Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

Is China’s media less constructive, & nation-building than ours?

In Media on 28/02/2013 at 6:56 am

With SPH (see today’s ST) and MediaCorp working real hard to convince us that declining population growth is death*, I tot I’d show how unconstructive the Chinese state-owned media can be.

Xinhua could, in this rare instance, be a little more generous to its government.

And this. Somehow I can’t help thinking that SPH and MediaCorp will not allow such stuff to be seen here: could affect NatCon?

Even the state broadcaster, CCTV, has offered a rare hint that the party’s efforts to portray a country of growing happiness are being greeted by some with cynicism. Beginning in late September it broadcast a series of programmes called “Reaching the grass-roots: people’s voices from within”. Ministry of Tofu, a blog about Chinese society, reported that producers of the series must have been somewhat disappointed if they expected their interviewees, who were asked how happy they were, to gush with satisfaction. Many dodged the question and some gave answers that were nonsensical or funny.

On its website, the government news agency, Xinhua, offered a similar description of the responses given to the CCTV cameras (here, in Chinese). China’s ever-boisterous users of Twitter-like services gleefully took to one anecdote in particular, about a migrant worker in the northern province of Shanxi. The words “are you happy” in Chinese happening to sound identical to “are you surnamed Fu”, the worker replied to the question by answering, “My surname is Zeng”.  CCTV’s willingness to air this clip was an unusual deviation from its propaganda-driven norm. Xinhua blamed the responses of Mr Zeng and others on “the pressures of life” in a fast-changing China.

But let’s not only bitch about our 30-pieces-of silver (?) journalists and editors. Would S’poreans interviewed have given the kind of answers that the Cina public gave? Somehow I suspect not.

The media, like the govt, reflects the society, how imperfectly. S’poreans have to accept the responsibility for the media and govt that we have.

*Actually all they need to do is to point point that the conventional wisdom in macroeconomics is that declining TFRs, aging populations and  declining populations are bad. And the immigration ias good economics. But then that would remind S’poreans that LKY, Dr Goh etc defied the then conventional wisdom. Then the prevailing view was that MNC investment was another form of colonialism. They were right and the “wisdom” was wrong. While dad and friends defied the ang moh “tua kee” attitude, son and friends (like Tharman) embrace ang moh conventional thinking.


S’pore can learn from BMW

In Economy, Political economy on 28/02/2013 at 6:28 am

And Western countries on how to create the conditions to optimise the working environment for an older work force.

Budget debate: No more Wayang pls WP

In Political governance, Uncategorized on 27/02/2013 at 6:06 am

(Esp since govt stops Wayang on COEs and properties)

I was surprised to learn from DPM Teo last yr, that the WP MPs voted in favour of the 2012 Budget. Given the passion that they spoke against things they didn’t like about the 2012 Budget, I had tot that they would abstain. Voting against the Budget would be expecting too much of a party that sees itself as a “co-driver” with the possibility of sharing the driving one day (Dream on Baiyee).

Still I tot that abstaining would be a principled stand (Not opposing for the sake of opposing), that reflects the realities: there are gd bits, and any way PAP will win the vote. But support the Budget was two-faced by any standard, especially given that there were strong speeches against bits of the Budget. (And talking of two-faced, Baiyee and Auntie voted for the govt’s bill changing the law on mandatory capital punishment, after waxing impassionately against it).

So come the time, I expect the WP to be principled: either abstain or vote against the govt’s Budget. I’m of course assuming that there are things in the Budget that the WP strongly disagrees with. If the WP has only minor quibbles, and supports the Budget, in general, I expect it to say so openly, loudly, and to vote for the Budget. Don’t attack it, and then support it. In short, no more Wayang please.

The WP MPs should show us that they got balls they can walk the talk, not talk cock sing song. For the latter, we got PAP MPs like Inderjit Singh. The voters of Punggol East and Aljunied did not vote for WP MPs, only to discover that they voted for PAP clones who dress in light blue.

Penultimately, PritamS had a great suggestion for the govt that he should suggest to WP Low. Practice what you preach: set an example.

“Member of Parliament (MP) Pritam Singh has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to better highlight Singapore’s stand on controversial issues.
He said this was not only to solicit public feedback, but also to remove the chance for misunderstandings among the public to occur on such matters.” CNA on 4 February 2013.

The WP should better highlight WP’s stand (and voting record in Parliament where applicable) on controversial or complicated issues to remove the chance for misunderstandings among the public to occur on such matters.

Finally, nice to see that the govt has stopped its wayanging on inflation caused by COEs and property rentals (Remember Tharman’s and Hng Kiang’s,”Inflation? What inflation? Don’t rent, no new car, no inflation leh.”) Why did it  take the govt so long to introduce these measures I also like the new car financing measures. Shumething should be done similarly on residential property financing, other than first homes. SLimit the loans to 10 years, given that interest rates are low.

Update: WP groupie JG (see comments) has a gd point on voting records. This is something that the WP should explain to S’poreans as per Baiyee’s suggestion.


Why Muddy Waters’ attack on Olam failed

In Financial competency on 26/02/2013 at 10:41 am

Olam is not listed in US and subject to SEC scrutiny.

“Muddy Waters Secret China Weapon Is on SEC Website”

The success of Muddy waters in destroying Sino-Forest (also not listed in US) made it guilty of hubris?

Xmen and others Temasek-haters: Ang moh not always tua kee if they bet, bitch against Temasek. They may juz be plain wrong, like Muddy Waters and Balding.

What Raffles could have taught the PAP

In Political governance on 25/02/2013 at 5:28 am

Executive summary: Gd intentions are not enough; move on fast, and mud sticks: in short, life can be most unfair.

Uncle Leong’s latest piece on AIM(, reminded me that I had planned to write about what Raffles could have taught the PAP in its handling of AIM’s contract with PAP town councils. But the Punggol East by-elections and the Population White Paper crowded out the piece. So it got KIVed and then forgotten until Uncle Leong’s piece reminded me of it.)

Over the December hols, I read a very interesting book, “Raffles and the British Invasion of Java”( for more details). As I was finishing the book, the AIM story was developing fast and furious. What struck me was that Raffles got himself into a bit of bother over a similar incident.

But before I go into the details, let me give some background.

When Raffles died, his crowning achievement in the view of his contemporaries was not the founding of S’pore (it was still a work in progress: it was loss making) but his lieutenant-governorship of Java from 1811- 1816. Westminster Abbey has a memorial statue to him erected a few years after his death. The inscription reads: “To the memory of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles … Lieut. Governor of Java … he raised Java to happiness and prosperity unknown under former rulers”. (While “first President of the Zoological Society of London” was the other achievement inscribed on the memorial, S’pore was not mentioned.)

His career went downhill after Java. It was so bad that after his resignation in 1823 on grounds of ill-health, he was investigated for various financial irregularities. He was cleared but to show his employer’s displeasure at his conduct, he was sent a bill in 1826 for £20,000 (now around £1m). He died shortly afterwards.

As to his rule of Java, Dutch sources and historians disagree with the view of British historians and biographers that he brought prosperity to Java. So does the author of the book I read. To them, he failed to improve the lives of the Javanese.

Now to what the PAP and in particular Dr Teo Ho Pin  could have learned from Raffles.

He had told his employer, the East India Company, that Java would be profitable for the shareholders.

But he was wrong. To try to cover part of the cost of invading and governing Java, he sold some land by way of auction. But he was a member of the consortium that won the auction. Knowledge of his participation became public (to be fair to him, he never hid his participation), people complained publicly, and he had to sell his share in the consortium, at cost, to try to avoid the issue from escalating.

He justified his action by saying he did it to instill confidence: that the fact that he was willing to invest should have encouraged other bidders. His boss, who liked him (and who had wanted to conquer Java from the Dutch irrespective of the cost) told him that he did not doubt Raffles’ good intentions, but it was bad judgment to be a member of the consortium.

Raffles was impeached although the judge dropped the charge after investigating the matter. But the incident dogged him in later life, when the East India Company investigated his financial affairs after his retirement: the issue was raked over again. Actually, the directors didn’t like him because he was into empire-building (literally), when all they wanted were profits. Raffles never ever made money for the East India Company. He was a true-blue predecessor of our SAF scholars, he spent money other people’s money, never made it. For the record, the SAF chief, scholar, Temask MD, now CEO of NOL, has reported yet another loss. And Desmond Quek, another scholar and SAF chief, has admitted that SMRT’s costs can only go up.

To be fair, even Raffles’ many enemies and critics conceded that unlike many other East India Company officials, he wasn’t making money on the side, and that unlike many other officials, he retired poor. Still the Java land sale is a blot on his reputation and judgment.

Will the AIM incident result in a similar permanent blemish on the PAP’s “whiter than white” uniform? In the case of Raffles, mud from the land sale stuck, even though he was cleared of financial impropriety.

And is the PAPpies call for a tender, their way of trying deescalate the issue: if someone else does the job, then AIM is history and we will be asked to “move on”.

Of course if AIM takes part in the tender and wins (remember it helped draw up the tender specifications, all hell will break lose. Knowing the competency of the PAPpies today (think Kate Spade Tin, Hri Kumar, Ms Fool, Dr Teo, Dr Lim, GCT, Mah Bow Tan, Raymond Lim and Wong Can’t Sing), no prizes for predicting that AIM will win the tender.

And to think that the PAP was known for its competency, while the WP was known to be the home of bicycle thieves, loonies and economic illiterates. Those were the days, my friends; when we were young.

If VivianB were still welfare minister

In Humour on 24/02/2013 at 6:13 am

(And Charles Chong his deputy)

They would import food tainted in Europe with horsemeat and distribute it to the poor: Germany’s development minister has suggested food tainted with horsemeat should be distributed to the poor.

Whatever I may say about Kee Chui Chan, he seems to have his heart in the right place, unlike rich ACS kid VivianB. RI for ever!

Update after posting

Related posts

Asean round-up

In Casinos, Corporate governance, Indonesia on 23/02/2013 at 6:49 am

The Philippine unit of Macau casino company Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd  said on Tuesday it plans to sell up to 1 billion shares as it prepares to develop a $1 billion casino-resort project with local partner Belle Corp.

Melco, run by Australian billionaire James Packer and the son of Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, bought a 93% in Manchester, a formerly illiquid stock with investments in pharmaceutical and real estate businesses. Melco paid Manchester shareholders 1.3 billion pesos for the backdoor listing.

Melco and Belle, controlled by the Philippines’ richest man, Henry Sy, formalized their partnership in October.

Belle plans to build an integrated entertainment resort complex called Belle Grande Manila Bay, which features a 30,000-square-metre casino in a sprawling gaming complex being developed near Manila Bay. Melco will operate the casino.

There are three other groups with casino licences in the Philippines.

Financier Nathaniel Rothschild has lost his bid to oust the current board of coal mining giant Bumi, the company he helped to found.

Chairman Samin Tan survived a vote to remove him but informed the board he was stepping down.

Mr Rothschild had wanted to rejoin the company and expel 12 of the 14 board members, including the chief executive and chairman.Allegations of financial irregularities at Bumi’s key Indonesian operating subsidiary, PT Bumi Resources – in which it owns 29% alongside the Bakrie family – first emerged in September 2012 , after Mr Rothschild received information from a whistleblower.

Thailand’s economic growth exceeded expectations in the last three months of 2012 as it continued to recover from the previous year’s devastating floods.

Gross domestic product surged 18.9% in the October-December period, from a year earlier. Most analysts had forecast a figure close to 15%.

Compared with the previous quarter, the economy grew by 3.6%. But inflation is a concern.

Population White Paper: PAP’s suicide note?

In Political governance on 22/02/2013 at 7:18 am

“The longest suicide note in history” was a phrase used by British Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman to describe his party’s 1983 election manifesto. .

The manifesto, pressing all the right buttons for Labour activists, but almost no-one else in the UK, called for unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the European Economic Community, abolition of the House of Lords, and the re-nationalisation of recently privatised industries like British Telecom, British Aerospace, and the British Shipbuilding Corporation.

Well, in two elections in 2011, S’poreans expressed their anger at the “FTs are betterest policy” that even the govt has admitted led to strained public transport infrastructure, and which many S’poreans blame for high property prices and inflation, overcrowding, alienation and social disorder.

Well methinks the Population White Paper could become the new “longest suicide note in history” especially if ESM Goh Chok Tong’s sneers reflect the attitude of the PAP towards S’poreans concerns about an overcrowded S’pore swarming with FTs.. With PM, DPM Teo and the defence and the foreign minister (only Tharman is AWOL among the PM’s most trusted ministers) trying to assure us that the govt was listening to our unhappiness, ESM said, “But cannot say that I think much of speakers’ rhetoric. Too political, too one-sided, appealing to emotions only and not shedding light on important issues.”

If PM doesn’t give ESM a tight slap soon, PM’s and the govt’s cred will take another beating. Ministers must know that they have to listen more closely to us, as they have promised to do. If ESM gets away with his comments, what’s the worth the ministers’ promises?

Another reason why the PWP could be the new “longest suicide note in history” is because immigration is one of those issues that has a way of turning very toxic very quickly, as politicians from Britain and France to Malaysia and China can easily confirm.

The funny thing is that the PAP govt. could have avoided the problem by not laying its “We love FTs” cards so brazenly and openly. The White Paper could have focused just on the need to breed more, and how to do it. The govt had already promised to a sceptical public that it would reduce the “FTs by the truckload” policy. It had already started addressing the infrastructure issues by throwing our money on public transport, and housing.

It could have juz kicked the issue of having a lot more people here by 2030 into the “long grass” as the expression goes. Or at least until after the next GE. Yet as Uncle Leong pointed out the annual projections for PRs and new citizens, exceed 2011 numbers.

The PM should have rebuilt the trust that the PAP govt once had by focusing on improving our quality of life, using our money.

Instead, he chose to annoy me, and anger many of my fellow S’poreans. Has the PAP lost the will to live? Like the UK Labour Party in 1983? Or is it juz hubris at work?

Finally a foreign journalist’s take on the protest


*Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer compared the 2012 Republican House Budget to the above manifesto (in terms of comparable unpopularity) and then remarked about the House Budget, “At 37 footnotes, it might be the most annotated suicide note in history.” — Wikipedia.

PAP must read these

In Financial competency, Humour on 21/02/2013 at 2:33 pm

For one LKY

One must always be wary of spurious correlation!

For PM, cabinet ministers and their civil service minions

“As nations become wealthier, it is harder for them to sustain high rates of growth. That doesn’t mean that the United States is in decline, or even stagnating. When a nation is as rich as ours, it can realize larger absolute gains than it did in the past and larger gains than other nations even if it has lower growth rates. That’s because a growth rate of, say, 2.5 percent represents a larger increase in absolute wealth the richer an economy becomes. In 1900, a 2.5 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita would have translated into about $150 in today’s dollars for every man, woman, and child in the United States. In 2010, it would have been roughly $1,200, reflecting the fact that in the aggregate, we are about eight times wealthier than we were 110 years ago.3 By focusing too much on growth rates and too little on absolute increases in wealth, we have failed to appreciate the magnitude of economic gains in recent decades.”

No such thing as a “safe” investment

In Financial competency on 21/02/2013 at 6:10 am

Savers looking for ways to earn the kind of income once reliably available from traditional investments, will end up buying “unsafe” products.

Let’s hope the authorities are more vigilant now that the FT that was responsible for products like “minibonds” has moved on. What annoys me is that while MAS found that banks like DBS had failed to appreciate the risks to customers, it only slapped them lightly. In the UK, heavy fines are levied and banks are expected to reimburse customers, even sophisticated ones

.”UBS’s conduct fell far short of what its customers deserved”.

FOR SAVERS, RISKY INVESTMENTS TURN SOUR Americans whose stock portfolios lost money in the financial crisis have turned to speculative investments promoted by aggressive financial advisers – leading to steep losses and accusations of fraud. “Those alternative investments have now had time to go sour in big numbers, state and federal securities regulators say, and are making up a majority of complaints and prosecutions,” The New York Times’s Nathaniel Popper reports. “Last Wednesday, Mr. Galvin’s office ordered one of the nation’s largest brokerage firms, LPL Financial, to pay $2.5 million for improperly selling the real estate bundles, known as nontraded REITs, or real estate investment trusts, to hundreds of state residents from 2006 to 2009, in some cases overloading clients’ accounts with them.”

Brokers promoting bad investments to unsophisticated investors is nothing new. But while the easy prey used to be people looking to get rich quick, the pool has widened to include savers looking for ways to earn the kind of income once reliably available from traditional investments. Regulators are warning investors that the dangers are unlikely to recede, given the Federal Reserve’s pledge to keep interest rates near zero and the push among financial firms to earn more revenue from so-called alternative investments marketed to retail investors.”

“HK finds room for 7.2 million people”

In Hong Kong, Political governance on 20/02/2013 at 5:40 am

That was the headline of a SunT article in the same issue that downplayed the protest at Hong Lim Green, a downplaying that not only got me annoyed but upset a retired senior ink-wielding Imperial Storm Trooper

One can only assume that as the same issue carried a front page story on why according to PM, S’pore is a great place to breed, that the story filed from HK was meant to reinforce the view that the 6.9m number that had gotten 5,000 S’poreans to protest was no big deal: their reactions were “emotional” , “unbalanced” or “not shedding light on important issues”*.

Unfortunately for ST, the article contained a table scan0001  comparing the land use in HK and S’pore. Two comparative figures stand out

— Land Use

HK        S.pore

1108       710 sq km

— Country parks and nature reserves

HK         S’pore

738*           57 sq km**

*66.6% of Land Use


Need I say more on why S’poreans are upset? Especially as the 8% grren space includes the Central Catchment area which will be ripped apart to accommodate the planned projected FT expansion

ST has rightly been given a lot of stick for its coverage of the 6.9m debate. But two cheers to it for the land usage comparison table which sabos the PM’s and his govt’s assertion that 6.9m people doesn’t mean living in a slum. Despite all the extra land and green spaces, even SunT’s HK eporter admits that life isn’t that comfy.

And “Yes’ fair-minded readers, and PAPpies can bitch that I used the comparison stats unfairly, but hey the PAP govt** and allies in the media and the think-tanks (ISEAS is an honourable exception), ain’t playing fair in trying to persuade us that living like battery-hens is high quality living.

*Er how can the PM, defence minister etc say that they are listening and have learnt from when one ESM Goh Chok Tong makes these remarks? PM should give him a tight slap to show that the and his govt are sincere in caring for S’poreans, unlike GCT. Remember during his premiership, FTs were allowed to sneak in under the radar. And our fears were dismissed.

***Donald Low, a senior fellow at the LKY School of Public Policy and a former senior civil servant, has criticised the white paper, “wasn’t even a References section to show what research the writers of the paper had done, what social science theories they relied on, what competing theories/frameworks they looked at … There was also a surprising lack of rigorous comparison with other countries that have gone through, or are going through, a similar demographic transition.”

Indonesia: Opportunities always there in infrastructure

In Indonesia on 19/02/2013 at 5:55 am

Indonesia is the single most preferred destination for Singapore-based companies planning to venture overseas in the next six months, according to the BT-UniSIM Business Climate Survey. Indonesia overtook China – the destination of choice for the past two years – which slipped to second place while Malaysia rounded off the top three.

As flooding in Jakarta highlighted the dismal state of Indonesia’s infrastructure, a potential US$200 billion pipeline of power plants, water systems and toll roads presents “huge opportunities” for the region’s banks, engineering companies and law firms, says the country’s agencies charged with reaching out to private investors that can help deliver projects.

“The opportunity is very big,” said Emma Sri Martini, president director of state-owned PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (SMI), which was set up in 2009 to plan and help finance projects with public money and find private sector backers.

Private investment will play an important role in building the transport, electricity and other services the country will need to maintain economic growth, expected to accelerate to 6.3 per cent in 2013, the World Bank said in December. Spending on fuel subsidies – a popular vote winner that cost about US$20 billion in 2011 – rivals amounts earmarked for infrastructure this year.

PM should try changing the way he makes decisions and communicates

In Political governance on 18/02/2013 at 5:43 am

After listening to PM’s speech on the population White Paper, I wandered if one of PM’s problems bis the deliberate, methodical way he makes decisions and communicates with ordinary S’poreans? Even his “choking” had me wondering how he rehearsed it.

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes the two different ways the brain forms thoughts.

— fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypical, subconscious; or

— slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious.

No prizes guessing which way the PM and the PAPpies think and communicate.

The Economics Nobel Prize winner argues it would be a mistake to assume that logical thought somehow trumps automatic reaction. The former is often highly sensitive to subtle cues, the source of the “fight or flight” response that kept our ancestors from being eaten by other predators.

To gild the lily, in his book Blink,  Malcolm Gladwell argues that we live in a society dedicated to the idea that we should spend as much time as possible in deliberation, “As children, this lesson is drummed into us again and again: haste makes waste, look before you leap, stop and think. But I don’t think this is true.”

Gladwell argues that there are lots of situations when instant judgments are better than considered though,  “I think its time we paid more attention to those fleeting moments”, suggesting a general policy of intuition would result in a happier world.

In PM’s case maybe a happier PAP, and S’poreans. And a relieved Low. He needn’t worry about governing a city.

And it isn’t as though his use of slow, logical thinking has helped PM think thru how to solve the problems we face*. Based on the questions he is asking himself and us, his slow, logical thinking results in a parroting of daddy’s Hard Truths.

Penultimately, three great responses from TRE readers to the above link which TRE republished:

— PM’s questions remind me of an incident onboard a flight to America some time ago. The flight attendant in response to a passenger’s question, said in a jest “Yes, there is a choice for your meal – Eat or Don’t eat”.

Needless to say, the passenger had to eat whatever was left, because he was not in the first class cabin.

— Mr PM.

If that is the case, can I just ask the following:

1. Are you going to control the costs of housing or do you want us to vote in the Opposition?

2. Are you going to address the rising transport costs or you want us to vote in the Opposition?

3. Will you be completely transparent about the Aim/Town Councils issue, or you want us to vote in the Opposition?

4. Are you going to relax the foreign worker’s policy according to each industry’s need or you want us to vote in the Opposition?

I am asking you these questions in the same style you are using. Nothing personal. It’s just Hard Truths.

— The question I want to ask everyone is, “Do you want a caring Government or do you want PAP?”.

I love the last one. After all, VivianB is still in the cabinet.

Finally, here’s a great quote from a reader of the Economist on how the Swedes made the decisions that resulted in its :“If there is a secret to the Swedish model it is that we try out one stupidity after another. Occasionally we stumble on a useful idea and keep it as part of our society…you could call this the smorgasbord mentality…I guess the good currently outweighs the bad.”
-RS_3 on “The next supermodel”, February 4th 2013


*Goh Chok Tong, he  and their ministers are largely to blame for the overcrowding, and infrastructure failings caused by their “FTs First” policy.

Top story here here? ST & BBC

In Media on 17/02/2013 at 7:00 am

BBC Online carried a headline on its global news Home Page linking to a story  on the crowd protesting about Population White Paper

ST carried the story on page 4. The front page carried  a story on a standard, nothing new,  speech by PM. S’pore the new North Korea?


Asean-round up

In Malaysia on 16/02/2013 at 7:11 am

In Thailand – up 7.5% since the New Year – the market has been helped by a raft of initial public offerings and a boom in cross-border takeovers by Thai companies.

But the Stock Exchange of Thailand is also becoming a hub, connecting its securities trading with that of Malaysia and Singapore, and helping Laos develop its fledgling equity and bond market.

It has also signed a memorandum of understanding to help Burma do the same. FYI, the Laos market, tiny and illiquid, is up 17% in the last five weeks.

The Philippines has for decades resolutely defied the expectations that have been heaped upon it since the end of the Marcos era, and underperformed with monotonous regularity.

However, the fundamentals do look convincing now: low inflation of about 3-3.5%, growth estimated at above 6% through to 2016, strong consumption, election spending and rising foreign investor interest.

The economist Nouriel Roubini, who predicted the 2008 financial crisis (and got the recovery dead wrong by continuing to maintain a determinedly gloomy attitude to the world economy ever since), had surprising comments for the Philippines earlier this month, predicting 7% growth and praising its economic success based on fiscal and governance reforms.

He even predicted the rating agencies would grant it an investment grade rating – a stamp of approval for foreign investors. At present, the country’s rating is a notch below investment grade.

By contrast the economy in Vietnam is now in the doldrums and experts pointing to decades of economic mismanagement as the cause. Many Vietnamese are now saying their trust in the government has gone. Sounds familiar?

Another exciting year is in store for initial public offerings (IPOs) in Malaysia. A recent report by HwangDBS Vickers Research identified close to 30 companies that may be floated on the Malaysian bourse this year.

Among the biggest IPOs set for this year are Malakoff Corp Bhd, Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd, the power assets of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), AirAsia X and possibly Westports Malaysia.

Corporate bonds issuance hit nearly RM124 billion (S$49.7 billion). A record amount of nearly RM146 billion was raised through corporate bonds and IPOs, an 89% jump over the RM77.2 billion raised in 2011, going by capital market statistics released by the Securities Commission.

The corporate bond market raised 73% more than the RM71.2 billion raised in 2011; it was the highest amount raised to date, with sukuk issuances amounting to RM97.5 billion or 79% of total bond issuances.

The increase in government-guaranteed assurances boosted growth in private debt securities (PDS) and 2013 issuances are expected to be even higher.

Population White Paper: 2030 will resemble 1959?

In Political governance on 15/02/2013 at 5:41 am

Why I see the White Paper no ak

A Citigroup report noted that the White Paper projects the dilution of Singapore-born citizens from 62% of the population to just 55% in 2030 based on number of new FT citizens that the govt plans to bring in projects to come in naturally: 15,000 – 25,000 annually.

In 1959, according to Singapore Correspondent. Political Dispatches from Singapore (1958-1962) only 270,00 out of the 600,000 voters were born here i.e. there only 45% of the voters were born here. The rest were the FT “new” citizens of the day.

Interestingly the author reported that when one LKY revealed the above fact in 1959, LKY also said,”we must go about our task (of building up a nation) with urgency … of integrating our people now and quickly”.

Maybe he repented of nation-building? And his son and the PAP is carrying out a policy of “return to the future”?

This isn’t the only example of back-to-the-future thinking. The ST managing editor “orders” us to trust the govt, saying that because we trusted it in the past, we “must” (his word) trust the govt on the issue of population. Great rebuttal by TRE. My critique of the piece by Lex Luthor’s double.

Problem is the White Paper as first published contains a simple, careless and stupid mistake that allows reasonable people to doubt its professionalism*.


We apologise for the misrepresentation in the Population White Paper that nursing is a “low-skilled” job. We firmly believe and agree that nursing is a noble and caring profession that requires a high level of clinical skill, dedication and passion. The White Paper has been amended accordingly through a corrigendum issued by the Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Parliament today.

Pauline Tan (Dr) RN, FAAN, Chief Nursing Officer, 8 Feb 2013

I was taught when I started work that a single careless mistake or typo in any document undermines the credibility of the document: if there was one mistake, what other mistakes were there, is a reasonable assumption the critical reader could make?

Then there was the issue of whether the author cared about the quality of the work done, if he didn’t bother to be careful. This was another reason not to trust it. (Yes I trained as a lawyer, and for my transgressions, worked in a PR firm for a year.)

Seems poetic justice and appropriate for the Population White Paper to contain such a howler that DPM Teo had publicly to correct the howler and PM to apologise for it. If they didn’t, they and their loved ones would be safer in using M’sian hospitals? Juz joking.

Because one can reasonably wonder if the assumptions in said paper were thought thru, or juz “cut and paste” from conventional wisdom macroeconomics. We know that macroeconomics conventional wisdom was found wanting in the recent financial crisis, so it is reasonable if standard macroeconomics assumptions on the importance of demographics on growth will be found wanting.

(And if four leading true-blue (they all did NS) S’porean economists are correct, the economic assumptions behind the White Paper are myths: BTW, all four are scholars, so all those TRE-reading scholar haters, “Sit down and shut up!”. Scholars are S’poreans too.)

What puzzles me is that  neither Mrs Chiam (she’s a British-trained nurse) the WP, nor NMPs, nor the “talk cock sing song” PAP MPs like Inderjit (see this earlier post)  who criticised the paper butwho  were whipped into voting for it, or who went AWOL on voting day) didn’t ask for this insult to nurses to be amended.

Now that would have hurt the White Paper’s and govt’s credibility more than their “sounding brass, or … tinkling cymbal”.

And before I forget, TOC has these two excellent pieces on more cock-ups in the WPW (“Yet, the misrepresentation is not limited to just footnote 12. Here is a selection of other misleading footnotes in the contentious White Paper.”) FTS coming than they did in the past? Are it’s a reduction?)

Unlike S’pore Auntie, TOC is using the online equivalents of botox and other rejuvenating aids to refresh itself. But then S’pore Auntie needs more than botox or surgery to become S’pore Gal once more. She needs a time machine. But that and the rejuvenation of TOC are two more tales for another day.

*Donald Low, a senior fellow at the LKY School of Public Policy and a former senior civil servant, has criticised the white paper, “wasn’t even a References section to show what research the writers of the paper had done, what social science theories they relied on, what competing theories/frameworks they looked at … There was also a surprising lack of rigorous comparison with other countries that have gone through, or are going through, a similar demographic transition.”

DBS: Why it needs to buy Temasek’s stake in Danamon

In Banks, Indonesia, Uncategorized on 14/02/2013 at 9:30 am

Indonesian lenders the most profitable among the 20 biggest economies in the world, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The average return on equity, a measure of how well shareholder money is reinvested, is 23 percent for the country’s five banks with a market value more than $5 billion … Returns in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, are driven by net interest margins, the difference between what banks charge for loans — an average of 12 percent, according to the central bank — and what they pay for deposits. The average margin for the country’s big banks is 7 percentage points, the highest of the 20 economies … Indonesia’s high net interest margins have prompted banks such as DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore, where the figure averages 2 percent, to look at acquisitions. DBS, Southeast Asia’s biggest lender, made a $6.8 billion bid in April for 99 percent of Bank Danamon and is awaiting regulatory clearance.

UOB and OCBC have an easier time because of their relatively large M’sian contributions to earnings. Malaysia is generous to its banks.

DBS’s core markets of S’pore and HK are very competitive and mature markets.

$100 chicken if food tracked house prices?

In Property on 13/02/2013 at 7:16 am

Reading the u/m, got me doing some very simplistic calculations on the back of an envelope, and using some very simplistic assumptions, it would be plausible and reasonable to argue that  a chicken here would cost at least $100 if its price kept pace with the rise of the cost of a three-room HDB flat since the early 1970s.Maybe Coyote Chee’s economists could do a study? No point asking s/o JBJ. He now trying to be half-past six lawyer like dad, wanting to argue in person that the govt breached the constitution in funding the IMF.

If the price of food had risen as quickly as the price of houses over the last 40 years, we would now be paying more than £50 for a single chicken, according to the housing charity Shelter.

The charity says that since the early 1970s, house prices have risen far faster than grocery bills.

In 1971 an average home in Britain cost less than £6,000.

Forty years on, it had shot up to £245,000. BBC article


ST editor calls leading economists and us daft

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 12/02/2013 at 6:06 am

According to ST editor Han Fook Kwang in his weekly SunT column (pg 37) “it isn’t possible for ordinary Singaporeans to absorb and fully understand all the arguments and implications. arguments and implications highlighted in the Population White Paper”. Hence our opposition. Hello Mr Han, so how come four leading S’porean economists, scholars all wrote this (I’m linking to this republishing ’cause of the comments section)

So these four are daft too?

He was riffing on what the PM said, “Govt could have presented Population White Paper better”. And going further anddaring to call us openly what PM didn’t dare?

So how come,

— the Chief Communications Officer of the govt, s/o the former disgraced president,

— an unemployed MP who was the head of the regional business of an int’l PR firm,

— the editorial teams at SPH and MediaCorp,

— CoC Yaacob and his team at the Ministry of Truth & Spin, and

— the numerous PR senior managers in the govt and its agencies,

didn’t advise the PM and DPM Teo to take account of our daftness when presenting the PWP?

They too out of touch with us daftees? Or they dafter than us? Or did PM and DPM Teo ignore their advice? Hence they more dafter than everyone else in S’pore.

The ST Managing Editor, as a member of the Dark Side, should be using his skills to prevent us from thinking? Not provoking us to think “unhealthy”, non-constructive tots: like there are daft Men In White on the Dark Side.

When ST headline is bullish, time to sell?

In Financial competency, Property, Reits on 11/02/2013 at 9:33 am

In SunT, the headline screamed,”Market risks ‘seem less threatening this year'”. Oh, dear. If ST reporters and editors are getting less cautious, isn’t this a contrarian sign. Maybe? But to be fair the forecast was made by a UOB Asset Management executive.

So far, as well documented here, I’ve been emphasising buying stocks with sustainable dividends or payouts, decent yields (slightly above our 5% inflation rate), with the possibility of capital appreciation. I’ve been long on smaller cap S-Reits that have tai-kors with money for several yrs. I’m not a buyer at these levels, but neither am I a seller. I’m a nervous holder. Until you cash out, the profits can evaporate. Taz why good, sustainable yields are important. But that means taking on more risk: Reits are not a play safe investment. Their gearing and the requirement to pay out 90% of their earnings, could result in investors coughing up in rights issue more than they got in payouts. Taz the reason for my nervousness.

Stocks on my watch list are SBS and SMRT. But they’ve been on my to buy watch list for three years already.




Restoring TFR should be a top priority: WP chief

In Humour on 09/02/2013 at 2:43 pm

Err so Auntie got her orders to get married and start breeding ASAP?

Co-driver must also help driver by setting example. All the cabinet members are married with kids. So Auntie should also follow.

And if she not getting married, what about breeding? Every little bit helps.

“Vision of the Singapore of the future is Punggol”

In Humour on 08/02/2013 at 7:24 am

Guess who said this? Not Ah Lian, Low or other people-in-blue trying hard to show us that they are not men-in-white clones, or PAP Lite despite Low’s comments on Opposition unity and forming a non-PAP govt. (I must say, I’m impress by their rhetoric on the population White Paper. Bet you they are not getting New Year goddies from the WP’s tradition funders: Chinese-owned SMEs. But this and Low’s comments are two tales for the future. And Moley says to keep an near out for what Low says in the debate, if anything at all.)

Nope, said remark or shumething like it was made by Khaw, the PAP’s chairman.

Surely he can’t be predicting that the voters of S’pore will be like the voters of Punggol? (OK,. OK, Pungol East): kick out the bums PAP with a 11%age points swing. Likely he meant S’pore will be a two-party state like Punggol, where the PAP have four MPs to every one WP MO. If so, long way to go. The present ratio is 8.9:1 (and I’m generous to WP). Wonder how come GG is still there? Shouldn’t he have to step down, now that Ah Lian is MP. Bet you Eric Tan must be waiting in glee for the day GG has to step down. For those with short memories, Eric had Low’s promise to recommend him to the WP’s portiburo for the NCMP post, something Low never denied. Low said he had “changed his mind”.

And noticed that Riverdale Plaza flooded? The Gods are unhappy that PAP lost? Or that the WP opposed the White Paper? I mean the WP is supposed to be PAP Lite, not the SDP the real Opposition.

Or yikes!Ah Kong is unhappy the PAP lost and is making the people of Punggol East repent? If this is the case, he is greater than Mao. Mao only became a god after his death. As was Caesar Augustus: “I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.”

LKY can easily say, “I was born in a S’pore full of slums. It is now a city of high-rise public housing.”

And as the year of the Snake begins on Sunday, here’s a story on a village of snakes in China. Have a prosperous Snake year. Make money! And good health! And good eating over the next few days.

Light postings from now on until third or fourth day of CNY. And pity the WP. No abalone, lobster, bak kua or other goodies from their SME funders this year. Kanna eat chor bee and roti prata.

With friends like this, the govt …

In Political governance on 08/02/2013 at 6:09 am

I was stunned when I read this report in ST on what PAP MP Seah Kian Peng.said on Monday in parliament

“The Government does not always know best, he acknowledged. “It may only know what is efficient, what is rational, what costs the most, or the least.”
Sometimes, he pointed out, it is right to do what the people want. “Not because we think it is right, but because they do.”
The Government must resist the “self-righteous, sanctimonious chant that ‘We do what is right, rather than what is popular’”, he said.”

He kicked (not juz slapped as what Low and gang would do) three Hard Truths. That:

— efficiency, rationality, cost effectiveness are what matters in policy making;

— what the people want should be ignored if it contracdicts what the PAP govt thinks is rational, efficient and cost effective.

— “We do what is right, rather than what is popular” is the way to remain in power.

Somehow I doubt he would be around in the next GE.

On the second day of the population debate, Inderjit Singh said there is a need to take a five-year breather to “solve all the problems created by the past policies of rapid economic and population growth”, said stressing the need to find a better balance between economic growth and social cohesion.

The numbers added to the Singapore population – in terms of PRs and citizenships handed out – must be more exact, and not planned on the basis of “hoping we hit some number”.

“We missed the mark the last 10 years, and are already paying a high price for that mistake,” he said. “As a government, we need to rebuild the trust and confidence among Singaporeans that our citizens matter most to us, and that we are willing to take a break from our relentless drive for growth to solve their problems. Let’s delay the plans for population growth for now, and focus on nation building.”

Hear, hear, Mr Singh.

And outside parly, Dr Tan Cheng Bock had earlier said something similar. Lest, we forget, he was a PAPpy, in the days when PAPpy MPs were respected by the public at large.

These are people that the govt should listen to, though pigs will fly first.

Here are “friends” the govt should give the finger to: despite having a reputation of being pro-business, not pro-citizens, the govt was savaged by business groups from having such a “low” cap on FTs. There was

— a letter from  the Singapore Business Federation;

— another from the S’pore Int’l Chamber of Commerce; and

— an open letter from nine foreign chambers of commerce (American, Australian, British, Canadian, European, French, Japanese, New Zealand and German chambers,

voicing their concerns over the impact of manpower constraints due to the “stringent” policies controlling the inflow of foreign labour. If give them 50% cap, they will ask for 75% cap, is my view.

The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) as usual whined and bitched for more, “We, therefore, call upon the Government to provide SMEs with more incentives to develop and improve their human resource systems and processes. Due to their size and resource constraints, many SMEs face difficulties in managing human resource. To attract and keep talent, SMEs need more resources to address employees’ problems and to provide better work-life balance, for instance. Without such ability, companies will likely see high employee turnover rate, which makes them less willing to send staff for training. As a result, we see a vicious circle, where productivity improvement remains a challenge.”

ASME (what an appropriate name) also felt that the White Paper’s projection of 3% productivity growth this decade and 2% in the next was “overly optimistic”.

Noting that companies continue to grapple with shrinking margins and resources [yah and the SME bosses keep buying even bigger houses and cars}, it said that a reckless drive for higher productivity in this context may lead to higher costs and even inflation.

“If these productivity gains do not materialise, the Government must be prepared to relax its tight control over the workforce to prevent the economy from being adversely affected. A buffer in manpower supply is critical to enable both the economy and local SMEs to better respond to rapid and multifaceted changes in external and internal economic conditions.”

What this tells us and the PAP government is that  the interests of businesses here (big and small, foreign and local) are not the same as that of ordinary Singaporeans. They want wages to be as low as possible to increase profits. Singaporeans will only benefit if higher economic growth (the PAP’s ultimate Hard Truth or is it a shibboleth or a sacred cow?) results in an increase in real wages.

The government should publicly repudiate that “Waz good for biz, is gd for S’pore”, a mantra of the 1990s. (I was in the central bank in the early 1980s, and I know people like Dr Goh were cautious in trusting businesses to do the right things by S’pore. The knew the importance of businesses to the economy, but that didn’t mean they trusted businessmen and executives.

The govt should listen to those who care for S’pore and who spoke out against the assumptions of the white Paper, be they be friends (like the PAP MPs and Dr Tan) or foes (WP, NSP, SDP, SPP etc: ya generous to WP, it’s CNY) or ex-govt officials like Donald Low, Lam KY). It should ignore fair-weather friends like the business associations. Remember businesses and their associations can’t vote, ordinary S’poreans can.

Asean round-up

In Indonesia on 07/02/2013 at 3:06 pm

Carlsberg has signed a joint venture to brew and market its beers in Burma. Carlsberg will own 51% of the joint venture with local firm Myanmar Golden Star (MGS) Breweries.

Foreign banks could enter Burma with majority-owned joint ventures with local banks as early as April, FT reports, followings news of a cabinet reshuffle and announcements on reforms to attract foreign investment.

The Indonesian economy, the biggest in Southeast Asia, slowed in the last three months of 2012, dragging down full year growth.The economy grew by 6.2% last year, down from 6.5% in 2011.


Public housing: a brickbat, two cheers & constructive suggestions

In Environment, Political governance on 07/02/2013 at 6:25 am

As the population target “worse-case scenario” or “projection” of 6.9m as envisaged by the White Paper will require a lot more public housing, here are some constructive, nation-building ideas from me on how to avoid rabbit hatches, or battery-hen housing, in the sky. We can live like pigs in a modern-day Danish farm: comfortable, hygienic surroundings. Danish farmers believe that happy pigs produce the best bacon: something the PAP govt should take to heart, “Keep the exploited happy, and they will remain happy to be exploited”.

But first I want to analyse two “buah tahan” comments that irritate me.

Who comes out with the most stupid comment on the row on Executive Condos? No it’s not Khaw, surprising; but one Jaimie Chong, an EC penthouse owner. She thinks she  will still get permission to cover the “open” space: EC0001. Her agent says so. How dumb can this rich gal get?

And secondly, our dear leader said, ” If government did not get involved in housing, it would be like Hong Kong: overcrowded and subject to high prices …” Is it not surprising that the usual S’pore self-haters who populate the pages of TRE, TOC and Facebook didn’t challenge him on this?

He is telling us a Hard Truth (perhaps the only one) that is grounded in fact: in housing, the PAP govt does more for S’poreans, than the HK govt.

— “In 2012, HDB offered a record number of 34,237 new flats comprising 27,084 new flats under the Build-To-Order (BTO) system and 7,153 balance flats under the Sales of Balance Flats Exercise … HDB had earlier announced that at least 20,000 BTO flats are planned for 2013. HDB is finalising its building plans for 2013 and will now target to launch at least 23,000 BTO flats. These projects will have a good geographical spread in various towns/estates which compares with 75,000 completed over the past five years.” (HDB)

— Contrast this with what HK’s CEO said last month as reported by the BBC, “He promised action to address a property crunch that has seen some residents forced out of the property market and even into tiny so-called “cubicle homes”.

Land would be both re-zoned and reclaimed so it could be developed for housing, leading to a greater supply, he said. A target of 100,000 new public housing units would also be set for the five years from 2018.

“As long as the housing shortage persists, we have no alternative but to restrict external demand and curb speculative activities,” he said.”

The 20,000 a year HK programme starts in 2018.

But it’s only two cheers for PM, because by comparing our public housing programme to that of HK, he is forgetting that dad was a “social democrat” (dad said that in his books), not an ang moh lord or HK property tycoon: social democrats believe in raising living standards. So, of course, the govt had to get involved in public housing.

Now to the constructive, nation-building part on how make us as happy as Danish pigs, not as unhappy as battery hens.

Try this Dutch approach, Khaw? No not land reclamation. Architects in Holland are creating prototype neighbourhoods of sustainable floating houses. Their aim is to have new cities entirely out at sea as an alternative way of living. We got plenty of sea too, and the weather’s a lot nicer.

And best of all, we can retain the central catchment reserve, Ubin, the mangrove swamps (so beloved by mosquito-lovers) and the golf courses (that ministers and senior civil servants, and their private sector pals play on).

And floating towns will allow S’pore the possibility of experimenting with an alternative to 50-storey HDB coops flats. We could have hutong-style community housing (high density, low rise buildings) in the new sea towns. Plenty of room to expand sideways there. I read somewhere that London is experimenting along the lines of high density, low rise buildings . Can’t locate the link to story.

BTW, watch this 2011 BBC video clip on S’pore : Urban plan S’pore style The architect who wants “more space” must be very upset with Khaw’s “worse-case scenario”.

S-Reits: Gd analysis

In Property, Reits on 06/02/2013 at 6:21 am

The reason for the highest yield spread for SReits against other markets is due to the proportion of industrial, healthcare or emerging market REITs within the index.

In the case for Singaporean industrial properties, these are leasehold interests so the yield profile against Japanese assets is always going to be higher. Did’nt know that abt Jap assets

Hotels, Indonesian/Indian healthcare/retail properties trade at higher yields than office & retail properties.

So basically although the SReit index trades above its peers – there is a reason for it! And should not imply that SReits are cheap.

A reader made this comment on

ASEAN mkts leading the world

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 06/02/2013 at 5:11 am

In January, Thailand and Indonesia are the world’s best equity markets. M’sia is 4th and S’pore is 7th.

And the voters of Punggol East still vote against the PAP? Are voters deft?

Urban farming here

In Environment on 05/02/2013 at 5:23 am

All this talk of a population of 6.9m (“worse-case scenario”, “projection” or “plan to dilute locals to 55% of the voting public”) reminded me of this BBC article

Today, there are only a handful of farms left, most of which are located in agrotechnology parks that take up less than 2% of Singapore’s total available land.

In recent years, the government has tried to diversify and secure Singapore’s food supplies, though much of its food still comes from nearby Malaysia and large producers such as China.

Singapore has been widening its use of contract farming and overseas food zones, where local buyers can control everything from production to processing.

Closer to home, in 2009 it set up a food fund worth 5m Singapore dollars (£2.6m; $4.1m) to support local farms and invest in research and development.

The government has also been trying to promote more creative methods of growing food, such as the urban farming projects similar to that run by Mr Ng, where residential or commercial areas can be used to grow fruit and vegetables.

Use the roof tops of high rise blocks

Imagine this local vertical farm on a HDB roof

“WP will vote for the White Paper,” Moley

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 04/02/2013 at 5:31 am

(Update after Auntie’s speech: Moley and I are most happy that we got it wrong. But let’s wait and see. I was happy about being wrong about Punggol East, until Low told us that a vote for the WP is a vote to maintain PAP hegemony)

Given the overwhelming majority of PAP Members of Parliament, there is no question where the debate will be heading – towards a total endorsement of the policy recommendations and continued population influx, despite the message sent to the PAP by the Punggol East electorate and many Singaporeans.

Dear readers, would you vote for your MP in GE 2016 if he or she approves of the immigration targets drawn up in the Population White Paper? (

Neat idea but what if WP votes for White Paper?

We got to vote for Mad Dog Chee’s elitist Singapore Indian Party SDP*, or No Substance**, or the Clowns Brigade: s/o JBJ, the Saints boy, SDA, or the Chiams, because Morocco Mole tells me that  the WP will vote for the White Paper too. Now Moley has been right about WP refusing to raise issue of public transport nationalisation in parly. (Sorry JG, GG never raised the issue as you claimed. He just asked the govt to justify its rojak policy and then when as you rightly pointed the minister gave an incoherent response, GG didn’t respond with a nationalisation call.)

Sure will have wayang by Drama King PritamS and Drama Auntie (Remember their rants against govt changes to the mandatory death penalty? They voted for the changes on the quiet, juz like PAP MPs. And remember WP voted for the Budgets, despite bitching about the said Budgets).

WP will vote for the White Paper. And unlike all the examples cited above of the WP quietly supporting the PAP, while attacking it publicly, WP is taking a principled stand on the issue. LTK and Auntie have been asking the govt to go easy on the policy of cutting FTs, speaking out against the govt’s policy (now discarded?***) of starving the SMEs of FTs. Chinese-owned SMEs  fund the WP on the quiet, so WP has to keep them happy.

And the PAP (the real deal) has just given WP the best excuse to support the White Paper:

— “Reiterating that the 6.9 million figure should be viewed as “the worst-case scenario”****, Mr Khaw wrote: “We hope we do not reach that figure; we may never reach that figure.”

–“Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said … he fully agrees with Mr Khaw’s explanation that a 6.9 million population is not a target, but just a worst-case, aggressive scenario the Government must prepare for.”

“Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S Iswaran assures Singaporeans that the 6.9 million population figure in the White Paper is not a target the government is setting itself to achieve.”

(Excerpts from MediaCorp)

“6.9m? What 6.9m? Only projection, worse-case scenario, to spur debate leh,” WP Low will say, says Morocco Mole, Secret Squirrel’s side-kick. [This sentence was added an hour after initial publication.]

Which brings me to a suggestion on helping us monitor and assess a MP’s performance (from

Each MP should put up a yearly account to their constituents of what they did or said in Parliament. How many sessions did they turn up for? How many Bills did they vote on – and what did they say about them in Parliament? How many questions did they ask from ministers – both oral and written. What sort of answers did they get – and did the questions work in getting things done? … this keeps constituents politically attuned and keeps the MPs accountable. Simply saying vote for me again (I am looking ahead to the next GE) because I am kind, good, committed etc and my party has done what and what… isn’t good enough. Thing is, what have YOU done lately for me as my voice in Parliament?

But I doubt WP would adopt such a first-world practice of transparency and accountability. It would make transparent the WP’s two-headed snake strategy of being all things to all voters.

If ordinary netizens want the WP to vote against the White Paper, please start sending a strong message to the WP: use TRE, even TOC, or email direct to WP.

*I mean both SDP candidates were highly qualified Indians from very, very privileged backgrounds. They couldn’t claim, like s/o JBJ, that they were rich kids made poor by the PAP. But maybe they could argue that their families have been wealthier if the PAP had not come into power? Seriously, maybe the SDP is an elitist party that believes “multiracialism” is more than “an aspiration”: the voters are colour-blind? Says a lot for SDP’s idealism vis-a-vis that of the PAP and WP.

**NSP is getting its act together policy-wise: a good piece on population, responding to the White Paper And in working the ground. The problems lie in internal bickering and giving the WP the excuse to “knife” the NSP. An example of the latter: a prominent blogger who juz happens to be a NSP member was very vocal in his attacks on the WP’s leaders and followers during the recent by-election campaign. He accused them of PAP-like arrogance. (Even I won’t go that far in criticising the WP.). While I’m sure, the NSP had no hand in his attacks, which sounded as though they were written by s/o JBJ, it could cause trouble. NSP had no quarrel with WP over the by-election, yet its member felt free to attack WP. Low is very correct in telling his activists to toe the party line on the internet and social media. It could lead to misunderstandings. The WP now has the perfect excuse to move into Tampines, Marine Parade, Kallang and Mountbatten: a NSP member savaged WP on the internet and the NSP kept quiet would be the WP excuse.

***I’m confused. Cutting FT supply but by growing it?

****Shades of Yaacob, Remember he said this when one LKY shouted a Hard Truth about Malay Muslims.

Wanted: Expertise on organising a legal strike

In Political economy on 03/02/2013 at 7:02 pm

Late last week, four FT PRC SMRT drivers appeared in court again. They had been charged for inciting and participating in an illegal strike.

On Sunday, I read the following on Facebook: “What a tale this is. Clandestine meetings with ministers, secret agreements with shadowy power-brokers. The Last Great strike is an uplifting, thoroughly Singaporean story that belongs on the shelf of every Singaporean home and classroom.- Singapore’s top-selling author NEIL HUMPHREYS commenting on THE LAST GREAT STRIKE.”

As I’ve written before (When Devan Nair was Jedi: Link added on 1 August 2020), this book is written by a friend, Clement Mesenas. His dad grandfather was a Pinoy FT who came here in the 1930s early 20th century. The book “looks back on eight eventful days in 1971 when a group of young reporters staged a historic strike that shut down The Straits Times” for the first time ever in its 120-year history.

I joined the two dots: the book should have been subtitled: “How to organise a legal strike”.

I mean, Clement and his other Indian Chief friends (no Indians among the core team, so no racism intended) were so good that Labour Minister Ong Pang Boon told the Indian Chiefs: “All right gentlemen, let’s plan a strike.”

Wow! That’s endorsement! That’s support!

So social activists and other kay poh do-gooders, go buy and read the book. And don’t be put-off that LKY’s “favourite editor”, Cheong Yip Seng,says good things about the book:

And so should the rumoured wannabe prime minister, MOM Tan, his MOM bureaucrats, SMRT’s managers, other managers, and NTUC officials, go buy and read the book, because the book explains why strikes happen:

— poorly paid workers (“Most of us in the newsroom were broke well before the end of the month … An egg could be cracked onto roti prata for an additional 20 cents, but that was a luxury as those 20 cents could be saved for the bus ride home.”); and

— “parsimonious, disdainful … management”, Tan Wang Joo, former editor of The Sunday Nation, and a deputy editor of The Straits Times.

Sounds familiar?

Thinking about it, so should the PM. Someone pls send him a copy. LOL

(Earlier version got it wrong about his ancestry)

White Paper fiasco: Who goofed?

In Economy, Media, Political economy, Political governance on 03/02/2013 at 6:39 am

So we now know that the 6.9m figure in the White Paper is a “worse-case scenario”

— “Reiterating that the 6.9 million figure should be viewed as “the worst-case scenario”****, Mr Khaw wrote: “We hope we do not reach that figure; we may never reach that figure.”

–” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said … he fully agrees with Mr Khaw’s explanation that a 6.9 million population is not a target, but just a worst-case, aggressive scenario the Government must prepare for.”

(Excerpts from MediaCorp)

So why didn’t the media tell us this when the media reported the White Paper? The media reported the figure of 6.9m as though it was set in reinforced concrete that had platinum bars rather than steel bars. Surely when the staff of the s/o the disgraced president, and Yaacob*gave the local media their instructions local journalists and editors the customary briefing, they made it clear that the 6.9m figure is a “worse-case scenario”? And that the figure was used to ensure that there would be adequate infrastructure should this happen, which the government didn’t want to happen. And that if it didn’t happen, S’poreans would have even better facilities for which they should thank the PAP on bended knees.

But these messages were never reported. They came to the attention of “the inhabitants of cowboy towns” who were happily shooting holes into the White Paper, and other S’poreans only when the PM Facebooked and Khaw blogged these messages.

Then the local media parroted reported what the PM and Khaw had said.

Either the local media are staffed by stupid people, or are full of subversives, who take their 30 pieces of silver ** while saboing the PAP government. Or maybe the going rate is a lot more than 30 pieces of silver? And they are not getting it? Hence the government’s messages didn’t get broadcasted.

Or were the minions of s/o Devan Nair, and Yaacob, incompetent, stupid spinners? Journalists and editors are claiming that they were never ordered briefed that the 6.9m figure was a “worse-case scenario”. They claim to be as surprised as us netizens that the PM and Khaw are now making this claim.

Whatever it is, if WP Low is to get his wish of continued PAP hegemony, PM should get a grip on the PAP spin machine. He and his ministers can’t do all the spinning themselves. Maybe Auntie Sylvia or Show Mao, in emulation of a Tang dynasty official, can whisper this to the PAP, “behind closed doors”. Remember WP, yr mission is to preserve PAP hegemony.

**He used the phrase “worse-case scenario” when one LKY gave his Hard Truth on Malay Muslims not integrating.

Asean round-up

In Banks, Telecoms, Temasek, Vietnam on 02/02/2013 at 7:08 am

In Vietnam, the government’s planned sale of a 20% in Sabeco, a brewery,  is expected this year, according to bankers.

Wilmar, one of Asia’s largest agribusinesses, and Cargill, the commodities’ trader are setting up in Burma.

18 companies, including Malaysia’s Axiata, Norway’s Telenor Group, parent of the Thai mobile operator DTAC, Digicel, the Caribbean based operator, and two Singaporean companies, Singapore Telecommunications, one of southeast Asia’s biggest telephone companies, and ST Telemedia, a unit of Temasek Holdings, have submitted proposals for the two telecoms licences

The Burma has abolished a 25-year-old ban on public gatherings of more than five people: more liberal than S’pore.

Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) has made a US$100 million capital injection into its Philippines operations.The banking group, the fourth largest in the region, on the previous Friday launched a new corporate head office in Manila and announced plans to double its number of branches in that country to 100 by 2014, and thereafter to 200 by 2018, Malaysia’s Business Times said.

It currently has 54 branches there, with another expected to open in the city of Davao by the end of this month.

Maybank Philippines Inc (MPI), which has been operating since 1997 and is now the 24th largest bank by assets, may eventually go for a listing there. The Philippine central bank had last year issued a directive, requiring banks controlled by their foreign counterparts to go for a listing on the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Book PM could cite in validation of “Growth, ‘cheong’ all the way”

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance, Property on 01/02/2013 at 7:37 am

In “Planet of Cities”, by Shlomo Angel*, a professor of urban planning at New York University, argues that cities must prepare themselves for rapid growth, citing New York and Barcelona: In the 19th century both cities decided to prepare themselves for rapid growth. In 1811 New York’s city council approved a plan which allowed all of Manhattan to be built up and included the island’s now famous street grid. In 1859 Barcelona followed suit with a similar concept to expand the city nine-fold.

Err PM not planning to increase the population that much.

And on why working-age population matters:

Netizens, pls realise that the intellectual underpinnings are there for the White Paper. It’s the conventional wisdom. Raving, ranting and screaming will do no good.

Nothing will, not even the ballot box: “A vote for the WP is a vote for the continuance of PAP policies” says WP Low. So lie back and enjoy being raped. Think of the value of your property when you cash out and move on overseas.

PM, pls tell STTA that S’pore is a meritocracy

In Uncategorized on 01/02/2013 at 5:35 am

According a report ST on Wednesday, parents of national youth players were unhappy with the STTA’s ruling that the players for the next Kiddie Games in 2014 must be from the Singapore Sports School’s School Within a School (SWS) programme, be ranked in the world’s top 300 in the under-18 category, or win medals at a regional championship.

The result: Most of the youth team did not qualify for selection for the YOG team.

Lee Bee Wah, a PAP MP, and president of the ping-pong association was reported by MediaCorp on Thursday as saying,“In the past, all top players were attracted by Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls’ School … Since we started SWS, we managed to attract some top players to the Sports School. If this trend continues, we will have top local players coming from the Sports School. I think we can produce world-class players.”

Well, if that is the case, why have a policy that makes the Sports School’s ping pong students tua kee, giving them an advantage over boys and gals who can compete academically at the highest levels and play ping-pong as well, if not better than Sports School’s players.

As someone born and partly educated in M’sa, she may not realise that S’pore to quote our PM is a meritocratic society, where privileges and rewards are given according to merit, not on the school one attends. It would seem that Sports School students are shielded from competition from students who can both study, and play ping-pong well. Merotocracy? What meritocracy?

PM, please remind this FT PAP MP and the other STTA officials that S’pore is not M’sia or China: meritocracy rules here, not arbitrary bars that artificially help mediocrities.  .

And PM, STTA should not sneer at members of the youth team who are not from the Sports School. This sneer deserves a public rebuke scan0001. No youth team member is :any Tom, Dick or Harry”, STTA.

Or maybe the PM should get the CPIB to investigate STTA: is this an attempt to ensure that China imports predominate? Remember that an ex PAP MP who was the president of the STTA was convicted financial crimes.