Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

SMRT: Better not take the bus

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

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

TRE reprinted this and Neutral responded as follows:

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

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

I disagree.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Better visit the Pandas quickly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— no authority could revoke presidential decisions;

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

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

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

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

Olam: Ang Moh Kaw bites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subsidised hawker food book

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

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

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

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

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

When Devan Nair was Jedi

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

(And ST journalists were Jedi cadets)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Have you, like me been, puzzled by

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

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

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

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

EPL available in Burma

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

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

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


Asean round-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why WP MPs are not First World parlimentarians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— on the nationalisation of public transport: and

— on what to peg ministers’ salaries to.

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

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

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

Indons buys S’pore telco biz

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

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

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



Typical S’porean way

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

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

So very S’porean.

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

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

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

Olam: Temasek’s actions key

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

Olam fights back.

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



Asean round-up

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

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

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

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

In pictures: Obama in Burma

Great cartoon

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

Great comment on FT influx

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

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

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

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

(Note I cleaned up several spelling errors.)


A plague on both PAPpies & some Facebookers

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

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

The PAP ministers first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Why productivity is so low here?

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

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

Think about it when you go to work tom.

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

How S’pore didn’t help the Republican cause

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

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

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

SMRT is in the biz of transporting people

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

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

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


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

One Eye Dragon In Your Pants:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


StanChart not looking too gd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Bank chart

The Link between Chinese Philosophy and Financial Gains

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

Zen, I-Ching and Taoism, and investing.

Signs of being an opium smoker investor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indians: Lots to celebrate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juz calculate the percentage of Indian MPs to the total.

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

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

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

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

Have to a good holiday all.

Asean round-up

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

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

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

QE-lenient world gives Vietnam financial pardon.

Why POTUS is visiting Burma.

Tips for online CVs

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

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

Source: James Brian, Monster (via BBC)

The genius of Bill Gates

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

He made us overpay for his stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s another case of bad reporting.

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

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

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

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

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

So what is Mendaki, SPH?

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

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

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

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

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


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

LKY gets kicked in the balls

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

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

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

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

Indonesia: Fight connections with connections

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

SMRT: $15,000 not enough

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

Talk of bad PR.

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

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

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

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

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

NSP: Not in hibernation, but beavering away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

HSBC: Better than the average bank

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

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



Even pros don’t read to fine print

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

So the call for more transparency and disclosure is BS!

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

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

Three cheers for ST: for once

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asean round-up

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

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

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

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

Diverging commodities

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

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



S-Reits: start thinking of taking profits?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



A Hard Truth about SPH reporting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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