atans1

Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page

Dr M, like one LKY, is losing his memory

In Malaysia, Political economy, Political governance on 31/12/2013 at 4:46 am

(There is some analysis of what one LKY said tagged on at the end but yes it’s analysis about M’sia week (previous) ).

Going by this extract from BT, seems that Dr M has forgotten that there was almost no money left in the Treasury when he stepped down.

FORMER Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that Putrajaya should cut its own costs before burdening the public with higher taxes and tariffs.

It was his first public comment on what has fast become a contentious issue among Malaysians: an increasing cost of living that is set to escalate in 2014.

After the general election (GE) in May, Malaysia was put on notice by the international rating agencies that it had to get its fiscal discipline right. Prime Minister Najib Razak responded by first cutting fuel subsidies and raising petrol prices by 10 per cent in September.

In his October Budget, Mr Najib abolished sugar subsides and pledged to cut total subsidies by 17 per cent in the financial year. The Budget did not achieve that, so most commentators expect more fuel subsidy cuts possibly in the second half of the year. Mr Najib also promised a 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST) by next April.

Yes, yes, I know Badawi accused him of over-spending. But the fact that Badawi and now Najib are having to cut back govt spending shows that Dr M overspent when he was in power. Sadly this never happened here. If only GCT had spent more, LHL, would not be in so much shit. But don’t pity PM: he was DPM then, and in charge of economical and financial matters.

Coming back to Dr M. We can’t be too hard on him given that one LKY said that S’pore was a “barren rock” before the PAP took power. He must have got HK in mind when the British seized HK from the Chinese. I’ll let a HK official tell the story, It was on this day, January 20 in 1841 that a treaty was signed ceding Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

 To cut a long story short, Captain Charles Elliot of the British Royal Navy had negotiated the terms of the agreement and reported them to Lord Palmerston who was then the Foreign Secretary in London.

Lord Palmerston was outraged that Britain had got such a raw end of the deal. He promptly dismissed Captain Elliot from his post and famously declared that Hong Kong was, and I quote: “A barren rock with nary a house upon it. It will never be a mart for trade.”

S’pore as all TRE readers will be able to tell you was the second most important port in Asia, though they may not tell you (because they may not know)  that it had problems, problems  outlined below*.

LKY would have been on safer ground if he had told S’poreans what might have happened if S’pore had gotten bad govt (like in Burma). But then S’poreans could rightly have asked if there were credible alternatives. The answer to that is not so obvious and detracts from the narrative that the PAP made S’pore. It didn’t: S’poreans of my parents’ generation made  modernS’pore on the colonial foundation. The PAP helped in the making.

*Singapore Correspondent. Political Dispatches from Singapore (1958-1962)

(http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/mai/new-book-singapore-correspondent/)
by Leon Comber*

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish International Asia

Singapore Correspondent Book CoverSingapore Correspondent” covers five years of Singapore’s colourful political past – a period of living turbulently and sometimes dangerously. It is a collection of eye-witness dispatches, sent from Singapore to London, spanning a time when Singapore was emerging from British colonial rule and moving forward to self-government and independence. Many of the early struggles of the People’s Action Party (PAP) are described as the focus is on the political struggle taking place in which the PAP played a major part. Many important events which have long been forgotten are brought to life. These dispatches prove that political history need not be dull, and indeed can sometimes be entertaining and lively.

* MAI Adjunct Research Fellow

Reviewed here: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/im-invested-in-spore-spore-in-50s-60s/

Related: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/when-55-of-voters-were-fts/

Why democracy is not a Hard Truth

In Political governance on 30/12/2013 at 6:29 am

I juz came across this quote from the novelist EM Forster who gave two cheers for democracy: “One because it admits variety, and two because it permits criticism.”. Need I say more on why the PAP doesn’t do democracy?  It doesn’t like variety or criticism. and 60% of S’poreans like it that way. What more can I say? Except that those who want the PAP out have four five choices;

— sit down and shut up;

— be prepared to persuade at least 11% more of voters to join the 40% (actually maybe even more, maybe 24% of the voters, see why here);

— turn to revolution;

— despair and “move on” overseas (BTW, ESM’s daughter is overseas though she’s no “quitter” it seems: LKY’s children are still here by contrast); or

— bitch online (TRE, TOC posters and many Facebookers seem to prefer this option).

BTW, the quote (from a 1938 essay) goes on, “Two cheers are quite enough. There is no occasion to give three.” Forster, according to John Gray, a political philisopher,”thought that no political system – not even democracy – should be turned into an icon. What mattered, he thought, was that individuals should have the chance to live as best they can.”. If anyone is interested, here is John Gray on why  “Human rights are important, but they will never be a solution to ending conflict”. Our HR kay pohs should read it and draw lessons on how they go about rights advocacy here. Example: Human rights have two large virtues – they empower us against governments, and anyone can claim them. If we have rights we needn’t approach power on our knees, as supplicants begging for favours. We can demand that our freedoms be respected. And it doesn’t matter who governs us. Human rights can be invoked wherever they exist.

Can I ask the SDP member who follows this blog to pls pass on this message to all his HR kay poh friends and his party members. They tend to talk about HR in abstract terms allowing the PAPPies cheap, easy, and unnecessary victories.

1Malay not 1M’sian

In Malaysia on 29/12/2013 at 5:55 am

The u/m extract reflects the consensus among analysts (not connected to the govt or oppo) on how UMNO will behave.

Umno’s three-pronged strategy towards GE14
 
This conservative logic formed the bedrock of the “back to basics” strategy that was spelt out by Najib, whose speech was themed “Fortifying the Future”. Going forward, Umno will pursue three strategic thrusts – or what Najib called the “three messages from the assembly”: The first is a turn towards Islamic Shariah; the second is a stronger Malay and bumiputra agenda, for which, he said, Umno need not be apologetic; and the third a “transformed Umno” as a “party of the 21st century”. It is significant that Umno as the “party of the future” will become not just more Malay, but Islamist at the same time.    

Becoming more Islamist for a Malay-nationalist party like Umno is an equally significant shift. Ideologically-driven Islamist parties actually find ethno-nationalism objectionable. Umno clearly is positioning itself as the primary political vehicle for the Malay and Muslim constituency, thus raising the prospects of an all-out contest for power with the opposition Islamist PAS, even as Umno – paradoxically – woos PAS for unity talks. Umno’s drift towards a more Islamist identity was marked by a highly controversial drive to pitch itself as the defender of Sunni Islam in the face of what it paints as the growing threat of Shiism in the country. The federal constitution would be reworded to define the official religion as “Islam Sunnah Wal Jamaah” or Sunni Islam, not simply Islam. That this move is partly politically-motivated is seen in the immediate targeting of the PAS deputy leader as a closet Shia and therefore a threat.

The second thrust of a greater push for the Malay and bumiputra agenda is clearly aimed at solidifying the Peninsular-East Malaysia axis around the Malay core. Najib conceded the crucial role of the “fixed deposit” states of Sabah and Sarawak in BN’s ultimate win in the last GE. As many see it, if not for these two states, there would have been a change of government in Malaysia. With Najib’s renewed emphasis on the Malay and bumiputra agenda, the New Economic Policy that officially ended in 1990 but was unofficially continued, has finally been resurrected in all but name. CEOs of all government-linked companies have been given KPIs to realise this goal on pain of seeing their contracts not renewed.

To complete the three-pronged strategy, Umno will go all out to win the young voters. In the next GE, some six million new voters will be casting for the first time. The majority are likely to be anti-establishment and anti-Umno. They could make a difference whether there will finally be a change of government or not in GE14. No wonder Najib made it clear: UMNO must win over the young voters and master the social media with which the young are savvy.
 
Implications

Umno’s eagerness to recover its eroded political ground has seen it responding in unexpected ways, with implications yet to be fully fathomed. Its readiness to march to its own drumbeat is a warning to friend and foe alike that the rules of the game will be set by Umno alone. 

To its ethnic-based political allies in BN, which are facing their own internal crises, the message is that the BN power-sharing system will be on Umno’s terms. To the opposition, the message is clear: whoever controls the Malay and Muslim ground will control power – and it is not going to be the opposition, which is not homogenous ethnically and ideologically. 

Umno is desperate to win. Going forward, all communities will be forced to ponder what this means for them and the country.

http://www.rsis.edu.sg/publications/Perspective/RSIS2362013.pdf?utm_source=getresponse&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=rsis_publications&utm_content=RSIS+Commentary+236%2F2013+Malaysia%E2%80%99s+Political+Outlook+2014%3A+Key+Challenges+Facing+Najib+by+Yang+Razali+Kassim+

Waz interesting is that PAS or a faction of PAS will decide if this strategy works: DAP and Anwar’s gang can only hope the moderates in PAS continue to hold power, and that UMNO doesn’t succeed in splitting PAS. In PAS, the conservatives outnumber the moderates among the PAS supporters. At the leadership level, there is an uneasy consensus between the moderates and conservativesnot to team up with UMNO. Even the conservative leaders have their doubts given that PAS was once a jnr partner of UMNO’s and got stabbed in the back repeatedly.

Now if UMNO decided that it would support the cutting off of limbs, the conservatives of PAS would have no choice but to team up with UMNO. Of course, there is likely a step too far for even UMNO.  But the logical remains (and tempation) remains for UMNO.

BT: Comparing apples to oranges again?

In Emerging markets, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 28/12/2013 at 7:27 am

(Or “Anti-PAP bloggers share LKY’s Hardest Truth)

Schroders plc and Baring Asset Management Ltd are avoiding Singapore stocks, the cheapest in South-east Asia, as slower economic growth in the region and cuts to Federal Reserve stimulus drive capital outflows.

The fund managers expect property to lead declines in Singapore amid a real-estate slump and the prospect of higher interest rates. The Straits Times Index was the worst-performing developed market in 2013, dropping 9.5 per cent since Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said in May that bond purchases may be reduced on signs of sustainable US recovery.

Surprised constructive nation-building (but mathematically challenged) BT reported things this way.

In US$ terms, among the bigger Asean stock mkts, only the M’sian stk mkt was better than us. Taz not saying much as only M’sia index ended in positive territory (juz) juz before hols

M’sia:          +3.2%

S’pore:          -6.0

Thailand:     -8.5

Indonesia:   -23.0

Got subversives in BT meh?

In the minnow Asean mkts Vietnam  was +24%, while Manila was +3.4% according to the MSCI indices.

Next yr is not going to be a gd yr for Asean countries, so the fact that Schroders and Barings are “avoiding” S’pore is no big deal for anti-PAP bloggers to brag about. Don’t know about you, but I get the sense that some of them hate the PAP so much that they end up cheering and being cheerful when S’pore tanks, for whatever reason. Looks like they agree with one LKY that S’pore and the PAP are one. They may hate him but they accept his premise?

Asean round-up returns next yr, god willing.

Pls spare migrant workers pennies from the $2.5bn++ they “gift” S’pore

In Economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 27/12/2013 at 4:30 am

(This is a follow-up to this on how Santa 2.0, the govt and Scrooge are related.)

TOC’s Terry Xu commented on Facebook a few days ago: The total foreign worker levies collected were S$2.5 billion for the Financial Year 2011 and S$1.9 billion for the Financial Year 2010. Similar to other sources of Government revenue, the foreign worker levies are not ringfenced for any specific purposes. All Government revenue collected would go into the Consolidated Fund used to fund Government expenditures in general.”

And it goes up even more in the year 2012, 2013 given that there are more workers and that the levies have increased since then … (Thanks Terry for this info. I’d been meaning to check up the quantum and use of the levies, but never got round to googling)

This means the govt can do more, a lot more, to ensure that these workers have better living and work environments, and are not exploited (This is how bad things can be: http://www.lianainfilms.com/2013/12/the-singapore-way/), without increasing the tax burden on S’poreans and others living here, or on the workers’ employers, and biz in general.

Surely some of this money can be used to set-up a medical insurance fund and a general welfare fund for these workers? Surplus for our SWFs to use to place bets on juz a bit smaller. True, we pay them wages but those wages are off-set by the Hard Truth that if they were not available, we’d be paying serious money to get workers or robots to do what they are currently doing for “peanuts”.

But I would like to remind the activists that there are worse places that migrant workers are willing to go to.

A November report produced by Amnesty International, the British-based rights group, found the Qatari construction industry to be “rife with abuse”, including forced labour and virtual slavery. Workers complained that their salaries were half what they were promised, or that they had not been paid at all for months. Others said their wages had been docked for taking five-minute breaks during 18-hour shifts in the searing summer heat. Sponsors routinely confiscate their employees’ passports, preventing them from changing jobs or leaving the country. In the most extreme cases, workers have paid with their lives: this summer 44 Nepalese migrants died in two months from heart failure or work-related accidents. The International Trade Union Confederation warns that as many as 4,000 labourers could perish during the next nine years of construction.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2013/12/football-and-labour-rights-qatar)

I’m not using the fact that are are worse places than S’pore to defend the S’pore Way: juz to try to put things in perspective. We are not “Swiss” enough, but we are not cruel slave masters, far from it. Interestingly, about 10 yrs I met an Iraqi who was working in ST. We got talking and somehow touched on employer/ employee relations: and he reminded me that the people of the Gulf had only stopped owning slaves legally in the early 20th century, and that there was a slave, master mentality there even in 2003.

Workfair and Maruah should campaign for the use of some of the $2.5bn to be used to provide medical insurance and other benefits, not against the deportation without, what they claim, is due process. I’ll blog on the deportation issue next week.

Ho Ho Ho: Santa = S’pore govt = Scrooge?

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 26/12/2013 at 5:54 am

Santa’s critics note that higher profits and productivity have not resulted in higher pay for the elves. They were seeing their real incomes squeezed even before the Fairy Tale of Wall Street had an unhappy ending in 2008, and then took pay cuts rather than lose their jobs. With welfare being cut, most plumped for a job over the dole even if it meant a cut in living standards.

Santa accepts that the workforce has made sacrifices. But he insists these are vital to keep the company going at a time of cut-throat global competition. The elves have to understand, he adds, that the alternative to zero-hour contracts and pay cuts would be that the jobs would be outsourced from Lapland to a lower-cost grotto in the far east.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2013/dec/22/santa-elves-living-standards-surveillance

Doesn’t Santa sound like PM or his dad or VivianB or “cheaper, faster” Zorro  etc? I’m so confident that readers will agree that I wouldn’t give examples. This isn’t ST.

As to Scrooge, this is how Dickens described Scrooge before Scrooge repented and became a Dr Chee type of person (actually better than Mad Dog  as Scrooge had his personal wealth to spend on the poor, Dr Chee is depending on our reserves and higher taxes)

“Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

“Even the blindmen’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

Mean of Dickens? Scrooge when asked for donations for the poor, “There are many things which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited” and  “Are there no prisons?”. Sounds very much like our very own VivianB when he was welfare minister?

Merry Christmas.

11 finance” movies worth watching over hols

In Uncategorized on 25/12/2013 at 4:49 am
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2013
 ‘Wolf’ Martin Scorsese’s film about Jordan Belfort is set join a long list of Wall Street movies that are focused more on frat-boy antics than financial wizardry.

The caricatures personified by Mr. Belfort, Gordon Gekko and the brokers in “Boiler Room” are well-known. “Boiler Room” even includes a long scene with the characters quoting from “Wall Street.”


Here are options for 10 very good (and some so bad they’re great) movies on finance that we’d rather see instead of spending time with our family this holiday.

  1. Trading Places” Money quote: “The people who own the pork belly contracts are saying, ‘Hey, we’re losing all our damn money, and Christmas is around the corner, and I ain’t gonna have no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip!'”
  2. Floored” Money quote: Almost every quote in this documentary on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is unprintable.
  3. Barbarians at the Gate” Money quote: “Kravis will eat you alive if you let him in.”
  4. The Secret of My Success” Money quote: “That was the best damn memo I ever read.”
  5. Other People’s Money” Money quote: “I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company?”
  6. Working Girl” Money quote: “I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”
  7. Rogue Trader” Money quote: “One of our traders in Singapore got drunk the other night and pulled a moon.”
  8. American Psycho” Money quote: “I can’t believe that Bryce prefers Van Patton’s card to mine.”
  9. Too Big to Fail” Money quote: “We don’t do this now, we won’t have an economy on Monday.”
  10. It’s a Wonderful Life.” Money quote: “Look, we’re still in business, we’ve got two bucks left!” This 1946 film may be the last time a banker was portrayed on film as a decent person.       From NYT’s DealBook

BT inflation headline talks sucks, really sucks

In Economy, Financial competency, Holidays and Festivals, Media on 24/12/2013 at 6:28 am

I recently blogged that the PAP should approach mrbrown to help PAP MPs in particular Baey and Tharman. Looks like BT needs his help in getting the facts “right”.Let me explain.

I waz planning to take a break from nasty, vicious blogging as it’s the time of peace and gooddwill towards men.

Happily for my inner Grinch , I read this

Core inflation inches higher, forecasts up
Economists point to higher inflation for next year with pressure from wages, business costs, COEs
… Inflation rose to 2.6 per cent year-on-year in November, from 2 per cent the previous month, with private-sector economists forecasting higher inflation for next year. In a statement yesterday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said core inflation – which strips out accommodation and private road transport costs – also picked up pace to 2.1 per cent in November, compared with 1.8 per cent in October.Based on the above, core inflation was up 16.7%. Taz’s “inching” in a month?

Trying to spin gold out of bull dust? Or is shumeone seriously drunk or mathematically challenged? BTW, inflation was up 30% in a month.

Santa, I want for Christmas “Headlines from a Mathematically Literate World”

Our World: Unemployment Rate Jumps from 7.6% to 7.8%
Mathematically Literate World: Unemployment Rate Probably a Little Under 8%; Maybe Rising, or Not, Can’t Really Tell

Our WorldFirm’s Meteoric Rise Explained by Daring Strategy, Bold Leadership
Mathematically Literate WorldFirm’s Meteoric Rise Explained by Good Luck, Selection Bias

Our WorldGas Prices Hit Record High (Unadjusted for Inflation)
Mathematically Literate WorldGas Prices Hit Record High (In a Vacuous, Meaningless Sense)

Read more

http://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2013/12/02/headlines-from-a-mathematically-literate-world/

And if interested on why core inflation was up 16.7% (can’t help think of “ponding”)

A higher headline inflation figure in November – marking the first time since March that inflation has risen beyond the 2 per cent level – was generally expected as it had been flagged by MAS and MTI previously.

The biggest driver was higher accommodation costs, which rose 3.3 per cent year on year from 1.9 per cent in October, when service and conservancy charges rebates to HDB households had kept housing-related costs down.

 

FTs: Humour free zone? Jokes prohibited?

In Humour, Internet on 23/12/2013 at 4:48 am

This blogger is ambivalent about Bertha Henson. The conventional wisdom is that this once Sith Lord in the making changed her spots after retiring from SPH* where she was a cyber warrior (general rank) at ST, no less, into a Jedi warrior. One of these days, I’ll go into the conspiracy theory as to why she could be a Trojan horse (and explain the inconvenient fact to said theory that MDA fixed her). But as this is Christmas, I’ll not be that Gringie.

Whether on not she is part of a black ops against us cowboys of S’pore’s cyberspace, she writes well, very well. She’s pretty witty too, and has mastered the dark art of black humour, if not satire. Example: http://berthahenson.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/personally-speaking-no-fund-intended/. And she loves journalism; she did a lovely piece on her accreditation  to an activist event: sorry lazy to find the article to link to it.

But despite being treated as Jedi both by the cowboys and the MDA and ST, she recently was attacked by two tua kee cyber activists (both ladies) on Facebook for writing  http://berthahenson.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/a-sunday-problem/. Read it for yrself  before going on to read their comments, and my take on the piece and them.

I’ll not name them, ’cause its Christmas and I’m no Grinch or Krampus. A man dressed as Krampus in Austria … pretty scary, huh?

One said: What a lovely way to dehumanise a group of people: make assumptions and fall back on stereotypes, while coming across as reasoned and reasonable. Dear Bertha, the problems facing migrant workers go beyond what happens to them on a Sunday. Of course, we only notice them on Sundays because they’re busy working themselves to the bone, building our city, cleaning our loos, clearing our trash and staying out of YOUR way the rest of the week. Where they go on their rest day really isn’t anyone’s problem but their own. Would YOU like your boss to tell you what to do when you’re not working?

Another wrote:

It is a very condescending article. From the very first paragraph you can see the belittling and patronising: “We have a problem. We have hundreds of thousands of foreign workers – and we don’t know what to do with them on Sundays. And they probably don’t know what to do with themselves on Sundays either.”

Why do we need to do anything with them on their off day – it is THEIR off day. And who are we to say that they don’t know what to do with themselves, simply because from our standpoint that don’t seem to be doing what we would prefer them to do (which is what, attend Alcoholics Anonymous and play friendly games of basketball in their dorms?)

The second paragraph is just as facepalm-worthy: “The foreign maid can stay “home” and be paid for not taking the day off. And even if they are out, they’re not likely to get into a drunken stupor and throw pieces of concrete around. They’ll just crowd somewhere until someone shoos them somewhere else.”

The fact that foreign domestic workers stay “home” on their day off potentially means that they will also be made to work on their day off. This is not a situation we should be okay with, much less use as a sort of “ah this is okay for FDWs, but what about the other migrant workers” example.

Also, migrant workers in Little India are also “not likely to get into a drunken stupor and throw pieces of concrete around”; just because a group of men did it once on one Sunday night – out of all the many Sunday nights over the many years that they DIDN’T do it – doesn’t make that entire group of people suddenly prone to doing it.

And the last sentence of that paragraph: “They’ll just crowd somewhere until someone shoos them somewhere else.” Like that’s an okay state of affairs too! Oh, these FDWs don’t bother us, they just hang about with their friends and if we Singaporeans don’t like it just shoo them away lah! <- How condescending and dehumanising is that?!

So just in the first two paragraphs already almost every single sentence is offensive. Wah lau.

Foreign workers should be able to do whatever they want on their days off. It is the Singaporean mindset – the one that tells us that we enlightened beings must take care of “those from the Indian subcontinent” because they don’t know what to do with themselves – that should change.

I think Ms Henson is having a dig at the govt’s uncaring attitude to solving a problem, any problem: everything has to be neat and tidy, and damn the human cost.

My take on her critics is that these two gals don’t do humour, at least when it comes to FTs. Or they may think that the issue should not be the subject of any humour: too serious to joke about. Bit like the attitude of the authorities in the aftermath of the riot: no alcohol, and apparently no Maruah meeting in restaurant private room which employs FTs. On the latter, scared that FTs will riot? Come on Maruah are wimps in action: talk cock, sing song. Sorry KH, can’t resist that.

But to be fair to the gals , one of Henson’s BN team “Liked” the second entry.  So maybe I’m wrong about said lady activists. Either that or her disciple is a Judas, or a sotong boy. I suspect the last is most likely.

Merry Christmas. Keep on feasting.

*A more classy, intelligent version of what Tan Kin Lian did after he retired from NTUC Income: resigning from the PAP and standing as the People’s Voice in the presidential election, where he lost his deposit and deprived us of cocking a snook at the PAP. The PAP’s preferred candidate won by around three hundred votes. But to be fair, TKL fought the gd fight for those who invested in securities that invested in credit-default notes. (Declaration of interest: I helped out there) Investors got a raw deal, but it could have been worse if not for TKL.( https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/helping-retail-investors-the-hk-way-and-the-spore-way/#more-7316 and https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/what-abt-high-notes-sm-goh/)

StanChart losing its shine

In Banks, Emerging markets, Temasek on 22/12/2013 at 7:08 am

Standard Chartered had a bad start to the hols. Last Monday, its shares fell sharply on the possibility that it might call for a rights issue in the wake of weakish results. They’ve since recovered but there was another sharp fall on Fridaty, albeit from a much recovered position.

It has also been forced to strip its finance boss of his responsibilities to oversee the lender’s risk division following pressure from the Bank of England.

Richard Meddings, who has been group finance director of Standard Chartered since November 2006, had to hand over governance responsibility of risk to Peter Sands after the Prudential Regulation Authority said it was concerned with Meddings holding two conflicting roles, according to news reports.

In particular, the PRA, the Bank of England’s financial watchdog, was concerned with the potential conflict between Meddings’ finance responsibility and his duty to oversee risk operations.

All this against the background that it is no longer  an ang moh favourite because emerging markets are no longer in fashion. Their economies are slowing while the Western economies are recovering. And the wall of money is returning to the West.

BTW, those readers of TRE who bitch that Temasek lost money on StanChart and say that I didn’t know this fact are daft: all they needed to do is to google up StanChart’s 10 yr price. But if anyone wants to see the numbers: here’s why.

 

Thailand: Huge ad, gd PR for PAP govt?

In Political economy on 21/12/2013 at 9:12 am

The PAP govt is forever warning that if it loses power, or even loses one more parly seat, chaos will ensure.

Happily 40% of voters no longer believe this self-serving nonsense (hence LKY had to warn Aljunied voters that they would repent; and sneerer of the elderly poor, ACS boy is highlighting every molehill of the WP Aljunied town council), though I must point out that .70% of voters voted for two prominent ex PAPpies in the presidential election. The ex-PAP man who denounced PAP lost his deposit. Dr Chee’s man only got 25%: credible but only ’cause there were two credible ex-PAPpies challenging one another.

So all the more surprising that our constructive, nation-building media hasn’t been highlighting the dire economic situation in Thailand which can be reasonably blamed on Thailand’s more democratic system. Now that BN has closed down, time to bring back Bertha Henson to ST and make her editor? Yaacob’s sis (and Cherian George’s Mrs) isn’t doing the “right” things by the PAPpies, Spock – another bald, pointy ears: SPH’s Managing Editor elder brother?– could conclude.

So far as investors and businessmen crave certainty and predictability, the only thing certain in Thailand these days is unpredictability. The prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, Mr Thaksin’s sister, now seems to have only the shakiest grasp on power. It’s a fair bet the election she has called for February 2014 will never even happen. She has assembled forums to discuss vague concepts of “reform”, to appease Mr Suthep. At the same time Mr Suthep pushes for a completely new government to be run by an unelected “people’s council”. That is also known as a coup.

For Thai businessmen, this is coming at the worst possible time: the beginning of the tourist season. Tourism is vital to the national economy. Last year the country pulled in about 22m visitors. Overall, the tourism-and-travel sector contributed about $28 billion to Thailand’s economy, which would make it worth 7.3% of GDP for 2012, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Including tourism-and-travel’s indirect impact on the economy would make the sector’s value rise to $64.3 billion, or 16.7% of GDP. The sector employs about 2m people directly, and far more indirectly.

There are already signs that the ongoing street protests and occasional political violence and thuggery are putting plenty of people off coming to the country—hardly surprising, as dozens of foreign governments have issued warnings against travelling to Thailand. The political situation is estimated to have reduced the number of inbound tourists in the month to mid-December by 300,000 people, or 8% of the number expected, says Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel.

That is worrying, as is the thought that the current turmoil could drag on to the election in February, or even longer if that proves inconclusive—in other words, throughout the high season. Mindful of the value of the tourism industry, Mr Suthep’s mobs have promised not to occupy and close down Bangkok’s international airport, as their predecessors, the “yellow shirts”, did in 2008. That is now well understood to have hurt the tourist industry, and the wider economy.

That will not be enough to offset the difference however, as even more tourists are now attuned to Thailand’s problems and willing go elsewhere on their merry ways. Bangkok also makes a bundle as a destination for conferences and conventions, but now organisers are actively considering going to other South-East Asian venues rather than endure the road closures and traffic chaos that accompany endless rounds of street demos (to say nothing of the threat of violence).

The government’s own grandiose spending plans have been thrown up in the air too.A key part of the government’s economic strategy had been to boost domestic demand by Keynesian-style spending, the political failure to have a functioning government has effectively undermined that whole strategy. Plans to borrow as much as $68 billion for new railways and roads are to be put on the back-burner as parliamentary and constitutional approval for these bills is delayed indefinitely. Many businesses, such as construction companies, stood to benefit from those expenditures, and now their plans have been derailed as badly as any holidaymaker’s. Thailand’s growth rate for 2013 is likely to weigh in at 3% or so, relatively modest for the region. The government’s hope to achieve a rate of 7% for 2014 now looks wildly optimistic.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/12/business-thailand

Merry Christmas, all, PAPpies and TRe readers, included.

No other Asean news for this week’s Asean-round-up. Lazy leh.

What mrbrown can teach PAP MP Baey

In Humour on 20/12/2013 at 4:56 am

Some time back, I read on Facebook a comment by mrbrown to the effect that in his line of work getting his facts “right” (Yaacob would be proud) is very important. Otherwise, no one would believe him in the future. And this from a joker.

Going by the grave that tampon-detective Baey is digging for himself, the PAP should be arranging for mrbrown to coach Baey and other PAP MPs* on the importance of getting their facts “right”. I mean Yaacob’s too busy on the nightmare that is Bertha Henson: like “Freddy” Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street film series, she keeps on haunting the MDA, and can’t be killed off. But the staff of MDA, and Yaacob should be glad that she is only haunting their dreams, she hasn’t killed any of them, yet.

I’m sure you all know about Baey’s $2.50 nasi padang. If not read, this account by TRE (only available for three months unless you are VIP member: even TRE agrees with the PAP govt  that those who pay, get better treatment. Taz the S’porean way given the many cheapos around.).

He wouldn’t have got himself into said hole if he had checked the cost of the dish before blogging on it. Instead he guessed and got netizens’ tits in a twist at the price.And on whether he lived in a bubble: “the elite’s bubble”.

He then compounded his initial mistake by explaining that he tot it cost $2.50 because, he gave $10, and got back $7, and as the bandung drink must have cost 0.50, the rice was $2.50.

So since when did bandung cost $0.50? More nasty comments followed.

But now it’s more than an issue of credibility and being out-of-touch with us common folks. He said, [The stallkeeper] acknowledged that his staff had recognised me that day and out of respect for my work and service in the community, charged me only $3 when it was more than $4.

Well as a TRE reader put it: If only ex chief of SCDF knew how to word his defence in getting bj from the woman out of respect and goodwill, he would not have been convicted of corruption.

Or as another reader put it: … Cecilia Sue also respect Ng Boon Gay’s work and gave him goodwill blowjobs. Why Ng Boon Gay got to resign? …

The issue is as SgCynic put it: Based on Baey Yam Keng’s reasoning, a lot of people are waiting to give presents to ministers and MPs out of respect and public service officers out of goodwill for the work they do.
We also respect our police officers for their beat and shall we give them gifts “out of goodwill”.
The glacerial slide to corruption begins…

To move on, Baey should do what this TRE reader suggested:

I remember a Minister once visited a Singapore departmental store on an official visit and was given a gift as a souvenir. I remember it to be a wallet or a belt or something like that. After some hoo-ha, the Minister admitted he was not aware of the price of the souvenir, and offered pay for the souvenir.

I suggest in this case, Baey should admit he was wrong not to be more careful about hawkers offering discounts to MPs , and that since it happened, and he is now aware such a favour was given, just pay for the balance and apologise for the ignorance of the market prices of food.

To mention anything else is pathethic [sic] and to link this to some charity now to score point is to add insult to injury.

But then Baey is a PAPpy and PAPpies don’t do apologies. And if Baey is any guide, they can’t even compare like to like. They prefer apples to oranges. I let TRE explain:

To find out the actual price of a typical nasi padang meal, Mr Baey ordered mutton, egg and a veggie from the nasi padang stall on Sunday (15 Dec). This time, the owner charged him the “full price” of $3.70.

“However, some netizens still refused to accept that it was the reality and insisted that I had been ‘corrupt’ again. I decided that any explanation was futile and I would just let actions speak for themselves,” Mr Baey concluded.

Actually, if Mr Baey had wanted to compare apple with apple, he should have ordered a piece of chicken and two veggies, plus a bandung drink – the exact same food he ordered on 11 December. Then Singaporeans would know how much actual “goodwill” he received from the stall owner that day.

BTW, Siew Kum Hong said on FB that he doesn’t  “see the point in making so much of” Baey’s mistakes.

My FB avater posted in response: PAppies are nowadays always fair game juz as JBJ and Dr Chee were fair game for the PAP and our constructive, nation-building media when LKY was in charge. Change under son is commendable but the past is still catching up with the PAP. Karma.

On this cheerful note, have a gd time but don’t drive and drink.

*Esp ministers

— Tharman

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/tharman-trying-to-tell-jokes-again/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/will-hougang-make-the-pap-moan-the-inflation-blues-not-joke-abt-it/

— Hng Kiang

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/will-hougang-make-the-pap-moan-the-inflation-blues-not-joke-abt-it/

— Lee Jnr on world food prices

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/err-lee-what-did-you-say-abt-food-inflation/

TRE readers are illiterate in economics and finance

In Economy, Financial competency, Property on 19/12/2013 at 4:51 am

Or at least many are. Let me explain.

TRE posted this piece of mine on Reits.

It provoked a long rant* from someone called Armchair Anarchist. His or her basic grumble against the govt was that interest rates should have been raised a few back to curb various ills including rising property prices. It received huge positive ratings. And there are no dissenting views, not one.

Last yr around this time, I met an old friend at a function. He was an ISD detainee (short while and it seems ’cause dad was Barisan partisan)) and a strike leader. He later got a MA in Econs and was in admin service (taz meritocracy at work in S’pore, TRE readers, at least 30 yrs ago) before becoming a wheeler-dealer.He was, and is a proud S’porean. No S’pore hater he.

We were discussing what Tharman would do in 2013 to control inflation and property prices given that he couldn’t use interest rates, and the policy of strengthening the currency slowly was not working to control inflation or property prices.

We knew that raising interest rates would only make things worse. Given that everyone (except TRE, TOC and TRS readers) think that S’pore is a safe haven, raising interest rates will result in more foreign money pouring in to take advantage of the better yield here. The currency will be pushed up and exports and services will become uncompetitive. Prices of  most properties (and other assets) will rise. FTs will be willing to accept lower wages, ’cause S$ worth a lot more in their home currencies.

The result: a recession, unemployment among locals, deflation and rising asset prices (except possibly for HDB flats and low end condos: S’porean PMEs default ’cause they lose jobs to FTs). He and I and others with access to credit would make a killing buy low-end condos and renting them out to FT PMEs.

Is this what TRE readers want for Christmas and Chinese New Year?

Are they that deft?

—-

*Armchair Anarchist:

S-REITs payouts lean towards the high side of the global REIT market (e.g. average dividend yield of around 6+% compared to less than 5% in Japan and Germany, 6% UK). If dividends are cut by 20-25%, the yield is still relatively attractive given the dearth of high yielding instruments in Singapore.

But I do find MAS’s warning rather strange. If they are indeed worried about such things as REITs and the health of the Singapore financial sector in face of a potential rise in interest rates, the MAS ought to have engineered such a rise in rates at least 2 years ago and taken the froth out of REITS, the property market and reduced the risk in Singaprean banks’s balance sheets. Why issue warning now that the Fed may begin to taper when the MAS ought to have acted long ago? The easy financing for real estate speculation and the rise in inflation are not new. These had been with us for a few years now and are clear warning signs that interest rates are too low and liquidity too plentiful in Singapore. Look at bank deposit rates and CPF ordinary account rates: we suffered from negative real interest rates when adjusted for the underlying inflation rate (CPI is too crude, PCE deflator is a better indicator). When real rates are negative, the ordinary savers suffered as the value of their savings are inflated away. But it is great for speculators and big companies because it provides a very cheap source of debt financing.

Seems to me, the MAS is probably basking in the reflected glory of superior GDP growth while sleeping on the job in terms of forecasting the real threat to the economy. Another bunch of over-paid, incompetent elites?

Rating: +25 (from 25 votes)

Armchair Anarchist:

I like expand a little bit more on MAS caution regarding rise in interest rates.

My view is MAS left it rather late in the day to caution and to act if necessary. Certain sectors will be hit, not least real estate which had several adrenalin shots that propel values ever higher. But, for our savings and long term investments, it is no bad thing if interest rates are going up. It is my conviction that not just exercising political repression, the govt also exercise financial repression. I said before our AAA-rating is absolutely great for GLCs and big companies but a total disaster for ordinary citizens who have to save and invest for retirement and the rainy day. The Govt incessant extraction of revenues from all sorts of economic activity (tax, COE, surcharges etc)result in persistent budget surplus because in their anti-welfare extremism, the govt do not spend much on social, health and infrastructure programmes. Therefore, our bond yields are artificially low because the govt do not really need to borrow. The govt actually pretend that our CPF rates are pegged to market but in effect the govt control the levers of the bond markets giving themselves a low financing rate. The effect is that we received bugger-all out of bank deposits, CPF and bonds. Singapore company dividends are lousy because whatever crap they pay is still higher than CPF and bond yields.

So let interest rates go up. At least it reverse the equation slightly in favour of the man in the street rather than have the Govt, the GLCs and the big companies indulged themselves in winner-takes-all.

Rating: +20 (from 20 votes)

From the wearing of tudung to single mums, govt always got excuse to do what it wants to do

In Political governance on 18/12/2013 at 5:52 am

A few weeks ago, there was a media report that Halimah Yacob, our tudung-wearing Parllimentary Speaker, had said at a NUS forum that the govt could only help unwedded mothers more only to the extent that society allowed it to: implying, to me, that the govt wanted to offer more help but couldn’t because of societal constraints. How convenient, I tot, to blame the views of society for not doing the right thing by the children of the mums.

Funnily, earlier this year, when there was a call to allow the use of the tudung in the uniformed services, the Malay minister mumbled that it was a complex issue*. The govt could have said “Yes. Society has accepted the wearing of the tudung in public”. After all, it’s a common sight in govt offices, and official spaces where the public is served by un-uniformed staff. It’s common in the private sector, even when uniforms are used. Contrast that with the time when Ms Yacob was in NUS Law School. She wore the tudung but it wasn’t a common sight on campus or in public.

Given the complexities of S’pore’s mix of cultures, religions and ethnicities, one can understand the govt’s caution on the issue of allowing the use of the tudung in the uniformed services. This is compounded, by as I understand it, that the use of the tudung is not banned as such in the uniformed services. It is “banned” in the sense that what is not allowed is prohibited. Only Sikh men are allowed to have traditional headgear in the uniformed services.

The issue that the govt and we have to be wary about is changing the existing rules in a secular society when religious practices  have “moved on” even though secular society here does not have a problem with accepting the said practice. We have to avoid unintended consequences i.e. fear the “unknown unknowns”**.

But, based on the comment that more help for unwedded mums depended on society’s views of their status, made by a lady who always wears a tudung in public even when presiding in parliament I cannot help but feel, no matter how irrational the tot, that the govt is not interested in deciding whether to allow the tudung to be used in the uniformed services. It’s muttering that the issue is complex is an excuse not to make a decision, any decision.

I raise the tudung issue because of something I read recently.

In the UK, there was a public row when Universities UK (UUK) said that, under some circumstances, segregated seating would be allowed if requested by speakers from orthodox religious groups. It now seems that UUK has withdrawn that “advice”.  Below is an extract from the BBC on how commentators and newspapers see the row. Read it to see the ethical issues that can arise when thinking, discussing the ethics of religious freedom and social values.

Class apart

Discussing the papers for the BBC’s News Channel, Westminster editor of the Daily Record Torcuil Crichton said it was no surprise to see the Times reveal that Universities UK (UUK) had “folded” over its policy of allowing the segregation of men and women at certain Islamic events.

“It’s an interesting ethical argument,” he said, “You get religious freedom… but when that comes up against social values and social laws and the law of the land, for example on equality, something has to give and usually it’s the religion.”

Broadcaster and campaigner David Akinsanya agreed the policy had to be “quashed”, but added: “There are other areas within society where people are being segregated, within different communities in the country.”

The Sun says Britain’s universities have long been “the standard-bearers for free speech” – something that has only been achieved “by sticking rigidly to the principle of equality, irrespective of gender, race or religion”.

Linking the situation to that in South Africa, Graeme Archer, in the Daily Telegraph, says UUK “has given succour to injustice merchants whose politics are just as wicked as those who devised race-based apartheid”.

Lastly, in the Times itself, Janice Turner says the UUK ruling may have been defeated, “but the challenges to secular principles that enshrine equality will go on”. Gender segregation, the veiling of women, the push for sharia, all demonstrate, she writes, that “gender apartheid is not a sideshow of radical Islam, but intrinsic to it.”

*He great mumbler. Remember?

— “Worse case scenario” when one LKY said incorrect things about M– alays

— Floods that happen only once in every 50 yrs when they were happening every few months.

— People must get the “right” facts.

“*In Indonesia, where there is an ongoing flip-floping on the use of the tudung by policewomen:

You allow one [religious] symbol, what if other officers from other religions what to have their symbols [displayed on their uniforms] too?” asked Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia, a Muslim scholar and researcher on gender in Islam. “I think officers should never accentuate their [personal] identities.”

Pietri Dona, a 26-year-old police officer who works at the National Police’s communication department in Jakarta and is a Muslim, said that while she respects her fellow officers who want to wear headscarves, she felt that wearing the same uniforms is best, since allowing some officers to dress differently might create divisions in the police force.

http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/12/15/viewpoint-indonesias-headscarf-debate/

Temasek’s had gd yr on US energy investments

In Energy, Temasek on 17/12/2013 at 4:39 am

Many moons ago TRE told us that Temasek owns bonds in Chesapeake that are convertible at US$27 (issued when stock was around 23-25). And that the bonds were deeply underwater: the shares went as low as below 15 (Sorry the TRE link no longer is working ’cause of TRE’s new system of trying to get money from stone) Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/gd-news-for-temasek-on-chesapeake/

Well over a yr later, the shares closed yesterday at  26.79, having traded as high as 27.50 in recent months. Let’s see if TRE updates its story on Chesapeake. Suspect pigs will fly first. What say you Richard, TeamTRE?

There’s more. On 16 August, MediaCorp’s freesheet (ST Lite) reported: Temasek Holdings has sold its 4 per cent stake in Cheniere Energy after a surge in the share price of the United States natural gas importer, just 15 months after it unveiled the purchase as part of its “longer-term interest” in the energy sector.

The move is a sign of Temasek’s willingness as a self-professed “active investor” to realise profits. But it also comes after Temasek last year billed the stake as part of a broader plan to cooperate with Cheniere and US private equity group RRJ Capital to take advantage of the US shale gas revolution.

“The shares had a decent run over the past year,” said Mr Enrico Soddu, an analyst at the London-based Institutional Investor’s Sovereign Wealth Center. “Temasek just seized the opportunity to make a solid profit.”

Temasek sold 9.2 million Cheniere shares either directly or through affiliates in the second quarter, valuing the stake at US$257 million (S$326.2 million), according to a quarterly filing of its US stock holdings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shares in Cheniere had climbed as much as 200 per cent by the end of the second quarter after Temasek and RRJ announced in May last year they would spend about US$468 million on an equity investment in Cheniere.

Temasek and RRJ were to have formed a marketing company with Cheniere to sell liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia in a bet on rising shale gas production and exports to the region.

Pisa’s defects as the benchmark of educational excellence

In Uncategorized on 16/12/2013 at 4:40 am

Yes, I’m making a conscious effort to sit down and shut up on the two topical issues of the day: the riot and Breakfast Network’s suicide. Both issues have had some netizens talking sense, but more often than not rubbish.

The Pisa league table which ranks test results of students from 65 countries is taken very seriously b y the govt and media here because S’pore’s educatio system does very well on the results. They can throw this ranking at the face of pushy, aggressive parents whose kids can’t get into RI, St Nick or SCGS, or at the kay pohs who believe that ang mohs are tua kees (ang mohs do badly relative to the slit eyes of East Asia).

Maths scores

But do realise that S’pore is being compared to entire countries

Are regions a better way of measuring results?

The headline results for these tests are about the performance of countries or at least big Chinese regional education systems that are as big as countries, such as Shanghai or Hong Kong.

But this year’s results show much more local detail. And it often entirely contradicts the national picture.

For instance, the education system in the United States has been seen as one of the great under-performers, struggling among the below-average stragglers.

Go down to state level and it can be an entirely different story. Massachusetts would be a match for the best European systems. There are similar examples in Italy and Spain. Wales is a long way behind the other parts of the UK.

What this means, the OECD says, is that there are often bigger differences within countries than between countries. And if one region can perform so well, why not the rest of the country?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25205112

This aside, there are things that are wrong other than the fact that only the Chinese provide their own, unverifiable data.

— Different questions

About 4,000 children in each of the 65 countries are subjected to the test, which lasts for two hours.

But only a small number of pupils in each school answer the same set of questions.

The reason for this is that Pisa wants to measure a comprehensive set of skills and abilities, so it draws up more questions than a single child could answer (about four-and-a-half hours’ worth) and distributes them between different exam papers.

Pisa then uses a statistical model, called the Rasch model, to estimate each student’s latent ability. They also extrapolate from each student’s answers how they would have fared if they had answered all the other questions, had they been given them.

This approach has its critics. One is quoted below.

David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, says this practice raises its own questions.

“They are predicted conditional on knowing the difficulties of the questions – as if these are fixed constants,” he says.

But he thinks there is actually “considerable uncertainty” about this.

Furthermore, a question that is easy for children brought up in one culture may not be as easy for those brought up in another, Spiegelhalter says. “Assuming the difficulty is the same for all students around the whole world” is a mistake, he argues.

So when you see the league table of countries, the first thing to understand is that each country has been ranked according to an estimate of national performance.

— Educational attainment against well-being

South Korea might have come near the top of the educational rankings, but they come bottom in the rankings of happiness at school, Spiegelhalter notes – and Finland is only just above Korea.

— Drop-out rates matter:

But Mr Bodewig adds that the score may be impressive in part because so many poor and disadvantaged Vietnamese students drop out of school. The World Bank reports that in 2010 the gross enrolment rate at upper-secondary schools in Vietnam was just 65%, compared with 89% and 98% in America and Britain, respectively. South Korea’s rate was 95%.

Are TI students included in S’pore’s students that are tested? I assume normal stream students are? If not …

— Tuition helps:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/12/education-vietnam

Finally, I hope netizens stop pushing the Finnish model: it’s now crap

Seekers after educational excellence once used to head pilgrim-like towards Finland. This was the most quoted example of a high performing school system, even though in many ways it was a very distinctive and individual system. Scandinavia was the education world’s sensible successful neighbour.

But Finland has slipped downwards and the gloom has spread across Nordic countries, with Sweden among the biggest fallers. Norway and Denmark are absent from the top end of the tables. Their sluggish performances has been overtaken by countries such as Estonia, Poland and Ireland.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25205112

Mandela’s economic and sporting legacies

In Uncategorized on 15/12/2013 at 8:33 am

On the economy, his legacy is mixed. In sport, he used rugby to unite a nation, especially getting the Boers to accept black rule by getting the blacks to accept the ‘Boks.

No Keynesian he

Nelson Mandela, who has died aged 95, was a rare and brave leader. But economically he was, ironically enough, too timid. He set post-apartheid South Africa on course toward a mostly free market economy with stable finances, avoiding the errors of others like neighboring Zimbabwe. But he left the country slow-growing and still suffering from inequality.

Mandela was an orthodox follower, reining in government spending so that public debt gradually declined as a percentage of GDP while pursuing a government-directed industrial strategy that encouraged the development of major black-controlled industrial groups. Foreign investment by multinationals was tolerated, provided the government and favored domestic groups were involved.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/12/05/mandelanomics-was-too-conventional-to-shine/

n some senses, Mr Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) inherited an economy that was heading for bankruptcy.

So, it was to prove a difficult task to create a silk purse of an economy from the pig’s ear that Apartheid had left behind. However, many analysts point out that great strides were made in delivering some of the Freedom Charter aspirations in the early years of the new South Africa.

Dawie Roodt, chief economist at the Efficient Group, says: “Many millions of people got running water, electricity, etc.

“But the infrastructure was neglected, and slowly state inefficiency and corruption became serious problems.”

A good start but efforts faltered esp after he left office

On the surface, at least, things looked good at the start. Inflation, which was running at 14% before 1994, fell to 5% within 10 years.

South Africa’s budget deficit, which was 8% in 1997, fell to 1.5% in 2004. Interest rates dropped from 16% to under 9% in the first decade of the ANC government.

Once sanctions were dropped, South African exports blossomed. Before Mr Mandela took the oath of office, just 10% of the country’s goods were earmarked for export. By the turn of the century nearly a quarter of them were.

It wasn’t just economic numbers on sheets of paper. In the 14 years after 1996, the proportion of South Africans living on $2 (£1.22) a day fell from 12% to 5%.

Annabel Bishop, group economist at Investec, says South Africa’s economy has “essentially doubled in real terms” since the fall of apartheid, growing at an average of 3.2% a year since 1994, as opposed to only 1.6% per annum for the 18 years prior to the end of white minority rule.

She also points out that the real tax revenues have effectively doubled since 1994, which has enabled the government to expand social welfare.

“The state provision of basic services has been extensive,” she says.

But the early years still had to contend with huge problems. Apartheid had created rampant unemployment among the black population, an albatross that continues to hang around the economy’s neck almost two decades later.

South Africa’s official unemployment rate has hovered around 25% for years, and youth unemployment is much higher. By some measures half of those under 25 are out of work.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23041513

Nelson Mandela with Francois Pienaar

Nelson Mandela may have been the first global leader to use sport as a tool to unite people and to redefine a country’s international image.

And even before he was released from prison, Mandela had identified sport as a way of achieving a multi-racial country.

It’s hard to believe now but at the time the green and gold shirt was still deeply associated with the racial struggle in South Africa.

Mandela defied his advisers to wear it, knowing in an instant how the gesture could do more for harmony and equality than years of talks.

Pienaar, like most young white men in the country, had grown up believing Mandela was a terrorist. And the Springboks captain had to convince his team to learn the words to the country’s new national anthem, previously a song of black protest.

And yet after meeting him in the dressing room before the final and that presentation on the pitch at Ellis Park, Pienaar described him as the “symbol of everything that is good about humanity.”

http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/25262862

“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers,” Mandela.

LKY must be angry LOL

In Footie, Malaysia on 14/12/2013 at 6:43 am

(Asean round-up)

Remember LKY saying Johor was full of crime?

Well whatever the truth of that, at least FTs have not rioted in M’sia. Taz, the message MediaCorp’s ST Lite has reported on an inside page: The police and Immigration Department have been put on alert at foreign worker enclaves across Malaysia after the riot in Singapore last week, the country’s Home Minister said in a report in The Star newspaper yesterday …

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said officers have been instructed to monitor areas where foreign workers congregate, especially those identified as potential hot spots for outbreaks of violence.

Dr Ahmad Zahid was quoted by The Star as saying: “We are always observing the activities of foreign workers and are ready to overcome any potential threat … We are also looking at workers’ quarters nationwide, so the public need not worry.”

Locations under surveillance include landmarks in the heart of the capital, such as the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, which houses the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

Between May 30 and June 4, three Myanmar nationals were killed and several others injured in fights in various areas in Kuala Lumpur. The authorities subsequently arrested more than 1,000 Myanmar nationals during raids in Kuala Lumpur and parts of Selangor. [Had to tell us this]

But ST Lite saboed our govt’s attempts to say that there was no evidence working conditions were a cause of the riot (How ministers know leh? If so why call CoI?) by reporting: Growing discontent among foreign workers in Malaysia due to poor working conditions, discrimination and low wages is like a “time bomb”, Bernama yesterday quoted the leader of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) as saying.

MTUC President Khalid Atan said the riot in Singapore should serve as a wake-up call and the organisation called on the Human Resource Ministry to hold a tripartite meeting between the government, employers and employees to map out a strategy to prevent rioting by foreign workers.

He said the MTUC felt the government should take steps to reduce and even curtail the recruitment of foreign workers until it has a plan to address their basic needs and rights.

Anyway, let’s cheer on our LionsXII. Looks like the game against Laos was the exception due to the courage of Laos’ ten men. Credit to Laos, not shame on our LionsXII. If our XII do well in this tournament (gold medals) Fandhi will have a problem. But taz his problem, not ours.

 

 

Why a 2015 GE is now more probable

In Economy, Political governance on 13/12/2013 at 6:03 am

(Note there is an update since first publication at the end to reflect the PAP’s calls for ideas on how to celebrate a coming 50th anniversary.)

I’ve been beating the DRUMS that 2014 is the last window that the govt can raise prices because the GE has to be held sometime in 2016 and raising prices in 2015 is too close for comfort. I’ve also been drumming that an election in 2015 is possible.

Well going by one report and one speech. last week,  an election in mid 2015 is  more than probable

The report: Singapore’s economic growth will stay strong in the next two years relative to the other countries in Asean, despite the cooling of China’s economic engine, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has predicted.

The independent consultancy said in its latest quarterly report that healthy increases in consumption and strong exports will boost Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 per cent this year.

Next year, strong momentum and greater demand will push up its economic growth to 4.1 per cent.

In the year after, 2015, Singapore’s growth will ease, but remain robust at 3.9 per cent, said the Cebr report entitled “Economic Insight, Southeast Asia”.

(http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/spore-economy-stay-pink-next-2-years-20131205)

The speech: Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing  said the PAP has to deliver a better life for Singaporeans during its term of government, and also convince the people that it is the best party to deliver beyond this term. He was addressing addressed 1,000 PAP members at the party’s annual gathering on Sunday morning.

He, who is also the PAP Organising Secretary, said the party will act to “deliver, enable and communicate”*.

(Aside, netizens are missing the point by focusing Chan’s call for party members to “continuously and strenuously defend the common space for people to speak up”.

“If we do not stand up for what we believe, other people will occupy that space and cast us into irrelevance. We must not concede the space – physical or cyber . . . We will have to do battle everywhere as necessary.” 

And netizens are not making hay that the FT rioters really listened to him, unlike Sheep, Singkies S’poreans)

So, returning to the issue of a GE in 2015, the ground is likely to be sweet in mid, late 2015. In addition to a decent economy (other Asean countries too will do well), S’poreans would have forgotten about the early 2014 price rises in public tpt etc, lulled by the goodies in the 2015 Budget, improving public tpt, steady HDB prices, and propaganda that the govt is no longer pro-FTs and that it cares for S’poreans.

On the last point, there will a lot of smoke about the need for FT manual workers for the infrastructure projects. Already an ex-ST editor (who is it is alleged had designs on the top job in ST) was quoted (singing for X’mas goodies?**) as saying,  “It will be tough for the (government) to fulfill its promises on infrastructure development without foreign manpower,” observed Singaporean blogger Bertha Henson. “And it would not make sense for citizens to advocate such a tightening of the tap that it compromises our own future.”. One of these days I’ll blog on why her first statement is an exaggeration, that is straight out of the PAP’s spin book.

Then after the GE, and PAP has its more than two-thirds majority, and its toilet-trained WP***, the balance, let rip the GST increase, price rises and resume the flood of FTs?

What can the paper warriors do to counter the paper generals? In late 2014, and in 2015, it is impt for S’pore Notes, TOC, TRE (if it hasn’t closed down in disgust at the failure of its ungrateful readers to fund its continued existence: they expect Andrew, Richard etc not only to work for free, but to fund the servers needed), the other tua kee bloggers, and the ikan bilis to keep reminding voters to ask the PAP if after the GE, the govt will increase GST, or other taxes, or the cost of services, or allow in more FTs (to achieve a population of 8m, more than the White Paper projection of 6.9m). Of course, the PAP leaders and ministers will will say not say, “YES”, lest they lose a few more GRCs.

The PAP will then be held accountable for their pre-election promises, if the promises are broken, somewhere down the line, hopefully. But then, the PAPpies may play the same cyclical, cynical game again, knowing that S’poreans got short memories: even sheep got better memories.

Update on 27th January at 4.05am: I’ve been asked why I didn’t mention the 50th anniversary celebrations as an election feel good factor. The reason is that this is a two-edged sword. If handled in the traditional PAP manner (Soviet, Chinese, North Korean parades) style, it would remind older S’poreans (like self) of the difference in the quality of the PAP leadership. I think the PAP realises this. Witness the spate of ministers asking S’poreans for ideas on how to celebrate 50 yrs of independence? Since when has the PAP listened to the people?

—-

*“The world has changed, and so must we,” declared Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Mandarin yesterday at the biennial People’s Action Party (PAP) convention.

To that end, the ruling party has adopted a new resolution statement – its first in 25 years – which reinterprets the PAP’s goals so as to stay relevant “in this new phase and with the new generation”.

“This is a strategic shift,” said Mr Lee. “Although the content looks similar, its meaning is different. This is a new frame of thinking for the PAP, to make the party’s long-term goals more relevant to the needs of society today.”

As the culmination of five engagement sessions with party members (spread over the course of three months), the main thrust of the new eight-point resolution involves upholding an “open and compassionate meritocracy” in a “fair and just society” with “opportunities for all Singaporeans”.

“We rely on free markets to grow the pie but will moderate its excesses . . . We support a progressive system of benefits and taxes to enable all to enjoy quality education, good housing, and affordable healthcare,” (Extract from BT)

**She juz kanna saboed by MDA as readers will know.

***

Men in White wearing blue

Men in Blue wearing white. Yup Auntie’s a man. Wonder if Kim Song noticed? (OK, OK, I sorry for being mean to an old RI boy).

MU’s woes attract a Bear

In Footie on 13/12/2013 at 4:57 am

 The British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey is making a multimillion-dollar bet that MU’s shares will fall. Moysie will prove him wrong!

Not yet reported by MSM: Google builds HDB-type data centre here

In Economy on 12/12/2013 at 6:40 am

And it’sw a global first

Google has opened its first ever data centres in Asia as it wants to grow further in the region: one is in S’pore, the other in Taiwan. The one in Taiwan is bigger.

Singapore’s small size inspired us to try something a little different. Instead of spreading the data center out, we built it up, creating our first urban, multi-story data center. Our neighbors include a local primary school and several HDBs (for non-Singaporeans, HDBs are publicly run housing, which around 85% of Singaporean’s call home).

Our first multi-story data center

http://googleasiapacific.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/our-first-data-centers-in-asia-are-up.html

Bang yr balls in frustration all you S’pore self-haters, esp the cheapos who read TRE but who are unwilling to fund it.

 

Central bank cautions on Reits

In Property, Reits on 12/12/2013 at 6:02 am

[A] Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) report … warned that a rise in rates will hit Reits – and lower their dividends.

Reits own a portfolio of property and pay investors regular dividends out of their income – the property rentals received.

The central bank’s financial stability review noted that Reits need to distribute 90 per cent of any taxable income to unitholders.

So these vehicles have limited retained earnings and are dependent on capital markets and banks to meet their financing needs.

The MAS estimated that the ease with which Singapore-listed Reits would be able to pay their interest bills would fall markedly once interest rates headed north.

The median “interest cover” for Singapore-listed Reits would fall from 6.8 to 3.5 times if interest rates were to rise by 3 percentage points, the MAS estimated.

The interest cover is a ratio used to determine how easily a company can pay interest on its debt – the higher the ratio, the easier the interest can be paid.

The MAS also warned that higher interest rates would likely increase interest expenses and lead to lower dividend payouts. Reits might then appeal less to investors, capping their ability to raise more cash from capital markets.

On the bright side, the debt maturity profile of Reits is better now than before the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

A smaller proportion of borrowings by Reits are due for refinancing in the next two years.

The MAS also issued a warning over the larger corporate sector.

“If interest rates were to rise from their currently low levels, firms’ debt-servicing burdens could increase significantly.”

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={1011063489-19666-9955500363}

Don’t blame govt if Reits tank after you buy buy.

Possible gd alt to Reits for the KS: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/temaseks-fab-5-spore-blue-chips/. While the yields are not as high, some pretty lowish in fact, they are not highly leveraged and have maintained steady pay-outs.  And think ComfortDelgro and even SMRT (fare rises leh)

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/where-reits-can-go-wrong/

S’poreans are over-reacting to the riot

In Political governance, Public Administration on 11/12/2013 at 5:26 am

But first, really I expect more of the president and the police commissioner

— President Tony Tan Keng Yam has urged Singaporeans not to let the violence in Little India last night undermine their confidence in the society. Instead, he said, the people should redouble their commitment to keep Singapore safe, peaceful and strong.

— Police commissioner Ng Joo Hee said of the riot,”It is not the Singapore way.”

Lest they forget, the riot was not started by S’poreans. “Police in Singapore have arrested 27 South Asian suspects after hundreds of people took part in a riot sparked by the death of an Indian national …About 400 foreign workers took to the streets, hurling railings at police and torching police cars and an ambulance.” BBC report.

So why should the president ask us to redouble [our] commitment to keep Singapore safe, peaceful and strong? What did we do wrong? Taz the typical reaction of a PAP govt minister: blame S’poreans. But the president? He is above politics.

Of course ,”It is not the Singapore way.” The rioters were FTs.

And what by the way, one can reasonably ask is the S’porean way in a place where the foreign workforce is 25% of the population?. There are  1.3 million FTs as of June, out of a total 5.3 million people: 25% of the population. The 1.3m figure excludes the 0.54m (as of 2011) PRs who are counted as local. Include them as FTs and at least 35% of the population is foreign.

But I won’t go into a tirade about the presidency or the police because I’m willing to assume that the president and the police chief are like most S’poreans (self excluded) shell-shocked by said riot.

Let’s start at the top. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to convene a Committee of Inquiry (COI), which will look into the factors that led to the unrest and how the incident was handled on the ground. “It will also review the current measures to manage areas where foreign workers congregate, whether they are adequate, and how they can be improved.

What for?

After all, he did say it was an “isolated incident caused by an unruly mob”.

The riot was contained pretty fast and efficiently with no loss of life except of that of the accident victim. One could have reasonably wondered why the police allowed their vehicles to be overturned so easily. I tot they should have fired warning shots which might have “sobered” the rioters. But I’m happy with the explanation that the police took a deliberate decision to be “restrained” even if such restraint resulted in my friend’s car being burnt and police-cars being overturned. So I ask again , why a CoI?

Waste of time and tax-payers’ money with money being spent on expensive lawyers, if as I expect, lawyers are allowed to be used.

And at the other end of the spectrum, the human rights kay pohs are filled with angst and self-examination. They are talking (they great at talking the talk, bit like the PAP govt on FT policies) of organising shumething, anything, to achieve reconciliation and gd karma. What for?

The vast majority of the visitors to riot area are not violent, aggressive people. They are there to have a gd time after labouring hard.

And in between, TRE and TOC readers are blaming the govt for everything, Gilbert Goh’s fans are stroking hatred of non-S’poreans, and PAPpists are blaming S’poreans (esp netizens) for being anti-FT and anti-PAP. Mercifully, none of the usual suspects are shouting, like some of them did, at the height of the panic for face masks (remember that?) thaz it’s OK to spread allegations to Facebook friends and that by so doing they are helping the govt. They argue that the govt can counter the rumours that said activists are spreading to their “friends”. If the actions weren’t dangerous, reckless behaviour, the self-justifications would be laughable.

That there has been no riot since 1969 prior vto this riot is neither here nor there. Given that S’pore has always been one of the most densely packed places in the world, there was (and is) the possibility that something like this could happen at any time. That it didn’t happen could be due to luck (juz like two once-in every-50- yr floods occurring in the space of months). Or it could be due to the way LKY ruled the place (remember he retired as MM only two yrs ago and he approved of how  Deng Xiaoping dealt with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests*)? Or it could be due to the changing composition of S’pore’s work force** and population.

My personal view is that we were juz lucky especially in having Sheep S’poreans whose reaction to the fatal accident that started the riot would be to take a look, take a few pics and then move on muttering: “Not my biz”. If Napoleon had S’poreans in Animal Farm, he wouldn’t have needed such brutal dogs.

Wouldn’t it be better to have for the CoI to look into whether the changing demographics of S’pore have caused cultural and societal changes, building-up tensions that can explode given the right mixture of ingredients.

But then PM isn’t that shell-shocked.

I wonder if the PAPpy FT academic calling for a population of 8m by 2030 will be allowed to continue shouting his message. If  there is a riot (a riot that causes so much angst) in a population of 5.3m, 25% of whom are FTs, imagine a scenario where there are 8m people here where 37% are FTs***? If one includes PRs, then the percentage of FTs would jump to 53%. I’m use simple extrapolation to derive these numbers.

Update at 8.50am after first publication

Related article that I urge social media users and the usual suspects who argue that sharing rumours helps the govt rebut them:

Sharing information without context can inflame a situation 

From

Frances Ess

10 December

While the riot in Little India has saddened and shocked many Singaporeans, all of us must be responsible when we share information on social media. I have always reminded my children that “a text without context is a pretext”.

For example, one website used emotional words to describe how the riot was handled. Others were more responsible and reported only the facts, so as not to stir up unnecessary anger against all foreign workers.

Based on what was trending on Twitter, I am glad that most Singaporeans possessed the critical faculty to check for the facts and not believe everything they read.

For example, it was claimed at one point that three civilians and two policemen had been killed. Thankfully, that message died in time.

Most Singaporeans are angry that police cars and an ambulance were overturned and burnt.

It is easy to share such graphic videos online. But let us press the pause button, and ask ourselves what our purpose would be in sharing a video, photo or tweet and whether we are aware of the outcome that would be achieved. What about unintended outcomes? Is there a hidden agenda to the information provided on social media and are we being manipulated?

Do I have all the information on hand to make a rational, informed opinion or am I only parroting some views that excite us but, on deeper reflection, are untrue? Finally, when will the information be processed into accurate knowledge?

Discrete data shared without context can inflame a situation, and perhaps now is a good time to be reminded of the story of the blind men feeling an elephant for the first time.

While our individual, subjective experience can be true, such experience is essentially limited by its failure to account for the whole truth.

 

http://www.todayonline.com/voices/sharing-information-without-context-can-inflame-situation

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/riot-proves-point-about-community-relations/

—-

*He took over, and he said: ‘If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it.

**An ex-policeman wrote a commentary in MediaCorp’s ST Lite that “[S]ome may be tempted to link the large presence of foreign workers at Little India to the population augmentation strategy. Again, this is a far stretch. Foreign workers, on work permits, have been a presence in Singapore for decades. They are essential to the urban renewal effort in Singapore.  Their numbers today are not much larger than the historical mean.”

The ex-cop obviously never studied maths at other than a very basic level. If he had, he would realise that using this “fact” would be an insult to the intelligence of more literate S’poreans. The “mean” especially the “historical mean” (whatever this means) is not an argument that one should use in dismissing that the argument of the growth of the FT population is a worry. Example: Isn’t the fact that 25% of the population is foreign a better indicator of anything to do with population than the “historic mean”?

***Given that S’poreans (even new citizens according to LKY) don’t want to breed babies. S’poreans prefer keeping dogs and cats, so much so that there is now a Minister for Pets.

Tan Kuku for tsunami of Jap $ in 2014

In Japan on 10/12/2013 at 5:42 am

When the BOJ under governor Haruhiko Kuroda launched its monetary base-doubling quantitative and and qualitative easing (QQE) policy in April, there were strong expectations that a “tsunami” of Japanese funds would rush into Southeast Asia in search of higher yields.

So far, that has not happened even though Japanese institutional and individual investors are said to be eager to increase their exposure to Southeast Asian markets. A principal reason for their hesitancy, officials say, is Japanese investors’ fear of being exposed to exchange rate risk.

As a result, there is “intense discussion going on now between Japanese and Asean officials on ways to improve and enlarge the (currency) hedging markets” in Asean, according to Iwan Aziz, head of the Office of Regional Economic Integration at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).– BT report last week

Well can tan kuku for an agreement. Asean officials more noted for talking cock than doing something, anything.

And anyway, this region will not be flavour of the month early next yr. The West is. Don’t count on a wall of Jap money.

Riot proves point about community relations?

In Political governance, Public Administration on 09/12/2013 at 5:04 am

(Update 10 December at 6.50am: Great summary of article quoted below by a TRE reader: The Wobbly Guy:

Let us decode the Beeb study:

‘non-segregated’ = assimilated

‘relatively prosperous’ = educated middle-class

So we find that assimilated and educated middle-class people have high social capital regardless of ethnicity. Gee, like that wasn’t obvious from a look at a typical HDB estate and what the immigration realists have been saying all along.)

One of the arguments made against the govt’s liberal FT policy by us citizens of “cowboy towns” is that it is bad for community cohesion.Well the FT riot* yesterday would seem to be proof of this. S’poreans would not resort to such violence. They would shrug their shoulders, take a few pixs and, like sheep, move on.

Seriously,it is accepted wisdom globally that there is a negative correlation between diversity and community cohesion with studies proving that link. Even the govt accepts this as a Hard Truth: otherwise how to explain its quota system in public housing for Indians and Malays, and its constant emphasis on the need to maintain racial and religious harmony, given the British legacy of bringing in FTs. It’s juz that this Hard truth is over-ridden by the Harder Truth that FTs are needed, never mind the side effects.

So here’s an interesting article on, “Is diversity good or bad for community cohesion?”, which would make  Gilbert Goh more frus because the findings of a study in the UK say it is gd.

“In ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’,” Putnam’s study concluded. “Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer.”

But now comes new academic research looking at London which turns this idea on its head.

Social cohesion in the capital, it concludes, is “significantly higher in more ethnically diverse neighbourhoods”, once deprivation has been taken into account.

This is a startling assertion. The accepted wisdom among academics and policy makers, as the paper reminds readers, is that “ethnically diverse communities are characterized by distrust, low levels of social cohesion and disputes regarding the equitable provision of public goods”.

But diversity may not be the cause of social tension. “In fact, in the highly diverse neighbourhoods that characterise modern London, the opposite appears to be the case,” the research finds.

Diversity emerges as a positive predictor of social cohesion, the paper asserts, a finding that runs counter to the large majority of published studies.

But what this paper suggests is that where you have non-segregated and relatively prosperous communities, diversity is likely to improve community life, not damage it.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24761954)

Taz the key, if everyone has a highish standard of living, diversity is gd. But mix rich and poor and one is asking for trouble. Here in S’pore, the highish gini is not gd news for the govt’s very liberal immigration policy. Yes, I’m sceptical that the govt is walking the talk on tightening its immigration policies until I see a decent, medium-term decline in the numbers. Something I doubt would happen.

*The bare facts as reported by BT: Singapore Police Force has classified Sunday night’s unrest at Little India as a case of rioting with dangerous weapons, and has arrested 27 subjects from South Asia. The SPF says it expects to make further arrests “in the hours and days that follow”.

Yesterday’s riot was sparked by a fatal traffic accident involving a private bus and a pedestrian, who was a 33-year-old male Indian national. The police say the unrest was not pre-meditated, and no Singaporean presence has been established amongst the rioters.

The mob-which swelled to a 400-strong crowd-damaged and burned police and SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) vehicles, and left 10 police officers injured, out of the 300 who were deployed to the site.

Bare facts added after first publication.

Why S’poreans are materialistic, impatient?

In Uncategorized on 08/12/2013 at 4:27 am

Blame the fact that S’pore is a city? Not ’cause of PAP or LKY.

Mark van Vugt, of VU University in Amsterdam, and his colleagues found that country scenery … inspires people to think about the future; concrete cityscapes encourage quick decisions aimed at immediate rewards.

What, then, is it about brooks and meadows that propels thoughts of the beyond? Dr van Vugt speculates that competition—for jobs, attractive partners and large bank accounts—is concentrated within cities, rendering them unpredictable. Unpredictability may in turn shunt people onto the fast lane. He admits, however, that the study does not determine whether cities spur impulsive behaviour, or whether the countryside inspires patience.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/11/psychology

Asean’s prospects in 2014

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 07/12/2013 at 6:25 am

(Asean round-up)

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) says Asean is looking gd: Asean as a whole to grow 5.0 per cent this year, still weighed down by Thailand’s recession. And although the country is tipped to recover in the second half of this year, it may be affected by China’s soft landing, which is projected to extend into next year and dampen its demand for Asean’s goods and services.

As for individual countries (I’ve excluded S’pore as I will analyse it next week with reference to politics):

Not only is economic growth in the Philippines expected to take a hit, the report says intra-regional trade will suffer, hampering growth in other Asean countries.

Strong government spending and higher exports to China in the second half of the year were tipped to boost the Philippine GDP to 6.9 per cent this year, but Typhoon Haiyan is expected to make growth “noticeably weaker” in the final quarter of the year.

Slower government spending and a tighter US monetary policy will cap growth at 5.8 per cent next year, said the report.

Stubbornly high unemployment and extreme poverty, along with the need to lift interest rates to attract capital, will trim the country’s GDP growth to 4.8 per cent in 2015, it added.

The Cebr report’s prediction for Thailand is that its economy will grow 3.4 per cent this year. Thanks to healthier consumption and export growth, it will jump by 4.4 per cent next year; stronger exports to Western markets will nudge the Thai economy up 4.5 per cent in 2015. [Note thar report was written before the recent bout of trouble]

In Malaysia, growth will be at 4.6 per cent courtesy of a lift from China’s economy. But weakened Chinese growth will depress Malaysia’s growth to 4.2 per cent next year.

A revamped general sales tax in 2015 could further hinder growth, but a stronger global economy should ease this somewhat. Cebr forecasts that Malaysia’s GDP growth will be 4.1 per cent in 2015.

Indonesia, Asean’s biggest economy, is likely to grow 5.7 per cent this year, as a slight uptick in the Chinese economy in the second half of the year is expected to soften the effect of China’s cooling economy on Indonesian exports.

But the report said the US’ tighter monetary policy and higher interest rates will lower Indonesia’s growth to 5.6 per cent next year and the year after.

(http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/spore-economy-stay-pink-next-2-years-20131205)

Relax leh Brudder S’pore Notes, things going yr way

In Political governance, Public Administration on 06/12/2013 at 6:25 am

Things not as bad as you paint it in “Is Cyber City Burning?”

You raised the MSM smear of Nicile Seah, and Alex Au’s and Breakfast Network’s legal problems as the PAP govt’s desperate, vicious attempt to stifle dissent..

Honestly, the SPH slimes that went wrong on Nicole Seah is an added bonus for her attempt to refresh her celebrity status by going public about her personal life to her thousands of Facebook friends. Well she did her publicity, and the slimes gave her even more publicity. So these slimes made her day. An added bonus for us netizens is that it showed that Alex Tan has changed for the better: his response to Nicole’s post was matured and totful, showing a different Alex Tan: and ’cause of an FT gal? http://therealsingapore.com/content/alex-tan-words-encouragement-nicole-seah

As to Alex Au’s situation, I think he welcomes the AG’s suit. It makes his day too. AG has been consistent in his views and actions.

On waz happening to the retired Imperial Storm  Trooper general (paper, cyber branch), it shows how moronic the govt is. Their reaction to the govt’s action show that netizens and the govt deserve one another: both assume a static, non dynamic world. As I’ve argued before, the internet, social media is like water. Really those ethnic Chinese S’porean cyber warriors have no excuse. They should know their Lao Tzu even if (like me) only in translation.

And lest we forget, or didn’t notice TOC had another narrow escape* for which we and TOC should be grateful for: http://www.sammyboy.com/showthread.php?169215-TOC-apologise-to-Wanbao and http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2013/11/unwilling-to-burden-family-95-year-old-samsui-woman-commits-suicide/

Team Yaacob could have played the DRUMS to the tune of RAVII (Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications, Insinuations & Insults)  but didn’t. The issue is as Holmes would have asked,”Why didn’t the dog bark?”. Well maybe the SPH cock-ups made it difficult to beat-up TOC without having to beat up SPH too. Though there is a distinction: one might have injured a gal’s reputation, the other was an attack against the state. Big difference leh.

So most likely Team Yaacob was asleep. Remember that Yaacob failed to prevent floods unlike that hard-hearted sneere of the elderly poor who has done I must admit a pretty decent job as flood minister, though he has failed as dengue preventer.. But I cut him some slack as the contractors have been busy cutting the grass and shubbery, and filling potential ponding areas in my area. .

Next, Brudder Notes, you and other bloggers are untouched. Still fighting the gd fight, unhindered. 

And you (and others) have won: More and more fret that S’pore is threatened by inequality, and rampant, uncaring capitalism and the govt? They are insecure and fearful. They feel poor.

So as the super long hols are coming (Chritmas, New year and CNY at end Jan) let’s make merry before the price rises hit us in our pocket. As I’ve argued before, first half 2014 is the last window of opportunity to whack us before the next GE that must be held sometime in 2016. Whack us hard in early 2014, and then in 2015 and 2016 Budget give us the goodies. And if the ground is sweet in 2015, hold a GE and promise goodies for 2016.

Relax, Brudder Notes. Getting angry like the Hulk or P Ravi doesn’t do one any good. Look at P Ravi now. He seems less angry nowadays and he looks like a Bollywood star. So long as you (and others) can protest, things are never that bad. As a foot soldier of the UK’s Labour Party who died recently at 104 once said, “We may not win by protesting. But if we don’t protest we will lose.”

With 88% of people here owning smartphones, you protests (and that of others) will be heard, more and more.

*Earlier lucky break: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/toc-more-than-meets-the-eye/. Background: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/smrt-racist-pr-team/

:

An outdated economic Hard Truth

In Economy on 05/12/2013 at 5:19 am

Uncle Leong wrote recently, “How many more years and how many times must we hear the same old pledge and rhetoric that with productivity, the pay of low-wage workers will go up?”

The PAP has at least since 1965 stressed that productivity and wage rises must go hand in hand (BTW, taz not the case when they came into power in 1959. If you read the book I reviewed here, there was a huge increase in strikes when the PAP came into power, and workers and their employers tot the PAP was pro-labour.In 1959, 26,000 man-hours* were lost as a result of strikes, in 1960 125,000 man -hours were lost. a 481% increase.

How times have changed. Actually as late as 1971, as this book shows, activists tot of NTUC and the PAP govt as pro-labour: a minister, no less, assisted in a strike that brought ST to its knees.)

Sorry for the digression. Back to the Hard Truth that wage rises and productivity go hand in hand. It’s Economics 101:IMAGINE the proceeds of economic output as a pie, crudely divided between the wages earned by workers and the returns accrued to the owners of capital, whether as profits, rents or interest income. Until the early 1980s the relative sizes of those slices were so stable that their constancy became an economic rule of thumb. Much of modern macroeconomics simply assumes the shares remain the same. That stability provides the link between productivity and prosperity. If workers always get the same slice of the economic pie, then an improvement in their average productivity—which boosts growth—should translate into higher average earnings. [Emphasis mine]

(http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588860-labours-share-national-income-has-fallen-right-remedy-help-workers-not-punish)

Well it may be Economics 101 but it ain’t the reality, the article goes on: More recently, however, economics textbooks have been almost the only places where labour’s share of national income remains constant. Over the past 30 years, the workers’ take from the pie has shrunk across the globe (see article). In America, their wages used to make up almost 70% of GDP; now the figure is 64%, according to the OECD. Some of the biggest declines have been egalitarian societies such as Norway (where labour’s share has fallen from 64% in 1980 to 55% now) and Sweden (down from 74% in 1980 to 65% now). A drop has also occurred in many emerging markets, particularly in Asia. [Emphasis mine]

So the PAP’s Hard Truth that productivity goes with wages is not going to solve the problem of stagnant wages. The Economist gives two suggestions:  Govts should focus on improving the prospects of the low-paid and low-skilled. And they should aim to spread capital’s gains more widely.

The govt here has always talked the talk of improving the prospects of the low-paid and low-skilled. As to whether it has walked the talk, ask yrself are TRE readers right to fret that S’pore is threatened by inequality and rampant, uncaring capitalism and the govt? They are insecure and fearful. They feel poor. They feel so poor that TRE has problems raising money to fund itself: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/12/04/tre-to-cancel-one-of-its-servers-to-remain-within-budget/.

On the latter, privatise Temasek?

*Bang yr balls, AWARE When are the gals going to bitch that MoM should not use the the word Manpower in its name?

Cost of chicken rice, FTs and the BBC

In Economy on 04/12/2013 at 6:08 am

This blog is critical of our ministers’ attempt in the past to talk down inflation (Tharman and Hng Kiang. Lee Jnr) To be fair, they’ve been quite on that front recently, cause of the numbers that keep coming out.

Here’s a practical example, courtesy of the BBC: for our chicken rice, the prices of its key ingredients – chicken, rice and the vegetable oil to cook the food – have all about doubled since 2005.

Chicken — 84%

Rice — 90%

Vegetable oil — 100%

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25147402)

So don’t think ill of the seller for increasing his prices since 2005. In addition, he got to pay the rent.

In the above link, which talks of global food inflation, the reporter interviewed a PRC FT (in a hawkers’ centre) on the rising cost of food in S’pore and in Mandarin. Clip is towards end of article. GG and TRE readers will not be happy that a PRC FT is interviewed instead of a local. and P Ravi will be upset that Mandarin is used, not English. Seriously even I think that the BBC is wrong to give the impression that S’pore is part of greater China, or FT heaven (5 people interviewed for another series, three are FTs, one true blue S’porean and one first gen. P Ravi will be fuming that the two locals are ethnic Chinese.He should complain to the BBC that 7% of the population are ethnic Indians and that they play a huge role in the governance of the country: two out of four of PM’s most trusted ministers are Indians. AWARE will be not be their usual bitchy selves as both are women. Yes, I’m fed-up with AWARE’s triumphalist, patronising and ang moh attitudes-are-best attitude.)

BTW, in general as countries develop people spend proportionally less on food.

Well timed warning for merry hols, going into 2014

In Financial competency on 03/12/2013 at 6:42 am

I have never seen the sell-side predict a recession. There are a number of reasons for that but key among them is the personal career risk of calling a recession and being wrong. Both the sell-side and the buy-side tend to do much better when the economy and markets are doing well so who wants to be a party-pooper.

(Perpetual but respected bear)

He and another have gd points on why a recession is coming. Pls read http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2013/11/economics-and-markets-1 if thinking of cheonging market esp reits or when reading broker reports or ST stories about 2014 prospects.

For S’pore; remember first half of 2014 is the last possible time PAP govt can make us pay and pay and not suffer the consequences in next GE: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/2014-last-chance-for-govt-to-increase-prices/

And here’s a great quote from the Economist that applies to Tharman as he tries to keep inflation under control while keeping a lid on property and COE prices: THE role of central bankers is often compared to that of a sober adult who has to take away the punch bowl just as the party starts getting a little too rowdy. But what happens when the party as a whole is pretty glum apart from a small group of hooligans in the corner? Take away the booze then and you ruin the party for everybody else. Instead the answer is to pay particular care to who gets another drink.

The Economist was talking about the British situation where the economy is slowly recovering (faster than even the US) but residential property prices are flying again.

PM shld remember he isn’t mrbrown

In Political governance, Public Administration on 02/12/2013 at 4:55 am

PM’s recent attempt to crack jokes about those who use the internet and the govt’s policy on welfare did not go down well with the audience. They also showed thinking unbecoming a Cambridge double first. PM should focus on reminding S’poreans that they can sell that 4-room HDB flat and buy that house in Iskandar or condo in KL.Taz the success of the PAP way of doing things: not mind control or welfare.

Remember, PM joked:

Online views are not representative of the majority. True but then neither are the pro govt or PAP views expressed in the constructive, nation-building media, or  the answers given to surveys carried out by organisations linked to the gocvt or the PAP. representative of the majority. Yet the govt and the media place  a lot more emphasis on these views or surveys. If the net were pro govt, he’d change his tune.

— “Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there.”. Trying to tell us he unhappy? How else him to explain that he can find time to post the tale of owl in Istana? Seriously, there are some people who like me go on the Internet ’cause we got leisure time and we don’t like travelling, golfing or some other leisure pursuit. And we grumble about the govt because while he are too cowardly or lazy to do something physical about it, we have social consciences that still work, and are trying to assuage said consciences even if such grumbles work against our economic interests.

— Next, the comment on “no dead poor” here in S’pore completely misses the point, juz like little Ms Kate Spade Tin did when she said “let the poor remain poor”**. Morally and more to the point, economically, it’s all about the relativity inequalities in a society, not the absolute levels

In a recent posting on an Economist blog: the indignity of the wealth gap. T.M. Scanlon, a Harvard philosopher, catalogues several reasons inequality is objectionable. The stigmatisation of the lower orders would remain a problem in highly inegalitarian societies like America:

One consequence of extreme inequality in income and wealth can be that it forces the poor to live in a way that is reasonably seen as humiliating. As Adam Smith observed, there is a serious objection to a society in which some people are so much poorer than others that then have to live and dress in such a way that they cannot go out in public without shame. Here again, the evil is comparative—it is not merely an objection to having ragged clothes, or poor housing, but of having to live and to present oneself in a way that is so far below the standard generally accepted in the society that it marks one as inferior, and as someone that others would not want to associate with. This provides a reason not only to improve the lot of the poor, but also, even if their lot is, in absolute terms, not so bad, to object to the creation of a much higher standard of living for others. This may not, in some cases be a sufficient reason to deny others these benefits, but it is a recognizable cost that these benefits bring, and one that cannot be put down to irrational envy.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/11/government-guaranteed-basic-income)

— Then there is the reasoning that there is no need for a “fixed” poverty line because there are all kinds of targeted schemes. In the same economist post, there is a point about the inefficiencies of various schemes both for the recipients and the state:“A single father with two jobs and two children would no longer have to worry about the hassle of visiting a bunch of offices to receive benefits,” Ms Lowrey writes. “And giving him a single lump sum might help him use his federal dollars better. Housing vouchers have to be spent on housing, food stamps on food. Those dollars would be more valuable—both to the recipient and the economy at large—if they were fungible.” The economic benefits are that the state (and tax payers) benefits as less bureaucracy is needed to administer a fungible welfare scheme, and resources are better allocated by the spending of beneficiaries.

Contrast this to PM’s,“Some are broken family problems. Some are problems of children not managing in school and therefore have difficulty. Some are low-income, they don’t have the skills, we need to raise their skills and jobs and pay. Focusing on all these things is productive, then you know what you want to solve, and deal with it.”

The govt should think about the benefits of productivity in designing a welfare system.

So PM, pls stop telling jokes. Leave to Tharman, who 7% of the population are rooting to be the next PM. Actually to be fair, it’s more than 7% of the population: throw in the liberal Chinese and Malay voters.

*The context of his comment:“To have a definition of poverty that encompasses all different kinds of problems and to say, this is the poverty number in Singapore, that is the scale, and it’s a very big number and we are very alarmed, because we have been ignoring this problem and now let’s focus and solve the problem and put the resources in. I don’t think that is the situation and that is the good approach.

Mr Lee said: “Some are broken family problems. Some are problems of children not managing in school and therefore have difficulty. Some are low-income, they don’t have the skills, we need to raise their skills and jobs and pay. Focusing on all these things is productive, then you know what you want to solve, and deal with it.”

The government has said that its approach is to have multiple lines of assistance, and help schemes are also flexible enough to ensure that those who miss the criteria are also helped.

Mr Lee said: “We cannot avoid a social judgment of which needs the society considers meritorious, which needs we consider urgent, which needs we consider well, it’s a problem, but we can leave them to sort out.

“Or it’s a problem but it’s really something that somebody has caused to happen because of his own doing and he has to sort it out. Otherwise, there’s no end to him coming to me to say ‘I’ve got myself into trouble, please bail me out’.”

**OK, OK, I exaggerate. She was only repeating parrot-like the Hard Truth that only absolute (i.e.minimal) help was necessary: don’t fill their bellies lest they be lazy. To quote PM, “Or it’s a problem but it’s really something that somebody has caused to happen because of his own doing and he has to sort it out. Otherwise, there’s no end to him coming to me to say ‘I’ve got myself into trouble, please bail me out’.”

What a 4-room HDB flat buys in Iskandar & KL.

In Malaysia, Property on 01/12/2013 at 4:28 am
Why it’s right to vote for the PAP if one has fully-paid up or even if 50% paid up,  landed, condo or HDB flat:
While Horizon Hills surrounds a golf course and is luxurious by Malaysian standards, homes cost far less than in Singapore. Four-bedroom houses in the 1,200-acre (487-hectare) development, popular with expatriates, are advertised online at $270 per square foot, compared with the $503 per square foot asked for a four-bedroom public-housing flat in Singapore’s central Bishan district.
The average price of a new 1,000-square-foot (93-square-meter) condominium in Singapore is between $800,000 and $960,000, according to London-based broker Savills Plc. A similar-sized place in Kuala Lumpur costs about $374,000, according to CBRE Group Inc.’s Malaysian unit. [[Less than 4-room HDB flat too.]
(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-19/singapore-property-boom-fuels-malaysia-spillover-bubble.html)And property in Iskandar will only get cheaper:
Iskandar developers seen taking a big hitHeftier taxes, scrapping of easy financing will deter buyers, says RHB ResearchDEVELOPERS with substantial exposure to the Iskandar Malaysia region are expected to be the “worst hit” by recent property measures, as heftier taxes would deter short-term foreign purchasers who also account for a significant portion of residential sales in some areas, a research house has said.

At the same time, overseas developers are expected to be more cautious about land transactions as more punitive taxes could lead to higher landholding costs, said RHB Research.

CBRE data indicates that foreign buyers account for 54 per cent of total high-rise residential sales (by developers) in Nusajaya, and 39 per cent in Johor Baru and major suburbs.

But the new 30 per cent RPGT (real property gains tax) on foreigners who gain on disposals within the first five years of acquisition is likely to “wipe out short-term foreign speculators to a certain extent”, RHB observed in a real estate report dated yesterday. (Friday’s BT)

Related posts: https://atans1.wordpress.com/tag/iskandarland/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/paps-view-of-us-40ers/

2014: Last chance for govt to increase prices?

In Economy, Indonesia, Political governance on 30/11/2013 at 5:51 am

(Asean round-up)

Ministers no longer joke about COE prices not affecting core inflation, (related post) ’cause increase in food prices is affecting core inflation.

In addition to Thai meat, maybe Burmese rice (see below) will help curb food inflation prior to next GE. Remember that public tpt fares are going up soon despite lack of much improvement. This is ’cause SMRT needs $ (scholar, ex-SAF chief says biz model broken, but nothing that higher fares can’t fix) and 2014 is last possible time that fares can rise. GE must be held in 2016, and increasing fares in 2015 may be too risky for PAP. As an election may be held in 2015, January to June 2014 is the last window of opportunity for us to kanna pay and pay.

Burma plans to more than double rice shipments as the country that used to be the largest exporter embraces trade and opens its economy, challenging Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia for sales amid a global glut.

Shipments may increase to 2.5 million tonnes in 2014-2015 from an estimated 1.8 million tonnes in the year that started on April 1, according to Toe Aung Myint, director-general of the Department of Trade Promotion at the Ministry of Commerce. Exports are targeted to increase to 4.8 million tonnes in 2019-2020, he said when Hong Kong.

Indonesian coal and property firms could find obtaining loans increasingly difficult next year as banks tighten their lending due to higher interest rates, slowing economic growth and a weakening rupiah, industry officials said. The rupiah has fallen nearly 20 per cent so far this year, hitting 12,000 per US dollar yesterday for the first time in almost five years.

The central bank this month issued guidance to banks to slow loan growth to 15-17 per cent next year, from 18-20 per cent this year, in an effort to protect the financial system from potential turbulence amid heightened global uncertainties. In response, Bank Mandiri, Bank Central Asia (BCA), Bank Tabungan Negara, and other top financial institutions are becoming more particular about companies they lend to.

“We haven’t turned cautious for any sector, but we see challenges in infrastructure, construction, coal, cement, and real estate because of several policies. We are expecting a slowdown,” said Eugene Gailbraith, a BCA director, at an investment conference. He said that the country’s biggest bank by market value plans to “take a breather” and will lend less than its expected 45 trillion rupiah (S$4.79 billion) target this year.

Loan growth at Bank Mandiri is seen slowing to 17-18 per cent in 2014 from 19-20 per cent this year, while Bank Jabar Banten eases to 22 per cent from 33 per cent, company officials said. “We will be more cautious on sectors that are sensitive to interest rates,” said Pahala Mansury, Bank Mandiri chief financial officer. Indonesia’s increased hesitation to lend to coal companies comes as no surprise with banks around the world curbing their exposure to the industry due to a sharp fall in demand and prices. For the property sector, Bank Indonesia has made the industry less attractive to banks by implementing several policy measures to curb the purchases of second homes. Financial institutions are expected to favour consumer driven industries, such as retail and food companies, as domestic consumption continues to remain strong. – Reuters. (BT report)

Indonesia’s most aggressive rate tightening in eight years has barely dented a current account deficit, prompting calls for more increases and other measures before the Federal Reserve cuts stimulus.

Bank Indonesia has raised borrowing costs by 1.75 percentage points to 7.5% since early June, the quickest since 2005.

Following data which recently showed the country recorded its second-highest current account shortfall on record in the three months through September, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Standard Chartered now see a further 50 basis points of increases in the first half of next year.

Foreign funds pulled US$3.8bn from Indonesian stocks and local currency bonds in June after the Fed said it could cut stimulus, and a lack of progress on improving the current account before the US does eventually taper leaves the country vulnerable to another sudden outflow.

In addition to ongoing political unrest in Thailand:

Thai factory output shrank more than expected in October, adding to a string of weak data that prompted the central bank to unexpectedly cut interest rates to support the economy as mounting political tension dents confidence.

The Industry Ministry now expects output to fall 2.8 per cent this year, rather than growth of 0.5-1.0 per cent projected earlier, but predicts a rise of 2 per cent next year.

October was the seventh straight month in which output has declined, falling 4.02 per cent from a year earlier. The median forecast of a Reuters poll was for a decline of 3.3 per cent.

In September, output dropped 2.9 per cent. (BT report)

— Thailand’s central bank unexpectedly lowered the cost of credit Wednesday as escalating protests to topple the government add to pressure on the economy.

The central bank lowered its policy interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 2.25 %, hoping to stimulate lending and investment, saying  in a statement that the “ongoing political situation” could compound existing weaknesses in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Business confidence is fragile and government plans for $69.5 billion of spending on high speed rail and other transport infrastructure have been delayed by legal challenges.

Thailand’s third quarter economic growth was weaker than expected and a recovery in exports has not gained traction, the bank said. Earlier this month, Thailand’s economic planning agency cut its growth forecast for this year to 3% from 3.8-4.3% predicted in August.

Alex Au doing a Dr Chee?

In Uncategorized on 29/11/2013 at 5:12 am

Alex Au’s at it again. No I’m not referring to the allegations of contempt by the AG against him yet again. That’s par for the course, and not really news anymore; anymore than that he is a gay rights activist and internet tua kee.

No, I referring to being so subtle so as to be misunderstood yet again by other netizens (self excluded). Remember, I defended him against charges by his fellow tua kee bloggers and lesser lights, and PAP stooges like an ex-NMP that he was advocating violence against the state?

This time a figure no less than the hubbie of ST’s editor misunderstood his latest mischief: If Au – one of Singapore’s most conscientious and civic-minded bloggers – cannot avoid the contempt minefield, then perhaps the problem is actually with the law. Is it getting in the way of intelligent critique of important issues?

The rejoinder would probably be that there are ways to comment without scandalising the court. In theory, perhaps. But again, I would have to ask, if even Alex Au cannot find the path through that minefield, perhaps the fault is with the treacherous terrain?

Au is a meticulous and gifted writer. If he is charged with contempt, there would be a significant chilling effect on other citizens who do not consider themselves anywhere near as polished in their use of words. 

(http://journalism.sg/2013/11/26/why-alex-au-deserves-a-break/ The writer is Associate Professor Cherian George described on Facebook by someone whose views I respect as “one of Singapore’s most accomplished and civic minded media commentators”.)

Sorry, but I have to disagree with Cherian whose views are always worth a reading, at the very least.

It is precisely because Au is a meticulous and gifted writer that we should discount the so-called chilling effect. on other citizens who do not consider themselves anywhere near as polished in their use of words.

This is not a case of someone not knowing the law. In my view, Alex Au is deliberately baiting the AG.

A Facebook poster put it better than I can (though I wish he’d not use exclamation marks), “[H]e is in the business of pushing boundaries, he choose to explore the “treacherous edge”. That business of his carries well-understood risk. He wasn’t out of words, he chose them carefully from abundance. In short, he is asking for it!!”. A PAPpy wants him in jail, “If guilty, he should spend a couple of months in prison so that he will know that there are consequences for his actions.”

As to why “he is asking for it”, I can only speculate.

Maybe, it is a follow-on from the recent pieces that were mischaracterised, misunderstood or misrepresented as a call for violence against the state. He wrote“[I]f the king has made something a criminal offence, then no one should ever try to flout it, no matter how horrible you think the king is?. On this I commented, “Shades of Thomas Aquinas, Locke etc. Look up these names if you don’t recognise them, or have forgotten their arguments on the nature of justice, among other things.”

He could be doing, something other than talking the talk of disobedience. He could be doing what Dr Chee and gang were doing earlier this decade, before the RI doctors put him on medication (anti-mad dog pills and “Think Economics, not HR”if you must know): civil disobedience, Gandhi-style.

Let me be very clear, I’m not commenting or taking sides on whether Alex Au is right or wrong in taking on the AG, or the rights and wrongs of civil disobedience.

I’m simply observing that given his skills as a is a meticulous and gifted writer who has recently written,” [I]f the king has made something a criminal offence, then no one should ever try to flout it, no matter how horrible you think the king is?”, and his history of social , activism, I think he is following in the footsteps of Dr Chee and Gandhi.  I could be wrong. He could be clumsy in his use of language when it comes to issues on the judiciary, though I suspect that pigs would fly first, or VivianB apologises to the elderly poor for his sneers.

I could also be wrong about Cherian. He could be juz trying to portray Alex Au juz as another ordinary S’porean, clumsy with words, like the tpical TRE poster, knowing full well that Alex is baiting the AG. I mean no disrespect to Cherian: he is no-detached ivory-tower observer. He too is a civil society activist. In fact, he was one before it became fashionable (and reasonably safe) to be one. And he has suffered for his sins.

One final tot. When people like Dr Chee and Au take on the state are they not accepting that the PAP govt isn’t that bad? Let me quote Orwell when he criticked Gandhi and his civil disobedience methods: The important point here is not so much that the British treated him forbearingly as that he was always able to command publicity. As can be seen from the phrase quoted above, he believed in “arousing the world”, which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing. It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practise civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference.

But then I could be wrong again. Orwell was writing in the pre-internet dark ages. We don’t have a free press and the right of assembly but the internet  and social media has got the govt terrified that S’poreans can voice their opinions publicly.

Where S’porean traits produce world-class TLCs

In Energy, Indonesia, Temasek, Vietnam on 28/11/2013 at 6:25 am

More to irritate Temaeek and S’pore (self) haters, especially TRE readers*. There are advantages to S’poreans’ reputation as the Prussians of the East: hardworking, careful, conscientious and mindlessly efficient. These are very qualities that make Keppel and SembCorp world beaters in rig-building.

Singapore’s two main yards, Keppel and SembCorp Marine, have also invested heavily in quality and efficiency. They specialise more in deep-sea rigs than in drill-ships and carriers. Keppel, the bigger of the two, is building a record 20 such monsters this year; next year it will deliver the first of three giant, $600m “jack-up” rigs (ones that are floated into place then jacked up on their legs).

Time is money

The Singaporeans are also good at building things on time, which is vital in an industry where late delivery can cost the operators of rigs and drill-ships over $500,000 a day. Over the past five years, rigs ordered from Keppel and SembCorp were, on average, delivered ahead of schedule, whereas Chinese yards delivered 50-250 days late, says IHS Petrodata, a research firm.

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21590496-korean-and-singaporean-yards-have-adapted-well-chinas-challenge-deeper-better

As to China’s cost advantage, having facilities in Indonesia helps provide cheap labour for SembCorp’s rig building biz. Keppel too has an Indonesian operation, though its tiny compared to SembCorp’s.

And with Vietnam having problems with China over maritime boundaries, one wonders if Chinese built-rigs are allowed in its waters. Remember, energy cos are exploring for oil off Vietnam. Still, the waters do not require the sophisticated rigs built by these TLCs.

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/?s=Temasek+Fab+5

*Though TRE readers will be pleased that these TLCs are not led by ex-generals or ex-Temasek MDs. The CEO of Keppel is a scholar, but I’m not sure of the background of CEO’s SembCorp. But both have worked that these TLs for many yrs. They were not parachuted in like in NOL to teach executives to suck eggs.

Govt faciliates spying and tax avoidance, but bans Ashley Madison: Uniquely PAP

In Economy, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Political governance, Telecoms on 27/11/2013 at 5:05 am

In the space of a few days, the govt is facing or is likely to face uncomfortable questions from other govts about its activities: activities that the usual suspects, could reasonably argue, show the two-timing nature of the PAP govt that they (they the usual suspects) detest and wish it all the ill-will in the world.

Malaysia said it will summon Singapore’s high commissioner today to respond to allegations of spying which risk damaging improved political and business ties between the Southeast Asian neighbors.

Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and U.S. intelligence cooperation since the 1970s, facilitated in part by Singapore, the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday, citing documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it was “extremely concerned” and had already acted against earlier claims of espionage by the U.S. and Australia.

The reports could also spur friction between Singapore and Indonesia, Tan said. “The Indonesians would probably be concerned whether the information is also being shared with Singapore intelligence, besides the Australians*.”

(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-26/malaysia-summons-singapore-commissioner-as-spying-claims-widen.html)

As SingTel was singled out for mention by the Oz newspaper**, and as it has extensive mobile operations in Indonesia and Thailand, and a major stake in a major Indian telco, it could face problems in these countries.

Then there is the issue of how European and US cos are using S’pore to avoid taxes, at a time when there is growing resentment among politicians and voters that these cos are not paying their fair share of taxes. The Indian, Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean govts will also not be too happy too with S’pore’s corporate tax-regime if they read the Economist.

“Taxing times for Singapore as corporate strategy faces scrutiny” was a Reuters headline on 24 November 2013 (BT and Today carried the report too). It gave details of how Apple used S’pore as a tax-saving centre and went on, “Companies justify booking significant amounts of revenue and profits in Singapore by the fact they often run key business functions such as finance and operations, hold intellectual property rights there or base regional executives in the city.”

The chart below (via the Economist) shows a hypothetical scenario where a company moves its headquarters from Singapore (a very low-tax economy) to another country. http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2013/11/corporate-tax-rates

S’pore very cheap place (tax wise) esp compared to Japan. Minister Zorro must be happy: juz as happy as looking as his monthly CPF statement.

The Reuters article went on: Singapore has so far largely stayed out of the debate raging in Europe and the United States about the ways multinationals try to lower their tax bills.

But revenue-hungry governments are looking to impose tougher rules on so-called transfer pricing that could make it harder for firms to trade goods, services or assets between their Singapore and overseas entities.

As a result, accountants warn that the city-state will need to review the level of transparency in its tax incentive schemes and get stronger justifications from companies on their transfer pricing arrangements to fend off challenges from other jurisdictions.

“Singapore’s challenge is to ensure that it stands ready to adequately address any kind of unilateral tax action taken by other countries,” said Abhijit Ghosh, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Singapore.

“In this brave new world of fiscal competition for the tax dollar, dispute resolution will be on the increase and Singapore will need to focus more resources on enforcing and defending its principles of value creation in international forums.”

The city-state’s government says it is against artificially contrived arrangements constructed “solely for the purpose of flouting or exploiting loopholes in tax rules”, according to a spokeswoman from the Ministry of Finance.

However Singapore is also arguing that it should not be singled out because it has low tax rates.

“We must guard against new forms of protectionism masquerading as tax harmonisation,” the spokeswoman said. “We should avoid converging on high taxes globally as this would only hurt growth and jobs.”

Looks like the owl that visited PM was a harbinger of bad news for PM.

Seriously, the “usual suspects” could reasonably argue, if they tot about it, that the “chickens are coming to roost”.and that while moralising on adultery, the PAP govt helps the ang mohs spy on our neighbours, while helping ang moh and other Asian cos avoid tax. And PritamS wants the WP to be in coalition with the PAP?

*Remember that Indonesia suspended military co-operation with Australia, after allegations emerged of Australian spies bugging the phones of the president and his inner circle.

**Access to this major international telecommunications channel***, facilitated by Singapore’s government-owned operator SingTel, has been a key element in an expansion of Australian-Singaporean intelligence and defence ties over the past 15 years.Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/new-snowden-leaks-reveal-us-australias-asian-allies-20131124-2y3mh.html#ixzz2lkSC0P8c

***SEA-ME-WE-3 cable as well as the SEA-ME-WE-4 cable that runs from Singapore to the south of France.

Temasek tales: TLC overpaid?/ Olam: Cheong?/ Won’t read this in TRE, TOC?

In Africa, Airlines, Commodities, Temasek on 26/11/2013 at 5:54 am

Changi Airport Group: Winner’s curse?

The Aeroportos do Futuro group led by Odebrecht SA, and including Singapore airport operator Changi Airport Group, offered 19 billion reais (US$8.3 billion) and won the right to run Galeao airport in Rio de Janeiro, which will host tourists for the soccer World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympic Games, for 25 years. The consortium offered nearly four times the minimum bid for the right to operate Rio’s Galeão airport for the next 25 years.

We will only know the consortium overpaid if we know the next highest bid. Will let you know if this info is made public in Brazil )))

Last chance to buy Olam?

More bull points to add to this:

— When Olam released its quarterly results in early November, it showed it  had generated positive free cash flow – the first time in four years for a seasonally weak quarter.

Its executive director of finance and business development A Shekhar told analysts and reporters: “We’re very pleased that we’re striking the right notes on both objectives of profit growth as well as free cash-flow generation.”

— Ang mohs are still sceptical about the parts of the stock’s biz model.

— But they bulls on Africa and Olam got an edge there. Africa is now seen a destination mkt, not juz an exporter of commodities i.e. origination mkt:

The commodities houses are attracted to the African destination business for three reasons. First, demand is rising fast, in many cases at double-digit annual rates. Second, many African governments subsidise basic commodities such as petrol and wheat, in effect guaranteeing a return to the traders. Third, most African countries lack the infrastructure needed to import raw materials, from silos for storing wheat and rice to terminals for unloading petrol. The commodities houses say that, as they build this infrastructure, they will be able to secure a market and benefit from years of rising demand. (FT report on Africa dated 10 November 2013)

Even Chris Balding flies SIA

Would the Temasek model help improve the efficiency of China’s state-owned enterprises? Only one (Singapore Airlines) or possibly two (DBS bank) of Temasek’s GLCs have established themselves as international brands, according to critics such as Chris Balding of Peking University*. SingTel has made successful foreign acquisitions, but other GLCs have fared less well. STATS ChipPAC, a semiconductor firm, lost money in the second quarter of this year, as a result of the costs of closing a factory in Malaysia.

The few academic studies of Singapore’s GLCs are more encouraging, however. A 2004 article by Carlos Ramirez of George Mason University and Ling Hui Tan of the IMF showed that the country’s GLCs enjoyed a higher market value, relative to the book value of their assets, than comparable private firms. They also generated a higher return on assets, on average.

In judging the performance of Temasek’s GLCs, the counterfactual is important. They may not be as obviously successful as private titans from the region such as Samsung or LG. But they are not nearly as bad as most SOEs, including China’s. The enthusiasm for reform of SOEs in China reflects their deteriorating returns and accumulating debt. According to M.K. Tang of Goldman Sachs, their return on assets was 6.5 percentage points below that of other Chinese firms in 2012 and their shares trade at a growing discount. Even Mr Balding, meanwhile, is happy to fly Singapore Airlines.

http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21590562-chinas-rulers-look-singapore-tips-portfolio-management-soe-glc

*Cock Balding forgets Keppel and SembCorp in rigbuilding. More on these two cos later this week.

Why the govt consults and then ignores

In Political governance, Public Administration on 25/11/2013 at 5:40 am

This is not uniquely S’porean: happens in the UK too, What is the point of government consultations? I pose the question at the end of a week in which ministers responded to three official consultations on three controversial proposals – and appeared to ignore the results from them all, the BBC’s Mark Easton wrote recently. He is the BBC’s Home Editor: “Home” here means British domestic affairs

When he goes on to explain (see below) why this happens in the UK, the explanation rings true here here too, even though S’pore is a defacto one-party state. So if in a functioning democracy where the govt is a coalition of two parties, the govt consults then ignores, we shouldn’t get too upset that in S’pore, a defacto one party state, the same happens because:

The public consultation is an opportunity for ministers to test their ideas with experts, those directly affected and voters more generally. Community participation on proposed legislation is seen as a key component of “citizen power”.

But formal public consultation exercises very rarely result in a government re-think – even if they reveal profound concern. That is not the point of them, and we should not pretend otherwise.

Anyway, here’s why the UK govt consults then ignores:

It is, of course, the democratic right of ministers to consult and to listen and then ignore. The arguments put forward by the [govt department] may be compelling. But it does lead some to ask whether the consultation really had much value.

Consultations are not referendums.

But having conducted a public consultation and expressing gratitude to all those “who have taken the time to respond and to those who have contributed their experience and insight to what is a complex issue”, one is left wondering what the point was.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “public consultation is one of the key regulatory tools employed to improve transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of regulation”. But there has long been scepticism as to whether such exercises are anything more than cosmetic.

The public consultation is an opportunity for ministers to test their ideas with experts, those directly affected and voters more generally. Community participation on proposed legislation is seen as a key component of “citizen power”.

But formal public consultation exercises very rarely result in a government re-think – even if they reveal profound concern. That is not the point of them, and we should not pretend otherwise.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24670413).

Tuition works according to UK study

In Public Administration on 24/11/2013 at 4:54 am

So how come PAP govt says tuition not necessary?. In the UK, some enlightened schools pay for tuition for less well-off kids because data shows that tuition works

Every ethnic-minority group that trails white Britons in GCSE exams, normally taken at age 16, is catching up. Bangladeshis used to perform worse than whites; now they do better. Indians have maintained a huge lead. All this despite the fact that ethnic minorities are poorer than average. Control for that, by looking at pupils who are entitled to free school meals, and all ethnic-minority groups now do well. That is in part because parents are increasingly turning to private tutors. In a survey of 11- to 16-year-olds by the Sutton Trust, an education charity, 45% of Asian children said they received some kind of private tuition compared with 20% of white pupils. See full article.

(Related article: http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21583707-private-education-becoming-more-egalitarian-premium-economy)

And

Many parents rely on private tutors to boost their child’s chance of a grammar school place, suggests a small poll.

The research suggested that 67% of the grammar school pupils polled had received one-to-one coaching with 5% tutored as part of a small group.

Of those who had been tutored, eight out of 10 (78%) believed that tuition helped them to pass the entrance exam.

Only 6% continued to be tutored during their first year in grammar school.

“One of the key factors is that tuition gives these pupils confidence and helps calm down pre-exam nerves,” said Prof Ireson, Emerita Professor of Psychology in Education at the Institute of Education, University of London.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23547666)

(Grammar schools are the only part of the English pre-university public education system that selects students based on academic ability.)

 

Still want to buy M’sian properties?

In India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Uncategorized on 23/11/2013 at 6:00 am

(Asean round-up)

KL property owners, an estimated 10-16 per cent of whom are foreigners, are facing sharply higher assessment payments of up to 300 per cent following the latest move by City Hall (DBKL) to boost its coffers. http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/kl-homeowners-facing-sharp-assessment-hikes-20131119

But otherwise M’sia’s looking pretty gd

— ECONOMISTS have turned more bullish on the Malaysian economy as a result of its unexpectedly strong showing in the third quarter.

They have upgraded their forecasts, and one has even dismissed the second quarter’s sharply reduced current account surplus on the balance of payments as an “abnormal”, one-off glitch.

Malaysia’s growth accelerated to 5 per cent in the third quarter, above the street’s 4.7 per cent, and sharply higher than the 4.4 per cent posted in the second quarter. The expansion was largely driven by domestic demand and a turnaround in exports.

The figures suggest that, despite criticism from rating agencies such as Fitch and an uncertain global economy, the Malaysian economy remains resilient, and continues to maintain steady economic growth.

— THE ringgit is undervalued as it has underperformed its peers since Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Budget almost a month ago, a British bank said.

In a report yesterday, Barclays Bank said the currency’s underperformance stemmed from doubts over the country’s “fiscal credibility”. But it said any such doubt should now be “diminished” after international rating agency Moody’s raised Malaysia’s sovereign outlook to “positive” from “stable” in a report released on Wednesday.

The news should boost Mr Najib’s credibility as a finance minister; he has been flayed by critics who have accused him of going on a profligate spending spree to boost the Barisan Nasional coalition’s popularity. In the run-up to the May 5 general election, government debt had ballooned to more than 54 per cent of GDP, just a whisker away from the legally mandated debt ceiling. Although the BN won, it did so with a weaker mandate.

In July, global rating agency Fitch had affirmed Malaysia’s investment-grade sovereign rating but cut its outlook to “negative” from “stable”. That raised the level and intensity of the criticism against Mr Najib.

(Excerpts from BT)

But M’sia (like Thailand) is doing less than Indonesia to prepare for tapering: Indonesia has raised short-term interest rates and India has attracted deposits from its large diaspora. Both are now accumulating foreign-exchange reserves to help prepare them for the eventual end of quantitative easing. So are South Korea and Taiwan.

Malaysia and Thailand are not taking the same precautions. Neither country has managed to recoup the reserves it lost in August. That’s a worry, considering foreigners own 28 percent of Malaysia’s sovereign bond market. Pending the implementation of a goods and services tax from 2015, the country’s public finances remain shaky. At the peak of the summer turmoil, the cost of insuring against default on Malaysian government bonds was slightly higher than for Philippines debt, which carries a lower credit rating. The gap has widened since.

Finally, debt is soaring. In Thailand, bank loans to individuals have jumped 20 percent in the first nine months of the year, higher than last year’s 18 percent growth. Meanwhile, the Thai economy has lost momentum, the politics has become unstable, and the current account has tipped into a deficit. Instead of easing, Asia’s fear of the Fed is spreading wider.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/11/21/asias-fear-of-fed-is-now-infecting-more-economies/

Infocomm Dysfunctional Authority

In Infrastructure, Internet, Public Administration on 22/11/2013 at 5:01 am

Yaacob the Info minister wrote on Facebook a few days ago that many agencies have worked hard in the past weeks to strengthen the security of Singapore’s computer systems and websites*, and those responsible for the recent hacking incidents have been arrested or are being investigated**.

Taz gd, but what about making sure that IDA works hard and competently to give the public info on cyber security accurately, and in a timely manner? Rather than inaccurately, and only after cyber leaks and DRUMS.

Going by its recent ingloriously track record, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) should be renamed   Inforomm Dysfunctional Authority  because it’s so dysfunctional  in communicating info on cyber security and ICT matters.

It can’t even explain to our constructive, nation-building local journalists that the PMO’s website was not hacked. Granted that our well-paid hacks are not the most intelligent people in S’pore, but surely Yaacob’s finest could have told them in simple English, “PMO’s website was not hacked into”?

Singapore ICT regulator Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) was cited by local media reports to blame a vulnerability in Google’s search bar, embedded in the two websites, as the cause of the breach. In a media briefing to which only local media were invited …

… a Google spokesperson told ZDNet in an e-mail Wednesday: “It has come to our attention that the PMO’s website recently experienced an attack in the search functionality of the site run by Google’s Custom Search Engine site-search widget.

“After investigation, it appears that the code in the Google custom search engine is safe and the vulnerability lies with the coding on the webpage.”

While IDA declined to comment further on this issue as it is currently under police investigation, ZDNet understands the regulator was misquoted in local news reports. Rather than Google’s search bar, it had instead pointed to a vulnerability in the search function which the hackers were able to exploit and redirect visitors to the external webpages.

(http://www.zdnet.com/sg/google-denies-its-search-bar-caused-singapore-websites-breach-7000023129/)

At the very least, IDA gave the impression that our cybersecurity machinery was the equivalent of the flood prevention team  when Yaacob was “flooder-in-chief”.

Now onto an earlier, and more major, failure to communicate. Remember the Saturday a few weeks ago when govt websites suddenly closed for “routine maintenance’? Although they were soon up, netizens suspicions were aroused and they started playing DRUMS in the absence of authoritative info.

And they were correct to think that there problems, only not hacking but cock-ups.

Only on Monday evening (after a memo surfaced on the internet), IDA admitted the problems in accessing several Singapore government websites over the weekend were due to technical problems that arose during maintenance on Saturday afternoon. While the glitches have been rectified, people accessing these websites may continue to face intermittent access as maintenance was still ongoing.

In this day and age, IDA should communicate openly with the public. After all, this is not North Korea, even if our media ratings are close to that of the North Koreans than that to the US or UK.

I leave it to this blogger who wrote before IDA admitted that there were cock-ups, not juz “routine maintenance” to explain what I mean:

“It’s strange that the IDA did not deem it fit to update people more regularly when so many sites were out of service. Not only were they unable to transact, say, on SingPass, they were also wondering if indeed a cyber attack had been carried out against government agencies, as part of a bigger wave of attacks.

Ironically, the IDA can look at the way SingTel updated its customers in the hours after a fire at a telephone exchange just weeks ago. Though the damage was way bigger, angering a lot more customers, at least they knew what was going on.

And fall short, it definitely did this time. While there is speculation on why and how the sites could have been down, one thing is clear – this maintenance caused the sites to go down longer than expected.

That itself reflects badly on the nation’s cyber security efforts. “Self pwn” is the phrase that comes to mind when you bring down your own networks inadvertently.”

(http://www.techgoondu.com/2013/11/03/commentary-should-maintenance-bring-down-government-websites-for-hours/#.Ungbl1Nfp-d)

Recently, CNA reported, Singapore’s Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, has said that countries in Asia need to adapt to emerging trends in social media, in order to get the new generation more engaged in literature and the arts.

Maybe he sould have a talk with  Yaacob and s/o Devan Nair who seem clueless about the effect of social media and the internet on public communications and PR in general. Strange this cluelessness, given their roles in govt as public communicators and PR. or they juz there for wayang.

One final tot. I’m surprised that neither GG nor TRE nor TOC tot it fit to ask if the people responsible for website security in general or the maintenance cock-ups, in particular,  were FTs or true-blue S’poreans.

This blogger has argued we need a S’porean core in cyber security.

One “career path” often joked about, but taken somewhat seriously, is to get into an IT management role in a bank then outsource the dirty work to vendors, sit back and enjoy a Dilbert moment every day.

Now, when that dirty work is cyber security, there is a problem. It’s an area where you can’t be an expert without getting your hands dirty. Yes, there are security solutions out there to tap on, but it is important to know your own servers well. How can you secure your home if you don’t know where the holes are in your fences?

Similarly, when it comes to defending national infrastructure, it pays to have a ready pool of experts, with actual hands-on experience.

This work cannot be easily outsourced, since it may involve getting access to sensitive information, say, military secrets. A Singaporean core, to borrow the government’s term, may be needed in such as an operation.

http://www.techgoondu.com/2013/11/12/commentary-singapore-hacking-cases-show-importance-of-deep-infocomm-expertise/comment-page-1/#.Uofv9idfp-c

But will our FT-loving govt listen? Worse it seems the govt’s model of “Talent is two-timing new citizen Raj or Tammy’s killer or the FTs that beat up S’poreans and then fled S’pore (one was even given PR after the beating), or a violent, cheating PRC shop assistant, or PRC hawkers or a looney, violent bank director.

*“A quote from a decade and a half ago: ‘Secure web servers are the equivalent of heavy armoured cars. The problem is, the roads are subject to random detours, anyone with a screwdriver can control the traffic lights and there are no police.’”
—Richard Guy Briggs on “Besieged”, Nov 9th 2013

**Taz before the latest reported hack of schools’ sites and a local museum’s mailing list was made public in NZ. Don’t know if you notice, but the local media is downplaying the security implications of the hacks by making them sound trivial.The schools’ hack is “defacement” and the mailing list was described as being on the website. The Hard Truth is that in these cases, servers were broken into.

This is in contrast to the “hack”of PMO’s site which was over-sensationalised. (There was no hack there as reported above. In the PMO’s case, at no time was there any server intrusion. The server was secure.) One wonders if IDA has finally educated the hacks on the basics of cyber security or did it order them to downplay the hacks as the hacks would imply that contrary to Yaacob’s comments about working hard to fix security issues, the cyber security teams are not working hard, or worse, working hard incompetently.


More nails in Iskandar’s coffin

In Malaysia on 21/11/2013 at 4:38 am

JOHOR is planning to impose a 2 per cent levy on foreign buyers across all segments of the property market and the secondary market in the southern Malaysian state from May.

The rate is lower than the 4 per cent to 5 per cent mooted earlier, but will still amount to more than twice the current RM10,000 (S$3,895) fee foreigners pay to buy properties in the state. Since foreigners are required to purchase units valued at RM1 million and above, the RM10,000 fee was at most a one per cent levy.

The levy comes on top of the Malaysian government’s recent measures to cool the property market. (BT on 13th November)

Crime in Johor, and the authorities’ denial attitude: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24924283

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/246559

And it has been reported that Johor is considering changing its weekend from Saturday and Sunday to Friday and Saturday. Not exactly S’porean and investor friendly is it?

What Iskandar repeated shows is that there is a reason for the huge price gap between properties in Johor and S’pore. The issue for buyers is whether the lower prices there compensate for the risks they are assuming.

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/sporeans-fleeced-in-johor-yet-again/

Ageing population Hard Truth is cock and bull?

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 20/11/2013 at 4:25 am

The govt and the constructive, nation-building media keep shouting at us that a rapidly aging population (and the stas do show this aging as a fact, no bull here) will lead to disaster if FTs like two-timing new citizen Raj or Tammy’s killer or the FTs that beat up S’poreans and then fled S’pore*, or a looney, violent bank director are not allowed in by the container load. They point to Japan as what can happen if FTs are not allowed in: economic stagnation. The truth is more complex. As I reported here HSBC, a bank, in 2012 published research that Japan is doing pretty well when compared to other developed countries, including immigrant friendly countries like the US and the UK (though the UK is now repenting its liberal immigration policy)

Whatever the impact of an ageing population on S’pore’s prosperity, here’s a piece of evidence casting doubt on the assumptions (stated or unstated) behind the need to have a population of 6.9m by 2030. It comes from academics from the University of Edinburgh.

The idea that dependent older people represent a great demographic challenge of our age has been turned on its head …The research questions an assumption behind arguments for health, social care and immigration policies … The paper demands society rethink some of its assumptions about elderly dependency – drawing a distinction between the ‘young old’ and the ‘old old’

Here’s more from the BBC’s Home (i.e. domestic affairs) editor (Note that the paper in question is based on British statistics but the argument seems applicable elsewhere as he points out)

“The extent, speed and effect of population ageing have all been exaggerated and we should not assume that it will strain health and social care systems,” Professor John MacInnes and senior research fellow Jeroen Spijker write in the article ‘Population Ageing: The timebomb that isn’t?’

Healthier and fitter

The mistake people have been making, the paper suggests, is to assume that all pensioners are dependent and all working-age adults are workers.

They point out that, while it is true there are now more people over 65 in the UK than children under 15, rising life expectancy means older people are effectively “younger”, healthier and fitter than previous generations.

Instead of simply looking at how old someone is, the research focuses on how long they might be expected to live.

“Many behaviours and attitudes (including those related to health) are more strongly linked to remaining life expectancy than to age,” it says.

In 1841, life expectancy at birth was 40 years for males and 42 years for females.

By 1900 it was 52 and 57 and today it is 79 and 83. So the point at which we enter ‘old age’ has also been changing.

Equally, using age to define the adult working populations makes little sense, the authors suggest, because “there are more dependents of working age (9.5 million) than there are older people who do not work”.

So they calculated an alternative measure, what they call “the real elderly dependency ratio”, based on the sum of men and women with a remaining life expectancy of up to 15 years divided by the number of people in employment, irrespective of age.

Important implications

Using this measure, the paper calculates that old-age dependency in the UK fell by one third over the past four decades – and is likely to stabilise close to its current level.

The measure suggests similar falls in many other countries.

“Our calculations show that – over the past four decades – the population far from ageing, has in fact been getting younger, with increasing numbers of people in work for every older person or child,” the authors say.

“The different story of population ageing told by our real elderly dependency ratio has several important implications for health policy and clinical practice.”

In policy terms, this analysis to one of the central challenges of an ageing population might be something of a game changer. Rather than seeing longevity itself as an expensive problem, focus could shift towards managing morbidity and remaining life expectancy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24921171

The continued refusal of the govt to accept that the issue of ageing population is a complex one and the unwillingness to question its Hard Truth on the issue continued in the face of evidence that the Hard Truth is doing real harm looks all too similar to the intellectual fetters that led central bankers to persist in tighten monetary policy in the early 1930s when faced with a global Depression.

It also shows that they are unlike LKY and Dr Goh Keng Swee who were willing to challenge the conventional wisdom that allowing MNCs in amounted to neo-colonialism. And demographics is not the only issue where the PAP govt is wedded to Hard Truths. Take welfare, where there is evidence that gd welfare systems do not reduce the will to work: they do not make people lazy e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24974745: another University of Edinburgh study.

Maybe, time to send scholars there to learn to walk on the wild side, and think unHard Truths? After all  University of Edinburgh is a great university. It juz doesn’t produce the ruling elite of the UK or the US. Our scholars to to unis where the UK and US ruling elite are educated.

BTW, here’s an article on using robots to as carers for the elderly: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24949081

*PR was given to one after he beat up the S’poreans.

Scholar can’t repair NOL; Maersk steams ahead

In Public Administration, Shipping on 19/11/2013 at 5:40 am

The continuing contrasting tale of two shipping lines, one led by a scholar who attended elite ang moh uni ( also an ex-SAF chief and ex-Temask MD with a Stamford postgrad biz degree thrown in); and the other led by a graduate from Copenhagen University, who has an an MBA from IMD, Switzerland, who has only worked with one co. all his life.

NOL is still stuck on a reef, with water pouring in. Neptune Orient Lines Ltd said on 30th October that its net profit fell sharply in the third quarter as the container shipper battled weak demand.

Net profit fell to US$20 million in the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with US$50 million in the same period last year, Neptune Orient said in a statement to the Singapore Exchange.

Revenue fell 10% to US$2.06 billion, it said.

“This is one of the weakest peak seasons we have seen in recent years, characterized by depressed freight rates and industry overcapacity,” the statement quoted group chief executive Ng Yat Chung as saying.

It said general market conditions had not improved in the third quarter, resulting in a muted peak season, adding that the company expects volatile freight rates and overcapacity in the industry to continue.

On 13 November, A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S’s container-shipping line, the world’s largest, reported an 11 percent increase in third-quarter profit after cost cuts countered a decline in freight rates.

Maersk Line’s third-quarter net income rose to $554 million from $498 million a year earlier, the Copenhagen-based company said today in a statement. Its parent, A.P. Moeller-Maersk, raised its full-year forecast and said net income rose 23 percent to 6.36 billion kroner ($1.14 billion), beating the 6.14 billion-krone average estimate in a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-13/maersk-line-profit-advances-as-cost-cuts-counter-rate-decline.html)

True  most shipping lines are struggling to reach break-even amid volatile freight rates, and even Maersk has warned of a much weaker fourth quarter, following a 12% drop in container cargo rates in recent weeks. Freight rates “deteriorated significantly during the quarter and hence the seasonally low fourth quarter 2013 has started with low freight rates, which will result in a significantly lower fourth quarter result” than in the third quarter, Maersk Line said. Still, the result for 2013 will be “significantly above” the $461 million profit in 2012, it said.

But hey tot scholars and ex-SAF chiefs are paid serious money because they are S’pore’s finest? Juz like ministers like Raymond Lim, Mak Bow Tan and Yaacob. Remember ex-SAF chief Kee Chui said juz like XO carrot cake is more expensive ’cause of the taste, scholars and ministers deserve higher pay ’cause they better?

(Related posts:https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/why-nol-has-problems/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/nol-underperforms-maersk-again-as-predicted/)

BTW, our constructive, nation-building media have failed to report Maesrk’s gd results, even though BT reported that NOL’s CEO grumbled that giant ships are undercutting NOL’s freight rates. Maersk owns these ships.

This NOL CEO gives scholars like TRE’s Richard and NSP’s Hazel and Tony a bad name. But then VivianB is a scholar.

Gaming the system: Unsaid assumptions of PAP, NTUC MP

In Political economy on 18/11/2013 at 5:29 am

This call by a PAP,NTUC MP provoked me and someone else into some chim tots, MWC [Migrant Workers’ Centre] cautions workers and employers alike to access the Work Injury System honestly and fairly so that it can provide meaningful compensation to workers who have suffered physical incapacity or impairment from legitimate injuries suffered in the course of their work.

(http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/change-mindsets-employers-workers-needed-20131115)

Someone posted on Facebook: From the way the statement by MWC is phrased, I think they should seriously rename themselves the Migrant Worker EMPLOYERS’ Centre, as it is clear they are more concerned about the employers’ interests than they are with the workers they claim to represent.

If the employer alienates the migrant worker for fighting for what he believes he truly deserves, shouldn’t the MWC take the employer to task for such a clearly discriminatory practice that is against MOM’s employment guidelines? Why side with the employer?

I responded to the poster: The unsaid assumptions (reasonable for a NTUC and PAP MP) are that the employers are usually fair-minded people, while migrant workers are out to cheat their fair-minded employers. LOL

I also posted:No matter how gd any system is, it can be gamed. The only way out is to give someone discretion to catch the gamers. Problem is that this leads to other problems*. BTW, gaming the rules is the reason the govt gives as an excuse not to legislate rights to many things that in other societies are accepted as part of the social fabric. Sadly the co-driver tends to agree with the govt. Only the SDP is prepared to challenge this self-serving excuse, not that I’m saying gaming will not happen. We juz have to accept that fact and change the rules, and accept that there will be abuses. Juz try to minimise it.

And as cutting and pasting this post, it struck me that the MAP, NTUC MP does not take into account in the statement, the imbalance of power and resources between the aggrieved migrant worker and an employer. One is on subsistence wages (by our standards at least), the other most probably drives a BMW or Mercedes and owns an apartment or two. This PAP, NTUC doesn’t know the meaning of social justice, and the need to level the odds in favour of the migrant worker.

*I was thinking of corruption. S’poreans are always complaining of the rigidity of the public service. One reason for such rigidity is that giving discretion to public servants, opens the doors to their exercising their discretion in return for monetary and other incentives. Hence the rule book.

True blue S’porean FT applies for citizenship

In Humour on 17/11/2013 at 4:34 am

Yesterday’s ST carried a story about a young S’porean athlete, 14-yr old Olivia Marsden, who is applying to be a citizen. Father’s British, mum’s from Oz, and they’ve been living here since since the early 1990s.

Hope she gets citizenship. Home Team should grant it in repentance for the following sins:

new citizen Raj who boasted his son will get PR despite not doing NS*; and

FT** Alison McElwee who killed Tammy. Tammy was a true blue S’porean: mongrel, ill-treated and traumatised. McElwee has defended killing Tammy and insisted that the rehomer refused to take back Tammy, despite text messages indicating the contrary

BTW,here’s someone who S’pore must attract: Aged 11, most boys can do little other than watch television, play football and fight with their sisters; this child blagged his way past at least three security checks onto an international flight.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2012/07/ticketless-travel

*Interestingly, co-driver has never raised the issue in parly.

**Earlier this week, ST reported that she’s British and working in a healthcare centre. This was the first time, since the killing of Tammy was reported by our constructive, nation-building media that her nationality was given. Wonder why it took ST so long to report her nationality. Wonder if  is related to two accidents where PRC drivers were involved, but where the nationality of the drivers never disclosed? Note it was SOP for ST to give the nationality of a person it is reporting on.

Indon origins of our Batman Suparman

In Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 16/11/2013 at 4:59 am

(Asean round-up)

Batman bin Suparman’s family appear to be originally from the Indonesia island of Java – where the name Suparman is very common, explains Ben Zimmer, a language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, who has worked in Indonesia and who has written about Suparman.

“Su” has Sanskrit origins and is a common prefix in Indonesia, featuring in a whole rung of Indonesian presidents’ names – including the current one Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. “Bin” means “son of” in Arabic, making it very likely that Batman’s father was also called Suparman.

The Batman part is a bit harder to explain, however says Zimmer, as it’s not a traditional name in the region. The most likely explanation is that his parents chose it as a joke – Batman the superhero is popular there, and Indonesians are often playful in the names they choose, says Zimmer. “I see the name as this interesting juxtaposition of local naming with Western pop culture.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24911186

Illegal logging and mismanagement of Indonesia‘s forestry industry may have prevented more than US$7 billion flowing to state coffers from 2007 to 2011, costing the government more than its health budget, Human Rights Watch said.

In contrast, the Indonesian government’s 2011 revenue from timber royalties and reforestation fees was US$300 million, said Emily Harwell, the lead author of a report released by Human Rights Watch.

“This is a very conservative estimate,” Dr Harwell, a partner at Natural Capital Advisors LLC, said at a briefing in Jakarta on Nov 8 of lost revenue. “The calculation doesn’t include any wood that’s smuggled.”

The report indicates that weak governance is chipping away at revenues in the world’s fourth-most populous nation, as budget and current-account deficits this year hurt the rupiah. BT report.

Malaysia has the highest English language proficiency level in the entire Asian region, according to a latest research by Swiss-based international education company EF Education First (EF).

The nation also climbed two notches higher to 11th place from 13th position last year in the EF English Proficiency Index which saw over 60 countries being surveyed.

The results revealed that Malaysia, which was placed in the ‘High Proficiency’ category, had overtaken Singapore who fell behind to 12th position in the world ranking. Malaysia scored 58.99 points in the survey while neighbouring Singapore received a 58.92 score.

Money for Vietnamese start-ups and buy-outs

— Ministry of Science and Tech in Vietnam pours $110 million into startups

http://www.techinasia.com/ministry-science-tech-vietnam-pours-110-million-startupsministry-science-tech-vietnam-pours-110-million-startupsministry-science-tech-vietnam-pours-110-million-startupsministry-science-tech-vietnam-po/

— Franklin Templeton Investments (BEN)’ venture in Vietnam said the time is right for buyout firms to invest in the country as it expects monetary and fiscal reforms to take effect over the next three to five years.

Low valuations, constrained bank lending and an improved corporate landscape mean private-equity investors have an opportunity to buy companies in the Southeast Asian country before the economy picks up again, said Avinash Satwalekar, chief executive officer of Vietcombank Fund Management, Templeton’s venture with Joint-Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam.

“The best time to make investments is when the water is murky,” Satwalekar, 39, said in an interview in Singapore yesterday. “When its gets clear, that’s when everybody can make investments.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-06/buyout-opportunities-seen-in-vietnam-imbalances-southeast-asia.html

Philippine Finance Minister Cesar Purisma has told the BBC that the devastation caused by the Typhoon Haiyan Mr Purisma says that the worst affected region accounts for 12.5% of the Philippines economy and a steep slowdown there could slow the overall economy by one percentage point next year. IMF has earlier this yr said GDP growth would be 6% next yr.

Mr Purisma also said it would take “many years” to rebuild the infrastructure damaged by the storm.

Culture ministry morphs into Quant Ministry

In Public Administration on 15/11/2013 at 6:01 am

Robert McNamara when he became Kennedy’s Defence Secretary expected everything to be quantified at the Pentagon. He was previously president of Ford Motor Company. A team of which he was a part had transformed Ford by using quantitative methods*.

Sadly, for the US,using inappropriate quantitative methods was one reason why the US was defeated by the North Vietnamese. An example was the focus on the number of Vietcong guerrillas killed. This encouraged the US army to prefer “kicking ass” rather to “winning hearts and minds”. The latter didn’t show up on the army’s KPIs.

I was rereading something about Robert McNamara (inevitably the Whiz Kids and the Vietnam war are mentioned) around the time when a person familiar with the local arts scene posted a Facebook comment that he had never seen so much data from the culture ministry before. Feel free to skip the italics bit below: it gives the data that made got the “expert” commenting

Singapore’s arts and culture sector continues to grow, with more reported arts activities and more people attending and participating in arts and culture events compared to a decade ago.

According to the Singapore Cultural Statistics 2013 Report, there was an average of 23 arts performances and 49 exhibitions happening each day in 2012, as compared to about 10 arts performances and 30 exhibitions 10 years ago.

Ticketed attendance at arts events increased from just under a million in 2003 to almost two million last year.

Meanwhile, total tickets sold for performing arts events increased from 0.7 million in 2004 to 1.2 million in 2012.

Total gross takings have also increased from S$32.8 million in 2004 to S$80.6 million in 2012.

Year-on-year comparison showed that ticketed attendance and gross takings for performing arts events fell in 2012, after an all-time high the previous year.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said this was due to the market adjusting itself after the initial spike of popular musicals brought in by the Integrated Resorts when they first started operations.

Non-ticketed attendance for heritage events dropped in 2012.

MCCY said this was a result of the National Heritage Board’s shift from large-scale events to more targeted ones with better quality of engagement.

The report also noted the growing interest of youths in pursuing an arts education in Singapore.

The number of students enrolled in full-time tertiary arts courses has also increased from 1,860 in 2004 to 4,492 in 2012.

More arts companies and arts societies are also entering the scene.

In 2012, there were 1,260 companies and 386 societies, compared to 302 arts companies and 247 societies in 2003.

Government funding for arts and culture has also increased to S$478.9 million last year, up 10 per cent from 2011.

(http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-s-arts-and/867778.html)

Despite the failure of the US to win the Vietnam war by quantitative methods, there is a place for appropriate data collection and analysis, as the Ford experience showed. Bloomberg who recently finished two terms as NY city’s major, leaving office with a reputation as one of the best mayors the city has ever had, has said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”**

He used data to do boring things well—an undervalued virtue. His analytics team pools data from different agencies to inform decisions. For instance, it tracked complaints from 311 calls, a municipal hotline, and linked them with information about such things as tax irregularities to pinpoint illegal building conversions, which are fire hazards, quickly and fairly accurately. Mr Bloomberg listened to ideas if his staff had supporting evidence. (Economist)

But somehow, I don’t think the data cited above by our culture ministry cited above serves any purpose. It doesn’t even make the ministry look gd: except in the eyes of bureaucrats  and accountants ruled by engineering scholars led by a maths scholar. As Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong is in Hong Kong from November 13 to 15 attending a regional forum on collaborations in culture and arts,maybe he can pick up tips from cities like KL, Manila and HK on how to make S’pore less of a culture desert.

—-

*In 1946, Charles “Tex” Thornton, a colonel under whom McNamara had served, put together a group of officers from his AAF Statistical Control operation to go into business together. Thornton had seen an article in Life magazine portraying Ford as being in dire need of reform. Henry Ford II, himself a World War II veteran from the Navy, hired the entire group of 10, including McNamara.

The “Whiz Kids“, as they came to be known, helped the money-losing company reform its chaotic administration through modern planning, organization and management control systems. Whiz Kids origins: Because of their youth, combined with asking lots of questions, Ford employees initially and disparagingly, referred to them as the “Quiz Kids”. In a remarkable “turning of the tables”, these Quiz Kids rebranded themselves as the “Whiz Kids” and backed-up their new moniker with performance driven results. Starting as manager of planning and financial analysis, he advanced rapidly through a series of top-level management positions. (Wikipedia)

**The danger is that this often becomes, “If you can’t measure it, you can ignore it.”

Costs savings in airlines: every little bit counts

In Airlines, Financial competency on 14/11/2013 at 7:21 pm

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has reported a 78% rise in net profit for its second quarter*.

This reminded of a story in the New York Times, some time back, that Delta Airlines by slicing an ounce off its on-board steaks saved US$250,000. It even calculated that removing a single strawberry from its First Class salads would save US$210,000.

Talking after looking after the pennies, and the dollars will look after themselves.

In investing, John Bogle, the founder of indexer Vanguard, keeps stressing the importance of buying funds that charge low fees. The expenses saved when compounded over time adds to performance. Besides most active fund mgrs underperform the market., so they mare a waste of money. Indexers charge very little in comparison with active managers.

Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/the-perils-of-indexation-revised-and-updated/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/even-the-rich-should-use-index-funds/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/rebalancing-can-lock-in-profits-trim-losses/

 

——–

*Asia’s second biggest carrier was boosted by the sale of aircraft, spare engines as well as increased passenger traffic.

The firm posted a total net profit of $128.6m (£80.9m) for the quarter, up from $72.1m a year earlier.

But it warned it was facing tough competition and a strong Singapore dollar. (BBC report)

Where Reits can go wrong

In Property, Reits on 14/11/2013 at 5:20 am

Reits are back in fashion after the Fed delayed tapering. QE is still coming.

So bear in mind the following comments by Fitching Ratings (ST 10 October 2013):

Yet key risks remain, including high-leveraged Reits that borrowed more to take advantage of low interest rates.

Reits could also face refinancing issues if loans are not renewed or when asset values fall below what had been anticipated.

Rising supply could also hit industrial Reits, with more multi-user factory space coming onstream over the next two years.

This could depress rents and lower asset valuations, which would worsen the sector’s financial metrics, warned Fitch Ratings.

“This is particularly salient for the hospitality industry which is the most cyclical and leveraged of the Reits under Fitch’s coverage,” the agency stated.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={412728214-19457-4491932987}

I’m still long Reits, have no intention of selling yet, but am not a buyer. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/why-im-not-selling-my-reits-yet/. Look at dividend stocks. KS people shld look at Temasek Fab 5  and compare their dividends with waz available from CPF or govt bonds or S$ fixed deposits.

DBS doing NS on HDB loans?

In Corporate governance on 13/11/2013 at 4:26 am

If it’s one thing S’poreans who are paying off the mortgages on their HDB flats can agree on, it is that the govt is stretching the truth when it says that HDB mortgage payments are affordable because mortgagors can use CPF money leh. They are not that daft not to realise that it affects their old-age funds. And anyway, it’s always nice to pay less.

So it’s interesting that DBS has a very gd scheme for HDB borrowers. So gd that only the daft wouldn’t apply for it. I’ll let BT explain:

Thousands of HDB homeowners are turning to DBS Bank for a mortgage product that guarantees savings.

Those who took up a POSB HDB loan when it was launched in April could be looking at savings of as much as $1,600 by next month, calculations from DBS showed.

The first POSB HDB loan pilot launch – where homebuyers enjoyed a floating-rate loan with interest capped below the HDB concessionary rate for 10 years – was fully sold.

The bank is now into its second offering, which charges the same rate but for eight years, said Ms Lui.

The current POSB HDB loan charges for the first eight years the three-month Sibor (Singapore interbank offered rate) plus 1.38 per cent, capped at the CPF Ordinary Account rate. The current CPF Ordinary Account rate is 2.50 per cent.

Thereafter, the loan charges three-month Sibor plus 1.48 per cent. The September three-month Sibor is 0.374 per cent.

The HDB concessionary loan now charges 2.60 per cent, which consists of 0.10 per cent plus the CPF Ordinary Account rate of 2.50 per cent. Based on the three-month Sibor of 0.38 per cent, borrowers who switch from the HDB concessionary loan will pay a lower interest rate of 1.75 per cent.

For a homebuyer refinancing from the HDB in April, based on a loan of $400,000 and 25-year tenor, the potential savings over six months amount to $1,684.

And should interest rates rise over the next eight years, DBS guarantees that it will be capped at the CPF Ordinary Account rate of 2.50 per cent or 0.10 per cent below the HDB concessionary rate.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={563079109-19246-5011258124}

Nice to see DBS returning to its roots as “Development Bank of S’pore”., and using the POSB brand which some Foreign Trash CEO tried to get rid off. Fortunately, he went before the POSB brand went. Gd work ,New Citizen Gupta.

But if DBS is doing gd, is this mortgage making money, on a risk-adjusted basis, for DBS? How come OCBC and UOB don’t have similar schemes? Maybe DBS is helping out in constructive nation-building? Err what about shareholder value for non-controlling shareholders and gd corporate governance?

Never mind, I don’t own DBS shares.

S’pore at tech cutting edge

In Economy, Humour on 12/11/2013 at 6:08 am

If you recently read Kirsten Han’s stuff (juz google her leh) in ang moh publications, you would get the impression that S’pore thrives because locals are repressed and FTs exploited, with xenophobia thrown into that mix. Recently too, TOC and TRE carried quite a number of recent BBC articles, clips that didn’t put S’pore in a gd light.

But going by other stuff the BBC has been broadcasting recently (and not highlighted by TRE or TOC), S’pore is doing real cutting edge techie stuff to make life better for S’poreans and the the rest of the world:

Researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have been working on ways to improve rush hour traffic flows in Singapore.

They are trying a system of tracking vehicle movements through GPS and combining the data with fluid dynamics to predict congestion ahead.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24673439

The ‘supertrees’ of Singapore are the central attraction of the Gardens by the Bay, an energy-efficient district of the bustling city state.

During the day, the man-made structures, which mimic real trees, gather energy through solar panels. At night, they come to life and form a spectacular lightshow.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24678421

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay were created six years ago from reclaimed land and are now part of trial for the country’s “super wi-fi” white space programme.

White space is the name for a wireless network made available when old frequencies for analogue television signals are repurposed to carry data.

It is hoped free public wi-fi will be rolled out across the island within the next two years.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24822458

Near Field Communications (NFC) technology allows small amounts data to be exchanged when enabled devices are tapped or held closely together or one device is touched against an NFC tag.

Although the technology can be found in many smartphones, credit cards and passports it has yet to become mainstream.

But Singapore’s size and willingness to embrace new technology might make it the perfect place to roll out a nationwide NFC network.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24756033

And here are two plugs for the PAP govt, courtesy of the BBC:

To stay competitive, a country needs to constantly innovate.

Where the US has Silicon Valley, Singapore has Biopolis – a major biomedical research and development hub.

From almost nothing more than a decade ago, the sector has grown to account for a quarter of the country’s manufacturing output.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24799516

Singapore’s economy has often been the envy of many of its neighbours.

Many people have marvelled at how this small island, smaller than New York City, has come to be worth more than $270bn (£167bn).

One key to that success has been the vibrant shipping port.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24605503

As far as the issue of state repression, the closest the BBC has come to reporting repression here are these:

Singapore’s Marine Life Park is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the world’s largest aquarium, but it has already come under the scrutiny of environmentalist and critics.

They say that dolphins should not have been caught from the wild to be exhibited in its newly-opened enclosure.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24738828

— Dan Tan’s case

In the next few weeks all the evidence that has been gathered against the syndicate will be presented behind closed doors to the Ministry of Home Affairs and then an advisory council, before a final decision is made by the president.

If all agree that the suspects should remain under “preventive detention”, then Dan Tan and his associates could be held for years without ever having the evidence tested in a court of law.

Under huge pressure to act, the Singaporeans say they’ve now “cut the head off the snake”.

In doing so, the world’s biggest match-fixing syndicate may have been disabled but if the process remains behind closed doors it hardly feels like justice being served.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24238681 (BTW, Ms Han and her friends ignore Dan Tan’s case. He got more money than them? They jealous?)

This blog while often critical of the PAP govt, is very happy to live here as quitter in residence.So that tells you that on balance, this blogger is one of the ungrateful S’poreans (at least as the PAPpies are concerned). He’s juz glad that he’s not a young, working S’porean working here. But if he was a young S’porean, he would be working overseas. When he qualified, it was difficult to work overseas because of immigration rules. Eventually he did do stints abroad, but today he could have found a job overseas easily after he qualified.

Tharman trying to tell jokes again?

In Economy on 11/11/2013 at 5:16 am

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said there is the need to ensure that the Republic continues to remain a country of low unemployment and good income growth for the average citizen and family, and in particular low income citizens. He was delivering the keynote address at the Ordinary Delegates Conference of the NTUC according to  CNA a few weeks ago.

On talking of good income growth for the average citizen and family, and in particular low income citizens, he obviously hadn’t got round to reading Department of Stats reports, and he certainly not Uncle Leong. Uncle Leong reported

Historical wage growth 1.3%?

Using data from the Department of Statistics, the historical annualised inflation from 1980 to 2012 was about 2.0 per cent.

So, since the historical average of overall wages was 3.3 per cent annually, does it mean that real wage growth over the last 32 years was only about 1.3 per cent per annum?

1% wage growth this year?

Since “The MAS expects consumer prices to rise by 2.5 to 3 per cent this year”, even if the increase in wages is 4 per cent as is being predicted now, the real increase in wages for the year may only be about as little as 1 per cent.

Gd wage growth? What gd wage growth?

On low income citizens being looked after, Uncle Leong pointed out or, rather, reported

… the median basic pay of office cleaners was only $800 according to media reports just a few days ago. On top of these low-wage cleaners, there are about 114,000 full-time workers earning less than $1,000 a month and about 460,000 full-time and part-time workers earning below $1,500 according to the latest available statistics. (Note: The Singapore labour statistics classifies those who work more than 35 hours a week as full-time workers – probably the “longest” part-time workers’ definitionin the world)

And this

… since the per household member growth was much lower at 13 per cent, does it mean that household income grew relatively more because there were more working members per household?

Does it mean that particularly for lower-income households, more members may have to work to make ends meet?

Uncle Leong also reminded us that the govt sophistry of rising wages includes the govt mandated increase in CPF rates

Inclusive of employer CPF contribution?

Moreover, since the statistics are including employer CPF contribution, what is the growth without employer CPF contribution.

It used to be that the statistics in the past were based on without employer CPF contribution.

Different from other countries?

Do any of the other 7 countries cited in the table for comparison include the employer’s pension contribution in calculating real income growth? I believe the answer is no.

After reading all these points raised by Uncle Leong , I doubt anyone would say that Tharman is correct to assert that  S’pore remains a country of … good income growth for the average citizen and family, and in particular low income citizens. It hasn’t been since the mid-1990s, when a foreign capitalist grumbled that in S’pore, “the fruits of [his] labour” (his words) went to his employees, including me, when I had the brazenness to tell him he was being greedy, when I argued with him on the on the methodology of my incentive scheme. Capitalists were screwed by the govt. How times have changed.

And if one wants to be fair to Tharman, one could point out that the purpose of wage increase is to keep pace with inflation, not exceed it by a wide margin. And that anyway, not fair to use average over such a long period as it distorts the underlying data.

But then, even the govt concedes that real wage increases have in the recent past been stagnant or PMETS, and especially for the low paid, so Tharman was tempting the fates (and Uncle Leong)  by making the assertion about good income growth for the average citizen and family, and in particular low income citizens.

Last year I blogged that Tharman was trying to do comedy. Looks like as though he’s trying again. He should learn from RI boy, Hng Kian: stop telling jokes when not cut out to do comedy. But then Tharman’s from ACS. And the Indian community, and liberals see him as the next PM: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/why-tharman-will-be-the-next-pm/.

So he has to try to get as gd as PM with his “mee siam with hum” joke.

Iskandar & related BT story suck

In Malaysia, Property on 10/11/2013 at 6:20 am

Trumpets pls for this recent post on Iskandar.

M’sians Double confirm now that S’poreans kanna screwed by the M’sian govt Budget measures and Johor’s proposed

Malaysia’s Iskandar Waterfront delays IPO on gov’t property steps -sources

* Postpones listing to Q4 2014, a year later than initially planned

* Concerned measures to rein in property prices will slow demand

* Not immediately clear if delay will impact Johor metropolis development

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/11/04/malaysia-iskandar-ipo-idUKL3N0IP1FE20131104

This story came out juz after a BT article on 4 November 2013, a few hours before the above appeared:

Jubilee: An interesting Iskandar play

THE property rush across the Causeway in the past couple of years has seen prices in Iskandar Malaysia double or even triple. Despite talk of a bubble, investors unwilling to jump onto the buyers’ bandwagon can still take bets on property developers themselves.

Jubilee Industries Holdings – formerly loss-making plastic injection mould producer JLJ Holdings – appears poised to be the latest intriguing Iskandar play on Singapore Exchange.

A proposed reverse takeover (RTO) announced in mid-October will see Singaporean businessman Dennis Ng inject Tenderside Ventures, a subsidiary of his Malaysian property development company Jewelstone Properties, into Catalyst-quoted Jubilee.

The deal gives a well-connected and established family a foothold in a listed entity in Singapore.

Mr Ng is executive director of United Malayan Land (UMLand), of which his father, Ng Eng Tee, is deputy chairman and also executive director.

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/companies/others/jubilee-interesting-iskandar-play-20131104

S’pore, Asia, West hsehold debt levels compared

In Energy, Indonesia, Malaysia on 09/11/2013 at 7:00 am

Asean round-up

S’pore (at 61% of debt to GDP) is third in Asean, M’sia tops the list (81%), followed by Thailand (68%) , according to a World Bank report. (http://www.economist.com/news/economic-and-financial-indicators/21588882-household-debt-asia)

A recent World Bank study identified Malaysia and Thailand as having the largest household debts, as a share of GDP, among eastern Asia’s developing economies. In Malaysia, where household debt now exceeds 80% of GDP, the government has been seeking to curb credit growth. Thailand’s government boosted access to credit following the country’s big floods in 2011. The recent slowing of growth in many Asian economies raises concerns about the sustainability of all this personal debt.

Note two weeks ago, I reported Currently, M’sia‘s household debt stood at about 83% of gross domestic product. Household debt in S’pore now accounts for 75% of gross domestic product, having doubled in the last 13 years. According to Standard Chartered, a private bank, household borrowing as a share of national income now stands at 68% of Thailand’s GDP, much higher than in bigger Asian countries, such as China (20%), India (18%) and Indonesia (17%).

(Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/the-maths-of-salaries-when-mortgage-rates-rise-50/)

In other Asean news

Indonesia‘s economy expanded at its weakest rate in four years in the third quarter as a result of slowing exports and subdued domestic demand.

Its economy grew 5.6% in the July-to-September period from a year earlier, down from 5.8% in the previous quarter.

Indonesia’s exports have been hurt by slowing demand from key markets and a drop in commodity prices.

Meanwhile, domestic demand has been impacted by rising fuel prices and rising interest rates.

Fuel prices in the country surged earlier this year after the government removed its subsidy programme.

Petrol prices went up by 44% while diesel prices rose by 22%, leading to higher transportation costs and electricity bills.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24831172

And as usual Indonesia is repenting the nationalistic policies it always implements when the economy is doing well. It is again, as usual, lifting restriction on foreign investments, to attract foreign capital.

Thais are in the streets, protesting a controversial amnesty bill. http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/11/unrest-thailand

And an energy boom in the region. http://www.thefinancialist.com/an-oil-and-gas-boom-for-southeast-asia/

PAP reverts to form

In Political governance on 08/11/2013 at 4:57 am

NatCon’s narrative was that the govt is willing to listen to the people.

Well the way the govt is conducting itself on the tudung* issue seems to contradict the narrative of a govt willing to listen to the people. Maybe it has decided to return to the Hard Truth of dismissing views or facts that do not support the canon of Hard Truths? Even if these views are articulated by senior PAPpists?

Government leaders yesterday weighed in on the hijab issue, which made its way back into the national spotlight in recent weeks, with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean reiterating that, while the Government understands “community perspectives”, it also “has the responsibility to balance all these different community requirements and keep in mind what we need, to maintain overall social harmony”.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong together with Malay Members of Parliament (MPs) from the People’s Action Party over the matter, called for “constructive dialogue” as the way forward. “This is the Singapore way and has served everyone well over the years,” he said on Facebook. (Today 6 Nov)

If the govt is a listening govt, shouldn’t DPM’s comments come some days after the meeting, after the govt has had time to analyse the views of the Malay minister and PAP May MPs? I mean it’s not as though the tudung wearers and friends, and their enemies are rioting in the streets. Everything is at the “discussion” stage, and is likely to remain at that level: uniquely S’porean for any topic. Action of any sort is haram in S’pore: witness the reaction to Alex Au’s piece on doing something other than talking.

And if the govt can’t be bothered to listen to and ponder on the views of the Malay minister, and the PAP Malay MPs (kaki lang, orang sendiri), why should anyone think it listens to anyone else?

I couldn’t help laughing at Yacoob’s “This is the Singapore way and has served everyone well over the years” . The Singapore way is “Sit down, shut up, and do as you are told”: “constructive dialogue” is a dog-whistle meant to fool the masses. I’m happy to report that the plebs have caught on, even if the govt and the constructive, nation-building media don’t realise that the unwashed masses have caught on. The PAP govt and the local media still thinks that since 70% of the voters still “Like” the PAP, that the plebs are deft?

But let’s give the govt two cheers that it isn’t into “faking it” PR.

If DPM Teo had waited a few days, then the comments couldn’t be seen as undercutting Yaacob and the Malay MPs, and would buttress the NatCon narrative that this PAP govt listens.

For this bad PR, we should be thankful. We should glad that the govt is not resorting to Tony Blair’s appointment of a team to clear all misterial statements to ensure that even if there are contradictions, disagreements, inconsistencies, muddled-thinking  in govt policies and actions, at least a fake consistency is projected.

S/o Devan Nair is sleeping on the job? Or he isn’t being listened to? Dr Goebbels would be spinning in his grave excepted that he was cremated.

Update at 8.35 am: NSP has come up with a sensible idea. It also calls on the government to “commission an official survey to gauge how the other communities feel about Muslim women wearing the hijab in Government professions.”. Hear, Hear.

*I prefer the term “tudung”. “Hijab” to me implies that the item of dress is a recent import, It isn’t. It’s been around for many a year.Halimah was using it it law school in the mid 70s, if my memory is correct.

Conspiracy theorists could spin then all the references to “hijab” by the govt, ministers, MPs, local media, is as an attempt to frame and spin that the petitioners  are introducing something alien . But the evidence seems to indicate the word “hijab” was used in the original petition.

Self-inflicted PR wounds are not uncommon as pointed out above.

 

Temasek’s right on ICBC, BoC & CCB

In Banks, China, Temasek on 07/11/2013 at 4:52 am

I’ve blogged before that Temasek loves China banks while ang mohs were running away.

Well since late June, Chinese bank shares have been on a roll, example  ICBC (where Temasek had been picking up shares this yr) is up more than 22%. Recent Chinese economic data has got investors buying the banks again, ang mohs included. So much so that some smaller Chinese banks are planning IPOs in HK.

Anyway,Jack, the usual suspects, and the readers of TRE, TOC and TRS needn’t yet bang their [ ] in frustration. Firstly, Temasek can never ever exit these investments given that S’pore wants to be China’s friend. Temasek got big chunks of BoC and CCB at a “special” price.. It can only play around the margins, reducing its cost of these investments.

Then are there two more reasons why we should be worried about Temasek’s punt:-

The biggest threat to Chinese banks’ cozy oligopoly … Online groups Alibaba and Tencent are making incursions into the country’s financial services market, providing an alternative to the capped deposit rates and sluggish service offered by the country’s big lenders. The disruptors are taking on risks, and savers should be glad. http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/10/10/tech-disruptors-could-save-chinas-savers/

Alibaba, the e-commerce group that just bought a 51 percent stake in asset manager Tianhong for $193 million, is the banks’ main foe. By July it had made over $16 billion in short-term loans to companies who sell goods on its sites. Its real-time records of borrowers’ cashflows and counterparties aid lending decisions.

Banks’ deposits are also under threat. WeChat, the mobile chat app that clocked up over 300 million users within two years of being launched by gaming group Tencent, is working on distributing wealth products via smartphones, and offering payment for fund managers, according to Chinese media. Alibaba lets users reinvest surplus balances in their online payment accounts into money market funds. That gives savers a better return than the 3 percent capped rate they get on bank deposits.

Tech companies’ desire to disrupt the financial services sector is understandable. China’s big banks make returns on equity in excess of 20 percent.

Add to that, an attempt to shake up the country’s slow-moving financial industry and create more investment opportunities for the private sector, Chinese regulators have invited companies from across the spectrum to apply for banking licences.
And here’s the latest on bad debt write-offs (something I had talked about) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-22/biggest-china-banks-triple-debt-write-offs-to-brace-for-defaults.html.
So Jack, etc can relax. Time enough for their curses on Ho Ching to take effect. I hope they remember that returns from the reserves are used to make life more comfortable for ourselves.

Brainwashed, simple-minded paper tigers

In Uncategorized on 06/11/2013 at 4:57 am

Taz the conclusion I draw about many keyboard warriors from their reactions to the hack on a ST blog, which they should have treated as, at best a ripple, in a after-dinner Chinese-tea cup, and their reactions to Alex Au’s piece criticking their reactions to the said hack.

[H]ow many bloggers and social media participants took pains to distance themselves from the hacking: We don’t approve of such tactics, they kind-of say.

Then what are you saying? That even if you are victimised by a brutish government, you should go no further than respectful and polite conversation?

Get a grip. Hacking is not sui generis. It is one among a vast continuum of acts of resistance.

(http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/hacker-strikes-fear-among-good-citizens/ There is a part 2)

BTW, make sure you read his replies to the howls of outrage his pieces provoked. Damned gd.

Alex is absolutely right in his disdain and scorn of the goody-two-shoes rushing to reassure the ISD and us that they are quai, even if he goes overboard at times. I felt a bit sick about the said responses to the hack: they were it seemed to me rushing to assure everyone that they didn’t approve of such an “atrocity”. They were rushing to condemn the hack as though it was some major atrocity like 9/11, 7/7 or the like. As he pointed out, it wasn’t even a disruption: Get a grip. Hacking is not sui generis. It is one among a vast continuum of acts of resistance.

I didn’t blog on how I felt because I had problems putting my tots into words (It would have sounded like Alex Tan at his foulest low). Thankfully Alex has done it for me, though for the record, I want to stress that for all its many faults (lack of compassion, muddle-headed tinking, lousy execution, bad PR, love of BS and jargon etc), the PAP govt is not “brutish”. BTW, I don’t think Alex was implying that our govt is “brutish”. But, it’s not for me to say what he thinks.

He has been accused of condoning disruption or violence, or trying to incite disruption, or, worse, violence. This is a very superficial reading, of the piece, if not intentional misrepresentation worthy of a defamation suit. It’s actually a chim piece on the nature and role of activism in any society: democratic, authoritarian or totalitarian.

The howls of “We quai chye” by said activists drew this response from Alex in part 2 of his piece, “[I]f the king has made something a criminal offence, then no one should ever try to flout it, no matter how horrible you think the king is?” Shades of Thomas Aquinas, Locke etc. Look up these names if you don’t recognise them, or have forgotten their arguments on the nature of justice, among other things.

More evidence that many of our cyber warriors are wannabe elitists who didn’t make the grade in our elite schools, or if they did, later in govt, stat boards, or GLCs. Juz expressing their frustrations by ranting and bitching against the PAP govt? Or as is more likely, they are intellectually, not very well-read. They have been too well-conditioned by the state’s schools and media?

87% of the Stompers showed up the pretensions of these paper tigers by feeling “shiok” about the hack.

Finally, something for these toothless paper tigers to chew on. Have they ever tot that the disruption to biz, transport and life, generally, that protests can caus,  play a big part in forcing a govt (democratic or authoritarian) to concede? Remember the credit default swaps fiasco here and in HK. The Hongkies got more of their money back because they were willing to inconvenience the public by regularly protesting on the streets. Singkies when to Hong Leong Green. Well DBS ended up paying Honkies, but not Singkies despite the S in its name standing for “Singapore”.

Think about it.

Time to chk out Olam

In Commodities, Temasek on 05/11/2013 at 4:30 am

When Muddy Waters ends up saying: “My view is that if Temasek decides tomorrow that it wanted out of this investment, it would be game over within months for them, without Temasek’s backstop,” its research director Carson Block told BT late  last week.(http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/muddy-waters-game-over-olam-if-temasek-pulls-out-20131101), its time to think it’s repenting its decision, a yr ago, to short Olam.

It’s stating the obvious. Any highly leveraged smallish stock where Temasek  exits from being a major shareholder would suffer. Temasek 1, MW 0.

Temasek has also since then progressively increased its ownership of Olam, from an initial 16.3 per cent before the Muddy Waters attack to 24.07 per cent now. Temasek 2, MW 0

In Mr Block’s view, Temasek had stepped in because of the wider implications that an Olam collapse would have posed to the commodity-trading industry in Singapore.

“If Olam had failed, what would the banks have done with the other commodity houses that are borrowing in Singapore?” he said. “It’s reasonable to assume that if the banks had to write off losses to Olam, you could have a real funding freeze for the commodity trading industry in Singapore.”

This is again stating the obvious. Temasek 3, MW 0

Funny, he didn’t bitch that BT continues to act as a chher leader for Olam. (http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={904134059-19528-1412927508}) Temasek 4, MW 0

Maybe the narrative that Olam is changing doesn’t fit his bearish thesis. Olam is building a packaged foods business. In countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Mali,, where it now generates sales of US$350 million, and aims to be the Unilever or Nestle of Africa. Might be interesting. Have to chk out waz this as % of total revenue and net profits. Sadly the article doesn’t give this which makes me suspicious that it’s a tiny share. Still will chk, and anyway Africa is a hot market. Temasek 5, MW 0

Final bull point, Olam did stop doing some things that Muddy waters was rightly bitching about. It shows mgt is pragmatic and flexible (Temasek 6, MW 0) , unlike the PAP govt on the FT policy (Remember the White Paper?).

Interestingly, Olam is one of the cos having an open day: a great idea.

MORE listed companies with large numbers of retail shareholders are setting aside time for the management to meet investors.

In a new trend, these companies are holding a “retail investor day” as well as the mandatory annual general meeting (AGM).

Usually, retail investors get to meet and question senior management only at the AGM.

Companies which have already held “investor day” events include Olam International, Aims AMP Capital Industrial real estate investment trust and bourse operator, the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={904134059-19479-584331750}

Oh and from the first BT report, it seems Muddy is still shorting Olam, Temasek 7, MW 0.

PAP’s view of us 40%ers?

In Humour, Political governance on 04/11/2013 at 5:40 am

“Their bowls are filled with rice, their mouths are filled with pork, but after they finish their meals, they criticise the government,” he* laughed.

“The Chinese masses are shameless and you don’t need to respect them.”

Substitute the word “Chinese masses” with “40% of deft S’porean voters”, and I suspect the PAP would “Like” the sentiments expressed.

Given that the PAP has ruled S’pore since 1959, and our standard of living is now first world, surely the PAP had shumething to do with it*? And surely. the PAP is entitled to get upset that 40% of the voters (self included) prefer to vote for the opposition?

Actually, the PAP should adopt a slightly different perspective. True, WP*** won a GRC and got 12.8% of the popular vote. But it is widely perceived by S’poreans as “PAP Lite”: in some lighting conditions their light blue shirts appear white.

This means that 72.8% of the electorate are very comfortable with the PAP, and S’pore being a defacto one party state: all the elected MPs are from the PAP (most) or the WP (7).

The presidential election double confirmed this as the preferred candidate won by a very, very short nose in a photo finish. The runner-up was a former PAP MP who unlike Tan Kin Lian, who lost his deposit, did not repent of his time in the PAP. Between Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock, MD, they got 70% of the votes. Tan Jee Say, came third, with 25%. Taz the gap between the support for the PAP, and the real opposition.

Maybe, this is what the PAP is worried about (see my extracts from govt think-tank October 2014 Asean Monitor)?

Most probably, though, the PAP juz wants 150% control. It’s in the DNA, like Hard Truths.

—-

*A BBC report said that this was said by one Liang Wenyong, the Communist Party boss of Gushanzi, a farming town in Hebei province, At a lavish banquet as he picked a variety of delicacies in front of him, including a whole lobster, Mr Liang gave his unvarnished views on the Chinese masses. Unfortunately for him, he was caught on tape.

The leaked video quickly prompted more than 9,000 angry comments on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter …Unsurprisingly, Liang Wenyong was fired. But in a twist typical of the new clean-up campaign, officials in Gushanzi were also ordered to study Xi Jinping’s teachings.

**Yes, Yes, I know that one Jack Lam and friend keep saying on Facebook that S’pore was in the 50s, the second biggest  port in the Asia, as though that alone would explain S’pore’s subsequent success. My retort: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/why-young-sporeans-should-be-sent-to-yangon/.

***S/o of JBJ takes exception to the claims (he says) that the local media make that Low founded the WP. Low may not have founded the WP but after the party’s leadership dethroned JBJ, and appointed him as leader, he changed the party, bringing organisation,, respectability and moderation to it. Remember JBJ’s WP allowed loonies and a bicyle thief tpo stand as MPs. And no-one could call WP “PAP Lite”: it waz too dysfunctional for that, and, anyway, was nothing more than JBJ’s chariot. BTW there is a gd site on FB to JBJ. Worth a visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jbj.memory/

Even NY & London getting less friendly to non-resident property owners

In Property on 03/11/2013 at 4:25 am

NY and London vie for the status of the world’s most global city. Yet even NY and the UK are showing signs of getting tired of too many FTs (where the “T” stands for “Talent” not “Trash”)

Plan to Tax the Rich Could Aim at Nonresidents “Ultrawealthy nonresidents who own property in New York City certainly make a ripe target for potential revenue,” James B. Stewart writes in the Common Sense column in The New York Times. “People who spend fewer than half the year in New York City don’t pay any city income tax, even if they generate much of their fortune in the city.”

Meanwhile in the UK,

The government is reported to be considering a tax for overseas investors buying UK properties, in a move to stop house prices rushing out of reach of homebuyers.

Sky News claims that the chancellor, George Osborne, is “actively investigating” charging capital gains tax (CGT) when foreign buyers sell UK homes, in a move that will bring their taxation in line with UK citizens.

Currently, only UK citizens and residents pay the tax, which is charged on profits made from the sale of any property that is not the owner’s main home. Basic rate taxpayers pay 18% of the profits, while higher rate payers hand over 28%.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/oct/31/george-osborne-capital-gains-tax-overseas-buyers

 

Govt’s reaction to rising food prices?

In Indonesia on 02/11/2013 at 5:27 am

On 24 October, it was reported that

Singapore has lifted a ban on the import of Thai frozen chicken and is also considering allowing the sale of frozen pork from Thailand.
After banning Thai poultry from its market for nine years, Singapore has finally allowed frozen chicken from Thailand back in, reports The Nation of Thailand.

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/poultrynews/30426/singapore-lifts-ban-on-thai-chicken-imports October 24th via http://singaporenewsalternative.blogspot

Timing of ban lighting, not coincidental, methinks

On 29th October, it was reported: Inflation in Singapore will pick up over the next few quarters before tapering towards the end of 2014.

This is according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Macroeconomic Review.

The central bank said domestic food inflation is expected to rise from around 2 per cent in 2013 to close to 3 per cent in 2014, although this is still lower than the 3.4 per cent average over the last five years.

In particular, cooked food vendors are likely to pass on the increases in labour and rental costs to consumers, as these account for a significant share of their operating expenses compared to non-cooked food establishments.

The MAS said cooked food is estimated to make up 14 per cent of average household expenditure.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/inflation-in-s-pore-to/865788.html

Today reported: The MAS expects the core inflation rate, which strips out the cost of accommodation and private road transport, to increase from between 1.5 and 2 per cent this year to between 2 and 3 per cent next year.

Better than these non-actions:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/err-lee-what-did-you-say-abt-food-inflation/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/inflation-why-the-misleading-picture-minister-media/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/will-hougang-make-the-pap-moan-the-inflation-blues-not-joke-abt-it/

In other Asean round-up news:

Burma is getting its first online music store, which aims to stamp out the problem of illegal downloads, according to the Eleven Myanmar news site. “The traditional distribution system has been plagued by piracy,” the man behind the website, Ko Ko Lwin, is quoted as saying. His Myanmar Music Store apparently trialled operations for a week ahead of an official launch, with home-grown star Lay Phyu’s record, Diary, selling 4,000 copies.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-24743082

SingTel may still get into Burma. While it failed to get one of the two licences granted this yr, the govt has asked leading telecos (including SingTel) to offer help to the govt-owned operator as it upgrades.

Workers across Indonesia begun a two-day strike on 31 October demanding higher salaries, the latest industrial action to hit the South East Asian economy.

The workers say their cost of living has gone up amid rising inflation and a hike in fuel prices.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24753469

Thailand‘s lower house of parliament has passed a political amnesty bill that critics say could allow the return of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

The amnesty applies to offences committed during the political turmoil after Mr Thaksin was ousted in a coup.

The lower house passed the controversial bill in the early hours of Friday. It now goes to the Senate.

The opposition Democrat Party has warned that the passage of the bill will trigger street protests.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24768110

Double confirm: FTs displace S’poreans

In Economy, Political governance on 01/11/2013 at 4:51 am

Following this, more evidence that we were misled that FTs created gd jobs for locals? In fact, they displace locals, it seems.

Or, at the very least, as one Siow tua kee activist and commentator (and no usual- suspect ranter) put it on Facebook, “So… is this an implicit admission that the flow of foreign workers DID depress salaries? Like everyone outside gahmen has been saying? Uh-huh.”

And this time the evidence comes from the central bank. Emphasis is mine.

Weakness in PMET job market for locals seen to be dissipating

Tertiary-educated Singapore residents – who have experienced a soft patch in hiring over the past year – can look forward to better job opportunities, thanks to recent government curbs on foreign labour inflows.

“Recent manpower policies to tighten the inflow of S Pass and Employment Pass holders will boost the hiring of tertiary-educated residents, particularly at the entry level,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in its Macroeconomic Review released yesterday.

The new Fair Consideration Framework, aimed at ensuring that Singaporean professionals are fairly considered for jobs, will also go some way in boosting these job-seekers’ prospects, it said.

Despite continuing demand for manpower in Singapore, local professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) have recently faced a constrained job market. (BT 30 October 2013)

Meanwhile Today reported:

Resident wages up as efforts to stem foreign labour kick in

Wages for resident employees grew at a much faster pace in the first half of this year, as businesses paid more to hire locals in a tight labour market caused in part by efforts to stem the flow of foreign workers.

The contribution of resident workers to employment growth has also improved, with locals making up more than half of the total in the first six months, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said yesterday in its bi-annual macroeconomic review.

“Overall, resident wage growth accelerated to 4.5 per cent on-year in the first half of 2013, up from 2.3 per cent in the whole year of 2012,” the central bank said. “This was largely consistent with the resident unemployment rate, which remained low at around 3 per cent in the first half of 2013.”

In all, 62,600 employees were added to the workforce in the first six months, compared with 58,900 in the same period last year. Resident workers made up 55 per cent of the overall job gains in the first half, up from 45 per cent last year and 31 per cent in 2011.

“The contribution of foreign workers to total employment growth slowed in (the first half), as foreign labour policies became more binding,” the MAS said, adding that the number of work permit holders rose by 18,500 in the first half of the year, compared with 43,500 for the whole of 2012.

Economists TODAY spoke to say the rapid rise in wages is not surprising given the tight labour market, but that the increase is not entirely good news.

MAS data shows that wages for local employees in industries such as community, social and personal services, real estate services and professional services grew the fastest in the first half of the year. However, resident wages for construction, manufacturing and food services grew less than in the second half of last year.

The MAS expects the core inflation rate, which strips out the cost of accommodation and private road transport, to increase from between 1.5 and 2 per cent this year to between 2 and 3 per cent next year. http://www.todayonline.com/business/resident-wages-efforts-stem-foreign-labour-kick

Need I say more? The “right” facts on FTs were raised by the netizens of “cowboy towns” many moons ago but were dismissed as “noise”.

And finally, we should remind PM that the operative word is “Talents” not “Trash”: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/10/30/pm-global-talents-needed-to-make-sg-a-vibrant-economic-hub/#comment-1086501. And I’ll add to TRE example of PRC PR masseurs: remember the shop assistant that beat up SMRT officer who tried to stop her son from trying to get a free train ride, and the PRC hawkers? They are PRs.

S’poreans* don’t have an issue with Foreign Talents like the CEOs of DBS and OCBC. But we have a problem with Foreign Trash. Juz look at SGX, where the CEO and his number two are FTs. Look at the damage these two FTs did recently: SGX lifted trading restrictions on three stocks, then after they cheonged announced that the price movements (prior to the trading restrictions) were going to be investigated. Prices collapsed. It should have made both announcements at the same time.

I doubt this would have happened under the previous CEO (whom I know personally). BTW, not talked to him about the above SGX issue.

Related post, title notwithstanding: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/low-productivity-lky-and-the-drums-agree-on-its-cause/

*GG and friends excepted. BTW, going by GG’s outburst against S’porean women (He thinks they prefer FTS: personal experience? He is either divorced or separated.), his version of paradise S’pore is hellish: only male true-blue S’poreans allowed. No women. Guess we males who are not gays or bisexuals will need robots to satisfy our carnal desires, or maybe he wants us to be wankers?

On this tot, have a gd weekend.

Indications that time to cheong mkt?

In Financial competency on 31/10/2013 at 4:33 am

So based on patterns in the past, in so far as companies’ earnings are not artificially propped up by low interest costs and barring any structural change in the economic environment, investors who enter the market at current levels have a good chance of earning satisfactory returns from the stock market over the next five years.

(ex BT reporter, now in fund mgt, wrote on 13 October 2013 in SunT)

She argues

Consider the price of the Singapore market, relative to the 10-year average of its earnings per share, as calculated by Thomson Datastream. This is measured by the so-called Graham and Dodd price-earnings (PE) ratio.

In the past 30 years, the highest the market price has gone up to was 33.5 times its 10-year average earnings. That was in August 1987 just before the October 1987 Black Monday crash. The lowest the market has plunged to was 10.3 times its 10-year average earnings. That was in February 2009, the darkest point of the recent global financial crisis.

In the past 30 years, when the Graham and Dodd PE fell below 16 times, the returns of the three portfolios five years later tended to be substantial.

They averaged 15.2 per cent a year for the entire market; 25.4 per cent a year for the low (price-to-book) PB portfolio; and 13 per cent a year for the high PB portfolio. The five-year period starting from the lowest point on our PE chart, i.e. February 2009, has not ended yet. But already, those who entered the market at that point are sitting on, or had made, outsized returns.

There was only one instance when buying into the market at the Graham and Dodd PE of 16 times or below did not pay off handsomely five years later. That was in July 1997, at the onset of the Asian financial crisis. Five years later, in August 2002, the market was still trading at similar levels as it struggled to climb its way out of the dot.com bust and the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The higher the Graham and Dodd PE, the lower the return five years later. Investors who entered the market at a PE of 26 times or higher had seen a miserable 1 per cent average return a year in the following five years for the market portfolio, 7 per cent for the low PB portfolio and minus 2 per cent for the high PB portfolio.

At that market entry level, chances of an investor suffering capital loss are also elevated. Based on monthly numbers in the past 30 years, the probability of loss five years later (at Graham and Dodd PE of 26 times and above) was 42 per cent for the market portfolio, 12 per cent for the low PB portfolio and a whopping 70 per cent for the high PB portfolio.

Finally, where is the Graham and Dodd PE for the Singapore market now? It’s at 14.1 times as at end September. This compares with the average of 20.8 times in the past 30 years.

In the past three decades, there were 25 different months when the Graham and Dodd PE traded between 14 and 16.5 times. For those 25 different months, the market portfolio returned an average 15.5 per cent a year over the next five years. The low PB portfolio averaged 24.8 per cent a year, and the high PB portfolio 14.3 per cent a year. The probability of capital loss for those periods was 1-in-25 for the market portfolio, and 3-in-25 for the low PB as well as the high PB portfolios.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={412728214-19447-2216721772}

Remember what Warren Buffett said about expenses, “Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies.” He goes on, “And if they insist on trying to time their participation in equities, they should try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful.”

Alison McElwee: 3 bites = Tammy’s death?

In Uncategorized on 30/10/2013 at 4:48 am

(Update Update 17th February 2014:Sun T reported that peace broke out between the warring harridans with FT admitting that re-homing would have been better option. Tammy’s still dead. Implicitly she admits lying that she lied that other lady didn’t want to take dog back?)

Update on 20th November 2013: ST says Alison McElwee is British)

Ms Alison McElwee adopted a stray dog under the conditions that if there were any problems, she would be returned to the re-homer, Ada Ong.

She shortly thereafter put it down. ST reported:  A woman who had her seven- month-old mongrel Tammy put down for aggression has defended her decision, claiming the person she got it from did not want to take it back.

Ms Alison McElwee, who was criticised for ignoring the rehomer’s pleas to return it, said in a statement: “The rehomer suggested placing (Tammy) in a long- term boarding home” and “did not want to take (it) back”.

But ST wrote: “her [Alison McElwee’s] text messages tell different story.”

This was double-confirmed by a minister, no less. Last Thurs I read that the Minister of Law (a dog and cat lover*) wrote on Facebook, Ada told me that she made clear to Tammy’s adopter in subsequent conversations that Ada was prepared to take back Tammy. Ada also showed me the SMS exchanges between the adopter and herself, which seems to bear out what Ada says. I have given Ada my views on the contract, and have suggested to her that she should get a lawyer to pursue this matter. She asked me for help and I have suggested a lawyer to her who will help her pro bono. There could be other fees, expenses – Louis ( from Acres) who was in the conversation, has said that the money will be raised if necessary.

What angers me is that she didn’t take advantage of the offer, preferring to spend money killing the dog. Could it be vengeance?

ST report, “She alleged that Tammy bit her four-year-old daughter and two adults.” She could have believed in an extreme variation of ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.

What further angered me is that she tot she could lie her way out of trouble.

If I were one of those so-called xenophobes, I should be ranting, “What now ang moh? Think you tua kee? Can suka suka kill a local dog with impunity? And lie about it? Think S’poreans no understand English and don’t know to store text messages?” “Home Team will be their usual ang moh tua kee and allow you to give S’poreans the bird.” Remember the Suntec case?

But I’m no xenophobe. There is the possibility that the alleged attacks caused severe wounds that indicated that Tammy was a dangerous puppy. There was a newspaper report that Tammy was pretty hostile at the vet, though one can understand why. Dogs know when they are in danger.

And she, like Tammy, could be a local. Names can be deceiving, especialli in multicultural S’pore. I tot GIC’s PR flack and Tony Tan’s campaign helper was ang moh. Turns out she’s local, a Eurasian: one of those whose families didn’t flee to Perth (and other ang moh places) when S’pore became self-governing, and then independent.. Nope, Alison McElwee is probably juz trash of the worse kind, white, black, brown, yellow, purple or green. Hopefully, Tammy will get her revenge, as God visits “the iniquity of the fathers mothers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth.”

BTW, I don’t think anyone should flame AVA, or the vets involved. They can’t be expected to vet every request of an owner to kill a dog. Owners too have rights and obligations. And sadly, vicious dogs have to be put down to protect humans.

I have strong views on adopting dogs. Once a dog is adopted by me, it becomes part of the family. It never gets “unadopted”. I even have problems with people who give away their dogs because the dogs are unruly. And I practice what I preach. One of my two dogs was “forced” on me (had to take both), and was problematic: uncivilised and suffering from ailments. Turned out to be sweet, gentle, unlike her hyper but handsome “brudder”.

Finally, this case like that of new citizen Raj (the guy who boasts that his son will avoid NS and still be a PR) gives bad PR to the govt’s policy of letting in the FTs. She (assuming she is a FT) and new citizen Raj don’t give a damn that they are saboing the S’pore govt. Now that’s gratitude! No, LKY, it’s not the voters of Aljunied who will repent. It will be the PAP who will repent that it favours foreigners, not S’poreans, and allows them to flood in with no or very little QC.

One final tot. How come no follow-up story, now that the law minister minister has spoken. Surely ST should be asking Alison McElwee for her response? As I said, maybe, juz maybe, Tammy was too vicious and dangerous, and Alison tot she had to protect us S’poreans against doggie do-gooders like Ada Ong (“Dogs always tua kee”). And, if she refused to comment, we should be told. Or is ST practicising constructive, nation-building censorship? Not wanting to stir S’poreans against FTs?

If so, this wouldn’t be the first time. Remember the F1 SMRT driver, and another driver involved in a bad accident. S’poreans had to find out from social media that they were PRC FTs.

*I had tot that dog and cat lovers were the equivalents of bi-sexuals. But my friend Siow Kum Hong, he and his wife own both dogs and cats, assures me that such people are “not uncommon”.

Retail punters suffer ’cause SGX, MAS dysfunctional?

In Corporate governance, Malaysia on 29/10/2013 at 4:53 am

I waz surprised at the swiftness that SGX allowed Asiasons Capital, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp to resume normal trading, as I had expected a prolonged period under “designated trading”, allowing me time to think about and investigate Asiasons. (My initial tots on Asiasons).

My immediate reaction waz, “Shld have had the balls to buy at 12ish cents*” with cash upfront. My next reaction was “How come SGX come to conclusion everything halal so fast?”. My third tot was, “Wonder if SGX and punters are going to repent?”.

A few days after stocks cheonged following the lifting of trading restrictions, SGX and MAS announced investigations. On 26 October 2013, BT reported JUST as shares of Asiasons Capital, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp shares appeared to be clambering out of their doldrums, news of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) investigation into their trading activities dragged them down again.

“MAS and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) are conducting an extensive review of the activities around these stocks,” MAS said in a statement yesterday. “This episode has also surfaced broader issues regarding the market structure and practices which MAS and SGX intend to review thoroughly.”

All three stocks slid to their lowest level in a week as skittish investors took profit. Asiasons shares fell 18 per cent to 19 cents, Blumont stock dropped 19 per cent to 16 cents and LionGold shed 15 per cent to 25 cents by the close of trading yesterday. The three counters were among the five biggest percentage decliners on the SGX.

Why couldn’t the plans to investigate and the lifting of trading restrictions be announced at the same time? If necessary, the latter could have been delayed a few days, while SGX and MAS deliberated? No wonder MAS MD got only a B rating compared to his M’sian and Pinoy counterparts (A) http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/10/27/head-of-mas-ravi-menon-only-gets-a-b-grade/. Shamefully that S’porean is graded lower than Pinoy or M’sian.

And do remember that FTs hold the top two posts at SGX.

Anyway, I’m not complaining. Gives me time to think about and investigate Asiasons. But lifting the trading restrictions (implying everything halal) and, a few days later, saying that there were going to be investigations,  ain’t fair to punters.

SGX has publicly said it wants retail investors in the market. Great way to treat them. But then there were S-Chips. I remember the boast by one Larence Wong of SGX (now departed), in the early noughties, that only chinese companies with accounts certified by int’l auditors were to be listed. They were, but looked what happened? The perils of ang moh tua kee.

Related post: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/singapores-penny-stock-mystery-increases-210030112.html

*Closed at 0.147 yesterday.

Proof that FTs displace S’poreans?

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 28/10/2013 at 4:52 am

And ST reported the proof.

Can someone from govt, or its running dogs* in the think-tanks or the constructive, nation-building media explain this ST headline (and accompanying story) on 24th October?

ITE graduates in demand as SMEs face manpower crunch

 Job-matching scheme places ITE and poly students in local firms

ST went on

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are stepping up efforts to recruit Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates in a bid to combat the manpower squeeze.

The aim is to place some 300 with local companies every year over the next five years, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck yesterday.

The job-matching, which is part of Spring Singapore’s SME Talent Programme, has sent 32 polytechnic and ITE students to 15 firms since it was launched in June.

Seven trade associations and chambers have also reached out to more than 1,600 students to apply for jobs such as retail associates, clerks and technicians. Employers are eager for more.

(Backgrounder: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/10/24/demand-for-ite-grads-picks-up-when-foreign-quota-reduced/)

It’s reasonable to conclude from the ST story that this demand for ITE and poly grads is the result of the govt’s very slight retreat from its “We love FTs, first, last and always” policies**. So whatever happened to the Hard Truth that the the more FTs, the more and better jibs for locals? Seems more like BS doesn’t it? But then the line between a Hard Truth and BS can be pretty thin.

(Gd related article: http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2013/10/where-are-the-good-jobs-prime-minister)

for the record, Yeoh Lam Keong, former chief economist at GIC, has called for the immigration policy to be reversed. “What we need to do is to be much more stringent on admitting such unskilled labour. We’ve really got no excuse to be so relaxed about this kind of immigration.” (BTW, he has also called for the government to return to its roots to meet and serve the needs of ordinary citizens over public housing, education, healthcare, welfare and other services.)

If readers want to read, good, evidence-based critiques of govt policies, not the usual rhetorical rubbish that appears from most of the usual suspects most of the time, Uncle Leong excepted, follow “Lam Keong Yeoh” on Facebook.

Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/rewriting-lkys-views-on-fts-and-if-so-why/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/sccci-sme-survey-proves-lkys-point/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/when-55-of-voters-were-fts/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/alternative-to-fts/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/alternative-to-fts-ii/

——
*No disrespect to Tammy and other dogs.
**OK, OK, I exaggerate. But if the govt and its allies can exaggerate, why can’t I?

S’poreans fleeced in Johor yet again

In Malaysia on 27/10/2013 at 5:24 am

When will S’poreans realise that property is cheap in Johor for a gd reason? The rules are suka suka changed after S’poreans bot into the latest BS. But first some predictions:

— The infrastructure promised for Iskandar will remain that: a promise. Ask the S’porean investors who bot into the BS over the promised east coast developments near Pasir Gudang. They are still waiting, after 20 myrs.  Meanwhile the BS caravan moved on to Iskandar.At first, S’poreans were sceptical, but finally succumbed to the BS, after the Arabs refused to buy into Iskandar’s tales of wealth. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/iskandarland-getting-desperate/,

— Now the caravan will move further north, along the corridor for the high-speed train.

S’poreans get fleeced, and suffer in silence, the caravan moves on. ” If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep,” the bandit chief in the Magnificent Seven.

Malaysia’s Budget 2014 means more expensive homes for foreigners with higher taxes and a doubling of the minimum price of properties to RM1 million (S$391,000).

The most severe measure is a 30% real property gains tax (RPGT) that will be levied on gains on property disposed within three years, Disposals within four and five years are to be taxed at 20 and 15%, respectively. And at 5% in the sixth and subsequent years for non-citizens. These taxes are, it seems, higher than anticipated. Currently, the RPGT rate for property disposals within two years is 15%, while the level for disposals between two to five years is 10%. Note that Medini in the Iskandar special economic zone is now more attractive to investors as it is exempt from taxes.So if got property there, can relax until further notice: this is M’sia. In M’sia foreigners get shafted. In S’pore. locals get screwed.

Add to this the tax that the state of Johor plans to levy*, and S’poreans who bot properties in Iskandar hoping to make $ will not be too happy.  Future buyers will be deterred too.

Would like to draw attention that most of Iskandar is in a DAP-controlled constituency. DAP’s heloo is one LKY.

Now these measures mean UMNO-dominated govts at the Federal and Johor will make sure voters and S’poreans repent. Hehehe.

TRE once wrote: Some issues are beginning to surface as highlighted in a recent Business Times article which said that investors are not getting assurances in black and white on issues like land zoning, mortgage loan quantums and Bumiputra employment quotas, among others.

Foreigners investing in Iskandar might do better if they can understand that most policies in Malaysia are instituted by politicians of the day. When the politician leaves, a new policy replacing the old one is to be expected. When doing business in Johor, one has to factor in such risks.

Remember that Putrajaya, the state administrative capital of Malaysia, is still struggling after more than 20 years in the making. When Iskandar was mooted in 2006, authorities were confident about getting funds from Middle Eastern investors. Obviously, that plan didn’t work out and the focus is now back to Singaporean investors.

http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/04/01/perils-of-investing-in-iskandar-malaysia/

Interesting to see the u/m projects reported by BT yesterday go ahead:

[U]nits of three local firms – Tat Hong Holdings, Boustead Singapore and CSC Holdings – have set up a joint venture with AME Group to develop land in Iskandar Malaysia.

Boustead will own 35 per cent of the joint-venture firm, named Tat Hong Industrial Properties Sdn Bhd (THIP), through its unit BP Lands, for a paid-up capital of RM3.5 million (S$1.4 million).

The Johor-based AME Group, which has a division that specialises in real estate development, will also own 35 per cent. It will do so through its unit AME Land Sdn Bhd for the same amount in paid-up capital.

Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/how-iskandar-land-may-look-like/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/iskandar-why-smes-should-think-twice-before-relocating-there/

* There are plans to impose a tax of 4 to 5% on foreigners who buy property in the state Today reporter earlier this month,  Johor’s State Housing and Local Government Committee Chairman Abdul Latiff Bandi said yesterday that the new tax would likely be implemented by the year-end or early next year, in a bid to control property prices and foreign ownership, the New Straits Times reported. The levy would apply to both commercial and residential properties. Under the current policy, foreigners fork out a one-off payment of RM10,000 (S$3,910), regardless of the value of the property. The state government will also look into barring Malaysians who purchased property from selling their units to foreigners.

M’sia, S’pore tops Asean in household debt

In Indonesia, Infrastructure, Malaysia on 26/10/2013 at 7:31 am

Currently, M’sia‘s household debt stood at about 83% of gross domestic product. Household debt in S’pore now accounts for 75% of gross domestic product, having doubled in the last 13 years. According to Standard Chartered, a private bank, household borrowing as a share of national income now stands at 68% of Thailand’s GDP, much higher than in bigger Asian countries, such as China (20%), India (18%) and Indonesia (17%).

In other Asean round-up news:

Burma‘s Yangon had passed Singapore’s office rental rates of US$74 a square metre by the first quarter of this year according to estate agents Colliers. To give some context to this piece of info, something from yesterday’s BT: AT S$11 per square foot (psf) per month, or US$103 psf per year, the extended central business district comprising Raffles Place and Marina Bay is the eighth most expensive office area in the world, according to a Jones Lang LaSalle study.

Taking into account quoted rents from only premium office space in top sub-markets, Singapore was inched out by other Asian locations such as Hong Kong’s Central which commanded rents of HK$105 psf per month (US$162 psf per year) and Beijing’s Finance Street where corporates paid rents of 750 yuan per square metre per month (US$137 psf per year).

S’pore is sharing with Indonesia with its best practices in public-private partnership (PPP) in water and waste-water infrastructure projects.

Led by Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE), an integrated arm of International Enterprise Singapore, and Temasek Foundation, the partnership programme will be delivered over a two-year period by a team of Singapore experts from both private and public sectors to 200 Indonesian government officials from various provinces and cities as well as ministries including the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Works (Bappenas).

Singapore will provide knowledge in planning and procurement of water and waste-water infrastructure projects; and help cultivate a core group of officers from PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (Persero), a government partner promoting infrastructure development in Indonesia, who will develop public-private partnership training materials.

Great retorts to Kee Chui’s rubbish

In Political governance, Public Administration on 25/10/2013 at 4:37 am

Singapore is not considering having an official poverty line, as it would not fully reflect the severity and complexity of issues faced by the poor, and may also lead to those above the line missing out on assistance.

CHAN CHUN SING*: “If we use a single poverty line to assess the family, we also risk a ‘cliff effect’, where those below the poverty line receive all forms of assistance, while other genuinely needy citizens outside the poverty line are excluded.”

– Straits Times. 23 Oct 2013. (Via TOC Facebook)

P Ravi (the P stands for Philemon, not “Politican” as Yaacob of once in 50-yrs flood fame seemed to think) wrote on Facebook:

With various subsidies in healthcare, housing, pre-school education, etc already being tagged to means-testing, the cliff-effect already exists. Through my volunteer work with low-income families and individuals I know for a fact that some decline pay increases because if their salary increase, they will not be eligible for KIFAS (Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme). Some others do not take up jobs which will pay them a bit more than they currently earn, because then they will not be eligible for rental houses (some of these may be better off in rental houses then buying their own flats). Anyway, the ‘cliff effect’ has not historically stopped the Government from not providing assistance. For example, middle income families were recently provided assistance to purchase HDB flats. As I see it, the excuse of the ‘cliff effect’ is just an excuse to avoid properly acknowledging the state of poverty in Singapore. Without appropriately acknowledging poverty in Singapore, it will be very difficult to address it adequately.

And the following from the retired chief economist of GIC would have been another great retort except that it was written a few days earlier in resonse to SunT’s leading article with a headline screaming that for the first time assurance to the poor rose above $100mn in the last FY, a 45% increase

Can’t believe we are so proud that for the first time assurance to the poor rose above $100mn in the last FY.

That’s like 0.03 of a percent of GDP- a paltry amount in view of the fact that around 10 to 12% of households ( some 350 to 400,000 people) are way below the income per capita criterion of $550 per month and WIS payouts are way too stingy!

Even if you take just the unemployed and aged poor (excluding working poor) of around 140 000 people) that’s barely $60 a month each!

And yet MP Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the GPC for Social and Family Development can claim that those who fall between the cracks ” should be rare exceptions and, when they come to our notice we will certainly and very quickly act on them.”

Let’s please just come out of policy denial , treble workfare and at least double the amount we are spending on welfare before we make claims that we are dealing adequately with the poverty problem in Singapore!

It’s a real shame that a country with our level of prosperity and fiscal resources still faces chronic poverty of the kind outlined in Radha Basus article in ST today (p 13 and 13) …

Comcare fund is only largely directed at some 45 to 50, 000 families facing temporary problems like illness and retrenchment or the elderly poor; it largely does not include the working poor of 60 to 80, 000 households who are meant to be covered by an inadequate WIS..

Finally, I’m shocked to find out that The Government’s national database for the social services sector, or Social Service Net (SSNet), will be ready by mid-2015. Tot we had one: shows the priority that such a database had under previous ministers (like that rich kid from ACS). (http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/national-database-for/858204.html)

One wonders how Kee Chui got the data to make such the sweeping statement quoted above if there is no national database?

—-

*To be fair to Kee Chui, social workers are happier with his attitude and actions than with those of VivianB and the other welfare ministers. Sad that Halimah is not part of the team as she is believed to be, like Kee chui interested, in welfare reform, and in helping the poor.

Asiasons: 2 bull pts

In Financial competency, Malaysia, Private Equity on 24/10/2013 at 4:46 am

Firstly, controlling shareholders are gd financial engineers. I had bot into Integra 2000 for its planned massive dividend in 2007 which I believed that the market had not appreciated because it was conditional on deals getting thru. It then started flying cum dividend. I had expected to sell the shares at a slight loss from the cum di price when it went ex-dividend. Instead I made a profit. Later I learnt that these guys had bot into the shares cum dividend. They must have used the pending dividend to finance the purchases. Financial engineering at its best.

(FYI, BT on Tueday quoted an unname broker, “He believes Asiasons’ “true” value could settle in the region of 30 to 40 cents, while LionGold’s could lie between 40 and 50 cents as it has a higher book value.”. Don’t know what he means, but will explore.)

Secondly, these guys willing to spend dollars trying to look gd. Blumont and LionGold selling controlling shareholders have gone to ground. But still, like Asiasons, their share prices have flown.

It was a masterstroke of Asiason’s PR/ IR team that got ST to carry a story entitled “Were not a bunch of comboys” on Saturday 19th October, juza before relisting on Monday. In it we learn,

— about the sparsely furnished office of Asiasons Capital in China Square Central [Frugal, serious people]

“The share price volatility has absolutely no link or association with Asiasons’ operations,” said chairman Mohammed Azlan Hashim, a prominent corporate figure in Malaysia who sits on the boards of sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional and IHH Healthcare. [Not a nobody]

— Asiasons has a fund management portfolio of about US$300 million (S$372 million) and counts Malaysia’s deep-pocketed state-owned funds such as Ekuinas and government pension scheme Kwap as clients.[Gd, solid connections]

— At current price levels, Mr Azlan admitted that the shares are hovering near the level they were at in 2007 when he and his two partners took control of Asiasons, then a human resources technology firm called Integra2000 and shifted its business focus to private equity investment … three also reiterated that none of them have sold “a single share” in Asiasons over the past six years.  [Long term greedy] That’s quite a contrast from what has been taking place at LionGold and Blumont, which have seen significant trades recently involving insiders, particularly disposals and forced selling involving directors.

— “This so-called web of cross shareholdings makes it appear as if we are in cahoots in this whole thing,” said Mr Lim. “We are our own men and no one else is influencing us.” Asiasons owns 9 per cent of LionGold and has a 27 per cent stake in ISR Capital which it plans to eventually divest.

Mr Azlan reiterated that there are no other connections to the other firms. “We have absolutely no relationship with these other firms, including Blumont. The only relationship there is Jared, a director, and his wife but that’s not related to Asiasons per se,” said Mr Azlan.

Clearwater Developments, which is linked to Mr Lim’s wife Dian Lee, owns a 7 per cent stake in Blumont. That investment, Mr Lim said, came about from an “innocent transaction” a few years back when Blumont, then called Adroit Innovations, was scouting around for some properties in Malaysia.

“She went ahead and made the decision herself and it was a small investment which involved shares. Now she and her partners are looking to sell their stake as it was purely an investment and not part of their business,” said Mr Lim. [Not connected with …]

— The three founders also categorically denied another topic hot in the market rumour mill that Asiasons is connected to well-known Malaysian stock investor and businessman Soh Chee Wen. [Not connected with …]

Watch out for the “bowl” consolidation, if thinking of buying. Let you know if I buy some after I buy some.

FT policy: Dialogue? What dialogue?

In Economy, Political governance on 23/10/2013 at 5:09 am

“The “victimised Singaporean” framing does nothing to push these issues forward for intelligent debate. It does not encourage Singaporeans to think about how things can be improved while acknowledging what we have. It does not led to useful discussion over policy …

‘I have no doubt that the people who spout this line [I assume she means hatred of foreigners] love their home. I have no doubt that they have real worries and anxiety. I have no doubt that many of their concerns are valid. But if they really love Singapore and want the best for it, the best course of action would be to quit the melodramatic posturing and engage in real dialogue.” – Kirsten Han (http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/great-singaporean-grievance-103242143.html0

Were things that simple.

The unsaid assumption is that there are channels for discussion and dialogue, and that discussion and dialogue can lead to something meaningful being done to solve the grievances. All these “fruscos” need to do is to use these channels. Well, any dialogue or discussion has to involve the govt who initiated the liberal immigration policy.

For someone who perceptively writes, “Concerns over freedom of expression and other civil liberties need to be given attention”, I’m surprised that she doesn’t realise that there are no channels for discussion and dialogue on this issue, as on many other issues. NatCon is not dialogue and it didn’t exactly go into the FT policy.

And anyway the FT policy is not open for dialogue. By releasing the white paper when it did (juz before NatCon started, even an accademic involved lamented that fact), the govt sent a strong message that the issue is not negotiable. FTs are the Special Ones and taz a Hard Truth.See here and here.

By promising to focus on public concerns that housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable, and on education, the govt is doing its best to ensure that its pro-FT stance does not further alienate S’poreans, and hopefully (from its perspective) wins back voters by bribing voters with their (our) own money.

To put it another way, all the public spending on housing, healthcare, public transport and education has as one as its aims mitigating the effects on S’porean PMETs of the “FTs all the way” position of the govt.

Even the trumpeted nearly 45% increase (to $102.4m, but as the retired chief economist of GIC points out this is 0.03 of a percent of GDP- a paltry amount in view of the fact that around 10 to 12% of households ( some 350 to 400,000 people) are way below the income per capita criterion of $550 per month and WIS payouts are way too stingy! Even if you take just the unemployed and aged poor (excluding working poor) of around 140 000 people) that’s barely $60 a month each!) in one year in welfare spending on the poor surely has something to do with mitigating the effects of the FT policy. After all, the welfare minister who sneered at the elderly poor is still in the cabinet, albeit in a post where he doesn’t have to deal with the poor, homeless or elderly.

Yes, yes, I know the govt and the constructive nation-building media are spinning that the govt is cutting back the supply of FTs especially to SMEs. The SMEs are screaming (http://www.cnbc.com/id/101123289), presumably because while the owners have to pay pay more for their bungalows, penthouses and CoEs, profits are reduced ’cause their access to cheap FT PMETs is being supposedly closed.

But until the numbers say so, I remain sceptical, very sceptical that a pro-FT leopard can change its spots. Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24428569. Of the five people working in S’pore featured, the poorest paid (an elderish cleaner)  is a true blue S’porean: BBC spins she can afford a maid. The other local is a first generation S’porean. Both are ethnic Chinese. The other three are FTs.

Reading the article, and knowing the facts on the ground, one can easily understand the grievances of the people Kirsten Han referred to above, especially if they are poor and elderly, and ethnic Indians or Malays.

BBC says cleaners can afford maids

In Economy, Humour on 22/10/2013 at 1:57 pm

Even our nation-building, cfonstructive media’s journalists or editors don’t talk such rubbish.

“But the forced saving scheme and social housing mean that even cleaners live in reasonable housing and employ their own foreign live-in maid,” writes a BBC economics journalist, admittedly relatively newish and whose blog postings have been criticised. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24606989).

She based this comment on Office cleaner Liew Siew Giok [who] works all day on her feet but goes home to a meal cooked by her Burmese maid. She lives with her extended family, who pay for the domestic help and her flat.

Her secret? She lives with her extended family, who pay for the domestic help and her flat. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24339815)

So S’poreans, this BBC reporter is saying life is gd. Stop bitching. Come next Ge, vote PAP!

Not bull: FT policy is bad for productivity and innovation

In Economy on 22/10/2013 at 5:40 am

The govt complains that productivity is poor and is worried, introducing measures to “improve” it. At the same time, we all know that the working population here has increased due to the flood of FTs. At the same time, S’pore’s attempt to be a global centre of innovation, is stuck on the runway. Contrast this with Estonia.

Some S’poreans have pointed to the influx of FTs as a probable reason (not the only one) for the low productivity. The local media and the govt ignore these views. The implication being that cutting back on FTs will help productivity.

Well these views have some validity as research in the West proves. (Note emphasis added is mine.)

Is it possible, really, that low productivity growth was a consequence of rapid labour-force growth? Once upon a time Paul Romer speculated that it might be:

One interpretation…is that there is a negative exernality associated with labor. this could arise if there is a form of innovation that economizes on labor, if investment in this kind of innovation is sensitive to movements in wages, an dif this innovation has positive external effects because of spillovers of knowledge. in this case, an increase in the rate of growth of the labor force, with the implied decrease in the rate of grwoth of wages, could case a decrease in innovation, and hence a decrease in knowledge spillovers from innovation. The net effect that an increase in labor supply has on output would then be the combination of the positive direct effect of more workers and the negative indirect effect of less innovation.

The suggestion that this kind of effective could be present is not new. This kind of interaction between wages and innovation has been invoked repeatedly in the comparative analysis of productivity growth in the United States and Britain during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

More recently, Daron Acemoglu has done extensive work noting that innovation responds to factor scarcity or abundance. If there’s rapid growth in labour supply then one should expect lots of innovation in technologies that complement labour and very little in labour-saving innovation. Whether that should net out to a slowdown in overall productivity growth is unclear, but the story isn’t something to write off out of hand.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/09/generations)

If you’ve read this far, you will have noticed that innovation suffers when there there are too many bodies available. So govt saboing its policy of trying to make S’pore a centre of innovation?

Easy to avoid “xenophobe” label

In Humour, Uncategorized on 21/10/2013 at 4:47 am

I waz planning to grumble about (I assume unintentional) implications of: There are plenty of xenophobic people these days who rail unjustly against foreigners and cite them for alleged misconduct which they themselves might be guilty of at some other place and time. Whilst these people should be taken to task, it is equally unfair to use the “xenophobic” label to tar others who are merely speaking up against government policies and genuine grievances, but who may not phrase themselves with exactly the right amount of nuance and sensitivity.

It is very easy to be labelled as a xenophobe. All you have to do is to say “Singaporeans should come first”.(http://www.sgpolitics.net/?p=8546)

But, in I’m sure, a different context context, Vincent Wijeysingha expressed my sentiments better than I ever could (I never faced racism when in the UK or Oz, maybe ’cause I waz in the “right” environment), and a lot faster too. See below for a longish quote from Vincent Wijeysingha and the link to his piece*.

So, I’ll confine myself to suggestions on how avoiding getting labelled a xenophobe when criticising the govt’s pro-FT stance. In this age of cut & paste, it’s easy for those who may not phrase themselves with exactly the right amount of nuance and sensitivity can use the words of Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Dr Chee to avoid the use the “xenophobic” label.

Remember Dr Tan’s slogan for the 2011 presidential election that he lost by a very short nose? “Think Singaporean first”. People could say, “The govt/ we should Think Singaporean first’…” or “Rather than its pro-FT policy, the govt should adopt Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s Think Singaporean first’ …”

Dr Chee’s, “A word of caution, I ask all of us here in Singapore to be the people that we truly are, the tolerant people that we are and if we attack, we attack the policy, we point out the flaws in the policy, not against the people who are here for work.”, can be simplified to “We disagree with the govt’s pro-FT policy, not the foreigners working here. We are unhappy with the “FTs first, citizens last” attitude of the govt because …”

I’m assuming that after using these phrases, users don’t talk of “molest” cases increasing because of the presence of FTs (Gilbert Goh), or linking violence and crime to the increasing number of FTs. These are no-go areas if one one’s to avoid the  “xenophobe” label. Talk about the suppression of the wages of local PMETs, stagnating real wage levels, overcrowded public transport and the increase in apartment rents and CoEs.

It’s easy to avoid the “xenophobe”, unless people really want to be called “xenophobes”, or are really xenophobes who pretend that their English lets them down. BTW, let’s bear in mind, that some PAPpies, on their own initiative, may be using “xenophobic” language deliberately to fix, tar S’poreans who criticise the govt’s pro-FT policy.

—–

*”To those following events in the foreigner debate, you may have noticed that the temper is gradually deteriorating. People are beginning to take views that have no relationship to the real situation. The most preposterous racism is being aired. When I lived in the UK for many years, I noticed a similar trend. It resulted, in later years, in racist assaults and eventually killings. The feeling of being frightened for your safety because of escalating racism, frightened for your security and that of your family, is unpleasant, to say the least.

Those who are serious about contributing to the population debate must begin to take responsibility for what they say and do. The action against Ranstad was misguided and wrong because it made an accusation which was not justified and it stoked further the resentment of Singaporeans already so unhappy with how things are developing. More actions of this kind will, I have no doubt, result in far worse outcomes both for foreigners in Singapore as well as for Singaporeans themselves.”

(https://www.facebook.com/notes/vincent-wijeysingha/fuck-off-back-home-foreigner/678499962167930)

Hear, Heat I say.

Why economic forecasters underperform fortune tellers

In Economy, Financial competency on 20/10/2013 at 5:23 am

(Taz all the more reason to stick to stocks that make can make sustainable (we hope) good payouts. Check Temasek’s Fab 5 out: they have consistently made gd payments but the prices reflects this i.e. better yields available elsewhere but at greater risk.)

[A]n advance estimate showing the city-state’s economy shrank 1.0 percent on quarter in the July-September period, better than expectations for a 3.6 percent contraction, but a significant deceleration from 16.9 percent growth in the previous three months.http://www.cnbc.com/id/101109030

Opps wrong again. And govt isn’t that gd either at forecasting. A few months ago: The Republic’s economy is expected to do better this year than previously expected, with the growth forecast raised to between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The previous official forecast was between 1 and 3 per cent. [Today]

In both cases, in percentage terms, the changes are significant: a fortune teller would lose his credibility with such forecasts. All finance ministers, their advisers, economists, central bankers and analysts always get their forecasts wrong: nothing uniquely S’porean.

In addition to the general reasons I gave here, here are two more reasons for them being sotong in the post 2008 environment.:-

— The experts are lost because the conventional model of how the financial system interacts with the real economy has evolved too little since the huge and largely unexpected financial crisis. Now as then, there is too much debt in the world for either monetary or fiscal policy to have the effect that the textbooks say.

The stimulative efforts of governments and central banks help the highly leveraged financial system stay afloat, but only a small portion of the funds actually reach the real economy. In such an unconventional financial world, the conventional wisdom is likely to stay wrong. Expect more of the unexpected.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/08/05/markets-central-bankers-face-strange-new-world/

— Economics is an inexact science, with exceptions to almost every pattern of behaviour that economists take for granted. For example, economists predict that higher prices for a good will reduce demand for it. But students of economics will no doubt remember an early encounter with “Giffen goods”, which violate the usual pattern. When tortillas become more expensive, a poor Mexican worker may eat more of them, because she now has to cut back on more expensive food like meat.

Such “violations” occur elsewhere as well. Customers often value a good more when its price goes up. One reason may be its signalling value. An expensive handcrafted mechanical watch may tell time no more accurately than a cheap quartz model; but, because few people can afford one, buying it signals that the owner is rich. Similarly, investors flock to stocks that have appreciated, because they have “momentum”.

The point is that economic behavior is complex and can vary among individuals, over time, between goods, and across cultures. Physicists do not need to know the behavior of every molecule to predict how a gas will behave under pressure. Economists cannot be so sanguine. Under some conditions, individual behavioral aberrations cancel one another out, making crowds more predictable than individuals. But, under other conditions, individuals influence one another in such a way that the crowd becomes a herd, led by a few.

Unfortunately, many of these methods [to get clear-cut evidence of causality. If high national debt is associated with slow economic growth, is it because excessive debt impedes growth, or because slow growth causes countries to accumulate more debt? cannot be applied to the most important questions facing economic policymakers.] So the evidence does not really tell us whether a heavily indebted country should pay down its debt or borrow and invest more.Moreover, what seem like obvious, commonsense policy solutions all too often have unintended consequences, because a policy’s targets are not passive objects, as in physics, but active agents who react in unpredictable ways. For example, price controls, rather than lowering prices, often cause scarcity and the emergence of a black market in which controlled commodities cost significantly more.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/aug/08/raghuram-rajan-economic-paranoia-uncertainty

 

Blame Apple, Google for declining exports, growth

In Economy, Indonesia, Malaysia on 19/10/2013 at 6:26 am

The following pieces of bad news came as no surprise even though I’m no economist

— Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) fell year-on-year for an eighth straight month in September.

Overall, exports declined by 1.2 per cent on-year in September.

Still, economists say the contraction was smaller than what the market was expecting.

Better-than-expected export performance in September was driven by non-electronic exports like ships and petrochemicals.

This helped to offset lower electronics exports such as PC parts and disk media products.

Electronic export has been declining year-on-year for 14 consecutive months due to weak external demand.

Vishnu Varathan, a senior economist at Mizuho Bank, explained: “The higher value-add items such as the part for the integrated circuits — they did better; whereas PC parts, the lower-end items, disk drives — these did much worse. So this underlies the fact that Singapore’s competitiveness must be at the higher end of the range given our cost base, and that’s where we’re losing out. So in terms of restructuring, it’s going to be a difficult period for electronics despite coming from a low base.”

The top three contributors to the export contraction were the European Union, South Korea and Japan.

On a month-on-month basis, exports rose 5.7 per cent in September, versus the previous month’s 6.6 per cent decline.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/singapore/singapore-s-nodx-down-1-2/850428.html

— [A]n advance estimate showing the city-state’s economy shrank 1.0 percent on quarter in the July-September period, better than expectations for a 3.6 percent contraction, but a significant deceleration from 16.9 percent growth in the previous three months.http://www.cnbc.com/id/101109030

This is because on 10 October I read a BBC report:

Global PC shipments drop to a five-year low

Global shipments of personal computers (PCs) have hit a five-year low, according to new figures from the research firm Gartner.

Shipments totalled 80.3m units in the three months to September, down 8.6% from a year ago.

PC sales have now fallen for six quarters in a row, hurt by the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones.

Gartner said falling prices of tablets had further hurt sales of PCs in emerging markets.

“Consumers’ shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement.

“A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets.”

Decline

Research firm IDC, also released figures on Thursday, which showed global shipments of PCs fell by 7.6% to 81.6m units over the period.

As I explained before (example), S’pore and M’sia belong to the Microsoft ecosystem, not those of Android or Apple.

Not gd news for Msia either.

In other Asean-round-up news,

In M’sia, Umno V-Ps favoured to hold on to posts. They are up against three challengers, including Mahathir’s youngest son, Mukhriz

And maybe we can learn something from Indonesia‘s

— youth growing interest in politics and civil society matters (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24549654); and

— how to grow old gracefully by going against tradition (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24530350).

Waz the “right” kind of gotong royong?

In Economy, Infrastructure, Internet, Political governance, Public Administration on 18/10/2013 at 5:00 am

Update on 22 23 October 2013: Minister explains use of Criminal Law Temporary Provision Act (http://au.sports.yahoo.com/football/news/article/-/19491410/football-match-fixing-witnesses-fear-reprisals/) on footie fixers.

I recently came across “gotong royong” the American way, or community spirit the capitalist way: in American- speak, the “sharing economy”.

Technology is revolutionising the way Americans catch a cab with a ride now just a click away through mobile phone apps like like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Instantcab and Flywheel.

Many of these services are part of the so-called “sharing economy” in which car owners offer to drive strangers in exchange for a “donation”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24393348

But is this the “right” gotong royong that the PAPpies say they want here?

Bet you the Hard Truths that premise the PAP’s governing methods will prevent S’pore from ever going down this route, even though this seems one of several viable solutions (several are needed)  to our public tpt and private car problems  Remember, NTUC is via the Labour Foundation, the controlling shareholder of ComfortDelgro, the owner of the biggest taxi fleet here, and Temasek’s SMRT has a big taxi fleet too. The former runs most of the buses, while the latter runs most of the trains too. And it might impact the revenue from CoEs.

Seriously, the problem here is that “gotong royong” is contrary to the PAP’s Hard Truth that it is fount of everything. Gotong royong is not compatible with a top-down approach, where there is always a “right” way of doing things.

In “gotong royong”, as in the “sharing economy”, things happen because the rabble plebs mob community, society, consumer is the driving force, not a benign meritocratic elite. The people realise that there is a problem, issue, and are free (within some, not many, constraints) to work out a solution*. They don’t bitch while waiting for the governing elite to solve the problem, feeling entitled that because said elite is well-paid, they must solve the problem, resolve the issue.

I consider the following to be gotong royong in action, but doubt the PAP ministers urging us to “gotong royong” would agree:

— TOC’s and TRE’s continued existence;

— the various fund raisings for various legal cases where the govt is the defendant;

— the public funding of the deposits of Alex Tan and friends, and the independent team at Tanjong Pagar GRC;

— Nicole Seah raising money for her team’s election expenses;

— the free food and drinks at Gilbert Goh’s Hong Lim Green functions;

— Function 8;

— CHC members who willingly pay the legal fees of church members being prosecuted for false accounting etc;

— pastor Khong’s gang funding a legal suit;

— those who lend sound eqpt and technical help at various Hong Lim Green parties

— the kay pohs trying to help FTs avoid being hung for drug trafficking**;

— those gathering to help the family of Dinesh Raman get justice and closure**;

— Maruah**;

— the volunteers who help FT manual workers;

— the LGBT community; and

the dedicated band of enthusiasts who have been trying to draw attention to the cemetery’s [Bukit Brown’s] value. They have succeeded in having it included on the biennial watchlist of the World Monument Fund (WMF), of heritage sites around the world that are in danger.

All these examples and more show that the gotong royong spirit is alive and well. They juz don’t fit the PAP’s narrative, especially the bit that the PA’s and PAP’s grass-root activists are the only selfless, dedicated volunteers. And that in cyberspace, their activists are no match for the the injuns, outlaws and other inhabitants of cowboy towns.

*In the US, there is no hegemonic elite to enforce the top down approach, and stifle innovation or stifle dissent or force recantations from members of the elite turned heretical.

**How come no help Dan Tan? Because he drive 7 series, got properties and China babe? And he not violent, middle class or FT?

Ngiam & Galileo Galilei & Gen Giap

In Political governance on 17/10/2013 at 5:11 am

The comments made against Ngiam (some by those who should better and by who all don’t have his balls or stature or achievements or intellect) reminded me of two scenes in the play “Life of Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht.

Andrea’s disappointment of Galileo, after the latter recanted (p. 84-5) [Andrea is one of Galileo’s pupils]

Andrea : (loudly) Unhappy the land that has no heroes! (Galileo has come in, completely, almost unrecognizably, changed by the trial. He has heard Andrea’s exclamation. As none is forthcoming and his pupils shrink back from him, he goes slowly and because of his bad eyesight uncertainly to the front where he finds a footstool and sits down)

Andrea : I can’t look at him. I wish he’d go away.

Federzoni : Calm yourself.

Andrea : (screams at Galileo) Wine barrel! Snail eater! Have you saved your precious skin? (Sits down) I feel sick.

Galileo : (calmly) Get him a glass of water.

Andrea : I can walk now if you’ll help me. (They lead him to the door. When they reach it, Galileo begins to speak)

Galileo : No. Unhappy the land that needs a hero.

http://muse.tau.ac.il/museum/galileo/info_about_andrea.html

In the final scene of the play, Galileo, now an old man, living under house arrest, is visited Andrea. Galileo gives him a book (Two New Sciences) containing all his scientific discoveries, asking him to smuggle it out of Italy for dissemination abroad. Andrea now believes Galileo’s actions were heroic and that he just recanted to fool the ecclesiastical authorities. However, Galileo insists his actions had nothing to do with heroism but were merely the result of self-interest. Wikipedia

Ngiam became the the “people”‘s hero because he, a retired insider, criticised the govt. If they had bothered to read the details of his criticism, they would have found things that would have made them unhappy if implemented by the govt. Examples

— MRT fares should be relatively more expensive than bus fares to reflect their greater convenience to commuters, and higher costs to the system.

— His call for a weaker S$, isn’t going to be gd for inflation.

— Some govt spending on S’poreans has met his disaaproval. He considers these popularist measures.

— He doesn’t agree with Gilbert Goh and friends on their “S’poreans first” call.

Now the “people” have turned against him because of his perceived recantation. They now forget his bravery.

I don’t think the people’s adulation, then revulsion affects him personally, or his reputation among those who matter. He doesn’t do popularity. When once asked by our local media why he never aspired to become a minister, he said he didn’t do “kissing babies”.

He is right in eschewing popularity. Remember the people’s hero, who the “people” asked to stand in the 2011 presidential elections, Tan Kin Lian? He lost his deposit, the self-styled voice of the people. He was seduced and then deserted by the “people’.

I suspect Ngiam’s popularity with the mob rabble had more to do with his criticism of the govt, than because people understood what he was saying. It was also a gd way for KS S’poreans to “dog whistle”* that they were not pro-govt (a bit like why general Giap was mourned by the Vietnamese young.**.

Sadly, his fall from the people’s favour should help reinforce the Dark Side’s prejudices about the people: the mob, rabble doesn’t matter. The voters can be manipulated, tamed and fixed via bread, circuses, the security services and the right messages. Throw them enough of their own money, and spin that this shows the PAP cares, and come the next GE, Pritam and Auntie will be out of their cushy jobs.

And the Dark Side’s view is reasonable. Fortunately, the Dark side has no Dr Goebbels to spin the right messages effectively. Until it finds him, the PAP govt can continue to throw our money at ourselves, and still not succeed in winning over the 35% of S’poreans that voted for Dr Tan Cheng Bock. Unless, of course, I’m wrong, and this 35% are “daft” enough to think the govt really cares. Somehow, I doubt it.

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/ngiam-galileo-galilei/

*https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/gg-crashes-new-indian-chief-needed/

** Criticism of the party over corruption and economic mismanagement has exploded recently on the internet … In vain, the authorities keep jailing bloggers, but they have in effect lost control of the internet.

It is in this context that the adulation of Gen Giap should be seen. He was in fact unwaveringly loyal to the party, and only occasionally said anything that could threaten its authority.

But in death he is being seen as a symbol of everything that today’s Communist leaders are not; charismatic, heroic, clean-living, a true patriot. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24516186

Analysts worried about higher inflation, predict stronger S$

In Currencies, Economy on 16/10/2013 at 4:21 am

Remember ministers jokes on inflation last yr? They told us that we should look on the bright side i.e. inflation excluding COEs as though biz vehicles don’t need COEs. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/inflation-why-the-misleading-picture-minister-media/

Wonder why they don’t crack such jokes this yr? Inflation (excluding COEs) not too looking gd for us and govt

From BT 15th October 2013

Coupled with a tight labour market, the central bank said that core inflation – which excludes costs of accommodation and private road transport – is expected to be 1.5-2 per cent in 2013, and rise to 2-3 per cent in 2014. With upside core inflation risks looming, economists from Nomura, Citi, DBS and UOB say that a tightening of monetary policy in April could be on the cards – particularly if prices rise beyond the government’s comfort zone.

Said Nomura analysts in a report: “Overall, the statement should raise market expectations of the MAS shifting towards an even tighter (foreign exchange) policy stance at the April 2014 meeting.”

Added Citi economist Kit Wei Zheng: “Though not our forecast, with the possibility that core inflation may breach the MAS’s implicit 2-2.5 per cent tolerance threshold in 2014, slope steepening in April 2014 cannot be ruled out, especially if growth uncertainties subside.”

Calling such a scenario “definitely possible”, UOB economist Francis Tan said: “It would have to be fuelled by something completely unanticipated, like if oil prices suddenly spike up due to renewed political tensions in the Middle East. Then the MAS will probably move in to tighten the Singapore dollar NEER.”

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/unabated-inflation-could-tip-mas-tightening-economists-20131015

Ah well S$ will appreciate eve3n more against regional currencies. Gd for S’poreans travelling, not gd for tourists from the region, and for our companies.

Why more FT Indians here than local Indians?

In Economy, India on 15/10/2013 at 4:52 am

(I hope readers don’t mind my flow onto LionsXII at the end)

One of the bloggers, I was concerned about here that might get a stroke or a heart attack, last week blogged that there are more FT Indians, than local Indians here. He didn’t give his source but used the statistic as the basis of prophesying doom and gloom for our minorities and society. It would have been nice if he had given his reasons, rather than assuming that we all know why.

Assuming he is correct about the FT Indian population being bigger than the local Indian population, there is possibly a gd, sound economic reason for it:- Our local Indians are not the “right” kind of Indians S’pore needs?

He may not be aware that S’pore’s an offshore hub of India, along with Dubai and Mauritius.

The largest hub for Indian trade is probably Singapore. It is the centre for investment banking, which thrives offshore, owing to the tight regulation of India’s banks and debt markets. Reflecting this, the global exposure to India of Citigroup and Standard Chartered, the two foreign banks busiest in India, is 1.9 times the size of their regulated Indian bank subsidiaries.

Fund managers running money in India are often based in Singapore. India’s best financial newspaper, Mint, now has a Singapore edition. At least half of all rupee trading is offshore, says Ajay Shah of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in Delhi. Investors and firms do not like India’s fiddly rules and worry that the country may tighten capital controls if its currency falls too far, says one trader in Singapore. He denies, though, that the rupee’s fall is mainly the work of speculators abroad. “The onshore guys have as much of a role,” he says.

Indian e-commerce firms often get their data crunched in Singapore, using web-hosting and cloud-computing firms, such as Google and Amazon. Amitabh Misra, of Snapdeal, says bandwidth costs less, technology is better and you avoid India’s headaches—such as finding somewhere to work, coping with state-run telecoms firms and having to wait to import hardware.

Singapore is also a centre for legal services. International deals involving India often contain clauses which state that disputes be arbitrated outside India, with its clogged courts. Singapore, along with London and Paris, has become the preferred jurisdiction. “The level of comfort Indian companies get from Singapore is unmatched,” says Vivekananda N of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

When India’s economy thrived, in 2003-08, so did its offshore hubs. Singapore’s service exports to India tripled. Yet these centres may sometimes be a reverse barometer. If things improve in India, activity should shift to the mainland, and vice versa. By gradually improving its ports, for example, India has convinced more shipping lines to make direct stops.

The government wants to attract activity back to create jobs and boost foreign earnings. Pride plays a role, too—it is unbecoming for a potential superpower to have outsourced vital economic functions. India has far less control over Dubai and Singapore than China does over Hong Kong. Plenty of policy statements in recent years argue that India should become a global hub for aviation, legal arbitration, diamond trading and international finance.

http://www.economist.com/news/international/21583285-growth-slows-and-reforms-falter-economic-activity-shifting-out-india-made-outside?spc=scode&spv=xm&ah=9d7f7ab945510a56fa6d37c30b6f1709

So are TRE posters who regularly complain about Indian FTs are DRUMS saboing S’pore? Though two-timing new citizen Raj who has publicly boasted that his son will avoid NS, and get PR (here and here) is not exactly a poster boy for Indian FTs or the govt’s “We love FTs” policy: more for GG and friends who hate FTs.

Finally, those of us (self-included) who love to regularly grumble about or mock ESM “Peanuts” should remember that he initiated the “Look to India” to differentiate himself from one LKY who wanted S’pore to be plugged into China’s sphere. So three cheers for him, for initiating the move that resulted in S’pore becoming a major offshore hub of India? Or should it be only two cheers for then allowing the likes of new citizen Raj in?

BTW, Mindef should be trying to close the loop-holes that allow those bums like new citizen Raj to boast that their sons can avoid NS, and then get PR, rather than make it difficult for our young Lions http://www.goal.com/en-sg/news/3880/singapore/2013/10/13/4321556/zainudin-hints-at-restrictions-for-sundram-departure: In his two-year tenure with the LionsXII, one of Sundram’s biggest bugbear had been the unavailability of players. A slim squad that was frequently decimated by injury lay-offs was further shorn of players due to National Service (NS) call-ups.

Players in NS who had used up their annual leaves to play for the LionsXII were often unable to find release from their active duties. Shakir Hamzah was most infamously found guilty of going AWOL from duties in June, after linking up with the LionsXII for an away game, and was handed a four-day sentence in the detention barracks.

BTW2, Our media has been 200% behind Fandhi’s attempt to be the new LionsXII  coach (Of course, he would deny he is campaigning to be coach: he would wouldn’t he?); but would temperamental Fandhi have put up with Sundram’s frustrations. I doubt he would. Likely, he would have walked out. Don’t anyhow support Fandhi. He willingly collaborates with our MSM, wanted to sue SDP and failed as coach of a free-spending Johor team (think Sity, think Johor). He was a good, and honest footballer but he isn’t exactly god’s gift to LionsXII. He’s god’s gift to our constructive, nation-building media who use him to sell papers and try to make us forget that the media here in part of the Dark Side.

Ngiam & Galileo Galilei

In Political governance on 14/10/2013 at 5:15 am

(Updated on 17th October 2013 at 1.35pm to include text of Njiam’s letter)

(Or “And yet it moves”)

The above phrase, said to be uttered by Galileo Galilei, came to mind when I read his clarification on comments he made about ministers and civil servants http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/ngiam-tong-dow-clarifies/844654.html*. Transcript of offending interview: http://www.sma.org.sg/UploadedImg/files/Publications%20-%20SMA%20News/4509/Interview%20NTD%20full%20transcript.pdf

Explanation for those who don’t know their history of ideas and science: “And yet it moves” (Italian: Eppur si muove; [epˈpur si ˈmwɔːve]) is a phrase said to have been uttered before the Inquisition by the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) in 1633 after being forced to recant that the earth moves around the sun. (Wikipedia)

Update (9.44am): In response to those who don’t know and who can’t be bothered to look it up, the Inquisition was athe department of the Catholic Church that regularly physically tortured people for not having the “right” views.  Torture stopped once they had the “right” views.  Historians say that Galileo Galilei was never tortured, he was merely shown the instruments of torture.

Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/mandarin-ngiam-on-elitism-social-divide-education-etc/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/analysing-ngiam-tong-dows-march-2012-speech-part-i/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/lky-answered-ngiam-tong-dows-f1-question/

—-

*Mr Ngiam’s letter in full:

From the feedback from friends and colleagues who read my interview published in SMA news, September 2013 Issue, it has come to my attention that I had given the wrong impression in several ways.

I had described my discussions with Mr Lee Kuan yew about the COE scheme as an example of Mr Lee’s openness in discussing policies, even with officials. I realise that my comments might suggest that the COE scheme was implemented to raise funds. That was not the case. The fundamental purpose of the COE scheme was to limit Singapore’s car population. If the intent had been to raise revenue, I would not have supported the policy as Permanent Secretary at the Finance ministry.

I also realise on re-reading the interview that I had not been fair in what I had said about Ministers and discussions in Cabinet. I retired from the civil service in 1999. Since then I have not attended any cabinet meetings, and have never seen one chaired by PM Lee Hsien Loong. Thus my statement that Ministers will not speak their minds before PM Lee is unfair as it was made without knowing what actually happens at Cabinet meetings today. I have been told by civil servant colleagues that Cabinet discussions are robust – as robust as they were when I attended cabinet meetings as PS (PMO), when Mr Goh Chok Tong was PM and Mr Lee Hsien Loong DPM.

I also realise that my claim that Ministers may not speak up because they earn high salaries is illogical. I know that some Ministers have given up high-flying and well-paid careers in the private sector in order to serve the public at a fraction of their original or potential income. Others could have gone to the private sector to make more money but have chosen to be in the public service. They have no reason not to speak their minds when they are convinced that they are doing right by Singaporeans.

I had also said that the current crop of leaders is elitist. I had spoken without realising that many had in fact come from humble backgrounds.

I had the privilege and honour of working with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr Hon Sui Sen and Mr Lim Kim San. I have said many times that Mr Lee is my hero and that Singapore was lucky to have had such a team to steer it from third world to first. The Cabinet today faces different and less straightforward challenges, having to deal with globalisation and more intense international competition. However, as I had mentioned in my interview, we are starting from a good position – for example, in healthcare, one of the main subjects of the interview.

 

Financial centres’ curses

In Economy, Internet, Political economy, Political governance on 13/10/2013 at 5:10 am

For all the highfaluting talk of govt and talk-cock artists especially in the local media, we don’t do things like this even though Burma is in Asean (our backyard):

[I]n Burma – or Myanmar – social media sites and the whole internet have been inaccessible for years.

For one Canadian-Vietnamese woman that has provided a unique business opportunity to found the Burma’s first-ever social networking site.

However, Rita Nguyen had never been to the country before this year as BBC South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head heard.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24393043

Why?

(Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/a-very-high-tech-inventive-low-population-country/)

Are we are more comfortable as serfs slaves PMETs in a financial centre?

A recent article, interestingly, makes a compelling argument that places that depend on the financial industry (like S’pore) are like resource-rich countries, and like them suffer from the triple problems of a high exchange rate that causes problems for manufacturers, revenue volatility and poor governance.

Is finance like crude oil? Countries rich in minerals are often poverty-stricken, corrupt and violent. A relatively small rent-seeking elite captures vast wealth while the dominant sector crowds out the rest of the economy. The parallels with countries ‘blessed’ with powerful financial sectors are becoming too obvious to ignore.

http://taxjustice.blogspot.sg/2013/09/is-finance-like-crude-oil-resource.html

Another US innovation to breed entrepreneurs

… has designed I-Corps as a way of converting the most promising science and engineering projects in American universities into start-ups. The I-Corps teams … comprise just a principal investigator (usually a tenured professor), a younger entrepreneurial lead (undergraduate, graduate or post-doctoral student) and an experienced entrepreneur or venture capitalist as a mentor. Each of the 100 or so teams has received a [US}$50,000 to cover a crash course on how to avoid the pitfalls common to all new ventures … New ventures, they are taught, are all about finding customers, what distribution channels to adopt, how to price the product, who to partner with, and more. From day one, the mantra is “get out of the lab” … The I-Corps programme is based on the premise that all new ventures are little more than a series of untested hypotheses—in other words, optimistic guesses about market size, customer needs, product pricing and sales channels. With so many unknowns, the programme teaches participants to treat their start-up as if it were a typical research project, amenable to the same iterative process of hypothesis testing and experimentation.

http://www.economist.com/node/21559734

M’sia: The only winners of GE 2013

In China, Malaysia, Vietnam on 12/10/2013 at 5:10 am

In the words of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), a S’pore govt-funded think tank, in its Oct Asean Monitor

Barisan Nasional’s worst-ever general election performance in May has undermined Prime MinisterNajib Razak’s promise to reform the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) after he took overits leadership in 2009. Outside UMNO, liberal reforms are stridently opposed and resisted by extremist Malay-Muslim groups such as PERKASA and by UMNO-owned media, especially the Utusan Malaysianewspaper. Within UMNO, political momentum favours former Prime Minister Mahathir and his conservative allies, who support preserving the ketuanan Melayu (“Malay ownership”) status quo.

Recognizing that UMNO needs to be further strengthened after its failure to win a convincing majority of the Malay vote, many senior party leaders and veterans will not want the president and deputy president posts, held by Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyddin Yassin, respectively, to be contested duringthe upcoming October party elections. However, the party’s three vice-presidential posts are likely tobe hotly fought over by the incumbents Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Shafie Apdal and Hishammuddin Husseinand by three challengers, namely Mohd Ali Rustam, Isa Samad and, potentially, Mukhriz Mahathir.

Recent developments have further pressured Najib to follow through with his general-election pledge totackle corruption and crime. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer report confirms the perception thatthe level of corruption in Malaysia has increased despite the government’s claims to the contrary. Publicconfidence in the corruption-tainted police force received another huge blow from the recent spike inviolent crimes, including more than 30 murder attempts in the past five months.

Because of the country’s deteriorating public finances, a global ratings agency has downgraded Malaysia’ssovereign credit rating outlook from stable to negative. The Malaysian ringgit slid to three-yearlows against the US dollar and to 15-year lows against the Singapore dollar; these slides may generate inflationary pressures. The government announced 10.5 percent and 11 percent hikes respectively in the prices of subsidized 95 RON gasoline and diesel on 3 September, and it is likely that further measuresto strengthen the country’s fiscal position will be introduced.

Key points: The status quo will persist, with conservatives gaining control of the UMNO supremecouncil. Budget 2014 will see the introduction of a GST and the scaling back and rescheduling of publicly funded projects.

The Chinese have to live with the consequences of their vote for Anwar’s group. The Indian community (which marginally supported BN) must be sore with the Chinese.

Related articles: http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21586864-ruling-party-returns-its-old-habits-race-based-handouts-bumi-not-booming

http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/10/08/in-talent-battle-malaysia-loses-to-singapore/

Other Asean round-up news:

Vietnam R Sembcorp (belated)

UNDETERRED by the many challenges facing Vietnam’s economy, Sembcorp has once again upped its investment in the socialist republic – this time by building central Vietnam’s first large-scale industrial park worth US$337.8 million.

This latest of five Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs) is sited in Quang Ngai province, about 90 minutes’ flight south of Hanoi. It offers manufacturers a new and alternative investment locale that is away from Vietnam’s northern and southern regions, where labour markets are tighter and costs continue to rise.

VSIP Quang Ngai will take shape in the form of a 1,120ha industrial park and integrated township; the industrial park will take up 600ha, with the other 520ha slated for commercial and residential purposes. BT 14th August: PM was in Vietnam BTW.

Thailand is to hand over rice and rubber in part-payment for its new high-speed rail system, it’s reported.

The country’s transport minister is expected to formally agree the barter deal with Chinese premier Li Keqiang … The project to link Bangkok with Nong Khai, close to the Laos border, is part of a proposed 2m baht ($30bn, £19bn) infrastructure investment programme to part-financed with agricultural products. The railway is one day envisaged to link Thailand with the Southern Chinese province of Kunming, via the Laos capital Vientiane.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-24475574

GG crashes: new Indian chief needed?

In Uncategorized on 11/10/2013 at 5:00 am

(Or “Dr Chee’s no mad dog, he’s coyote”)

Gilbert Goh (who showed up meritocracy S’pore style) like Icarus paid the price of flying too close to the sun after getting S’poreans fired-up about the population white paper. Too bad, we S’poreans too got burned by GG’s hubris.

As this cartoon shows, the PAP is celebrating

It and its running dogs in the media and new media are spinning this rally as a victory for the govt: S’poreans now want 6.9m people by 2030.

They can quote one GG: “The momentum from the protests earlier this year has gone off, and the anger and emotion among Singaporeans is maybe no longer there,” chief organiser Gilbert Goh told AFP. http://sg.news.yahoo.com/low-turn-singapore-anti-immigration-protest-130612015.html

Sadly for us citizens of Manor Farm, Animal Farm S’pore , the truth is more complex. For starters, S’poreans have cottoned on to Gilbert Goh’s dog whistle. And S’poreans don’t do intolerance. Dr Dr Chee has said, ” the tolerant people that we are …”

(Dog whistle is a type of strategy of communication that sends a message that the general population will take a certain meaning from, but a certain group that is “in the know” will take away the secret, intended message. Often involves code words. Urban Dictionary)

The anger and emotion is still there. What has changed since the first event  is that GG has been shown to be anti-foreigner by his words. Example: his call for the 5 October rally. My take on it.

Then there was his attempt to make his protest movement an anti-govt movement, calling for regime change, rather than juz a specific anti-policy movement. See above links.

Finally, there is the multitude of calls to rally after the govt announced some curbs on the FT explosion.

Given GG’s views on FTs, I was surprised that Dr Chee and friends attended the rally, and Dr Chee spoke.

My initial reaction was that Drs Paul A, Wee Nam and others had failed to make sure that he took his anti-mad dog pills, and that he had bitten other SDP members.

But on reflection, Dr Chee’s speech with his, “A word of caution, I ask all of us here in Singapore to be the people that we truly are, the tolerant people that we are and if we attack, we attack the policy, we point out the flaws in the policy, not against the people who are here for work.”*, was an attempt to channel the issue to its original root: unhappiness with the white paper on population, and the govt’s pro-FT policy.

Sadly, Dr Chee’s attempt wouldn’t work. What was so different about GG’s initial call to protest was that it cut across political allegiances. The white paper and the govt’s pro-FT policy, were something, like bad public transport, that affected everyone, and couldn’t be used by the PAP and its running dogs journalists as a test of “Are you with us, or against us?”.  Sadly, GG then made it into “Are you with us, or against us?”.

A new Indian chief is needed to remobilise the RODed, or AWOLed S’poreans.

P Ravi perhaps? He has to his credit the scalp of the previous SMRT CEO (Remember after a protest he organised calling for her resignation, she quit). Opps forgot he member of a small fringe, marginal opposition party, where he works out by climbing stairs, pounding the pavements and drinking teh-tarik. Said party doesn’t even bother to use his new media skills.

Vincent Wijeysingha then? He is a social worker and activist; has concerns about the white paper (he spoke at GG’s first rally) but doesn’t dog whistle that he hates FTs; is smart (even though he went to Victoria, not RI, but then dad was RI principal then and father and son ada class); and talks well. The only people that would hold his gayness against him would be pastor Khong and gang, and Berrie Bear, the Canadian, S’porean, Muslim bear. With enemies like these, who needs friends? And he has friends, including human rights kay pohs, who will add a bit of class to the movement. He can bridge the divide between the unhappy masses and “liberals” on the unhappiness with the population white paper and the govt’s pro-FT policy.  Both are unhappy, but cannot find common ground, as this article http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/great-singaporean-grievance-103242143.html shows.

Take the poisoned chalice, Vincent? Or is it the holy grail? The holy grail was a poisoned chalice for those not worthy to sip from it.

*TOC and Yahoo versions added together

Penny stocks’ fiasco show greed cannot be untaught

In Financial competency on 10/10/2013 at 4:48 am

I refer to the bloodbath on SGX described by TRE here. Writer lost serious money from the sound of it. And now venting his anger at anyone but himself?

Let’s get serious about a very serious topic, Can financial competency programmes work help prevent such disasters?

When the the central bank came out with these two rules, I appauded,

[F]inancial institutions are required to disclose to borrowers the total amount and time needed to fully pay off their debts if they pay only the minimum payment each month.

Financial institutions are also to disclose to borrowers the amount of debt that would accumulate by the end of six months if they fail to pay in the next six months.

MAS said this will help borrowers make more informed credit decisions while taking into account the total cost of borrowing.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/mas-tightens-credit-card/809774.html

But tot it a sad reflection that in this day and age of electronic spreadsheets, smartphones apps, and cheapish financial calculators, young working people can’t do the maths of compound interest, or understand its effects.

How much is it, this year, my man?”… “Well, it’s been a doubling so many years, you see,” the tailor replied, a little gruffly, “and I think I’d like the money now. It’s two thousand pound, it is!”

“Oh, that’s nothing!” the Professor carelessly remarked … “But wouldn’t you like to wait just another year, and make it four thousand? Just think how rich you’d be!”  …  ”But it; dew sound a powerful sight o’ money! Well, I think I’ll wait–”

“Of course you will!” said the Professor. “There’s good sense in you” …“Will you ever have to pay him that four thousand pounds?” Sylvie asked as the door closed on the departing creditor.

“Never, my child!” the Professor replied emphatically. “He’ll go on doubling it, till he dies. You see it’s always worth while waiting another year, to get twice as much money!

The novel was published in 1889 and in 1987 or 1988, Ralph Wanger (a then leading investment fund manager, now retired) told author John Train that the sum would have grown to £1 followed by 33 zeros. The magic of compounding on funds not drawn on. No wonder Lim Swee Say has a special monthly CPF statement so that he can see every mntnh.

(https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/cpf-and-alices-adventures-in-wonderland/)

But don’t blame the education system or the govt for not teaching kids financial literacy: teaching financial competency doesn’t work according to the experts.

Financial Literacy Outside the Classroom An academic research paper showed that “financial education is laudable, but not particularly helpful,” Richard H. Thaler, a professor of economics and behavioral science at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, writes in an essay in The New York Times.

Returning to the latest fiasco on SGX. Retail investors and remisers have been warned, time and time again, to be careful when retail investors are playing speculatives. They never learn even though remisers have to attend training courses where they are tot basic risk management techiques, or so I’ve been told. Love of money is the root of all ignorance, to misquote pastor Khong’s and Kong Hee’s bible.

Why anti-PAP paper activists needn’t get shriller

In Humour, Political governance on 09/10/2013 at 4:44 am

A rabid anti-PAP paper activist posted this on Facebook:

LHL is out of touch with reality on the ground. It is very clear that he has refused to learn.

Now no matter whether he cry, say sorry, beg for forgiveness – Aljunied & Punggol East will be repeated all over Singapore in 2016.

He was referring to PM’s tv appearance on 24 September. There were lots of similar comments on Facebook and on TRE and TOC (Surprising very few people post on TRS, making its claim that it represents the real S’porean sound true, apathetically and KS). Increasingly, the tone of many of the “usual suspects” including many of the the Magnificent 7, are getting shriller and shriller, and angrier and angrier. Are they trying to drown out their doubts that maybe the govt is winning the battle of ideas and votes?

Maybe the anti-PAP paper activists are realising that the govt has realised that for many S’poreans especially the PMETs the link between economic growth and living standards is broken, and is trying hard to addressing the issue (Related https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/trust-has-to-regained-pm/). (Worse, perhaps, the govt has read that a Nobel prize winner in  economics, Stiglitz, makes a very bold assertion that inequality is economically inefficient and that it’s bad for society? And now believes in pursuing a more equal society, rather than juz chasing for votes.)

In the words of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), a govt-funded think tank, in its Oct Asean Monitor

The National Day Rally Speech in August offered the clearest indication to date of how the People’s Action Party will try to win back the ground that it lost in the 2011 general elections. With tweaks to the national health insurance scheme, to housing subsidies for the middle class and to primary school admissions and national examinations, the ruling party has opted to recalibrate social and welfare policies to address middle-class concerns instead of relaxing its stance on civil liberties or freedom of expression. Having chosen this path, it may not be inappropriate to expect more populist policy shifts, designed to appeal to the middle ground, in the run-up to the 2016 elections.

Interestingly, it goes on to say

These policy tweaks were, in part, the result of public feedback gleaned from the year-long nationwide public clinics collectively known as Our Singapore Conversation. While understandably touted by government leaders and the local media as a sign of more consultative politics, the litmus test will be whether such conversations are a one-off event and whether divergent public desires and government interests can ever be reconciled.

So our paper activists still can dream on that the PAP will lose support. So chill out a little, to avoid health problems. After all, assuming they are mostly ordinary S’poreans, if they get strokes or cardiac attacks, they will have to use the “subsidised” healthcare system. I’m sure that that tot when suffering a stroke or heart attack, will make them even angrier, and sicker, making the attack worse. They are using the very system that they “condemn”. Of course, they may all have expensive private healthcare insurance like the elite, though I doubt it.

The report then highlights a fault line that the anti-PAP activists ignore because they are in the main on the side of the social activists (a notable exception is Berrie, the Muslim bear from S’pore and Canada).

With a promising GDP forecast for this year, the economy will take a back seat to emerging socio political issues. One such issue is the struggle between gay rights activists and moral conservatives.

This tension has existed for some time, but a recent request from pastors for an audience with the law minister after the latter met with a gay rights group suggests that the push-back from moral conservatives will grow stronger. Another emerging issue is the increasingly political nature of heritage conservation in the city-state. With heritage issues now fronted more and more by the young and well educated, the key question is whether heritage will become a vote winner for the youth demographic.

It then talks of an issue close to the hearts of social activists, and Gilbert Goh and friends, for different reasons: Finally, civil society’s response in the aftermath of the November 2012 bus strike by several Chinese drivers suggests that the championing of social justice for vulnerable migrant workers — the likes of which Singapore has not seen since the 1980s — is now re-emerging as a pertinent issue.

It ends with hope for the paper activists who “die,die” want the PAP out:  Key points: The demand for greater political pluralism will continue to grow. The question is how different interests can be managed or, indeed, if they require state intervention at all.

So anti-PAP paper activists, time to sound less shrill, and less full of hate. A govt statutory board is telling you history is on yr side. Change is a’coming. If you want the new S’pore to reflect yr values, be rational, not emotional. Could even help you avoid having to use the healthcare system you hate.

SMRT: Rights issue coming?

In Infrastructure on 08/10/2013 at 5:54 am

Reading the u/m, I can’t shake the feeling that a rights issue is coming: the capex and running costs seem to call for it. Given that the share price has fallen from the 1.40ish level (at the end of July), to the present level of 1.29, it  might be interesting to buy if one expects a rights issue is in the offing. A rights issue will signal that Temasek expects dividend levels to be maintained at current levels, or slightly reduced, not slashed drastically. It took the results of 1Q 2013- 2014 to bring the shares to below the 1.34 level, a level brokers had been targeting since January.

Let you know if I buy after I buy. BTW, still not bot ComfortDelgro https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/when-raising-fares-sbs-smrt-govt-dont-have-this-problem/. Share price recovered 10% while I was thinking about it (blame QE reprieve). Shares are now near the price that institutions took a placement off the S’pore Labour Foundation.

CREDIT ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has lowered its outlook on SMRT Corp from “stable” to “negative” over concerns about its financial position, particularly its cash flow.

S&P said [on 27th September 2013] that the transport operator’s operating expenses are higher than expected. It also pointed to high capital spending over the 12 months to June, while noting the uncertainty over government financial support such as funding for the firm.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={435478142-19258-9361788629}

“… the lack of timely government support could delay a recovery in SMRT’s key financial metrics.”

SMRT’s “moderate” financial risk profile is weakening, S&P added.

It said it expects the group’s bottom line will be hit by increased operating expenses such as wages and repair and maintenance costs, without the offsetting factor of higher fares.

S&P added that SMRT’s capital expenditure will likely remain high at about $600 million.

It noted that the group’s capital spending will likely ease in 2015 as it implements a new rail financing framework. This, in turn, will ease its debt situation.

“Nevertheless, we base this on a positive and timely outcome for the ongoing discussions between the company and the Government.”

S&P said SMRT’s business risk profile remains “excellent”, backed by its dominance in Singapore’s rail sector.

Its passenger numbers have grown steadily over the past two years despite breakdowns in December 2011.

The agency predicts that passenger numbers will continue to rise as the economic environment improves and it retains its dominant position here.

S&P continues to believe that the likelihood of “extraordinary government support” for SMRT Corp is “extremely high”.

It said: “This is based on the company’s critical role as a provider of essential public transport service in Singapore, and its very strong link with its majority owner, the Government, through Temasek Holdings, which owns 54.2 per cent of SMRT.”

MoM did the right thing BUT wrong

In Humour, Public Administration on 07/10/2013 at 4:44 am

to caution Khong’s church that the church was embarking on a confrontational approach” when Khong & his gang want a judicial review, even though they are judgemental clowns who discredit other Christians

I don’t take issue with netizens’ views on the clownish, bigoted, unforgiving and boorish behaviour of pastor Khong and his gang.

I can’t stop laughing at a polo-playing pastor getting worked up over a church employee giving birth when married to the baby’s hubbie when his own daughter had a baby outside marriage. I mean the parents were in holy matrimony even though the baby was conceived before the marriage. And his daughter’s life-style fits the image of polo as a sport of the decadent, spoiled and sexually active rich: ask the Prince of Wales and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, his ex-mistress. Par for the course, you would have tot for a polo-playing pastor: a daughter enjoying sex outside holy matrimony and having a baby outside holy matrimony. And he not preventing it, as any Asian parent would do.

Most appropriate, if true, that a civil servant at MoM told him off by referring to his daughter’s life-style. If he can’t get his daughter not to do premarital sex or have a kid outside marriage, why should he insist on punishing someone else for having consensual sex outside marriage (I mean this is not Saudi Arabia or bible-belt America, but a wannabe global city), and who has a baby inside marriage. Better behaved than polo-playing Khong’s daughter. Doesn’t his bible say:

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

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

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

— For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Maybe, his bible got these passages removed as haram?

I support MoM’s stand on the case*. But disagree when Manpower Ministry “caution the church that it [the church] was embarking on a confrontational approach” over the matter. (ST report)

As lawyers quoted by Today said:

Mr Abraham Vergis said: “What is ordinarily an employment law matter is now being recast in terms of the constitutional right of a church to manage its religious affairs. This challenge has the potential to become a landmark case depending on how the courts address the questions raised.”

Another lawyer, Mr Chia Boon Teck, felt that should the court’s ruling allow for an exception for religious organisations with regard to the employment laws, “the wider implication may be that other religious bodies would also argue that the authorities not interfere with how they deal with their staff”, a point Mr Khong also acknowledged in his media statement.

And there are allegations that MoM did not follow the rules of natural justice.

So, as he and the church are filthy rich, why shouldn’t the church go to court? Khong and friends may be clownish bigots but they too got rights, juz like Dan Tan, and those whom the ang moh tua kee local human rights activists love. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/where-use-of-isa-will-be-met-by-silence-from-the-usual-human-rights-kay-pohs/

Seriously, as we strive to become a more open society, one of the consequences that we must accept is the willingness of citizens and organisations to litigate unpopular causes. We should not “flame” those who exercise this right in circumstances, in situations, circumstances we dislike, think they are wrong, or in this case know that they are wrong.

A more open society is a place where people have the right to offend or annoy, or do things differently, or juz disagree. If you don’t like this right, don’t ask for a more open society. And go live in North Korea, or Vietnam or Saudi Arabia.

My other serious point is that S’pore is starting to forget the British strand of secularism that we inherited from our colonial masters. A vocal minority (in our constructive, nation-building media, as well as in injun territory and cowboy towns) are following the French and Turkish model of secularism (look up “anti-clericalism”) which has a very anti-religious streak. The British version ignores, disdains or overrules religious behaviour or practices, where such behaviour or practice conflict with the law, while not interfering in a person’s religious beliefs so long as they remain a matter between that person and his god. In the other version, the state and the secularists actively and aggressively promote secularism even if it interferes with personal beliefs.

In a place where issues of faith are still taken very seriously, this is a dangerous trend. Thankfully, the govt is still secular, not anti-clerical, unlike many netizens and local media journalists. And yes, even the British version as practiced here does sometimes interfere with personal beliefs like only Sikhs can wear headgear in schools. But these inconsistencies only prove the point of non-interference.

More on these clowns who give Christians a bad name:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/oppressed-to-oppressor-pastor-khong-describes-christianitys-evolution-not-the-gays-agenda/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/faith-community-baptist-church-alleges-ag-gagging-order/

*From a Today report: Nevertheless, it felt compelled to respond, and reiterated that “many different religions co-exist and thrive” here and individuals and religious organisations are “free to practise their respective faiths”.

“However, our system of governance is a secular one and everyone has to abide by the laws of the land regardless of race, language or religion,” the MOM said. “The laws regarding employment constitute one such area. Employment laws have to be applied equally to all regardless of their religion.”

It noted that the case “was strictly a dispute between an employer and an employee, and MOM treated it as such”. “All organisations, whether they are religious or not, must abide by the same laws,” it added.

While the Constitution states that religious groups have the right to manage their own religious affairs, it excludes acts that are “contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality”. In an Aug 28 statement explaining why it sanctioned the FCBC, the MOM said there was insufficient cause to support the dismissal, while noting that “we have to preserve a common secular space for people with other beliefs, and employment is one of these secular spaces”.

Hear, hear, I say.

LKY answered Ngiam Tong Dow’s F1 question

In Public Administration, Tourism on 06/10/2013 at 5:18 am

Ngiam Tong Dow said: “My favourite topic — I’m on public record — is Formula 1 (F1). We’re paying the Englishmen to stage the F1 night race here. Why should we use taxpayers’ money to pay for these races? I have asked this question publicly, but the MOF has never addressed it.”

Maybe MOF didn’t, but LKY did juz before F1 came to S’pore, LKY said, when it was first suggested to him yrs ago, he didn’t believe it as something that could contribute to S’pore’s development. He was only convinced about its development potential, after F1 became massively popular and had already gone to KL. By then, Berniewas tua kee, with every aspiring global city wanting to stage a race, and many of them had cash pouring out of their ears.

BTW, the S’pore organisers were very clear that they couldn’t make money without govt help.

Taz history. There is an alternative on the horizon that S’pore should be trying to take advantage of:

… all-electric grand prix called Formula E, which gets under way in London in September 2014. Other races are planned in Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Miami, Monaco, Putrajaya, Rio de Janeiro and Rome.

Some big names have already signed up to support Formula E, including DHL, a logistics giant, and Qualcomm, an American technology group. But the commercial potential, and the ability to draw a large audience, will need to be proved before Formula E becomes a technological race. Then, provided the teams can come up with better batteries, electric motors and power electronics, electric racing cars really could, one day, mount a serious challenge to the petrol-heads’ F1 cars.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/09/economist-explains-14

In addition, to not paying much (maybe very little), seeing Formula E is a new brand, as the circuit here slows the F1 cars down considerably, a Formula E race here would be gd for Formula E to camouflage its main weakness: slower cars. The twisting, turning race would be juz as exciting for racing fans. Heck, we might even get it for free.

The Marina Bay Street Circuit is the second slowest 23-turn circuit on the calendar after Monaco, with an average speed of 172kph. Approximately 46% of the lap is taken at full throttle, compared with over 75% at Monza.

The twisting layout is hard on the brakes, while the gearboxes also take a beating, with around 80 gear changes per lap.

Drivers will complete 61 laps in the race – in 30C heat and 70% humidity – which takes a little under two hours to complete.

A change to the circuit this year is at turn 10 – dubbed the Singapore Sling. The original layout, a three-turn chicane, was seen as dangerous by drivers with Kimi Raikkonen crashing there in 2008 and Lewis Hamilton describing it as ‘the worst corner in Formula 1′.

This year, it has been turned into a single-apex left-hand bend and, without the chicane, lap times are expected to be lower. BBC report

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/formula-e-the-new-f1-why-cant-msm-report-f1-event-like-this/

Since we staged the first Kiddie Games, overspending in the process, why don’t we join this circuit? True in addition to F1, it would inconvenient us for another few days in a yr, but what the heck. Let’s try it. BTW Bernie is pretty relaxed about Formula E competing with F1, so he shouldn’t object.

Format of race: Each of the ten teams will have two drivers. But unlike F1, each driver will have two cars. Hence 40 SRT-01Es in all are being built by Spark Racing Technologies, a French firm, in collaboration with Renault and a number of other motorsports companies, including McLaren, Michelin and Williams. With present battery technology the cars will run out of juice after about 25 minutes in a race that is supposed to last around an hour. So each driver must make at least two pit-stops to change cars—sprinting 100 metres between each car in the old Le Mans style. As an added twist, one of the cars will be a sprint version capable of greater acceleration while the other will have more endurance. Flat out, the SRT-01Es will reach a top speed of around 225kph (140mph), whereas F1 cars top 300kph on some circuits. But on the short, twisting closed-off city streets which will be used by the electric racers, they will be spectacularly quick. And because of the instant torque provided by electric motors, they can accelerate to 100kph in just three seconds. Nor will they be quiet, because of the sound made by the cars’ tyres, electric motors and aerodynamics at speed.

M’sia mkt outperforms Asean

In Gold, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 05/10/2013 at 6:10 am

Lex

Not saying much as above chart from FT shows that its flattish unlike the other Asean mkts. Seems the big local funds are buying.

Other Asean round-up news:

According to OSK-DMG while Indonesia will be increasing its oil production over the next few years but only a few offshore marine players here can benefit from this because of an Indonesian rule that protects jobs in the industry for Indonesians.

While rig builders here could stand to gain in the near term, it appears that the cabotage law in Indonesia is being expanded to include Indonesian shipyards as well, boding well for rig builders with Indonesian-based yards. Indonesia has cabotage rules requiring all work in the oil & gas sector to be done only by Indonesian-flagged vessels.

Thailand is the third biggest buyer of gold in Asia, after China and India having overtaken Vietnam.

Trust has to regained, PM

In Political governance on 04/10/2013 at 4:49 am

PM’s “right that major policy success hinges on citizens trusting government. And that incorruptibility, impartiality, and integrity are crucial to that trust.” (GIC’s ex-chief economist on Facebook)

But “trust” is an aquifer, glacier or reservoir that needs constant replenishment because of the constant outflows.When more water is used, than comes in, there is a point when the inflow has to be increased, or the outflow limited, or stopped, so that reserves can be built up again.

As I see it, because the govt had not changed policies that need changing, there was and (still is) a net outflow of trust.  To put it another way, the bank account containing “trust” that his dad and friends had built up has “insufficient funds”. PM and predecessor (PM was the DPM then) have been living off the old guard’s legacy, taking out more “trust” than they have been putting “in”.

The PM has made a start in trying to increase the inflow in order to replenish the “trust” aquifer, glacier, reservoir or bank account  by changing the govt’s policies* but he shouldn’t be calling us to trust the govt until we start seeing the results of the changes in our daily lives. S’poreans know fellow S’poreans talk cock a lot, and can be gd BS artists: as TRE found out recently, “Since the official launch of TR Emeritus’ VIP Membership System (VMS) last month, the number of sign-ups has not been good. Only dozens have signed up. … We have estimated that TRE needs 400 to 500 active members per year to sustain TRE in the long run. Our membership costs a mere S$10.00 per month.”

Tony Blair before he became UK’s PM in 19997, said in 1994, he said: “Parties that do not change, die, and this party is a living movement not an historical monument. If the world changes and we don’t then we become of no use to the world. Our principles cease being principles and ossify into dogma.” In the S’pore context, substitute “dogma” for “Hard Truths”.

The PAP is changing but it’s a work-in-progress. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt in public tpt, healthcare, housing and education; but not when it comes to its FT policy. As Uncle Leong explained recently, the signs have yet to appear that the govt is walking its talk of closing the floodgates. And there is its white paper on 6.9m by 2030.

*As the former chief economist of GIC put it on Facebook: But what is equally crucial to this trust is the Governments ability to reform current policy and out-moded mindsets and deliver truly affordable and efficient healthcare, public housing, public transport, equitable and high quality education adequate and humane social security and safety nets, and a sensible population policy that does not result in overcrowding and social tensions.

The PM and cabinet has made a bold and substantial move in this direction in housing and healthcare reforms in the months up to National Day. Kudos to this commendable act of leadership.

However, markedly more can and must be done in these and the other key social policy areas above to complete reforms for the common good and fully prevent a loss in policy trust – something we cannot afford in Singapore.

I would put as the govt finally spending our money to make life more comfortable for us.

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/analysing-pms-coming-rally-speech/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/the-pap-govt-has-lost-output-legitimacy-discuss/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/shld-the-govt-get-the-credit-for-fixing-the-problems-that-hard-truths-caused-discuss/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/pms-speech-not-juz-a-change-of-format/

 

Temasek’s Fab 5 S’pore blue chips

In Financial competency, Temasek on 03/10/2013 at 5:11 am

Regolar readers will know this blog’s hostile to ST esp in its personal investment coverage.And usually is critical of Temasek.

Here’s an exception: If you owned one or more of these blue chips, you would be really ungrateful not to vote for PM

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={435478142-19236-1456515192}

Data from SGX My Gateway and Bloomberg showed aircraft engineering firm SIA Engineering Company topping the list, with a total return of 164 per cent over the five years to Sept 13, the cut-off date for this exercise. This includes price increases and cash dividends paid out, and works out to a compounded 21 per cent a year.

Telecommunications firm StarHub, engineering firm Singapore Technologies Engineering and rig builders Keppel Corporation and Sembcorp Marine round up the rest of the top five.

One key thread of these firms is that they are all part-owned by Temasek, which probably adds to the confidence of investors.

They are all also known for being solid with their dividend payments … Of course the share prices reflect that fact i.e. that there are better yields in the market albeit with greater risk.

Disclosure: got Keppel for yonks, and odd lot of SIAEC.

PM’s statement that’s so very wrong

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 02/10/2013 at 6:45 am

PM’s comments, “there are countries like China, Vietnam and India which are hungry and anxious to steal the lunch from us”, is pure inflammatory rubbish worthy of Gilbert Goh. They are not trying to steal from us. They are trying to improve themselves, by working harder (and perhaps smarter) than us. PM should leave anti-foreigner comments to Gilbert Goh and friends. Even TRE, TOC not into this kind of rubbish. The PM shouldn’t. But maybe he wants to talk on 5 October at GG’s “regime change” day.

Three other things wrong about his comment:

— Why is he comparing S’pore to these countries esp Vietnam? Tot, PM and his govt say we first world country like Switzerland, or global city like NY or London? I mean even manufacturers from China are moving to Vietnam because labour is cheaper there? What next compare us with Bangladesh or Burma?

— Productivity is more impt than working hard

And it seems that more productive—and, consequently, better-paid—workers put in less time in at the office. The graph below shows the relationship between productivity (GDP per hour worked) and annual working hours:

The Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/09/working-hours

It’s all about working smart, like the decadent Japs that LKY mocks but who outperform the ang mohs. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/honest-conversation-on-fts-lets-have-it-not-juz-pretend-that-weve-having-it-iswaran/

— “Insatiability, and the 15-hour week — Lessons in life and work”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/09/insatiability-and-15-hour-week

The most stinging rebuke to PM’s line of reasoning comes close to the end of this longish, but intellectually entertaining piece.

BTW, if PM is genuine about wanting us to trust the govt, in addition to not imitating Gilbert Goh and friends, he should

— ensure that this kind of inflammatory rubbish doesn’t appear in our constructive, nation-building media

I am Singaporean, therefore I am entitled
While there is nothing wrong with policies that are based on a ‘Singaporean first’ principle, it can be taken too far. Abuse of this principle could lead to racism, xenophobia and aggressive nationalism. By Wu Zijian
It’s stuff like this that makes me thing GG has a point (which he doesn’t) about FTs being the problem. The problem is the PAP govt’s “FT Tua Kee” attitude.
— not juz talk the talk on limiting FTs coming in. Using, govt stats, Uncle Leong shows the flood is still rising, not receding. http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/09/27/new-citizenships-increased-by-31-in-2012/

S’pore bonds are a lousy investment

In Financial competency, Media on 01/10/2013 at 5:06 am

SINGAPORE bonds were the second-worst performer in Asia in the first seven months of this year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said.

Losses were largest in Indonesia, down 17.8 per cent, followed by Singapore, where bonds were down 7.8 per cent in the January-to-July period, said the latest report by ADB’s Asia Bond Monitor.

Market returns on Asian bonds have fallen sharply so far this year with the iBoxx Pan-Asian Index falling 3.5 per cent in US dollars in unhedged terms, it said yesterday.

Only bonds in the Philippines and China recorded gains – 7.5 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.

Reported in BT 27 September 2013, but not in ST or Today. Why? ST and Today only report the “right” news? Note that ST regularly talks of the benefits of investing in S$ bonds, and bonds generally.

BTW, here’s shumething SunT didn’t tell us about the Finnish education system: Angry Birds creator Rovio has brought Angry Birds Playground, a schools initiative devised with the University of Helsinki in Finland, into the kindergarten classroom of children, aimed at six-year-olds.

With the initiative already in use in Finland, Rovio has now entered into an agreement with schools in China.

“With small children, the Finnish approach to education is very much play-orientated,” says Sanna Lukander, vice president of book publishing at Rovio Entertainment.

“These characters and their world seemed to inspire children. You can’t not think about how you might motivate children to do more than play.”

Sun Tzu & the PAP’s non-use of new media, & the PM

In Internet, Media on 30/09/2013 at 6:36 am

(If you want to read about SunT left out about the Finnish education system scroll to the end)

This extract from a CNA report last Friday reminded me of an email exchange I had with a new media big cat (not ‘fat” cat) sometime back: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has addressed some key themes arising from the “Ask the PM” live forum on Channel NewsAsia which took place on Tuesday.

In a posting on his Facebook page on Thursday, he thanked viewers for their questions and comments, but said there were too many questions for him to answer individually.

He addressed key themes including education and housing.

I had suggested how the PAP should have reacted to P Ravi: Instead of using his skin to beat the RAVII DRUMS, it should have used Facebook, the medium he was accused of playing the DRUMS on.

A new media big cat (not “fat cat”) pointed out (his comments slighly edited)

MIW cannot stoop to the same level as the others by responding on fb. It’s typical for anyone to bring the battle to their own familiar turf or battleground. u dun fight in “enemy” territory which limits yr own exposure and not forgetting that the “enemy” territory r flanked by “enemy’s” supporters and so u won’t be able to have the last say.

He quoted Sun Tzu’s “The art of War”, a book that the Chinese generals still swear by and quote. I will not be surprised if the PAP too refers to Sun Tzu when in doubt (PM was from Catholic High and the book is a classic alongside the Analects and the Tao). I too used to be a fan of Sun Tzu (How to win without fighting sounds pretty attractive) until an ang moh by the name of Edward Luttwak (he would have been a strategist during the period of the Three Kingdoms or the Warring States) wrote recently a book on Chinese strategy, and pointed out waz wrong with Sun Tzu’s precepts.

Coming in for criticism by name is Sun Tzu, whose writings of 2,500 years ago, including “The Art of War“, are the main source of what Mr Luttwak calls “the flawed principles of ancient unwisdom”. He grants that the cunning statecraft, stratagems for deception and diplomatic finesse advocated by Sun Tzu may have worked when used by one warring Chinese state against another. But he argues that these doctrines have served China poorly in fending off other adversaries.

With a quick pass through the history of China’s engagement with Jurchens, Khitans, Mongols, Manchus and other Asiatic nomads, he notes that China has been ruled by Hans, its ethnic majority, for only about a third of the past millennium. “While Han generals in charge of large armies were busy quoting Sun Tzu to each other, relatively small numbers of mounted warriors schooled in the rudely effective strategy and tactics of the steppe outmanoeuvred and defeated their forces,” he writes.

The bit about being thrashed regularly by the nomads is a fact, not a Hard Truth.

So if the PAP continues to ignore new media because it is unfamiliar terrain that Sun Tzu says one shld not fight on, it will continue making unnecessary, avoidable PR fiascoes. But maybe it’s beginning to plan abandoning this Sun Tzu precept by recceing the new media terrain. The people behind the Breakfast Network (highly commended by me) and Independent (it sucks), are retired Imperial Stormtroop generals from the Keyboard corps. They could be juz like the German generals who turned on Hitler when Germany was losing, or be like Benedict Arnold (an American rebel hero who offered to surrender a fortress to the British). Or they could be what Sun Tzu recommends using. Only time will tell.

Onto serious matters. The PAP’s brand and message need to be recast for the age of social media (and. new media) in general) and the PM needs to show boldness and political artistry in grabbing his (and that of the PAP’s) share of attention. He can’t rely on the traditional media to help him grab attention. For starters, traditional media is no longer trusted here, especially  by the young. Then, too, the traditional media’s market share has diminished. And then there are all the competing celebrities on social media like all those cats’ pixs. And then there is vigilantism of websites like Stomp which have large audiences.

The PM has plenty of competition, be it in the mainstream media or new media.

And besides his style sucks in PR terms. As a double first in Maths from Cambridge, he is familiar with the scientific method: specificity, objectivity, and accountability. These are elements lacking in politics, anywhere in the world, let alone in S’pore, a de-facto one party state. They are lacking because politicians don’t need these skills to win elections. But Angela Merkel has shown that one can have the “scientific method” and be personally popular. And are we not the Prussians of the East? (The Prussians were the Germans’ Germans. Now most of what is now Prussia is in Poland.)

And as I will show on Wednesday, he has problems with the substance of hie messages too.

All in all, the PM and the PAP have a long way to go in the use of new media even with the help of BN and the Independent. Us, injuns and outlaws rule the comboy towns and the territory outside the MSM, govt forts.

Finally on a totally different topic, here’s sumething SunT didn’t tell us about the Finnish education system: Angry Birds creator Rovio has brought Angry Birds Playground, a schools initiative devised with the University of Helsinki in Finland, into the kindergarten classroom of children, aimed at six-year-olds.

With the initiative already in use in Finland, Rovio has now entered into an agreement with schools in China.

“With small children, the Finnish approach to education is very much play-orientated,” says Sanna Lukander, vice president of book publishing at Rovio Entertainment.

“These characters and their world seemed to inspire children. You can’t not think about how you might motivate children to do more than play.”

Games have a larger effect on learning than traditional materials”

Prof Constance Steinkuehler Games scholar

BTW, didn’t read the SunT stuff. Friend who read it told me that it didn’t talk about games. I had earlier sent him the above link given his interest in the Finnish way.

Freight Links loaned $45m to CHC months after issuing bonds

In Corporate governance, Humour on 29/09/2013 at 10:28 am

A sharp-eyed TRE reader wrote to TRE as follows

Straits Times article dated 27 Sep reported on a $45 million new loan taken out by City Harvest Church (CHC).  The loan was not taken from any financial institution but a logistics company listed on the Singapore Exchange called Freight Links Express Holdings (FLEH).

FLEH’s core business is in freight forwarding.  To offer a loan of this size suggests its core business may have changed.  Have shareholders been notified?  At 8 per cent per annum, the interest charged by FLEH is also quite high.  But I guess CHC is desperate and will grab anything that comes along because no financial institution will offer a religious organisation a $45 million loan to purchase properties based on expected future ‘earnings’ from worshippers.
What is interesting is that FLEH had managed to raise $100 million in a Fixed Rate Note issue bearing an interest rate of 4. 6 per cent  just 4 months ago. http://www.freightlinks.net/MediaRelease/Press54.pdf  These IOUs are normally used for general corporate purposes and financing investments related to its core business, certainly not for loans. 
Business wise, it certainly does make sense to be earning 8 per cent while paying only 4.6 per cent without taking any risk.
However, this will set a precedent for every other listed companies on the exchange to stray from their core business.  Should this be allowed by the Singapore Exchange?
 
Phillip Ang
Surprising that our journalists from our “constructive”, nation-building media did not raise this corporate governance issue. Waiting for govt media briefing or telephone call to tell them what to say?
While I’m sure the transaction is perfectly legal, there is the governance issue of whether a logistics provider should become a lender to a church, albeit for a sum which is “peanuts” in the context of its financials. And there is the issue of the bond issue: normally used for general corporate purposes and financing investments related to its core business, certainly not for loans.
Restores my faith in the quality of people who read and post on TRE. Glad to see that not all readers and posters are “PAP are bastards” ranters. Maybe, they moved on to TOC or TRS?

Where use of ISA-type law will be met by silence from the usual human rights kay pohs

In Footie on 28/09/2013 at 1:59 pm

Update on 22 23 October 2013: Minister explains use of Criminal Law Temporary Provision Act (http://au.sports.yahoo.com/football/news/article/-/19491410/football-match-fixing-witnesses-fear-reprisals/).

(Correction: My friends tell me that the ISA will not be used: It will be the Criminal Law Temporary Provision Act. This too allows dention without trial. Used for drug cases too. Sorry, never was gd at criminal law)

The coming deafening silence of the usual human rights kay pohs will tell us a lot of their prejudices: they are supportive of FT drug mules, and middle class anti-PAP activists. But not working class criminal suspects (no-one is complaining that Vui Kong’s alleged drug lord is held under ISA CLTPA) or those whom the govt alleges are Islamic radicals. Touch a FT or a middle class anti-PAP activist, and the screams will be deafening, even if it’s juz a policeman paying a home visit.

Dan Tan’s home, even his car (a BMW 735) were well known to the authorities, but until they had evidence that a crime had been committed on Singaporean soil the police were powerless to act.

In the wake of the Italian reports, the Singaporeans made requests to police forces in Italy, Hungary, Germany and Finland to share what evidence they had. But cross border co-operation between prosecutors proved painfully slow.

It took months and in some cases more than a year for documents to be shared while approaches to speak to key witnesses have still, in some cases, gone unanswered.

All that time Singapore’s detractors sharpened their knives. The apparent inaction was criticised, with some even suggesting a high-level conspiracy to protect the alleged master match-fixer living in their midst.

Those with knowledge of the investigation say the truth is more mundane. It has simply proved very difficult to find those brave enough to testify against Dan Tan and his powerful syndicate.

The defecting members of the syndicate are too scared to testify in person so the police are hoping to use draconian security laws from the 1950s to keep the suspects in custody.

In the next few weeks all the evidence that has been gathered against the syndicate will be presented behind closed doors to the Ministry of Home Affairs and then an advisory council, before a final decision is made by the president.

If all agree that the suspects should remain under “preventive detention”, then Dan Tan and his associates could be held for years without ever having the evidence tested in a court of law.

Under huge pressure to act, the Singaporeans say they’ve now “cut the head off the snake”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24238681

Another case of ang moh tua kee. Can our Home Team be blamed when our human rights activists adopt the prejudices of their ang how mentors?

Phew, Asean can relax a little, but not too much

In Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 28/09/2013 at 6:59 am

The Fed’s decision to delay unwinding its $85-billion-a-month money-printing programme eases the pressure on the two Asian countries with the biggest dollar addiction – India and Indonesia – to cure their habit by squeezing domestic demand. Investors reacted accordingly: the Indonesian Rupiah jumped 1.9 percent against the dollar on the morning of Sept. 19, while Jakarta stocks rose 5 percent.

… Asian countries cannot afford to relax. From just before the onset of the global financial crisis, private sector debt has swelled by 73 percentage points of GDP in Hong Kong and 45 percentage points in Singapore. While these small, open economies can arguably live with large swings in capital flows, the credit surge in Malaysia and Thailand is more worrying. The longer the global liquidity glut lasts, the more painful the hangover will be.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/09/19/fed-brings-asia-short-term-relief-long-term-risks/

Burma: Lady’s still sceptical

how sceptical she was about the reform process in Myanmar …

Yet, she pointed out, Myanmar is still not a democracy, and neither at peace, nor under the “rule of law”. She and her party are campaigning to change a constitution which, besides debarring her from the presidency she hopes to assume in 2015, guarantees the army a blocking minority in parliament. She said many members of the government are betting that economic success will enable them to hold back democracy. “How quickly and reliably can mindsets change?” she asked, recalling that Myanmar has had half a century of military dictatorship and just three of tentative reform.

And although ceasefires have been signed in most of the score of ethnic conflicts that have simmered since independence in 1948, a comprehensive peace deal remains a distant dream. She identified this—“national reconciliation”—as the biggest task facing Myanmar.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-singapore

UOB Vietnam has launched a unit to advise Vietnamese businesses expanding into Asia.

“Vietnam has prospered from steady economic growth over the last decade and we have seen many of our customers develop from small businesses to companies that are ready to spread their wings to the rest of Asia,” said Thng Tien Tat, executive director of UOB Vietnam.

From the first half of last year to the same period this year, UOB’s business flows between Vietnam and Asia increased 20 per cent. Trade between Vietnam and Asia grew 46.7 per cent to US$150.4 billion from 2010 to 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The new FDI Advisory Unit will give UOB customers expanding in and out of Vietnam access to the bank’s full suite of corporate and personal banking products. BT

Floodwater encircled an industrial estate to the north-east of Bangkok yesterday, adding to fears that Thailand could see a repeat of the devastation caused by floods in 2011, but the estate’s director said the water will not enter the complex.

The 2011 floods killed more than 800 people around the country and caused major disruption to industry, cutting economic growth that year to just 0.1 per cent.

Since Thailand is a big supplier of electronic parts, hard disk drives and car parts, international supply lines were disrupted, too.

The government has insisted there will be no repetition, partly because rain has been less heavy this time but also because dams are nowhere near as full as they were then. BT

A Thai transgender student who protested against having to wear a male uniform could end up in court, it’s reported. BBC report

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