atans1

Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Indications that time to cheong mkt?

In Financial competency on 31/10/2013 at 4:33 am

So based on patterns in the past, in so far as companies’ earnings are not artificially propped up by low interest costs and barring any structural change in the economic environment, investors who enter the market at current levels have a good chance of earning satisfactory returns from the stock market over the next five years.

(ex BT reporter, now in fund mgt, wrote on 13 October 2013 in SunT)

She argues

Consider the price of the Singapore market, relative to the 10-year average of its earnings per share, as calculated by Thomson Datastream. This is measured by the so-called Graham and Dodd price-earnings (PE) ratio.

In the past 30 years, the highest the market price has gone up to was 33.5 times its 10-year average earnings. That was in August 1987 just before the October 1987 Black Monday crash. The lowest the market has plunged to was 10.3 times its 10-year average earnings. That was in February 2009, the darkest point of the recent global financial crisis.

In the past 30 years, when the Graham and Dodd PE fell below 16 times, the returns of the three portfolios five years later tended to be substantial.

They averaged 15.2 per cent a year for the entire market; 25.4 per cent a year for the low (price-to-book) PB portfolio; and 13 per cent a year for the high PB portfolio. The five-year period starting from the lowest point on our PE chart, i.e. February 2009, has not ended yet. But already, those who entered the market at that point are sitting on, or had made, outsized returns.

There was only one instance when buying into the market at the Graham and Dodd PE of 16 times or below did not pay off handsomely five years later. That was in July 1997, at the onset of the Asian financial crisis. Five years later, in August 2002, the market was still trading at similar levels as it struggled to climb its way out of the dot.com bust and the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The higher the Graham and Dodd PE, the lower the return five years later. Investors who entered the market at a PE of 26 times or higher had seen a miserable 1 per cent average return a year in the following five years for the market portfolio, 7 per cent for the low PB portfolio and minus 2 per cent for the high PB portfolio.

At that market entry level, chances of an investor suffering capital loss are also elevated. Based on monthly numbers in the past 30 years, the probability of loss five years later (at Graham and Dodd PE of 26 times and above) was 42 per cent for the market portfolio, 12 per cent for the low PB portfolio and a whopping 70 per cent for the high PB portfolio.

Finally, where is the Graham and Dodd PE for the Singapore market now? It’s at 14.1 times as at end September. This compares with the average of 20.8 times in the past 30 years.

In the past three decades, there were 25 different months when the Graham and Dodd PE traded between 14 and 16.5 times. For those 25 different months, the market portfolio returned an average 15.5 per cent a year over the next five years. The low PB portfolio averaged 24.8 per cent a year, and the high PB portfolio 14.3 per cent a year. The probability of capital loss for those periods was 1-in-25 for the market portfolio, and 3-in-25 for the low PB as well as the high PB portfolios.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid=412728214-19447-2216721772

Remember what Warren Buffett said about expenses, “Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies.” He goes on, “And if they insist on trying to time their participation in equities, they should try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful.”

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Alison McElwee: 3 bites = Tammy’s death?

In Uncategorized on 30/10/2013 at 4:48 am

(Update Update 17th February 2014:Sun T reported that peace broke out between the warring harridans with FT admitting that re-homing would have been better option. Tammy’s still dead. Implicitly she admits lying that she lied that other lady didn’t want to take dog back?)

Update on 20th November 2013: ST says Alison McElwee is British)

Ms Alison McElwee adopted a stray dog under the conditions that if there were any problems, she would be returned to the re-homer, Ada Ong.

She shortly thereafter put it down. ST reported:  A woman who had her seven- month-old mongrel Tammy put down for aggression has defended her decision, claiming the person she got it from did not want to take it back.

Ms Alison McElwee, who was criticised for ignoring the rehomer’s pleas to return it, said in a statement: “The rehomer suggested placing (Tammy) in a long- term boarding home” and “did not want to take (it) back”.

But ST wrote: “her [Alison McElwee’s] text messages tell different story.”

This was double-confirmed by a minister, no less. Last Thurs I read that the Minister of Law (a dog and cat lover*) wrote on Facebook, Ada told me that she made clear to Tammy’s adopter in subsequent conversations that Ada was prepared to take back Tammy. Ada also showed me the SMS exchanges between the adopter and herself, which seems to bear out what Ada says. I have given Ada my views on the contract, and have suggested to her that she should get a lawyer to pursue this matter. She asked me for help and I have suggested a lawyer to her who will help her pro bono. There could be other fees, expenses – Louis ( from Acres) who was in the conversation, has said that the money will be raised if necessary.

What angers me is that she didn’t take advantage of the offer, preferring to spend money killing the dog. Could it be vengeance?

ST report, “She alleged that Tammy bit her four-year-old daughter and two adults.” She could have believed in an extreme variation of ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.

What further angered me is that she tot she could lie her way out of trouble.

If I were one of those so-called xenophobes, I should be ranting, “What now ang moh? Think you tua kee? Can suka suka kill a local dog with impunity? And lie about it? Think S’poreans no understand English and don’t know to store text messages?” “Home Team will be their usual ang moh tua kee and allow you to give S’poreans the bird.” Remember the Suntec case?

But I’m no xenophobe. There is the possibility that the alleged attacks caused severe wounds that indicated that Tammy was a dangerous puppy. There was a newspaper report that Tammy was pretty hostile at the vet, though one can understand why. Dogs know when they are in danger.

And she, like Tammy, could be a local. Names can be deceiving, especialli in multicultural S’pore. I tot GIC’s PR flack and Tony Tan’s campaign helper was ang moh. Turns out she’s local, a Eurasian: one of those whose families didn’t flee to Perth (and other ang moh places) when S’pore became self-governing, and then independent.. Nope, Alison McElwee is probably juz trash of the worse kind, white, black, brown, yellow, purple or green. Hopefully, Tammy will get her revenge, as God visits “the iniquity of the fathers mothers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth.”

BTW, I don’t think anyone should flame AVA, or the vets involved. They can’t be expected to vet every request of an owner to kill a dog. Owners too have rights and obligations. And sadly, vicious dogs have to be put down to protect humans.

I have strong views on adopting dogs. Once a dog is adopted by me, it becomes part of the family. It never gets “unadopted”. I even have problems with people who give away their dogs because the dogs are unruly. And I practice what I preach. One of my two dogs was “forced” on me (had to take both), and was problematic: uncivilised and suffering from ailments. Turned out to be sweet, gentle, unlike her hyper but handsome “brudder”.

Finally, this case like that of new citizen Raj (the guy who boasts that his son will avoid NS and still be a PR) gives bad PR to the govt’s policy of letting in the FTs. She (assuming she is a FT) and new citizen Raj don’t give a damn that they are saboing the S’pore govt. Now that’s gratitude! No, LKY, it’s not the voters of Aljunied who will repent. It will be the PAP who will repent that it favours foreigners, not S’poreans, and allows them to flood in with no or very little QC.

One final tot. How come no follow-up story, now that the law minister minister has spoken. Surely ST should be asking Alison McElwee for her response? As I said, maybe, juz maybe, Tammy was too vicious and dangerous, and Alison tot she had to protect us S’poreans against doggie do-gooders like Ada Ong (“Dogs always tua kee”). And, if she refused to comment, we should be told. Or is ST practicising constructive, nation-building censorship? Not wanting to stir S’poreans against FTs?

If so, this wouldn’t be the first time. Remember the F1 SMRT driver, and another driver involved in a bad accident. S’poreans had to find out from social media that they were PRC FTs.

*I had tot that dog and cat lovers were the equivalents of bi-sexuals. But my friend Siow Kum Hong, he and his wife own both dogs and cats, assures me that such people are “not uncommon”.

Retail punters suffer ’cause SGX, MAS dysfunctional?

In Corporate governance, Malaysia on 29/10/2013 at 4:53 am

I waz surprised at the swiftness that SGX allowed Asiasons Capital, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp to resume normal trading, as I had expected a prolonged period under “designated trading”, allowing me time to think about and investigate Asiasons. (My initial tots on Asiasons).

My immediate reaction waz, “Shld have had the balls to buy at 12ish cents*” with cash upfront. My next reaction was “How come SGX come to conclusion everything halal so fast?”. My third tot was, “Wonder if SGX and punters are going to repent?”.

A few days after stocks cheonged following the lifting of trading restrictions, SGX and MAS announced investigations. On 26 October 2013, BT reported JUST as shares of Asiasons Capital, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp shares appeared to be clambering out of their doldrums, news of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) investigation into their trading activities dragged them down again.

“MAS and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) are conducting an extensive review of the activities around these stocks,” MAS said in a statement yesterday. “This episode has also surfaced broader issues regarding the market structure and practices which MAS and SGX intend to review thoroughly.”

All three stocks slid to their lowest level in a week as skittish investors took profit. Asiasons shares fell 18 per cent to 19 cents, Blumont stock dropped 19 per cent to 16 cents and LionGold shed 15 per cent to 25 cents by the close of trading yesterday. The three counters were among the five biggest percentage decliners on the SGX.

Why couldn’t the plans to investigate and the lifting of trading restrictions be announced at the same time? If necessary, the latter could have been delayed a few days, while SGX and MAS deliberated? No wonder MAS MD got only a B rating compared to his M’sian and Pinoy counterparts (A) http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/10/27/head-of-mas-ravi-menon-only-gets-a-b-grade/. Shamefully that S’porean is graded lower than Pinoy or M’sian.

And do remember that FTs hold the top two posts at SGX.

Anyway, I’m not complaining. Gives me time to think about and investigate Asiasons. But lifting the trading restrictions (implying everything halal) and, a few days later, saying that there were going to be investigations,  ain’t fair to punters.

SGX has publicly said it wants retail investors in the market. Great way to treat them. But then there were S-Chips. I remember the boast by one Larence Wong of SGX (now departed), in the early noughties, that only chinese companies with accounts certified by int’l auditors were to be listed. They were, but looked what happened? The perils of ang moh tua kee.

Related post: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/singapores-penny-stock-mystery-increases-210030112.html

*Closed at 0.147 yesterday.

Proof that FTs displace S’poreans?

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 28/10/2013 at 4:52 am

And ST reported the proof.

Can someone from govt, or its running dogs* in the think-tanks or the constructive, nation-building media explain this ST headline (and accompanying story) on 24th October?

ITE graduates in demand as SMEs face manpower crunch

 Job-matching scheme places ITE and poly students in local firms

ST went on

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are stepping up efforts to recruit Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates in a bid to combat the manpower squeeze.

The aim is to place some 300 with local companies every year over the next five years, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck yesterday.

The job-matching, which is part of Spring Singapore’s SME Talent Programme, has sent 32 polytechnic and ITE students to 15 firms since it was launched in June.

Seven trade associations and chambers have also reached out to more than 1,600 students to apply for jobs such as retail associates, clerks and technicians. Employers are eager for more.

(Backgrounder: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/10/24/demand-for-ite-grads-picks-up-when-foreign-quota-reduced/)

It’s reasonable to conclude from the ST story that this demand for ITE and poly grads is the result of the govt’s very slight retreat from its “We love FTs, first, last and always” policies**. So whatever happened to the Hard Truth that the the more FTs, the more and better jibs for locals? Seems more like BS doesn’t it? But then the line between a Hard Truth and BS can be pretty thin.

(Gd related article: http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2013/10/where-are-the-good-jobs-prime-minister)

for the record, Yeoh Lam Keong, former chief economist at GIC, has called for the immigration policy to be reversed. “What we need to do is to be much more stringent on admitting such unskilled labour. We’ve really got no excuse to be so relaxed about this kind of immigration.” (BTW, he has also called for the government to return to its roots to meet and serve the needs of ordinary citizens over public housing, education, healthcare, welfare and other services.)

If readers want to read, good, evidence-based critiques of govt policies, not the usual rhetorical rubbish that appears from most of the usual suspects most of the time, Uncle Leong excepted, follow “Lam Keong Yeoh” on Facebook.

Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/rewriting-lkys-views-on-fts-and-if-so-why/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/sccci-sme-survey-proves-lkys-point/

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

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/alternative-to-fts/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/alternative-to-fts-ii/

——
*No disrespect to Tammy and other dogs.
**OK, OK, I exaggerate. But if the govt and its allies can exaggerate, why can’t I?

S’poreans fleeced in Johor yet again

In Malaysia on 27/10/2013 at 5:24 am

When will S’poreans realise that property is cheap in Johor for a gd reason? The rules are suka suka changed after S’poreans bot into the latest BS. But first some predictions:

— The infrastructure promised for Iskandar will remain that: a promise. Ask the S’porean investors who bot into the BS over the promised east coast developments near Pasir Gudang. They are still waiting, after 20 myrs.  Meanwhile the BS caravan moved on to Iskandar.At first, S’poreans were sceptical, but finally succumbed to the BS, after the Arabs refused to buy into Iskandar’s tales of wealth. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/iskandarland-getting-desperate/,

— Now the caravan will move further north, along the corridor for the high-speed train.

S’poreans get fleeced, and suffer in silence, the caravan moves on. ” If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep,” the bandit chief in the Magnificent Seven.

Malaysia’s Budget 2014 means more expensive homes for foreigners with higher taxes and a doubling of the minimum price of properties to RM1 million (S$391,000).

The most severe measure is a 30% real property gains tax (RPGT) that will be levied on gains on property disposed within three years, Disposals within four and five years are to be taxed at 20 and 15%, respectively. And at 5% in the sixth and subsequent years for non-citizens. These taxes are, it seems, higher than anticipated. Currently, the RPGT rate for property disposals within two years is 15%, while the level for disposals between two to five years is 10%. Note that Medini in the Iskandar special economic zone is now more attractive to investors as it is exempt from taxes.So if got property there, can relax until further notice: this is M’sia. In M’sia foreigners get shafted. In S’pore. locals get screwed.

Add to this the tax that the state of Johor plans to levy*, and S’poreans who bot properties in Iskandar hoping to make $ will not be too happy.  Future buyers will be deterred too.

Would like to draw attention that most of Iskandar is in a DAP-controlled constituency. DAP’s heloo is one LKY.

Now these measures mean UMNO-dominated govts at the Federal and Johor will make sure voters and S’poreans repent. Hehehe.

TRE once wrote: Some issues are beginning to surface as highlighted in a recent Business Times article which said that investors are not getting assurances in black and white on issues like land zoning, mortgage loan quantums and Bumiputra employment quotas, among others.

Foreigners investing in Iskandar might do better if they can understand that most policies in Malaysia are instituted by politicians of the day. When the politician leaves, a new policy replacing the old one is to be expected. When doing business in Johor, one has to factor in such risks.

Remember that Putrajaya, the state administrative capital of Malaysia, is still struggling after more than 20 years in the making. When Iskandar was mooted in 2006, authorities were confident about getting funds from Middle Eastern investors. Obviously, that plan didn’t work out and the focus is now back to Singaporean investors.

http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/04/01/perils-of-investing-in-iskandar-malaysia/

Interesting to see the u/m projects reported by BT yesterday go ahead:

[U]nits of three local firms – Tat Hong Holdings, Boustead Singapore and CSC Holdings – have set up a joint venture with AME Group to develop land in Iskandar Malaysia.

Boustead will own 35 per cent of the joint-venture firm, named Tat Hong Industrial Properties Sdn Bhd (THIP), through its unit BP Lands, for a paid-up capital of RM3.5 million (S$1.4 million).

The Johor-based AME Group, which has a division that specialises in real estate development, will also own 35 per cent. It will do so through its unit AME Land Sdn Bhd for the same amount in paid-up capital.

Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/how-iskandar-land-may-look-like/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/iskandar-why-smes-should-think-twice-before-relocating-there/

* There are plans to impose a tax of 4 to 5% on foreigners who buy property in the state Today reporter earlier this month,  Johor’s State Housing and Local Government Committee Chairman Abdul Latiff Bandi said yesterday that the new tax would likely be implemented by the year-end or early next year, in a bid to control property prices and foreign ownership, the New Straits Times reported. The levy would apply to both commercial and residential properties. Under the current policy, foreigners fork out a one-off payment of RM10,000 (S$3,910), regardless of the value of the property. The state government will also look into barring Malaysians who purchased property from selling their units to foreigners.

M’sia, S’pore tops Asean in household debt

In Indonesia, Infrastructure, Malaysia on 26/10/2013 at 7:31 am

Currently, M’sia‘s household debt stood at about 83% of gross domestic product. Household debt in S’pore now accounts for 75% of gross domestic product, having doubled in the last 13 years. According to Standard Chartered, a private bank, household borrowing as a share of national income now stands at 68% of Thailand’s GDP, much higher than in bigger Asian countries, such as China (20%), India (18%) and Indonesia (17%).

In other Asean round-up news:

Burma‘s Yangon had passed Singapore’s office rental rates of US$74 a square metre by the first quarter of this year according to estate agents Colliers. To give some context to this piece of info, something from yesterday’s BT: AT S$11 per square foot (psf) per month, or US$103 psf per year, the extended central business district comprising Raffles Place and Marina Bay is the eighth most expensive office area in the world, according to a Jones Lang LaSalle study.

Taking into account quoted rents from only premium office space in top sub-markets, Singapore was inched out by other Asian locations such as Hong Kong’s Central which commanded rents of HK$105 psf per month (US$162 psf per year) and Beijing’s Finance Street where corporates paid rents of 750 yuan per square metre per month (US$137 psf per year).

S’pore is sharing with Indonesia with its best practices in public-private partnership (PPP) in water and waste-water infrastructure projects.

Led by Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE), an integrated arm of International Enterprise Singapore, and Temasek Foundation, the partnership programme will be delivered over a two-year period by a team of Singapore experts from both private and public sectors to 200 Indonesian government officials from various provinces and cities as well as ministries including the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Works (Bappenas).

Singapore will provide knowledge in planning and procurement of water and waste-water infrastructure projects; and help cultivate a core group of officers from PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (Persero), a government partner promoting infrastructure development in Indonesia, who will develop public-private partnership training materials.

Great retorts to Kee Chui’s rubbish

In Political governance, Public Administration on 25/10/2013 at 4:37 am

Singapore is not considering having an official poverty line, as it would not fully reflect the severity and complexity of issues faced by the poor, and may also lead to those above the line missing out on assistance.

CHAN CHUN SING*: “If we use a single poverty line to assess the family, we also risk a ‘cliff effect’, where those below the poverty line receive all forms of assistance, while other genuinely needy citizens outside the poverty line are excluded.”

– Straits Times. 23 Oct 2013. (Via TOC Facebook)

P Ravi (the P stands for Philemon, not “Politican” as Yaacob of once in 50-yrs flood fame seemed to think) wrote on Facebook:

With various subsidies in healthcare, housing, pre-school education, etc already being tagged to means-testing, the cliff-effect already exists. Through my volunteer work with low-income families and individuals I know for a fact that some decline pay increases because if their salary increase, they will not be eligible for KIFAS (Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme). Some others do not take up jobs which will pay them a bit more than they currently earn, because then they will not be eligible for rental houses (some of these may be better off in rental houses then buying their own flats). Anyway, the ‘cliff effect’ has not historically stopped the Government from not providing assistance. For example, middle income families were recently provided assistance to purchase HDB flats. As I see it, the excuse of the ‘cliff effect’ is just an excuse to avoid properly acknowledging the state of poverty in Singapore. Without appropriately acknowledging poverty in Singapore, it will be very difficult to address it adequately.

And the following from the retired chief economist of GIC would have been another great retort except that it was written a few days earlier in resonse to SunT’s leading article with a headline screaming that for the first time assurance to the poor rose above $100mn in the last FY, a 45% increase

Can’t believe we are so proud that for the first time assurance to the poor rose above $100mn in the last FY.

That’s like 0.03 of a percent of GDP- a paltry amount in view of the fact that around 10 to 12% of households ( some 350 to 400,000 people) are way below the income per capita criterion of $550 per month and WIS payouts are way too stingy!

Even if you take just the unemployed and aged poor (excluding working poor) of around 140 000 people) that’s barely $60 a month each!

And yet MP Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the GPC for Social and Family Development can claim that those who fall between the cracks ” should be rare exceptions and, when they come to our notice we will certainly and very quickly act on them.”

Let’s please just come out of policy denial , treble workfare and at least double the amount we are spending on welfare before we make claims that we are dealing adequately with the poverty problem in Singapore!

It’s a real shame that a country with our level of prosperity and fiscal resources still faces chronic poverty of the kind outlined in Radha Basus article in ST today (p 13 and 13) …

Comcare fund is only largely directed at some 45 to 50, 000 families facing temporary problems like illness and retrenchment or the elderly poor; it largely does not include the working poor of 60 to 80, 000 households who are meant to be covered by an inadequate WIS..

Finally, I’m shocked to find out that The Government’s national database for the social services sector, or Social Service Net (SSNet), will be ready by mid-2015. Tot we had one: shows the priority that such a database had under previous ministers (like that rich kid from ACS). (http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/national-database-for/858204.html)

One wonders how Kee Chui got the data to make such the sweeping statement quoted above if there is no national database?

—-

*To be fair to Kee Chui, social workers are happier with his attitude and actions than with those of VivianB and the other welfare ministers. Sad that Halimah is not part of the team as she is believed to be, like Kee chui interested, in welfare reform, and in helping the poor.

Asiasons: 2 bull pts

In Financial competency, Malaysia, Private Equity on 24/10/2013 at 4:46 am

Firstly, controlling shareholders are gd financial engineers. I had bot into Integra 2000 for its planned massive dividend in 2007 which I believed that the market had not appreciated because it was conditional on deals getting thru. It then started flying cum dividend. I had expected to sell the shares at a slight loss from the cum di price when it went ex-dividend. Instead I made a profit. Later I learnt that these guys had bot into the shares cum dividend. They must have used the pending dividend to finance the purchases. Financial engineering at its best.

(FYI, BT on Tueday quoted an unname broker, “He believes Asiasons’ “true” value could settle in the region of 30 to 40 cents, while LionGold’s could lie between 40 and 50 cents as it has a higher book value.”. Don’t know what he means, but will explore.)

Secondly, these guys willing to spend dollars trying to look gd. Blumont and LionGold selling controlling shareholders have gone to ground. But still, like Asiasons, their share prices have flown.

It was a masterstroke of Asiason’s PR/ IR team that got ST to carry a story entitled “Were not a bunch of comboys” on Saturday 19th October, juza before relisting on Monday. In it we learn,

— about the sparsely furnished office of Asiasons Capital in China Square Central [Frugal, serious people]

“The share price volatility has absolutely no link or association with Asiasons’ operations,” said chairman Mohammed Azlan Hashim, a prominent corporate figure in Malaysia who sits on the boards of sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional and IHH Healthcare. [Not a nobody]

— Asiasons has a fund management portfolio of about US$300 million (S$372 million) and counts Malaysia’s deep-pocketed state-owned funds such as Ekuinas and government pension scheme Kwap as clients.[Gd, solid connections]

— At current price levels, Mr Azlan admitted that the shares are hovering near the level they were at in 2007 when he and his two partners took control of Asiasons, then a human resources technology firm called Integra2000 and shifted its business focus to private equity investment … three also reiterated that none of them have sold “a single share” in Asiasons over the past six years.  [Long term greedy] That’s quite a contrast from what has been taking place at LionGold and Blumont, which have seen significant trades recently involving insiders, particularly disposals and forced selling involving directors.

— “This so-called web of cross shareholdings makes it appear as if we are in cahoots in this whole thing,” said Mr Lim. “We are our own men and no one else is influencing us.” Asiasons owns 9 per cent of LionGold and has a 27 per cent stake in ISR Capital which it plans to eventually divest.

Mr Azlan reiterated that there are no other connections to the other firms. “We have absolutely no relationship with these other firms, including Blumont. The only relationship there is Jared, a director, and his wife but that’s not related to Asiasons per se,” said Mr Azlan.

Clearwater Developments, which is linked to Mr Lim’s wife Dian Lee, owns a 7 per cent stake in Blumont. That investment, Mr Lim said, came about from an “innocent transaction” a few years back when Blumont, then called Adroit Innovations, was scouting around for some properties in Malaysia.

“She went ahead and made the decision herself and it was a small investment which involved shares. Now she and her partners are looking to sell their stake as it was purely an investment and not part of their business,” said Mr Lim. [Not connected with …]

— The three founders also categorically denied another topic hot in the market rumour mill that Asiasons is connected to well-known Malaysian stock investor and businessman Soh Chee Wen. [Not connected with …]

Watch out for the “bowl” consolidation, if thinking of buying. Let you know if I buy some after I buy some.

FT policy: Dialogue? What dialogue?

In Economy, Political governance on 23/10/2013 at 5:09 am

“The “victimised Singaporean” framing does nothing to push these issues forward for intelligent debate. It does not encourage Singaporeans to think about how things can be improved while acknowledging what we have. It does not led to useful discussion over policy …

‘I have no doubt that the people who spout this line [I assume she means hatred of foreigners] love their home. I have no doubt that they have real worries and anxiety. I have no doubt that many of their concerns are valid. But if they really love Singapore and want the best for it, the best course of action would be to quit the melodramatic posturing and engage in real dialogue.” – Kirsten Han (http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/great-singaporean-grievance-103242143.html0

Were things that simple.

The unsaid assumption is that there are channels for discussion and dialogue, and that discussion and dialogue can lead to something meaningful being done to solve the grievances. All these “fruscos” need to do is to use these channels. Well, any dialogue or discussion has to involve the govt who initiated the liberal immigration policy.

For someone who perceptively writes, “Concerns over freedom of expression and other civil liberties need to be given attention”, I’m surprised that she doesn’t realise that there are no channels for discussion and dialogue on this issue, as on many other issues. NatCon is not dialogue and it didn’t exactly go into the FT policy.

And anyway the FT policy is not open for dialogue. By releasing the white paper when it did (juz before NatCon started, even an accademic involved lamented that fact), the govt sent a strong message that the issue is not negotiable. FTs are the Special Ones and taz a Hard Truth.See here and here.

By promising to focus on public concerns that housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable, and on education, the govt is doing its best to ensure that its pro-FT stance does not further alienate S’poreans, and hopefully (from its perspective) wins back voters by bribing voters with their (our) own money.

To put it another way, all the public spending on housing, healthcare, public transport and education has as one as its aims mitigating the effects on S’porean PMETs of the “FTs all the way” position of the govt.

Even the trumpeted nearly 45% increase (to $102.4m, but as the retired chief economist of GIC points out this is 0.03 of a percent of GDP- a paltry amount in view of the fact that around 10 to 12% of households ( some 350 to 400,000 people) are way below the income per capita criterion of $550 per month and WIS payouts are way too stingy! Even if you take just the unemployed and aged poor (excluding working poor) of around 140 000 people) that’s barely $60 a month each!) in one year in welfare spending on the poor surely has something to do with mitigating the effects of the FT policy. After all, the welfare minister who sneered at the elderly poor is still in the cabinet, albeit in a post where he doesn’t have to deal with the poor, homeless or elderly.

Yes, yes, I know the govt and the constructive nation-building media are spinning that the govt is cutting back the supply of FTs especially to SMEs. The SMEs are screaming (http://www.cnbc.com/id/101123289), presumably because while the owners have to pay pay more for their bungalows, penthouses and CoEs, profits are reduced ’cause their access to cheap FT PMETs is being supposedly closed.

But until the numbers say so, I remain sceptical, very sceptical that a pro-FT leopard can change its spots. Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24428569. Of the five people working in S’pore featured, the poorest paid (an elderish cleaner)  is a true blue S’porean: BBC spins she can afford a maid. The other local is a first generation S’porean. Both are ethnic Chinese. The other three are FTs.

Reading the article, and knowing the facts on the ground, one can easily understand the grievances of the people Kirsten Han referred to above, especially if they are poor and elderly, and ethnic Indians or Malays.

BBC says cleaners can afford maids

In Economy, Humour on 22/10/2013 at 1:57 pm

Even our nation-building, cfonstructive media’s journalists or editors don’t talk such rubbish.

“But the forced saving scheme and social housing mean that even cleaners live in reasonable housing and employ their own foreign live-in maid,” writes a BBC economics journalist, admittedly relatively newish and whose blog postings have been criticised. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24606989).

She based this comment on Office cleaner Liew Siew Giok [who] works all day on her feet but goes home to a meal cooked by her Burmese maid. She lives with her extended family, who pay for the domestic help and her flat.

Her secret? She lives with her extended family, who pay for the domestic help and her flat. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24339815)

So S’poreans, this BBC reporter is saying life is gd. Stop bitching. Come next Ge, vote PAP!

Not bull: FT policy is bad for productivity and innovation

In Economy on 22/10/2013 at 5:40 am

The govt complains that productivity is poor and is worried, introducing measures to “improve” it. At the same time, we all know that the working population here has increased due to the flood of FTs. At the same time, S’pore’s attempt to be a global centre of innovation, is stuck on the runway. Contrast this with Estonia.

Some S’poreans have pointed to the influx of FTs as a probable reason (not the only one) for the low productivity. The local media and the govt ignore these views. The implication being that cutting back on FTs will help productivity.

Well these views have some validity as research in the West proves. (Note emphasis added is mine.)

Is it possible, really, that low productivity growth was a consequence of rapid labour-force growth? Once upon a time Paul Romer speculated that it might be:

One interpretation…is that there is a negative exernality associated with labor. this could arise if there is a form of innovation that economizes on labor, if investment in this kind of innovation is sensitive to movements in wages, an dif this innovation has positive external effects because of spillovers of knowledge. in this case, an increase in the rate of growth of the labor force, with the implied decrease in the rate of grwoth of wages, could case a decrease in innovation, and hence a decrease in knowledge spillovers from innovation. The net effect that an increase in labor supply has on output would then be the combination of the positive direct effect of more workers and the negative indirect effect of less innovation.

The suggestion that this kind of effective could be present is not new. This kind of interaction between wages and innovation has been invoked repeatedly in the comparative analysis of productivity growth in the United States and Britain during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

More recently, Daron Acemoglu has done extensive work noting that innovation responds to factor scarcity or abundance. If there’s rapid growth in labour supply then one should expect lots of innovation in technologies that complement labour and very little in labour-saving innovation. Whether that should net out to a slowdown in overall productivity growth is unclear, but the story isn’t something to write off out of hand.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/09/generations)

If you’ve read this far, you will have noticed that innovation suffers when there there are too many bodies available. So govt saboing its policy of trying to make S’pore a centre of innovation?

Easy to avoid “xenophobe” label

In Humour, Uncategorized on 21/10/2013 at 4:47 am

I waz planning to grumble about (I assume unintentional) implications of: There are plenty of xenophobic people these days who rail unjustly against foreigners and cite them for alleged misconduct which they themselves might be guilty of at some other place and time. Whilst these people should be taken to task, it is equally unfair to use the “xenophobic” label to tar others who are merely speaking up against government policies and genuine grievances, but who may not phrase themselves with exactly the right amount of nuance and sensitivity.

It is very easy to be labelled as a xenophobe. All you have to do is to say “Singaporeans should come first”.(http://www.sgpolitics.net/?p=8546)

But, in I’m sure, a different context context, Vincent Wijeysingha expressed my sentiments better than I ever could (I never faced racism when in the UK or Oz, maybe ’cause I waz in the “right” environment), and a lot faster too. See below for a longish quote from Vincent Wijeysingha and the link to his piece*.

So, I’ll confine myself to suggestions on how avoiding getting labelled a xenophobe when criticising the govt’s pro-FT stance. In this age of cut & paste, it’s easy for those who may not phrase themselves with exactly the right amount of nuance and sensitivity can use the words of Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Dr Chee to avoid the use the “xenophobic” label.

Remember Dr Tan’s slogan for the 2011 presidential election that he lost by a very short nose? “Think Singaporean first”. People could say, “The govt/ we should Think Singaporean first’…” or “Rather than its pro-FT policy, the govt should adopt Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s Think Singaporean first’ …”

Dr Chee’s, “A word of caution, I ask all of us here in Singapore to be the people that we truly are, the tolerant people that we are and if we attack, we attack the policy, we point out the flaws in the policy, not against the people who are here for work.”, can be simplified to “We disagree with the govt’s pro-FT policy, not the foreigners working here. We are unhappy with the “FTs first, citizens last” attitude of the govt because …”

I’m assuming that after using these phrases, users don’t talk of “molest” cases increasing because of the presence of FTs (Gilbert Goh), or linking violence and crime to the increasing number of FTs. These are no-go areas if one one’s to avoid the  “xenophobe” label. Talk about the suppression of the wages of local PMETs, stagnating real wage levels, overcrowded public transport and the increase in apartment rents and CoEs.

It’s easy to avoid the “xenophobe”, unless people really want to be called “xenophobes”, or are really xenophobes who pretend that their English lets them down. BTW, let’s bear in mind, that some PAPpies, on their own initiative, may be using “xenophobic” language deliberately to fix, tar S’poreans who criticise the govt’s pro-FT policy.

—–

*”To those following events in the foreigner debate, you may have noticed that the temper is gradually deteriorating. People are beginning to take views that have no relationship to the real situation. The most preposterous racism is being aired. When I lived in the UK for many years, I noticed a similar trend. It resulted, in later years, in racist assaults and eventually killings. The feeling of being frightened for your safety because of escalating racism, frightened for your security and that of your family, is unpleasant, to say the least.

Those who are serious about contributing to the population debate must begin to take responsibility for what they say and do. The action against Ranstad was misguided and wrong because it made an accusation which was not justified and it stoked further the resentment of Singaporeans already so unhappy with how things are developing. More actions of this kind will, I have no doubt, result in far worse outcomes both for foreigners in Singapore as well as for Singaporeans themselves.”

(https://www.facebook.com/notes/vincent-wijeysingha/fuck-off-back-home-foreigner/678499962167930)

Hear, Heat I say.

Why economic forecasters underperform fortune tellers

In Economy, Financial competency on 20/10/2013 at 5:23 am

(Taz all the more reason to stick to stocks that make can make sustainable (we hope) good payouts. Check Temasek’s Fab 5 out: they have consistently made gd payments but the prices reflects this i.e. better yields available elsewhere but at greater risk.)

[A]n advance estimate showing the city-state’s economy shrank 1.0 percent on quarter in the July-September period, better than expectations for a 3.6 percent contraction, but a significant deceleration from 16.9 percent growth in the previous three months.http://www.cnbc.com/id/101109030

Opps wrong again. And govt isn’t that gd either at forecasting. A few months ago: The Republic’s economy is expected to do better this year than previously expected, with the growth forecast raised to between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The previous official forecast was between 1 and 3 per cent. [Today]

In both cases, in percentage terms, the changes are significant: a fortune teller would lose his credibility with such forecasts. All finance ministers, their advisers, economists, central bankers and analysts always get their forecasts wrong: nothing uniquely S’porean.

In addition to the general reasons I gave here, here are two more reasons for them being sotong in the post 2008 environment.:-

— The experts are lost because the conventional model of how the financial system interacts with the real economy has evolved too little since the huge and largely unexpected financial crisis. Now as then, there is too much debt in the world for either monetary or fiscal policy to have the effect that the textbooks say.

The stimulative efforts of governments and central banks help the highly leveraged financial system stay afloat, but only a small portion of the funds actually reach the real economy. In such an unconventional financial world, the conventional wisdom is likely to stay wrong. Expect more of the unexpected.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/08/05/markets-central-bankers-face-strange-new-world/

— Economics is an inexact science, with exceptions to almost every pattern of behaviour that economists take for granted. For example, economists predict that higher prices for a good will reduce demand for it. But students of economics will no doubt remember an early encounter with “Giffen goods”, which violate the usual pattern. When tortillas become more expensive, a poor Mexican worker may eat more of them, because she now has to cut back on more expensive food like meat.

Such “violations” occur elsewhere as well. Customers often value a good more when its price goes up. One reason may be its signalling value. An expensive handcrafted mechanical watch may tell time no more accurately than a cheap quartz model; but, because few people can afford one, buying it signals that the owner is rich. Similarly, investors flock to stocks that have appreciated, because they have “momentum”.

The point is that economic behavior is complex and can vary among individuals, over time, between goods, and across cultures. Physicists do not need to know the behavior of every molecule to predict how a gas will behave under pressure. Economists cannot be so sanguine. Under some conditions, individual behavioral aberrations cancel one another out, making crowds more predictable than individuals. But, under other conditions, individuals influence one another in such a way that the crowd becomes a herd, led by a few.

Unfortunately, many of these methods [to get clear-cut evidence of causality. If high national debt is associated with slow economic growth, is it because excessive debt impedes growth, or because slow growth causes countries to accumulate more debt? cannot be applied to the most important questions facing economic policymakers.] So the evidence does not really tell us whether a heavily indebted country should pay down its debt or borrow and invest more.Moreover, what seem like obvious, commonsense policy solutions all too often have unintended consequences, because a policy’s targets are not passive objects, as in physics, but active agents who react in unpredictable ways. For example, price controls, rather than lowering prices, often cause scarcity and the emergence of a black market in which controlled commodities cost significantly more.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/aug/08/raghuram-rajan-economic-paranoia-uncertainty

 

Blame Apple, Google for declining exports, growth

In Economy, Indonesia, Malaysia on 19/10/2013 at 6:26 am

The following pieces of bad news came as no surprise even though I’m no economist

— Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) fell year-on-year for an eighth straight month in September.

Overall, exports declined by 1.2 per cent on-year in September.

Still, economists say the contraction was smaller than what the market was expecting.

Better-than-expected export performance in September was driven by non-electronic exports like ships and petrochemicals.

This helped to offset lower electronics exports such as PC parts and disk media products.

Electronic export has been declining year-on-year for 14 consecutive months due to weak external demand.

Vishnu Varathan, a senior economist at Mizuho Bank, explained: “The higher value-add items such as the part for the integrated circuits — they did better; whereas PC parts, the lower-end items, disk drives — these did much worse. So this underlies the fact that Singapore’s competitiveness must be at the higher end of the range given our cost base, and that’s where we’re losing out. So in terms of restructuring, it’s going to be a difficult period for electronics despite coming from a low base.”

The top three contributors to the export contraction were the European Union, South Korea and Japan.

On a month-on-month basis, exports rose 5.7 per cent in September, versus the previous month’s 6.6 per cent decline.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/singapore/singapore-s-nodx-down-1-2/850428.html

— [A]n advance estimate showing the city-state’s economy shrank 1.0 percent on quarter in the July-September period, better than expectations for a 3.6 percent contraction, but a significant deceleration from 16.9 percent growth in the previous three months.http://www.cnbc.com/id/101109030

This is because on 10 October I read a BBC report:

Global PC shipments drop to a five-year low

Global shipments of personal computers (PCs) have hit a five-year low, according to new figures from the research firm Gartner.

Shipments totalled 80.3m units in the three months to September, down 8.6% from a year ago.

PC sales have now fallen for six quarters in a row, hurt by the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones.

Gartner said falling prices of tablets had further hurt sales of PCs in emerging markets.

“Consumers’ shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement.

“A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets.”

Decline

Research firm IDC, also released figures on Thursday, which showed global shipments of PCs fell by 7.6% to 81.6m units over the period.

As I explained before (example), S’pore and M’sia belong to the Microsoft ecosystem, not those of Android or Apple.

Not gd news for Msia either.

In other Asean-round-up news,

In M’sia, Umno V-Ps favoured to hold on to posts. They are up against three challengers, including Mahathir’s youngest son, Mukhriz

And maybe we can learn something from Indonesia‘s

— youth growing interest in politics and civil society matters (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24549654); and

— how to grow old gracefully by going against tradition (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24530350).

Waz the “right” kind of gotong royong?

In Economy, Infrastructure, Internet, Political governance, Public Administration on 18/10/2013 at 5:00 am

Update on 22 23 October 2013: Minister explains use of Criminal Law Temporary Provision Act (http://au.sports.yahoo.com/football/news/article/-/19491410/football-match-fixing-witnesses-fear-reprisals/) on footie fixers.

I recently came across “gotong royong” the American way, or community spirit the capitalist way: in American- speak, the “sharing economy”.

Technology is revolutionising the way Americans catch a cab with a ride now just a click away through mobile phone apps like like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Instantcab and Flywheel.

Many of these services are part of the so-called “sharing economy” in which car owners offer to drive strangers in exchange for a “donation”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24393348

But is this the “right” gotong royong that the PAPpies say they want here?

Bet you the Hard Truths that premise the PAP’s governing methods will prevent S’pore from ever going down this route, even though this seems one of several viable solutions (several are needed)  to our public tpt and private car problems  Remember, NTUC is via the Labour Foundation, the controlling shareholder of ComfortDelgro, the owner of the biggest taxi fleet here, and Temasek’s SMRT has a big taxi fleet too. The former runs most of the buses, while the latter runs most of the trains too. And it might impact the revenue from CoEs.

Seriously, the problem here is that “gotong royong” is contrary to the PAP’s Hard Truth that it is fount of everything. Gotong royong is not compatible with a top-down approach, where there is always a “right” way of doing things.

In “gotong royong”, as in the “sharing economy”, things happen because the rabble plebs mob community, society, consumer is the driving force, not a benign meritocratic elite. The people realise that there is a problem, issue, and are free (within some, not many, constraints) to work out a solution*. They don’t bitch while waiting for the governing elite to solve the problem, feeling entitled that because said elite is well-paid, they must solve the problem, resolve the issue.

I consider the following to be gotong royong in action, but doubt the PAP ministers urging us to “gotong royong” would agree:

— TOC’s and TRE’s continued existence;

— the various fund raisings for various legal cases where the govt is the defendant;

— the public funding of the deposits of Alex Tan and friends, and the independent team at Tanjong Pagar GRC;

— Nicole Seah raising money for her team’s election expenses;

— the free food and drinks at Gilbert Goh’s Hong Lim Green functions;

— Function 8;

— CHC members who willingly pay the legal fees of church members being prosecuted for false accounting etc;

— pastor Khong’s gang funding a legal suit;

— those who lend sound eqpt and technical help at various Hong Lim Green parties

— the kay pohs trying to help FTs avoid being hung for drug trafficking**;

— those gathering to help the family of Dinesh Raman get justice and closure**;

— Maruah**;

— the volunteers who help FT manual workers;

— the LGBT community; and

the dedicated band of enthusiasts who have been trying to draw attention to the cemetery’s [Bukit Brown’s] value. They have succeeded in having it included on the biennial watchlist of the World Monument Fund (WMF), of heritage sites around the world that are in danger.

All these examples and more show that the gotong royong spirit is alive and well. They juz don’t fit the PAP’s narrative, especially the bit that the PA’s and PAP’s grass-root activists are the only selfless, dedicated volunteers. And that in cyberspace, their activists are no match for the the injuns, outlaws and other inhabitants of cowboy towns.

*In the US, there is no hegemonic elite to enforce the top down approach, and stifle innovation or stifle dissent or force recantations from members of the elite turned heretical.

**How come no help Dan Tan? Because he drive 7 series, got properties and China babe? And he not violent, middle class or FT?

Ngiam & Galileo Galilei & Gen Giap

In Political governance on 17/10/2013 at 5:11 am

The comments made against Ngiam (some by those who should better and by who all don’t have his balls or stature or achievements or intellect) reminded me of two scenes in the play “Life of Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht.

Andrea’s disappointment of Galileo, after the latter recanted (p. 84-5) [Andrea is one of Galileo’s pupils]

Andrea : (loudly) Unhappy the land that has no heroes! (Galileo has come in, completely, almost unrecognizably, changed by the trial. He has heard Andrea’s exclamation. As none is forthcoming and his pupils shrink back from him, he goes slowly and because of his bad eyesight uncertainly to the front where he finds a footstool and sits down)

Andrea : I can’t look at him. I wish he’d go away.

Federzoni : Calm yourself.

Andrea : (screams at Galileo) Wine barrel! Snail eater! Have you saved your precious skin? (Sits down) I feel sick.

Galileo : (calmly) Get him a glass of water.

Andrea : I can walk now if you’ll help me. (They lead him to the door. When they reach it, Galileo begins to speak)

Galileo : No. Unhappy the land that needs a hero.

http://muse.tau.ac.il/museum/galileo/info_about_andrea.html

In the final scene of the play, Galileo, now an old man, living under house arrest, is visited Andrea. Galileo gives him a book (Two New Sciences) containing all his scientific discoveries, asking him to smuggle it out of Italy for dissemination abroad. Andrea now believes Galileo’s actions were heroic and that he just recanted to fool the ecclesiastical authorities. However, Galileo insists his actions had nothing to do with heroism but were merely the result of self-interest. Wikipedia

Ngiam became the the “people”‘s hero because he, a retired insider, criticised the govt. If they had bothered to read the details of his criticism, they would have found things that would have made them unhappy if implemented by the govt. Examples

— MRT fares should be relatively more expensive than bus fares to reflect their greater convenience to commuters, and higher costs to the system.

— His call for a weaker S$, isn’t going to be gd for inflation.

— Some govt spending on S’poreans has met his disaaproval. He considers these popularist measures.

— He doesn’t agree with Gilbert Goh and friends on their “S’poreans first” call.

Now the “people” have turned against him because of his perceived recantation. They now forget his bravery.

I don’t think the people’s adulation, then revulsion affects him personally, or his reputation among those who matter. He doesn’t do popularity. When once asked by our local media why he never aspired to become a minister, he said he didn’t do “kissing babies”.

He is right in eschewing popularity. Remember the people’s hero, who the “people” asked to stand in the 2011 presidential elections, Tan Kin Lian? He lost his deposit, the self-styled voice of the people. He was seduced and then deserted by the “people’.

I suspect Ngiam’s popularity with the mob rabble had more to do with his criticism of the govt, than because people understood what he was saying. It was also a gd way for KS S’poreans to “dog whistle”* that they were not pro-govt (a bit like why general Giap was mourned by the Vietnamese young.**.

Sadly, his fall from the people’s favour should help reinforce the Dark Side’s prejudices about the people: the mob, rabble doesn’t matter. The voters can be manipulated, tamed and fixed via bread, circuses, the security services and the right messages. Throw them enough of their own money, and spin that this shows the PAP cares, and come the next GE, Pritam and Auntie will be out of their cushy jobs.

And the Dark Side’s view is reasonable. Fortunately, the Dark side has no Dr Goebbels to spin the right messages effectively. Until it finds him, the PAP govt can continue to throw our money at ourselves, and still not succeed in winning over the 35% of S’poreans that voted for Dr Tan Cheng Bock. Unless, of course, I’m wrong, and this 35% are “daft” enough to think the govt really cares. Somehow, I doubt it.

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/ngiam-galileo-galilei/

*https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/gg-crashes-new-indian-chief-needed/

** Criticism of the party over corruption and economic mismanagement has exploded recently on the internet … In vain, the authorities keep jailing bloggers, but they have in effect lost control of the internet.

It is in this context that the adulation of Gen Giap should be seen. He was in fact unwaveringly loyal to the party, and only occasionally said anything that could threaten its authority.

But in death he is being seen as a symbol of everything that today’s Communist leaders are not; charismatic, heroic, clean-living, a true patriot. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24516186

Analysts worried about higher inflation, predict stronger S$

In Currencies, Economy on 16/10/2013 at 4:21 am

Remember ministers jokes on inflation last yr? They told us that we should look on the bright side i.e. inflation excluding COEs as though biz vehicles don’t need COEs. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/inflation-why-the-misleading-picture-minister-media/

Wonder why they don’t crack such jokes this yr? Inflation (excluding COEs) not too looking gd for us and govt

From BT 15th October 2013

Coupled with a tight labour market, the central bank said that core inflation – which excludes costs of accommodation and private road transport – is expected to be 1.5-2 per cent in 2013, and rise to 2-3 per cent in 2014. With upside core inflation risks looming, economists from Nomura, Citi, DBS and UOB say that a tightening of monetary policy in April could be on the cards – particularly if prices rise beyond the government’s comfort zone.

Said Nomura analysts in a report: “Overall, the statement should raise market expectations of the MAS shifting towards an even tighter (foreign exchange) policy stance at the April 2014 meeting.”

Added Citi economist Kit Wei Zheng: “Though not our forecast, with the possibility that core inflation may breach the MAS’s implicit 2-2.5 per cent tolerance threshold in 2014, slope steepening in April 2014 cannot be ruled out, especially if growth uncertainties subside.”

Calling such a scenario “definitely possible”, UOB economist Francis Tan said: “It would have to be fuelled by something completely unanticipated, like if oil prices suddenly spike up due to renewed political tensions in the Middle East. Then the MAS will probably move in to tighten the Singapore dollar NEER.”

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/unabated-inflation-could-tip-mas-tightening-economists-20131015

Ah well S$ will appreciate eve3n more against regional currencies. Gd for S’poreans travelling, not gd for tourists from the region, and for our companies.

Why more FT Indians here than local Indians?

In Economy, India on 15/10/2013 at 4:52 am

(I hope readers don’t mind my flow onto LionsXII at the end)

One of the bloggers, I was concerned about here that might get a stroke or a heart attack, last week blogged that there are more FT Indians, than local Indians here. He didn’t give his source but used the statistic as the basis of prophesying doom and gloom for our minorities and society. It would have been nice if he had given his reasons, rather than assuming that we all know why.

Assuming he is correct about the FT Indian population being bigger than the local Indian population, there is possibly a gd, sound economic reason for it:- Our local Indians are not the “right” kind of Indians S’pore needs?

He may not be aware that S’pore’s an offshore hub of India, along with Dubai and Mauritius.

The largest hub for Indian trade is probably Singapore. It is the centre for investment banking, which thrives offshore, owing to the tight regulation of India’s banks and debt markets. Reflecting this, the global exposure to India of Citigroup and Standard Chartered, the two foreign banks busiest in India, is 1.9 times the size of their regulated Indian bank subsidiaries.

Fund managers running money in India are often based in Singapore. India’s best financial newspaper, Mint, now has a Singapore edition. At least half of all rupee trading is offshore, says Ajay Shah of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in Delhi. Investors and firms do not like India’s fiddly rules and worry that the country may tighten capital controls if its currency falls too far, says one trader in Singapore. He denies, though, that the rupee’s fall is mainly the work of speculators abroad. “The onshore guys have as much of a role,” he says.

Indian e-commerce firms often get their data crunched in Singapore, using web-hosting and cloud-computing firms, such as Google and Amazon. Amitabh Misra, of Snapdeal, says bandwidth costs less, technology is better and you avoid India’s headaches—such as finding somewhere to work, coping with state-run telecoms firms and having to wait to import hardware.

Singapore is also a centre for legal services. International deals involving India often contain clauses which state that disputes be arbitrated outside India, with its clogged courts. Singapore, along with London and Paris, has become the preferred jurisdiction. “The level of comfort Indian companies get from Singapore is unmatched,” says Vivekananda N of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

When India’s economy thrived, in 2003-08, so did its offshore hubs. Singapore’s service exports to India tripled. Yet these centres may sometimes be a reverse barometer. If things improve in India, activity should shift to the mainland, and vice versa. By gradually improving its ports, for example, India has convinced more shipping lines to make direct stops.

The government wants to attract activity back to create jobs and boost foreign earnings. Pride plays a role, too—it is unbecoming for a potential superpower to have outsourced vital economic functions. India has far less control over Dubai and Singapore than China does over Hong Kong. Plenty of policy statements in recent years argue that India should become a global hub for aviation, legal arbitration, diamond trading and international finance.

http://www.economist.com/news/international/21583285-growth-slows-and-reforms-falter-economic-activity-shifting-out-india-made-outside?spc=scode&spv=xm&ah=9d7f7ab945510a56fa6d37c30b6f1709

So are TRE posters who regularly complain about Indian FTs are DRUMS saboing S’pore? Though two-timing new citizen Raj who has publicly boasted that his son will avoid NS, and get PR (here and here) is not exactly a poster boy for Indian FTs or the govt’s “We love FTs” policy: more for GG and friends who hate FTs.

Finally, those of us (self-included) who love to regularly grumble about or mock ESM “Peanuts” should remember that he initiated the “Look to India” to differentiate himself from one LKY who wanted S’pore to be plugged into China’s sphere. So three cheers for him, for initiating the move that resulted in S’pore becoming a major offshore hub of India? Or should it be only two cheers for then allowing the likes of new citizen Raj in?

BTW, Mindef should be trying to close the loop-holes that allow those bums like new citizen Raj to boast that their sons can avoid NS, and then get PR, rather than make it difficult for our young Lions http://www.goal.com/en-sg/news/3880/singapore/2013/10/13/4321556/zainudin-hints-at-restrictions-for-sundram-departure: In his two-year tenure with the LionsXII, one of Sundram’s biggest bugbear had been the unavailability of players. A slim squad that was frequently decimated by injury lay-offs was further shorn of players due to National Service (NS) call-ups.

Players in NS who had used up their annual leaves to play for the LionsXII were often unable to find release from their active duties. Shakir Hamzah was most infamously found guilty of going AWOL from duties in June, after linking up with the LionsXII for an away game, and was handed a four-day sentence in the detention barracks.

BTW2, Our media has been 200% behind Fandhi’s attempt to be the new LionsXII  coach (Of course, he would deny he is campaigning to be coach: he would wouldn’t he?); but would temperamental Fandhi have put up with Sundram’s frustrations. I doubt he would. Likely, he would have walked out. Don’t anyhow support Fandhi. He willingly collaborates with our MSM, wanted to sue SDP and failed as coach of a free-spending Johor team (think Sity, think Johor). He was a good, and honest footballer but he isn’t exactly god’s gift to LionsXII. He’s god’s gift to our constructive, nation-building media who use him to sell papers and try to make us forget that the media here in part of the Dark Side.

Ngiam & Galileo Galilei

In Political governance on 14/10/2013 at 5:15 am

(Updated on 17th October 2013 at 1.35pm to include text of Njiam’s letter)

(Or “And yet it moves”)

The above phrase, said to be uttered by Galileo Galilei, came to mind when I read his clarification on comments he made about ministers and civil servants http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/ngiam-tong-dow-clarifies/844654.html*. Transcript of offending interview: http://www.sma.org.sg/UploadedImg/files/Publications%20-%20SMA%20News/4509/Interview%20NTD%20full%20transcript.pdf

Explanation for those who don’t know their history of ideas and science: “And yet it moves” (Italian: Eppur si muove; [epˈpur si ˈmwɔːve]) is a phrase said to have been uttered before the Inquisition by the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) in 1633 after being forced to recant that the earth moves around the sun. (Wikipedia)

Update (9.44am): In response to those who don’t know and who can’t be bothered to look it up, the Inquisition was athe department of the Catholic Church that regularly physically tortured people for not having the “right” views.  Torture stopped once they had the “right” views.  Historians say that Galileo Galilei was never tortured, he was merely shown the instruments of torture.

Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/mandarin-ngiam-on-elitism-social-divide-education-etc/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/analysing-ngiam-tong-dows-march-2012-speech-part-i/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/lky-answered-ngiam-tong-dows-f1-question/

—-

*Mr Ngiam’s letter in full:

From the feedback from friends and colleagues who read my interview published in SMA news, September 2013 Issue, it has come to my attention that I had given the wrong impression in several ways.

I had described my discussions with Mr Lee Kuan yew about the COE scheme as an example of Mr Lee’s openness in discussing policies, even with officials. I realise that my comments might suggest that the COE scheme was implemented to raise funds. That was not the case. The fundamental purpose of the COE scheme was to limit Singapore’s car population. If the intent had been to raise revenue, I would not have supported the policy as Permanent Secretary at the Finance ministry.

I also realise on re-reading the interview that I had not been fair in what I had said about Ministers and discussions in Cabinet. I retired from the civil service in 1999. Since then I have not attended any cabinet meetings, and have never seen one chaired by PM Lee Hsien Loong. Thus my statement that Ministers will not speak their minds before PM Lee is unfair as it was made without knowing what actually happens at Cabinet meetings today. I have been told by civil servant colleagues that Cabinet discussions are robust – as robust as they were when I attended cabinet meetings as PS (PMO), when Mr Goh Chok Tong was PM and Mr Lee Hsien Loong DPM.

I also realise that my claim that Ministers may not speak up because they earn high salaries is illogical. I know that some Ministers have given up high-flying and well-paid careers in the private sector in order to serve the public at a fraction of their original or potential income. Others could have gone to the private sector to make more money but have chosen to be in the public service. They have no reason not to speak their minds when they are convinced that they are doing right by Singaporeans.

I had also said that the current crop of leaders is elitist. I had spoken without realising that many had in fact come from humble backgrounds.

I had the privilege and honour of working with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr Hon Sui Sen and Mr Lim Kim San. I have said many times that Mr Lee is my hero and that Singapore was lucky to have had such a team to steer it from third world to first. The Cabinet today faces different and less straightforward challenges, having to deal with globalisation and more intense international competition. However, as I had mentioned in my interview, we are starting from a good position – for example, in healthcare, one of the main subjects of the interview.

 

Financial centres’ curses

In Economy, Internet, Political economy, Political governance on 13/10/2013 at 5:10 am

For all the highfaluting talk of govt and talk-cock artists especially in the local media, we don’t do things like this even though Burma is in Asean (our backyard):

[I]n Burma – or Myanmar – social media sites and the whole internet have been inaccessible for years.

For one Canadian-Vietnamese woman that has provided a unique business opportunity to found the Burma’s first-ever social networking site.

However, Rita Nguyen had never been to the country before this year as BBC South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head heard.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24393043

Why?

(Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/a-very-high-tech-inventive-low-population-country/)

Are we are more comfortable as serfs slaves PMETs in a financial centre?

A recent article, interestingly, makes a compelling argument that places that depend on the financial industry (like S’pore) are like resource-rich countries, and like them suffer from the triple problems of a high exchange rate that causes problems for manufacturers, revenue volatility and poor governance.

Is finance like crude oil? Countries rich in minerals are often poverty-stricken, corrupt and violent. A relatively small rent-seeking elite captures vast wealth while the dominant sector crowds out the rest of the economy. The parallels with countries ‘blessed’ with powerful financial sectors are becoming too obvious to ignore.

http://taxjustice.blogspot.sg/2013/09/is-finance-like-crude-oil-resource.html

Another US innovation to breed entrepreneurs

… has designed I-Corps as a way of converting the most promising science and engineering projects in American universities into start-ups. The I-Corps teams … comprise just a principal investigator (usually a tenured professor), a younger entrepreneurial lead (undergraduate, graduate or post-doctoral student) and an experienced entrepreneur or venture capitalist as a mentor. Each of the 100 or so teams has received a [US}$50,000 to cover a crash course on how to avoid the pitfalls common to all new ventures … New ventures, they are taught, are all about finding customers, what distribution channels to adopt, how to price the product, who to partner with, and more. From day one, the mantra is “get out of the lab” … The I-Corps programme is based on the premise that all new ventures are little more than a series of untested hypotheses—in other words, optimistic guesses about market size, customer needs, product pricing and sales channels. With so many unknowns, the programme teaches participants to treat their start-up as if it were a typical research project, amenable to the same iterative process of hypothesis testing and experimentation.

http://www.economist.com/node/21559734

M’sia: The only winners of GE 2013

In China, Malaysia, Vietnam on 12/10/2013 at 5:10 am

In the words of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), a S’pore govt-funded think tank, in its Oct Asean Monitor

Barisan Nasional’s worst-ever general election performance in May has undermined Prime MinisterNajib Razak’s promise to reform the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) after he took overits leadership in 2009. Outside UMNO, liberal reforms are stridently opposed and resisted by extremist Malay-Muslim groups such as PERKASA and by UMNO-owned media, especially the Utusan Malaysianewspaper. Within UMNO, political momentum favours former Prime Minister Mahathir and his conservative allies, who support preserving the ketuanan Melayu (“Malay ownership”) status quo.

Recognizing that UMNO needs to be further strengthened after its failure to win a convincing majority of the Malay vote, many senior party leaders and veterans will not want the president and deputy president posts, held by Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyddin Yassin, respectively, to be contested duringthe upcoming October party elections. However, the party’s three vice-presidential posts are likely tobe hotly fought over by the incumbents Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Shafie Apdal and Hishammuddin Husseinand by three challengers, namely Mohd Ali Rustam, Isa Samad and, potentially, Mukhriz Mahathir.

Recent developments have further pressured Najib to follow through with his general-election pledge totackle corruption and crime. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer report confirms the perception thatthe level of corruption in Malaysia has increased despite the government’s claims to the contrary. Publicconfidence in the corruption-tainted police force received another huge blow from the recent spike inviolent crimes, including more than 30 murder attempts in the past five months.

Because of the country’s deteriorating public finances, a global ratings agency has downgraded Malaysia’ssovereign credit rating outlook from stable to negative. The Malaysian ringgit slid to three-yearlows against the US dollar and to 15-year lows against the Singapore dollar; these slides may generate inflationary pressures. The government announced 10.5 percent and 11 percent hikes respectively in the prices of subsidized 95 RON gasoline and diesel on 3 September, and it is likely that further measuresto strengthen the country’s fiscal position will be introduced.

Key points: The status quo will persist, with conservatives gaining control of the UMNO supremecouncil. Budget 2014 will see the introduction of a GST and the scaling back and rescheduling of publicly funded projects.

The Chinese have to live with the consequences of their vote for Anwar’s group. The Indian community (which marginally supported BN) must be sore with the Chinese.

Related articles: http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21586864-ruling-party-returns-its-old-habits-race-based-handouts-bumi-not-booming

http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/10/08/in-talent-battle-malaysia-loses-to-singapore/

Other Asean round-up news:

Vietnam R Sembcorp (belated)

UNDETERRED by the many challenges facing Vietnam’s economy, Sembcorp has once again upped its investment in the socialist republic – this time by building central Vietnam’s first large-scale industrial park worth US$337.8 million.

This latest of five Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs) is sited in Quang Ngai province, about 90 minutes’ flight south of Hanoi. It offers manufacturers a new and alternative investment locale that is away from Vietnam’s northern and southern regions, where labour markets are tighter and costs continue to rise.

VSIP Quang Ngai will take shape in the form of a 1,120ha industrial park and integrated township; the industrial park will take up 600ha, with the other 520ha slated for commercial and residential purposes. BT 14th August: PM was in Vietnam BTW.

Thailand is to hand over rice and rubber in part-payment for its new high-speed rail system, it’s reported.

The country’s transport minister is expected to formally agree the barter deal with Chinese premier Li Keqiang … The project to link Bangkok with Nong Khai, close to the Laos border, is part of a proposed 2m baht ($30bn, £19bn) infrastructure investment programme to part-financed with agricultural products. The railway is one day envisaged to link Thailand with the Southern Chinese province of Kunming, via the Laos capital Vientiane.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-24475574

GG crashes: new Indian chief needed?

In Uncategorized on 11/10/2013 at 5:00 am

(Or “Dr Chee’s no mad dog, he’s coyote”)

Gilbert Goh (who showed up meritocracy S’pore style) like Icarus paid the price of flying too close to the sun after getting S’poreans fired-up about the population white paper. Too bad, we S’poreans too got burned by GG’s hubris.

As this cartoon shows, the PAP is celebrating

It and its running dogs in the media and new media are spinning this rally as a victory for the govt: S’poreans now want 6.9m people by 2030.

They can quote one GG: “The momentum from the protests earlier this year has gone off, and the anger and emotion among Singaporeans is maybe no longer there,” chief organiser Gilbert Goh told AFP. http://sg.news.yahoo.com/low-turn-singapore-anti-immigration-protest-130612015.html

Sadly for us citizens of Manor Farm, Animal Farm S’pore , the truth is more complex. For starters, S’poreans have cottoned on to Gilbert Goh’s dog whistle. And S’poreans don’t do intolerance. Dr Dr Chee has said, ” the tolerant people that we are …”

(Dog whistle is a type of strategy of communication that sends a message that the general population will take a certain meaning from, but a certain group that is “in the know” will take away the secret, intended message. Often involves code words. Urban Dictionary)

The anger and emotion is still there. What has changed since the first event  is that GG has been shown to be anti-foreigner by his words. Example: his call for the 5 October rally. My take on it.

Then there was his attempt to make his protest movement an anti-govt movement, calling for regime change, rather than juz a specific anti-policy movement. See above links.

Finally, there is the multitude of calls to rally after the govt announced some curbs on the FT explosion.

Given GG’s views on FTs, I was surprised that Dr Chee and friends attended the rally, and Dr Chee spoke.

My initial reaction was that Drs Paul A, Wee Nam and others had failed to make sure that he took his anti-mad dog pills, and that he had bitten other SDP members.

But on reflection, Dr Chee’s speech with his, “A word of caution, I ask all of us here in Singapore to be the people that we truly are, the tolerant people that we are and if we attack, we attack the policy, we point out the flaws in the policy, not against the people who are here for work.”*, was an attempt to channel the issue to its original root: unhappiness with the white paper on population, and the govt’s pro-FT policy.

Sadly, Dr Chee’s attempt wouldn’t work. What was so different about GG’s initial call to protest was that it cut across political allegiances. The white paper and the govt’s pro-FT policy, were something, like bad public transport, that affected everyone, and couldn’t be used by the PAP and its running dogs journalists as a test of “Are you with us, or against us?”.  Sadly, GG then made it into “Are you with us, or against us?”.

A new Indian chief is needed to remobilise the RODed, or AWOLed S’poreans.

P Ravi perhaps? He has to his credit the scalp of the previous SMRT CEO (Remember after a protest he organised calling for her resignation, she quit). Opps forgot he member of a small fringe, marginal opposition party, where he works out by climbing stairs, pounding the pavements and drinking teh-tarik. Said party doesn’t even bother to use his new media skills.

Vincent Wijeysingha then? He is a social worker and activist; has concerns about the white paper (he spoke at GG’s first rally) but doesn’t dog whistle that he hates FTs; is smart (even though he went to Victoria, not RI, but then dad was RI principal then and father and son ada class); and talks well. The only people that would hold his gayness against him would be pastor Khong and gang, and Berrie Bear, the Canadian, S’porean, Muslim bear. With enemies like these, who needs friends? And he has friends, including human rights kay pohs, who will add a bit of class to the movement. He can bridge the divide between the unhappy masses and “liberals” on the unhappiness with the population white paper and the govt’s pro-FT policy.  Both are unhappy, but cannot find common ground, as this article http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/great-singaporean-grievance-103242143.html shows.

Take the poisoned chalice, Vincent? Or is it the holy grail? The holy grail was a poisoned chalice for those not worthy to sip from it.

*TOC and Yahoo versions added together

Penny stocks’ fiasco show greed cannot be untaught

In Financial competency on 10/10/2013 at 4:48 am

I refer to the bloodbath on SGX described by TRE here. Writer lost serious money from the sound of it. And now venting his anger at anyone but himself?

Let’s get serious about a very serious topic, Can financial competency programmes work help prevent such disasters?

When the the central bank came out with these two rules, I appauded,

[F]inancial institutions are required to disclose to borrowers the total amount and time needed to fully pay off their debts if they pay only the minimum payment each month.

Financial institutions are also to disclose to borrowers the amount of debt that would accumulate by the end of six months if they fail to pay in the next six months.

MAS said this will help borrowers make more informed credit decisions while taking into account the total cost of borrowing.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/mas-tightens-credit-card/809774.html

But tot it a sad reflection that in this day and age of electronic spreadsheets, smartphones apps, and cheapish financial calculators, young working people can’t do the maths of compound interest, or understand its effects.

How much is it, this year, my man?”… “Well, it’s been a doubling so many years, you see,” the tailor replied, a little gruffly, “and I think I’d like the money now. It’s two thousand pound, it is!”

“Oh, that’s nothing!” the Professor carelessly remarked … “But wouldn’t you like to wait just another year, and make it four thousand? Just think how rich you’d be!”  …  ”But it; dew sound a powerful sight o’ money! Well, I think I’ll wait–”

“Of course you will!” said the Professor. “There’s good sense in you” …“Will you ever have to pay him that four thousand pounds?” Sylvie asked as the door closed on the departing creditor.

“Never, my child!” the Professor replied emphatically. “He’ll go on doubling it, till he dies. You see it’s always worth while waiting another year, to get twice as much money!

The novel was published in 1889 and in 1987 or 1988, Ralph Wanger (a then leading investment fund manager, now retired) told author John Train that the sum would have grown to £1 followed by 33 zeros. The magic of compounding on funds not drawn on. No wonder Lim Swee Say has a special monthly CPF statement so that he can see every mntnh.

(https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/cpf-and-alices-adventures-in-wonderland/)

But don’t blame the education system or the govt for not teaching kids financial literacy: teaching financial competency doesn’t work according to the experts.

Financial Literacy Outside the Classroom An academic research paper showed that “financial education is laudable, but not particularly helpful,” Richard H. Thaler, a professor of economics and behavioral science at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, writes in an essay in The New York Times.

Returning to the latest fiasco on SGX. Retail investors and remisers have been warned, time and time again, to be careful when retail investors are playing speculatives. They never learn even though remisers have to attend training courses where they are tot basic risk management techiques, or so I’ve been told. Love of money is the root of all ignorance, to misquote pastor Khong’s and Kong Hee’s bible.

Why anti-PAP paper activists needn’t get shriller

In Humour, Political governance on 09/10/2013 at 4:44 am

A rabid anti-PAP paper activist posted this on Facebook:

LHL is out of touch with reality on the ground. It is very clear that he has refused to learn.

Now no matter whether he cry, say sorry, beg for forgiveness – Aljunied & Punggol East will be repeated all over Singapore in 2016.

He was referring to PM’s tv appearance on 24 September. There were lots of similar comments on Facebook and on TRE and TOC (Surprising very few people post on TRS, making its claim that it represents the real S’porean sound true, apathetically and KS). Increasingly, the tone of many of the “usual suspects” including many of the the Magnificent 7, are getting shriller and shriller, and angrier and angrier. Are they trying to drown out their doubts that maybe the govt is winning the battle of ideas and votes?

Maybe the anti-PAP paper activists are realising that the govt has realised that for many S’poreans especially the PMETs the link between economic growth and living standards is broken, and is trying hard to addressing the issue (Related https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/trust-has-to-regained-pm/). (Worse, perhaps, the govt has read that a Nobel prize winner in  economics, Stiglitz, makes a very bold assertion that inequality is economically inefficient and that it’s bad for society? And now believes in pursuing a more equal society, rather than juz chasing for votes.)

In the words of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), a govt-funded think tank, in its Oct Asean Monitor

The National Day Rally Speech in August offered the clearest indication to date of how the People’s Action Party will try to win back the ground that it lost in the 2011 general elections. With tweaks to the national health insurance scheme, to housing subsidies for the middle class and to primary school admissions and national examinations, the ruling party has opted to recalibrate social and welfare policies to address middle-class concerns instead of relaxing its stance on civil liberties or freedom of expression. Having chosen this path, it may not be inappropriate to expect more populist policy shifts, designed to appeal to the middle ground, in the run-up to the 2016 elections.

Interestingly, it goes on to say

These policy tweaks were, in part, the result of public feedback gleaned from the year-long nationwide public clinics collectively known as Our Singapore Conversation. While understandably touted by government leaders and the local media as a sign of more consultative politics, the litmus test will be whether such conversations are a one-off event and whether divergent public desires and government interests can ever be reconciled.

So our paper activists still can dream on that the PAP will lose support. So chill out a little, to avoid health problems. After all, assuming they are mostly ordinary S’poreans, if they get strokes or cardiac attacks, they will have to use the “subsidised” healthcare system. I’m sure that that tot when suffering a stroke or heart attack, will make them even angrier, and sicker, making the attack worse. They are using the very system that they “condemn”. Of course, they may all have expensive private healthcare insurance like the elite, though I doubt it.

The report then highlights a fault line that the anti-PAP activists ignore because they are in the main on the side of the social activists (a notable exception is Berrie, the Muslim bear from S’pore and Canada).

With a promising GDP forecast for this year, the economy will take a back seat to emerging socio political issues. One such issue is the struggle between gay rights activists and moral conservatives.

This tension has existed for some time, but a recent request from pastors for an audience with the law minister after the latter met with a gay rights group suggests that the push-back from moral conservatives will grow stronger. Another emerging issue is the increasingly political nature of heritage conservation in the city-state. With heritage issues now fronted more and more by the young and well educated, the key question is whether heritage will become a vote winner for the youth demographic.

It then talks of an issue close to the hearts of social activists, and Gilbert Goh and friends, for different reasons: Finally, civil society’s response in the aftermath of the November 2012 bus strike by several Chinese drivers suggests that the championing of social justice for vulnerable migrant workers — the likes of which Singapore has not seen since the 1980s — is now re-emerging as a pertinent issue.

It ends with hope for the paper activists who “die,die” want the PAP out:  Key points: The demand for greater political pluralism will continue to grow. The question is how different interests can be managed or, indeed, if they require state intervention at all.

So anti-PAP paper activists, time to sound less shrill, and less full of hate. A govt statutory board is telling you history is on yr side. Change is a’coming. If you want the new S’pore to reflect yr values, be rational, not emotional. Could even help you avoid having to use the healthcare system you hate.

SMRT: Rights issue coming?

In Infrastructure on 08/10/2013 at 5:54 am

Reading the u/m, I can’t shake the feeling that a rights issue is coming: the capex and running costs seem to call for it. Given that the share price has fallen from the 1.40ish level (at the end of July), to the present level of 1.29, it  might be interesting to buy if one expects a rights issue is in the offing. A rights issue will signal that Temasek expects dividend levels to be maintained at current levels, or slightly reduced, not slashed drastically. It took the results of 1Q 2013- 2014 to bring the shares to below the 1.34 level, a level brokers had been targeting since January.

Let you know if I buy after I buy. BTW, still not bot ComfortDelgro https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/when-raising-fares-sbs-smrt-govt-dont-have-this-problem/. Share price recovered 10% while I was thinking about it (blame QE reprieve). Shares are now near the price that institutions took a placement off the S’pore Labour Foundation.

CREDIT ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has lowered its outlook on SMRT Corp from “stable” to “negative” over concerns about its financial position, particularly its cash flow.

S&P said [on 27th September 2013] that the transport operator’s operating expenses are higher than expected. It also pointed to high capital spending over the 12 months to June, while noting the uncertainty over government financial support such as funding for the firm.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid=435478142-19258-9361788629

“… the lack of timely government support could delay a recovery in SMRT’s key financial metrics.”

SMRT’s “moderate” financial risk profile is weakening, S&P added.

It said it expects the group’s bottom line will be hit by increased operating expenses such as wages and repair and maintenance costs, without the offsetting factor of higher fares.

S&P added that SMRT’s capital expenditure will likely remain high at about $600 million.

It noted that the group’s capital spending will likely ease in 2015 as it implements a new rail financing framework. This, in turn, will ease its debt situation.

“Nevertheless, we base this on a positive and timely outcome for the ongoing discussions between the company and the Government.”

S&P said SMRT’s business risk profile remains “excellent”, backed by its dominance in Singapore’s rail sector.

Its passenger numbers have grown steadily over the past two years despite breakdowns in December 2011.

The agency predicts that passenger numbers will continue to rise as the economic environment improves and it retains its dominant position here.

S&P continues to believe that the likelihood of “extraordinary government support” for SMRT Corp is “extremely high”.

It said: “This is based on the company’s critical role as a provider of essential public transport service in Singapore, and its very strong link with its majority owner, the Government, through Temasek Holdings, which owns 54.2 per cent of SMRT.”

MoM did the right thing BUT wrong

In Humour, Public Administration on 07/10/2013 at 4:44 am

to caution Khong’s church that the church was embarking on a confrontational approach” when Khong & his gang want a judicial review, even though they are judgemental clowns who discredit other Christians

I don’t take issue with netizens’ views on the clownish, bigoted, unforgiving and boorish behaviour of pastor Khong and his gang.

I can’t stop laughing at a polo-playing pastor getting worked up over a church employee giving birth when married to the baby’s hubbie when his own daughter had a baby outside marriage. I mean the parents were in holy matrimony even though the baby was conceived before the marriage. And his daughter’s life-style fits the image of polo as a sport of the decadent, spoiled and sexually active rich: ask the Prince of Wales and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, his ex-mistress. Par for the course, you would have tot for a polo-playing pastor: a daughter enjoying sex outside holy matrimony and having a baby outside holy matrimony. And he not preventing it, as any Asian parent would do.

Most appropriate, if true, that a civil servant at MoM told him off by referring to his daughter’s life-style. If he can’t get his daughter not to do premarital sex or have a kid outside marriage, why should he insist on punishing someone else for having consensual sex outside marriage (I mean this is not Saudi Arabia or bible-belt America, but a wannabe global city), and who has a baby inside marriage. Better behaved than polo-playing Khong’s daughter. Doesn’t his bible say:

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

— And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

— For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Maybe, his bible got these passages removed as haram?

I support MoM’s stand on the case*. But disagree when Manpower Ministry “caution the church that it [the church] was embarking on a confrontational approach” over the matter. (ST report)

As lawyers quoted by Today said:

Mr Abraham Vergis said: “What is ordinarily an employment law matter is now being recast in terms of the constitutional right of a church to manage its religious affairs. This challenge has the potential to become a landmark case depending on how the courts address the questions raised.”

Another lawyer, Mr Chia Boon Teck, felt that should the court’s ruling allow for an exception for religious organisations with regard to the employment laws, “the wider implication may be that other religious bodies would also argue that the authorities not interfere with how they deal with their staff”, a point Mr Khong also acknowledged in his media statement.

And there are allegations that MoM did not follow the rules of natural justice.

So, as he and the church are filthy rich, why shouldn’t the church go to court? Khong and friends may be clownish bigots but they too got rights, juz like Dan Tan, and those whom the ang moh tua kee local human rights activists love. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/where-use-of-isa-will-be-met-by-silence-from-the-usual-human-rights-kay-pohs/

Seriously, as we strive to become a more open society, one of the consequences that we must accept is the willingness of citizens and organisations to litigate unpopular causes. We should not “flame” those who exercise this right in circumstances, in situations, circumstances we dislike, think they are wrong, or in this case know that they are wrong.

A more open society is a place where people have the right to offend or annoy, or do things differently, or juz disagree. If you don’t like this right, don’t ask for a more open society. And go live in North Korea, or Vietnam or Saudi Arabia.

My other serious point is that S’pore is starting to forget the British strand of secularism that we inherited from our colonial masters. A vocal minority (in our constructive, nation-building media, as well as in injun territory and cowboy towns) are following the French and Turkish model of secularism (look up “anti-clericalism”) which has a very anti-religious streak. The British version ignores, disdains or overrules religious behaviour or practices, where such behaviour or practice conflict with the law, while not interfering in a person’s religious beliefs so long as they remain a matter between that person and his god. In the other version, the state and the secularists actively and aggressively promote secularism even if it interferes with personal beliefs.

In a place where issues of faith are still taken very seriously, this is a dangerous trend. Thankfully, the govt is still secular, not anti-clerical, unlike many netizens and local media journalists. And yes, even the British version as practiced here does sometimes interfere with personal beliefs like only Sikhs can wear headgear in schools. But these inconsistencies only prove the point of non-interference.

More on these clowns who give Christians a bad name:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/oppressed-to-oppressor-pastor-khong-describes-christianitys-evolution-not-the-gays-agenda/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/faith-community-baptist-church-alleges-ag-gagging-order/

*From a Today report: Nevertheless, it felt compelled to respond, and reiterated that “many different religions co-exist and thrive” here and individuals and religious organisations are “free to practise their respective faiths”.

“However, our system of governance is a secular one and everyone has to abide by the laws of the land regardless of race, language or religion,” the MOM said. “The laws regarding employment constitute one such area. Employment laws have to be applied equally to all regardless of their religion.”

It noted that the case “was strictly a dispute between an employer and an employee, and MOM treated it as such”. “All organisations, whether they are religious or not, must abide by the same laws,” it added.

While the Constitution states that religious groups have the right to manage their own religious affairs, it excludes acts that are “contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality”. In an Aug 28 statement explaining why it sanctioned the FCBC, the MOM said there was insufficient cause to support the dismissal, while noting that “we have to preserve a common secular space for people with other beliefs, and employment is one of these secular spaces”.

Hear, hear, I say.

LKY answered Ngiam Tong Dow’s F1 question

In Public Administration, Tourism on 06/10/2013 at 5:18 am

Ngiam Tong Dow said: “My favourite topic — I’m on public record — is Formula 1 (F1). We’re paying the Englishmen to stage the F1 night race here. Why should we use taxpayers’ money to pay for these races? I have asked this question publicly, but the MOF has never addressed it.”

Maybe MOF didn’t, but LKY did juz before F1 came to S’pore, LKY said, when it was first suggested to him yrs ago, he didn’t believe it as something that could contribute to S’pore’s development. He was only convinced about its development potential, after F1 became massively popular and had already gone to KL. By then, Berniewas tua kee, with every aspiring global city wanting to stage a race, and many of them had cash pouring out of their ears.

BTW, the S’pore organisers were very clear that they couldn’t make money without govt help.

Taz history. There is an alternative on the horizon that S’pore should be trying to take advantage of:

… all-electric grand prix called Formula E, which gets under way in London in September 2014. Other races are planned in Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Miami, Monaco, Putrajaya, Rio de Janeiro and Rome.

Some big names have already signed up to support Formula E, including DHL, a logistics giant, and Qualcomm, an American technology group. But the commercial potential, and the ability to draw a large audience, will need to be proved before Formula E becomes a technological race. Then, provided the teams can come up with better batteries, electric motors and power electronics, electric racing cars really could, one day, mount a serious challenge to the petrol-heads’ F1 cars.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/09/economist-explains-14

In addition, to not paying much (maybe very little), seeing Formula E is a new brand, as the circuit here slows the F1 cars down considerably, a Formula E race here would be gd for Formula E to camouflage its main weakness: slower cars. The twisting, turning race would be juz as exciting for racing fans. Heck, we might even get it for free.

The Marina Bay Street Circuit is the second slowest 23-turn circuit on the calendar after Monaco, with an average speed of 172kph. Approximately 46% of the lap is taken at full throttle, compared with over 75% at Monza.

The twisting layout is hard on the brakes, while the gearboxes also take a beating, with around 80 gear changes per lap.

Drivers will complete 61 laps in the race – in 30C heat and 70% humidity – which takes a little under two hours to complete.

A change to the circuit this year is at turn 10 – dubbed the Singapore Sling. The original layout, a three-turn chicane, was seen as dangerous by drivers with Kimi Raikkonen crashing there in 2008 and Lewis Hamilton describing it as ‘the worst corner in Formula 1′.

This year, it has been turned into a single-apex left-hand bend and, without the chicane, lap times are expected to be lower. BBC report

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/formula-e-the-new-f1-why-cant-msm-report-f1-event-like-this/

Since we staged the first Kiddie Games, overspending in the process, why don’t we join this circuit? True in addition to F1, it would inconvenient us for another few days in a yr, but what the heck. Let’s try it. BTW Bernie is pretty relaxed about Formula E competing with F1, so he shouldn’t object.

Format of race: Each of the ten teams will have two drivers. But unlike F1, each driver will have two cars. Hence 40 SRT-01Es in all are being built by Spark Racing Technologies, a French firm, in collaboration with Renault and a number of other motorsports companies, including McLaren, Michelin and Williams. With present battery technology the cars will run out of juice after about 25 minutes in a race that is supposed to last around an hour. So each driver must make at least two pit-stops to change cars—sprinting 100 metres between each car in the old Le Mans style. As an added twist, one of the cars will be a sprint version capable of greater acceleration while the other will have more endurance. Flat out, the SRT-01Es will reach a top speed of around 225kph (140mph), whereas F1 cars top 300kph on some circuits. But on the short, twisting closed-off city streets which will be used by the electric racers, they will be spectacularly quick. And because of the instant torque provided by electric motors, they can accelerate to 100kph in just three seconds. Nor will they be quiet, because of the sound made by the cars’ tyres, electric motors and aerodynamics at speed.

M’sia mkt outperforms Asean

In Gold, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 05/10/2013 at 6:10 am

Lex

Not saying much as above chart from FT shows that its flattish unlike the other Asean mkts. Seems the big local funds are buying.

Other Asean round-up news:

According to OSK-DMG while Indonesia will be increasing its oil production over the next few years but only a few offshore marine players here can benefit from this because of an Indonesian rule that protects jobs in the industry for Indonesians.

While rig builders here could stand to gain in the near term, it appears that the cabotage law in Indonesia is being expanded to include Indonesian shipyards as well, boding well for rig builders with Indonesian-based yards. Indonesia has cabotage rules requiring all work in the oil & gas sector to be done only by Indonesian-flagged vessels.

Thailand is the third biggest buyer of gold in Asia, after China and India having overtaken Vietnam.

Trust has to regained, PM

In Political governance on 04/10/2013 at 4:49 am

PM’s “right that major policy success hinges on citizens trusting government. And that incorruptibility, impartiality, and integrity are crucial to that trust.” (GIC’s ex-chief economist on Facebook)

But “trust” is an aquifer, glacier or reservoir that needs constant replenishment because of the constant outflows.When more water is used, than comes in, there is a point when the inflow has to be increased, or the outflow limited, or stopped, so that reserves can be built up again.

As I see it, because the govt had not changed policies that need changing, there was and (still is) a net outflow of trust.  To put it another way, the bank account containing “trust” that his dad and friends had built up has “insufficient funds”. PM and predecessor (PM was the DPM then) have been living off the old guard’s legacy, taking out more “trust” than they have been putting “in”.

The PM has made a start in trying to increase the inflow in order to replenish the “trust” aquifer, glacier, reservoir or bank account  by changing the govt’s policies* but he shouldn’t be calling us to trust the govt until we start seeing the results of the changes in our daily lives. S’poreans know fellow S’poreans talk cock a lot, and can be gd BS artists: as TRE found out recently, “Since the official launch of TR Emeritus’ VIP Membership System (VMS) last month, the number of sign-ups has not been good. Only dozens have signed up. … We have estimated that TRE needs 400 to 500 active members per year to sustain TRE in the long run. Our membership costs a mere S$10.00 per month.”

Tony Blair before he became UK’s PM in 19997, said in 1994, he said: “Parties that do not change, die, and this party is a living movement not an historical monument. If the world changes and we don’t then we become of no use to the world. Our principles cease being principles and ossify into dogma.” In the S’pore context, substitute “dogma” for “Hard Truths”.

The PAP is changing but it’s a work-in-progress. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt in public tpt, healthcare, housing and education; but not when it comes to its FT policy. As Uncle Leong explained recently, the signs have yet to appear that the govt is walking its talk of closing the floodgates. And there is its white paper on 6.9m by 2030.

*As the former chief economist of GIC put it on Facebook: But what is equally crucial to this trust is the Governments ability to reform current policy and out-moded mindsets and deliver truly affordable and efficient healthcare, public housing, public transport, equitable and high quality education adequate and humane social security and safety nets, and a sensible population policy that does not result in overcrowding and social tensions.

The PM and cabinet has made a bold and substantial move in this direction in housing and healthcare reforms in the months up to National Day. Kudos to this commendable act of leadership.

However, markedly more can and must be done in these and the other key social policy areas above to complete reforms for the common good and fully prevent a loss in policy trust – something we cannot afford in Singapore.

I would put as the govt finally spending our money to make life more comfortable for us.

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/analysing-pms-coming-rally-speech/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/the-pap-govt-has-lost-output-legitimacy-discuss/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/shld-the-govt-get-the-credit-for-fixing-the-problems-that-hard-truths-caused-discuss/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/pms-speech-not-juz-a-change-of-format/

 

Temasek’s Fab 5 S’pore blue chips

In Financial competency, Temasek on 03/10/2013 at 5:11 am

Regolar readers will know this blog’s hostile to ST esp in its personal investment coverage.And usually is critical of Temasek.

Here’s an exception: If you owned one or more of these blue chips, you would be really ungrateful not to vote for PM

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid=435478142-19236-1456515192

Data from SGX My Gateway and Bloomberg showed aircraft engineering firm SIA Engineering Company topping the list, with a total return of 164 per cent over the five years to Sept 13, the cut-off date for this exercise. This includes price increases and cash dividends paid out, and works out to a compounded 21 per cent a year.

Telecommunications firm StarHub, engineering firm Singapore Technologies Engineering and rig builders Keppel Corporation and Sembcorp Marine round up the rest of the top five.

One key thread of these firms is that they are all part-owned by Temasek, which probably adds to the confidence of investors.

They are all also known for being solid with their dividend payments … Of course the share prices reflect that fact i.e. that there are better yields in the market albeit with greater risk.

Disclosure: got Keppel for yonks, and odd lot of SIAEC.

PM’s statement that’s so very wrong

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 02/10/2013 at 6:45 am

PM’s comments, “there are countries like China, Vietnam and India which are hungry and anxious to steal the lunch from us”, is pure inflammatory rubbish worthy of Gilbert Goh. They are not trying to steal from us. They are trying to improve themselves, by working harder (and perhaps smarter) than us. PM should leave anti-foreigner comments to Gilbert Goh and friends. Even TRE, TOC not into this kind of rubbish. The PM shouldn’t. But maybe he wants to talk on 5 October at GG’s “regime change” day.

Three other things wrong about his comment:

— Why is he comparing S’pore to these countries esp Vietnam? Tot, PM and his govt say we first world country like Switzerland, or global city like NY or London? I mean even manufacturers from China are moving to Vietnam because labour is cheaper there? What next compare us with Bangladesh or Burma?

— Productivity is more impt than working hard

And it seems that more productive—and, consequently, better-paid—workers put in less time in at the office. The graph below shows the relationship between productivity (GDP per hour worked) and annual working hours:

The Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/09/working-hours

It’s all about working smart, like the decadent Japs that LKY mocks but who outperform the ang mohs. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/honest-conversation-on-fts-lets-have-it-not-juz-pretend-that-weve-having-it-iswaran/

— “Insatiability, and the 15-hour week — Lessons in life and work”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/09/insatiability-and-15-hour-week

The most stinging rebuke to PM’s line of reasoning comes close to the end of this longish, but intellectually entertaining piece.

BTW, if PM is genuine about wanting us to trust the govt, in addition to not imitating Gilbert Goh and friends, he should

— ensure that this kind of inflammatory rubbish doesn’t appear in our constructive, nation-building media

I am Singaporean, therefore I am entitled
While there is nothing wrong with policies that are based on a ‘Singaporean first’ principle, it can be taken too far. Abuse of this principle could lead to racism, xenophobia and aggressive nationalism. By Wu Zijian
It’s stuff like this that makes me thing GG has a point (which he doesn’t) about FTs being the problem. The problem is the PAP govt’s “FT Tua Kee” attitude.
— not juz talk the talk on limiting FTs coming in. Using, govt stats, Uncle Leong shows the flood is still rising, not receding. http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/09/27/new-citizenships-increased-by-31-in-2012/

S’pore bonds are a lousy investment

In Financial competency, Media on 01/10/2013 at 5:06 am

SINGAPORE bonds were the second-worst performer in Asia in the first seven months of this year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said.

Losses were largest in Indonesia, down 17.8 per cent, followed by Singapore, where bonds were down 7.8 per cent in the January-to-July period, said the latest report by ADB’s Asia Bond Monitor.

Market returns on Asian bonds have fallen sharply so far this year with the iBoxx Pan-Asian Index falling 3.5 per cent in US dollars in unhedged terms, it said yesterday.

Only bonds in the Philippines and China recorded gains – 7.5 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.

Reported in BT 27 September 2013, but not in ST or Today. Why? ST and Today only report the “right” news? Note that ST regularly talks of the benefits of investing in S$ bonds, and bonds generally.

BTW, here’s shumething SunT didn’t tell us about the Finnish education system: Angry Birds creator Rovio has brought Angry Birds Playground, a schools initiative devised with the University of Helsinki in Finland, into the kindergarten classroom of children, aimed at six-year-olds.

With the initiative already in use in Finland, Rovio has now entered into an agreement with schools in China.

“With small children, the Finnish approach to education is very much play-orientated,” says Sanna Lukander, vice president of book publishing at Rovio Entertainment.

“These characters and their world seemed to inspire children. You can’t not think about how you might motivate children to do more than play.”