever block offering ever.

AIG could decide not to sell anything or it could sell off a small chunk. But expectations are that it wants to sell everything and soon.

AIG spun off two-thirds of AIA in 2010, raising US$20.5bn in the world’s third-largest IPO ever at the time. AIG agreed not to sell its remaining stake until this yr. In March it sold some, raising US$6bn.

AIA’s shares are up 9.5% so far in 2012  (the Hong Kong financial services sub-index finance/market is up 4.7% in 201)  and are up by 35% since its IPO. It is seen as a proxy to Asia’s growing wealth and booming demand for insurance and other financial products.

But AIA is not expensive compared to its peers. It trades at 16.3 times its 12-month forward earnings, according to Thomson Reuters data, while Asia-Pacific insurers on average trade at forward price-to-earnings ratio of 15.3.

AIA shares have remained resilient despite the stock overhang issue and just a week before the March selldown, the stock came within striking distance of its all-time high. AIG sold the AIA shares at HK$27.15 in the March selldown and on Friday the stock traded flat at HK$26.55.

As usual the underwriters are expected to line up a large investor or strategic buyer to take up a big chunk of the deal. GIC or Temasek? Temask is a cornerstone investor, I think.

Err Lee what did you say abt food inflation?

In Economy, Media, Political governance on 03/09/2012 at 5:13 am

Last month 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 Retail Prices Working Group 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. (More)

Funny then that on 30 August BBC Online reported

Global food prices have leapt by 10% in the month of July, raising fears of soaring prices …

The bank said that a US heatwave and drought in parts of Eastern Europe were partly to blame for the rising costs.

The price of key grains such as corn, wheat and soybean saw the most dramatic increases, described by the World Bank president as “historic”.

So the issue is not even that only in the long term food prices here will rise, but how soon. That it will rise in “the near term”, despite his denial, is a probability. Even before the spoke juz before National Day, prices had alread risen. I mean as a MTI minister, surely he would have access to that information, unless his officials hid data from him to make him look stupid?

Discounting that possibility or the possibility that MTI does not have access to near-live data (highly unlikely),  either this jnr minister doesn’t know economics (maybe taz why he did not get promoted to minister?*) or he was juz mindlessly spinning knowing that the constructive, nation-building media would not challenge him, and that people would believe him.

Methinks one test of whether the government is sincere about having a national conversation is for ministers to stop assuming that the people are simple-minded to believe whatever ministers say. Those days are over. S’poreans have the internet and social media to keep tabs on waz happening in the rest of the world and in S’pore. The days when the constructive, nation-building local media filtered everything are over.


*Unlikely given Tharman’s and Hng Kiang’s grasp of basic economic theory

TOC: Nine “Main Stories”, only one original

In Uncategorized on 02/09/2012 at 11:17 am

I was planning to write a totful, analytical piece abt the changes at TOC since the GE of 2011. There had been major changes twice since then in the way TOC was run.

But the front page of TOC (at the time of writing compels) me to put up this short note.

There are nine Main Stories, of which only one is an original piece. Of the rest, two three are media releases (no, I’m not bitching abt them because they give useful info) but the remaining six five Main Stories are from other blogs. And the original article is not a gd piece of writing. It’s a rant.

And the reprints (two from the same person) are OK reads, nothing v.v good. Today’s Main Story, written by one KennethJ, is not even that recent. It was written shumetime back.

While today’s front page, is extreme, I’ve noticed that ever since Ravi the do-gooder stepped down*, there has been a growing use of “reprints”. In June, I sent an email to a member of the Core Team asking jokingly if KennethJ was paying for ad space or had taken over TOC**. On 2 June and 3 June this year, out of the nine Main Stories TOC carried, he had three articles (I’m not sure if they were reprints from his blog) and one praising him to the skies.***

Is TOC becoming an aggregator? Is it becoming an aggregator out of choice or because of a dearth of original material ?Remember it’s so easy nowadays to start a blog, and aggregators like SGDaily and S’pore Surf draw attention to new bloggers by helping promote pieces they think should be of interest.

And why is the editorial team not writing more themselves? Ravi and before him, Andrew Loh, used to write many of the original articles that appeared in TOC.


*I helped him edit and the new team asked me twice to help edit but never used my edits (their right) and I never ever got another piece to edit from them (fair enough, not wasting the time of both sides if they don’t like my edits)

**Remember he tried to takeover SDP only to fail and look silly, dumb and petulant in the process. Chiam (his mentor) came out looking silly but recovered quickly his credibility. KennethJ never did.

***And between 7 July- 10th July, there were two articles by him (again not sure if they were reprints) and one abt him out of the nine Main Stories.



Update on Citi: New Citi, old Citi

In Banks, GIC on 02/09/2012 at 7:09 am

As GIC still has a loss position in Citi (though it has realised profits to offset the loss, unlike in UBS), tot I’d update readers

Rot at SGX continues despite (or because of?) FT CEO & president

In Corporate governance on 01/09/2012 at 8:40 am

Not only are the two FTs unable to attract mega-IPOs, CIMB Research says the string of privatisations is likely to continue, helped by cash-rich buyers, highly-valued Asian consumer franchises and battered valuations for cyclical companies.

We have seen a few privatisation offers, the latest being Heineken for Asia Pacific Breweries and another from Thai energy firm PTT to buy out Sakari Resources.

CIMB said stocks that may receive privatisation offers include offshore marine firms CH Offshore and KS Energy, as well as property developers such as Bukit Sembawang and Ho Bee.

To identify privatisation situations, CIMB looked at stocks trading below 1 standard deviation from their historical trading ranges and shareholders with interest and means to de-list the companies.

“We believe that globally, corporates have been building up cash to prepare for the worst, ever since the global financial crisis. They have the means to make an offer.”

Related rant: