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Archive for November, 2013|Monthly archive page

2014: Last chance for govt to increase prices?

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

(Asean round-up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition to ongoing political unrest in Thailand:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Au doing a Dr Chee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where S’porean traits produce world-class TLCs

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

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

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

Time is money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changi Airport Group: Winner’s curse?

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

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

Last chance to buy Olam?

More bull points to add to this:

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

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

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

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

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

Even Chris Balding flies SIA

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

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

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

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

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

Why the govt consults and then ignores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consultations are not referendums.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuition works according to UK study

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

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

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

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Still want to buy M’sian properties?

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

(Asean round-up)

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

But otherwise M’sia’s looking pretty gd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Excerpts from BT)

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

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

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

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

Infocomm Dysfunctional Authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


More nails in Iskandar’s coffin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ageing population Hard Truth is cock and bull?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthier and fitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important implications

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

The measure suggests similar falls in many other countries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scholar can’t repair NOL; Maersk steams ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming the system: Unsaid assumptions of PAP, NTUC MP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True blue S’porean FT applies for citizenship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indon origins of our Batman Suparman

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

(Asean round-up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money for Vietnamese start-ups and buy-outs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Culture ministry morphs into Quant Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-ticketed attendance for heritage events dropped in 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—-

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

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

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

Costs savings in airlines: every little bit counts

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

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

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

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

 

——–

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

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

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

Where Reits can go wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DBS doing NS on HDB loans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never mind, I don’t own DBS shares.

S’pore at tech cutting edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To stay competitive, a country needs to constantly innovate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Dan Tan’s case

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tharman trying to tell jokes again?

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

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

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

Historical wage growth 1.3%?

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

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

1% wage growth this year?

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

Gd wage growth? What gd wage growth?

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

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

And this

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

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

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

Inclusive of employer CPF contribution?

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

It used to be that the statistics in the past were based on without employer CPF contribution.

Different from other countries?

Do any of the other 7 countries cited in the table for comparison include the employer’s pension contribution in calculating real income growth? I believe the answer is no.

After reading all these points raised by Uncle Leong , I doubt anyone would say that Tharman is correct to assert that  S’pore remains a country of … good income growth for the average citizen and family, and in particular low income citizens. It hasn’t been since the mid-1990s, when a foreign capitalist grumbled that in S’pore, “the fruits of [his] labour” (his words) went to his employees, including me, when I had the brazenness to tell him he was being greedy, when I argued with him on the on the methodology of my incentive scheme. Capitalists were screwed by the govt. How times have changed.

And if one wants to be fair to Tharman, one could point out that the purpose of wage increase is to keep pace with inflation, not exceed it by a wide margin. And that anyway, not fair to use average over such a long period as it distorts the underlying data.

But then, even the govt concedes that real wage increases have in the recent past been stagnant or PMETS, and especially for the low paid, so Tharman was tempting the fates (and Uncle Leong)  by making the assertion about good income growth for the average citizen and family, and in particular low income citizens.

Last year I blogged that Tharman was trying to do comedy. Looks like as though he’s trying again. He should learn from RI boy, Hng Kian: stop telling jokes when not cut out to do comedy. But then Tharman’s from ACS. And the Indian community, and liberals see him as the next PM: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/why-tharman-will-be-the-next-pm/.

So he has to try to get as gd as PM with his “mee siam with hum” joke.

Iskandar & related BT story suck

In Malaysia, Property on 10/11/2013 at 6:20 am

Trumpets pls for this recent post on Iskandar.

M’sians Double confirm now that S’poreans kanna screwed by the M’sian govt Budget measures and Johor’s proposed

Malaysia’s Iskandar Waterfront delays IPO on gov’t property steps -sources

* Postpones listing to Q4 2014, a year later than initially planned

* Concerned measures to rein in property prices will slow demand

* Not immediately clear if delay will impact Johor metropolis development

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/11/04/malaysia-iskandar-ipo-idUKL3N0IP1FE20131104

This story came out juz after a BT article on 4 November 2013, a few hours before the above appeared:

Jubilee: An interesting Iskandar play

THE property rush across the Causeway in the past couple of years has seen prices in Iskandar Malaysia double or even triple. Despite talk of a bubble, investors unwilling to jump onto the buyers’ bandwagon can still take bets on property developers themselves.

Jubilee Industries Holdings – formerly loss-making plastic injection mould producer JLJ Holdings – appears poised to be the latest intriguing Iskandar play on Singapore Exchange.

A proposed reverse takeover (RTO) announced in mid-October will see Singaporean businessman Dennis Ng inject Tenderside Ventures, a subsidiary of his Malaysian property development company Jewelstone Properties, into Catalyst-quoted Jubilee.

The deal gives a well-connected and established family a foothold in a listed entity in Singapore.

Mr Ng is executive director of United Malayan Land (UMLand), of which his father, Ng Eng Tee, is deputy chairman and also executive director.

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/companies/others/jubilee-interesting-iskandar-play-20131104

S’pore, Asia, West hsehold debt levels compared

In Energy, Indonesia, Malaysia on 09/11/2013 at 7:00 am

Asean round-up

S’pore (at 61% of debt to GDP) is third in Asean, M’sia tops the list (81%), followed by Thailand (68%) , according to a World Bank report. (http://www.economist.com/news/economic-and-financial-indicators/21588882-household-debt-asia)

A recent World Bank study identified Malaysia and Thailand as having the largest household debts, as a share of GDP, among eastern Asia’s developing economies. In Malaysia, where household debt now exceeds 80% of GDP, the government has been seeking to curb credit growth. Thailand’s government boosted access to credit following the country’s big floods in 2011. The recent slowing of growth in many Asian economies raises concerns about the sustainability of all this personal debt.

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

(Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/the-maths-of-salaries-when-mortgage-rates-rise-50/)

In other Asean news

Indonesia‘s economy expanded at its weakest rate in four years in the third quarter as a result of slowing exports and subdued domestic demand.

Its economy grew 5.6% in the July-to-September period from a year earlier, down from 5.8% in the previous quarter.

Indonesia’s exports have been hurt by slowing demand from key markets and a drop in commodity prices.

Meanwhile, domestic demand has been impacted by rising fuel prices and rising interest rates.

Fuel prices in the country surged earlier this year after the government removed its subsidy programme.

Petrol prices went up by 44% while diesel prices rose by 22%, leading to higher transportation costs and electricity bills.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24831172

And as usual Indonesia is repenting the nationalistic policies it always implements when the economy is doing well. It is again, as usual, lifting restriction on foreign investments, to attract foreign capital.

Thais are in the streets, protesting a controversial amnesty bill. http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/11/unrest-thailand

And an energy boom in the region. http://www.thefinancialist.com/an-oil-and-gas-boom-for-southeast-asia/

PAP reverts to form

In Political governance on 08/11/2013 at 4:57 am

NatCon’s narrative was that the govt is willing to listen to the people.

Well the way the govt is conducting itself on the tudung* issue seems to contradict the narrative of a govt willing to listen to the people. Maybe it has decided to return to the Hard Truth of dismissing views or facts that do not support the canon of Hard Truths? Even if these views are articulated by senior PAPpists?

Government leaders yesterday weighed in on the hijab issue, which made its way back into the national spotlight in recent weeks, with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean reiterating that, while the Government understands “community perspectives”, it also “has the responsibility to balance all these different community requirements and keep in mind what we need, to maintain overall social harmony”.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong together with Malay Members of Parliament (MPs) from the People’s Action Party over the matter, called for “constructive dialogue” as the way forward. “This is the Singapore way and has served everyone well over the years,” he said on Facebook. (Today 6 Nov)

If the govt is a listening govt, shouldn’t DPM’s comments come some days after the meeting, after the govt has had time to analyse the views of the Malay minister and PAP May MPs? I mean it’s not as though the tudung wearers and friends, and their enemies are rioting in the streets. Everything is at the “discussion” stage, and is likely to remain at that level: uniquely S’porean for any topic. Action of any sort is haram in S’pore: witness the reaction to Alex Au’s piece on doing something other than talking.

And if the govt can’t be bothered to listen to and ponder on the views of the Malay minister, and the PAP Malay MPs (kaki lang, orang sendiri), why should anyone think it listens to anyone else?

I couldn’t help laughing at Yacoob’s “This is the Singapore way and has served everyone well over the years” . The Singapore way is “Sit down, shut up, and do as you are told”: “constructive dialogue” is a dog-whistle meant to fool the masses. I’m happy to report that the plebs have caught on, even if the govt and the constructive, nation-building media don’t realise that the unwashed masses have caught on. The PAP govt and the local media still thinks that since 70% of the voters still “Like” the PAP, that the plebs are deft?

But let’s give the govt two cheers that it isn’t into “faking it” PR.

If DPM Teo had waited a few days, then the comments couldn’t be seen as undercutting Yaacob and the Malay MPs, and would buttress the NatCon narrative that this PAP govt listens.

For this bad PR, we should be thankful. We should glad that the govt is not resorting to Tony Blair’s appointment of a team to clear all misterial statements to ensure that even if there are contradictions, disagreements, inconsistencies, muddled-thinking  in govt policies and actions, at least a fake consistency is projected.

S/o Devan Nair is sleeping on the job? Or he isn’t being listened to? Dr Goebbels would be spinning in his grave excepted that he was cremated.

Update at 8.35 am: NSP has come up with a sensible idea. It also calls on the government to “commission an official survey to gauge how the other communities feel about Muslim women wearing the hijab in Government professions.”. Hear, Hear.

*I prefer the term “tudung”. “Hijab” to me implies that the item of dress is a recent import, It isn’t. It’s been around for many a year.Halimah was using it it law school in the mid 70s, if my memory is correct.

Conspiracy theorists could spin then all the references to “hijab” by the govt, ministers, MPs, local media, is as an attempt to frame and spin that the petitioners  are introducing something alien . But the evidence seems to indicate the word “hijab” was used in the original petition.

Self-inflicted PR wounds are not uncommon as pointed out above.

 

Temasek’s right on ICBC, BoC & CCB

In Banks, China, Temasek on 07/11/2013 at 4:52 am

I’ve blogged before that Temasek loves China banks while ang mohs were running away.

Well since late June, Chinese bank shares have been on a roll, example  ICBC (where Temasek had been picking up shares this yr) is up more than 22%. Recent Chinese economic data has got investors buying the banks again, ang mohs included. So much so that some smaller Chinese banks are planning IPOs in HK.

Anyway,Jack, the usual suspects, and the readers of TRE, TOC and TRS needn’t yet bang their [ ] in frustration. Firstly, Temasek can never ever exit these investments given that S’pore wants to be China’s friend. Temasek got big chunks of BoC and CCB at a “special” price.. It can only play around the margins, reducing its cost of these investments.

Then are there two more reasons why we should be worried about Temasek’s punt:-

The biggest threat to Chinese banks’ cozy oligopoly … Online groups Alibaba and Tencent are making incursions into the country’s financial services market, providing an alternative to the capped deposit rates and sluggish service offered by the country’s big lenders. The disruptors are taking on risks, and savers should be glad. http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/10/10/tech-disruptors-could-save-chinas-savers/

Alibaba, the e-commerce group that just bought a 51 percent stake in asset manager Tianhong for $193 million, is the banks’ main foe. By July it had made over $16 billion in short-term loans to companies who sell goods on its sites. Its real-time records of borrowers’ cashflows and counterparties aid lending decisions.

Banks’ deposits are also under threat. WeChat, the mobile chat app that clocked up over 300 million users within two years of being launched by gaming group Tencent, is working on distributing wealth products via smartphones, and offering payment for fund managers, according to Chinese media. Alibaba lets users reinvest surplus balances in their online payment accounts into money market funds. That gives savers a better return than the 3 percent capped rate they get on bank deposits.

Tech companies’ desire to disrupt the financial services sector is understandable. China’s big banks make returns on equity in excess of 20 percent.

Add to that, an attempt to shake up the country’s slow-moving financial industry and create more investment opportunities for the private sector, Chinese regulators have invited companies from across the spectrum to apply for banking licences.
And here’s the latest on bad debt write-offs (something I had talked about) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-22/biggest-china-banks-triple-debt-write-offs-to-brace-for-defaults.html.
So Jack, etc can relax. Time enough for their curses on Ho Ching to take effect. I hope they remember that returns from the reserves are used to make life more comfortable for ourselves.

Brainwashed, simple-minded paper tigers

In Uncategorized on 06/11/2013 at 4:57 am

Taz the conclusion I draw about many keyboard warriors from their reactions to the hack on a ST blog, which they should have treated as, at best a ripple, in a after-dinner Chinese-tea cup, and their reactions to Alex Au’s piece criticking their reactions to the said hack.

[H]ow many bloggers and social media participants took pains to distance themselves from the hacking: We don’t approve of such tactics, they kind-of say.

Then what are you saying? That even if you are victimised by a brutish government, you should go no further than respectful and polite conversation?

Get a grip. Hacking is not sui generis. It is one among a vast continuum of acts of resistance.

(http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/hacker-strikes-fear-among-good-citizens/ There is a part 2)

BTW, make sure you read his replies to the howls of outrage his pieces provoked. Damned gd.

Alex is absolutely right in his disdain and scorn of the goody-two-shoes rushing to reassure the ISD and us that they are quai, even if he goes overboard at times. I felt a bit sick about the said responses to the hack: they were it seemed to me rushing to assure everyone that they didn’t approve of such an “atrocity”. They were rushing to condemn the hack as though it was some major atrocity like 9/11, 7/7 or the like. As he pointed out, it wasn’t even a disruption: Get a grip. Hacking is not sui generis. It is one among a vast continuum of acts of resistance.

I didn’t blog on how I felt because I had problems putting my tots into words (It would have sounded like Alex Tan at his foulest low). Thankfully Alex has done it for me, though for the record, I want to stress that for all its many faults (lack of compassion, muddle-headed tinking, lousy execution, bad PR, love of BS and jargon etc), the PAP govt is not “brutish”. BTW, I don’t think Alex was implying that our govt is “brutish”. But, it’s not for me to say what he thinks.

He has been accused of condoning disruption or violence, or trying to incite disruption, or, worse, violence. This is a very superficial reading, of the piece, if not intentional misrepresentation worthy of a defamation suit. It’s actually a chim piece on the nature and role of activism in any society: democratic, authoritarian or totalitarian.

The howls of “We quai chye” by said activists drew this response from Alex in part 2 of his piece, “[I]f the king has made something a criminal offence, then no one should ever try to flout it, no matter how horrible you think the king is?” Shades of Thomas Aquinas, Locke etc. Look up these names if you don’t recognise them, or have forgotten their arguments on the nature of justice, among other things.

More evidence that many of our cyber warriors are wannabe elitists who didn’t make the grade in our elite schools, or if they did, later in govt, stat boards, or GLCs. Juz expressing their frustrations by ranting and bitching against the PAP govt? Or as is more likely, they are intellectually, not very well-read. They have been too well-conditioned by the state’s schools and media?

87% of the Stompers showed up the pretensions of these paper tigers by feeling “shiok” about the hack.

Finally, something for these toothless paper tigers to chew on. Have they ever tot that the disruption to biz, transport and life, generally, that protests can caus,  play a big part in forcing a govt (democratic or authoritarian) to concede? Remember the credit default swaps fiasco here and in HK. The Hongkies got more of their money back because they were willing to inconvenience the public by regularly protesting on the streets. Singkies when to Hong Leong Green. Well DBS ended up paying Honkies, but not Singkies despite the S in its name standing for “Singapore”.

Think about it.

Time to chk out Olam

In Commodities, Temasek on 05/11/2013 at 4:30 am

When Muddy Waters ends up saying: “My view is that if Temasek decides tomorrow that it wanted out of this investment, it would be game over within months for them, without Temasek’s backstop,” its research director Carson Block told BT late  last week.(http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/muddy-waters-game-over-olam-if-temasek-pulls-out-20131101), its time to think it’s repenting its decision, a yr ago, to short Olam.

It’s stating the obvious. Any highly leveraged smallish stock where Temasek  exits from being a major shareholder would suffer. Temasek 1, MW 0.

Temasek has also since then progressively increased its ownership of Olam, from an initial 16.3 per cent before the Muddy Waters attack to 24.07 per cent now. Temasek 2, MW 0

In Mr Block’s view, Temasek had stepped in because of the wider implications that an Olam collapse would have posed to the commodity-trading industry in Singapore.

“If Olam had failed, what would the banks have done with the other commodity houses that are borrowing in Singapore?” he said. “It’s reasonable to assume that if the banks had to write off losses to Olam, you could have a real funding freeze for the commodity trading industry in Singapore.”

This is again stating the obvious. Temasek 3, MW 0

Funny, he didn’t bitch that BT continues to act as a chher leader for Olam. (http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={904134059-19528-1412927508}) Temasek 4, MW 0

Maybe the narrative that Olam is changing doesn’t fit his bearish thesis. Olam is building a packaged foods business. In countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Mali,, where it now generates sales of US$350 million, and aims to be the Unilever or Nestle of Africa. Might be interesting. Have to chk out waz this as % of total revenue and net profits. Sadly the article doesn’t give this which makes me suspicious that it’s a tiny share. Still will chk, and anyway Africa is a hot market. Temasek 5, MW 0

Final bull point, Olam did stop doing some things that Muddy waters was rightly bitching about. It shows mgt is pragmatic and flexible (Temasek 6, MW 0) , unlike the PAP govt on the FT policy (Remember the White Paper?).

Interestingly, Olam is one of the cos having an open day: a great idea.

MORE listed companies with large numbers of retail shareholders are setting aside time for the management to meet investors.

In a new trend, these companies are holding a “retail investor day” as well as the mandatory annual general meeting (AGM).

Usually, retail investors get to meet and question senior management only at the AGM.

Companies which have already held “investor day” events include Olam International, Aims AMP Capital Industrial real estate investment trust and bourse operator, the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid=904134059-19479-584331750

Oh and from the first BT report, it seems Muddy is still shorting Olam, Temasek 7, MW 0.

PAP’s view of us 40%ers?

In Humour, Political governance on 04/11/2013 at 5:40 am

“Their bowls are filled with rice, their mouths are filled with pork, but after they finish their meals, they criticise the government,” he* laughed.

“The Chinese masses are shameless and you don’t need to respect them.”

Substitute the word “Chinese masses” with “40% of deft S’porean voters”, and I suspect the PAP would “Like” the sentiments expressed.

Given that the PAP has ruled S’pore since 1959, and our standard of living is now first world, surely the PAP had shumething to do with it*? And surely. the PAP is entitled to get upset that 40% of the voters (self included) prefer to vote for the opposition?

Actually, the PAP should adopt a slightly different perspective. True, WP*** won a GRC and got 12.8% of the popular vote. But it is widely perceived by S’poreans as “PAP Lite”: in some lighting conditions their light blue shirts appear white.

This means that 72.8% of the electorate are very comfortable with the PAP, and S’pore being a defacto one party state: all the elected MPs are from the PAP (most) or the WP (7).

The presidential election double confirmed this as the preferred candidate won by a very, very short nose in a photo finish. The runner-up was a former PAP MP who unlike Tan Kin Lian, who lost his deposit, did not repent of his time in the PAP. Between Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock, MD, they got 70% of the votes. Tan Jee Say, came third, with 25%. Taz the gap between the support for the PAP, and the real opposition.

Maybe, this is what the PAP is worried about (see my extracts from govt think-tank October 2014 Asean Monitor)?

Most probably, though, the PAP juz wants 150% control. It’s in the DNA, like Hard Truths.

—-

*A BBC report said that this was said by one Liang Wenyong, the Communist Party boss of Gushanzi, a farming town in Hebei province, At a lavish banquet as he picked a variety of delicacies in front of him, including a whole lobster, Mr Liang gave his unvarnished views on the Chinese masses. Unfortunately for him, he was caught on tape.

The leaked video quickly prompted more than 9,000 angry comments on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter …Unsurprisingly, Liang Wenyong was fired. But in a twist typical of the new clean-up campaign, officials in Gushanzi were also ordered to study Xi Jinping’s teachings.

**Yes, Yes, I know that one Jack Lam and friend keep saying on Facebook that S’pore was in the 50s, the second biggest  port in the Asia, as though that alone would explain S’pore’s subsequent success. My retort: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/why-young-sporeans-should-be-sent-to-yangon/.

***S/o of JBJ takes exception to the claims (he says) that the local media make that Low founded the WP. Low may not have founded the WP but after the party’s leadership dethroned JBJ, and appointed him as leader, he changed the party, bringing organisation,, respectability and moderation to it. Remember JBJ’s WP allowed loonies and a bicyle thief tpo stand as MPs. And no-one could call WP “PAP Lite”: it waz too dysfunctional for that, and, anyway, was nothing more than JBJ’s chariot. BTW there is a gd site on FB to JBJ. Worth a visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jbj.memory/

Even NY & London getting less friendly to non-resident property owners

In Property on 03/11/2013 at 4:25 am

NY and London vie for the status of the world’s most global city. Yet even NY and the UK are showing signs of getting tired of too many FTs (where the “T” stands for “Talent” not “Trash”)

Plan to Tax the Rich Could Aim at Nonresidents “Ultrawealthy nonresidents who own property in New York City certainly make a ripe target for potential revenue,” James B. Stewart writes in the Common Sense column in The New York Times. “People who spend fewer than half the year in New York City don’t pay any city income tax, even if they generate much of their fortune in the city.”

Meanwhile in the UK,

The government is reported to be considering a tax for overseas investors buying UK properties, in a move to stop house prices rushing out of reach of homebuyers.

Sky News claims that the chancellor, George Osborne, is “actively investigating” charging capital gains tax (CGT) when foreign buyers sell UK homes, in a move that will bring their taxation in line with UK citizens.

Currently, only UK citizens and residents pay the tax, which is charged on profits made from the sale of any property that is not the owner’s main home. Basic rate taxpayers pay 18% of the profits, while higher rate payers hand over 28%.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/oct/31/george-osborne-capital-gains-tax-overseas-buyers

 

Govt’s reaction to rising food prices?

In Indonesia on 02/11/2013 at 5:27 am

On 24 October, it was reported that

Singapore has lifted a ban on the import of Thai frozen chicken and is also considering allowing the sale of frozen pork from Thailand.
After banning Thai poultry from its market for nine years, Singapore has finally allowed frozen chicken from Thailand back in, reports The Nation of Thailand.

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/poultrynews/30426/singapore-lifts-ban-on-thai-chicken-imports October 24th via http://singaporenewsalternative.blogspot

Timing of ban lighting, not coincidental, methinks

On 29th October, it was reported: Inflation in Singapore will pick up over the next few quarters before tapering towards the end of 2014.

This is according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Macroeconomic Review.

The central bank said domestic food inflation is expected to rise from around 2 per cent in 2013 to close to 3 per cent in 2014, although this is still lower than the 3.4 per cent average over the last five years.

In particular, cooked food vendors are likely to pass on the increases in labour and rental costs to consumers, as these account for a significant share of their operating expenses compared to non-cooked food establishments.

The MAS said cooked food is estimated to make up 14 per cent of average household expenditure.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/inflation-in-s-pore-to/865788.html

Today reported: The MAS expects the core inflation rate, which strips out the cost of accommodation and private road transport, to increase from between 1.5 and 2 per cent this year to between 2 and 3 per cent next year.

Better than these non-actions:

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

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/inflation-why-the-misleading-picture-minister-media/

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

In other Asean round-up news:

Burma is getting its first online music store, which aims to stamp out the problem of illegal downloads, according to the Eleven Myanmar news site. “The traditional distribution system has been plagued by piracy,” the man behind the website, Ko Ko Lwin, is quoted as saying. His Myanmar Music Store apparently trialled operations for a week ahead of an official launch, with home-grown star Lay Phyu’s record, Diary, selling 4,000 copies.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-24743082

SingTel may still get into Burma. While it failed to get one of the two licences granted this yr, the govt has asked leading telecos (including SingTel) to offer help to the govt-owned operator as it upgrades.

Workers across Indonesia begun a two-day strike on 31 October demanding higher salaries, the latest industrial action to hit the South East Asian economy.

The workers say their cost of living has gone up amid rising inflation and a hike in fuel prices.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24753469

Thailand‘s lower house of parliament has passed a political amnesty bill that critics say could allow the return of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

The amnesty applies to offences committed during the political turmoil after Mr Thaksin was ousted in a coup.

The lower house passed the controversial bill in the early hours of Friday. It now goes to the Senate.

The opposition Democrat Party has warned that the passage of the bill will trigger street protests.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24768110

Double confirm: FTs displace S’poreans

In Economy, Political governance on 01/11/2013 at 4:51 am

Following this, more evidence that we were misled that FTs created gd jobs for locals? In fact, they displace locals, it seems.

Or, at the very least, as one Siow tua kee activist and commentator (and no usual- suspect ranter) put it on Facebook, “So… is this an implicit admission that the flow of foreign workers DID depress salaries? Like everyone outside gahmen has been saying? Uh-huh.”

And this time the evidence comes from the central bank. Emphasis is mine.

Weakness in PMET job market for locals seen to be dissipating

Tertiary-educated Singapore residents – who have experienced a soft patch in hiring over the past year – can look forward to better job opportunities, thanks to recent government curbs on foreign labour inflows.

“Recent manpower policies to tighten the inflow of S Pass and Employment Pass holders will boost the hiring of tertiary-educated residents, particularly at the entry level,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in its Macroeconomic Review released yesterday.

The new Fair Consideration Framework, aimed at ensuring that Singaporean professionals are fairly considered for jobs, will also go some way in boosting these job-seekers’ prospects, it said.

Despite continuing demand for manpower in Singapore, local professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) have recently faced a constrained job market. (BT 30 October 2013)

Meanwhile Today reported:

Resident wages up as efforts to stem foreign labour kick in

Wages for resident employees grew at a much faster pace in the first half of this year, as businesses paid more to hire locals in a tight labour market caused in part by efforts to stem the flow of foreign workers.

The contribution of resident workers to employment growth has also improved, with locals making up more than half of the total in the first six months, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said yesterday in its bi-annual macroeconomic review.

“Overall, resident wage growth accelerated to 4.5 per cent on-year in the first half of 2013, up from 2.3 per cent in the whole year of 2012,” the central bank said. “This was largely consistent with the resident unemployment rate, which remained low at around 3 per cent in the first half of 2013.”

In all, 62,600 employees were added to the workforce in the first six months, compared with 58,900 in the same period last year. Resident workers made up 55 per cent of the overall job gains in the first half, up from 45 per cent last year and 31 per cent in 2011.

“The contribution of foreign workers to total employment growth slowed in (the first half), as foreign labour policies became more binding,” the MAS said, adding that the number of work permit holders rose by 18,500 in the first half of the year, compared with 43,500 for the whole of 2012.

Economists TODAY spoke to say the rapid rise in wages is not surprising given the tight labour market, but that the increase is not entirely good news.

MAS data shows that wages for local employees in industries such as community, social and personal services, real estate services and professional services grew the fastest in the first half of the year. However, resident wages for construction, manufacturing and food services grew less than in the second half of last year.

The MAS expects the core inflation rate, which strips out the cost of accommodation and private road transport, to increase from between 1.5 and 2 per cent this year to between 2 and 3 per cent next year. http://www.todayonline.com/business/resident-wages-efforts-stem-foreign-labour-kick

Need I say more? The “right” facts on FTs were raised by the netizens of “cowboy towns” many moons ago but were dismissed as “noise”.

And finally, we should remind PM that the operative word is “Talents” not “Trash”: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/10/30/pm-global-talents-needed-to-make-sg-a-vibrant-economic-hub/#comment-1086501. And I’ll add to TRE example of PRC PR masseurs: remember the shop assistant that beat up SMRT officer who tried to stop her son from trying to get a free train ride, and the PRC hawkers? They are PRs.

S’poreans* don’t have an issue with Foreign Talents like the CEOs of DBS and OCBC. But we have a problem with Foreign Trash. Juz look at SGX, where the CEO and his number two are FTs. Look at the damage these two FTs did recently: SGX lifted trading restrictions on three stocks, then after they cheonged announced that the price movements (prior to the trading restrictions) were going to be investigated. Prices collapsed. It should have made both announcements at the same time.

I doubt this would have happened under the previous CEO (whom I know personally). BTW, not talked to him about the above SGX issue.

Related post, title notwithstanding: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/low-productivity-lky-and-the-drums-agree-on-its-cause/

*GG and friends excepted. BTW, going by GG’s outburst against S’porean women (He thinks they prefer FTS: personal experience? He is either divorced or separated.), his version of paradise S’pore is hellish: only male true-blue S’poreans allowed. No women. Guess we males who are not gays or bisexuals will need robots to satisfy our carnal desires, or maybe he wants us to be wankers?

On this tot, have a gd weekend.