atans1

Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

SingTel affected by rupiah, rupee collapse

In China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Telecoms, Vietnam on 31/08/2013 at 5:08 am

In its latest set of results announced a few weeks ago, the profit contribution from regional associates climbed 14% to S$552 million in the quarter on higher results from Indonesia, Thailand and India, the company said.

SingTel gets 12% of its profit before tax from India and 22% from Indonesia, with those earnings in future likely to take a hit when translated back into Singapore dollars. Remember too the weakish A$, Baht, and Filipino peso will affect its earnings.

Other Asean round-up news

At an emergency meeting on Aug. 29, the monetary authority raised its benchmark and overnight deposit rates. It’s a decision Bank Indonesia should have made at its last official gathering less than two weeks ago. An obsession with economic growth stayed its hand. http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/08/29/currency-markets-rude-wakeup-call-stirs-indonesia/

Politics is back on the streets in Thailand, after a relative lull of more than two years, with a protest over the weekend. It underlines the persistence of divisions in Thailand and raises the prospect of a return to the political turmoil that left more than 90 people dead in Bangkok in 2010.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in a vacant lot in Bangkok on Saturday, as speakers threatened to “overthrow” the government.

But unlike in previous years, this time the protesters were members of Thailand’s oldest political party, the Democrat Party, which has long had a reputation as the staid, well-mannered and intellectual voice of the Bangkok establishment and has been firmly dedicated to resolving differences inside Parliament, where the Democrats lead the opposition.

The acrimony between the Democrats and the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra centres on a number of legislative issues, chiefly an effort by the government to pass an amnesty law for those involved in the 2010 protests.

The Democrats oppose the Bill, saying it might also apply to those who insulted the monarchy or committed serious crimes.

But the broader conflict appears to stem from their feeling of powerlessness in the face of the resurgence of Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck’s brother, who sets the broad policy lines for the government and the Pheu Thai Party despite living abroad since 2008 in self-imposed exile to escape corruption charges.

The weekend protests followed another peaceful one earlier this month involving some 2,500 supporters of the Democrat Party and royalist groups at Bangkok’s Lumpini Park, throwing fresh light on Thaksin’s divisive influence in Thailand.

(Extract from NYT)

Malaysia‘s government is exploring the possibility of hiking the real property gains tax to rein in rising housing prices and curb speculation in the market. Bernama quoted Housing Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan as saying that current property tax levels had failed to stabilise house prices with the house price index continuing to rise.

Malaysia’s GST will take 14 months to implement if announced in the budget in October, a ministry official said

The Philippines posted better-than-forecast economic growth, fuelled by its services sector and higher consumer and government spending. Its economy grew 7.5% in the April to June quarter, from a year earlier. It is the fourth quarter in a row its economy has expanded by more than 7% – defying a regional trend which has seen growth slow down in many countries. The Philippines’ 7.5% second-quarter growth matched that of China but is higher than Indonesia, Vietnam or Malaysia,

However, the country has been hurt in recent weeks by investors pulling out of the region’s emerging economies. This despite under emerging mkts, given the follow of remittances from workers overseas, it will not have to worry about investors’ outflows unlike other mkts.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways has said it will acquire a 49% stake in Asian Wings Airways, an airline based in Burma..

The Japanese airline will pay 2.5bn yen (US$25m) for the stake.mIt is the first time a foreign carrier has invested in a Burmese-based commercial airline. It currently operates domestic flights to all major tourist destinations in Myanmar.It t plans to “extend its wings to regional destinations through scheduled flights as well as chartered ones”.

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Gilbert Goh & friends are losing the plot

In Political governance on 30/08/2013 at 5:24 am

Something is wrong when someone who claims to have attended the two previous protests posts this constructive criticism on TRE:

2cents:

One has to honestly asked why there has been no climb down or indication of a pause or hint of a rethink. Were the protests effective? Has LKY already given the answer i.e. “wait a few years to see how things turn out”? Meantime, keep the issue out of sight while create a diversion with housing, education & health. Your guess?

Anyway, having attended the first 2 protests, I have 2 suggestions;

– The 4k attendance and subsequent lower turnout compared to the +10k one organized by the Pink movement is cause for thought. Can Transitioning learn something fr the latter’s organizers? Or why not get the Pink people to “mutually support” each other?

– One can almost guess who the speakers at the next protest will be. If so, it suggests to the authorities that the base and appeal of the protest is rather limited and not broad-based. New and more speakers must be sourced, encouraged to step forward to present views, arguments different but still in support of the protest goals than from the same tired faces. There are so many bloggers, commentators, contributors to alternative media sites who cam argue no less if not even more eloquently than what we have heard. Why not throw out an open invitation to ask for speakers to come forward, submit a brief of what he/she would like to speak on? Then form a committee to vet, evaluate and decide on an agenda?

For what it’s worth, Mr Leong SH shd don’t to have air time and also assist with the planning. Perhaps, Nicole Seah shd be persuaded to speak fr her perspective as a younger Singaporean amongst us who will be feeling and living through the impact of a 6.9mil overcrowded red dot for many years to come.

I personally have three grumbles with the latest call. Firstly, the rhetoric behind the call seems to indicate that GG and the other organisers have been watching too much tv footage of the protests in Cairo and Istanbul. They are calling for regime change what with

We will want to rally the people once gain to rise up and stand up for their rights in this third white paper protest!

This is our country and we want what’s best for us and our children – not to have a foreigner-induced 6.9 million population target shoved down our throat. We want a Singapore for Singaporeans! We want change!

One can hear the sound of trumpets, and the beating drums along with firing of tear gas canisters in these words

Next, they said, There is also an increase in molest cases on our jam-packed MRT trains and Singaporeans suffer the nightmare of having to ride in it twice daily.

Steady on. I and many others are concerned about the “projected” 6.9m by 2030, and are concerned about the FT influx. But I (and I’m sure many others) don’t want to be associated with people who make such a anti-foreigner statement. Granted,the causal link is not direct, but reading the sentence in tts context it is clear that the organisers are giving the message that foreigners cause overcrowding, and overcrowding causes increases in molestation cases etc, etc.. The rhetoric and twisted logic is worrying, given GG’s personal comments (for which he has apologised) on FTs.

Finally, the organisers are clearly coming across as anti-govt, not “anti” a govt policy. The first “protest” “worked” because it was seen as protesting something that even PAP supporters had reservations about. The second protest was seen as anti-white paper with a few other grievances thrown in. Then came the Nat Day event which came across less as an alternative celebration than a anti-govt “party”. Now we have a call for regime change.

Meanwhile the govt is “listening” and “acting”, even though it hasn’t withdrawn the White Paper. Whether its actions are juz wayang, has yet to be seen: I’m sceptical. But I for one am inclined to watch and wait, not demand regime change.

BTW, lest I be accused of being anti GG https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/gilbert-goh-shows-up-meritocracy-spore-style/

Off-key & jarring: DBS’ trumpeting of restructuring success

In Economy on 29/08/2013 at 4:54 am

(Or Govt decides if there is real median wage growth, not businesses?

When I read this quote from DBS Group Research some time back, I was puzzled,

In this regard, real median income has increased by an average pace of 3.1% per annum since the announcement of the ESC recommendations.

At the current pace, real median income will be 35% higher than what it was in 2010. This is precisely what policymakers have aimed for. By this measure, restructuring is smack on track . http://sbr.com.sg/economy/news/heres-convincing-proof-singapores-restructuring-track

It did not make sense as I remembered reading a MoM report that stated that in recent yrs real median wage growth was negative.

I forwarded the above link to TRE with a note asking why it didn’t publish +ve things about govt policies? Was it the mirror image of the constructive nation-building ST, except that it only published -ve stuff about the govt?

It published the link and asked Uncle Leong for his comments.

His reply is here. DBS took into consideration the employers’ contribution rate increase!

He added

In this connection, I wrote a letter to the media, “asking why a real median income growth rate of -0.6% for 2011 was used in the calculation of the National Bonus for political office-holders, and the Prime Minister’s Office and MOM came out to clarify:

“MOM’s 1.0% real median income growth rate for employed Singaporeans included the employers’ CPF contributions while the -0.6% real median income growth rate used by PMO for the National Bonus calculation did not include it.

PMO said it had computed the National Bonus payout using income figures sans the contributions as it was felt that changes to employers’ CPF rates are decided by the Government and, hence, should not be linked to the payout for political office-holders.” – TR Emeritus link, Apr 7, 2012

So, even the PMO concedes that the real median income growth (excluding employer CPF contribution) is the more appropriate measure.

Going further he added,

14.5% lower & not 35% higher next decade?

Therefore, instead of “At the current pace, real median income will be 35% higher than what it was in 2010. This is precisely what policymakers have aimed for. By this measure, restructuring is smack on track.” – may be it should be “ At the current pace, real median income will be 14.5% lower than what it was in 2010. This is precisely what policymakers have not aimed for. By this measure, restructuring is smack off track .”

Bottom line: Netizens, our local media and the govt are not the only beaters of DRUMS. Investment analysts too can play the DRUMS. And what are DRUMS may be relative. our DRUMs may be one man’s Hard Truths and vice-versa.

Bottom, bottom line: S’poreans are dependent on the govt for real wage increases. Include the 3% (?) increase to 16% in the employers’ CPF contribution, and hey presto median real wage growth is 3.1%. Increase it to 20% and the PAP will win back Aljunied and get 75% of the popular vote.

Shumetime is very, very wrong with the economy or society, or both, if the only way the real median wage can grow is via govt fiat.

Great party, gd for the Party?

In Humour, Political governance on 28/08/2013 at 5:00 am

“We should mark the occasion properly, 50 years is a significant milestone … I don’t think we should just have a fireworks display and a party, I think that would not be at the right level,” said PM recently.

A friend (not a PAPpy, though a fat cat in more ways than one (a car-owning, pauncy lawyer working in an investment bank and a landlord to boot) wrote on FB: “I am ENORMOUSLY EXCITED about #sg50 and if you like me are a child of #Singapore, I hope you are too!”

My reply: Don’t you think that a dominant underlying (but subtle) theme would be that “He who cannot be named” isn’t so bad after all? You can’t do indi celebrations about S’pore without [mentioning] HIM  can you? It will be interesting to see if the Barisan Socialists get credit for arguing before the referendum that S’pore could be independent on its own. I doubt it, a certain fat cat is more likely to lose weight first. ))) BTW, party followed by GE?

Of course the PM doesn’t juz want have “a fireworks display and a party”. He will want to use the occasion to rebrand and detoxify the PAP so that S’pore can remain a de-facto one party state. As he is a smart man, though not a creatively smart man, he will

— continue giving out more goodies using our money (watch out for that special bonus of peanuts); and

— remind the people of the role that his dad and the PAP played in getting us to the 50-year mark in pretty gd shape. Let’s face it, there are serious problems here, but as the FT recently wrote, they are the problems associated with success*.

And as a filial son** and leader of the PAP , he would want to rehabilitate the battering that his dad’s image has been getting. Nothing better than to remind S’poreans of the role LKY played in helping get us to first world status.

(Aside, The funny but sad thing is that the books that dad has been writing with the help of a team from the nation-building ST, have contributed a lot to the negative image that his dad seems to have among younger S’poreans. Maybe the ST journalists are covert subversives, guiding him to self-harm his image? Remember that LKY’s acolyte, Wong Kan Seng, once decried, and I agreed with him, some ST journalists as anti-Christians? Maybe, they anti LKY and anti-PAP?)

For my part, I look forward to the goodies (nice to know I’m get back something for the taxes I used to pay, and the GST I kanna still pay) but I will occasionally remind myself and readers that:

— it’s our money the govt is spending to make us happier and more comfortable;

— the end-game of the party, commemoration is continued dominance of the People’s Action Party (not too bad if it keeps PritamS from a cabinet post);

— the PAP’s narrative that the mainstream media will be bleating on loudly about, is not the only narrative: there are others equally worthy to celebrate or least listen listen to;

— LKY was the leader of a gd team, not the action man (stronger than Putin), superhero (a combi of Superman and Captain America), sage (great than Confucious) that he is likely to be made out to be by the local media.

And oh yes, I will remind self and readers, to now and then, ask the PM, “Will GST be raised after the next GE?” And listen carefully to the reply. I’m sure, he won’t say, “No rise” or “Yes, sure to go up” but the ambiguity of the answer is impt in deciding whether to drink his Kool-Aid.

Enjoy the party, congratulate ourselves and the PAP; but remember to throw some sand into the machinery PAP’s propaganda machine. Treat the sand throwing as part of the party’s fun and games.

*And those who keep on ranting that S’pore was the second biggest port in Asia, implying by that comment, that life was gd at the time, should read the book, I reviewed here, containing reports written for a London magazine between 1958 and 1962, or at least click my review. S’pore had a large budget deficit, there was high unemployment, no-one wanted to buy S’pore govt bonds despite the gd yield, workers were striking because the just elected PAP govt was pro-union, and one Toh Chin Chye said, “[W]e disagree that that the survival of Singapore depend on foreign capital, and capitalists …”

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

**I’m sure the rumours that he told his dad to sit down and shut up after his dad’s “repent” comments during the 2011 GE campaign, must upset the PM: Asians don’t do such things. And correcting dad about his Hard Truth on Malay Muslims, when the Malay minister, and the minister’s sister (present when LKY made the remarks) kept quiet, must have hurt PM. They should have have done the right thing and corrected LKY. So rehabilitating dad’s image is gd politically and for PM personally.

Tharman has a point, but Lawrence Wong missed the plot

In Economy, Financial competency on 27/08/2013 at 4:50 am

Speaking at the Network ASEAN forum on Friday morning, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said there was never a realistic prospect of a smooth and easy exit from quantitative easing (QE).

But the QE tapering will not be bad for the ASEAN economies as it is not in anyone’s interest for very low global interest rates to continue indefinitely.

It also signals an economic recovery in the US — a major market for ASEAN. [Channel News Asia last week].

Investors who have suffered from the flight from regional markets and currencies should look on the bright side. What he said is one gd point to remain calm.

Another reason why tapering is gd: The Federal Reserve is forcing Asia to kick its addiction to hot money. The prospect of higher U.S. interest rates had made the region’s dwindling trade surpluses look an increasingly dangerous habit. Though markets may be turbulent, pricier local money or cheaper currencies will improve the trade balance for most Asian countries. http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/08/22/fed-liquidity-curbs-will-act-as-asias-detox-plan/

But QE tapering is gd news only if investors are not leveraged to their eyeballs and counting, bringing me to the issue of Lawrence Wong (a board director at the central bank, where Tharman is the chairman) talked cock on “over-leveraged” borrowers.

Most heavy borrowers in Singapore have above average income levels, which means they are less likely to default on their loans.

Acting Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong said this [on 11 August] in response to questions in Parliament on household debts from Nominated MP Laurence Lien and Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong.

He went on to say: On borrowers who are “over-leveraged”, or those with debt service burdens exceeding 60 per cent of their income, Mr Wong said most of them have incomes higher than the median household income of S$6,000.

He added that nearly 90 per cent of these borrowers are servicing private property loans, and more than 80 per cent are servicing only one loan.

The reasons to be concerned about these people is not that they earn a lot and can service a loan while leading the gd life, or that they only got one loan. The issues are:

— What happens if they lose their high playing jobs. Will they find another high paying job before the bank manager starts calling? And if they can’t?

— Do they have the cash to cope with a rise in interest rates, whether they have a job that pays them a high a lot or not?

That they have incomes higher than the median household income of S$6,000 is irrelevant, or only one loan is irrelevant to the issue of whether the level of over-leverage poses a danger to the system. Going by the numbers available, over-leverae borrowers do not seem to pose a danger to the system. But the minister’s explanation does worry me: it could indicate the complacency of the central bank and the govt. Hopefully, I’m wrong about their complacency.

Before going to court, test sincerity of govt

In Public Administration on 26/08/2013 at 4:51 am

”The government remains committed to explain any issues arising from this tragic incident and to do whatever it can to assist the family,”said a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Well, Dinesh’s mother should test the sincerity of the govt by asking for details (beyond what has been already provided, not much it seems) that she wants to know. If the govt fails to give her satisfaction, then she should proceed further with her application to the court for the inquiry to her son’s death to be reopened. She should “suspend” for the time being her court petition.

Recently, I blogged that his family had the right to know more, that it would be gd PR for the govt* to provide them with more details of how he died (but that I doubted it would: bad PR seems to be a Hard Truth for the govt)), and that the family should try a non-legalistic way of finding out more.

Well, since the govt has said it ” remains committed to explain any issues arising from this tragic incident and to do whatever it can to assist the family”, they should test it. If there is no satisfaction, then go the legal route with M Ravi their action man, superhero, “kick ass”, “take no prisoners” lawyer** who loves to fight cases on constitutional grounds***. He once advised TRE to fight a request to remove an allegedly defamatory article on constitutional grounds. Another lawyer helped resolved the matter to the satisfaction of everyone involved. But when it’s time to go to court, its good to have M Ravi as your lawyer. He’s a tenacious, brave terrier. If you respect or admire, especially for his pro bono work, him buy his book. It’s the least you can do.

Perhaps, the family should approach Peter Low’s law firm to supplement the efforts of M Ravi. I’ve been told that Peter Low’s firm helped resolve a cartoonist’s row with the AGC on charges of “scandalising the judiciary”. The cartoonist apologised and removed the offending articles. M Ravi was also involved in this case.

Backgrounder on Peter Low: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/case-you-missed-it/story/62-year-old-lawyer-shows-no-signs-slowing-down-20130501. I don’t usually commend ST articles, but this one doesn’t play the DRUMS, not even a riff. People whose views I respect, praise him for his effective, quiet way of getting issues involving human rights or dignity resolved fairly. No posturing or wayang from him.

Horses for courses. Or a time for everything****. Plenty of time to “whack” the govt, if the family cannot get the info it wants by simply asking. And going the legal route, isn’t exactly a sure way of getting the info they want, at least going by M Ravi’s track record in winning cases: not gd.

And if Tey, the legal academic, is to be believed, the judiciary isn’t a check on the executive  http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/book-legal-consensus-by-tey-tsun-hang/. He was jailed after a court found  he had “corrupt intention and guilty knowledge” in a relationship, an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He had had sex with a student. Even he admitted that this was in breach of the academic code of conduct, after initially saying he would defend his “academic integrity”, which at the time I tot would mean that he would say in court, “I didn’t have sex with her”.

*Giving more info would help the PM rebuild trust with the masses.

**Think I exaggerate? This is what TOC reported M Ravi as saying, “The AG’s response is shocking to the conscience in view of the demands of natural justice and the plea by the family to open the inquiry. Dinesh’s family was devastated to hear the AG’s decision.

“The Coroner is wrong in law to discontinue his inquiry as there was no finding into the circumstances of Dinesh’s death. There is no information as to how the other 7 officers were involved in Dinesh’s death. In fact, it is the AG who should be calling for a full inquiry in the public’s interest and not Dinesh’s mother having to do so.

“This is a serious human rights violation and this marks a black day for human rights in Singapore.”

This is the part of the response in parliament (much earlier) to questions on what had happened: Following the conviction of the senior prison officer on 19 July 2013, MHA has been in touch with the family of Dinesh Raman and their lawyer to discuss the family’s concerns, as well as the matter of compensation. AGC has informed the family and its lawyer in writing that the Government accepts liability and will compensate the family. As discussions are on-going, I am not able to provide details.

http://geraldgiam.sg/2013/08/death-of-inmate-in-prison/

***The funny thing is that he, like me, did our legal education in England. S’pore’s constitution was certainly not taught or analysed in any great detail there in my time, and I’m sure in his time.

****Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

A very high tech, inventive, low population country

In Internet, Political economy on 25/08/2013 at 4:46 am

No, not us. We are none of these, though we got many of the u/m conveniences, sort of.

Estonia (population 1.3m) is a world leader in technology. Estonian geeks developed the code behind Skype, Hotmail and Kazaa (a precursor of the Napster file-sharing software). In 2007 it became the first country to allow online voting in a general election. It has among the world’s zippiest broadband speeds and holds the record for start-ups per person. Its 1.3m citizens pay for parking spaces with their mobile phones and have their health records stored in the digital cloud. Filing an annual tax return online, as 95% of Estonians do, takes about five minutes. How did the smallest Baltic state develop such a strong tech culture?

Mr Ilves, a co-founder of Skype the president says Estonia’s success is not so much about ditching legacy technology as it is about shedding “legacy thinking”. Replicating a paper-based tax-filing procedure on a computer, for instance, is no good; having such forms pre-filled so that the taxpayer has only to check the calculations has made the system a success. Education is important, too: last year, in a public-private partnership, a programme called ProgeTiiger (“Programming Tiger”) was announced, to teach five-year-olds the basics of coding. “In the 80s every boy in high-school wanted to be a rock-star,” says Mr Hinrikus. “Now everybody in high-school wants to be an entrepreneur.”  Mr Hinrikus is a co-founder of Skype.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/07/economist-explains-21

Interestingly, some time back ST had a piece entitled “Generating bright ideas in S’pore”. It mentioned Google and Facebbok but not Skype. Wonder why?

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/estonia-doing-it-spore-still-talking-about-it/

Related link on why S’pore can only talk cock: http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/02/07SINGAPORE394.html

Wheels coming off Thailand, Indonesia, M’sia & Vietnam

In Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 24/08/2013 at 5:04 am

Asean round-up: Bad news abounds

(Update: Related post https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/why-regional-mkts-are-tanking-why-its-a-risky-moment/)

Indonesia’s benchmark Jakarta Composite Index – the biggest loser among emerging markets – has plunged over 20% in the past three months, putting it in bear market territory. Neighboring Thailand and the Philippines are not far behind, with losses amounting to over 17 and 11%

Thailand has fallen into recession after the economy shrank unexpectedly in the second quarter of the year.

The 0.3% contraction in gross domestic product between April and June followed a previous fall of 1.7% during the first quarter of 2013.

Previously, Thailand had been recording strong economic growth, outpacing other economies in the region, with expansion of more than 6% during 2012.

Many analysts had expected this performance to continue.

Sanjay Mathur, head of economics research at RBS, told the BBC that weak exports and domestic demand, plus fading business confidence, were to blame for the downturn.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23751846

I’m not only guy critical of Indon’s way of fighting inflation

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/08/16/indonesia-imitates-indias-costly-growth-obsession/

— And on 19th August: Indonesia’s rupiah fell to 10,500 per US dollar for the first time since 2009, stocks dropped by the most in 22 months and government bonds plunged after the current-account deficit widened to a record last quarter.

The Jakarta Composite Index of shares has fallen 8 per cent in two days, and is now the world’s worst performer this quarter.

The yield on 10-year notes surged to the highest since March 2011 after Bank Indonesia (BI) said late on Aug 16 the current-account shortfall was US$9.8 billion, the largest in data compiled by Bloomberg going back to 1989. Inflation quickened to a four-year high and economic growth slowed to the least since 2010, figures showed last week.

As at Wednesday, the Indon market entered its bear phase after falling 20% since May http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23763829

A fund manager with local investment bank Lautandhana Securindo. “The measures taken by the government and the central bank [to fix the current-account deficit] haven’t brought about the desired results.”

Indonesia’s July consumer confidence index fell to the lowest level since May last year, and follows a sharp rise in fuel prices in late June, a Bank Indonesia survey showed on Monday.

The July index was 108.4, down from 117.1 the previous month and compared to 109.0 in May last year.

A reading above 100 indicates that consumers in general are optimistic

The survey of 4,600 households in 18 major cities in the archipelago showed that consumers were pessimistic over the current economic environment, particularly related to jobs and wages.

Concern over fewer jobs and lower wages is expected to be a feature of coming months.

However, the survey said price pressure is expected to decrease in January 2014, as demand ease after Christmas and New Year.

The central bank according to a recent report has lost 13.6% of its central bank reserves from the end of April until the end of July defending the currency. Well August would have added to the losses. And as the chart shows, it hasn’t that much money in the first place.

Malaysia’s growth was below expectations and the central bank, lowered its forecast for the year to 4.5-5%, from 5-6%. A sharp fall in the current account surplus highlighted fears that the country could be vulnerable to market turmoil.

Gross domestic product grew 4.3% in the second quarter of 2013 from the same period a year earlier, data showed yesterday, well below economists’ expectations of 4.9 per cent in a Reuters poll.

Forecasts had ranged from 4.2 to 5.2%, following growth of 4.1% in the first three months of the year.

Still, while the Thai, Indon and S’pore equity markets were in local currency terms below their 31Dec 2012 levels, M’sia is juz ahead by about 3%. All are down in US$ terms.

Vietnam was the country that was viewed as the “next China” due to its stable transition has started to generate concerns about a looming debt crisis.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23755593

Update: Related post https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/why-regional-mkts-are-tanking-why-its-a-risky-moment/

Govt needed NatCon + survey to find these things out?

In Political governance on 23/08/2013 at 4:45 am

The door-to-door survey of 4,000 Singaporeans was conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) between November last year and February. It was carried out to validate the issues brought up in the 660 OSC sessions held over the past year …

[OSC committee Chairman and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat] noted that overall, the participants at the OSC sessions wanted the assurance that housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable.

Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) project comes up with these findings?

What a waste of time, effort and our money so that the govt learns that the people are concerned that housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable. And that there are concerns about education. If I wanted to be nasty, I would say that SingCon or NatCon shows out of touch the govt is with the rabble masses. But I won’t, but am surprised the usual suspects that love playing the DRUMS didn’t raise this point. They don’t do original insights, is it?

Juz reading the opinions, analysis and comments on the internet and social media would have told the govt the people’s Hard Truths. OK, as the internet and social media are Injun or Taliban or juz plain hostile territory for the PAP, the govt may be forgiven for doubting that new media is reflecting the facts on the ground.

But then, if the grassroot leaders, PAP MPs and the local media had given no-DRUMS feedback to the govt, the govt would have realised that the Injuns did not speak with forked tongues. Instead the govt only found out the truth after talking with selected S’poreans, and conducting a survey to verify what it was told.

It could have saved time, effort and money if it had listened to netizens, and done a survey to verify whether netizens were reflecting reality, or talking cock like the PAP grassroot leqadersand MPs, and the constructive, nation-building media.

And would was a survey necessary to verify what netizens are bitching and bleating about reflected the reality of feelings on the ground, other than to to give the people at a govt related think-tank shumething to do? What about using the ISD?

In M’sia, the Special Branch (The ISD and the Special Branch trace their origins to the Malayan Special Branch) is so gd that a senior DAP official said in a seminar after the 2008 M’sian elections that the officers info on where the DAP would win was very accurate. They were comparing notes before the 2008 election.

My serious point is that the PAP govt has to find out out new methods of reading the tracks on the ground. The old methods no longer work. They should be ditched or modified. This needs to be done both for the good of the PAP and for ordinary S’poreans. The PAP can no longer rely on the so-called grassroot leaders, the local media and MPs. They too are playing the DRUMS that the govt accuses netizens of doing.

One way is to find a way to verify whether the new media is reflecting (for free) the facts on the ground.Maybe because the info is free, is one reason why the govt ignores it? Remember the PAP MP whose words implied that he looked down on others who earned less than serious money?

But the govt should also have to find ways of finding out and double confirming what the middle-class netizens are ignoring, out of ignorance, complacency, arrogance or maliciousness. They too can play the DRUMS as well as the mainstream media, govt and the PAP. Yes, almost everyone in S’pore plays the DRUMS: one man’s Hard Truths are the DRUMS of lesser mortals, and vice-versa.

But let’s not be too hard on the govt for not making the best use of the resources available, or of wasting time, effort and money to find out what S’poreans think. Wayang is now very impt in politics because nowadays  S’poreans, like other people, think better of politicans who “listen” to their opinions, or “feel” their pain. Or least pretend to.

Taz a new Hard Truth. Paternalism is out. As is “Sit down and shut up. We know what is best for you.”

If Animal Farm was written today, Napoleon and the pigs would have to have a “conversation” with the  other animals, and a survey to validate the said conversation, before going ahead and oppressing them.

—-

*PM and the PAP had serious problems in the 2011GE and the recent by-election with the quality of info they were receiving from the grassroot leaders on voter sentiment. After the 2011 GE, he had to defend the said leaders after PAP MPs criticised them.

Why regional mkts are tanking & why it’s a risky moment

In Financial competency on 22/08/2013 at 4:50 am

Thailand and S’pore have lost all its 2013 gains. Indonesia in now into bear territory, and M’sia is now being targeted. Why

But first the good news.The sell-off isn’t Asean specific. It is affecting all emerging mkts. Explanation below.

There is also a technical reason for the markets’ moodiness: August is when most ang moh traders and fund mgrs go to on hols. This means lesser volume, and hence more volatility. And for those jnr staff left on duty, the standing order is “Avoid risk. Sell when you think others will sell or are selling”.

Now for the financial hard truths.

On the bit why regional (and other emerging) mkts are tanking, it’s the fault of US Fed. Explanation:

When a central bank buys certain kinds of assets they leave the banks or funds who sold them the assets short of the particular kind of asset the central bank bought. So a fund that intends to keep a certain share of its portfolio in safe-ish long-term debt will sell Treasuries to the Fed in exchange for newly printed cash, but will then find itself in need of portfolio rebalancing to get back to its preferred distribution of risk, maturity, and so on. The fund then takes its cash and buys something similar to the assets it sold: highly rated mortgage-backed securities or corporates, for instance, or the safe debt of foreign governments. But the funds selling those assets will also need to rebalance, and they may adjust their portfolios by purchasing safer emerging-market debt or equities. As the money works its way through the system it raises asset prices around the economy. And because some of the rebalancing involves purchases of foreign assets, they weaken the domestic currency and can reduce borrowing costs and raise equity prices abroad.

That was the effect of Fed’s policy of “printing money” or QE programme.

Now fast-forward a couple of years. Financial markets had been moving money around based on expectations that central banks would end up buying a very large chunk of assets. But beginning in the spring Federal Reserve officials made statements hinting that they would in fact end up buying a somewhat smaller chunk of assets. As financial markets began to react to the change in outlook, the previous stimulative effects of QE started to unwind. As funds realised they would not need to replace as many Treasuries as they thought, Treasury prices fell (and yields rose) and so did prices for Treasury substitutes. That knock-on effect made its way around the world. Prices of emerging-market assets also sank, as did emerging-market currencies.

As to why it’s a risk moment:

To simplify things: QE was pro-cyclical for emerging markets but counter-cyclical for advanced economies and was probably beneficial on net. Now the end of QE may prove pro-cyclical in emerging markets (exacerbating ongoing slowdowns) but is also pro-cyclical or at best neutral in advanced economies (since tightening is occurring amid a continued demand shortfall). And so the end of QE may well be quite negative on net.

It would be extremely premature to warn of disaster. Rich-world central banks may react to market stumbles by pushing back the start of tapering, and emerging economies may avoid overzealous rate increases in the face of sinking currencies. But the world has reached a risky moment. Though advanced economies are a long way from full recovery and emerging economies are slowing, central banks are almost uniformly moving toward a tightening bias. If policymakers aren’t careful, things could end badly.

 http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/08/global-economy

If you must invest, look for stocks that pay decent dividends that are sustainable. As for reits, I remain cautious, though the recent price falls do look tempting.

Shouldn’t telling Dinesh’s family more be part of the PM’s narrative of a caring PAP govt?

In Political governance, Public Administration on 21/08/2013 at 4:51 am

(Or “How not to rebuild trust the PAP way”)

“Iswaran says the police already spent 28 months and interviewed 130 on the case (compared to 13 months and over 60 witnesses for Shane Todd).” http://singaporedesk.blogspot.sg/2013/08/one-death-that-will-not-go-away.html

I personally am not interested in what had happened to Dinesh Raman. While what happened was wrong, and a tragedy for his family, it is a rare incident. A prison officer had pleaded guilty and been fined, and the govt has admitted its liability to compensate the family, and has promised to further improve the system, after making changes. Taz gd enough for me.

But his family deserves to know the gory details if taz what they think they need to find closure and move on. As a goodwill gesture, the govt should tell them more*, even if this information goes beyond what the strict letter of the law requires it to do.

The prison officer responsible will surely face disciplinary proceedings. As another gesture of goodwill, the govt should also allow the family to witness these proceedings.

Giving the family more details of what happened, and allowing them to witness the disciplinary proceedings should take the wind out of the sails of the usual kay pohs call for transparency and accountability. They have their own agendas, using the tragedy and the family’s moral right to know what happened, for their own ends: ends that may be commendable in themselves, or may not.

Oh and the govt should apologise for what happened. After all it has admitted liability.

Sadly, the govt does not do gd PR, even after PM’s speech. Pigs will fly first. Or “Populism rules OK” will be PAP’s mantra. Or LKY will “stand corrected” on more Hard Truths; or juz “repent”.

The big idea behind the rally speech seems to be an attempt by the PAP govt to rebuild the trust it once unquestioning had among large sections of the public. Not giving the family more information doesn’t help rebuild that trust in two ways..

As a TRE reader puts it: The PM and his cabinet is behind Vivian Balakrishnan to know the truth only in the hawker centre cleaning issue. This affects the whole of Singapore as the integrity issue is of utmost concern. If this is not cleared up by WP then Singapore’s standing on the world stage is affected. Other trivial matters like death of a human being while is custody is not important …

And sadly, it will remind S’poreans*** that if Dinesh had been a FT from the hegemon, many things would have been different for him and his family. Actually, taz not quite correct. Remember the ang moh caws who beat up two S’poreans at Suntec a few yrs back? One was given PR status and he and another were “allowed” to skip bail. One still remains at large. They were not US citizens. And DPM Teo has yet to tell us the results of the disciplinary proceedings against the police investigator who handled the case.

PM’s rally speech was pretty decent. He at least held the hand of responsible populism in public, even though he didn’t take up my suggestion of embracing her publicly. But he may have taken my suggestion of fondling her behind the stage.

But the handling of Dinesh’s case shows that more needs to be done to reconnect the PAP with the people so that the old slogan of “The PAP and the people are one” becomes a half Hard Truth again.

As the old adage goes, “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” . This was said in the Dark Ages. It’s more so in the age of the internet and new media where, “A lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.” Actually this too was said in the Dark Ages, but is so apt for today.

Finally, shumething forb family to think about. Maybe, just maybe, the family should ask their MP, if they live in a PAP area, for help in finding out more. Having a superhero action man lawyer may make them feel gd, but is it effective in getting more info on how Dinesh died?

*Some of the things that need explaining to the family http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/08/18/letter-on-death-of-prison-inmate-dinesh-not-published-by-st/

**This is how someone apologised for a police shooting of 34 miners. Ben Magara was only recently appointed as chief executive of Lonmin, the London-listed company which had employed the striking miners. But he had the courage to turn up [at the first anniversay commeoration of the shootings] and tell the thousands who had assembled at the site of the shooting: “We will never replace your loved ones and I say we are truly sorry for that.”

***And allow the usual suspects to play the DRUMS to the tune of RAVI (Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications & Insinuations (or is it Insults?).

Temasek’s Chinese banks pay great dividends but there’s a catch

In Banks, Financial competency, Temasek on 20/08/2013 at 5:01 am

ICBC pays 6.1%, while CCB and BoC pay 6%. If it had AgBank, it would get 6.4%.

Contrast this with the dividend yield it gets from

— DBS: 4.4% (UOB’s yield is 2.9% and OCBC’s is 3.2%)

— Bank Danamon: 2.4%

— StanChart: 3.5% (BTW,  earlier this month the bank said  that it was no longer targeting double digit revenue growth this year. Year-on-year revenue growth in the first six months was less than 5% for the first time in 10 yrs.)

But Chinese bank yields are so gd largely because Chinese banks are not popular with ang mohs: one-tenth share price falls this yr helped produce these yields. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/time-to-worry-about-temaseks-strategy-on-chinese-banks/

And there are gd reasons to be fearful. One is concern that there could be more bad debts building up in the system as the economy slows/

Another: ChinaScope Financial, a research firm, has analysed how increased competition and declining net interest margins will affect banks operating in China. The boffins conclude that the smallest local outfits, known as city commercial banks, and the middling private-sector banks will be hit hardest, but that returns on equity at the big five state banks will also be squeezed (see chart). They think the industry will need $50 billion-100 billion in extra capital over the next two years to keep its capital ratios stable.

The bigger worry for China’s state banks is the signal sent by the PBOC’s move. The central bank has affirmed its commitment to reform. If those reforms include the liberalisation of deposit rates, then something far more serious than a minor profit squeeze will befall China’s banks. Guaranteed profitability would end; banks would have to compete for customers; and risk management would suddenly matter. In short, Chinese bankers would have to start working for a living.

http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21582290-chinas-central-bank-has-liberalised-lending-rates-does-it-matter-small-step

And two of China’s four “bad’ banks (they bot portfolios of dud loans from Chinese banks, the last time the Chinese cleaned up their banks in the late 1990s and early noughtie), are planning to raise capital via IPOs. They have impressive returns. But maybe China is preparing for the day it has to recapitalise the banks again. In such a case, the UK and US experience is that the other shareholders get diluted, and can lose serious money. Think UBS and RBS.

Even if there is no recapitalisation, there are likely to be rights issues, something that ang moh fund mgrs don’t like.

But to be fair, this big chart shows a possible reason why Temask is optimistic. Despite loan growth, bad loans are falling. But the economy was growing rapidly. And sceptics point out that the numbers may be flakey. In the 1990s, the real bad loan position was 20%, not the lowish figures reported at the time. Investors forget this ’cause banks were 100% govt owned.

Related (sort of) link: http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/06/09SINGAPORE588.html

Graphics from FT.

NOL underperforms Maersk again, as predicted

In Political governance, Public Administration, S'pore Inc, Shipping on 19/08/2013 at 9:17 am

(Or “Food for tot for PM as scholar, ex-SAF chief, & ex-Temasek MD again under-performs a shipping man?”)

Skip right to the end if you want to read the political and financial implications of this performance in relation to PM’s rally speech . No it’s not a rant against scholars.

According to DBS in early August, NOL reported a net loss of US$34.6m in 2Q13, and after adjusting for gains on sale of assets and realized gains on financial hedging instruments, results were largely in line with expectations of a US$64m net loss in 2Q13. – See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/shipping-marine/news/nol-suffered-us346m-losses-in-2q13#sthash.VZFIoR8g.dpuf. If truth be told, DBS, like other brokers got it dead wrong: NOL’s losses were 46% lower than expected. Only in stockbroking is such a discrepancy in line with expectations.

On 16th August, Maersk Line, the world’s biggest container shipper, reported a US$439m profit for the second quarter of the year, up from US$227m million a year earlier. Again this was unexpected by analysts, who tot it would only make half the amount. “Maersk Line has made strong and consistent progress and is now an industry leader in terms of profitability,” its CEO said.

It now expects earnings to be “significantly” more than last year’s US$461m rather than simply “above” them as it had stated before. NOL posted a half year net profit of US$41 million compared to a loss of US$371 million last year, and its CEO says  “The Group’s results demonstrate that we are on target in our strategy to deliver a better performance through cost management. We will continue in our efforts to strengthen the company’s competitiveness for the long term.”

Analysts say the volumes of goods being shipped around the world is continuing to rise following the recessions that affected many of the world’s big importers. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23722423

Global container shipping volumes(FT)

Note Maersk Line is run by a true blue shipping man*, while NOL is run by a scholar, and former defence chief, and ex-MD at Temasek. But Maersk is the largest container shipping co, while NOL is a distant 8th. It (and the Taiwanese) shippers decided in the late 1990s and early noughties not to fight Maesk for market share, instead focusing on profits. But profits were elusive for all because of overcapacity.

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

In yesterday’s rally speech, PM rightly warned that the increase in welfare and social spending has to be met by cuts in other bits of the Budget or by increased taxes. Defence is a Budget sacred cow, taking about 25% of the budget or 4ish% of S’pore’s GDP. Given NOL’s relative unperformance under the tenure of an-ex-defence chief, PM should direct Ng Eng Hen to look at the operational cost effectiveness of the SAF. Could S’pore more bang for a smaller buck?

*Another characteristic of any good CEO, is their ability to understand fully the often complex scope of their company’s operations.

It is a challenge which can be made easier by a manager gaining as much experience as possible while climbing the promotion ladder. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23681605

According to DBS, NOL reported a net loss of US$34.6m in 2Q13, and after adjusting for gains on sale of assets and realized gains on financial hedging instruments, results were largely in line with expectations of a US$64m net loss in 2Q13. – See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/shipping-marine/news/nol-suffered-us346m-losses-in-2q13#sthash.VZFIoR8g.dpuf

What Palmer, Peter Lim, Boon Gay & Tey shld read

In Humour on 18/08/2013 at 1:36 pm

And so should Yaw; and Howard Shaw, Spencer Gwee and all those adults found guilty of having sex with a minor. In fact for all horny men.

10 rules for keeping your penis out of trouble

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/07/10-rules-managing-penis-sexting-wine-toaster

SCCCI SME Survey proves LKY’s point?

In China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 17/08/2013 at 1:41 pm

Indonesia has overtaken China as a preferred investment destination for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), This was a key finding of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) SME Survey 2013, which polled 516 companies in June and July.

Of the 63% SMEs which are venturing into markets abroad, 39.9% favour investing in Malaysia and 28.1% Indonesia, a hair’s breadth more than the 27.2% looking towards China.

One reason given is that as the Chinese economy develops and wages rise, Indonesia could stand to position itself as an undertapped source of low-cost labour. As I blogged here, a few days back, LKY said that SMEs would flee S’pore if FTs were not allowed in by the cattle-truck load: they want cheap labour. The survey indicates that securing cheap labour is all that SMEs care about?

Other Asean-round up news:

Express link to KL

M’sia should talk to billionaire inventor Elon Musk. He wants to build a Hyperloop that would cut travel time between SF and LA to 35 minute. 12 minutes to KL based on the 35 minutes time

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23681266

Shrimps

THe US Commerce Department declined to set duties on shrimp imports from Thailand and Indonesia. It has imposed duties on shrimp imports from five nations.

The ruling applies to about US$2bn of shrimp imports, from India, Ecuador, China, Malaysia and Vietnam. The Commerce Department found that those nations had been subsidising their shrimp producers.

Malaysia faces the highest duties of up to 54.5%, the lowest were set for Vietnam which faces duties of up to 7.8%.

A final approval is needed by another government body, the International Trade Commission (ITC), before the duties can take effect, The ITC will consider whether US producers have been threatened by the imports and make its decision in September.

Fighting inflation the Indon way

Bit like the way they fight the haze: wayang all the way.

Indonesia’s central bank held its benchmark interest rate on Thursday and took steps to contain loan expansion to battle inflation without taking any more steam out of slowing economic growth.

Many economists do expect another rate hike later this year but the central bank faces a tricky combination of surging prices, a falling rupiah, a stubborn current account deficit and slowing economic growth.

BBC on EPL signings to watch etc

In Footie on 17/08/2013 at 4:47 am

Which summer signing will make the biggest impact in the Premier League this season? Who will be a top-flight turkey?

The recruitment campaign is well under way with already more than £100m spent by English football’s elite – most of it on players from outside the United Kingdom.

There are still two weeks remaining before the transfer window closes, but, with the help of our European football analysts, we look at some of those who have arrived early and will be seeking to establish themselves in football’s richest league.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/23575418

The economics of being a city with an EPL team

After Swansea’s success in reaching the Premier League Cardiff University research claimed the club’s first season alone was worth £58m to the economy.

The Swans being in the top flight also created or protected around 400 jobs, according to the report.

…two students from different African countries who said they had chosen Swansea as a university because the city had a Premier League club.

…One of the biggest beneficiaries of the club’s promotion in 2011 into the Premier League has been the service industry – hotels, restaurants and bars.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-23665870

The Economist “moneyballs” the English Premier League

Try “moneyballing” your own team by selecting a squad with similar attributes to those of Manchester United, at a fraction of the cost.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/08/data-driven-football

And don’t think badly of Rooney’s behaviour. What it shows is that his loyalty lies with Everton. After he moved to MU, an Everton fan told me that after any MU match, he would check how Everton did or was doing, if it had a match. He had to move on from Everton to improve his skills, earn more $ and win trophies. But his heart is always with Everton. A true blue fan.

Analysing PM’s coming rally speech

In Political economy, Political governance on 16/08/2013 at 5:08 am

So PM is working hard on his National Day Rally speech, at least he said so about a week ago. (He shouldn’t be working hard, he should be working smart: hard work is no substitute for using one’s intellect, which PM has in spades, effectively. If working hard were all that mattered, the FTs toiling on our work sites would have it made.)

We have been told that he will focus on public concerns that housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable, and on education (I assume, affordability and the stress it causes pushy parents with average kids). He will most probably talk about jobs (including low or stagnating salaries, and how the govt is tackling these issues), as the concerns for good jobs has also been raised at these talk cock sing song Our S’pore Conversation sessions.

Interestingly in February 1958, this was written by an ang moh reporter: “But, governors may come and may go: but the problems of government are the same. The problems that remain in Singapore are housing, health services, education and expansion of industry.”*.

Well the PAP won the 1959 general elections and have governed S’pore since then, and the problems are the same.

By addressing the issue of affordability, will he implicitly be sending the message that he is be ditching dad’s Hard Truth that populism is bad**?

Not if Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, the minister in-charge of Our Singapore Conversation (OSC), is to believed. He told the media this week that OSC is not a knee-jerk, “populist” policy-making exercise. It is not a “major meet-the-people session”, with the govt collating a wish list and then giving the people what they want. He emphasised that OSC does not sacrifice any strategic thinking on the part of the govt for the sake of showing empathy with the people.

But, he would say this wouldn’t he? Let’s juz ignore the DRUMS and the noise, and focus on the effects. “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice,”, said one Deng Xiaoping.

Anyway, Simon Johnson, once the Chief Economist at the IMF, home of austerity’s the answer to almost any economic problem, and now the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, Populism and irresponsibility are not, in fact, synonyms. Populism can be sound, he argues. He argues that populism is often used in a pejorative way – as a putdown, implying “the people” want irresponsible things that would undermine the fabric of society or the smooth functioning of the economy.

So what if the people are to be “pampered”? If it is right thing to do by them, do it. According to Simon Johnston, the issue is whether  a ”populist” measure in question is a responsible one. If it is, then the label doesn’t matter, juz do it. (https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/a-populist-measure-can-be-a-sound-measure-ex-imf-chief-economist/)

“It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.”

Filial piety aside, he should openly embrace, or at least quietly hug in the dark, responsible populism, given the measures he has been taking like civil service pay rises, help for poor in renting flats etc etc. (https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/minister-you-thinking-of-yr-govt/)

Next, hopefully (from the perspective of PAPpies, and those of us S’poreans who treasure stability, efficiency and rent-seeking over human rights and democracy), PM works smart on his “likeability”, not on his power point presentation. One of these days, I’ll blog on why he has a great personal story to tell. A preview: overbearing, overachieving father with high expectations who refuses to retire gracefully into old age. And there is more.

PM’s dad was respected and feared. But PM’s not his dad, and times have changed. Kind-heated intellectual thuggery, bullying and hectoring are no longer in fashion with voters. So being “likeable” is very impt.

An analogy with the Catholic Church (Dad used to claim that PAP cadre system was based on the way the cardinals elected the pope, while the pope chose the cardinals, though analysts have pointed out that the PAP’s cadre system more closely resembles the Leninst way organising a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. The best example of this is the way Chinese leaders are elected to run the ruling party and the country.) shows why PM needs to be likeable if the PAP is dominate S’pore politics and life for another 50 years.

So far people have generally taken at face value the image of Francis as a “barefoot pope” who is personally modest, feels compassion for the disadvantaged and is endowed with a basic human warmth that his predecessor seemed at times to lack. He is simply likeable, and that ensures that he commands some respectful attention (even from those who disagree with him) when he seems to be speaking from the heart.

In the leader of a religious organisation whose core beliefs are not open to negotiations, style matters a lot. People can sense hypocrisy and pomposity, and they can also sense the opposite. (http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2013/07/pope-gays)

As he works smart (not hard) on his speech, he should remember the recent Cambodian elections where the opposition united against a strongman leader who brought prosperity to his country and who sued his opponents for damages and who keeps the media on a very tight leash. It has at least deprived the govt of its two-thirds majority (if not winning the election). (https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/cambodian-elections-harbinger-of-sporean-ge/)

All to play for PM.

And keep up the good work of reforming the system. I may not always agree that he is doing the “right” things but I will concede that are trying hard, whatever his motives. But, like the Red Queen in “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”, he is running to keep up with S’poreans rising expectations of change and a better life. To quote Tocqueville as I did here:

experience teaches us that, generally speaking, the most perilous moment for a bad government is one when it seeks to mend its ways….Patiently endured for so long as it seemed beyond redress, a grievance comes to appear intolerable once the possibility of removing it crosses men’s minds.*

And there is the problem of changing a party where there are people like Kate Spade, Charles Chong and VivianB (Don’t do compassion, and sneer at the poor), Lee Bee Wah (Doesn’t do meitocracy at STTA, and her dog used to run away. She now keeps her gates shut tight. My dogs lead such a gd life that one even refuses to leave the house for daily walks), Seng the MP with hearing problems, Ong Ye Kung and Lionel de Souza.

PM would have heard Dr Goh say, as I have, “Oppositions don’t win elections, govts lose elections.”

To sum up: What S’poreans need and want to hear from the PM is what the PAP govt stands for, what it believes, how the govt now would be different from the one before. And that needs to be set out with absolute clarity in a language that S’poreans can understand and empathise with.”

The problem is that PM has been part of the govt since the 1980s, and DPM, and economic, financial and civil service czar in the 1990s and early noughties, and PM since 2004,  making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to say move on from the past. He was a major creator of the problems that caused the disconnect between a substantial number of voters and the PAP govt, that he as PM now has to repair.

Even dad would find this impossible to do.

Churchill and FDR juz might have managed to do it, but our PM is no Churchill or FDR, let alone his dad.

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

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

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish International Asia

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

* MAI Adjunct Research Fellow

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

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

**Coming a few days after dad launched his latest book on Hard Truths, it may look like he’s giving dad a very tight slap+. Tot that was job of co-driver? Trying to make WP redundant? Or Low and gang not doing enough, preferring to share out contracts and enjoying their salaries? And this reminds me of: Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s views expressed in his new book, One Man’s View of the World, are “obsolete,” said Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The views represented the Mahathir generation, he added.

“We should not always look at the dichotomy between rights and race, black and white.

“For example, he (Lee) talks about race-based policies, but there is very little understanding of the discourse in the last decade,” he said.

Anwar said Lee was still “trapped in the old mindset,” when he used to be in the opposition during Malaya before Singapore was established.

“His thoughts are not so relevant now in the context of the present day. That is what prompted him to make sweeping statements to generalise the situation in Malaysia,” Anwar told reporters … [Star]

+Filial piety? What filial piety? At least PM learned the lesson from dad that eggs must be broken to make omelets: that the ends justifies the means.  LKY should be proud that his son has at least learned this.

Low productivity: LKY and the DRUMS agree on its cause

In Economy, Political economy on 15/08/2013 at 5:11 am

I kid you not, miracles can happen. LKY agrees with the Blogging 7, Uncle Leong, E-Jay, s/o JBS, NSP, SDP and all the usual players of DRUMS. The latter have always argued that low productivity is the result of the FT policy. Not included Low or WP among the latter as I don’t know itheir stand on this issue.

Stoolies Foils, Comedy Straightmen ST: On the issue of making productivity gains, we lag behind many developed countries. In manufacturing and services, Singapore’s productivity is only 55 per cent to 65 per cent of that in Japan and the United States.

LKY: Because we have large numbers of migrants who do not fit into the workforce so easily and who do not speak English.Some hold work permits and do not stay for long – they leave within a few years, after developing skills.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid=1072294113-18605-1765558123

This appeared in Tuesday’s BT:

Manufacturing firms in Singapore relied on low-skilled foreign workers as substitutes for machinery between 2003 and 2008, sacrificing productivity levels in the process, according to a study.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) study released yesterday, however, found that other factors – unrelated to foreign workers – could have also caused the decline in automation, underscoring the need for greater R&D and product innovation.

The five years in question mark the government’s most recent period of liberal foreign labour policy. Between 2003 and 2008, the dependency ratio ceiling – which specifies the maximum proportion of foreign workers that companies can hire – was raised to 65 per cent; levies for unskilled work permit holders were reduced; and firms were allowed to hire work permit holders from China.

In its study of 1,500 manufacturing firms over that period, MTI found that those which hired relatively more low-skilled foreign workers relied less on machinery for production.

Doesn’t LKY’s words  and the MTI study show that the govt talk of increasing productivity over the yrs (from 1990s onwards) was juz that: talk? And now, the guy that was charged with leading the productivity drive in the late 1990s is now the chairman of Temasek? Isn’t S’pore a meritocracy, unlike M’sia?

Where LKY and the DRUMS would disagree is what would have happened if FTs didn’t come in by the cattle-truck load:

But you ask yourself how many small and medium-sized companies will pack up if we cut off the foreign workers?

But isn’t it a chicken-and-egg situation? Precisely because it is so easy and cheap to hire foreigners, the SMEs continue to rely on them. If the tap were tightened, they would be forced to find new ways of operation. There will be some that will shut down, but maybe some level of churn is necessary so that the economy can go on to be more productive.

You cut them off and you find the SMEs just caving in.

Would that be a bad thing, or could that just be a necessary transition?

If our SMEs collapse, we will lose more than half of our economy.

In a way, that is what the Government is now trying to do. They are trying to slow down the growth in the foreign labour force.

Yes, because the Singapore public feels uncomfortable with so many of them. Not because of the economics. From an economic point of view, we should grow.

So how do you see this ending now that we have started to tighten the tap? Does it mean that we will lose half of our economy?

As you bleed out the present workers on work permits, the economy will shrink. But we are keeping the same level and just slowing down the inputs of new workers. Not stopping them. You stop it, you are in trouble.

The DRUMS would argue that the SMEs wouldn’t collapse or move on. They would adapt. I don’t think any elected govt would dare take the risk of allowing SMEs to collapse. It could lose power. As Dr Goh liked to say, repeating a Western political aphorism, “Oppositions don’t win elections, govt lose them.”

Related posts:

Jokey

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/why-productivity-is-so-low-here/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/no-wonder-spores-productivity-so-low/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/productivity-ntuc-learn-from-china/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/singas-ft-replacement/

Serious

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/us-experience-on-growing-gdp-via-productivity/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/insufficient-public-data-a-reason-for-our-low-productivity-numbers/

 

:

St Margaret’s a very dysfunctional school! Education minister too free?

In Public Administration on 14/08/2013 at 5:07 am

I refrained from commenting on recent events at the school out of respect for Eunice Olsen. She attended this school, and she is a credit to any school with her intelligence, social work, bubbly personality and gd looks. And also she did a pretty decent job as NMP unlike tuang queen and king Jos Yeo and NTUC man, Terry Lee.

But the principal’s recantation got me annoyed me no end. Meditation didn’t work. Hence this piece to let off steam. I’m also annoyed with one of her earlier actions, the students who broke their word, their supportive parents, and the education minister.

The principal should be sent for a PR 101 course. She was rightly asking for trouble when she framed, as a disciplinary issue, the decision to get wigs for some gals who shaved their heads for a good cause . I too would have bitched about her if I had not read that a teacher had said the gals had promised to wear wigs as a condition of being allowed to take part, and that some did.

The principal should have made the issue: “My word is my bond”. As a TRE poster put it,”When you make a promise, you must make all the effort to keep it. These young girls failed to keep their promise and then able to get away with it. Think what lesson did they learn – they learned that there are ways to sneak out of their commitments.”

True that would not have got the usual noisy kay poh netizens from attacking her stand. Even, my friend Siow Kum Hong, not one of the usual noisy KPs,  called the promise issue “a red herring” because of possible coercion*. Right next time, he promises anyone something, that person should get him to certify in writing that he was not coerced into making the promise. And that the certification was not made under coercion.

Then she repented her decision after her online vilification. So is she now telling her gals, “It’s OK not to keep a promise, so long as you are doing a good deed or you have a good intention or motive”? I mean this doctrine of “the end justifies the means” is so Machiavellian. She should be sent for an ethics course. Framing the issue as a disciplinary issue is something one would expect from a principal, but waz a principal doing endorsing a Machiavellian hard truth?

As for the gals, they do no credit to themselves, their parents and the school. Breaking promises something not to be done lightly. The school ethos must have played its part in making them so bor chap about making and keeping promises.

Then there are the gals’ parents who took a very relaxed attitude, if not supportive stance, of their daughters’ promise breaking, going by the accounts in the media, “Parent of one 15 year old who broke her promise whooped with delight, now that her precious darling daughter won’t “have to suffer the discomfort and heat of wearing wigs.”” wrote one blogger. I’m sure they will repent their attitude when their daughters start breaking their promises to them. They will have a hard time justifying to their daughters why it’s fine to break a promise to their school but not to their parents. But maybe the parents are regular promise-breakers, always lying, and see no harm in their daughters following them?

All in all, the school is one not to send daughters to. And if they are there, time to remove them. Even Katong Convent would be a better school. There the problem is usually sex, not ethics. It’s only KS parents who can’t see that being sexually active is worse than being unethical.

As for the minister, I don’t know if he or the education ministry pressured the principal to change her mind. If they did, it was wrong because as another TRE reader put it,

Why does a minister need to interfere in such a minor issue? Doesn’t he have more important and weightier matters to deal with?

After this incident, a teacher when asked for permission to go to the loo, “Wait, let me call the principal who will call the minister to get permission. Hold your urine!”

I personally believe they didn’t do anything to pressure the principal as the DRUMS have alleged.

But the minister was absolutely wrong to blog about the principal’s change of heart Facebook, making it public knowledge. It gave the impression, rightly or wrong, that the principal was “pressurised” to recant. As yet another TRE poster put it, “Heng Swee Keat lacks leadership – He should not come out and open his big mouth in the facebook to announce the U-turn deal. He is not giving face to the Principal. He should have asked the principal to announce it. If I were the principal, I would have resigned. NO face!!! in front of the students, staff, parents, etc.”

Btoom line: The principal and the minister should be sent on a 101 PR course. The principal and the gals’ parents on an ethics course. And the minister on a time and priority management course. If the principal changed her mind because of the internet vilification, Yaacob should invite her in for a talk on the DRUMS playing RAVI (Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications & Insinuations (or is it Insults?).

I leave the final word to this Voice which appeared on 9th August:

In the end, who was at fault? (“No wigs for St Margaret’s five: Education Minister”; Aug 7, online)

The school has rules, which the students chose not to follow because of good intentions to show empathy with cancer patients.

Are there other ways, like doing charity, to show empathy?

The principal and students made a promise, but the students broke it. As long as one’s intention is good, is it okay to break a promise?

Where was the communication between the parents, teachers and principal before the promise was made? Students, being students, would agree to anything as long as they get what they want.

Which one is education? There is much to learn.

As someone else posted, the argument runs as follows:

“And what exactly is the minister trying to teach, that it’s okay to go back on your word?” – Learn how to understand the in-depth meaning of a promise and what is under unfair agreement, agreed under coercion. Right and wrong is not simply base on a promise. That is pure stupidity. A person being forced at gunpoint to promise the terrorist to help them do something… should the person do it? Enough said about promise and this issue.

Stagnating income: Not fault of locals or FTs, not uniquely S’porean

In Economy on 13/08/2013 at 4:43 am

Our S’pore Conversation committee Chairman and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that overall, the participants at the OSC sessions wanted the assurance that housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable.

Well they would be concerned about these things as wages have been pretty stagnant for most S’poreans recently* and the costs of these have risen, faster than the inflation rate, I think.

This train of tot reminded me that I wanted to kick ST and critics, bo0th of the article and the govt,  when I read http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/07/20/stagnant-wages-its-your-own-fault-according-to-st/

Stagnant wages is not a problem caused by S’porean workers (ST’s version) nor by the wholesale import of FTs by the cattle-truck load (netizens’ version).

Taiwan has this problem too.

Those [Taiwanese manufacturers] coming back are motivated by Taiwan’s low wages, which, if factoring in inflation, are back at the same level they were 15 years ago for entry entry level jobs.

In the past, Taiwan’s wages were much higher than those in China. But now, Chinese blue-collar wages are approaching those of their counterparts in Taiwan and in some sectors and big cities in China white collar workers can expect to earn even more than their island neighbours.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22754725

So too has HK. Example https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/hph-trust-cost-of-strike-settlement/

And in a recent talk I attended, the swing away from BN in M’sia was partly attributable to stagnating incomes.

So ST, it’s not the workers’ fault. And critics, it ain’t all the PAP’s govt’s fault. It’s happening in other parts of Asia and in the West. http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2013/08/economies-and-markets-0

BTW, in the Asian countries mentioned, property prices (esp residential ones) are rising too. So stagnating income and rising residential prices is also not uniquely S’porean.

The solution? In Taiwan, profitable, responsible homegrown cos (note not MNCs) investing at home, Foxconn recently announced plans to hire 5,000 technicians to work in two plants in Taiwan. It will be one of the group’s largest hiring sprees here in recent years.

The Taiwanese technicians will research and build factory robots, so that the company, which makes smartphones and computers for top brands such as Apple and Dell, can further reduce dependency on increasingly expensive Chinese workers.

OK lah one company lah. But knowing how Taiwanese society works, others will have to follow to show that they too love Taiwan and its people.

And in HK, workers go on strike, while in M’sia, voters vote against the govt.

In S’pore, S’poreans bitch while the govt talks about productivity, and restructuring the economy, again and again. And cuts and pastes “reform” plans from the time one Lee Hsieen Loong was juz a jnr cabinet paper.

(Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/cutting-and-pasting-the-esc-report/)

Finally shumething for gd-heated kay pohs to think about:If you want to employ current workers at higher wages you either have to make them better workers or you have to take income from someone else—which can be sensible but which can also make for nasty unintended consequences.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/08/labour-markets

*Uncle Leong has talked about this regularly using govt statistics to prove his point: juz google if you want to refesh yr memory.

NatCon: PM should have tried driving a cab

In Political governance on 12/08/2013 at 5:01 am

Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg spent an afternoon working incognito as a taxi driver in Oslo, he has revealed.

Mr Stoltenberg said he had wanted to hear from real Norwegian voters and that taxis were one of the few places where people shared their true views.

He wore sunglasses and an Oslo taxi driver’s uniform for the shift in June, only revealing his identity once he was recognised by his passengers.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-2

BTW, the passengers were not charged. This being S’pore, PM has to charge. Otherwise people like P Ravi, Andrew Loh, and TOC and TRE posters sure to complain.

Gilbert Goh shows up meritocracy S’pore style

In Political governance, Public Administration on 11/08/2013 at 4:41 am

(Or “Meritocracy isn’t about opportunity or equality or talent, it’s about keeping the masses away from power, discuss” )

When one GCT spoke about “Meritocracy good, elitism bad” to an old RI audience recently, he got a lot of flack from the usual suspects (mostly not from RI). Interestingly, I got the impression that boththey shared a common assumption: meritocracy is all about fairness and equality of opportunity, giving the talented poor or deprived the opportunity to do well. Where they disagreed was on the way the PAP govt defines meritocracy and talent, and how well meritocracy works in practice.

But let’s start with someone who doesn’t fit into the PAP govt’s mould of meritocratic talent.

Gilbert Goh only has A levels from a non-elite school (St Andrew’s or CJC I assume?) and a diploma in counseling. He doesn’t have a salary of millions, he depends on donations to fund his work of helping the unemployed and underemployed.

Yet three times in the last seven months, this fifty-something S’porean has been able to bring out the crowds onto Hong Lim Park, the latest on National Day. GG got 700 S’poreans out onto Hong Lim to celebrate National Day in a way that is not “right”. True, it was much smaller than the last two occasions (about 5,000 each time) when he called for a gathering, but 700 with only about a week’s notice is pretty decent by any S’porean standard.

Aside, perhaps he might to rethink his panel of speakers. Quite a few have appeared in earlier events, and the potential audience might be put off by hearing the same old themes articulated by the same old people. And maybe for future “celebrations”, he should dispense with the speeches, and let the let the music and spirit speak.)

He is not without controversy. Juz goggle what happened before the first two events. And the run up to the last event was juz as shambolic  This wickedly funny piece sums it all up: What’s been planned for the gathering? The organisers also “want to take this opportunity in our event to support our local cartoonist Leslie Chew who has been charged by the authorities”. Erm… you mean we are gathering to make a political statement and wade into legal territory? Isn’t this adding contempt to the contempt of court charges filed against Leslie Chew?

Then in an FB post on early Saturday, Mr Goh said he was going to drop the “reclaim Singapore’’ slogan as it was “too strong”. Good. Maybe we’ll get back to celebrating National Day.

Then, to add to the confusion, Mr Goh said in another FB post on Sunday evening that the event will also be a dedication to “our late President Mr Ong Teng Cheong who spoke up boldly for us Singaporeans”. Hmm. Why bring in the late President? Is he referring to the dispute Mr Ong had with the G over the access of information regarding Singapore’s financial reserves in the late 1990s?

It seems that the organisers are trying to pitch its event “right’’. Celebrate National Day yet keep something “political’’ about the event.

Now why can’t we gather just to sing some old but heart warming National Day songs? Or do a Pink Dot style event with singing and dancing? Or watch a big-screen TV set broadcasting the parade we didn’t have tickets for?

Oh wait! Now he’s saying there will be singing of songs and face-painting et cetera. In fact, he’s calling a press conference on Wednesday to talk about the event. Maybe by that time we’ll know exactly what this Aug 9 event is about. http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg/?p=6751

(The official programme)

Still when scholars like PM, DPMs, Kee Chui etc (from the PAP side), and (from the non Dark  non White side) Tan Jee Say and the NSP’s Dynamic Duo (Tony and Hazel); Show Mao and  s/o JBJ (Harvard and Cambridge scholarships respectively); and Tan Kin Lian* (he is an actuary) have difficulty enthusing S’poreans** about the nation’s well being, this A levels guy can do it. He can bring out the crowds.

And unlike the Opposition, he had the courage to call for a rally to protest the population White Paper. He also showed his judgement in thinking that he could bring out a decent crowd that would make the govt listen. He had the smaller opposition parties rushing to join him, parties led by those trained in same ways and places as the PAP leaders.

So three cheers for him. And make a donation to http://www.transitioning.org/. A worthy cause.

Finally, since we’re on meritocracy, the truth about how our meritocratic system came about. It ain’t from the PRC communists as Berrie Bear claims. It came as most things S’porean (like our flag) from the British. Our meritocracy has its roots in the exams-based system for entry into the highest ranks of the British civil service.

And meritocracy wasn’t (ain’t?) about fairness, or opportunity, or about using the best talent. It had its origins in maintaining the status quo in Victorian Britain. Let me explain.

Charles Trevelyan introduced meritocracy into the British civil service in the 19th century. He got the idea from the Chinese imperial exam system. Hence the use of the term “mandarins” for the most senior British civil servants especially those in the Foreign Office, Home Office, Treasury and Cabinet Office.

“He wanted young people to be chosen who had merit – the very best,” says [Prof John Greenaway from the University of East Anglia]. “But he believed that the best were to be found in the gentry, in the professional classes. As the 19th Century went on, the education system mirrored the social system. The universities in Oxford and Cambridge and public schools became the preserve of the gentry and the professional classes – clergy and lawyers and so on.” [Doesn’t this sound familiar? Its a line that the “noise” say about the PAP’s idea of meritocracy: comes from a certain self-perpetuating group.]

Education locked in what used to be patronage, replacing it in a way that was acceptable to the conservatives who had been fearing that these exams would undermine the social fabric of the country.

From then on, upper class simpletons didn’t get jobs in the civil service.

There were exams for all – slightly easier ones for the “inferior roles” and harder ones for the “superior” policy-making ones.

And that’s how it remained. I know this to my cost, having failed to get one of those superior jobs at the Treasury some 30 years ago. I now know I have Trevelyan to thank for that. [The “I” in question works for the FT, a place not known for employing dumbos.]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23376561

So next time anyone, PAP or Jedi or juz plain stupid kay poh pontificate about “meritocracy”, remember the above passage. It was (and is?) meant to entrench the existing order, not make it more democratic or equal. At best, it opens opportunities for 6talented lesser mortals.

*I helped out the minibonders.

**TKL and s/o are so bad that they lost their election deposits.

Triple confirm, SE Asia is slowing down

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 10/08/2013 at 4:55 am

First HSBC’s results and now StanChart’s result show that regional economies are slowing down

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/08/06/stanchart-shows-not-all-emerging-markets-are-equal/

Example Singapore, where first half income fell 3% and profits dropped 12% (not reported by our constructive, nation-building media).

Other Asean round-up news

And here’s the third confirmation. Indonesia’s exports are dropping, GDP growth is slowing and inflation is rising.

Forget about India, China, Thai or Indon markets

Think frontier markets: like Vietnam, Cambodia. Laos and Burma are coming too

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/07/daily-chart-22

And here’s a plug for M’sia

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-06/formula-one-joins-legoland-in-plan-to-remake-malaysia-s-south.html

Another Lion Air air crash since May (then into sea)  this year: now into into a cow

And UOB recently set up a unit offering loans to Chinese companies looking to move into the region, including in renminbi

New citizens: Is the govt naive or cynical?

In Humour, Political governance on 09/08/2013 at 4:38 am

New citizen Raj may be attending something like this party (at tax-payers’ expense, but then he too pays tax) http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-31/other-news/40913953_1_singapore-island-indian-community-gala.

But I suspect, he and his family, are celebrating by desecrating our flag (the PRC flag “r” ours) in the most disgusting manner possible, while laughing at the PAP govt that gave him citizenship, and cooking a nasty smelling curry to upset their S.porean HDB neighbours. Lest readers forget, new citizen Raj boasted to TOC that his son was set to avoid NS while still being to then become a FT PR. I wish the defence minister would close this loop-hole. Instead he seems to prefer to play the DRUMS (Distortions, Rumours, Untruths, Misinformation and Smears) to the beat of RAVI (Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications & Insinuations (or is it Insults?).

Come to think of it, if Raj is such a devious man, he could be avoiding or evading paying his taxes. Taz talent for you.

Seriously, a friend who has spent many, many yrs working overseas, returning home ten yrs ago with a family, is not surprised that new citizens will be loyal to their new country.

He said although he had worked for many yrs in a foreign country, he wouldn’t have had the slightest hesitation to leave that country if there were problems there. Why should the govt here expect FTs to behave any differently, juz because they get S’pore citizenship, he asks? He said even if he had been given foreign citizenship, he would have cut and run if there was trouble. He doesn’t expect our new FT citizens to behave any differently. More fool the govt if it believes that they will defend S’pore, he says.

He made these points loud and clear when attending a session organised by a govt related think-tank. He actually wasn’t invited because it was organised for FTs. But his wife, a FT, received an invitation, and suggested to him that the event was his kind of do, especially as he would know many of the S’poreans from the think-tank. He did, including the boss.

So is the govt naive when it believes and assures us that new citizens will do the right thing by S’pore? Or is it cynical, wanting them only because it hopes they will drive economic growth by providing competition to local PMETs thereby keeping a cap on wage costs? Even some PAP MPs seem to think that FT provide unfair competition http://news.xin.msn.com/en/singapore/local-pmets-continued-to-face-unfair-foreign-competition-say-mps

BTW, my friend tells me that his son will do NS, after he finishes poly. I had told him I was disappointed to hear Yaacob, the Spin and Malay minister, say several yrs ago that he would encourage his son to do NS. His son, like my friend’s son, can opt out of being a citizen, thereby avoiding NS.

Have a gd day. And don’t curse the PAP and LKY  today. They too are S’poreans. And Cursing or being angry at the PAP and LKY, is like cursing or being angry at a Sith Lord. It only makes them stronger. They thrive on hatred.

Don’t feel guilty if you enjoy the spectacle. You paid for it. Don’t feel guilty too if you don’t go to Hong Lim to protest celebrate the people’s way. S’pore’s a broad church and the PAP govt ain’t that intolerant.

Majullah Singapura to you.

What the PAP govt doesn’t get it abt the new economy

In Economy on 08/08/2013 at 5:13 am

Two gd links below for yr holiday reading.

The govt fails in its attempts to recreate the economy for the Age of Knowledge because the surest way to guarantee failure in the long term is to be so paralysed by the fear of it that you don’t try anything new. The line that separates a hit from a flop is thin. The govt is always cutting and pasting previous reports on how to create a new, knowledge economy https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/cutting-and-pasting-the-esc-report/. Nothing fundamental has changed in its thinking since Dr Goh decided to allow the MNCs in: at the time, it was derided as neo-colonialism. It worked but other countries caught on esp after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. So S’pore lost its killer edge.

It can only

— Talk the rhetoric of change. The latest example of which is As Singapore paves a new way forward through inclusive growth, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said executing these strategies also depend on two important stakeholders — the government and the people.

In carrying out these strategies, the government will need to have foresight, be nimble and take on a multi-faceted role.

Mr Heng said the government must work with businesses to restructure the economy, and must intervene in areas such as healthcare and housing to achieve socially desirable outcomes. [CNA yesterday]

— And import FTs to lower the cost of doing biz here for MNCs.

Coming back to the quote, Look at Disney’s movie making division. Walt Disney has another flop: “The Lone Ranger” is expected to lose up to US$190m. Last yr it had “John Carter”. So is Disney losing money?

The Economist wrote at the time: But the existence of flops such as “John Carter” is perverse proof that the Walt Disney Company is doing something right.

http://www.economist.com/node/21551455

Disney is still making serious money at the movie division, and minting it overall. It had “The Avengers” last yr, and “Iron Man 3” this yr.

Juz before the above quote, the Economist wrote: Still, the surest way to guarantee failure in the long term is to be so paralysed by the fear of it that you don’t try anything new. The line that separates a hit from a flop is thin. Companies sometimes have to slaughter sacred cows to escape obsolescence: IBM only recovered from its death spiral when it abandoned its focus on building hardware. Some of the most successful products are the result of mixing oil and water—most obviously, phones with computers and entertainment systems.

What looks like a flop can flip into a success. After New Coke fizzled, sales of the original version rebounded, lifting the firm’s stock price and reviving what had been a fading brand. Pringles (the stackable crisps, not the alarming jumpers worn by golfers) started life as one of Procter & Gamble’s greatest flops. They are now munched everywhere, including over this kybard#.

And would S’pore have such a school running such a course?

Inside a US Boarding School for Aspiring Tech Moguls. At the Draper University of Heroes, students in their early to mid-20s looking to break into Silicon Valley apprentice at the feet of the venture capitalist Tim Draper, “trying to pick up the tech world’s own brand of magical thinking,” Kevin Roose writes in New York magazine.

NEW YORK

Is the PAP leopard baring his fangs and unsheathing his claws?

In Political governance on 07/08/2013 at 4:51 am

(Or “Netizens, look on the bright side”)

Reading the recent articles of the Magnificent Seven bloggers, and E-Jay, one would think so: that the leopard has not changed its spots. He’s returning to his usual predatory habits of stalking, bullying and intimidating the herbivores with the aim of creating a climate of fear and terror. There are Yaacob’s Laws, the persecution and demonising of P Ravi and cartoonist Chew (Breaking News: He juz apologised and the charges should be withdrawn. BTW, AG had once asked him to withdraw some of these cartoons, but he ignored AG.),  AG’s warning letters to bloggers about “contempt of court” postings, the play-pen name calling of Auntie and her Singh etc etc.

Maybe they should look on the bright side like Brian Cohen in the Life of Brian*. Suffering a lingering, painful death by cruxification, Brian’s spirits were lifted by others crucified along with him, who sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.

As the bloggers swing, in their imaginations on the gallows, on their connecting cables or mice tails, in the world beyond cyberspace:

“Dr Paul Ananth Tambyah has been promoted to Full Professor with tenure at the National University of Singapore where he is an expert in infectious diseases at the Department of Medicine.”

“Professor Tambyah is a member of the SDP’s Healthcare Advisory Panel and co-authored, together with nine other members, the SDP National Healthcare Plan: Caring For All Singaporeans and in the olden days would have signed up to the PAP in order to serve the public (while earning serious money) is what I told a retired senior imperial storm trooper (keyboard division) when we were talking about the quality of people becoming PAP MPs (think Kate Spade and Fool Me) and those joining the Opposition. Instead he is an active member of the SDP (I know him).

— Mdm Vellama challenged the Prime Minister by filing an application in High Court in March 2012 calling “for the grant of declaration that the Prime Minister does not possess the “unfettered discretion to decide when to announce by-elections in Hougang SMC and must do so within three months or within such reasonable time as this Honorable Court deems fit”.

Seems, she is still receiving financial assistance from the Community Development Council.

— The defence minister has yet to sue P Ravi for defamation despite a govt spokesperson writing to ST’s Forum Page: “With his post, Mr Philemon appeared to be insinuating the following: That the Government was not telling the truth, that it hoards the masks for the privileged, and that it does not care for the public.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, why are you reading my blog?) Instead NG (Negative Govt) played the DRUMS (Distortions, Rumours, Untruths, Misinformation and Smears) while netizens heard RAVI (Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications & Insinuations (or is it Insults?).

— SDP activist allowed to do his doctorate in NUS Biz School.

When PM’s dad was PM, it was widely perceived that the PAP had a “You are with us or against us”**, and anyone who actively opposed the PAP was asking for trouble. Well, whatever the truth of the perception, and as a junior lawyer in a leading corporate law firm, I can assure you that that was the feeling in the firm then. Incidentally, two partners during my stint, went on to be High Court judges, and more

Whatever else I think about the PM (like he cannot even get the haze issue right: he talked of the haze coming back “for weeks” about a month ago, but since then the reading was “moderate”, now “good”), I’m glad to say that this feeling that active opposition to the PAP is not tolerated (and is punished disproportionately) is a lot less prevalent nowadays, no matter what netizens say.

Can anyone imagine a SDP activist getting full tenure in olden times? (OK, a “noise’ maker was denied tenure at NTU but then his connections may have made him hard to get approval: his wife is Editor of ST and his brudder-in-law is one Yaacob, Muslim minister and internet sheriff***. Surely some netizens would have shouted, “Nepotism or favourism”, if he had got tenure? Actually, many shouted “Kelong” when he didn’t get tenure. PAP it seems can’t win netizens over.)

Or would quai lan lady still get financial help from a govt agency in the 70s, 80s, 90s or early noughties? (Nice the welfare people under Kee Chui Chan are doing the right thing by a fellow citizen despite her causing trouble for the PM, wasting AG’s time, and our money.)

Could a SDP activist getting tenure, while another is allowed to do a doctorate, the defence minister not suing P Ravi and a govt agency still helping a quai lan lady be part of a cunning plot by the PAP to lull the public into thinking it is morping into a decent, “clean”, ‘constructive” party with the “right” politics? Or is the PAP really morping into the “right” party?

After all, it is also throwing our money at us. A no-no when LKY was in power.

One ang moh seems to think so: The first step for Singapore’s reinvention lies with recognizing the seriousness of its challenges. The policies of the past may have worked impressively, but may not be as appropriate in the future. As my old Japanese sensei Jiro Tokuyama once noted: the hardest thing to do is how to unlearn the secrets of your past success. The ingredients in the cocktail that is Singapore need to be tweaked for a new era. http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2013/07/18/singapore-needs-a-new-sling/

The writer is right about the need to “unlearn”, but many (self included) think more than “tweaks” are needed. (The piece is wrong here also: “Steps to increase the size of apartments, repurpose aging shopping and office structure for housing as well as encouraging more home-based work could also prove helpful.” — I don’t know where the writer gets these ideas; the opposite is happening says Alex Au rightly)

So come the next GE, will the PAP do better?

The continuing good news for “P” (for “political”) netizens, and the opposition is that so long as VivianB is in the cabinet, the PAP will have very serious problems being perceived as the “compassionate” , “right” party, no matter how much of our money the govt throws at us (latest efforts http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/need-to-look-out-for-pmes/765942.html and http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/more-govt-help-for/765132.html), or does the “right’ thing like giving a SDP activist tenure, and helping quai lan lady.

If PM is smart, he’ll get rid of VivianB and promote Lily Neo. Kee Chui needs all the help he can get, and he lost Halimah. It’s not as though PM doesn’t have another Indian Christian available: Indranee Thurai Rajah is reported to be a pretty decent and capable junior minister. So long as VivianB is in the cabinet, I for one know the PAP leopard cannot change its spots to save itself.

Finally, celebrate National Day. Don’t be boxed in by the opposing narratives of the govt (watch NDP parade) or those opposed to the PAP by turning up at Hong Leong Park. Do yr own thing. Don’t be sheep.

—-

*It tells the story of Brian Cohen, a young Jewish man who is born on the same day as, and next door to, Jesus Christ and is subsequently mistaken for the Messiah.

**Bit like anti-PAP TRE posters on my republished pieces. When I blog against the PAP, I get praised. When I’m neutral, I get called names. Some use my neutral pieces against me, posting onto my anti-PAP pieces, that I am a PAP stooge.  These posters are only happy if a piece is 150% anti-PAP. And when I support a PAP policy, I’m beyond the pale.

***A paid-up member of the M’sian establishment said that in M’sia with those connections even a donkey would get tenure. He then grumbled about the state of the Malay community here (he has relations here) and went to school here.

DBS, Temasek, Indonesia all lose

In Indonesia, Temasek on 06/08/2013 at 5:02 am

Maybe DBS should blame VivianB (and the PM) for taking a hard stand on the haze issue, even though this blog supports their stance because the Indon govt is naturally devious on this and other issues.

Seriously, DBS, Temasek and Indonesia all lose following DBS’ decision to allow its agreement to buy Temasek’s stake in Bank Danamon to lapse after the Indons only allowed it to buy up to 40% of Bank Danamon. It wanted DBS’s entire 67% stake and more: see Backgrounder at end of article for details.

Why DBS loses

Piyush Gupta, pulling his [US]$6.5 billion bid for PT Bank Danamon Indonesia, said his ambitions in Southeast Asia’s largest economy may be set back by about five years.

The lender had sought a controlling stake in Danamon as part of a strategy to expand in markets outside Singapore and Hong Kong, which jointly accounted for 83 percent of its profit in 2012. Average net interest margins for banks in its home market are 1.82 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on the latest company filings, lagging behind lenders in the rest of Southeast Asia. In Hong Kong, the measure is even lower at 1.66 percent, the data show. [Note that DBS gets 80% of its profits from S’pore and HK.]

In contrast, Indonesian lenders are the most profitable in the world’s 20 biggest economies, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Banks with a market value of at least $5 billion boast an average net interest margin of 6.6 percent, the data show.

DBS’s net interest margin shrank to 1.62 percent last quarter from 1.72 percent a year earlier, today’s earnings report showed. That’s the 15th straight year-on-year decline.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-31/dbs-drops-6-5-billion-danamon-bid-after-failing-to-win-control.html

Note too that DBS doesn’t have much of an Asean presence outside S’pore. It has no retail network in peninsula Malaysia, unlike UOB and OCBC: a failure of its botched attempt to takeover OUB in the early noughties. And unlike Maybank and CIMB, its M’sian rivals, it has only “peanuts” in Indonesia. They, Maybank, in particular, have thriving and biggish S’pore operations.

“DBS missed out on a value-creation opportunity,” Kevin Kwek, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. … The bank “will have to build up a presence in Indonesia the longer and harder way.”

“Indonesia was supposed to give them a leg up in terms of growth,” said Julian Chua … at Nomura … “There may not be that many willing sellers of such a sizable bank.”

If you are wondering why the shares are up then, investors think DBS may use the $ to return some capital. Besides, the issue of shares to Temasek would have been dilutive. And Indonesia’s economy is slowing.

FTs can be blamed for these historical failings, though Gupta and his deputy are exceptions to the rule that in DBS the “T” stands for “Trash”, not “Talent”. They have stabilised DBS’ operationally. And are trying to repair the damage done by DBS’ earlier FT inspired strategy of buying non-controlling stakes in regional banks.

Why Temasek loses

Its involvement as a shareholder in both banks helped spark an anti-Singapore political backlash in Indonesia. The value of its investment has also been reduced by new Indonesian restrictions which limit single bank shareholders to a 40 percent stake. That makes Danamon a less attractive target because Basel capital rules make it expensive for banks to hold minority stakes in other lenders.

However, Temasek can also take comfort. It is under no immediate pressure to sell. And though Danamon shares fell by more than 13 percent on Aug. 1, Temasek’s 67 percent shareholding is still a highly successful investment.

The Japanese banks are seen as interested in the 40% stake that it can sell. They have been buying minority stakes in Indonesia and the region https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/asean-round-up-30/, https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/jappo-banks-step-up-presence-in-asean-region/

Why Indonesia loses

lost http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/08/01/indonesia-biggest-loser-from-bank-merger-flop/

Here’s an alternate view that DBS and S’pore lost more than Indonesia: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/singapore-loses-much-more-than-indonesia-in-dbs-decision-vincent-lingga. I’m sure TRE posters and Balding would agree with this view.

Backgrounder from Bloomberg

DBS had proposed acquiring the 67.4 percent stake in Danamon held by Fullerton Financial by allowing it to swap its Danamon holdings into DBS shares. The exchange was to be at a price of 7,000 rupiah for each Danamon share and called for DBS to issue 439 million new shares to the Temasek unit at S$14.07 apiece, increasing the stake held in DBS by Singapore’s state-owned investment company to 40.4 percent from 29.5 percent.

Following that transaction, DBS would have made a tender offer for any remaining Danamon stock at 7,000 rupiah a share, taking its holding in the Indonesian bank to 99 percent.

Another green idea for S’pore

In Uncategorized on 05/08/2013 at 5:11 pm

From the land of the common loon bird and Berrie Bear: skyscrapers made of wood

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has designed dozens of iconic skyscrapers, including the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago, the new World Trade Centre in New York and the current record holder, the 830-metre Burj Khalifa in Dubai. All are made primarily from steel and concrete, the materials of choice for tall buildings for over a century. In its recent Timber Tower research project, however, SOM explored the possibility of recreating a 125-metre-tall reinforced concrete residential building in Chicago using a combination of timber columns, wooden panels and concrete beams and joints.

That the project concluded it was technically feasible, economically competitive with traditional building methods, and could reduce the building’s carbon footprint by up to 75% came as little surprise to Michael Green. The Canadian architect who kick-started the “tall wood” concept in 2012 is currently overseeing the construction of the world’s tallest wooden building in northern British Columbia. Expected to be completed next summer, when it will stand at a relatively modest 30 metres, it is a showcase for Canada’s wood products and building expertise.

The case for wooden high rises is rooted in their environmental benefits. While concrete emits nearly its own weight in carbon dioxide during production, the raw material for plyscrapers literally grows on trees, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere as it does so. Responsibly harvested wood is naturally renewing and, when a building is finally torn down, can be recycled or burned for energy.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/07/tall-buildings

And imagine roof gardens https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/my-spore-a-greeneer-more-pleasant-land/ or farms https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/a-natural-topic-for-national-conversation/ on the top of wooden skyscrapers.Double the natural friendliness. Farms need not be the usual farms https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/is-this-singapore-news-and-current-affairs/.

But fish ponds in the sky  would be too heavy https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/fishfarm-in-the-sky/ for plyscrapers.

Our flag: Did you know?

In Uncategorized on 04/08/2013 at 10:08 am

It’s that time of the year, when netizens flood the Internet with stories of S’poreans not flying the flag, or PAP grassroot leaders paying FTs to put up flags; and moan that the PAP has appropriated the flag*. This behaviour has become a ritual for late July, early August, mirroring the arrival of the flags.

So I tot I’d blog on some things about the flag that I believe are not well known.

I’m sure readers know the “official” meanings of the crescent and the stars on our flag. Google it up if you can’t remember.

But did you know how they got on the flag in the first place?

Well, when the British were designing the flag for S’pore, the Malay community leaders wanted on the flag a crescent moon, while the Chinese community leaders wanted five stars*.

The symbolism of the crescent is obvious: the crescent is a symbol of Islam, and being Muslim is part of the Malay identity.

I wondered about the significance of the five stars in Chinese culture that made the Chinese community leaders want them on the flag. I asked a scholar who studied in Catholic High in the days when it was a Chinese-language school. He could only think that the PRC flag has five stars. (Actually, I had always tot that the big star in the flag was supposed to symbolise the sun. Communists are “scientific” unlike the KMT: KMT flag has a “sun”, sort of.)

He also sent me the following: Zeng Liansong … wanted to create a flag design to express his patriotic enthusiasm for the new country … he sat down in his attic for multiple nights to come up with designs. His inspiration for the current design comes from the stars shining in the night sky. He thought of a Chinese proverb “longing for the stars, longing for the moon,” (盼星星盼月亮, Pàn xīngxīng pàn yuèliàng) which shows yearning. Later, he realized that the CPC was the great savior (大救星, Dà jiùxīng) of the Chinese people, being represented by a larger star. The idea of four small stars came from an article “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” written by Mao Zedong, which defined the Chinese people as consisting of four social classes. Yellow also implies that China belongs to the Chinese people, a “yellow race”.[5] After working out the details of the placement of the stars and their sizes (he had tried to put all of the stars in the center, but believed it would be too heavy and dull), he sent his “Five Stars on a Field of Red” (紅地五星旗, Hóng dì wǔxīng qí) design to the committee in the middle of August.[1][5]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_China

Coming back to our flag, the British decided to keep the Malay and Chinese community leaders happy and adopted both proposals and came up with the official meanings to explain the combination.

Cunning buggers the Brits. And no, the British didn’t have red and white to placate the Indonesians, who as usual were trying to create trouble. These colours are common in many national flags because of the symbolism of red (blood, brotherhood etc) and white (purity, non-corruptibility,  truth etc).

I’m waiting for an ultra sensitive Indian (a Ravi perhaps?) to complain that I didn’t write about what the Indians wanted. The book doesn’t tell. Anyway, like today, in colonial times, the community punched above its weight in public service, politics (both PAP and opposition especially in the ranks of ministers , MPs and clowns), kay pohing (esp on human rights issues), commerce, media and the law, so why so sensitive leh? BTW today add rumour mongering blogging to the list of things Indians do well disproportionate to their numbers. They do it so well that P Ravi ( Politician, Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications & Insinuations) and the yet to start publishing, almost all Indian Independent have been “marked” by Yaacob the internet sheriff and his sidekick, the MDA.

*Given that the PAP has been in power (via the ballot box) since S’pore became self-governing, one could reasonably and credibility argue that their arrogance can be justified, just.

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

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

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish International Asia

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

* MAI Adjunct Research Fellow

Cambodian elections harbinger of S’porean GE?

In Indonesia on 03/08/2013 at 5:07 am

Cambodia’s opposition party says it narrowly won Sunday’s general election, challenging the ruling party’s earlier declaration of victory.

Hours after the poll, PM Hun Sen’s ruling party said it won 68 seats in parliament to the opposition’s 55. Previously, the ruling party dominated had two-thirds majority.

What should interest S’poreans is

Hun Sen, one of the world’s longest-serving prime ministers, has been in power in Cambodia for 28 years.

Many here credit him with having steered the nation out of a civil war and raising living standards for the population of 14 million.

Under him, Cambodia has seen strong economic growth, thanks to a combination of foreign aid, development, tourism and garment exports.

All very PAP-like achievements.

–the Opposition there finally united by combining forces;

“I think Mr Rainsy and his party have a very simple message,” said Mr Cox. “It is striking a chord with people. Do you like the way things are or do you want change?

— ‘Many Cambodians are screaming for change.” … that certainly appears to be the sentiment among many of the urban youth in Phnom Penh.

I sat down with a group of young men and women in a cafe in the city, and many expressed a desire for greater political participation in their country.

“I acknowledge that the current government has made huge improvements and strides in this country since the days of the war,” says 32-year-old Chulsa Heng.

“But we want more. I still think Cambodia has a long way to go, and it’s still not enough.”

First-time voter Ngoun Somaly said that regardless of who she ended up choosing on polling day, there were many issues that the current government was not paying enough attention to.

“Human rights violations, land grabbing from rural peasants and a lack of job opportunities for Cambodia’s graduates – we need to see more firm action on that,” she said.

“Whoever wins the election must work hard to fix these problems. I really want to see these human rights issues solved.”

— And “There is also no longer that cloak of fear, the way it used to be in the past. People aren’t afraid to be out on the streets and true to themselves.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23461127

BTW, the media there is tightly controlled. And the govt regularly sues opponents, winning damages.

So no wonder PM is working hard on his National Day Rally speech. All to play for in next GE.

Lest I be accused of being anti-PAP https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/why-young-sporeans-should-be-sent-to-yangon/

Asean round-up con’td

China imports gas from Burma

The gas pipeline that connects China, Myanmar and the Indian Ocean has officially begun operating, and China has begun importing gas from Burma.

Related post https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/implications-for-spores-port-as-burma-opens-up/

Indons learning Japanese

Indonesia has more high school pupils studying Japanese than any other country (872,000) other than China

The blogging 7 & Magnificent 7, the movie

In Humour, Internet on 02/08/2013 at 4:53 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMxT5YFMigo&feature=youtu.be is making the rounds on Facebook. It’s about the seven tua kee bloggers chosen by the constructive, nation-building ST as representative of all that is bad about the new media and the internet, thereby justifying Yaacob’s laws.

I’m a fan of the movie, and the film it was based on “The Seven Samurai”. Usually remakes are not as gd as the original, but the Magnificent 7 is an exception.

Well what can our 7 bloggers* learn from watching the movie?

For starters, this line “It seemed to be a good idea at the time”. This was said when the seven were discussing what to do next after being betrayed by the farmers they were defending. They had agreed to defend the farmers against bandits in return for food and housing, and the quote refers to that decision.

When Alex Au, P Ravi or any of the others next have a row with the authorities, they should remember this line and analyse what led to the row. Sometimes, based on their reactions to govt criticism or worse, I don’t think that they do reflection.

Something for bachelors Alex Tan (“like a son to Mrs Chiam”), Andrew Loh, Alex Au and Remy Choo  to think about, substituting “blog” for “gun”: Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery. That’s why I never even started anything like that… that’s why I never will.

Likewise, P Ravi whose motto is “Live like a Legend”, and Richard Wan might want to think of putting the material well-being and peace of mind of their families first, rather than making fighting for “truth and justice” a priority. They (truth and justice) may be the American way (Ravi’s a fan of Superman) or the way of Confucius (Richard’s a scholar and from a prominent Chinese school when it still had not been bastardised), but never have been part of the system here from the time Raffles founded S’pore.

Next, our bloggers should always be thinking of the odds they are facing:

Chris: There’s a job for six men, watching over a village, south of the border.

O’Reilly: How big’s the opposition?

Chris: Thirty guns.

O’Reilly: I admire your notion of fair odds, mister.

And how to make the odds less uneven:

Harry Luck: The odds are too high.

Chris: Much too high.

Harry Luck: Then we go?

Chris: No; we lower the odds.

Then there is the likelihood of betrayal by fellow S’poreans. After chasing away the bandits, the heroes were betrayed to the bandits by the farmers, though in the end the farmers joined in the fight against the bandits when the seven returned to the village determined to rid the village of the bandits despite the farmers choosing to let the bandits in. Got to to be some lesson there: Saving S’poreans from themselves against their will?

Finally three more quotes:

— Here’s something that the bandit chief said that PM should think about–

Generosity… that was my first mistake. I leave these people a little bit extra, and then they hire these men to make trouble. It shows you, sooner or later, you must answer for every good deed.

I’m sure many netizens would say that PM’s dad never made that mistake.

You must excuse them. They are farmers here. They are afraid of everyone and everything. They are afraid of rain and no rain. The summer may be too hot, the winter too cold.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Even if there are no farmers in S’pore.

If God did not want them sheared, He would not have made them sheep.

Could be the PAP about S’poreans. In the movie, it was the bandit chief talking about the farmers.

—-

*I would omit Alex Tan and that New Nation chap from my list of S’pore’s seven top bloggers. Alex Tan claims he doesn’t blog much nowadays and I doubt he had much influence when he was mouthing expletives and doing stunts. The New Nation is not even funny. Uncle Leong and E-Jay are part of the Magnificent Seven: that fight like 700.

But then I suspect that one criteria of getting on ST’s list is that the bloggers (or their publications) that ST featured must have had some notoriety or run in with the authorities. Uncle Leong and E-Jay, for all their influence, have kept their noses clean. Nothing to slime them with, unlike the seven featured. In fact, I suspect that’s why Alex featured. He, and his publications, give bloggers a bad name. And the NN guy was featured to show how pretentious bloggers can be.

PM’s right on the Swiss remaining No 1 in wealth mgt

In Banks, Economy on 01/08/2013 at 6:11 am

A recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers report said the S’pore could overtake Switzerland as the top wealth centre in the world by 2015.  Another report says that Singapore is tipped to overtake Switzerland to become the largest global offshore wealth center in terms of assets by 2020, according to London research firm, WealthInsight, in may http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/13/business/singapore-rich-switzerland-wealth/index.html.

Our constructive, nation-building media was triumphalist.

But our PM is more realistic. He said S’pore is unlikely to overtake Switzerland as the biggest wealth centre in the world any time soon, http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/07/06/singapore-unlikely-to-overtake-switzerland-in-wealth-management/. “I read somewhere that we might overtake Switzerland. I don’t think that’s true. I don’t want that to be my marketing line,” the FT had him saying.

One advantage S’pore has is tax. Deloitte ranks Switzerland only in fifth place for tax competitiveness, behind Bahrain, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. S’pore also has an advantage in attracting Asian wealth, like not being part or near of China, while being in Asia.

But I think the PM is right (even though he cannot even get the haze issue right: he talked of the haze coming back “for weeks” about a month ago, but since then the reading was “moderate”, now “good”),

Two reasons

Private banks in the Asian financial hub, Singapore, are the next target of tighter regulations after the crackdown in the U.S. and Europe on tax cheats. From July 1, any banks believed to be abetting tax evasion or having inadequate controls in place may face a heavy fine, criminal charges and possibly the loss of their license to operate in the city state. http://www.cnbc.com/id/100793751

— The G8 countries are getting more aggressive in making sure that places like Switzerland and S’pore cannot hide behind secrecy laws to avoid sharing info. In short, all offshore havens will have to be more transparent, and none will have an advantage over the others. Money moved from Switzerland to S’pore in the noughties because it was tot S’pore would not be forced to be more open; not true anymore.

The only adv that S’pore has over Switzerland, is that Asia is getting richer, esp China, and Asean; the latter with a population of over 620m, would be “the 21st century’s champion in fostering the vast middle class consumer market”, according to the Japanese PM. Asean is in our immediate neighbourhood, a great advantage. And S’pore has been a traditional regional financial, commercial and services centre.

Interestingly, not reported here, Deloitte says Hong Kong could overtake Switzerland as the world’s top wealth manager as early as 2019 if current asset growth rates are maintained. Being part of China has its advantages esp in attracting non-Chinese money that wants a piece of the action in China. And HK’s reputation for financial innovation doesn’t hinder.