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Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Dr M, like one LKY, is losing his memory

In Malaysia, Political economy, Political governance on 31/12/2013 at 4:46 am

(There is some analysis of what one LKY said tagged on at the end but yes it’s analysis about M’sia week (previous) ).

Going by this extract from BT, seems that Dr M has forgotten that there was almost no money left in the Treasury when he stepped down.

FORMER Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that Putrajaya should cut its own costs before burdening the public with higher taxes and tariffs.

It was his first public comment on what has fast become a contentious issue among Malaysians: an increasing cost of living that is set to escalate in 2014.

After the general election (GE) in May, Malaysia was put on notice by the international rating agencies that it had to get its fiscal discipline right. Prime Minister Najib Razak responded by first cutting fuel subsidies and raising petrol prices by 10 per cent in September.

In his October Budget, Mr Najib abolished sugar subsides and pledged to cut total subsidies by 17 per cent in the financial year. The Budget did not achieve that, so most commentators expect more fuel subsidy cuts possibly in the second half of the year. Mr Najib also promised a 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST) by next April.

Yes, yes, I know Badawi accused him of over-spending. But the fact that Badawi and now Najib are having to cut back govt spending shows that Dr M overspent when he was in power. Sadly this never happened here. If only GCT had spent more, LHL, would not be in so much shit. But don’t pity PM: he was DPM then, and in charge of economical and financial matters.

Coming back to Dr M. We can’t be too hard on him given that one LKY said that S’pore was a “barren rock” before the PAP took power. He must have got HK in mind when the British seized HK from the Chinese. I’ll let a HK official tell the story, It was on this day, January 20 in 1841 that a treaty was signed ceding Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

 To cut a long story short, Captain Charles Elliot of the British Royal Navy had negotiated the terms of the agreement and reported them to Lord Palmerston who was then the Foreign Secretary in London.

Lord Palmerston was outraged that Britain had got such a raw end of the deal. He promptly dismissed Captain Elliot from his post and famously declared that Hong Kong was, and I quote: “A barren rock with nary a house upon it. It will never be a mart for trade.”

S’pore as all TRE readers will be able to tell you was the second most important port in Asia, though they may not tell you (because they may not know)  that it had problems, problems  outlined below*.

LKY would have been on safer ground if he had told S’poreans what might have happened if S’pore had gotten bad govt (like in Burma). But then S’poreans could rightly have asked if there were credible alternatives. The answer to that is not so obvious and detracts from the narrative that the PAP made S’pore. It didn’t: S’poreans of my parents’ generation made  modernS’pore on the colonial foundation. The PAP helped in the making.

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

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

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish International Asia

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

* MAI Adjunct Research Fellow

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

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

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Why democracy is not a Hard Truth

In Political governance on 30/12/2013 at 6:29 am

I juz came across this quote from the novelist EM Forster who gave two cheers for democracy: “One because it admits variety, and two because it permits criticism.”. Need I say more on why the PAP doesn’t do democracy?  It doesn’t like variety or criticism. and 60% of S’poreans like it that way. What more can I say? Except that those who want the PAP out have four five choices;

— sit down and shut up;

— be prepared to persuade at least 11% more of voters to join the 40% (actually maybe even more, maybe 24% of the voters, see why here);

— turn to revolution;

— despair and “move on” overseas (BTW, ESM’s daughter is overseas though she’s no “quitter” it seems: LKY’s children are still here by contrast); or

— bitch online (TRE, TOC posters and many Facebookers seem to prefer this option).

BTW, the quote (from a 1938 essay) goes on, “Two cheers are quite enough. There is no occasion to give three.” Forster, according to John Gray, a political philisopher,”thought that no political system – not even democracy – should be turned into an icon. What mattered, he thought, was that individuals should have the chance to live as best they can.”. If anyone is interested, here is John Gray on why  “Human rights are important, but they will never be a solution to ending conflict”. Our HR kay pohs should read it and draw lessons on how they go about rights advocacy here. Example: Human rights have two large virtues – they empower us against governments, and anyone can claim them. If we have rights we needn’t approach power on our knees, as supplicants begging for favours. We can demand that our freedoms be respected. And it doesn’t matter who governs us. Human rights can be invoked wherever they exist.

Can I ask the SDP member who follows this blog to pls pass on this message to all his HR kay poh friends and his party members. They tend to talk about HR in abstract terms allowing the PAPPies cheap, easy, and unnecessary victories.

1Malay not 1M’sian

In Malaysia on 29/12/2013 at 5:55 am

The u/m extract reflects the consensus among analysts (not connected to the govt or oppo) on how UMNO will behave.

Umno’s three-pronged strategy towards GE14
 
This conservative logic formed the bedrock of the “back to basics” strategy that was spelt out by Najib, whose speech was themed “Fortifying the Future”. Going forward, Umno will pursue three strategic thrusts – or what Najib called the “three messages from the assembly”: The first is a turn towards Islamic Shariah; the second is a stronger Malay and bumiputra agenda, for which, he said, Umno need not be apologetic; and the third a “transformed Umno” as a “party of the 21st century”. It is significant that Umno as the “party of the future” will become not just more Malay, but Islamist at the same time.    

Becoming more Islamist for a Malay-nationalist party like Umno is an equally significant shift. Ideologically-driven Islamist parties actually find ethno-nationalism objectionable. Umno clearly is positioning itself as the primary political vehicle for the Malay and Muslim constituency, thus raising the prospects of an all-out contest for power with the opposition Islamist PAS, even as Umno – paradoxically – woos PAS for unity talks. Umno’s drift towards a more Islamist identity was marked by a highly controversial drive to pitch itself as the defender of Sunni Islam in the face of what it paints as the growing threat of Shiism in the country. The federal constitution would be reworded to define the official religion as “Islam Sunnah Wal Jamaah” or Sunni Islam, not simply Islam. That this move is partly politically-motivated is seen in the immediate targeting of the PAS deputy leader as a closet Shia and therefore a threat.

The second thrust of a greater push for the Malay and bumiputra agenda is clearly aimed at solidifying the Peninsular-East Malaysia axis around the Malay core. Najib conceded the crucial role of the “fixed deposit” states of Sabah and Sarawak in BN’s ultimate win in the last GE. As many see it, if not for these two states, there would have been a change of government in Malaysia. With Najib’s renewed emphasis on the Malay and bumiputra agenda, the New Economic Policy that officially ended in 1990 but was unofficially continued, has finally been resurrected in all but name. CEOs of all government-linked companies have been given KPIs to realise this goal on pain of seeing their contracts not renewed.

To complete the three-pronged strategy, Umno will go all out to win the young voters. In the next GE, some six million new voters will be casting for the first time. The majority are likely to be anti-establishment and anti-Umno. They could make a difference whether there will finally be a change of government or not in GE14. No wonder Najib made it clear: UMNO must win over the young voters and master the social media with which the young are savvy.
 
Implications

Umno’s eagerness to recover its eroded political ground has seen it responding in unexpected ways, with implications yet to be fully fathomed. Its readiness to march to its own drumbeat is a warning to friend and foe alike that the rules of the game will be set by Umno alone. 

To its ethnic-based political allies in BN, which are facing their own internal crises, the message is that the BN power-sharing system will be on Umno’s terms. To the opposition, the message is clear: whoever controls the Malay and Muslim ground will control power – and it is not going to be the opposition, which is not homogenous ethnically and ideologically. 

Umno is desperate to win. Going forward, all communities will be forced to ponder what this means for them and the country.

http://www.rsis.edu.sg/publications/Perspective/RSIS2362013.pdf?utm_source=getresponse&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=rsis_publications&utm_content=RSIS+Commentary+236%2F2013+Malaysia%E2%80%99s+Political+Outlook+2014%3A+Key+Challenges+Facing+Najib+by+Yang+Razali+Kassim+

Waz interesting is that PAS or a faction of PAS will decide if this strategy works: DAP and Anwar’s gang can only hope the moderates in PAS continue to hold power, and that UMNO doesn’t succeed in splitting PAS. In PAS, the conservatives outnumber the moderates among the PAS supporters. At the leadership level, there is an uneasy consensus between the moderates and conservativesnot to team up with UMNO. Even the conservative leaders have their doubts given that PAS was once a jnr partner of UMNO’s and got stabbed in the back repeatedly.

Now if UMNO decided that it would support the cutting off of limbs, the conservatives of PAS would have no choice but to team up with UMNO. Of course, there is likely a step too far for even UMNO.  But the logical remains (and tempation) remains for UMNO.

BT: Comparing apples to oranges again?

In Emerging markets, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam on 28/12/2013 at 7:27 am

(Or “Anti-PAP bloggers share LKY’s Hardest Truth)

Schroders plc and Baring Asset Management Ltd are avoiding Singapore stocks, the cheapest in South-east Asia, as slower economic growth in the region and cuts to Federal Reserve stimulus drive capital outflows.

The fund managers expect property to lead declines in Singapore amid a real-estate slump and the prospect of higher interest rates. The Straits Times Index was the worst-performing developed market in 2013, dropping 9.5 per cent since Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said in May that bond purchases may be reduced on signs of sustainable US recovery.

Surprised constructive nation-building (but mathematically challenged) BT reported things this way.

In US$ terms, among the bigger Asean stock mkts, only the M’sian stk mkt was better than us. Taz not saying much as only M’sia index ended in positive territory (juz) juz before hols

M’sia:          +3.2%

S’pore:          -6.0

Thailand:     -8.5

Indonesia:   -23.0

Got subversives in BT meh?

In the minnow Asean mkts Vietnam  was +24%, while Manila was +3.4% according to the MSCI indices.

Next yr is not going to be a gd yr for Asean countries, so the fact that Schroders and Barings are “avoiding” S’pore is no big deal for anti-PAP bloggers to brag about. Don’t know about you, but I get the sense that some of them hate the PAP so much that they end up cheering and being cheerful when S’pore tanks, for whatever reason. Looks like they agree with one LKY that S’pore and the PAP are one. They may hate him but they accept his premise?

Asean round-up returns next yr, god willing.

Pls spare migrant workers pennies from the $2.5bn++ they “gift” S’pore

In Economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 27/12/2013 at 4:30 am

(This is a follow-up to this on how Santa 2.0, the govt and Scrooge are related.)

TOC’s Terry Xu commented on Facebook a few days ago: The total foreign worker levies collected were S$2.5 billion for the Financial Year 2011 and S$1.9 billion for the Financial Year 2010. Similar to other sources of Government revenue, the foreign worker levies are not ringfenced for any specific purposes. All Government revenue collected would go into the Consolidated Fund used to fund Government expenditures in general.”

And it goes up even more in the year 2012, 2013 given that there are more workers and that the levies have increased since then … (Thanks Terry for this info. I’d been meaning to check up the quantum and use of the levies, but never got round to googling)

This means the govt can do more, a lot more, to ensure that these workers have better living and work environments, and are not exploited (This is how bad things can be: http://www.lianainfilms.com/2013/12/the-singapore-way/), without increasing the tax burden on S’poreans and others living here, or on the workers’ employers, and biz in general.

Surely some of this money can be used to set-up a medical insurance fund and a general welfare fund for these workers? Surplus for our SWFs to use to place bets on juz a bit smaller. True, we pay them wages but those wages are off-set by the Hard Truth that if they were not available, we’d be paying serious money to get workers or robots to do what they are currently doing for “peanuts”.

But I would like to remind the activists that there are worse places that migrant workers are willing to go to.

A November report produced by Amnesty International, the British-based rights group, found the Qatari construction industry to be “rife with abuse”, including forced labour and virtual slavery. Workers complained that their salaries were half what they were promised, or that they had not been paid at all for months. Others said their wages had been docked for taking five-minute breaks during 18-hour shifts in the searing summer heat. Sponsors routinely confiscate their employees’ passports, preventing them from changing jobs or leaving the country. In the most extreme cases, workers have paid with their lives: this summer 44 Nepalese migrants died in two months from heart failure or work-related accidents. The International Trade Union Confederation warns that as many as 4,000 labourers could perish during the next nine years of construction.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2013/12/football-and-labour-rights-qatar)

I’m not using the fact that are are worse places than S’pore to defend the S’pore Way: juz to try to put things in perspective. We are not “Swiss” enough, but we are not cruel slave masters, far from it. Interestingly, about 10 yrs I met an Iraqi who was working in ST. We got talking and somehow touched on employer/ employee relations: and he reminded me that the people of the Gulf had only stopped owning slaves legally in the early 20th century, and that there was a slave, master mentality there even in 2003.

Workfair and Maruah should campaign for the use of some of the $2.5bn to be used to provide medical insurance and other benefits, not against the deportation without, what they claim, is due process. I’ll blog on the deportation issue next week.

Ho Ho Ho: Santa = S’pore govt = Scrooge?

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 26/12/2013 at 5:54 am

Santa’s critics note that higher profits and productivity have not resulted in higher pay for the elves. They were seeing their real incomes squeezed even before the Fairy Tale of Wall Street had an unhappy ending in 2008, and then took pay cuts rather than lose their jobs. With welfare being cut, most plumped for a job over the dole even if it meant a cut in living standards.

Santa accepts that the workforce has made sacrifices. But he insists these are vital to keep the company going at a time of cut-throat global competition. The elves have to understand, he adds, that the alternative to zero-hour contracts and pay cuts would be that the jobs would be outsourced from Lapland to a lower-cost grotto in the far east.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2013/dec/22/santa-elves-living-standards-surveillance

Doesn’t Santa sound like PM or his dad or VivianB or “cheaper, faster” Zorro  etc? I’m so confident that readers will agree that I wouldn’t give examples. This isn’t ST.

As to Scrooge, this is how Dickens described Scrooge before Scrooge repented and became a Dr Chee type of person (actually better than Mad Dog  as Scrooge had his personal wealth to spend on the poor, Dr Chee is depending on our reserves and higher taxes)

“Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

“Even the blindmen’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

Mean of Dickens? Scrooge when asked for donations for the poor, “There are many things which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited” and  “Are there no prisons?”. Sounds very much like our very own VivianB when he was welfare minister?

Merry Christmas.

11 finance” movies worth watching over hols

In Uncategorized on 25/12/2013 at 4:49 am
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2013
 ‘Wolf’ Martin Scorsese’s film about Jordan Belfort is set join a long list of Wall Street movies that are focused more on frat-boy antics than financial wizardry.

The caricatures personified by Mr. Belfort, Gordon Gekko and the brokers in “Boiler Room” are well-known. “Boiler Room” even includes a long scene with the characters quoting from “Wall Street.”


Here are options for 10 very good (and some so bad they’re great) movies on finance that we’d rather see instead of spending time with our family this holiday.

  1. Trading Places” Money quote: “The people who own the pork belly contracts are saying, ‘Hey, we’re losing all our damn money, and Christmas is around the corner, and I ain’t gonna have no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip!'”
  2. Floored” Money quote: Almost every quote in this documentary on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is unprintable.
  3. Barbarians at the Gate” Money quote: “Kravis will eat you alive if you let him in.”
  4. The Secret of My Success” Money quote: “That was the best damn memo I ever read.”
  5. Other People’s Money” Money quote: “I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company?”
  6. Working Girl” Money quote: “I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”
  7. Rogue Trader” Money quote: “One of our traders in Singapore got drunk the other night and pulled a moon.”
  8. American Psycho” Money quote: “I can’t believe that Bryce prefers Van Patton’s card to mine.”
  9. Too Big to Fail” Money quote: “We don’t do this now, we won’t have an economy on Monday.”
  10. It’s a Wonderful Life.” Money quote: “Look, we’re still in business, we’ve got two bucks left!” This 1946 film may be the last time a banker was portrayed on film as a decent person.       From NYT’s DealBook

BT inflation headline talks sucks, really sucks

In Economy, Financial competency, Holidays and Festivals, Media on 24/12/2013 at 6:28 am

I recently blogged that the PAP should approach mrbrown to help PAP MPs in particular Baey and Tharman. Looks like BT needs his help in getting the facts “right”.Let me explain.

I waz planning to take a break from nasty, vicious blogging as it’s the time of peace and gooddwill towards men.

Happily for my inner Grinch , I read this

Core inflation inches higher, forecasts up
Economists point to higher inflation for next year with pressure from wages, business costs, COEs
… Inflation rose to 2.6 per cent year-on-year in November, from 2 per cent the previous month, with private-sector economists forecasting higher inflation for next year. In a statement yesterday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said core inflation – which strips out accommodation and private road transport costs – also picked up pace to 2.1 per cent in November, compared with 1.8 per cent in October.Based on the above, core inflation was up 16.7%. Taz’s “inching” in a month?

Trying to spin gold out of bull dust? Or is shumeone seriously drunk or mathematically challenged? BTW, inflation was up 30% in a month.

Santa, I want for Christmas “Headlines from a Mathematically Literate World”

Our World: Unemployment Rate Jumps from 7.6% to 7.8%
Mathematically Literate World: Unemployment Rate Probably a Little Under 8%; Maybe Rising, or Not, Can’t Really Tell

Our WorldFirm’s Meteoric Rise Explained by Daring Strategy, Bold Leadership
Mathematically Literate WorldFirm’s Meteoric Rise Explained by Good Luck, Selection Bias

Our WorldGas Prices Hit Record High (Unadjusted for Inflation)
Mathematically Literate WorldGas Prices Hit Record High (In a Vacuous, Meaningless Sense)

Read more

http://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2013/12/02/headlines-from-a-mathematically-literate-world/

And if interested on why core inflation was up 16.7% (can’t help think of “ponding”)

A higher headline inflation figure in November – marking the first time since March that inflation has risen beyond the 2 per cent level – was generally expected as it had been flagged by MAS and MTI previously.

The biggest driver was higher accommodation costs, which rose 3.3 per cent year on year from 1.9 per cent in October, when service and conservancy charges rebates to HDB households had kept housing-related costs down.

 

FTs: Humour free zone? Jokes prohibited?

In Humour, Internet on 23/12/2013 at 4:48 am

This blogger is ambivalent about Bertha Henson. The conventional wisdom is that this once Sith Lord in the making changed her spots after retiring from SPH* where she was a cyber warrior (general rank) at ST, no less, into a Jedi warrior. One of these days, I’ll go into the conspiracy theory as to why she could be a Trojan horse (and explain the inconvenient fact to said theory that MDA fixed her). But as this is Christmas, I’ll not be that Gringie.

Whether on not she is part of a black ops against us cowboys of S’pore’s cyberspace, she writes well, very well. She’s pretty witty too, and has mastered the dark art of black humour, if not satire. Example: http://berthahenson.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/personally-speaking-no-fund-intended/. And she loves journalism; she did a lovely piece on her accreditation  to an activist event: sorry lazy to find the article to link to it.

But despite being treated as Jedi both by the cowboys and the MDA and ST, she recently was attacked by two tua kee cyber activists (both ladies) on Facebook for writing  http://berthahenson.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/a-sunday-problem/. Read it for yrself  before going on to read their comments, and my take on the piece and them.

I’ll not name them, ’cause its Christmas and I’m no Grinch or Krampus. A man dressed as Krampus in Austria … pretty scary, huh?

One said: What a lovely way to dehumanise a group of people: make assumptions and fall back on stereotypes, while coming across as reasoned and reasonable. Dear Bertha, the problems facing migrant workers go beyond what happens to them on a Sunday. Of course, we only notice them on Sundays because they’re busy working themselves to the bone, building our city, cleaning our loos, clearing our trash and staying out of YOUR way the rest of the week. Where they go on their rest day really isn’t anyone’s problem but their own. Would YOU like your boss to tell you what to do when you’re not working?

Another wrote:

It is a very condescending article. From the very first paragraph you can see the belittling and patronising: “We have a problem. We have hundreds of thousands of foreign workers – and we don’t know what to do with them on Sundays. And they probably don’t know what to do with themselves on Sundays either.”

Why do we need to do anything with them on their off day – it is THEIR off day. And who are we to say that they don’t know what to do with themselves, simply because from our standpoint that don’t seem to be doing what we would prefer them to do (which is what, attend Alcoholics Anonymous and play friendly games of basketball in their dorms?)

The second paragraph is just as facepalm-worthy: “The foreign maid can stay “home” and be paid for not taking the day off. And even if they are out, they’re not likely to get into a drunken stupor and throw pieces of concrete around. They’ll just crowd somewhere until someone shoos them somewhere else.”

The fact that foreign domestic workers stay “home” on their day off potentially means that they will also be made to work on their day off. This is not a situation we should be okay with, much less use as a sort of “ah this is okay for FDWs, but what about the other migrant workers” example.

Also, migrant workers in Little India are also “not likely to get into a drunken stupor and throw pieces of concrete around”; just because a group of men did it once on one Sunday night – out of all the many Sunday nights over the many years that they DIDN’T do it – doesn’t make that entire group of people suddenly prone to doing it.

And the last sentence of that paragraph: “They’ll just crowd somewhere until someone shoos them somewhere else.” Like that’s an okay state of affairs too! Oh, these FDWs don’t bother us, they just hang about with their friends and if we Singaporeans don’t like it just shoo them away lah! <- How condescending and dehumanising is that?!

So just in the first two paragraphs already almost every single sentence is offensive. Wah lau.

Foreign workers should be able to do whatever they want on their days off. It is the Singaporean mindset – the one that tells us that we enlightened beings must take care of “those from the Indian subcontinent” because they don’t know what to do with themselves – that should change.

I think Ms Henson is having a dig at the govt’s uncaring attitude to solving a problem, any problem: everything has to be neat and tidy, and damn the human cost.

My take on her critics is that these two gals don’t do humour, at least when it comes to FTs. Or they may think that the issue should not be the subject of any humour: too serious to joke about. Bit like the attitude of the authorities in the aftermath of the riot: no alcohol, and apparently no Maruah meeting in restaurant private room which employs FTs. On the latter, scared that FTs will riot? Come on Maruah are wimps in action: talk cock, sing song. Sorry KH, can’t resist that.

But to be fair to the gals , one of Henson’s BN team “Liked” the second entry.  So maybe I’m wrong about said lady activists. Either that or her disciple is a Judas, or a sotong boy. I suspect the last is most likely.

Merry Christmas. Keep on feasting.

*A more classy, intelligent version of what Tan Kin Lian did after he retired from NTUC Income: resigning from the PAP and standing as the People’s Voice in the presidential election, where he lost his deposit and deprived us of cocking a snook at the PAP. The PAP’s preferred candidate won by around three hundred votes. But to be fair, TKL fought the gd fight for those who invested in securities that invested in credit-default notes. (Declaration of interest: I helped out there) Investors got a raw deal, but it could have been worse if not for TKL.( https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/helping-retail-investors-the-hk-way-and-the-spore-way/#more-7316 and https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/what-abt-high-notes-sm-goh/)

StanChart losing its shine

In Banks, Emerging markets, Temasek on 22/12/2013 at 7:08 am

Standard Chartered had a bad start to the hols. Last Monday, its shares fell sharply on the possibility that it might call for a rights issue in the wake of weakish results. They’ve since recovered but there was another sharp fall on Fridaty, albeit from a much recovered position.

It has also been forced to strip its finance boss of his responsibilities to oversee the lender’s risk division following pressure from the Bank of England.

Richard Meddings, who has been group finance director of Standard Chartered since November 2006, had to hand over governance responsibility of risk to Peter Sands after the Prudential Regulation Authority said it was concerned with Meddings holding two conflicting roles, according to news reports.

In particular, the PRA, the Bank of England’s financial watchdog, was concerned with the potential conflict between Meddings’ finance responsibility and his duty to oversee risk operations.

All this against the background that it is no longer  an ang moh favourite because emerging markets are no longer in fashion. Their economies are slowing while the Western economies are recovering. And the wall of money is returning to the West.

BTW, those readers of TRE who bitch that Temasek lost money on StanChart and say that I didn’t know this fact are daft: all they needed to do is to google up StanChart’s 10 yr price. But if anyone wants to see the numbers: here’s why.

 

Thailand: Huge ad, gd PR for PAP govt?

In Political economy on 21/12/2013 at 9:12 am

The PAP govt is forever warning that if it loses power, or even loses one more parly seat, chaos will ensure.

Happily 40% of voters no longer believe this self-serving nonsense (hence LKY had to warn Aljunied voters that they would repent; and sneerer of the elderly poor, ACS boy is highlighting every molehill of the WP Aljunied town council), though I must point out that .70% of voters voted for two prominent ex PAPpies in the presidential election. The ex-PAP man who denounced PAP lost his deposit. Dr Chee’s man only got 25%: credible but only ’cause there were two credible ex-PAPpies challenging one another.

So all the more surprising that our constructive, nation-building media hasn’t been highlighting the dire economic situation in Thailand which can be reasonably blamed on Thailand’s more democratic system. Now that BN has closed down, time to bring back Bertha Henson to ST and make her editor? Yaacob’s sis (and Cherian George’s Mrs) isn’t doing the “right” things by the PAPpies, Spock – another bald, pointy ears: SPH’s Managing Editor elder brother?– could conclude.

So far as investors and businessmen crave certainty and predictability, the only thing certain in Thailand these days is unpredictability. The prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, Mr Thaksin’s sister, now seems to have only the shakiest grasp on power. It’s a fair bet the election she has called for February 2014 will never even happen. She has assembled forums to discuss vague concepts of “reform”, to appease Mr Suthep. At the same time Mr Suthep pushes for a completely new government to be run by an unelected “people’s council”. That is also known as a coup.

For Thai businessmen, this is coming at the worst possible time: the beginning of the tourist season. Tourism is vital to the national economy. Last year the country pulled in about 22m visitors. Overall, the tourism-and-travel sector contributed about $28 billion to Thailand’s economy, which would make it worth 7.3% of GDP for 2012, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Including tourism-and-travel’s indirect impact on the economy would make the sector’s value rise to $64.3 billion, or 16.7% of GDP. The sector employs about 2m people directly, and far more indirectly.

There are already signs that the ongoing street protests and occasional political violence and thuggery are putting plenty of people off coming to the country—hardly surprising, as dozens of foreign governments have issued warnings against travelling to Thailand. The political situation is estimated to have reduced the number of inbound tourists in the month to mid-December by 300,000 people, or 8% of the number expected, says Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel.

That is worrying, as is the thought that the current turmoil could drag on to the election in February, or even longer if that proves inconclusive—in other words, throughout the high season. Mindful of the value of the tourism industry, Mr Suthep’s mobs have promised not to occupy and close down Bangkok’s international airport, as their predecessors, the “yellow shirts”, did in 2008. That is now well understood to have hurt the tourist industry, and the wider economy.

That will not be enough to offset the difference however, as even more tourists are now attuned to Thailand’s problems and willing go elsewhere on their merry ways. Bangkok also makes a bundle as a destination for conferences and conventions, but now organisers are actively considering going to other South-East Asian venues rather than endure the road closures and traffic chaos that accompany endless rounds of street demos (to say nothing of the threat of violence).

The government’s own grandiose spending plans have been thrown up in the air too.A key part of the government’s economic strategy had been to boost domestic demand by Keynesian-style spending, the political failure to have a functioning government has effectively undermined that whole strategy. Plans to borrow as much as $68 billion for new railways and roads are to be put on the back-burner as parliamentary and constitutional approval for these bills is delayed indefinitely. Many businesses, such as construction companies, stood to benefit from those expenditures, and now their plans have been derailed as badly as any holidaymaker’s. Thailand’s growth rate for 2013 is likely to weigh in at 3% or so, relatively modest for the region. The government’s hope to achieve a rate of 7% for 2014 now looks wildly optimistic.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/12/business-thailand

Merry Christmas, all, PAPpies and TRe readers, included.

No other Asean news for this week’s Asean-round-up. Lazy leh.

What mrbrown can teach PAP MP Baey

In Humour on 20/12/2013 at 4:56 am

Some time back, I read on Facebook a comment by mrbrown to the effect that in his line of work getting his facts “right” (Yaacob would be proud) is very important. Otherwise, no one would believe him in the future. And this from a joker.

Going by the grave that tampon-detective Baey is digging for himself, the PAP should be arranging for mrbrown to coach Baey and other PAP MPs* on the importance of getting their facts “right”. I mean Yaacob’s too busy on the nightmare that is Bertha Henson: like “Freddy” Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street film series, she keeps on haunting the MDA, and can’t be killed off. But the staff of MDA, and Yaacob should be glad that she is only haunting their dreams, she hasn’t killed any of them, yet.

I’m sure you all know about Baey’s $2.50 nasi padang. If not read, this account by TRE (only available for three months unless you are VIP member: even TRE agrees with the PAP govt  that those who pay, get better treatment. Taz the S’porean way given the many cheapos around.).

He wouldn’t have got himself into said hole if he had checked the cost of the dish before blogging on it. Instead he guessed and got netizens’ tits in a twist at the price.And on whether he lived in a bubble: “the elite’s bubble”.

He then compounded his initial mistake by explaining that he tot it cost $2.50 because, he gave $10, and got back $7, and as the bandung drink must have cost 0.50, the rice was $2.50.

So since when did bandung cost $0.50? More nasty comments followed.

But now it’s more than an issue of credibility and being out-of-touch with us common folks. He said, [The stallkeeper] acknowledged that his staff had recognised me that day and out of respect for my work and service in the community, charged me only $3 when it was more than $4.

Well as a TRE reader put it: If only ex chief of SCDF knew how to word his defence in getting bj from the woman out of respect and goodwill, he would not have been convicted of corruption.

Or as another reader put it: … Cecilia Sue also respect Ng Boon Gay’s work and gave him goodwill blowjobs. Why Ng Boon Gay got to resign? …

The issue is as SgCynic put it: Based on Baey Yam Keng’s reasoning, a lot of people are waiting to give presents to ministers and MPs out of respect and public service officers out of goodwill for the work they do.
We also respect our police officers for their beat and shall we give them gifts “out of goodwill”.
The glacerial slide to corruption begins…

To move on, Baey should do what this TRE reader suggested:

I remember a Minister once visited a Singapore departmental store on an official visit and was given a gift as a souvenir. I remember it to be a wallet or a belt or something like that. After some hoo-ha, the Minister admitted he was not aware of the price of the souvenir, and offered pay for the souvenir.

I suggest in this case, Baey should admit he was wrong not to be more careful about hawkers offering discounts to MPs , and that since it happened, and he is now aware such a favour was given, just pay for the balance and apologise for the ignorance of the market prices of food.

To mention anything else is pathethic [sic] and to link this to some charity now to score point is to add insult to injury.

But then Baey is a PAPpy and PAPpies don’t do apologies. And if Baey is any guide, they can’t even compare like to like. They prefer apples to oranges. I let TRE explain:

To find out the actual price of a typical nasi padang meal, Mr Baey ordered mutton, egg and a veggie from the nasi padang stall on Sunday (15 Dec). This time, the owner charged him the “full price” of $3.70.

“However, some netizens still refused to accept that it was the reality and insisted that I had been ‘corrupt’ again. I decided that any explanation was futile and I would just let actions speak for themselves,” Mr Baey concluded.

Actually, if Mr Baey had wanted to compare apple with apple, he should have ordered a piece of chicken and two veggies, plus a bandung drink – the exact same food he ordered on 11 December. Then Singaporeans would know how much actual “goodwill” he received from the stall owner that day.

BTW, Siew Kum Hong said on FB that he doesn’t  “see the point in making so much of” Baey’s mistakes.

My FB avater posted in response: PAppies are nowadays always fair game juz as JBJ and Dr Chee were fair game for the PAP and our constructive, nation-building media when LKY was in charge. Change under son is commendable but the past is still catching up with the PAP. Karma.

On this cheerful note, have a gd time but don’t drive and drink.

*Esp ministers

— Tharman

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/tharman-trying-to-tell-jokes-again/

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

— Hng Kiang

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

— Lee Jnr on world food prices

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

TRE readers are illiterate in economics and finance

In Economy, Financial competency, Property on 19/12/2013 at 4:51 am

Or at least many are. Let me explain.

TRE posted this piece of mine on Reits.

It provoked a long rant* from someone called Armchair Anarchist. His or her basic grumble against the govt was that interest rates should have been raised a few back to curb various ills including rising property prices. It received huge positive ratings. And there are no dissenting views, not one.

Last yr around this time, I met an old friend at a function. He was an ISD detainee (short while and it seems ’cause dad was Barisan partisan)) and a strike leader. He later got a MA in Econs and was in admin service (taz meritocracy at work in S’pore, TRE readers, at least 30 yrs ago) before becoming a wheeler-dealer.He was, and is a proud S’porean. No S’pore hater he.

We were discussing what Tharman would do in 2013 to control inflation and property prices given that he couldn’t use interest rates, and the policy of strengthening the currency slowly was not working to control inflation or property prices.

We knew that raising interest rates would only make things worse. Given that everyone (except TRE, TOC and TRS readers) think that S’pore is a safe haven, raising interest rates will result in more foreign money pouring in to take advantage of the better yield here. The currency will be pushed up and exports and services will become uncompetitive. Prices of  most properties (and other assets) will rise. FTs will be willing to accept lower wages, ’cause S$ worth a lot more in their home currencies.

The result: a recession, unemployment among locals, deflation and rising asset prices (except possibly for HDB flats and low end condos: S’porean PMEs default ’cause they lose jobs to FTs). He and I and others with access to credit would make a killing buy low-end condos and renting them out to FT PMEs.

Is this what TRE readers want for Christmas and Chinese New Year?

Are they that deft?

—-

*Armchair Anarchist:

S-REITs payouts lean towards the high side of the global REIT market (e.g. average dividend yield of around 6+% compared to less than 5% in Japan and Germany, 6% UK). If dividends are cut by 20-25%, the yield is still relatively attractive given the dearth of high yielding instruments in Singapore.

But I do find MAS’s warning rather strange. If they are indeed worried about such things as REITs and the health of the Singapore financial sector in face of a potential rise in interest rates, the MAS ought to have engineered such a rise in rates at least 2 years ago and taken the froth out of REITS, the property market and reduced the risk in Singaprean banks’s balance sheets. Why issue warning now that the Fed may begin to taper when the MAS ought to have acted long ago? The easy financing for real estate speculation and the rise in inflation are not new. These had been with us for a few years now and are clear warning signs that interest rates are too low and liquidity too plentiful in Singapore. Look at bank deposit rates and CPF ordinary account rates: we suffered from negative real interest rates when adjusted for the underlying inflation rate (CPI is too crude, PCE deflator is a better indicator). When real rates are negative, the ordinary savers suffered as the value of their savings are inflated away. But it is great for speculators and big companies because it provides a very cheap source of debt financing.

Seems to me, the MAS is probably basking in the reflected glory of superior GDP growth while sleeping on the job in terms of forecasting the real threat to the economy. Another bunch of over-paid, incompetent elites?

Rating: +25 (from 25 votes)

Armchair Anarchist:

I like expand a little bit more on MAS caution regarding rise in interest rates.

My view is MAS left it rather late in the day to caution and to act if necessary. Certain sectors will be hit, not least real estate which had several adrenalin shots that propel values ever higher. But, for our savings and long term investments, it is no bad thing if interest rates are going up. It is my conviction that not just exercising political repression, the govt also exercise financial repression. I said before our AAA-rating is absolutely great for GLCs and big companies but a total disaster for ordinary citizens who have to save and invest for retirement and the rainy day. The Govt incessant extraction of revenues from all sorts of economic activity (tax, COE, surcharges etc)result in persistent budget surplus because in their anti-welfare extremism, the govt do not spend much on social, health and infrastructure programmes. Therefore, our bond yields are artificially low because the govt do not really need to borrow. The govt actually pretend that our CPF rates are pegged to market but in effect the govt control the levers of the bond markets giving themselves a low financing rate. The effect is that we received bugger-all out of bank deposits, CPF and bonds. Singapore company dividends are lousy because whatever crap they pay is still higher than CPF and bond yields.

So let interest rates go up. At least it reverse the equation slightly in favour of the man in the street rather than have the Govt, the GLCs and the big companies indulged themselves in winner-takes-all.

Rating: +20 (from 20 votes)

From the wearing of tudung to single mums, govt always got excuse to do what it wants to do

In Political governance on 18/12/2013 at 5:52 am

A few weeks ago, there was a media report that Halimah Yacob, our tudung-wearing Parllimentary Speaker, had said at a NUS forum that the govt could only help unwedded mothers more only to the extent that society allowed it to: implying, to me, that the govt wanted to offer more help but couldn’t because of societal constraints. How convenient, I tot, to blame the views of society for not doing the right thing by the children of the mums.

Funnily, earlier this year, when there was a call to allow the use of the tudung in the uniformed services, the Malay minister mumbled that it was a complex issue*. The govt could have said “Yes. Society has accepted the wearing of the tudung in public”. After all, it’s a common sight in govt offices, and official spaces where the public is served by un-uniformed staff. It’s common in the private sector, even when uniforms are used. Contrast that with the time when Ms Yacob was in NUS Law School. She wore the tudung but it wasn’t a common sight on campus or in public.

Given the complexities of S’pore’s mix of cultures, religions and ethnicities, one can understand the govt’s caution on the issue of allowing the use of the tudung in the uniformed services. This is compounded, by as I understand it, that the use of the tudung is not banned as such in the uniformed services. It is “banned” in the sense that what is not allowed is prohibited. Only Sikh men are allowed to have traditional headgear in the uniformed services.

The issue that the govt and we have to be wary about is changing the existing rules in a secular society when religious practices  have “moved on” even though secular society here does not have a problem with accepting the said practice. We have to avoid unintended consequences i.e. fear the “unknown unknowns”**.

But, based on the comment that more help for unwedded mums depended on society’s views of their status, made by a lady who always wears a tudung in public even when presiding in parliament I cannot help but feel, no matter how irrational the tot, that the govt is not interested in deciding whether to allow the tudung to be used in the uniformed services. It’s muttering that the issue is complex is an excuse not to make a decision, any decision.

I raise the tudung issue because of something I read recently.

In the UK, there was a public row when Universities UK (UUK) said that, under some circumstances, segregated seating would be allowed if requested by speakers from orthodox religious groups. It now seems that UUK has withdrawn that “advice”.  Below is an extract from the BBC on how commentators and newspapers see the row. Read it to see the ethical issues that can arise when thinking, discussing the ethics of religious freedom and social values.

Class apart

Discussing the papers for the BBC’s News Channel, Westminster editor of the Daily Record Torcuil Crichton said it was no surprise to see the Times reveal that Universities UK (UUK) had “folded” over its policy of allowing the segregation of men and women at certain Islamic events.

“It’s an interesting ethical argument,” he said, “You get religious freedom… but when that comes up against social values and social laws and the law of the land, for example on equality, something has to give and usually it’s the religion.”

Broadcaster and campaigner David Akinsanya agreed the policy had to be “quashed”, but added: “There are other areas within society where people are being segregated, within different communities in the country.”

The Sun says Britain’s universities have long been “the standard-bearers for free speech” – something that has only been achieved “by sticking rigidly to the principle of equality, irrespective of gender, race or religion”.

Linking the situation to that in South Africa, Graeme Archer, in the Daily Telegraph, says UUK “has given succour to injustice merchants whose politics are just as wicked as those who devised race-based apartheid”.

Lastly, in the Times itself, Janice Turner says the UUK ruling may have been defeated, “but the challenges to secular principles that enshrine equality will go on”. Gender segregation, the veiling of women, the push for sharia, all demonstrate, she writes, that “gender apartheid is not a sideshow of radical Islam, but intrinsic to it.”

*He great mumbler. Remember?

— “Worse case scenario” when one LKY said incorrect things about M– alays

— Floods that happen only once in every 50 yrs when they were happening every few months.

— People must get the “right” facts.

“*In Indonesia, where there is an ongoing flip-floping on the use of the tudung by policewomen:

You allow one [religious] symbol, what if other officers from other religions what to have their symbols [displayed on their uniforms] too?” asked Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia, a Muslim scholar and researcher on gender in Islam. “I think officers should never accentuate their [personal] identities.”

Pietri Dona, a 26-year-old police officer who works at the National Police’s communication department in Jakarta and is a Muslim, said that while she respects her fellow officers who want to wear headscarves, she felt that wearing the same uniforms is best, since allowing some officers to dress differently might create divisions in the police force.

http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/12/15/viewpoint-indonesias-headscarf-debate/

Temasek’s had gd yr on US energy investments

In Energy, Temasek on 17/12/2013 at 4:39 am

Many moons ago TRE told us that Temasek owns bonds in Chesapeake that are convertible at US$27 (issued when stock was around 23-25). And that the bonds were deeply underwater: the shares went as low as below 15 (Sorry the TRE link no longer is working ’cause of TRE’s new system of trying to get money from stone) Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/gd-news-for-temasek-on-chesapeake/

Well over a yr later, the shares closed yesterday at  26.79, having traded as high as 27.50 in recent months. Let’s see if TRE updates its story on Chesapeake. Suspect pigs will fly first. What say you Richard, TeamTRE?

There’s more. On 16 August, MediaCorp’s freesheet (ST Lite) reported: Temasek Holdings has sold its 4 per cent stake in Cheniere Energy after a surge in the share price of the United States natural gas importer, just 15 months after it unveiled the purchase as part of its “longer-term interest” in the energy sector.

The move is a sign of Temasek’s willingness as a self-professed “active investor” to realise profits. But it also comes after Temasek last year billed the stake as part of a broader plan to cooperate with Cheniere and US private equity group RRJ Capital to take advantage of the US shale gas revolution.

“The shares had a decent run over the past year,” said Mr Enrico Soddu, an analyst at the London-based Institutional Investor’s Sovereign Wealth Center. “Temasek just seized the opportunity to make a solid profit.”

Temasek sold 9.2 million Cheniere shares either directly or through affiliates in the second quarter, valuing the stake at US$257 million (S$326.2 million), according to a quarterly filing of its US stock holdings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shares in Cheniere had climbed as much as 200 per cent by the end of the second quarter after Temasek and RRJ announced in May last year they would spend about US$468 million on an equity investment in Cheniere.

Temasek and RRJ were to have formed a marketing company with Cheniere to sell liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia in a bet on rising shale gas production and exports to the region.

Pisa’s defects as the benchmark of educational excellence

In Uncategorized on 16/12/2013 at 4:40 am

Yes, I’m making a conscious effort to sit down and shut up on the two topical issues of the day: the riot and Breakfast Network’s suicide. Both issues have had some netizens talking sense, but more often than not rubbish.

The Pisa league table which ranks test results of students from 65 countries is taken very seriously b y the govt and media here because S’pore’s educatio system does very well on the results. They can throw this ranking at the face of pushy, aggressive parents whose kids can’t get into RI, St Nick or SCGS, or at the kay pohs who believe that ang mohs are tua kees (ang mohs do badly relative to the slit eyes of East Asia).

Maths scores

But do realise that S’pore is being compared to entire countries

Are regions a better way of measuring results?

The headline results for these tests are about the performance of countries or at least big Chinese regional education systems that are as big as countries, such as Shanghai or Hong Kong.

But this year’s results show much more local detail. And it often entirely contradicts the national picture.

For instance, the education system in the United States has been seen as one of the great under-performers, struggling among the below-average stragglers.

Go down to state level and it can be an entirely different story. Massachusetts would be a match for the best European systems. There are similar examples in Italy and Spain. Wales is a long way behind the other parts of the UK.

What this means, the OECD says, is that there are often bigger differences within countries than between countries. And if one region can perform so well, why not the rest of the country?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25205112

This aside, there are things that are wrong other than the fact that only the Chinese provide their own, unverifiable data.

— Different questions

About 4,000 children in each of the 65 countries are subjected to the test, which lasts for two hours.

But only a small number of pupils in each school answer the same set of questions.

The reason for this is that Pisa wants to measure a comprehensive set of skills and abilities, so it draws up more questions than a single child could answer (about four-and-a-half hours’ worth) and distributes them between different exam papers.

Pisa then uses a statistical model, called the Rasch model, to estimate each student’s latent ability. They also extrapolate from each student’s answers how they would have fared if they had answered all the other questions, had they been given them.

This approach has its critics. One is quoted below.

David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, says this practice raises its own questions.

“They are predicted conditional on knowing the difficulties of the questions – as if these are fixed constants,” he says.

But he thinks there is actually “considerable uncertainty” about this.

Furthermore, a question that is easy for children brought up in one culture may not be as easy for those brought up in another, Spiegelhalter says. “Assuming the difficulty is the same for all students around the whole world” is a mistake, he argues.

So when you see the league table of countries, the first thing to understand is that each country has been ranked according to an estimate of national performance.

— Educational attainment against well-being

South Korea might have come near the top of the educational rankings, but they come bottom in the rankings of happiness at school, Spiegelhalter notes – and Finland is only just above Korea.

— Drop-out rates matter:

But Mr Bodewig adds that the score may be impressive in part because so many poor and disadvantaged Vietnamese students drop out of school. The World Bank reports that in 2010 the gross enrolment rate at upper-secondary schools in Vietnam was just 65%, compared with 89% and 98% in America and Britain, respectively. South Korea’s rate was 95%.

Are TI students included in S’pore’s students that are tested? I assume normal stream students are? If not …

— Tuition helps:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/12/education-vietnam

Finally, I hope netizens stop pushing the Finnish model: it’s now crap

Seekers after educational excellence once used to head pilgrim-like towards Finland. This was the most quoted example of a high performing school system, even though in many ways it was a very distinctive and individual system. Scandinavia was the education world’s sensible successful neighbour.

But Finland has slipped downwards and the gloom has spread across Nordic countries, with Sweden among the biggest fallers. Norway and Denmark are absent from the top end of the tables. Their sluggish performances has been overtaken by countries such as Estonia, Poland and Ireland.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25205112

Mandela’s economic and sporting legacies

In Uncategorized on 15/12/2013 at 8:33 am

On the economy, his legacy is mixed. In sport, he used rugby to unite a nation, especially getting the Boers to accept black rule by getting the blacks to accept the ‘Boks.

No Keynesian he

Nelson Mandela, who has died aged 95, was a rare and brave leader. But economically he was, ironically enough, too timid. He set post-apartheid South Africa on course toward a mostly free market economy with stable finances, avoiding the errors of others like neighboring Zimbabwe. But he left the country slow-growing and still suffering from inequality.

Mandela was an orthodox follower, reining in government spending so that public debt gradually declined as a percentage of GDP while pursuing a government-directed industrial strategy that encouraged the development of major black-controlled industrial groups. Foreign investment by multinationals was tolerated, provided the government and favored domestic groups were involved.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingviews/2013/12/05/mandelanomics-was-too-conventional-to-shine/

n some senses, Mr Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) inherited an economy that was heading for bankruptcy.

So, it was to prove a difficult task to create a silk purse of an economy from the pig’s ear that Apartheid had left behind. However, many analysts point out that great strides were made in delivering some of the Freedom Charter aspirations in the early years of the new South Africa.

Dawie Roodt, chief economist at the Efficient Group, says: “Many millions of people got running water, electricity, etc.

“But the infrastructure was neglected, and slowly state inefficiency and corruption became serious problems.”

A good start but efforts faltered esp after he left office

On the surface, at least, things looked good at the start. Inflation, which was running at 14% before 1994, fell to 5% within 10 years.

South Africa’s budget deficit, which was 8% in 1997, fell to 1.5% in 2004. Interest rates dropped from 16% to under 9% in the first decade of the ANC government.

Once sanctions were dropped, South African exports blossomed. Before Mr Mandela took the oath of office, just 10% of the country’s goods were earmarked for export. By the turn of the century nearly a quarter of them were.

It wasn’t just economic numbers on sheets of paper. In the 14 years after 1996, the proportion of South Africans living on $2 (£1.22) a day fell from 12% to 5%.

Annabel Bishop, group economist at Investec, says South Africa’s economy has “essentially doubled in real terms” since the fall of apartheid, growing at an average of 3.2% a year since 1994, as opposed to only 1.6% per annum for the 18 years prior to the end of white minority rule.

She also points out that the real tax revenues have effectively doubled since 1994, which has enabled the government to expand social welfare.

“The state provision of basic services has been extensive,” she says.

But the early years still had to contend with huge problems. Apartheid had created rampant unemployment among the black population, an albatross that continues to hang around the economy’s neck almost two decades later.

South Africa’s official unemployment rate has hovered around 25% for years, and youth unemployment is much higher. By some measures half of those under 25 are out of work.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23041513

Nelson Mandela with Francois Pienaar

Nelson Mandela may have been the first global leader to use sport as a tool to unite people and to redefine a country’s international image.

And even before he was released from prison, Mandela had identified sport as a way of achieving a multi-racial country.

It’s hard to believe now but at the time the green and gold shirt was still deeply associated with the racial struggle in South Africa.

Mandela defied his advisers to wear it, knowing in an instant how the gesture could do more for harmony and equality than years of talks.

Pienaar, like most young white men in the country, had grown up believing Mandela was a terrorist. And the Springboks captain had to convince his team to learn the words to the country’s new national anthem, previously a song of black protest.

And yet after meeting him in the dressing room before the final and that presentation on the pitch at Ellis Park, Pienaar described him as the “symbol of everything that is good about humanity.”

http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/25262862

“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers,” Mandela.

LKY must be angry LOL

In Footie, Malaysia on 14/12/2013 at 6:43 am

(Asean round-up)

Remember LKY saying Johor was full of crime?

Well whatever the truth of that, at least FTs have not rioted in M’sia. Taz, the message MediaCorp’s ST Lite has reported on an inside page: The police and Immigration Department have been put on alert at foreign worker enclaves across Malaysia after the riot in Singapore last week, the country’s Home Minister said in a report in The Star newspaper yesterday …

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said officers have been instructed to monitor areas where foreign workers congregate, especially those identified as potential hot spots for outbreaks of violence.

Dr Ahmad Zahid was quoted by The Star as saying: “We are always observing the activities of foreign workers and are ready to overcome any potential threat … We are also looking at workers’ quarters nationwide, so the public need not worry.”

Locations under surveillance include landmarks in the heart of the capital, such as the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, which houses the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

Between May 30 and June 4, three Myanmar nationals were killed and several others injured in fights in various areas in Kuala Lumpur. The authorities subsequently arrested more than 1,000 Myanmar nationals during raids in Kuala Lumpur and parts of Selangor. [Had to tell us this]

But ST Lite saboed our govt’s attempts to say that there was no evidence working conditions were a cause of the riot (How ministers know leh? If so why call CoI?) by reporting: Growing discontent among foreign workers in Malaysia due to poor working conditions, discrimination and low wages is like a “time bomb”, Bernama yesterday quoted the leader of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) as saying.

MTUC President Khalid Atan said the riot in Singapore should serve as a wake-up call and the organisation called on the Human Resource Ministry to hold a tripartite meeting between the government, employers and employees to map out a strategy to prevent rioting by foreign workers.

He said the MTUC felt the government should take steps to reduce and even curtail the recruitment of foreign workers until it has a plan to address their basic needs and rights.

Anyway, let’s cheer on our LionsXII. Looks like the game against Laos was the exception due to the courage of Laos’ ten men. Credit to Laos, not shame on our LionsXII. If our XII do well in this tournament (gold medals) Fandhi will have a problem. But taz his problem, not ours.

 

 

Why a 2015 GE is now more probable

In Economy, Political governance on 13/12/2013 at 6:03 am

(Note there is an update since first publication at the end to reflect the PAP’s calls for ideas on how to celebrate a coming 50th anniversary.)

I’ve been beating the DRUMS that 2014 is the last window that the govt can raise prices because the GE has to be held sometime in 2016 and raising prices in 2015 is too close for comfort. I’ve also been drumming that an election in 2015 is possible.

Well going by one report and one speech. last week,  an election in mid 2015 is  more than probable

The report: Singapore’s economic growth will stay strong in the next two years relative to the other countries in Asean, despite the cooling of China’s economic engine, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has predicted.

The independent consultancy said in its latest quarterly report that healthy increases in consumption and strong exports will boost Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 per cent this year.

Next year, strong momentum and greater demand will push up its economic growth to 4.1 per cent.

In the year after, 2015, Singapore’s growth will ease, but remain robust at 3.9 per cent, said the Cebr report entitled “Economic Insight, Southeast Asia”.

(http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/spore-economy-stay-pink-next-2-years-20131205)

The speech: Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing  said the PAP has to deliver a better life for Singaporeans during its term of government, and also convince the people that it is the best party to deliver beyond this term. He was addressing addressed 1,000 PAP members at the party’s annual gathering on Sunday morning.

He, who is also the PAP Organising Secretary, said the party will act to “deliver, enable and communicate”*.

(Aside, netizens are missing the point by focusing Chan’s call for party members to “continuously and strenuously defend the common space for people to speak up”.

“If we do not stand up for what we believe, other people will occupy that space and cast us into irrelevance. We must not concede the space – physical or cyber . . . We will have to do battle everywhere as necessary.” 

And netizens are not making hay that the FT rioters really listened to him, unlike Sheep, Singkies S’poreans)

So, returning to the issue of a GE in 2015, the ground is likely to be sweet in mid, late 2015. In addition to a decent economy (other Asean countries too will do well), S’poreans would have forgotten about the early 2014 price rises in public tpt etc, lulled by the goodies in the 2015 Budget, improving public tpt, steady HDB prices, and propaganda that the govt is no longer pro-FTs and that it cares for S’poreans.

On the last point, there will a lot of smoke about the need for FT manual workers for the infrastructure projects. Already an ex-ST editor (who is it is alleged had designs on the top job in ST) was quoted (singing for X’mas goodies?**) as saying,  “It will be tough for the (government) to fulfill its promises on infrastructure development without foreign manpower,” observed Singaporean blogger Bertha Henson. “And it would not make sense for citizens to advocate such a tightening of the tap that it compromises our own future.”. One of these days I’ll blog on why her first statement is an exaggeration, that is straight out of the PAP’s spin book.

Then after the GE, and PAP has its more than two-thirds majority, and its toilet-trained WP***, the balance, let rip the GST increase, price rises and resume the flood of FTs?

What can the paper warriors do to counter the paper generals? In late 2014, and in 2015, it is impt for S’pore Notes, TOC, TRE (if it hasn’t closed down in disgust at the failure of its ungrateful readers to fund its continued existence: they expect Andrew, Richard etc not only to work for free, but to fund the servers needed), the other tua kee bloggers, and the ikan bilis to keep reminding voters to ask the PAP if after the GE, the govt will increase GST, or other taxes, or the cost of services, or allow in more FTs (to achieve a population of 8m, more than the White Paper projection of 6.9m). Of course, the PAP leaders and ministers will will say not say, “YES”, lest they lose a few more GRCs.

The PAP will then be held accountable for their pre-election promises, if the promises are broken, somewhere down the line, hopefully. But then, the PAPpies may play the same cyclical, cynical game again, knowing that S’poreans got short memories: even sheep got better memories.

Update on 27th January at 4.05am: I’ve been asked why I didn’t mention the 50th anniversary celebrations as an election feel good factor. The reason is that this is a two-edged sword. If handled in the traditional PAP manner (Soviet, Chinese, North Korean parades) style, it would remind older S’poreans (like self) of the difference in the quality of the PAP leadership. I think the PAP realises this. Witness the spate of ministers asking S’poreans for ideas on how to celebrate 50 yrs of independence? Since when has the PAP listened to the people?

—-

*“The world has changed, and so must we,” declared Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Mandarin yesterday at the biennial People’s Action Party (PAP) convention.

To that end, the ruling party has adopted a new resolution statement – its first in 25 years – which reinterprets the PAP’s goals so as to stay relevant “in this new phase and with the new generation”.

“This is a strategic shift,” said Mr Lee. “Although the content looks similar, its meaning is different. This is a new frame of thinking for the PAP, to make the party’s long-term goals more relevant to the needs of society today.”

As the culmination of five engagement sessions with party members (spread over the course of three months), the main thrust of the new eight-point resolution involves upholding an “open and compassionate meritocracy” in a “fair and just society” with “opportunities for all Singaporeans”.

“We rely on free markets to grow the pie but will moderate its excesses . . . We support a progressive system of benefits and taxes to enable all to enjoy quality education, good housing, and affordable healthcare,” (Extract from BT)

**She juz kanna saboed by MDA as readers will know.

***

Men in White wearing blue

Men in Blue wearing white. Yup Auntie’s a man. Wonder if Kim Song noticed? (OK, OK, I sorry for being mean to an old RI boy).

MU’s woes attract a Bear

In Footie on 13/12/2013 at 4:57 am

 The British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey is making a multimillion-dollar bet that MU’s shares will fall. Moysie will prove him wrong!

Not yet reported by MSM: Google builds HDB-type data centre here

In Economy on 12/12/2013 at 6:40 am

And it’sw a global first

Google has opened its first ever data centres in Asia as it wants to grow further in the region: one is in S’pore, the other in Taiwan. The one in Taiwan is bigger.

Singapore’s small size inspired us to try something a little different. Instead of spreading the data center out, we built it up, creating our first urban, multi-story data center. Our neighbors include a local primary school and several HDBs (for non-Singaporeans, HDBs are publicly run housing, which around 85% of Singaporean’s call home).

Our first multi-story data center

http://googleasiapacific.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/our-first-data-centers-in-asia-are-up.html

Bang yr balls in frustration all you S’pore self-haters, esp the cheapos who read TRE but who are unwilling to fund it.

 

Central bank cautions on Reits

In Property, Reits on 12/12/2013 at 6:02 am

[A] Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) report … warned that a rise in rates will hit Reits – and lower their dividends.

Reits own a portfolio of property and pay investors regular dividends out of their income – the property rentals received.

The central bank’s financial stability review noted that Reits need to distribute 90 per cent of any taxable income to unitholders.

So these vehicles have limited retained earnings and are dependent on capital markets and banks to meet their financing needs.

The MAS estimated that the ease with which Singapore-listed Reits would be able to pay their interest bills would fall markedly once interest rates headed north.

The median “interest cover” for Singapore-listed Reits would fall from 6.8 to 3.5 times if interest rates were to rise by 3 percentage points, the MAS estimated.

The interest cover is a ratio used to determine how easily a company can pay interest on its debt – the higher the ratio, the easier the interest can be paid.

The MAS also warned that higher interest rates would likely increase interest expenses and lead to lower dividend payouts. Reits might then appeal less to investors, capping their ability to raise more cash from capital markets.

On the bright side, the debt maturity profile of Reits is better now than before the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

A smaller proportion of borrowings by Reits are due for refinancing in the next two years.

The MAS also issued a warning over the larger corporate sector.

“If interest rates were to rise from their currently low levels, firms’ debt-servicing burdens could increase significantly.”

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid=1011063489-19666-9955500363

Don’t blame govt if Reits tank after you buy buy.

Possible gd alt to Reits for the KS: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/temaseks-fab-5-spore-blue-chips/. While the yields are not as high, some pretty lowish in fact, they are not highly leveraged and have maintained steady pay-outs.  And think ComfortDelgro and even SMRT (fare rises leh)

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/where-reits-can-go-wrong/

S’poreans are over-reacting to the riot

In Political governance, Public Administration on 11/12/2013 at 5:26 am

But first, really I expect more of the president and the police commissioner

— President Tony Tan Keng Yam has urged Singaporeans not to let the violence in Little India last night undermine their confidence in the society. Instead, he said, the people should redouble their commitment to keep Singapore safe, peaceful and strong.

— Police commissioner Ng Joo Hee said of the riot,”It is not the Singapore way.”

Lest they forget, the riot was not started by S’poreans. “Police in Singapore have arrested 27 South Asian suspects after hundreds of people took part in a riot sparked by the death of an Indian national …About 400 foreign workers took to the streets, hurling railings at police and torching police cars and an ambulance.” BBC report.

So why should the president ask us to redouble [our] commitment to keep Singapore safe, peaceful and strong? What did we do wrong? Taz the typical reaction of a PAP govt minister: blame S’poreans. But the president? He is above politics.

Of course ,”It is not the Singapore way.” The rioters were FTs.

And what by the way, one can reasonably ask is the S’porean way in a place where the foreign workforce is 25% of the population?. There are  1.3 million FTs as of June, out of a total 5.3 million people: 25% of the population. The 1.3m figure excludes the 0.54m (as of 2011) PRs who are counted as local. Include them as FTs and at least 35% of the population is foreign.

But I won’t go into a tirade about the presidency or the police because I’m willing to assume that the president and the police chief are like most S’poreans (self excluded) shell-shocked by said riot.

Let’s start at the top. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to convene a Committee of Inquiry (COI), which will look into the factors that led to the unrest and how the incident was handled on the ground. “It will also review the current measures to manage areas where foreign workers congregate, whether they are adequate, and how they can be improved.

What for?

After all, he did say it was an “isolated incident caused by an unruly mob”.

The riot was contained pretty fast and efficiently with no loss of life except of that of the accident victim. One could have reasonably wondered why the police allowed their vehicles to be overturned so easily. I tot they should have fired warning shots which might have “sobered” the rioters. But I’m happy with the explanation that the police took a deliberate decision to be “restrained” even if such restraint resulted in my friend’s car being burnt and police-cars being overturned. So I ask again , why a CoI?

Waste of time and tax-payers’ money with money being spent on expensive lawyers, if as I expect, lawyers are allowed to be used.

And at the other end of the spectrum, the human rights kay pohs are filled with angst and self-examination. They are talking (they great at talking the talk, bit like the PAP govt on FT policies) of organising shumething, anything, to achieve reconciliation and gd karma. What for?

The vast majority of the visitors to riot area are not violent, aggressive people. They are there to have a gd time after labouring hard.

And in between, TRE and TOC readers are blaming the govt for everything, Gilbert Goh’s fans are stroking hatred of non-S’poreans, and PAPpists are blaming S’poreans (esp netizens) for being anti-FT and anti-PAP. Mercifully, none of the usual suspects are shouting, like some of them did, at the height of the panic for face masks (remember that?) thaz it’s OK to spread allegations to Facebook friends and that by so doing they are helping the govt. They argue that the govt can counter the rumours that said activists are spreading to their “friends”. If the actions weren’t dangerous, reckless behaviour, the self-justifications would be laughable.

That there has been no riot since 1969 prior vto this riot is neither here nor there. Given that S’pore has always been one of the most densely packed places in the world, there was (and is) the possibility that something like this could happen at any time. That it didn’t happen could be due to luck (juz like two once-in every-50- yr floods occurring in the space of months). Or it could be due to the way LKY ruled the place (remember he retired as MM only two yrs ago and he approved of how  Deng Xiaoping dealt with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests*)? Or it could be due to the changing composition of S’pore’s work force** and population.

My personal view is that we were juz lucky especially in having Sheep S’poreans whose reaction to the fatal accident that started the riot would be to take a look, take a few pics and then move on muttering: “Not my biz”. If Napoleon had S’poreans in Animal Farm, he wouldn’t have needed such brutal dogs.

Wouldn’t it be better to have for the CoI to look into whether the changing demographics of S’pore have caused cultural and societal changes, building-up tensions that can explode given the right mixture of ingredients.

But then PM isn’t that shell-shocked.

I wonder if the PAPpy FT academic calling for a population of 8m by 2030 will be allowed to continue shouting his message. If  there is a riot (a riot that causes so much angst) in a population of 5.3m, 25% of whom are FTs, imagine a scenario where there are 8m people here where 37% are FTs***? If one includes PRs, then the percentage of FTs would jump to 53%. I’m use simple extrapolation to derive these numbers.

Update at 8.50am after first publication

Related article that I urge social media users and the usual suspects who argue that sharing rumours helps the govt rebut them:

Sharing information without context can inflame a situation 

From

Frances Ess

10 December

While the riot in Little India has saddened and shocked many Singaporeans, all of us must be responsible when we share information on social media. I have always reminded my children that “a text without context is a pretext”.

For example, one website used emotional words to describe how the riot was handled. Others were more responsible and reported only the facts, so as not to stir up unnecessary anger against all foreign workers.

Based on what was trending on Twitter, I am glad that most Singaporeans possessed the critical faculty to check for the facts and not believe everything they read.

For example, it was claimed at one point that three civilians and two policemen had been killed. Thankfully, that message died in time.

Most Singaporeans are angry that police cars and an ambulance were overturned and burnt.

It is easy to share such graphic videos online. But let us press the pause button, and ask ourselves what our purpose would be in sharing a video, photo or tweet and whether we are aware of the outcome that would be achieved. What about unintended outcomes? Is there a hidden agenda to the information provided on social media and are we being manipulated?

Do I have all the information on hand to make a rational, informed opinion or am I only parroting some views that excite us but, on deeper reflection, are untrue? Finally, when will the information be processed into accurate knowledge?

Discrete data shared without context can inflame a situation, and perhaps now is a good time to be reminded of the story of the blind men feeling an elephant for the first time.

While our individual, subjective experience can be true, such experience is essentially limited by its failure to account for the whole truth.

 

http://www.todayonline.com/voices/sharing-information-without-context-can-inflame-situation

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/riot-proves-point-about-community-relations/

—-

*He took over, and he said: ‘If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it.

**An ex-policeman wrote a commentary in MediaCorp’s ST Lite that “[S]ome may be tempted to link the large presence of foreign workers at Little India to the population augmentation strategy. Again, this is a far stretch. Foreign workers, on work permits, have been a presence in Singapore for decades. They are essential to the urban renewal effort in Singapore.  Their numbers today are not much larger than the historical mean.”

The ex-cop obviously never studied maths at other than a very basic level. If he had, he would realise that using this “fact” would be an insult to the intelligence of more literate S’poreans. The “mean” especially the “historical mean” (whatever this means) is not an argument that one should use in dismissing that the argument of the growth of the FT population is a worry. Example: Isn’t the fact that 25% of the population is foreign a better indicator of anything to do with population than the “historic mean”?

***Given that S’poreans (even new citizens according to LKY) don’t want to breed babies. S’poreans prefer keeping dogs and cats, so much so that there is now a Minister for Pets.

Tan Kuku for tsunami of Jap $ in 2014

In Japan on 10/12/2013 at 5:42 am

When the BOJ under governor Haruhiko Kuroda launched its monetary base-doubling quantitative and and qualitative easing (QQE) policy in April, there were strong expectations that a “tsunami” of Japanese funds would rush into Southeast Asia in search of higher yields.

So far, that has not happened even though Japanese institutional and individual investors are said to be eager to increase their exposure to Southeast Asian markets. A principal reason for their hesitancy, officials say, is Japanese investors’ fear of being exposed to exchange rate risk.

As a result, there is “intense discussion going on now between Japanese and Asean officials on ways to improve and enlarge the (currency) hedging markets” in Asean, according to Iwan Aziz, head of the Office of Regional Economic Integration at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).– BT report last week

Well can tan kuku for an agreement. Asean officials more noted for talking cock than doing something, anything.

And anyway, this region will not be flavour of the month early next yr. The West is. Don’t count on a wall of Jap money.

Riot proves point about community relations?

In Political governance, Public Administration on 09/12/2013 at 5:04 am

(Update 10 December at 6.50am: Great summary of article quoted below by a TRE reader: The Wobbly Guy:

Let us decode the Beeb study:

‘non-segregated’ = assimilated

‘relatively prosperous’ = educated middle-class

So we find that assimilated and educated middle-class people have high social capital regardless of ethnicity. Gee, like that wasn’t obvious from a look at a typical HDB estate and what the immigration realists have been saying all along.)

One of the arguments made against the govt’s liberal FT policy by us citizens of “cowboy towns” is that it is bad for community cohesion.Well the FT riot* yesterday would seem to be proof of this. S’poreans would not resort to such violence. They would shrug their shoulders, take a few pixs and, like sheep, move on.

Seriously,it is accepted wisdom globally that there is a negative correlation between diversity and community cohesion with studies proving that link. Even the govt accepts this as a Hard Truth: otherwise how to explain its quota system in public housing for Indians and Malays, and its constant emphasis on the need to maintain racial and religious harmony, given the British legacy of bringing in FTs. It’s juz that this Hard truth is over-ridden by the Harder Truth that FTs are needed, never mind the side effects.

So here’s an interesting article on, “Is diversity good or bad for community cohesion?”, which would make  Gilbert Goh more frus because the findings of a study in the UK say it is gd.

“In ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’,” Putnam’s study concluded. “Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer.”

But now comes new academic research looking at London which turns this idea on its head.

Social cohesion in the capital, it concludes, is “significantly higher in more ethnically diverse neighbourhoods”, once deprivation has been taken into account.

This is a startling assertion. The accepted wisdom among academics and policy makers, as the paper reminds readers, is that “ethnically diverse communities are characterized by distrust, low levels of social cohesion and disputes regarding the equitable provision of public goods”.

But diversity may not be the cause of social tension. “In fact, in the highly diverse neighbourhoods that characterise modern London, the opposite appears to be the case,” the research finds.

Diversity emerges as a positive predictor of social cohesion, the paper asserts, a finding that runs counter to the large majority of published studies.

But what this paper suggests is that where you have non-segregated and relatively prosperous communities, diversity is likely to improve community life, not damage it.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24761954)

Taz the key, if everyone has a highish standard of living, diversity is gd. But mix rich and poor and one is asking for trouble. Here in S’pore, the highish gini is not gd news for the govt’s very liberal immigration policy. Yes, I’m sceptical that the govt is walking the talk on tightening its immigration policies until I see a decent, medium-term decline in the numbers. Something I doubt would happen.

*The bare facts as reported by BT: Singapore Police Force has classified Sunday night’s unrest at Little India as a case of rioting with dangerous weapons, and has arrested 27 subjects from South Asia. The SPF says it expects to make further arrests “in the hours and days that follow”.

Yesterday’s riot was sparked by a fatal traffic accident involving a private bus and a pedestrian, who was a 33-year-old male Indian national. The police say the unrest was not pre-meditated, and no Singaporean presence has been established amongst the rioters.

The mob-which swelled to a 400-strong crowd-damaged and burned police and SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) vehicles, and left 10 police officers injured, out of the 300 who were deployed to the site.

Bare facts added after first publication.

Why S’poreans are materialistic, impatient?

In Uncategorized on 08/12/2013 at 4:27 am

Blame the fact that S’pore is a city? Not ’cause of PAP or LKY.

Mark van Vugt, of VU University in Amsterdam, and his colleagues found that country scenery … inspires people to think about the future; concrete cityscapes encourage quick decisions aimed at immediate rewards.

What, then, is it about brooks and meadows that propels thoughts of the beyond? Dr van Vugt speculates that competition—for jobs, attractive partners and large bank accounts—is concentrated within cities, rendering them unpredictable. Unpredictability may in turn shunt people onto the fast lane. He admits, however, that the study does not determine whether cities spur impulsive behaviour, or whether the countryside inspires patience.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/11/psychology

Asean’s prospects in 2014

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 07/12/2013 at 6:25 am

(Asean round-up)

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) says Asean is looking gd: Asean as a whole to grow 5.0 per cent this year, still weighed down by Thailand’s recession. And although the country is tipped to recover in the second half of this year, it may be affected by China’s soft landing, which is projected to extend into next year and dampen its demand for Asean’s goods and services.

As for individual countries (I’ve excluded S’pore as I will analyse it next week with reference to politics):

Not only is economic growth in the Philippines expected to take a hit, the report says intra-regional trade will suffer, hampering growth in other Asean countries.

Strong government spending and higher exports to China in the second half of the year were tipped to boost the Philippine GDP to 6.9 per cent this year, but Typhoon Haiyan is expected to make growth “noticeably weaker” in the final quarter of the year.

Slower government spending and a tighter US monetary policy will cap growth at 5.8 per cent next year, said the report.

Stubbornly high unemployment and extreme poverty, along with the need to lift interest rates to attract capital, will trim the country’s GDP growth to 4.8 per cent in 2015, it added.

The Cebr report’s prediction for Thailand is that its economy will grow 3.4 per cent this year. Thanks to healthier consumption and export growth, it will jump by 4.4 per cent next year; stronger exports to Western markets will nudge the Thai economy up 4.5 per cent in 2015. [Note thar report was written before the recent bout of trouble]

In Malaysia, growth will be at 4.6 per cent courtesy of a lift from China’s economy. But weakened Chinese growth will depress Malaysia’s growth to 4.2 per cent next year.

A revamped general sales tax in 2015 could further hinder growth, but a stronger global economy should ease this somewhat. Cebr forecasts that Malaysia’s GDP growth will be 4.1 per cent in 2015.

Indonesia, Asean’s biggest economy, is likely to grow 5.7 per cent this year, as a slight uptick in the Chinese economy in the second half of the year is expected to soften the effect of China’s cooling economy on Indonesian exports.

But the report said the US’ tighter monetary policy and higher interest rates will lower Indonesia’s growth to 5.6 per cent next year and the year after.

(http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/top-stories/spore-economy-stay-pink-next-2-years-20131205)

Relax leh Brudder S’pore Notes, things going yr way

In Political governance, Public Administration on 06/12/2013 at 6:25 am

Things not as bad as you paint it in “Is Cyber City Burning?”

You raised the MSM smear of Nicile Seah, and Alex Au’s and Breakfast Network’s legal problems as the PAP govt’s desperate, vicious attempt to stifle dissent..

Honestly, the SPH slimes that went wrong on Nicole Seah is an added bonus for her attempt to refresh her celebrity status by going public about her personal life to her thousands of Facebook friends. Well she did her publicity, and the slimes gave her even more publicity. So these slimes made her day. An added bonus for us netizens is that it showed that Alex Tan has changed for the better: his response to Nicole’s post was matured and totful, showing a different Alex Tan: and ’cause of an FT gal? http://therealsingapore.com/content/alex-tan-words-encouragement-nicole-seah

As to Alex Au’s situation, I think he welcomes the AG’s suit. It makes his day too. AG has been consistent in his views and actions.

On waz happening to the retired Imperial Storm  Trooper general (paper, cyber branch), it shows how moronic the govt is. Their reaction to the govt’s action show that netizens and the govt deserve one another: both assume a static, non dynamic world. As I’ve argued before, the internet, social media is like water. Really those ethnic Chinese S’porean cyber warriors have no excuse. They should know their Lao Tzu even if (like me) only in translation.

And lest we forget, or didn’t notice TOC had another narrow escape* for which we and TOC should be grateful for: http://www.sammyboy.com/showthread.php?169215-TOC-apologise-to-Wanbao and http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2013/11/unwilling-to-burden-family-95-year-old-samsui-woman-commits-suicide/

Team Yaacob could have played the DRUMS to the tune of RAVII (Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications, Insinuations & Insults)  but didn’t. The issue is as Holmes would have asked,”Why didn’t the dog bark?”. Well maybe the SPH cock-ups made it difficult to beat-up TOC without having to beat up SPH too. Though there is a distinction: one might have injured a gal’s reputation, the other was an attack against the state. Big difference leh.

So most likely Team Yaacob was asleep. Remember that Yaacob failed to prevent floods unlike that hard-hearted sneere of the elderly poor who has done I must admit a pretty decent job as flood minister, though he has failed as dengue preventer.. But I cut him some slack as the contractors have been busy cutting the grass and shubbery, and filling potential ponding areas in my area. .

Next, Brudder Notes, you and other bloggers are untouched. Still fighting the gd fight, unhindered. 

And you (and others) have won: More and more fret that S’pore is threatened by inequality, and rampant, uncaring capitalism and the govt? They are insecure and fearful. They feel poor.

So as the super long hols are coming (Chritmas, New year and CNY at end Jan) let’s make merry before the price rises hit us in our pocket. As I’ve argued before, first half 2014 is the last window of opportunity to whack us before the next GE that must be held sometime in 2016. Whack us hard in early 2014, and then in 2015 and 2016 Budget give us the goodies. And if the ground is sweet in 2015, hold a GE and promise goodies for 2016.

Relax, Brudder Notes. Getting angry like the Hulk or P Ravi doesn’t do one any good. Look at P Ravi now. He seems less angry nowadays and he looks like a Bollywood star. So long as you (and others) can protest, things are never that bad. As a foot soldier of the UK’s Labour Party who died recently at 104 once said, “We may not win by protesting. But if we don’t protest we will lose.”

With 88% of people here owning smartphones, you protests (and that of others) will be heard, more and more.

*Earlier lucky break: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/toc-more-than-meets-the-eye/. Background: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/smrt-racist-pr-team/

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An outdated economic Hard Truth

In Economy on 05/12/2013 at 5:19 am

Uncle Leong wrote recently, “How many more years and how many times must we hear the same old pledge and rhetoric that with productivity, the pay of low-wage workers will go up?”

The PAP has at least since 1965 stressed that productivity and wage rises must go hand in hand (BTW, taz not the case when they came into power in 1959. If you read the book I reviewed here, there was a huge increase in strikes when the PAP came into power, and workers and their employers tot the PAP was pro-labour.In 1959, 26,000 man-hours* were lost as a result of strikes, in 1960 125,000 man -hours were lost. a 481% increase.

How times have changed. Actually as late as 1971, as this book shows, activists tot of NTUC and the PAP govt as pro-labour: a minister, no less, assisted in a strike that brought ST to its knees.)

Sorry for the digression. Back to the Hard Truth that wage rises and productivity go hand in hand. It’s Economics 101:IMAGINE the proceeds of economic output as a pie, crudely divided between the wages earned by workers and the returns accrued to the owners of capital, whether as profits, rents or interest income. Until the early 1980s the relative sizes of those slices were so stable that their constancy became an economic rule of thumb. Much of modern macroeconomics simply assumes the shares remain the same. That stability provides the link between productivity and prosperity. If workers always get the same slice of the economic pie, then an improvement in their average productivity—which boosts growth—should translate into higher average earnings. [Emphasis mine]

(http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588860-labours-share-national-income-has-fallen-right-remedy-help-workers-not-punish)

Well it may be Economics 101 but it ain’t the reality, the article goes on: More recently, however, economics textbooks have been almost the only places where labour’s share of national income remains constant. Over the past 30 years, the workers’ take from the pie has shrunk across the globe (see article). In America, their wages used to make up almost 70% of GDP; now the figure is 64%, according to the OECD. Some of the biggest declines have been egalitarian societies such as Norway (where labour’s share has fallen from 64% in 1980 to 55% now) and Sweden (down from 74% in 1980 to 65% now). A drop has also occurred in many emerging markets, particularly in Asia. [Emphasis mine]

So the PAP’s Hard Truth that productivity goes with wages is not going to solve the problem of stagnant wages. The Economist gives two suggestions:  Govts should focus on improving the prospects of the low-paid and low-skilled. And they should aim to spread capital’s gains more widely.

The govt here has always talked the talk of improving the prospects of the low-paid and low-skilled. As to whether it has walked the talk, ask yrself are TRE readers right to fret that S’pore is threatened by inequality and rampant, uncaring capitalism and the govt? They are insecure and fearful. They feel poor. They feel so poor that TRE has problems raising money to fund itself: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/12/04/tre-to-cancel-one-of-its-servers-to-remain-within-budget/.

On the latter, privatise Temasek?

*Bang yr balls, AWARE When are the gals going to bitch that MoM should not use the the word Manpower in its name?

Cost of chicken rice, FTs and the BBC

In Economy on 04/12/2013 at 6:08 am

This blog is critical of our ministers’ attempt in the past to talk down inflation (Tharman and Hng Kiang. Lee Jnr) To be fair, they’ve been quite on that front recently, cause of the numbers that keep coming out.

Here’s a practical example, courtesy of the BBC: for our chicken rice, the prices of its key ingredients – chicken, rice and the vegetable oil to cook the food – have all about doubled since 2005.

Chicken — 84%

Rice — 90%

Vegetable oil — 100%

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25147402)

So don’t think ill of the seller for increasing his prices since 2005. In addition, he got to pay the rent.

In the above link, which talks of global food inflation, the reporter interviewed a PRC FT (in a hawkers’ centre) on the rising cost of food in S’pore and in Mandarin. Clip is towards end of article. GG and TRE readers will not be happy that a PRC FT is interviewed instead of a local. and P Ravi will be upset that Mandarin is used, not English. Seriously even I think that the BBC is wrong to give the impression that S’pore is part of greater China, or FT heaven (5 people interviewed for another series, three are FTs, one true blue S’porean and one first gen. P Ravi will be fuming that the two locals are ethnic Chinese.He should complain to the BBC that 7% of the population are ethnic Indians and that they play a huge role in the governance of the country: two out of four of PM’s most trusted ministers are Indians. AWARE will be not be their usual bitchy selves as both are women. Yes, I’m fed-up with AWARE’s triumphalist, patronising and ang moh attitudes-are-best attitude.)

BTW, in general as countries develop people spend proportionally less on food.

Well timed warning for merry hols, going into 2014

In Financial competency on 03/12/2013 at 6:42 am

I have never seen the sell-side predict a recession. There are a number of reasons for that but key among them is the personal career risk of calling a recession and being wrong. Both the sell-side and the buy-side tend to do much better when the economy and markets are doing well so who wants to be a party-pooper.

(Perpetual but respected bear)

He and another have gd points on why a recession is coming. Pls read http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2013/11/economics-and-markets-1 if thinking of cheonging market esp reits or when reading broker reports or ST stories about 2014 prospects.

For S’pore; remember first half of 2014 is the last possible time PAP govt can make us pay and pay and not suffer the consequences in next GE: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/2014-last-chance-for-govt-to-increase-prices/

And here’s a great quote from the Economist that applies to Tharman as he tries to keep inflation under control while keeping a lid on property and COE prices: THE role of central bankers is often compared to that of a sober adult who has to take away the punch bowl just as the party starts getting a little too rowdy. But what happens when the party as a whole is pretty glum apart from a small group of hooligans in the corner? Take away the booze then and you ruin the party for everybody else. Instead the answer is to pay particular care to who gets another drink.

The Economist was talking about the British situation where the economy is slowly recovering (faster than even the US) but residential property prices are flying again.

PM shld remember he isn’t mrbrown

In Political governance, Public Administration on 02/12/2013 at 4:55 am

PM’s recent attempt to crack jokes about those who use the internet and the govt’s policy on welfare did not go down well with the audience. They also showed thinking unbecoming a Cambridge double first. PM should focus on reminding S’poreans that they can sell that 4-room HDB flat and buy that house in Iskandar or condo in KL.Taz the success of the PAP way of doing things: not mind control or welfare.

Remember, PM joked:

Online views are not representative of the majority. True but then neither are the pro govt or PAP views expressed in the constructive, nation-building media, or  the answers given to surveys carried out by organisations linked to the gocvt or the PAP. representative of the majority. Yet the govt and the media place  a lot more emphasis on these views or surveys. If the net were pro govt, he’d change his tune.

— “Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there.”. Trying to tell us he unhappy? How else him to explain that he can find time to post the tale of owl in Istana? Seriously, there are some people who like me go on the Internet ’cause we got leisure time and we don’t like travelling, golfing or some other leisure pursuit. And we grumble about the govt because while he are too cowardly or lazy to do something physical about it, we have social consciences that still work, and are trying to assuage said consciences even if such grumbles work against our economic interests.

— Next, the comment on “no dead poor” here in S’pore completely misses the point, juz like little Ms Kate Spade Tin did when she said “let the poor remain poor”**. Morally and more to the point, economically, it’s all about the relativity inequalities in a society, not the absolute levels

In a recent posting on an Economist blog: the indignity of the wealth gap. T.M. Scanlon, a Harvard philosopher, catalogues several reasons inequality is objectionable. The stigmatisation of the lower orders would remain a problem in highly inegalitarian societies like America:

One consequence of extreme inequality in income and wealth can be that it forces the poor to live in a way that is reasonably seen as humiliating. As Adam Smith observed, there is a serious objection to a society in which some people are so much poorer than others that then have to live and dress in such a way that they cannot go out in public without shame. Here again, the evil is comparative—it is not merely an objection to having ragged clothes, or poor housing, but of having to live and to present oneself in a way that is so far below the standard generally accepted in the society that it marks one as inferior, and as someone that others would not want to associate with. This provides a reason not only to improve the lot of the poor, but also, even if their lot is, in absolute terms, not so bad, to object to the creation of a much higher standard of living for others. This may not, in some cases be a sufficient reason to deny others these benefits, but it is a recognizable cost that these benefits bring, and one that cannot be put down to irrational envy.

(http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/11/government-guaranteed-basic-income)

— Then there is the reasoning that there is no need for a “fixed” poverty line because there are all kinds of targeted schemes. In the same economist post, there is a point about the inefficiencies of various schemes both for the recipients and the state:“A single father with two jobs and two children would no longer have to worry about the hassle of visiting a bunch of offices to receive benefits,” Ms Lowrey writes. “And giving him a single lump sum might help him use his federal dollars better. Housing vouchers have to be spent on housing, food stamps on food. Those dollars would be more valuable—both to the recipient and the economy at large—if they were fungible.” The economic benefits are that the state (and tax payers) benefits as less bureaucracy is needed to administer a fungible welfare scheme, and resources are better allocated by the spending of beneficiaries.

Contrast this to PM’s,“Some are broken family problems. Some are problems of children not managing in school and therefore have difficulty. Some are low-income, they don’t have the skills, we need to raise their skills and jobs and pay. Focusing on all these things is productive, then you know what you want to solve, and deal with it.”

The govt should think about the benefits of productivity in designing a welfare system.

So PM, pls stop telling jokes. Leave to Tharman, who 7% of the population are rooting to be the next PM. Actually to be fair, it’s more than 7% of the population: throw in the liberal Chinese and Malay voters.

*The context of his comment:“To have a definition of poverty that encompasses all different kinds of problems and to say, this is the poverty number in Singapore, that is the scale, and it’s a very big number and we are very alarmed, because we have been ignoring this problem and now let’s focus and solve the problem and put the resources in. I don’t think that is the situation and that is the good approach.

Mr Lee said: “Some are broken family problems. Some are problems of children not managing in school and therefore have difficulty. Some are low-income, they don’t have the skills, we need to raise their skills and jobs and pay. Focusing on all these things is productive, then you know what you want to solve, and deal with it.”

The government has said that its approach is to have multiple lines of assistance, and help schemes are also flexible enough to ensure that those who miss the criteria are also helped.

Mr Lee said: “We cannot avoid a social judgment of which needs the society considers meritorious, which needs we consider urgent, which needs we consider well, it’s a problem, but we can leave them to sort out.

“Or it’s a problem but it’s really something that somebody has caused to happen because of his own doing and he has to sort it out. Otherwise, there’s no end to him coming to me to say ‘I’ve got myself into trouble, please bail me out’.”

**OK, OK, I exaggerate. She was only repeating parrot-like the Hard Truth that only absolute (i.e.minimal) help was necessary: don’t fill their bellies lest they be lazy. To quote PM, “Or it’s a problem but it’s really something that somebody has caused to happen because of his own doing and he has to sort it out. Otherwise, there’s no end to him coming to me to say ‘I’ve got myself into trouble, please bail me out’.”

What a 4-room HDB flat buys in Iskandar & KL.

In Malaysia, Property on 01/12/2013 at 4:28 am
Why it’s right to vote for the PAP if one has fully-paid up or even if 50% paid up,  landed, condo or HDB flat:
While Horizon Hills surrounds a golf course and is luxurious by Malaysian standards, homes cost far less than in Singapore. Four-bedroom houses in the 1,200-acre (487-hectare) development, popular with expatriates, are advertised online at $270 per square foot, compared with the $503 per square foot asked for a four-bedroom public-housing flat in Singapore’s central Bishan district.
The average price of a new 1,000-square-foot (93-square-meter) condominium in Singapore is between $800,000 and $960,000, according to London-based broker Savills Plc. A similar-sized place in Kuala Lumpur costs about $374,000, according to CBRE Group Inc.’s Malaysian unit. [[Less than 4-room HDB flat too.]
(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-19/singapore-property-boom-fuels-malaysia-spillover-bubble.html)And property in Iskandar will only get cheaper:
Iskandar developers seen taking a big hitHeftier taxes, scrapping of easy financing will deter buyers, says RHB ResearchDEVELOPERS with substantial exposure to the Iskandar Malaysia region are expected to be the “worst hit” by recent property measures, as heftier taxes would deter short-term foreign purchasers who also account for a significant portion of residential sales in some areas, a research house has said.

At the same time, overseas developers are expected to be more cautious about land transactions as more punitive taxes could lead to higher landholding costs, said RHB Research.

CBRE data indicates that foreign buyers account for 54 per cent of total high-rise residential sales (by developers) in Nusajaya, and 39 per cent in Johor Baru and major suburbs.

But the new 30 per cent RPGT (real property gains tax) on foreigners who gain on disposals within the first five years of acquisition is likely to “wipe out short-term foreign speculators to a certain extent”, RHB observed in a real estate report dated yesterday. (Friday’s BT)

Related posts: https://atans1.wordpress.com/tag/iskandarland/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/paps-view-of-us-40ers/