Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Editor at Sundaylife is visually impaired or a FT?

In Media on 31/03/2013 at 7:28 am

Sundaylife carried as its top headline, “Hey We are S’poreans too … talks to children of mixed marriages on what it means to be a S’porean on the inside and look like a foreigner on the outside”. All gd, constructive, nation-building stuff to counter the likes of Gilbert Goh and friends, and the extremists among TRE readers.

Problem is that the photos of the four kids chosen to “look like a foreigner on the outside” look so “local”. Without the captions to describe their mixed ethnic origins, they look, to me at least, like typical S’poreans. And if they look “foreign”, Sundaylife’s Sumiko Tan doesn’t look S’porean.

What say you?

Either the editor has eye-sight problems or is a recently arrived FT, who doesn’t know how true blue S’poreans look like, or both. Only an FT would think that S’poreans must look Chinese, Malay or Indian, not realising that there are the Eurasians, and that many S’poreans are the products of mixed marriages.

What say you?


Chinese financial sector: there be storms and shaols

In Banks, China, Temasek on 31/03/2013 at 7:06 am

(Backgrounder: Temasek has biggish stakes in three out of the four major  Chinese banks: doesn’t have shares in Agricultural Bank and CapLand is big and bullish on China).

Credit issues in Pearl Estuary region:

And New rules will force mainstream lenders to cap their exposure to some of the riskier off-balance sheet products they have sold to customers – in particular, those that are effectively repackaged corporate debt. That limits a big source of risk for banks, but creates a new one for the Chinese economy.

The junk bond market in China took off this year. Although the deals still account for a small share of the global total, Chinese companies have sold $8 billion of high-yield bonds to overseas investors since January. That’s up from $2.3 billion during the same period a year earlier, according to figures from Dealogic … the Chinese market has its own set of potential problems, and some analysts worry that investors aren’t being properly compensated for the added layer of risks.

he bulk of the high-yield bonds in Asia this year — roughly half — come from Chinese real estate companies. The fear is that the housing market, which has been booming, is a bubble that will eventually burst.

Mainland China’s domestic bond market remains largely off limits to foreign buyers. So most investors buy offshore Chinese bonds, which are issued through holding companies headquartered in places like the Cayman Islands.

The bonds tend not to be backed by the actual businesses and underlying assets in mainland China. That means foreign bondholders may have little legal recourse if a company defaults on its debt, especially if local banks or other Chinese creditors make claims.

Bondholders are now facing such difficulties with the bankruptcy of Suntech Power.

Asean round-up: The dark side

In Indonesia on 30/03/2013 at 6:52 am

Strikes  for higher wages a regular occurrence in Indonesia: workers and businesses unhappy

Muslims attacked in central Burma: Mosques and other Muslim buildings have been attacked by crowds of Buddhists in towns on the road from Rangoon to Pyay, about 200km (125 miles) to the north … A state of emergency is in force in the central town of Meiktila, where some 40 deaths have been reported … At least 12,000 Muslims are thought to have fled their homes in the unrest …

The conflict is the worst since violence in Rakhine state last year, where nearly 200 people were killed and tens of thousands forced from their homes.

The conflict that erupted in Rakhine involved Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, who are not recognised as Burmese citizens. Scores of Rohingyas have fled what they say is persecution in Burma in recent months.

The Burmese government will use force if necessary to stop “political opportunists and religious extremists” from fomenting hatred between faiths, President Thein Sein has warned. BBC reports

Netizens cannot be trusted in a crisis, only the govt & MSM?

In Humour, Media on 29/03/2013 at 6:01 am

The G’s ability to win the argument among netizens is increasingly in question; witness its “defeat” over the Population White Paper online. Its online outreach appears to be confined to making speeches available online and Facebook postings by individual minist. How would it deal with the barrage of messages that will flood the online space in crisis time? and MPs

Couldn’t stop laughing at “The G’s ability to win the argument among netizens is increasingly in question; witness its “defeat” over the Population White Paper online.” Only someone* who works or once worked* for SPH, MediaCorp or the govt  would think that cyberspace was ever friendly to the govt or even neutral. It was always injun or Vietminh or Viet Kong territory where the govt soldiers and mercenaries were besieged in forts and could only move around outside the forts in heavily armed convoys. Even our PM has conceded that the internet was made up of “cowboy towns”.

The internet and social media became relevant when the 2011 GE and PE showed that the “noises” there reflected “facts on the ground”. Contrast this with the 2006 GE, when the “noises” were noise: going on the internet, it showed that the PAP were doomed to defeat.

And I tot that “How would it deal with the barrage of messages that will flood the online space in crisis time?” had the underlying, unstated assumption that netizens were irresponsible people who could not be relied upon when there was a crisis: with the implication that only the constructive, nation-building media (and presumably retirees from it) could be trusted. This I disagree with. After all, SPH’s Stomp is not a particularly responsible online publication (it hired paid content providers who pretended to be ordinary citizen journalists, and one of them faked the news once). And based on these lapses (now corrected, we’ve been assured), it is reasonable to conclude that Alex Au, TOC, TRE, Donaldson Tan, Kum Hong, Andrew Loh, SDP etc have higher standards of integrity than Stomp. Only the TRS has Stomp-like standards, in my view.

What I suspect she means is that only SPH and MediaCorp journalists and editors (past and present) will parrot unthinkingly and uncritically the govt line. Here, there is another unstated assumption; that the govt line is the truth. The likes of Lucky Tan, S’pore Notes will (rightly in my view) etc would critique the govt view because they would have doubts.

But on the other hand, this same retired Dark Side keyboard wielding imperial storm trooper is the person behind Breakfast Network. Check it out: it tries to provide, entertaining, non-partisan tit bits for tot. Doesn’t often succeed, as the above example shows, but she is experimenting, and it’s a work-in-progress.

With TOC getting irrelevant**; Andrew Loh’s Publichouse seemingly stuck in a rut (one can only wish him well in his attempts to “tell stories”); and TRS going from strength to strength, one can only hope that the Breakfast Network works. With TRE’s mission being to provide a counter balance to the local  MSM’s spin, there is room for a more centrist website that can attract a mass audience: Breakfast Network could be that website.

If she succeeds, she will have shown that Darth Vader is not the only Dark Sider who returned to the Light. In fact, she would be better than Darth Vader, because he only repented to save his son, and died in the process. She would have returned to the Light because she wanted to, and she lived.

*I’ve heard stories from SPH insiders that she fancied herself to be next editor of ST after Han when Warren Fernandez left SPH.  He was brought back when Han was moved on after the 2011 GE. She then moved on out of SPH.  It had been alleged that she had tot that minister Yacoob’s sis was her only rival.

**This piece on TOC, despite being picked up, by SG Daily, didn’t have many readers. Usually when Sg Daily picks up a piece of mine, I get lots of hits.

Toxic product makes return

In Banks on 28/03/2013 at 6:16 am

And Citi leads the way.

Derivatives that pool credit- default swaps to make magnified bets on corporate debt, popularized in the last credit bubble, are making a comeback as investors search farther afield for alternatives to bonds at record-low yields.

Citigroup Inc. (C) is among banks that have sold as much as $1 billion of synthetic collateralized debt obligations this year, following $2 billion in all of 2012, according to estimates from the New York-based lender. Trading in so-called tranches of indexes that use a similar strategy to juice yields rose 61 percent in the past month.

I’m waiting for DBS to sell HN5 Notes again to blow up its Treasured customers again. Note the head of Consumer Banking ywas then an Indian FT. Now the head is a ex-PAP member, now NMP. .

Numbers show GCT & Lee Jnr messed up?

In Economy, Indonesia, Malaysia on 27/03/2013 at 6:45 am

This chart shows all the economies that maintained 6% growth or faster over 30 years. S’pore’s run of 7ish% growthended in 1994, when GCT was PM and Lee Jnr was Deputy PM and in charge of the economy. Going by the things our PM is doing now, maybe GCT held him back? Or LHL has repented? And the changes he is initiating, is his way of saying, “Sorry”?. How about a claw-back of ministerial salaries? Esp of PM’sand DPM’s? If it happens to bankers, it can happen to ministers: after all ministers’ salaries pegged to bankers among others.

So will SPF prosecute property agents and money lenders for “mischief”

In Political governance on 26/03/2013 at 7:42 am

“Sticker Lady”, who is alleged to be behind the stickers and “MY GRANDFATHER ROAD” graffiti painted on several roads last May, will be charged in court today together with her alleged accomplice, the police said yesterday.

The two, graffiti artists Samantha Lo, 26, and Anthony “Antz” Chong, 30, will be charged with mischief and not vandalism — which would have been punishable with a fine of up S$2,000 or jail of up to three years and caning for men. Mischief carries a lighter maximum punishment of a fine or a jail term of up to two years, or both. Today.

Right, so can I expect the police to charge the property agents and money lenders who put up “ugly’, “non-artistic” stickers in my neighbourhood? It should be a cinch arresting these mischief makers as they displayed their mobile phone numbers prominently. Details in the post I wrote earlier last year — see below.

Their offences are worse because they are not easily removable (they used industrial glue to put up their stickers).

But somehow, I doubt the police bother about these property agents and money lenders.

BTW, I’m impressed that minister shan, in his capacity as MP, took the trouble to write to the police, on behalf of these artists. Nice of him. So unlike, George Yeo’s ladies from hell who once took the attitude that “the law must take its course”.


If SamL’s a vandal, are these not vandals too?

The police took the antics of the Sticker Lady very seriously, explaining a few weeks ago how the police had to divert substantial resources to identify the culprit behind the case saying, “vandalising public property is a very irresponsible act”. And that it cost money, time and effort to clean up after her.

Err so how come nothing has been done in my private housing estate since then to clean up acts of vandalism that would put the lady to shame, and to arrest the culprits?

It’s not as though it would be difficult to identify the vandals. They left their telephone numbers behind.

Let me explain. Within a 50m of my home, property agents and money lenders have been sticking up ads prominently displaying their telephone numbers. These are pasted on the public property, on electricity boxes, They read

Legal Loans : 90158055/ 84692899

Legal Loans : 93910045/ 98955254

Legal Moneylender: 90158055/ 93910045

Urgent buyer [of property] …/ Serious doctor …: 82855947

They make the place look like a slum (OK, OK I exaggerate a lot, but the public property has been turned into free ad billboards for money lenders and property agents at no benefit to the taxpayer). And have no artistic merit at all. They are juz black print on white paper.

I can understand the importance of zero tolerance policing and the arrest of the Sticker Lady in the context of zero tolerance policing. I cannot understand why property agents and money lenders are exempt from zero tolerance policing rules. Nor why these stickers are not removed. In M’sia, property agents and money lenders pay the police bribes to ensure they are allowed to put up illegal ads. Same here too? After all, if ex senior Home Team leaders are accused of offering contracts in return for sex, what should junior officers do?

Or is it OK to put up “commercial” stickers that deface public property but not arty-crafty scribblings? Or are property agents and lenders different? Like Woolly Wally Woffles’s employee who escaped prosecution, they work for the rich?

Penultimately, a wicked tot. If the money lenders and property agents are arrested, will “The PAP govmin are bastards” netizens (Andrew Loh, SG Hard Truths and Fabrications about the PAP are not in this group of “The PAP are always wrong”) rush to their defence saying, “The ads are so artistic. They are great examples of minimalist chic: black on white”.

Finally an apology to Sam the Sticky Lady. When I read the ST report where her dad described her as being traumatised by her arrest, I tot, “What a spoilt brat who thinks that she entitled to break the law with impunity. Thinks S’pore is her grandfather’s property when she is not a Lee or Tan”. But in view of the revelations of the culture of deceit and fakery at STOMP, ST could be misrepresenting the facts about how she felt on being arrested.

Why S-Chips no hew our laws

In China, Corporate governance on 26/03/2013 at 5:46 am

Chinese no hue US laws.

Ned L. Sherwood won a proxy contest with the ChinaCast Education Corporation, an education company based in China that is incorporated in the United States, but the ousted executives subsequently transferred all the company’s valuable Asian assets, leaving Mr. Sherwood and the US public shareholders with nothing but a lawsuit in China. The deal highlighted the risks of investing in Chinese companies.


Now some distressed debt investors get to find out what exactly it is you buy when you buy American-issued debt in a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands and doing business in China. I suspect the answer will be “not much.”

But investors still buying these bonds.

Cyprus’ “unique service”

In Banks on 25/03/2013 at 4:40 am

“Cyprus is not just an island in the sun. We have developed a unique service sector which was based on confidence in the banking system,” George Vassiliou, a former prime minister, told the Guardian recently.

The “unique service” was laundering “dirty” money from Russia.

The Lone Ranger was black

In Uncategorized on 24/03/2013 at 1:42 pm

The Lone Ranger, for example, is believed to have been inspired by Bass Reeves, a black lawman who used disguises, had a Native American sidekick and went through his whole career without being shot.

But somehow John Ford got it right even though John Wayne was white.

The 1956 John Ford film The Searchers, based on Alan Le May’s novel, was partly inspired by the exploits of Brit Johnson, a black cowboy whose wife and children were captured by the Comanches in 1865. In the film, John Wayne plays as a Civil War veteran who spends years looking for his niece who has been abducted by Indians.

FT PAP MP does not believe in meritocracy

In Uncategorized on 24/03/2013 at 6:35 am

(Amended to reflect my mistake. She is no longer in PM’s GRC, she is in Yishun)

So the S’pore National Olympic Council has taken the ping-pong association (president of the STTA is one Lee Bee Wah, a PAP FT MP) for selecting players for the forthcoming Asian Youth Games later this yr who were not chosen on merit possibly not the best players. There are “better”players (based on international rankings) than its favoured players, both from the S’pore Sports School. SNOC wants a trial. (SunT, second last page)

Lee Bee Wah and the ping-pong association have form in this refusal to accept that only the best should represent S’pore: It later changed its policy articulated in the link.

Now she and the STTA are at it again, trying to fix things for not-so-good players.

As she is an MP in the PM’s GRC, her continued refusal to accept that “meritocracy” is part of the S’porean way of life and doing things, is a snub (akin to slapping the PM’s face) to the PM. It also reflects badly on the PM who keeps stressing that S’pore is a meritocracy and that opportunities are open to all on the basis of merit.

She thinks she is “tua kee”, is it? Juz because PM is a nice guy? His dad would have crushed her balls for her presumptions.

Why Indonesia is still a cheong

In Indonesia on 24/03/2013 at 5:20 am


Asean round-up

In Airlines, Casinos, Indonesia on 23/03/2013 at 6:33 am

Airbus has won a record order for 234 A320 planes worth 18.4bn euros (US$24bn) from Indonesia’s Lion Air.The order trumps last year’s record order for 230 Boeing planes – also from Lion Air.

Last Saturday, Bloomberry Resorts Corp’s was opened by Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Big casino operators will be scrutinising the Philippines’ debut as Asia’s newest top-end gambling destination this weekend to see if Manila can deliver on promises of better profit margins and lower costs than global betting capital Macau, says Reuters.

They also want to know whether Bloomberry Resorts Corp , whose shares have climbed 40% in the last six months on hopes of quick returns, can overcome national security concerns and flawed infrastructure to bring in VIPs from China to place bets at its US$1.2 billion Solaire casino resort.

Its rivals are Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd and Genting Hong Kong Ltd, with their respective local partners Belle Corp and Alliance Global Group Inc.

“There are high rollers coming in to play … I am expecting at least 1-1.5 billion pesos (US$25 million to US$37 million) to be wagered tomorrow night,” Cristino Naguiat, head of local regulator the Philippine Gaming Corp (Pagcor) told reporters.

The advantage that the Philippines has is that junket operators are welcomed, unlike in S’pore. Junket operators have a reputation for laundering money, and ties with organised crime.

Bangkok skytrain operator BTS Group Holdings Pcl has received commitments worth $850 million from 20 cornerstone investors for Thailand’s biggest initial public offering, a source with direct knowledge of the plans told Reuters on Friday.

The investors in the infrastructure fund IPO include insurer AIA Group Ltd, hedge fund Azentus Capital Management and global asset managers Fidelity and Capital Research and Management, added the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

BTS on Friday week filed a prospectus for the up to $2.1 billion IPO, but the document did not include the names of the cornerstones.

The fund will likely yield between 6-6.2%, Reuters reported.

PT Matahari Department Store (LPPF)’s owners raised 12.7 trillion rupiah (US$1.3 billion) selling stock in the Indonesian retailer, Bloomberg reported.

CVC and Lippo Group sold 1.167 billion shares at 10,850 rupiah. The shares were initially offered at 10,000 rupiah to 11,250 rupiiah

The sellers, seeking to capitalize on investor optimism about consumer spending in Indonesia, asked for as much as double the median valuation among department stores in emerging Asia, price-to-earnings data compiled by Bloomberg show T(he shares were offered for as much as 28 times Matahari’s forecast 2013 earnings). Jakarta’s stock benchmark is up 11.3 percent this year and hit a record high earlier this month.

Temasek GIC is a cornerstone investor despite selling some shares too.GIC also committed to buy a 1.8% stake in the share sale as a cornerstone investor at the same time as its private equity arm was one of the main selling shareholders. Temasek too was a cornerstone investor. There were 15 cornerstone investors each with less than 5%.

(Update: Last para amended and expanded on 24 March 2013.

FTs: Quality control? What quality control?

In Political governance on 22/03/2013 at 6:18 am

Couldn’t stop laughing when CNA reported LKY as saying Mr Lee, ‘authorities here maintain a “certain quality of control”” on immigration And then shaking my head on how out of touch he was. And to think that once upon a time, he was my hero because he was a good pragmatic micro-manager. He also talked sense when JBB was spouting nonsense. Seems LKY has picked up JBJ’s bad habit of talking nonsense.

I will not go into the instances where a violent, cheating sexy-looking PRC shop assistant turned out to be a PR, nor when a PRC prostitute got citizenship (this is not an urban myth: there is credible evidence that it happened), nor when a violent, drunk ang moh got PR status when he was awaiting trail for beating up two S’poreans , nor when an Indian murder suspect, here illegally, got a work permit. Nor the many reported cases of faked degrees, and “faked” salaries.

No, I will just point out that the govt has just only, again, tightened the rules for FTs getting a job here.

Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday assuaged such fears, declaring that “such practices have no place in Singapore’s workplaces”, and would not be tolerated.

Based on feedback so far, Mr Tan said there were three areas of frustration over nationality discrimination: “Hiring-their-own-kind” where the employers prefer candidates of the same nationality; hiring foreigners as it is faster than screening Singaporeans; and a preference for well-qualified foreigners willing to work for lower wages.

To tackle this, the MOM will introduce a tiered structure for S-Passes where salaries would be tiered according to experience so that local PMEs are not undercut. The ministry will also investigate companies if necessary and suspend work pass privileges if needed — this was imposed on one “fairly prominent company” which advertised for employees of a certain nationality, Mr Tan said.

The government will stop tightening the tap on foreign workers only if three goals are met. They are:

  • foreign presence in the labour pool is capped at around a third;
  • productivity grows 2-3 per cent a year; and
  • when Singaporeans’ wages improve.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin told Parliament yesterday, during the debate on his ministry’s budget: “If we are not able to meet these targets, we are likely to continue the tightening and restructuring approach.”

He noted that the foreign workforce, excluding foreign domestic workers, grew by about 67,000 last year – still too large a number, so his ministry has tightened its policies further to bring it down.

It will track the numbers sector by sector, he added. CNA

If there was QC, there wouldn’t be a need for such drastic measures, or the earlier ones, would there?

Instead of wanting more FTs to “spur” S’poreans, maybe he should have “spurred’ on the PM and other ministers when he was in a position to do so? I mean if he had “spurred” the Home Team, tpt, and HDB ministers, and his son, 5the PAP and S’poreans would have been much happier. The PAP would not have lost Aljunied, gain only 605 of the popular vote, nor nearly have its preferred candidate lose the presidential election. And we S’poreans would have better public tpt, less expensive apartments, and less crowded public spaces.

As to his comparison with Japan, I can only wonder why I once admired his analytical skills. S’pore is trying to grow its population, not just mitigate for an aging population. And for all his sneering of Japan, the Japanese have done pretty well. The economy has on some measures outperformed even the US, his ideal of a country that allows in FTs. See analysis here from HSBC,

Two great Romans, the dictator Sulla and the emperor Diocletian, at the height of their powers, temporal, and mental, retired from public life, leaving only memories of them at their best (often brutal) moments. Maybe LKY should have done that. He was also very protective of the public image of his mouth-piece Rajaretnam in the latter’s dotage. It may have been better if he had taken such care for his own image.

Spotting mkt turning pts

In Financial competency on 21/03/2013 at 10:26 am
“The idea that a bell rings to signal when investors should get into or out of the stock market is simply not credible. After nearly 50 years in this business, I do not know of anybody who has done it successfully and consistently.” — John Bogle founder of Vanguard which “is the world’s largest mutual fund company, with about $2 trillion invested in the U.S. in more than 170 index, active, and exchange-traded funds.”

What the pope can teach our PM and police

In Political governance on 20/03/2013 at 5:40 am

No not taking public transport*: the Pope used to do so when he was the Argie cardinal, but the importance of public communication:

The Jesuits, missionaries and educators, are trained to be expert communicators and it is significant that among the first people summoned to meet the new Pope at his hotel suite this morning was fellow Jesuit Father Lombardi – official Vatican spokesperson, head of Vatican Radio (run for many years by the Jesuits) and of the Vatican Press Office.

Under Pope Benedict, Father Lombardi was a mere functionary who had no direct access to the pontiff.

He could not pick up the phone and talk things through quickly with Benedict himself. He received orders from the Vatican Secretariat of State and briefed the press accordingly. All that has changed overnight.

Pope Francis has already decided he will meet the world’s media who have arrived in their thousands to cover the papal election at a special audience on Saturday morning.

This shows a vivid awareness that prayer may not be enough to deal with the situation facing the Catholic Church at this critical moment in its long history. Public relations will be a priority at a particularly sensitive moment of papal transition. Extract from BBC Online.

So when I read  the article “Govt will need to be more open, says PM”. (Sunday Times, Mar 17),which went on: “the Government will become more transparent to adapt to society today, even if politics becomes untidy and its outcomes less predictable”; I thought maybe a good step would be to bring in a Jesuit FT** as the govt’s public communications adviser? Local talent s/o Devan Nair, once a very senior keyboard-wielding Imperial Storm Trooper, the chief of govt communications, seems to have gone AWOL.

Witness the bad PR our SPF is having to face in its investigations of the death of Shane Todd. No-one to blame except the PR people in govt or the SPF: witness  a mealy-mouthly letter that is so ambiguous that it can be used as evidence of incompetency:

“In the course of its investigation, the Police had examined the deceased’s computers and a hard disk drive. This disk drive was subsequently handed over, with acknowledgement, to the next-of-kin. Should the next-of-kin be in possession of other evidence, they should provide it to the Police to assist in their investigations.”

This was written to the FT which reported the parents allegation that they had found a hard drive lying around (implying police incompetency or worse). There seems in this letter to be an insinuation that it is the same hard drive, and that the parents are lying. But didn’t dare not say so because it could be a different hard drive: the police just don’t know.

A well written letter would have said the police now want to establish if this is the same hard drive that was handed to the parents, and offer to provide the FT with details of the hard drive it (the police) handed over so that the FT could establish whether it was the same or different hard drive.

*But if PM had taken public tpt, he would have realised that Ms Saw and Raymond Lim were making misleading statements on the state of public transport: blaming commuters for having unreasonable expectations. Turned out commuters were right to complain of overcrowded public transport, especially of trains. Our money that the govt is throwing at the problem is proof that us commuters were right, and Saw and Raymond Lim were misrepresenting the situation.

**I don’t think there any any S’porean Jesuits. Any S’porean capable of becoming a Jesuit ends up as a scholar.

Asean is impt

In Uncategorized on 19/03/2013 at 6:25 am

According to its latest figures, more than 50% of its [Asean’s] total trade in 2011 took place within the Asean member nations or with China, Japan and South Korea.

The US and EU accounted for less than 25% share.

And analysts project Asean to be an even bigger driver of regional growth in the coming years.

IHS Global Insight has forecast the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the ASEAN bloc to rise from $2.3 trillion in 2012 to $10 trillion by 2030.

“Asean will become another locomotive of Asian growth,” says IHS Global Insight’s Mr Biswas.

At the same time, some analysts point to another trend which they say is playing a key role in driving consumer demand in other, relatively smaller Asian nations.

“As wages rise in China, many companies are setting up factories in other countries such Vietnam and Cambodia,” explains Mr Rein of the China Market Research Group.

Mr Rein explains that as firms set up facilities in those countries, more people are finding new and in some cases better-paying jobs.

“That is creating a whole new middle class in those countries, with more disposable incomes,” he says …

There are fault lines emerging in the political situation in various countries,” says Mr Biswas of IHS Global Insight.

“A lot of Asia’s future momentum will depend on stronger regional political co-operation.”

At the same time, analysts say that while the region’s economies have become less dependent on the US and EU, they have become increasingly reliant on China.

They warn that a sharp slowdown in the Chinese economy was likely to have a big impact on the region’s overall growth.

There had been fears of a big decline in China’s growth last year. While those fears have abated for now, analysts say it is a threat that nations need to be wary of.

“It is a fairly minimal risk, but it is a risk you have to account for,” says Mr Rein of China Market Research Group.

TOC rebooted?

In Uncategorized on 18/03/2013 at 7:08 am

TOC is starting to look like S’pore Auntie (S’pore Gal gone middle-age). But the coverage (including analysis) of the SMRT strike, the  Punggol East by-election and the Population White Paper debate rejuvenated TOC. But the effects didn’t last long.  The problem is that these events don’t happen all the time.

Most of the time, TOC’s main stories are reprints of the articles of people like Uncle Leong (he is getting to dominate: yesterday I counted that of the nine main stories on the front page, six are by him. But maybe he is stepping in as interim editor, something he has done before), Gentrified Citizen and others: usually good, uplifting stuff. But these writers are established bloggers with their own well-visited blogs and are also republished on TRE(which is the aggregator for the rabble, mob masses). True TOC is more discriminating (the Cynical Investor has never ever been republished on TOC), but TRE has the eyeballs, and the commenters. Some of the comments on my stuff that TRE republishes are gems.

Meanwhile, TOC’s original stuff are usually stale retreads. There are now more than enough pajama-clad warriors churning out that kind of stuff: that waz not case when TOC started. Also the process of creating and maintaining a blog has become so much easier. And there is Sg Daily to help publicise interesting articles that might otherwise not get the attention they deserve.

Maybe TOC, should given its successes in covering and analysing “big events”, think of repositioning itself as a periodical “magazine” than a daily, focusing on quality stuff such as “Dubious footnotes in the Population White Paper”, and reportage and analysis of big events, rather than publicising mindlessly variations of the “PAP are bastards” theme. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” and “Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us” come to mind.

To keep the eyeballs coming daily, develop a blog that the Core Team and friends of TOC like Andrew, Kum Hong, Ravi, Yadav, Eric, Kumaran, Uncle Leong, Ghui, Josh etc can contribute “tweets” on their takes of the news of the day. And invite selected PAP politicians, Opposition activists (WP’s JJ , and TJS, and TKL come to mind), social activists (Lynn Lee, Gilbert Goh say) and prominent figures like Dr Tan Cheng Bock. to contribute. I’m sure s/o JBJ would swallow his pride and ask to join in, even though he has rowed with TOC* (as he has with almost everyone he has worked with in politics). BTW, I’ve told TRE that I’m waiting for s/o JBJ to row with TRE.

Experiment TOC, experiment. Rejuvenate yrself.

Keep the brand not only alive, but relevant, entertaining and edgy. Remember that zombies too are alive: they are living dead.

*He once so dominated TOC’s front page that I asked Siow Kum Hong if he had taken over control of TOC, or if he was paying ad fees. In either case, TOC should make an announcement.

Alternative to FTs II

In Uncategorized on 17/03/2013 at 7:58 am

One reason why we are supposed to need 15-25,000 New Citizens  a year is because their sons have to do NS. Apparently, S’pore is running out of S’porean-born males that can be forced to provide cheap labour for things like National Day Parade, F1, the Kiddie Games etc. Or to defend S’pore on the cheap

Err what about robots for the latter task?

[T]he scientific literature has raised the possibility of armed robots, programmed to behave like locusts or other insects that will swarm together in clouds as enemy targets appear on the battlefield. Each member of the robotic swarm could carry a small warhead or use its kinetic energy to attack a target.

Peter W Singer, an expert in the future of warfare at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, says that the arrival on the battlefield of the robot warrior raises profound questions.

“Every so often in history, you get a technology that comes along that’s a game changer,” he says. “They’re things like gunpowder, they’re things like the machine gun, the atomic bomb, the computer… and robotics is one of those.”

“When we say it can be a game changer”, he says, “it means that it affects everything from the tactics that people use on the ground, to the doctrine, how we organise our forces, to bigger questions of politics, law, ethics, when and where we go to war.”

Related post:

Asean round-up

In Malaysia on 16/03/2013 at 7:03 am

When elections are pending

Malaysia’s Armed Forces Fund Board will pay the highest dividend in its history after posting its best ever results.

The fund – Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) – has declared a 16% dividend with a record RM759.3 million (S$305 million) payout for its financial year ended 2012, reported Malaysia’s Business Times.

LTAT posted a record income of RM907.4 million last year, up 5.5% from the previous year, and targets earnings to breach RM1 billion this year.

“The 16 per cent dividend is the highest ever payout since LTAT’s establishment 40 years ago,” Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

The security forces also got gd pay rises this year.

UK Pru is now Asian

Two-thirds of the Prudential’s outperformance can be explained by its extraordinary rate of growth in Asia – the profits and cash from the regon are turning out better, and arriving more quickly, than expected In Asean, Pru is big in S’pore and M’sia, and expanding in Indonesia. I think it bot something last yr in Thailand. Unlike S’pore, there is ample room to expand life insc coverage in the other three countries.

BTW, the UK-based insurer that is big in Asia is headed by an African. It’s a globalised world.

So SPF didn’t pursue “every lead and examine the different angles thoroughly”?

In Political governance on 15/03/2013 at 6:02 am

Until the US told S’pore to,”wake up yr ideas”?

Oh the shame of being a S’porean. Our SPG SPF investigators are negligent, blind as bats, not trained to recognise PC peripherals or just plain dumb. And this is after the failure to put a terrorist fugitive’s close relative’s home under surveillance (he dropped in to hide), after a senior police man tot nothing of having an affair that he publicly admitted, and where an investigator is undergoing disciplinary proceedings for a possible ang moh kaw tua kee attitude.

A few weeks ago, I was reading my Saturday FT. There was a long story on a death by hanging of a young American scientist here. As I was reading the story, it was clear that his parents were kicking up a fuss, saying that the S’pore police was not doing a good job investigating the death (they still do). Well they were in grief, that was to be expected, and given what they were alleging, some really wacko stuff, that their allegations of police failures had to be discounted. This is S’pore, not Hicksville USA or some third world country. I was going to give up reading the piece and complain to FT about the trash they were reporting.

Then I read that our police investigators did not secure a hard drive. The dead American’s parents said it was lying on a table in full view of anyone in the room, that they didn’t know what it was, but took it away anyway, then found out that it was a hard drive that contained files from his office PC (and which now our police want access to).

The fact that our police failed to secure a hard drive made me understand his parents apprehensions and anger: we were Hicksville USA or some third world country, and the FT was right to report the story. The police had secured his PC and mobile phone but not a hard drive that was allegedly in full view on a table. If the police could be so sloppy, or worse, anything is possible. As the Population White Paper shows, a sloppy, slip-shod, careless mistake can undermine any attempt to be authoritative

We S’poreans have been told by govt ministers, PAP MPs and an NMP (who was a PAPpie once) that bitching too loud about the policy of letting in FTs by the cattle-truck load, was not good for S’pores image, and could jeopardise economic growth because FTs will be scared away.

How come the same people don’t complain that incompetent police investigation could jeopardise our economy? I mean Foreign Talents may not want to live in a place where the police can’t secure a hard drive (which they now say could contain important evidence).

Now the SPF has invited the FBI to help it, something that it had earlier resisted. In a statement, our embassy in the U.S said that the investigation that began with the Todd death in June is “still ongoing and the Singapore Police will pursue every lead and examine examine the different angles thoroughly.” Not done before? An “honest mistake”? More likely, an avoidable mistake.

Then CNA reported Singapore’s Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said authorities are “committed to getting to the bottom” of the death of an American researcher in Singapore last year … Speaking in Washington, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore has invited the United States to audit the relationship between Todd’s employer, the Institute of Microelectronics, and the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

This is total abject surrender by S’pore of its sovereign rights. Might as well accede to the parents’ demand that the FBI supervise our SPF’s investigation? Surprised that these country folk, didn’t demand that the SEALs, Delta Force and the Marines invade S’pore to forcibly secure their son’s body and possessions?

Sorry, I forgot that our boys in blue really goofed up, and added unnecessary mental anguish to the grieving parents. Death of a child is hard to take: the possibility that he may have committed suicide is even harder to take. Best to go into denial and blame it on a conspiracy.

The least DPM Teo can do to limit damage to the police’s image locally and internationally, is to announce publicly that the members of the team that initially investigated the hanging have been replaced*. Pigs would fly first though sadly, even though I have heard on the grapevine that there have changes in the team that originally investigated the hanging. This being the PAP govt, it refuses to acknowledge that anything can go wrong in govt, until  too late.
And would Mrs Chiam or a PAP MP ask DPM Teo the outcome, if any, of the internal police disciplinary inquiry into the conduct of the investigator who, on the face of it, took a tidak apa, ang moh tua kee attitude when two true blue S’poreans were brutally assaulted by three ang moh caws? Two of whom skipped bail, one of whom got PR status after the assault. Another “honest mistake”?
*And announce that the same team that visited film-maker Lynn Lee’s home at night, to secure her handphone and laptop because the police were investigating a film she made where PRC FT  SMRT drivers alleged that they were mistreated by the police. Now they are on the bola, zealous cops.

HSBC lords it over its peers in Asia

In Banks, Uncategorized on 14/03/2013 at 3:01 pm

StanChart also does well in Asia (wholesale banking profits in Asia rose 10% over 2010-12). but it is a minnow compared to these banks.

And investment banks are looking increasingly for deals in Asean region. In the IPO league table in 2012with KL at 5th place and HK at 4th. SGX with two FTs leading it was nowhere.

Err, why not invented here?

In Political economy on 14/03/2013 at 6:57 am

This was republished from a UK paper by MediaCorp’s free sheet. I think it was meant to show that we can make things cheaper (all those FTs by the cattle-truck load) and better than the UK: .

But, a true blue S’porean might wonder why despite all the money thrown on R&D, and all the praise that our MSM reports on our “innovation”, things like this get invented in the UK, a place that one LKY used to rubbish regularly.


Subsidising wage rises good, Minimum Wage bad

In Economy, Political economy on 13/03/2013 at 6:40 am

As usual the grumblers are out on TRE, TOC and Facebook. The question they are bitching out loud is, “Why is the govt spending our money on subsidising wage increases?”. And asking, “What about introducing a Minimum Wage?”

I’ve this fantasy that when the govt introduces a Minimum Wage scheme, these same people who say that this scheme is bad for S’pore: which it is*.

Coming back to subsidised pay rises, other than to win votes from the many S’poreans who don’t belong to Team “Govt, PAP are bastards” or “PAP govt is always wrong” or “We always bitch against the PAP, govt”, there is a good economic reason for the govt subsidising wage rises.

Rising wages give employers an incentive to increase the return to recruiting and training, if they can no longer bring in FTs by the cattle-truck load to off-set rising wages for locals. At the same time, rising wages make it more attractive for older S’poreans to look for work, rather than go online and complain about everything, while making it more attractive for employers to drop their prejudices and discrimination against the elderly.

(Having said all that, there is an educated oldie at the Marine Parade polyclinic that I wish wasn’t working there.)

And given that the SMEs are screaming that the govt is killing them by cutting off the supply of FTS, how else to give S’poreans a wage rise, on top of CPF employer rate rises.

And better to spend our money on fellow S’poreans rather than giving it to our SWFs who will spend some of it on ang moh investment bankers who bring them lousy deals.

Post on Workfare:

*I wish all those MPs who talked cock about a Minimum Wage would read and I’m shocked that the PAP didn’t ensure that its MPs understood elementary economics. (BTW, the piece is entitled “The minimum wage- The law of demand is a bummer”)

Most relevant excerpt: There are conditions under which raising the minimum wage will increase demand, as well as economic efficiency. According to one story, monopsony conditions for low-wage labour, ie, imperfectly competitive labour-market conditions in which there is but a single buyer of low-wage labour (or a colluding band of buyers) that is able to set wages at a level workers have little choice but to accept. Good old Econ 101 shows that under such conditions, a bump in the minimum wage, within a certain range, can boost employment and enhance efficiency. So there’s that. And such conditions no doubt exist in some sectors at some places at some times. One famous, and egregiously misused, study suggests that monopsony-like conditions applied to fast-food restaurants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the mid-1990s. But there is basically no reason whatsoever to think that such conditions apply generally, across all sector and regions of the American labour market.

In the absence of special conditions, we have every reason to expect the law of demand to hold, such that raising the minimum wage will make it harder for inexperienced workers—workers whose output is worth less to employers than the mandated wage, and especially teenagers from low-income families looking to get a first footing in the labour market—to find work. And this is, in fact, what empirical studies tend to conclude. A comprehensive 2008 survey of the empirical literature from David Neumark, a professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine, and William Wascher, an economist for the Federal Reserve, found that, as one would expect, “[M]inimum wages reduce employment opportunities for less-skilled workers, especially those who are most directly affected by the minimum wage.”

Again, it doesn’t have to work this way. Employers can cut hours rather than hiring fewer workers. They can turn down the air-conditioner, strictly police the length of breaks, and otherwise reduce the cost of amenities previously enjoyed by employees. They can shift to off-the-books employees willing to work for less than the legally-mandated minimum. They can raise prices, passing on increased labour costs to consumers. It’s conceivable that the only consequence would be that a larger share of profits gets distributed to low-wage workers. Conceivable and exceedingly unlikely. In reality, we probably get small adjustments along each of these dimensions.

Of course, there is some newish empirical research contesting the disemployment effect of increases in the minimum wage, and then there is even newer research debunking it.

Alternative to FTs

In Uncategorized on 12/03/2013 at 5:39 am


S’pore wants to be high-tech centre. But where are the S’pore equivalents of

— The computer scientist and psychologist Noel Sharkey has, however, found 14 companies in Japan and South Korea that are in the process of developing childcare robots.

South Korea has already tried out robot prison guards, and three years ago launched a plan to deploy more than 8,000 English-language teachers in kindergartens.

— At just 130cm high, Honda’s Asimo jogs around on bended knee like a mechanical version of Dobby, the house elf from Harry Potter. He can run, climb up and down stairs and pour a bottle of liquid in a cup.

Since 1986, Honda have been working on humanoids with the ultimate aim of providing an aid to those with mobility impairments.

And the govt’s plans to move into space dovetails with robotics are man is becoming redundant in space. Robots are leading the way there. Man is just a passenger. In the early days of the space race between the US and USSR, America’s finest (its test pilots) were reluctant to become astronauts because they tot the job entailed being “a monkey with a stick”. They weren’t that wrong.

M’sia: Banking & politics

In Banks, Malaysia on 11/03/2013 at 2:49 pm

CIMB has a very gd CEO who made the bank a regional player bigger than DBS by managing to pick-up a controlling stake in an Indon bank during the 2007 financial crisis at a song (usually foreigners get screwed in Indonesia), and the rest is history. Everyone else is now playing catch-up including MayBank.

Sadly, if BN does not win a two-thirds majority in the coming general elections, he will out on the street. As the election result is expected to be close, CIMB executives are assuming whoever wins, he will go. He is the younger brudder of the PM, and if BN does not win a two-thirds majority, he will be defenestrated, and younger brudder will follow.

But it’s always like that in M’sia. The CEOs, and controlling shareholder (unless it is a govt agency) are always vulnerable when there is a change of PM, or when there is an unsuccessful attempt to replace a PM.

PAP listening to SDP?

In Infrastructure on 11/03/2013 at 6:22 am

Err didn’t the govt rubbish the SDP’s idea of lowering the cost of HDB flats by making it a condition of getting cheaper flats that they be resold to HDB?

And didn’t Khaw just say that this idea will be studied? But didn’t credit the SDP for suggesting it?

As an oldie using SingHealth, here’s hoping the SDP’s healthcare ideas be adopted* and that Paul A** gets co-opted to become Health minister.


*Never mind if it bankrupts S’pore as healthcare costs in the US and UK are bankrupting these nations, I’ll be dead.

**He was a possible SDP candidate for Punggol-East. Gd that he didn’t stand because he couldn’t claim to be born poor: even s/o JBJ claimed that although born in a pram made of gold, silver and ivory, he became poor when his dad took on the PAP. He dared make this claim even though he went to very expensive ang moh schools. JBJ became so poor that he could send his son to expensive schools? Come on, man who doesn’t know the Pledge, pull the other leg, it’s got bells on it.


Safe? Are you sure LTA?

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 10/03/2013 at 6:32 pm

Sinkholes happen when a layer of rock underneath the ground is dissolved by acidic water.

Usually this layer is a soluble carbonate rock, such as limestone or its purer form, chalk …Typically rainfall seeps through the soil, absorbing carbon dioxide and reacting with decaying vegetation. As a result, the water that reaches the soluble rock is acidic.

The acidic water causes the erosion of the soluble rock layers beneath the surface – eventually creating cavernous spaces.

The soil or sand over the limestone collapses into a sinkhole when it is no longer supported because of the cavity below. This final collapse of the surface might take anything from a few minutes to several hours. Read for more details on how they occur.

After reading the article, I’m left wondering how LTA can be so confident that the other lanes are safe*? Ain’t the other lanes sited on the same piece of land? It’s that to imagine that the hollow in the ground coincide with the lane: surely the hollow, if any, is spread over several lanes? As the article points out, holes can appear suddenly and unexpectedly, when there is a “tipping point’.

And if other sinkholes appear on other lanes: another “honest mistake”?

But let’s be fair, if the LTA had closed sections of the road while it conducts tests, and then found no other problems, the “Govt are bastards” brigade on Facebook, TRE, TOC, TRS and the internet would have a field day. And S’poreans who were inconvenienced by the road closure would bltch like bleating lambs too.

In first-world democracies, the emphasis would be safety over convenience, partly because govt’s and officials are afraid of lawsuits when people die. Here the culture seems to be public convenience over public safety (and cross fingers and hope no one dies). We had one example of this attitude when the public inquiry into MRT breakdowns, revealed that LTA was upset when SMRT wanted to extend disruption of service to conduct more checks. And the bitch brigade bitched when a minister dared to suggest that there might be a need to stop services to conduct checks or repairs. Nothing further was heard from him.

A balance has to be struck between public safety and public convenience, and this requires a consensus. Now wouldn’t this issue make a great topic for NatCon? And isn’t this issue connected to the issue of how many people we want here, given our population density. We are among the world’s most densely populated places.


*The patched-up sinkhole on Clementi Road has reappeared.

The gaping hole is about two-metre wide and a metre deep.

It was fixed on 4 March but it collapsed again on Friday.

A Land Transport Authority spokesperson said the affected lane was closed off immediately for repair works.

They are investigating the cause of the hole and are also conducting scans below the affected portion for any possible cavities.

The other lanes on Clementi Road remain safe. CNA

Contrast HSBC with StanChart

In Banks, Uncategorized on 10/03/2013 at 6:16 am

Both were narco banks. They were founded in the 19th century to finance the trade in opium between British India and Manchu China. They moved on with HSBC becoming one of the biggest banks in the world while StanChart remained like HSBC, once was, a an emerging markets bank. But HSBC returned to its roots: HSBC was fined for providing help to the Mexican drug cartels (bank counters were made bigger to facilitate the handing over of bank notes). StanChart was fined for a technical offence.

HSBC’s Profit Fell 17% in 2012 on Money Laundering Fine. HSBC has since hired the former chief of the US Treasury department’s sanction unit to assist with compliance.



Asean round-up

In Airlines, Banks, India, Indonesia on 09/03/2013 at 7:09 am

The Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group “is among banks considering a purchase of TPG Capital’s $1.6 billion stake in Indonesia’s PT Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional, two people with knowledge of the matter said,” Bloomberg News reports.

A bid by Malaysian low-cost carrier, AirAsia, to set up an airline in India has won approval from the Indian government.

It would be the first foreign company to try to capture the rising demand in India’s aviation sector.

AirAsia India would be a joint venture with the well-known Tata Group, based in Chennai in South India.

India’s aviation industry, which has suffered major losses, was opened to foreign investment last year.

The government now allows foreign companies to own up to 49% of a local airline.

AirAsia, which is Asia’s largest low-cost carrier, will make an initial investment of 800m rupees ($15m; £10m) and will own 49% of the new airline, while Tata Sons will have a 30% stake. Part of BBC report

Low & gang are pro LHL?

In Humour, Political governance on 08/03/2013 at 5:35 am

Readers will know by now that JG is a WP groupie, usual making coherent and rational arguments.

In response to this, she wrote: Looks like you’re still only 3 steps or so into your 10 step journey of epiphany about LHL. You really think he “gets it” and beginning to change since GE2011? Bookmark this post and come back again 2 years time. I’ve seen countless hopeful like you – including Andrew Loh, “Blogging for Myself” – slowly learning for themselves that it is not MBT, TCH, WKS that’s the issue – its the top leadership. When its rudderless or ineffective – what you call “hands-off” – you get bursts of swinging to the left, swinging to the right, tweaking a little here, tweaking a little there. You’re colored by your hopes and prejudice that I think, you will take a longer time to see his lack of leadership for what it is. The problem, as Lucky Tan rightly pointed out, is that the longer you let certain things fester, the worse it becomes and harder to solve. OK, lets set the clock ticking …

Err JG seems to have forgotten that her dear leader, Loh, says,”Effect of policy changes not felt yet” and “Give govt time to work policies”? So isn’t he saying that we should give PM and the govt more time, now that PM is no longer neutered mentored? And remember Show Mao’s analogy of the WP being loyal courtiers to the emperor (OK, OK, I exaggerate: only slightly though), another way of expressing a variant of the idea: give constructive, nation-building criticism so that the PAP can reform itself and change it policies for S’pore?

As to decisive leadership from him, don’t expect it.He is not that kind of person, and anyway, S’pore and the world are too complicated for that kind of style in other than in crises. George Bush was a decisive leader: look what happened.

S-Reits remain “betterst’ in region

In Property, Reits on 07/03/2013 at 10:31 am

S-Reits delivered the region’s highest dividend yield as at the end of last month, the latest month-end Asia Index Report produced by the FTSE Group has noted.

The FTSE ST Reit Index and the FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Singapore Reits Index ranked highest in terms of dividend yield and lowest in terms of volatility, relative to their regional counterparts.


Citi sees shareholders* no ak, ignores their wishes

In Banks, Corporate governance, Temasek on 07/03/2013 at 5:37 am

Citigroup Makes Preparations for Profit-Sharing Plans Executives of Citigroup “stand to collect $579 million under profit-sharing plans that include the one shareholders voted against last year. The lender booked a $246 million expense in 2012 tied to the plans, adding to $285 million for the previous year and $48 million in 2010, according to regulatory filings,” Bloomberg News reports.

Charles Peabody, an analyst with Portales Partners LLC in New York, said the payouts are difficult to justify given last year’s shareholder rejection. Peabody, who told clients in a 2011 note that he was “dismayed” by the lack of stringent financial thresholds in that year’s plan, said today that Citigroup hasn’t done enough to tie pay to performance.

“The compensation plan was a travesty,” said Peabody, who has an underperform rating on the shares. “Citi’s board and management team continue to make a mockery of shareholder, political and regulatory demands that compensation reflect performance.” …The profit-sharing payouts are on top of annual salaries and bonuses granted to senior executives …

… Citigroup’s use of pretax profit to grant awards “sets the bar too low,” said Hodgson, the compensation analyst. “They’re not looking at anything else apart from pretax income, which is just not a good enough measure of a bank’s performance.”

*GIC still has a slug of Citi

Bang balls Temasek haters: Standard Chartered’s Profit Rises Despite U.S. Fine

In Banks, Temasek on 06/03/2013 at 10:07 am

Standard Chartered posted a slight increase in annual net profit in 2012. Its businesses in emerging economies offset a US$667 million fine in the United States connected to illegal money income rose less than 1, to US$4.8 billion, compared with 2011, while revenue rose 8%, to US$19.1 billion. It was the 10th consecutive year that Standard Chartered had reported a yearly increase in its profit. Its vast operations across Asia, Africa and the Middle East helped protect the bank from many of the problems affecting developed economies like the United States and Europe … Standard Chartered has continued to expand in emerging markets by taking advantage of growing demand for financial services from both local companies and international entities looking to invest.

The bank said its operating income in China grew 21 percent last year, to $1 billion, as it benefited from expanding its local branch network sixfold since 2003. Standard Charted said it was now active in 25 emerging economies where its annual growth was in double digits.

Err why must S’poreans prove anything, Managing Editor of SPH?

In Media, Political governance, Uncategorized on 06/03/2013 at 6:44 am

On 24th February, SunT’s headline on its regular column by SPH’s Managing Editor* screamed: “Who’s out of touch – our leaders or people?”. In slightly smaller lettering,” S’poreans have to also prove that they are not a mollycoddled lot who have forgotten the realities of making a living in this competitive world and how this country made it against the odds.”

It irritated me for three reasons. The obvious one is that S’poreans already know “the realities of making a living in this competitive world”: in the last few years, they have had to put up with minimal increases in real income, escalating property prices** and inflation caused in part by the government’s very liberal immigration policies, amidst  turbulent economic conditions. The immigration policies that only now are being revised: not to reverse the situation, mind you, just  to slow the growth of FTs from the cattle-truck load to a lorry-load. I didn’t say this, Grace Fu said this when she blasted WP’s plans to limit FTs.

The second reason is that he seems to have forgotten that the govt had already admitted that ordinary S’poreans neede income rises: the issue was how to achieve it. On 25 February, Tharman announced the Budget and he said later, “And if you can’t raise incomes for the average person, for the median household and for those at the lower end of the wage ladder, your society frays.”

The third reason, it irritated me is is the unspoken assumption (which he may not even realise he made) that S’poreans are not sovereign: we have to answer to a higher authority. And this authority grades us to see whether our views are acceptable or not. If not acceptable, go get locked up under ISA, is it Mr Managing Editor?

This assumption is best explained by Alex Au in this and Dr Jothie Rajah (the first wife of our Law Minister, according to Kum Hong)

It is here that Rajah brings up a novel point. Very often, the PAP in its defence alludes to how Singapore’s legal and political system is descended from Britain. This is used as yet another bullet point in support of ‘rule of law’ legitimacy. But she points out that in many ways, our laws are not descended from Britain. They are instead descended from colonial rule, and colonial rule is inherently illiberal. Colonial governments did not rule over citizens; they ruled over subjects. Colonial governors did not submit themselves to election nor permit much political contestation; they enacted laws such as the Internal Security Act and the Sedition Act meant to control rebellion, and they saw themselves as the enlightened and civilised few sent here to protect the natives who could not be trusted to see their own best interests, grasp the facts or even understand the complex issues of the day.

The examples she studied and presented in her book all have a similar character. She thus argues that

The nation-state has adopted the colonial legal regime in a manner that renders the nation-state a neo-colonising entity, subordinating and infantilising citizen-subjects.

Coming back to Mr Managing Editor: with an ally like this, the PAP and PM must be wondering, “Who needs enemies?”


*His picture reminds me of one of Philip K Dick’s Unusuals in “Our Friends from Frolix 8”. The Ususuals ruled the solar system.

**Mah Bow Tan even ensured that property prices flew in a recession.

Investment banking horror stories

In Financial competency on 05/03/2013 at 4:42 am

In the end, an adviser would say the client, no matter how foolish, is in charge. And that was the problem. The Bakers, who had built a $600 million business from scratch, appear to think that their advisers should have saved them from themselves and that they could negotiate a better deal than Goldman Sachs. That was a mistake.

The charges against … should put Wall Street on notice that the government will try to police markets that require trust among the participants in the absence of transparent price information. The defense of caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware, will not necessarily protect against criminal charges for fraud.


So why not, for example, put a ceiling on salaries and let clients reward good service, just as they do in restaurants? That could allow banker pay to shrink to a more realistic level.

The U.S. restaurant business even provides a model of sorts. The Fair Labor Standards Act lets an employer pay waiters below minimum wage as long as they earn a certain amount a month in tips. If the combined total remains below the minimum wage, the restaurant has to make up the difference.

How to make a school good?

In Uncategorized on 04/03/2013 at 4:45 pm

With the A-level results out, the above is a relevant question.

The boffins at the Urban Education Institute (UEI) in Chicago have written an exemplary book on school improvement. They looked at 100 elementary schools that showed progress in attendance and test scores over a seven-year period, and 100 others that did not. They argue—with quantitative data—that five essential pillars are needed to build a great school. These are: effective school leadership, collaborative teachers (with committed staff and professional development), parent-community ties, a student-centered (and safe) learning climate with high expectations, and ambitious and demanding instruction. (From an Economist blog).

On this critera, any neighbourhood school can aspire and be a good school. Of course, I’m defining “good” to include more than juz prodicing students capable of four As or the equivalent at O-levels.

BTW, an interesting UK school: The academy will allow students aged from 14 to 19 to specialise in engineering and science alongside core subjects in English, mathematics, languages and business.

It will offer young people the chance to work with leading engineering firms and businesses, including Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce, National Grid, Eon and Goodrich, using a staff/student ratio of one to 10 for practical sessions.


Don’t be like that leh, Lucky Tan

In Humour, Political governance on 04/03/2013 at 6:06 am

(Or “Let’s pang chance Lee Hsien Loong: he is dismantling the LKY House of Hard Truths that he,  GCT and other PAPpies constructed” )

True I agree that this is the Budget I would like to have seen in the early noughties

But let’s give PM some credit for not sailing full steam ahead like what dad and GCT seem to want, like the captain of the Titanic, into an iceberg. True the PAP govt would suffer if he continued the Way of Hard Truths, but so would we: we might get what PritamS and Show Mao in the cabinet: a PAP govt held up by the WP. And an economy that has gone to dogs (FT of course), literally. There is still time to correct the course, assuming, of course, that the PM and his cabinet have truly repented of the sins of the previous cabinets and of Goh Chok Tong’s premership where one LHL, Teo, Khaw, Hng Kiang, Tharman  and  Ng Eng Hen were leading ministers.

And true, it might be too late to avoid problems caused by the Way of Hard Truths.

But better late than never I say. Remember he only became unfettered as PM after the 2011 GE. Since 2004, he had been shackled to his predecessors who remained in the cabinet and who shared the same work space. Imagine any CEO having to share his office with his predecessors.

What I like about the Budget is the realisation (to me at least) by the PAP that just because everyone could be made better off by economic growth doesn’t mean that everyone will be made better off: there must be an institutional framework in place to ensure that the gains from growth are shared. Hence the return to the “old” CPF rates, and the govt subsidised salary increases, though I would like to know more about the link between the two. (Hopefully a PAP MP or Mrs Chiam can ask questions to clarify the matter. The WP MPs would be too busy preening themselves crowing about the measures copied from them. One word of advice to them: S’poreans are not daft. S/o JBJ, Mad Dog and TJS lost credibility with S’poreans when they wrongly claimed that the govy “stole” their ideas.)

Which neatly brings me back into the topic of giving our  PM some credit for changing the way things are done. Let’s take his lawyer’s letter against one Alex Au, a few months ago. Remember that incident? If you don’t just google it up on TRE.

As could have been expected, Lee Hsien Loong’s request to Alex Au to remove a defamatory posting met with howls and bitching from the Jedi of the internet. You can read all about it at TRE and TOC. Even the self-styled People’s Voice, TKL, joined in.  When he joins in, you know that the issue has been blown way out of all proportion.

One day I will go into some detail on why PM was right to (I’m waiting for the PAP to offer me some goodies first, like say an AIM-like contract) ask him to remove the post.

But here are the powerpoint points (partly so that PAP can see how gd I can be at defending PM (and other PAPpies, at least better than PR expert Baey and the PAP’s allies in the media)

— he (PM) is doing what we (OK at least me) would all love to do when we are defamed or ridiculed;

— he’s got the money, what with his salary;

— the post of PM should not be tarnished with unproven allegations of corruption directed at the person holding it; and

— Alex Au

—- wasn’t asked to cough up costs,

—- had form as a serial defamer of the PAPpies, and

—- has subversive tendencies and ideas.

(He also didn’t sue TJS for saying that the detention of the “Marxists” in 1988 was political: something that got one Tony Tan upset and screaming, “Defamation”. Instead he left TJS bang his balls in frustration that the Opposition parties ignore him despite his claim ,mathematically correct, that he got more votes in PE 2011 than the WP got in GE2011.)

And to be serious, remember that he changed the undemocratic policy of not holding by-elections for vacant seats, despite a court affirming that he, the PM has a discretion not to hold by-elections.  He could have chosen not to call by-elections in Houggang or Punggol East. But he did and ended up with a jab in the eye in Punggol East.

To sum up: PM’s a pretty decent guy, even if he was born with five silver spoons in his mouth, and a golden pram. He doesn’t go round micro-managing his ministers and senior civil servants. Or suing his critics. Or pretending to be “compassionate like GCT. His problem is that he has to sack a few more non-performers and more importantly humiliate them publicly, so that S’poreans feel “shiok” that even tua kees can be castrated publicly. Imagine if he had humiliated the clownish four: GCT, Wong, Mah and Raymond. S’poreans would be cheering him.

And finally, to repeat something I wrote earlier, he only became a real PM after the May 2011 election. Before that he was a neutered mentored PM (since 2004), and before that a meritocratic society’s version of the hereditary Dauphin or Prince of Wales, except of course that unlike them he got there by virtue of a President and SAF scholarships,  Double First at Cambridge and career in the SAF.

And while the u/m is something that his dad or Goh Chok Tong might have introduced to deter crime, punish criminals and raise revenues, I some how doubt that PM would introduce this US practice.

When a crime is committed there’s often talk of the criminal owing a debt to society – paid back through community service, fines or a prison term … In many American states, ex-offenders leave prison owing fees and fines to the court – possibly $50 (£31) for police transport, or $35 (£22) to a victims’ fund, or $100 (£62) for some unspecified administrative fee.

But in Philadelphia, you can also owe money for missing court dates before your imprisonment – and these sums run into thousands of dollars.

 Those fines ratchet up the bill quickly, with some people who thought they’d paid for their criminal past discovering that they now owe tens of thousands of dollars.

So let’s cut him some slack, and see how much more to dad’s house he demolishes, even if he and his gang helped built much of the unattractive features.

Two cheers for the govt’s policy of limiting uni education

In Political governance on 03/03/2013 at 6:03 am

No college diploma, no job, even as a file clerk (NYT), shows that the govt has legitimate concerns about the extent of university education.

Problem is that at the same time as limiting the local uni education of true blue S’poreans, it allows in FTs with degrees (how many are fake?) by the cattle-truck load.

So locals are held back, so that FTs with fake or low quality degrees can find work here? Something is wrong, very wrong with this reasoning.

It’s reasoning like this, adherence to Hard Truths, while favouring FTs, that turned me against the PAP. That and Charles Chong insisting that people needing help must be stripped of their dignity before they can receive $50, in transport vouchers. Google up “Charles Chong” on this blog.

For the record, S’pore’s spending on education is only around 3% of GDP (about halve of Switzerland which is in line with developed countries), so we got to spend a lot more to have a Swiss-style standard of education.

Related post:

Waz missing in today’s ST?

In Media on 02/03/2013 at 8:25 am

And in Today too?

The news that the S’pore police have asked the FBI to assist it in the investigation of Todd’s death, after refusing the FBI’s help Backgrounder I read it in my FT, a financial newspaper.

Our MSM ashamed of our Home Team’s ang moh tua kee attitude*? Or of our police incompetency? SPG missed a hard disk in his flat, that his parents found, and took it back to the US. Or of U-turn? Or all three?


*Remember two ang moh caws were allowed to skip bail, and one even given PR status, after beating up true blue S’poreans. We were told the police were carrying out an internal disciplinary hearing on the matter, but nothing has been heard. Officer cleared? But public not told that officer was right to have ang moh tua kee attitude?

Thailand downgraded by US broker

In Uncategorized on 02/03/2013 at 7:20 am

Morgan Stanley downgraded Thailand equities to ‘underweight’ from ‘equal weight’, reflecting its expensive valuation and overbought technical indicators. It’s been up 12% in US$ terms this yr, 9% in the local currency.

The downgrade put Thailand into the broker’s list of underweight-rated countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. The broker had ‘equal weight’ for Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Thailand is expensive in terms of all the valuation measures we use in the model: P/B, Z-Score of P/E, and dividend yield,” Morgan Stanley said in its Asia/Global Emerging Markets report dated Feb 27.

“Thailand has outperformed the MSCI EM by more than 8 per cent YTD 2013, which makes its technical factors like price reversal and RSI unattractive,” it said.

Not enough interesting ASEAN news this week for the usual Asean round-up.

Rebuilding trust the PAP way: “One step forward, two steps back”.

In Political governance on 01/03/2013 at 6:01 am

While one can the criticise the details of the Budget (I hope the WP would not be up to its old trick of publicly bitching against it while voting for the Budget on the QT), I think that finally the govt has got the idea on how to rebuild trust: Spending more of our money on making life more comfortable for ourselves (especially the poorer S’poreans, and the middle class: the latter according to Kee Chui Chan); while trying to curb inflation* by using non-market mechanisms: raising taxes on luxury cars, and properties (other than the home) and by introducing curbs on car financing. How about doing the latter for residential investments: not more than 10 years? (Budget cheat sheet:

More measures like those contained in the Budget, and the announcements in 2011 and 2012 on increased public transport infrastructure spending of $1.1bn, and the  accelerated HDB building programme, are the right steps in rebuilding trust.

Likewise the announcement that AIM will not take part in the coming tender (Though I’ll blog one of these days on a conspiracy theory on why AIM is not taking part).

But the govt and PAP seemed determined to sabo themselves by doing things like publishing the Population White Paper . It’s things like this paper that prevents the PAP from regaining the trust of many S’poreans. The govt and PAP have an obsession of doing the unpopular thing. The assumption seems to be that the unpopular thing is always the right thing to do. Maybe they should think of doing the right thing, even if it is the popular thing to do?

The test should be, “Will the measure benefit the majority of S’poreans?”, not “Is it unpopular?”.

Whatever it is, the PAP have until the next GE (2016?) not until 2020 (as PM seems to think) to rebuild trust. Otherwise it might need the WP’s help to form a govt. That will make PritamS (Coalition) and Show Mao’s day (WP as trusted adviser).

My advice: juz throw more of our money at S’poreans, go easy on public transport fare rises, make it possible to use Medisave for more ailments, “borrow” ideas from the SDP’s healthcare plan, squeeze the very rich S’poreans (those who flash around big or sporty cars, or luxury palaces or EC penthouses and go easy on the “FTs all the way” policy.

In short, make life better for the majority of S’poreans.