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Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

Were the Coldstore detainees communists, progressives or leftists?

In Uncategorized on 28/02/2014 at 4:31 am

The publication of a book on the 50th anniversary and the MediaCorp documentary (funded by MDA) got TOC activists pretty emotional about whether we were told to the truth about these two events.

They were not the only ones. When TRE republished my piece on Dr Lee Siew Choh, this post appeared

Lim Chin Siong:

with so many books and videos banned, Sporeans not getting the true history of Spore, I hope somehow, TRE or any social media can dedicate a section of their website to tell the true story of Spore.
I am sick and tired of watching NDP after NDP depicting the same story of how Spore turned to a modern city (by the monkeys in white) from an island with a lion spotted a certain man!
I searched and nothing much was told about the man Lim Chin Siong, who was accused as a communist but never proven!

“What is the truth?” and “What is history?”. These are eternal questions for philosophers not for mere mortals.  So what about settling for a narrative of Lim Chin Siong and allies that is objective, balanced, non-judgemental and entertaining?

There is a book, that though, published by a govt agency (National Museum), that does these things: “S’pore: A Biography”*

The writers avoid the term “communists” in describing Lim Chin Siong and friends. When they are called “communists”, it’s LKY, the British etc who are using the term. Lim Chin Siong’s denials are given extensive coverage. Unlike  TOC’s favourite “historian”  Dr Ping Tjin Thum (P.J. Thum), there is no romaticising of Lim and friends by calling them “progressives’. They are described as “radical anti-colonialist leftists”. This, I think, is a pretty fair, neutral description that avoids the emotional laden terms used by LKY or Dr Thum.

The authors go on to say that they got the impression (based on Fong Swee Suan’s recollections)  that the views of people like Lim and Fong on the best political model for S’pore (and Malaya) were evolving, they were “experimenting, weighing up the options”. They tell us that Lim said he was “not [yet] anti-communist”.

They also give the context within which the words and actions of Lim and Fong were viewed. There were demonstrations, violence (girls from Nanyang Girls’ School threw acid at their principal’s face), and the memory of the Malayan Emergency was ever-present. These are things that Dr Thum glides over when he talks of the Malayan Communist Party saying it had given up violence in liberating S’pore (google him up or search the TOC website for articles containing his tots). These were things my parents talked about when they told me of the period (I was born in 1955).

BTW, one of these days I’ll muse about the three narratives of Coldstore: the Hard Truth version propagated by the constructive, nation-buildingl media, Dr Thum’s version propagated by TOC, and the conventional academic narrative (which I largely accept), and which sadly not propagated by anyone, even though this narrative is not banned by the govt. History may be written by the victors, but thank god for academics who poke holes in the official narrative.

——-

*The authors, Mark Ravinder Frost and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow (a name that itself would seem to encapsulate much of Singapore’s history) have carefully tread a narrow path between a definitive (i.e. worthy but dull) history and a popular (i.e. readable but light) treatment of Asia’s only city-state…. But Frost and Balasingamchow have, through a judicious selection of anecdote and primary sources, tied together with just the right amount of analysis and a judicious application of drama, teased out a narrative that both interests and flows, complemented by beautifully-rendered and a propos illustrations. http://www.asianreviewofbooks.com/new/?ID=173#!

Update at 5.05am: Another link describing the book http://www.edmbooks.com/Book/6951/Singapore-A-Biography.html

Gilbert Goh is this true?

In Economy, Public Administration on 27/02/2014 at 6:02 am

Singapore Business Federation chief operating officer Victor Tay said: Measures taken to tighten the inflow of foreign PMETs “are already quite comprehensive and align with the American and European standards” and he doubts the government will go further. (Monday’s BT).

Can GG tell us if Victor Tay is telling the truth? And if he (GG) is satisfied?

If he isn’t satisfied, pls tell us why. If he is, no need to organise demonstrations that no-one attends. Juz tell local PMETs to vote PAP in next GE. They listen.

Err pigs will fly first or GG becomes attractive to S’pore wimmin. LOL.

Back to the future: LKY, Dr Chee & the SDP agree on …

In Political governance, Public Administration on 26/02/2014 at 4:28 am

One LKY in 1957 said in the legislative assembly :

For cheap labour, they [the British] allowed unrestricted immigration without any plan, without any policy and without any intention of creating or preserving the self. I do not condemn the immigration as such, but I condemn the government which has no regard for the people of the country who have been assimilated and did not bother to educate or to provide education for those coming in. Today, with the renaissance of the motherland of each of the immigration groups, chauvinist tendencies are incited. Yet at this critical juncture we have to call upon these immigrants to give this country their undivided loyalty.

(S’pore Notes: http://singaporedesk.blogspot.sg/2014/02/the-wit-wisdom-of-lee-kuan-yew.html)

In 2013, at Hong Lim Green (the people’s parly?), Dr Chee said, “A word of caution, I ask all of us here in Singapore to be the people that we truly are, the tolerant people that we are and if we attack, we attack the policy, we point out the flaws in the policy, not against the people who are here for work.”, can be simplified to “We disagree with the govt’s pro-FT policy, not the foreigners working here. We are unhappy with the “FTs first, citizens last” attitude of the govt because …”  https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/easy-to-avoid-xenophobe-label/

Dr Chee got CIA time machine? Went back in time to influence LKY?

Seriously, by raising the issue of the PAP’s govt immigration policies on S’pore society, Dr Chee, the SDP and many others are juz reflecting what LKY tot in 1957.

After all, S’pore could be returning to a similar situation to that in 1957. In 2013, I wrote: A Citigroup report noted that the White Paper projects the dilution of Singapore-born citizens from 62% of the population to just 55% in 2030 based on number of new FT citizens that the govt plans to bring in projects to come in naturally: 15,000 – 25,000 annually.

In 1959, according to Singapore Correspondent. Political Dispatches from Singapore (1958-1962) only 270,00 out of the 600,000 voters were born here i.e. there only 45% of the voters were born here. The rest were the FT “new” citizens of the day. (https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/population-white-paper-2030-will-resemble-1959/)

Just a few “honest mistakes” by Home Team officers (we know that they can be unfit for purpose: recent riot*and border and internal security**, etc***) and in 2030 the voters born here could be 45%, not 55% juz like in 1959 (two yrs after LKY made the above statement. In all probability, in 1957, true blue S’poreans were 45% of the voters.

—–

*“The police had arrived,” Mr Selvam said. “They stood there and did nothing. Ah, the police approve of what I am doing,” he said, suggesting what the rioters would or might have been thinking then, as they continued to hurl projectiles at the bus and at the officers, and eventually setting security vehicles and an ambulance on fire.

“[The rioters] had full freedom to do what they wanted – namely, to burn the bus, burn the vehicles, attack you,” the former judge said.

“A lot of things were wrong,” Mr Tee said. “Are you showing weakness and emboldened them? That could be the reason why they became more violent.”

Mr Selvam said, “They were rioting. What did you do?” [Former Supreme Court judge G. Pannir Selvam is the COI’s chairman, while former Police Commissioner Tee Tua Ba, is a member of the COI] )

**http://singaporedesk.blogspot.sg/2014/01/could-have-been-worse.html

***All the problems at Home Team over recent yrs (corruption, Ang Moh tua kee attitude, PR status for possible criminals etc etc) show that it was badly run when Wong Kan Seng was the Home minister. There should be a claw-back of the millions he earned as a minister.

The risk Reit buyers bear

In Financial competency, Property, Reits on 25/02/2014 at 4:09 am

CapitaMall Trust recently sold retail bond offering paying 3.08% annually.

Its units trade at a yield of 4.55% as yet yesterday’s close.

The percentage difference (48%) between the two numbers is the willingness that holders of the units are willing to accept (whether they realise it or not) for the higher (but not assured) payout. If Reits, reduce their payouts, the price falls to compensate for the reduced yield. Even if the payout remains constant, high yielding shares are only a good investment if a falling share price does not undo the yield return.

As there are many other Reits that have better yields, reit investors should be mindful of the risk they are assuming in chasing higher yields.

FYI, I’m still a holder of Reits.

Relared posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/why-owning-reits-in-a-rising-interest-rate-environment-may-make-sense/

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

CapitaMall Trust launches retail bond offering paying 3.08% annually – See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/retail/news/capitamall-trust-launches-retail-bond-offering-paying-308-annually#sthash.pEWiNljc.dpuf

Accounts: PA fixed, WP got fixed?

In Corporate governance, Political governance on 24/02/2014 at 5:24 am

The usual suspects and other anti-PAP netizens are outraged that Khaw’s ministry has highlighted various concerns regarding the auditor’s report on the financial statements of Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) for Financial Year 2012, and Tharman has gotten the Auditor-General to investigate the matter, while no-one in govt is investigating why the PA’s “auditors have been giving an “adverse opinion” on the financial reports from the People’s Association (PA) for several years now.” http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/02/20/breaking-auditors-give-adverse-ratings-to-pas-financial-reports/

I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of the AHTC’s accounts because we will soon know the truth*, except tthat I found it puzzling that Auntie said bar one concern, they were related to handing-over issues. Some were, the others were not, even a cursory glance would have shown her, as it did me (both of us are trained lawyers). Anyway let’s wait for the report, though having witnessed at first hand how the AudG audits govt bodies, WP is in for a nasty report. It is hated and feared by the rest of the govt machinery. It works like the ISD: takes no prisoners. AudG is also very petty.

As to the PA’s accounts, I won’t go into details because the issue is one of consolidating accounts** and the PA had given up its row with its auditor and will be consolidating the accounts that the auditor wanted consolidated effective last yr’s accounts, due soon. It had resisted complying since the auditor raised the issue (“Auditor KPMG noted the omission of the financial statements of the community centres and community clubs”).in the accounts for FY 2001.

The usual suspects should be asking if the fixing of the PA’s accounts (WP Low had raised the issue in 2008 and was told to  Foff http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2014/02/low-thia-khiangs-question-in-2008-on-pas-adverse-accounts-rating/: there was nothing wrong with the accounts**) and the row over the AHTC’s accounts are linked? Could it be that the decision to fix the way the PA’s accounts are prepared, was done in the expectation that the dysfunctional duo (Auntie and PritamS: remember they are lawyers, not accountants) would have failed to fix the AHTC’s accounts for the second yr in a row. And there could be an opportunity to show the entire WP as dysfunctional? Remember that a chain is as strong as its weakest link, and Pritam has shown us repeatedly that he keeps saying or doing the wrong things***. Or is this line of reasoning (fixing to fix) too cynical or too conspiratorial? Even believing that JBJ and friends really won at Cheng San, or that Ong Teng cheong lost the presidential elections is more believable?

Seriously, in thinking about the row on the audit reports, I hope readers remember the wise words of Low.  TOC reported that Low is also extremely “confident” that none of the Town Council’s funds were lost, and that there was no involvement of any form of illegal payment or transaction.”

WP Low got the issue absolutely right. It’s all about whether any funds were lost, and whether  there was “any form of illegal payment or transaction”, not whether he PA’s or AHTC’s accounts get clean audit reports, ’cause they do the “right” things. Audit reports are very impt, but they are maps not the reality.  The auditor gave Enron a clean audit report. Both are history. 

They should also take into account the following comments:

—  I think overall audit standards are tightening. What passed as ok earlier is not acceptable anymore (unless we have a serious case of casting with closed eyes). Seeing how liable for professional negligence auditors can be, no one is going to ruin their rice bowl any time soon unless they’re really old and ready to be disbarred. (Facebook poster)

As somebody who has been audited many times and qualified as an accountant, I am also breathless with admiration how so many capable and intelligent people can deliver so little value to society. Most big four accountants are capable individuals but put them together and they seem incapable of delivering anything of value to companies.  (A FT reader on a FT article on accountants)

I’ll leave with a wicked tot. Low has said he is “not an accountant”. Remember he said he was “not a private investigator (remember  https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/lol-expelling-yaw-took-courage/?). So will he, one day, tell tell us he is not a manager when Auntie’s and Pritam’s dysfunctionality finally causes the WP serious damage, and they have to move on from the WP like Yaw?

*Though I sure if the AudG sides with the MND, the usual suspects and groupies will be accusing AuditorG of being biased. When that happens, I hope they will then stop using AudG’s reports against the govt. Can’t suka suka use favourable reports, not unfavourables. After all, they claim not to be like the PAP govt: who is happy to use TI’s figures when it praises S’pore and slimes it when its figures slime S’pore http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/02/19/dr-ng-condemns-tis-defence-spending-rating-for-sg/. If the government finds TI not to be credible {on defence procurement issues] as Dr Ng has alleged in Parliament, perhaps the government should stop using TI’s rankings and surveys altogether.

For a start perhaps, CPIB could stop using TI’s rankings on its website. Presently, it prominently displays TI’s CPI on its home page [Link]:

**As regards PA’s non-consolidation of grassroots organisations’ accounts, the auditor, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, has qualified the financial statements of People’s Association on the basis that the accounts of the grassroots organisations were not consolidated. PA’s view is that the accounts of grassroots organisations should not be consolidated for the following reasons.

Firstly, the funds in these accounts belong to the grassroots organisations. Secondly, the Government grants and the cost of staff support are already accounted for in PA’s financial statements. Thirdly, the grassroots organisations are operationally self-funding through revenues from activities, courses and donations. Fourthly, the grassroots organisations decide on how their money should be spent for the benefit of the residents. And, finally, proper procurement procedures, financial control and good corporate governance practices apply to the grassroots organisations.

***Think

— his “coalition with the PAP” comment;

— planning footie on PAP MPs’ team:

— silly slip that only a lawyer buruk would make https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/c-wps-performance-during-the-budget-debate/

— Hawkergate: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/low-shows-the-usefulness-of-non-action/

What does S’pore have in common with US, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Philippines,?

In Uncategorized on 23/02/2014 at 4:24 am

The only countries that have laws against jaywalking is the answer.

This BBC Online article on jaywalking in the US reminded me that when I went to study in London, I waz surprised that I could jaywalk. I had tot that jaywalking was a British inheritance and the absence of penalties in M’sia was ’cause it was M’sia leh where laws are never enforced. Article says: “Even in Singapore, where repeated jaywalking offences can lead to a $1,000 fine or a six month jail term, rules are routinely flouted.”. Glad to read that the usual suspects who compare us to the sheep of Animal Farm are wrong: some of the time perhaps?

In the US, [C]ar lobby groups also started taking over school safety education, stressing that “streets are for cars and children need to stay out of them”. Anti-jaywalking laws were adopted in many cities in the late 1920s, and became the norm by the 1930s.

—-

*Juz before going to London, I had been caught jaywalking at Hill St by a Vigilante Corps officer.  No action was taken against me because I told his superior that the light had already turned red, stopping traffic, when I crossed the street. Was I expected to walk to the crossing, then wait for the light to turn red again?  It was a one-way street and there was no traffic because of the red light. He saw my point.

Temasek’s Asean tales

In Temasek, Vietnam on 22/02/2014 at 4:23 am

This week’s Asean’s round-up is all about Temasek or its TLCs.

Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings Pvt Ltd TEM.UL is seeking to sell its $3.1 billion stake in Thai telecom company Shin Corp INTUCH.BK, according to people familiar with the matter, and has approached its SingTel (STEL.SI) unit as a possible buyer. But the troubles in Thailand have put an end to the talks.

TRE and TOC readers will be banging their balls when they learn: The Temasek stake in Shin Corp, founded by former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is worth $3.1 billion by current market value.

Shin Corp’s shares now trade more than 50 percent above the price paid in 2006 by a Temasek-led consortium, that included Chinese-Thai businessman Surin Upatkoon, when it bought 96 percent of the Thai firm for a total of $3.8 billion.

As for SingTel:

“At a fair price such a deal would make sense for SingTel,” Chris Lane, senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in Hong Kong who covers Asia-Pacific telecommunications. SingTel is 52 percent-owned by Temasek.

Shin Corp owns 40.5 percent of Thailand’s biggest mobile telecoms company, Advanced Info Service Pcl ADVANC.BK. SingTel already has a 23 percent stake in AIS: Adding the Shin Corp stake would cement its position in a bigger market and offset sluggish growth in mature economies where it’s also present, like Australia.

“SingTel executives are involved in the day-to-day operations of the company AIS,” said Bernstein analyst Lane. “Buying the stake from Temasek avoids the possibility of another ‘telco’ securing a significant interest in AIS.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/18/us-temasek-shincorp-singtel-idUSBREA1G1H520140218

FPT Corp, Vietnam’s largest publicly traded telecommunications and software company, has asked Temasek to help it identify a Singapore technology company for acquisition to boost sales overseas, the Bloomberg news agency reported.

FPT will spend as much as US$20 million (S$25 million) on a Singapore acquisition, Chief Executive Officer Bui Quang Ngoc said in an interview on Wednesday. The company, which had sales of 28.6 trillion dong (S$1.7 billion) in 2013, seeks to more than triple revenue from overseas to US$400 million by the end of 2016, co-founder Mr Ngoc, who took charge in July, said in Hanoi. “Singapore is a very attractive market,” Mr Ngoc said. “If we can be successful in Singapore, it means we have enough experience to do it in other countries.”

FPT is looking to acquire a Singapore company that specialises in software services such as inventory management, order processing and employee payroll, said Mr Duong Dung Trieu, chief executive officer of FPT Information System, a unit that contributes 25 per cent of the parent’s pretax profit.

The company plans to make the acquisition in Singapore “as soon as possible,” Mr Ngoc said. Temasek holds less than 5 per cent stake in FPT, according to the Vietnamese company.

Finally airport services and catering firm SATS (a listed TLC) agreed to buy a 41.65 per cent stake in Indonesian aviation and food service provider Cardig Aero Services for 1.1 trillion rupiah (S$118 million) to grow its business in South-east Asia’s largest economy.

Indonesia is a priority market said SATS. The country’s topography and a fast-growing economy and middle-class population will continue to drive greater demand for high-quality food and travel, it said. “CAS is an attractive investment opportunity in our core business which will generate sustainable value for our customers, employees and shareholders as Indonesia continues to grow,” said Mr Alexander Hungate, President and Chief Executive Officer of SATS.

And he’s right about Indonesia: http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21596989-how-worlds-fourth-most-populous-country-weathering-emerging-market

Strong legacy of forgotten dissident & party

In Political governance on 21/02/2014 at 6:09 am

I feel the need* to remind readers about Lee Siew Choh, a dissident that even LKY, no sufferer of fools, respected**. Ironically, while he may be forgotten, and the party he helped found no longer exists, their legacy lives on, troubling the PAP’s hegemony. LKY’s respect is well-founded.

We all know all about that lion, and the reviver of opposition politics, JBJ, but who remembers Lee Siew Choh? The name doesn’t ring a bell among many younger S’poreans. And even people like me get their recollections of him muddled. Example: even though he was a medical doctor and studied at one of KL’s leading English language schools, I tend to think of him as Chinese-educated.

The basic, factual info about him can be found at NLB’s  Singapore Infopedia, a very useful site on things S’porean. (Sorry can’t link to the article ’cause NLB says must get its permission***. I don’t want AG to prosecute me, but where got time to ask permission to publicise an NLB product on a not-for-profit blog? Seriously, getting permission to link is so totalitarian or Big Brotherish. But then librarians are worse than teachers, policepersons and PAPpies in their authoritarian, “must have our permission” instincts. I was one in RI.)

Sorry, back to Lee. Part of his early life reads like an adventure and romance novel or film script. Born in KL, he came here to study medicine. He married a nurse he met at KK Hospital. Shortly after his marriage, in 1942, the Japanese sent him to work (as a doctor) on the infamous railway*** *made famous by the movie Bridge on the River Kwai.

You’d have tot that when he got back alive, he’d focus on getting rich and spending time with his wife. Well he did set up a medical practice at Hill St and they had three children. But he was a socialist who wanted Malayan and S’porean independence from the British.

One Dr Goh Keng Swee suggested he join the PAP: big mistake for him and the PAP. A yr after joining, in 1959, he was elected as Legislative Assemblyman for Queenstown. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Affairs Ministry in 1960. He was a coming PAP man. He might have even made it into the book “Lee’s “Lieutenants”*****.

But in 1961, Dr Lee and 12 other PAP assemblymen and other leading PAP members  (35 of the 51 branches of PAP and 19 of its 23 organising secretaries) broke away from the PAP over differences with LKY and the other “conservative” PAP leaders over the proposed merger with Malaya. They formed the Barisan Sosialis with Dr Lee as the chairman. There were heated rows in the Assembly: WP should study what the BSoc did there to see how to hold the PAP govt to account: no co-driver BS. In 1961, he made the longest speech in the history of the Legislative Assembly: seven hours on the subject of Singapore’s proposed merger with Malaya. I don’t think this record has been bettered after S’pore became independent.

Anyway, the decision to form Malaysia was made (There was a referendum where voters had to vote for some of merger, rejection was not an available option, not even casting a blank vote as the BSoc recommended: blank votes were deemed to be votes in favour of LKY’s preferred option), but BSoc continued to oppose the PAP govt on merger. And on other things too: like workers’ rights and welfare. They were to the left of the PAP (who remember called themselves “socialists”). So far left of the PAP, that when the PAP called them “communists”, the label tended to stick.

In 1963,  Operation Coldstore removed from politics (by detaining them under the ISA) many of the leaders of the BSoc, a few months before the 1963 general elections (Some for our PM to learn from?). Dr Lee was not arrested but the following senior party officials were

Lim Chin Siong, secretary-general (like in the PAP, this was the most powerful post)

— S Woodhull, vice-chairman

— Fong Swee Suan, executive committee member

— Dominic Puthucheary, committee member

Many members were arrested too (e.g. Dr Lin Hock Siew.)

Lee led the party in the 1963 elections, in which they won 13 of the 51 seats. But he lost his contest with Dr Toh Chin Chye by a handful of votes. BSoc won 33.2% of popular votes but won only a quarter of the seats. The PAP won 37 seats with about 47% of the popular vote. The BSoc claimed they were cheated of victory. While they couldn’t prove the allegations, it is a fact (not a Hard Truth) that anti-PAP vote was split, with multi-cornered fights.

Even though the BSoc was proven right on M’sia (it didn’t work did it?), and S’pore left M’sia in 1965, sadly for S’porean democracy, BSoc in a fit of collective madness boycotted the first post-independence parliament, and general election in 1968, allowing the PAP to win all 51 of the seats in Parliament. Lee apologised to S’poreans for this collective mistake by the party in a 1980 election campaign speech. But to be fair to BSoc, the ISD was arresting members (think Chia Thye Poh, an MP) between 1965 and 1968, so one can understand BSoc’s decision.

The party never regained a meaningful role in politics after 1968, and in 1988, the party merged with the WP that JBJ had by then revived.

At the 1988 general election, Lee stood as a WP candidate in the Eunos GRC and the WP lost very narrowly to the PAP. As the WP was eligible to nominate two members of its team from Eunos to become Non-constituency MPs, the WP nominated Lee and Francis Seow to become NCMPs. Seow fled before he could take up his NCMP seat: he wanted to avoid income tax evasion charges, alleging the charges were politically motivated. Lee became Singapore’s first-ever NCMP. In Parliament, he raised issues  of justice including the ISA, cost of living and welfare.

Lee again stood in Eunos GRC in 1991, the WP again losing narrowly. However no NCMP seats were offered as the opposition parties won a total of four elected seats. Sadly two of the SDP MPs turned out to be clowns. Lee would have made a better opposition MP. He, Chiam and JBJ would have been a formidable trio.

Lee left the WP in 1996, saying he had differences with JBJ. What these were were never made public.

As to his legacy? Here are some tentative musings. The areas where the WP holds power is where the BSoc had its power base. Hougang was a BSoc stronghold and the ex-BSoc team there worked for Low and formed his power base. After he became Sec-Gen of the WP, the WP changed from a group of bicycle thieves, ex-Woodbridge patients, opportunists and “JBJ is always right” groupies held together by JBJ’s charisma (though not his organisational skills) into the disciplined, serious-minded force that it is today, PritamS notwithstanding.

The people that helped Low do this were former BSoc cadres and other activists from the Punggol area. I may not respect the WP’s attempts to hold the PAP govt to account as self-appointed co-driver, but I respect the discipline, purposefulness and hard work that enabled the WP to win a GRC and two SMCs, and nearly winning a third. And attracting members of the calibre of Chen Show Mao and JJ. Too bad about Pritam though.

While today’s WP is no longer the WP of JBJ (for which S’poreans should be grateful), one could argue that today’s WP is BSoc reincarnated. Even WP’s cautious stance, it could be argued, can be traced to the WP leaders wanting to avoid the mistakes BSoc made. Example: It was easy for the PAP to demonise the BSoc as “communist” because activists used the language of people like Mao: “class struggle”, “revolution” etc.

——————————–

“When I opened a copy of my friend’s latest book “Dissident Voices”, and saw the dissidents featured (Lim Chin Siong, Catherine Lim, Ong Eng Guan, David Marshall, Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew, Said Zahari, Tan Wah Piow, Francis Seow and Vincent Cheng Lim), I tot how come no JBJ and Lee Siew Choh? After all, they too stood firm on their convictions despite the odds. And they too paid a heavy toll for their beliefs … But they never broke. In fact, Catherine Lim is a nobody when compared to those giants, JBJ and Lee.” ‘

When we met, he explained to me that he and Marshall Cavendish (the publisher) had agreed a tentative list of names. More than one book was needed to do justice to the names on the list.. The author thought the subjects he chose for the book “S’pore Dissidents” would resonate more with readers who wanted to know more about personalities who dared to be different – and paid a price. There are plans for another volume to cover JBJ and Lee Siew Choh for sure.”

(https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/dissident-voices/)

**Part of ST’s report on death of Dr Lee in July 2002:

Recalling that, the Senior Minister wrote [to his widow]: ‘It altered the course of
his life, and the part he played in Singapore’s politics helped change
the course of history.’

Despite their strong political differences, Mr Lee felt ‘no personal
animosity’ towards the opposition leader.

‘In many ways he was a likeable man; he was open and transparent if
somewhat impulsive; he had a sense of humour, and often laughed at
what he was saying,’ added SM Lee.

‘And I felt partly to blame for getting him involved in a field not
his forte. So I was glad that he accepted my invitation for both of
you to accompany my wife and me on our 10-day visit to China in
October 1990.’

***You also may not, without the permission of NLB DIGITAL LIBRARY, insert a hyperlink to this website on any other website or “mirror” any Material contained on this website on any other server.

****The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma. Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre: Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

*****Incidentally, the implication of the title is that they were LKY’s subordinates. While they regarded him as the leader of the pack, the evidence shows he was regarded as merely first among equals to the likes of Dr Goh, Toh Chin Chye, Baker, Lim Kim San. It wasn’t like the master slave relationship that LKY had with GCT, Dharnabalan, Wong Kan Seng and others. .

S&P: Tough year for S’pore and regional banks

In Banks, Economy, Property on 20/02/2014 at 4:14 am

Lower economic growth prospects and tighter credit conditions could create a tougher operating environment for the banking sector here and in the region, said a report by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) late last week.

S&P expects S’pore’s GDP) growth to fall to 3.4 % this year, from 3.7% last year.

The report also notes that corporate and household indebtedness has been on the rise here. The situation could worsen this year, in anticipation of interest rates rising; higher borrowing costs amid rising. See DBS’s CEO’s tots below* and related post https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/why-banks-tested-for-50-plunge-in-property-prices-and-other-wonderful-tales/

Related articles: The three local banks posted their reports last week too and for quick snap-shots (not the usual ST or BT fluff)

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/5-highlights-you-should-know-about-uobs-2013-results

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/find-out-what-badly-hurt-ocbcs-fy13-results

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/dbs-braces-itself-looming-30-35-drop-in-mortgage-loan-applications

Charts on banks’ loans etc

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/10-charts-prove-singapore-banks-mixed-finish-2013

Cheap way of owning UOB shares

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/haw-par-rediscovered-yet-again/

Update at 6.ooam:

South-east Asia’s three biggest lenders, DBS, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and United Overseas Bank, have seen their share prices rise this week after posting solid results last Friday. Common trends in the fourth quarter were better margins, trade finance-driven loan growth, seasonally softer treasury earnings and no asset quality weakness, CIMB noted.

UOB has been the star performer this week, gaining 3.5 per cent, while OCBC has risen 2.3 per cent and DBS 0.4 per cent.

UOB, despite being the smallest of the trio, has been particularly impressive with its fee income and regional strategies, CMC Markets Analyst Desmond Chua told TODAY.

“In terms of fee income, it has performed relatively well while the market has been lacklustre, in part due to a higher interest outlook. Its diversification to grow in regional emerging markets has also helped it maintain loan growth despite weaker mortgage demand in Singapore,” he said.

“On the other hand, OCBC’s share price might have been affected by the prospect of its overpriced acquisition of Wing Hang Bank in Hong Kong while DBS hasn’t been able to impress with its fee-based revenue in recent times despite aggressively attacking this space,” he added.

UOB’s net interest margin, which is the highest among local banks at 1.72 per cent full-year, is another advantage for the lender, Voyage Research’s Deputy Research Head Ng Kian Teck added. “UOB has historically been good on this front, and it means the bank can churn the most value out of every dollar loaned — that’s what’s attracting the investors,” he said.

All three banks ended last year on a positive note, with their fourth-quarter net profit rising between 6 and 11 per cent on the back of strong growth in net interest income.

The banks have also continued to solidify their regional presence, drawing more revenue from overseas than before.

….

“Their return on equity is healthier vis-a-vis the other industries, which are facing greater margin pressure due to higher wages. But the banks have been able to control this issue better.”

CMC Markets’ Mr Chua is also bullish, saying: “I’m looking at the banking space being an outperformer this year even though interest rates are bound to rise. Their tactical diversification across this region allows them to tap into Indonesia’s emerging affluent segment, for example.

Update at 5.15pm:Can Singapore safely deflate its property market? http://www.cnbc.com/id/101409247

————————

*DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta expects home prices to fall by 10-15 per cent this year – more than the 10 per cent forecast by property consultants – but says that this decline would not make a material impact on the bank’s loan book. Speaking at DBS’s Q4 results briefing, he said it is likely that the prices of high-end homes will slide 15 per cent, and that for lower-end ones, by 10 per cent.

As for the higher interest rates expected with the shrinking of monetary stimulus policy by the US, he said he was not expecting it to have any effect on DBS. “The Singapore portfolio is really driven on income considerations . . . As I’ve said before, the pressure will likely start coming when unemployment rises – more than when property prices change.” Singapore’s unemployment rate is now at a low 1.8 per cent.

Mr Gupta said: “All our stress tests in the past have shown that we can easily withstand a 20 per cent reduction in Singapore property prices without material impact on our portfolio. We stress-test (for a) 20 (per cent fall in property prices), but don’t expect it to happen; our stress tests are always calibrated to go off the charts. My own sense is that there will be a correction of 10-15 per cent.”

He noted that the market was already stabilising and that the froth was running off, but that if this continued, the government would roll back some of the macro prudential measures. Sales of new mortgages have plunged 30-35 per cent at DBS, and by 40-50 per cent at OCBC Bank as a result of the stricter loan rules.

Mr Gupta likened the Singapore property market to that of New York and London, where prices held up even during the financial crisis between 2008 and 2012. While prices in the rest of the US fell by about a third, prices in New York slipped by only 10 per cent. It was a similar situation in London, another city where the demand is not dependent on the state of the domestic economy.

Mr Gupta said he expects regional money buying properties here to also put a floor under prices. With the slower sales, DBS’s $49.1 billion mortgage book is likely to grow by $2 billion to $2.5 billion this year, down from $3.5 billion last year and $5 billion the year before that, said Mr Gupta.

OCBC Bank chief operating officer Ching Wei Hong said of the new mortgage sales having declined across the board: “That’s expected, given all the cooling measures that have been imposed. We’ve built up a healthy inventory level. The inventory drives the growth of (the loan) book, going into 2014 and 2015. Beyond 2015 H2 and 2016, if conditions remain the same, we’ll see a bit of tapering in that period.”

(BT article last Saturday)

We really poor? Why we don’t have Swiss standard of living?

In Economy, Hong Kong on 19/02/2014 at 4:51 am

The u/m perhaps explains why the PAP despite the triumphalism  of itself  and its wallies of our Swiss standard of living, our massive (but  “secret” reserves), and massive budget surpluses (last yr’s estimated $2.4bn is likely to be $6.5bn according to economists. Gd TRE post on this http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/02/18/sg-surplus-for-this-fy-may-hit-6-5-billion/) refuses to spend our money on ourselves. I’ve always blogged that a Hard Truth born of meanness is, “Don’t spend money on making life more comfortable for S’poreans, better to cheong on markets”. But maybe we juz don’t have the $. It belongs to MNCs.

Incidentally, the article shows why local investment is preferable to foreign investment: the profits stick around. The PAP govt rightly takes credit for attracting MNCs here in the 60s and 70s to create jobs. So it should accept responsibility for not diversifying away from this reliance on MNCs, especially as attracting MNCs is not conventional wisdom. In the 60s and 70s, attracting MNC was seen as neo-colonialism.

In Singapore, personal consumption expenditure has steadily fallen over the years as a percentage of GDP and, at 35 per cent, is now barely half of what it is in Hong Kong. This is an oddity characteristic of a startup economy, not of a wealthy town like Singapore.

But it means that, on the basis of our money-in-your-hands measure, Hong Kong at US$24,000 per capita still outranks Singapore at US$21,000.

The second chart gives you a clue as to why the two economies are so different on this measure. Industrial investment in Singapore, always predominantly foreign, has become even more so in recent years, accounting for an average of about 80 per cent of total investment over the past 10 years. I do not have the equivalent figures for Hong Kong but, at a rough guess, the foreign-local ratio would be the reverse.

This foreign investment in Singapore has in turn produced a huge trade surplus in both goods and services. Over recent years, it has run at about 30 per cent of GDP. And most of this money goes right back out again to pay foreigners for all the confidence they have shown in Singapore by investing in it so heavily.

In short, Singapore’s high GDP numbers are mostly an anomaly created by very generous industrial concessions to foreigners. They do not really reflect domestic wealth.

In another way, however, these GDP measures of Hong Kong and Singapore do not mean much as a yardstick of the comparative efficiency of either system. The fact is both are parasite economies feeding off much larger neighbours, the mainland in Hong Kong’s case and Indonesia and Malaysia in Singapore’s. They are both wealthy because they perform services that their neighbours cannot or, for reasons of policy, will not perform.

http://www.scmp.com/business/economy/article/1420215/singaporeans-not-wealthy-gdp-figures-suggest

Buying, renting or the Korean way?

In Economy, Financial competency, Property on 18/02/2014 at 4:23 am

Recently, the FT carried a commentary (behind pay-wall) on why a leading UK architect was renting, not buying (UK has a home-purchasing culture which one LKY imported and made S’porean for reasons explained below).

Here are two gd responses to the article:

— “People are obliged to borrow to buy property because they need a roof over their heads when they retire and do not want to be at the mercy of a landlord, who will increase the rent annually and reserve the right to serve notice three months after signing the annual shorthold tenancy agreement.” (a reader)

–“As everyone knows, buying property used to be like standing in front of a fruit machine that was jammed on three cherries. Wealth came pouring out. And as everyone also knows, that machine has now stopped dispensing cash. You can’t buy a house that will change your life like my grandmother did, nor buy a flat that makes you rich, like I did when I was only 23. Most people can’t afford to buy anything at all.” (Lucy Kellaway, an FT columnist)”

She also reminds, “It has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with culture, emotion and family.” The very reason why the PAP govt wants S’poreans to own their homes, never mind that most of them are buying 99-yr leases.

At the end of the day as she points out, buying “is a wise move” when property prices go up, “renting is smarter” when prices go down. So long as S’pore is a one-party state with the PAP in charge, property prices may keep on rising*. With WP or SDP in charge, what do you think?

—–

In Korea, there is an unusual rental system, known as jeonse, does not involve monthly rental payments. Instead, tenants provide landlords with a deposit, typically between a quarter and half of the property’s value, to invest for the duration of the lease. Property owners keep the returns and then repay the lump sum at the end of the tenancy … Tenants’ deposits financed landlords’ properties, interest-free, while pushing renters to pool savings: over time, the deposit would become their own home-purchase fund. For decades, monthly rental was synonymous with poverty.

Yet interest rates and property prices have sunk since 2008. To earn a decent return on their investments, landlords have been raising jeonse prices.

(http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21596566-landlords-are-having-ditch-century-old-rental-system-lumping-it)

Related article: This S’porean bot http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={157655219-19866-5631219744}

Related posts

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/bring-back-super-mah/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/why-banks-tested-for-50-plunge-in-property-prices-and-other-wonderful-tales/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/property-khaw-must-be-doing-shumething-right/

———————————————

*But not in 2014:

DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta expects home prices to fall by 10-15 per cent this year – more than the 10 per cent forecast by property consultants – but says that this decline would not make a material impact on the bank’s loan book. Speaking at DBS’s Q4 results briefing, he said it is likely that the prices of high-end homes will slide 15 per cent, and that for lower-end ones, by 10 per cent.

As for the higher interest rates expected with the shrinking of monetary stimulus policy by the US, he said he was not expecting it to have any effect on DBS. “The Singapore portfolio is really driven on income considerations . . . As I’ve said before, the pressure will likely start coming when unemployment rises – more than when property prices change.” Singapore’s unemployment rate is now at a low 1.8 per cent.

Mr Gupta said: “All our stress tests in the past have shown that we can easily withstand a 20 per cent reduction in Singapore property prices without material impact on our portfolio. We stress-test (for a) 20 (per cent fall in property prices), but don’t expect it to happen; our stress tests are always calibrated to go off the charts. My own sense is that there will be a correction of 10-15 per cent.”

He noted that the market was already stabilising and that the froth was running off, but that if this continued, the government would roll back some of the macro prudential measures. Sales of new mortgages have plunged 30-35 per cent at DBS, and by 40-50 per cent at OCBC Bank as a result of the stricter loan rules.

Mr Gupta likened the Singapore property market to that of New York and London, where prices held up even during the financial crisis between 2008 and 2012. While prices in the rest of the US fell by about a third, prices in New York slipped by only 10 per cent. It was a similar situation in London, another city where the demand is not dependent on the state of the domestic economy.

Mr Gupta said he expects regional money buying properties here to also put a floor under prices. With the slower sales, DBS’s $49.1 billion mortgage book is likely to grow by $2 billion to $2.5 billion this year, down from $3.5 billion last year and $5 billion the year before that, said Mr Gupta.

OCBC Bank chief operating officer Ching Wei Hong said of the new mortgage sales having declined across the board: “That’s expected, given all the cooling measures that have been imposed. We’ve built up a healthy inventory level. The inventory drives the growth of (the loan) book, going into 2014 and 2015. Beyond 2015 H2 and 2016, if conditions remain the same, we’ll see a bit of tapering in that period.”

(BT article last Saturday)

Govt, S’poreans that blur on Indons’ ship-naming?

In Indonesia on 17/02/2014 at 4:38 am

The govt missed the opportunity to kick the Indonesian govt in the balls. It could have made the Indon govt look stupid and crass internationally. S’poreans (govt* and all the commentators bar one Voice, see below) are behaving like frogs in a well in their reaction to the Indonesian brazenness over the naming a naval vessel after two “heroes” who killed S’porean civilians in the 1960s.

Seriously, the issue is bigger than our sensitivities about the Indonesian govt’s view that we are a Little Red Speck that it can trod on or push around like East Timor or West Papua.

It’s about whether Indonesia views attacks against civilians as a legitimate military tactic, contrary to the rules of war, Even the hegemon accepts that killing civilians is wrong even if its drones keep killing civilians (“Accident leh. Not on purpose”). So the US and the int’l community should want to know if Indonesia views killing civilians as a legitimate military tactic. The behaviour of Indonesia’s armed forces in Acheh, Sulawesi, West Papua and East Timor provides evidence that the military (at least) condones the killing of innocent civilians.

Taking a step further does Indonesia implicitly or covertly condone terrorism as a legitimate response to grievances (legtimate or otherwise)? S’pore should be asking the US and the int’l community to ask Indonesia. After all, Indonesia considers the two men who killed innocent civilians “heroes”. Isn’t this glorifying and condoning terrorism which is the killing of innocent civilians to publicise or further a cause? Even North Korea who has engaged in terrorist attacks against airliners and in third countries (such as Burma in 1983) doesn’t go round naming warships after the “killers”.

I’m bullish about Indonesia’s economic prospects but I’m not blind to the flaws in Indonesian governance. I’ve written: The Indonesian army has form in bullying its people and invading neighbours: Aceh, Sulawesi, East Timor, West Papua, Malaysia. Remember the Indonesian army planted bombs here in the 1960s?

Other instances of bad Indonesian behaviour

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/indonesia-bullying-instincts-arising/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/haze-pm-silence-is-not-a-solution/

The above musings was “triggered” by this letter to Voices:

From

Haj Mohamed

Published: 13 February, 4:04 AM

I refer to the report “Jakarta ‘meant no ill will’ in naming of frigate” (Feb 12). The issue is not merely about bilateral relations per se.

Indonesia’s decision to name a ship after the MacDonald House bombers sends a confusing signal about its stand on terrorism.

The bombing was done in a civilian area, killing civilians, and the world is clear that such bombings, including suicide bombings, are acts of terrorism. So, what is Indonesia’s stand on the Bali bombers?

There is a saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, which I believe holds only when one considers the other as an enemy.

Now that Indonesia has clarified that there is no enmity between our two countries, it must clarify its stand on terrorism and its criteria for defining heroes, so as not to reinforce a few of its citizens’ wrong perception that Jemaah Islamiyah members are heroes.

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/haze-what-raffles-would-have-done/

Update at 5.00am

Riau Islands Governor Muhammad Sani has told the Batam chapter of the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) to reconsider its plan to build a statue in honour of former Marines Usman and Harun to prevent further friction with Singapore.

Singapore had reacted strongly to Indonesia’s recent move to name a warship after the two Marines who carried out the bombing of MacDonald House in Singapore in 1965.

“With the current situation, please reconsider (the plan) and do not add more problems,” Mr Sani was quoted as saying by the Antara news agency on Sunday.

Mr Sani said that Batam Kadin should bear in mind that Batam is a stone’s throw away from Singapore.

“What is the benefit for us?” Sani asked.

The building of the statue is subject to approval from the Batam Free Trade Zone Management Agency.

A spokesman for the agency has cited several factors it needs to consider before granting a permit — aesthetics, maintaining good relations and Batam’s location — noting that many Singaporean businessmen invest in Batam.

A Batam resident who goes by only one name, Parulian, warned: “What if Singaporeans pull their investment?” (CNA report)

Money talks.

*Actually the govt’s behaviour was measured but two ministers who were paper generals spoiled the gravitas that Shan and MFA pitched the issue at with their comments. Kee Chui and MoM Tan should have sat down and shut up. but one assumes they wanted to how lien their patriotism, if not their stupidity and crudeness. They came across as the Indonesian generals do: paper tigers. Maybe they practising to be like Indonesian ministers: talk cock, sing song clowns? LKY would be appalled.

Useful articles from S’pore Biz Review

In Uncategorized on 16/02/2014 at 4:23 am

Analysts views on Reits in Nay Yr

http://sbr.com.sg/commercial-property/exclusive/what-could-make-2014-disappointing-year-singapore-reits

Charts on banks’ loans etc

http://sbr.com.sg/financial-services/news/10-charts-prove-singapore-banks-mixed-finish-2013

Asean looking gd: gd for us

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 15/02/2014 at 4:15 am

[S]outheast Asia has confounded the sceptics. Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines – the “Tips” – weathering the latest storm with relative ease.

The Jakarta equity index has recorded the biggest gain of any major market – emerging or otherwise – this year, rising 5.2 per cent in dollar terms since the start of January. Financials have led the charge with Bank Rakyat jumping by more than a fifth.

The Philippine market has risen 1.5 per cent, while Thailand’s loss of 0.4 per cent looks tame compared with other EMs. For the same period, Russia’s Micex is down 7.2 per cent and Brazil’s Bovespa is 7.9 per cent lower.

A similar pattern has played out in currency markets. The Indonesian rupiah and the Thai baht are the top EM performers against the dollar this year. [EM means Emerging Markets]

Previous rallies in southeast Asia have been driven by aversion to China – the Tips are less reliant on exports to the country than are many other places in the emerging world. As concerns about economic growth and the financial system bubble up again in China, southeast Asia appears to be benefiting.

However, Bill Maldonado, chief investment officer for Asia at HSBC asset management, says more country-specific factors are at work. (Except from FT blog of 10th Feb)

— Thailand is cheap, juz as profitable as Indonesia: politics makes it cheap.
— Indonesia is growing faster than expected having taken steps earlier to fix its deficits in budget and current account and there there is an election is coming,

Both stk markets are cheap on a price to book basis, the Jakarta index is at a four-year low, while Thai stocks are trading at two-year lows.

Given Indonesia’s proximity to S’pore, we’ll benefit too. Too bad M’sia is not in better shape*. If it is, there will be a GE in 2015.

*Update at 7.30 am: M’sia could be getting better– BT reports: Analysts have revised their estimates for Malaysia’s 2014 growth upwards, with the country having reported fourth-quarter growth of 5.2 per cent, confounding the market’s estimate of 4.8 per cent.

Details released by the central bank indicate that domestic demand remains the key driver of the economy, despite concerns that this would be hit by rising living costs; private consumption remained resilient, rising 7.3 per cent from a year earlier.

In reports released on Wednesday, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch forecast this year’s growth at 5 per cent; Barclays Bank pegged its estimate at 5.4 per cent, while the Malaysian government’s own forecast was between 5 and 5.5 per cent.

If turns out to be correct, GE 2015, after National Day 2015.

“Dissident Voices”

In Uncategorized on 14/02/2014 at 4:43 am

When I opened a copy of my friend’s latest book “Dissident Voices”, and saw the dissidents featured (Lim Chin Siong, Catherine Lim, Ong Eng Guan, David Marshall, Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew, Said Zahari, Tan Wah Piow, Francis Seow and Vincent Cheng Lim), I tot how come no JBJ* and Lee Siew Choh? After all, they too stood firm on their convictions despite the odds. And they too paid a heavy toll for their beliefs … But they never broke. In fact, Catherine Lim is a nobody when compared to those giants, JBJ and Lee.

When we met, he explained to me that he and Marshall Cavendish (the publisher) had agreed a tentative list of names. More than one book was needed to do justice to the names on the list.. The author thought the subjects he chose for the book “S’pore Dissidents” would resonate more with readers who wanted to know more about personalities who dared to be different – and paid a price. There are plans for another volume to cover JBJ and Lee Siew Choh for sure. Other names that could appear are: Alfian Saat, Martyn See, Ng Ho, Low Thia Khiang, Ong Teng Cheong, Devan Nair, Chee Soon Juan, Ho Kwong Ping and Teo Soh Lung.

If he included co-driver Low and Mad Dog (or is it  Coyote?) Chee, what about Chiam? As said, the list is being worked out, so don’t get worked up if your hero is left out. Just tell me and I’ll tell the author. BTW, Ng Ho is the father of another friend. Both father and son were detained under ISA. Despite being detained, my friend is a true-blue S’porean patriot and a poster boy for the meritocracy preached and practiced by the PAP Old Guard: example all his grandchildren are now in elite schools despite him being poor when young.

Whatever it is, the proposed list doesn’t do justice to the contemporary scene of voices. Voices like TOC, TRE and Alex Au. Maybe a third volume is needed? Watch and wait. Let volume II come out first.

Coming back to “Dissident Voices”, it’s written in straight-forward prose. ST’s style of writing at its best.

People of around my generation should read it to refresh or correct their memories, impressions of the late 50s and early 60s because the book covers Lim Chin Siong, Ong Eng Guan, David Marshall, Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew and Said Zahari. The other four are “dissidents” from other more recent periods.

Younger S’poreans should read it because it tells them a bit of the history of S’pore: about S’poreans who stood firm on their convictions despite the odds. And all but Marshall and Catherine Lim paid a heavy toll for their beliefs – deprivations, long prison terms, lonely lives in self-imposed exile. But they never broke.

They may learn of a time (late 50s, early 60s) when being called a “socialist” was not a sneer or an insult: even one LKY was proud to identify himself as a “socialist”. They may also learn that leaders can come from any level of society, and that it wasn’t necessary to have good academic results to be a leader: the ability to sway the masses was what counted. They may start to understand the background of today’s SAP schools, and why there are older S’poreans who decry the schools’ as an insult to local Chinese culture and traditions.

Readers of this blog like Jack, AuntieLucia etc should encourage their younger relations to read the book. Maybe even buy copies as birthday presents or rewards. Its prose is simple enough for secondary school kids who can learn that once upon a time life was hard, really hard and when S’poreans could not be called apathetic. Related posts:

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

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

More about the author’s background:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/wanted-expertise-on-organising-a-legal-strike/

– Publisher’s media release

DISSIDENT VOICES

by CLEMENT MESENAS

One of the first of its kind–this book

Introduces ten unique individuals who stood

by their beliefs and the ultimate price they

paid for that legacy.

The personalities featured are:

Lim Chin Siong, Catherine Lim,

Ong Eng Guan, David Marshall,

Chia Thye Poh, Lim Hock Siew,

Said Zahari, Tan Wah Piow, Francis Seow and

Vincent Cheng

ABOUT THE BOOK

They stood firm on their convictions despite the odds. Some paid a heavy toll for

their beliefs – deprivations, long prison terms, lonely lives in self-imposed exile. But

they never broke. Some will say the unflinching attitude of these dissidents against

what they perceived as coercive authority has been an exercise in futility. Yet other

say the course of Singapore’s history might have been altered if their will had

prevailed.

Their stories need to be told. The first of it’s kind, this book will inform and educate

rather than to glorify their tough stance. These short memoirs are a record of

human endurance, exemplifying the extremes sacrifices some people will make in

pursuit of their ideals.

Written by veteran journalist and author Clement Mesenas, this book chronicles the

lives of ten leading dissidents.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clement Mesenas started his career in The Straits Times in 1968, cutting his teeth in

journalism as a young crime reporter before moving on to the sub-editors desk and

then to the field of magazine publishing. He left Singapore in 1979 to become

managing editor of the Kuwait Times for a decade before moving to the Gulf News in

Dubai, where he was deputy editor for another decade. He returned to Singapore in

2000 to join MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper as one of its pioneering editors, before

he retired in 2011. He now publishes a number of community publications and is

working towards establishing a global network through digital media platforms.

—-

*Didn’t expect Chiam or Dr Chee to appear as they are still active politicians. As to Low, bet you he’d sue if he was called a dissident. He is the PAP’s self-appointed co-driver, a courtier who accepts the PAP’s hegemony. BTW, seems the co-driver and courtier needs a good accountant. Wonder what my friend Eric Tan is doing now? Smiling?

S$, Baht & Rupiah looking gd

In Currencies, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia on 13/02/2014 at 4:43 am

Given that a senior cabinet minister and NTUC chief, and a jnr minister from NTUC is giving the PAP govt a bad name, maybe it’s time to remind S’poreans that the PAP govt is not all full of NTUC clowns. On Tueday I reported that Khaw and MoM Tan had the developers concerned, and today I’ll remind S’poreans that PM’s economic team (headed by Tharman) are keeping int’l investors onside (too bad about TOC, TRe readers, but then they can take comfort that locals like me too like a strong S$.)

(4 Feb) – Recent alarmist commentary may have stirred up concerns about Singapore’s economy, but in the midst of the emerging market rout, safe-haven seekers’ faith appeared unshaken as they scooped up its currency.

“We have noted its safe-haven status within the Asian region is getting stronger in past years. So when you have a broad risk off, in general the Singapore dollar will outperform,” said Ju Wang, senior foreign-exchange strategist at HSBC.

Earlier this week, global markets largely sold off, but the Singapore dollar strengthened, with the U.S. dollar fetching as little as 1.2666 on Tuesday, compared with around 1.2790 Friday. Against the currency of its neighbor Malaysia, the Singapore dollar has touched its highest level since 1998.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101390521

But To be sure, it isn’t clear the Sing’s climb is sustainable or would withstand a more extended market rout.

“When people want to take money off the table, the safe-haven tag may not be helpful,” Song said. “We can’t avoid spillover from contagion in Southeast Asia.”

Now that would have TOC, TRE readers happy, ’cause they can blame it on the govt.

BTW, here’s an interesting article on the flows in and out of Indonesia and the other Fragile Five. http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2014/02/emerging-markets. Actually the rupiah has done relatively better than most other emerging markets currencies against the US$. So has the the Thai baht despite the political problems.

But the currencies of  Thailand Indonesia, M’sia  and the Philippines have fared worse against Japan’s yen than they have against the US dollar. This means that Japanese financial ,institutions may slow down their investments in the region: investing here could be like catching a falling knife. So, they’ll likely wait.

 

Zorro & PA make PM look stupid, cheap-skate, ill-mannered & ungracious

In Political governance on 12/02/2014 at 4:50 am

(Or “PA trying to show that it is no PAP stooge?”)

Tot Cheap, Cheapo Quick Zorro is a minister in PMO, the deputy chairman of the PA,  and that PA and the PAP are one and the same? Think again, with people like Zorro and other senior PA managerss, who needs enemies, the PM (and chairman of PA) must be wondering. PM may also be wondering if Zorro and other clowns manager at PA are trying to fix him or that they showing S’poreans that they are not part of the PAP machine.

Still laughing at Zorro Lim’s explanation of why ex-presidential TCB was “un-invited” from an Istana function organised by the PA. And at his petulance in being upset that Dr Tan made the un-invitation public*:  Mr Tan Cheng Bock is just informing his followers and friends on facebook.
Cannot meh? (TRE reader)

Wouldn’t it have been easier (i.e. less damaging to PM, Zorro personally, the govt, the PAP and the PA) once the balls-up was discovered for Lim to say to his staff, “As our sister Jos said We cannot have the attitude that everything will be perfect from Day One: but more careful. Make sure the correct list is used next yr. As for this year, let the invitations stand. Order more food. No budget? Juz cut activities in WP areas. Make the residents there repent. We don’t want PAP voters and neutral S’poreans to think we are ill-mannered: badly brought up by our parents.”

Instead, he called all those wrongly invited to dis-invite them (Wonder how many? Any Oppo GE 2011 canidates? Think Ben Pwee and SDP’s Dr Ang). Surely on a cost-benefit analysis, this was a waste of his valuable time**? Particularly given the PR damage if this dis-invitation was made public? In the age of social media, disclosure must be presumed.

As it is, one TRE reader voiced what is on many minds (self-included)

I think the whole episode of “uninviting Lim Cheng Bock came out badly” in the eyes of many Singaporeans. It showed clearly as long as someone is against the PAP, they do not deserve to be a Singaporean, notwithstanding his or her past contributions to nation building. At least I view it this way as a Singaporean from this episode. Because Tan Cheng Bock, an ex PAP member dared to stand up against the current PAP policies, it seems he is more an outlaw today, and whatever credit he chalked up in sacrificing his youthful years in nation building became a zero and does not deserve any recognition at all***.

He or she goes on to make some very valid points:

Secondly, with Lim Swee Say’s explanation, it also reflected badly on the PA as an organization. It looks like in coming up with the first list of invitees, they did not even know exactly what criteria to use to come up with the selected people for the Istana Party. All these days with the PM loudspeaking his sincere wish to recognize the first generation people who contributed to our nation building, it looks like at the end the selection was morely likely based on a preferred list, which is not surprising at all. Woe betide once again!

Thirdly, Lim Swee Say came across as unconvincing at all, especially when he is also the Labour Chief who needs to have a heart full of empathy in the first place. But by executing the order to uninvite a fellow Singaporean who was already invited, it just reflects clearly that our leadership is uncompassionate and also unkind. Even if the case was not about Tan Cheng Bock per se, but if any ordinary Singaporean who got invited to the Istana to be informed later that he was univited because of an error, have the government given any thought on how the affected person would feel. He or she could have already announced to all the friends that he was invited by the PM for the Istana Party.***

Given the above logic, Tan Cheng Bock has every right to make a comment on how he really felt about the matter. Does Lim Swee Say expect Tan Cheng Bock to challenge the decree when it was announced to him over the phone? Cheng Bock has to accept it as a gentleman but does it mean he has bought into the explanation which is a lousy one in the first place. So my advice to Swee Say, just shut up!

And it’s not only netizens. This appeared in MediaCorp’s freesheet:

Aileen Tan Ai Ker

Published: 10 February, 4:06 AM

I refer to the report “Cheng Bock invited to Istana party ‘by mistake’” (Feb 8). Invitations are traditionally, even now, sent because the host wishes to have the company of the guest.

No one sends an invitation and retracts it, especially after it has been accepted. This is unacceptable in any culture, by any social standard. It is a question of “face” and emotional quotient. Similarly, a guest should have basic, reasonable emotional intelligence to decline an invitation if he or she feels awkward or is on unfriendly terms with the host.

In this instance, former Member of Parliament and presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock received and accepted the invitation.

The People’s Association (PA) should have been sensitive and exercised discretion to host him and those guests whom they considered were invited by mistake.

An old invitation list was used, despite today’s database management technology. It would have been smarter to bear the brunt of this and be graceful. The cost of hosting them would probably have been negligible.

Instead, the episode reflects badly on the PA, which deals with the grassroots and Singaporeans in general.

We expect more sensitivity than a simple apology after making a mistake. EQ training might help prevent a repeat.

Update: Related article: http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/02/08/pap-in-stage-3-to-4-of-decline/

—-

*He implies that since Dr Tan accepted the dis-invitation, he should juz sit down and shut up. A TRE reader pointed out: Mr Lim SS, Dr Tan may accept your explanation. He may not necessarily agree with or support your explanation. He has not explicitly say that he agrees with your explanation. Example : I may accept the price of NTUC goods/products however I may not support it. So Dr Tan has the rights to provide his side of the story. Remember he has his grassroots supporters to explain to. So if you have nothing to hide, Mr Lim why be do defensive.

**Remember he needs time to read his specially prepared monthly CPF statement, and to borrow toothpicks from a certain place.

***It is not about the invite – it is about some small- minded people who felt threatened by his presence. By 0.35 % margin! Dr. Tan will be the one sending out the list. Now he is pariah!

Shame on the PAP. (Another TRE reader)

****But the important things is this – if an invitation has been extended, you honour it and follow through with it. And if you have to have a longer guest list and cater more food as a result of this, then so be it. Making things right in situations like this is to honour what the Government has done. Updating the list and uninviting people is not making things right, and in fact is not right and making things worse.

It is disappointing that you would stand by and approve of this kind of conduct. Is this the ethos PA goes by?

Don’t highly qualified people in the civil service understand what it means to do the right thing in human relationships? (Yet another TRE reader)

Property: Khaw must be doing shumething right

In Property, Public Administration on 11/02/2014 at 4:18 am

(And so is Paper General Tan)

Yesterday, I blogged about a HDB owner worried that he would lose money on his HDB flat and wanted assurances from govt that this wouldn’t happen.

When even a property mogul asks the govt to review restrictions, it’s clear that Khaw is getting something right. Last Saturday BT reported the following:

IT is time for the government to tweak some of its property cooling measures such as the additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD), given concerns over the global economy and signs that the property market here is slowing down, said Kwek Leng Beng, executive chairman of Hong Leong Group Singapore and property developer City Developments.

He suggested that the government consider lifting the hefty stamp duties imposed on foreigners when they buy property here, and replace it with a tax on sellers who offload their property three or four years after snapping it up.

“Everybody is attracting foreigners today to their countries. We should attract foreigners. But if . . . you penalise them by having to pay additional tax, then they (will) say you don’t welcome me.

“So why don’t you (the government) just say, if you sell within three years, four years, then I tax you. You come in (and buy property) I don’t want to tax. I think this is one way,” said Mr Kwek, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (Redas) Spring Festival lunch yesterday.

The government can also consider lifting ABSD for locals – who are subject to the additional tax when they purchase more than one home – and permanent residents, he said.

“I don’t think there is a lot of speculation. The prices are high because developers have got no land stock . . . in the land bank. (At the same time) they have to survive, they cannot let business come to a standstill.

“So I think for some of these, we will (need to) have a dialogue with the government . . . I think the government has the bigger picture. We leave it to them. They are trying their best. They want a stabilised market. We will cooperate with them.”

Mr Kwek’s comments come amid signs that the housing market is slowing down. Statistics from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) showed that for the last three months of 2013, private home prices fell 0.9 per cent – the first quarterly drop in about two years. For the full year, URA’s overall private home price index ended 1.1 per cent higher – a smaller gain compared with the 2.8 per cent recorded in 2012.

And when developers talk like this you know that they are concerned that MoM is monitoring their work practices:

Besides working closely with the government to build a healthy property market, developers will also work closely with the government on the next phase of nation-building and real estate development to achieve a “distinctive, high-quality living environment for all”, said Chia Boon Kuah, president of Redas.

This means that construction activity will remain at high levels and continue unabated for several years, making it “ever more important to re-focus our collective attention on workplace safety and welfare of the some 30,000 migrant workers in our industry”, he said.

“As developers, we should support our contractors in showing duty of care for the health, safety and welfare of these workers. This enhances productivity, which, in the long run, translates into benefits for all.”

Last month, a worksite accident in Sentosa left one foreign worker dead and 10 others injured.

The death of the worker takes the number of fatalities at worksite accidents to nine in just over a month, prompting Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin to write on his blog that the recent spate of accidents was “not tenable”.

Developers and contractors should, therefore, “up the ante on workplace safety training and communication” and “recognise the contributions these workers make to our country”, said Mr Chia, who is also group president and chief executive of developer GuocoLand.

Redas would hold a forum to identify and discuss common causes behind construction workplace accidents, challenges to risk reduction and best practices, he said.

Two cheers each for Khaw, Mom Tan and of course their boss, the PM. Three cheers for each is a cheer too far.

two cheers for

British

used for saying that you think something is good but that it could be better

Bring back Super Mah?

In Political governance, Property, Public Administration on 10/02/2014 at 4:52 am

If the PM brings back Mah, the minister who made sure HDB prices rose in a recession*, this Forum writer should be very, very happy about. HDB prices not falling. But to be fair to this idiot KS S’porean, P Ravi has empathy for the sentiments expressed.Still that doesn’t excuse his sense of entitlement.

Can Govt ensure HDB flats keep their value over time?

There have been recent reports on the falling prices of Housing Board resale flats (“First HDB resale price dip since 2005″, Jan 25; and “Resale flat prices not yet at ‘steady state’”; last Sunday)

The number of resale transactions has fallen considerably and we are seeing some negative cash-over-valuation deals.

Despite this, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan says a “steady state” has yet to be reached and that home buyers should welcome the softening prices of HDB resale flats.

A few years ago, I took part in several flat balloting exercises as a first-time buyer. I was not successful and had to pay a steep price for a resale flat.

Then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan had said flat owners would benefit from rising prices because their homes would become more valuable.

There is certainly a need to ensure flat buyers are not disadvantaged by overly high prices.

But it is equally imperative that due consideration be given to flat owners, so they will not suffer a loss in the value of their homes over time. Are there measures to ensure this will not happen?

Chan Kwang Ping

P Ravi on Facebook commenting on the above, “People cannot be faulted for buying a flat even when the price is high and it is the sellers’ market, because whatever the market condition, people still need a house to live in. When people’s retirement fund are stuck in the house they own, such sentiments are understandable.”

What do you think?

And do you think he he will vote for WP? Maybe as WP has promised that it will only be PAP’s co-driver, a co-driver that will let PAP do as its like (OK! OK! WP says will slap PAP if it makes mistakes. But it only gets worked up when NEA, PA and PAP make trouble for WP: not when PAP makes trouble for S’poreans.). Will he vote RP or NSP? Err I don’t think he that stupid.

Will he vote SDP? I hope so (even if I think that its policy of crawling to the Indons doesn’t work), but doubt it as SDP wants to cut the link between investment for retirement and public housing.  A laudable, rational aim, but a tough sell when so many S’poreans are taking 25 yrs to pay off 99-yr HDB leases (About 87% of S’poreans live in HDB flata). Besides these leases have been a gd investment on paper (but useless as security), so far. Hmm maybe SDP should stress these flaws.

Khaw should say, “Vote PAP leh”.

Related posts:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/hdb-oversupply-again-by-next-ge/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/consequences-of-khaws-hdb-policies/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/hdb-affordability-and-market-based-land-costs-redefined/

——-

*https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/property-prices-going-against-natural-laws/

The problem with universal benefits

In Uncategorized on 09/02/2014 at 4:39 am

When I read the u/m from BBC Online, I could help but think about the criticism of the S’pore govt’s policy of mean-testing welfare, healthcare etc.

Mail, columnist Tom Utley wonders at the “bonkers” thinking that awarded him a 60+ Oyster Freedom Pass to travel in London free-of-charge, saving him £15,000 to spend on booze and fags when he’s “financially better off at 60 than I’ve ever been before”.

There are issues with mean-testing and universal benefits. It all depend on one’s objectives. And it isn’t always true that means testing saves tax-payers money. Systems, processes and people are needed to means test. They too cost money. Note that even our travel concessions for the elderly are not means tested.

Thailand, harbinger of problems in M’sia, S’pore

In Malaysia, Public Administration on 08/02/2014 at 4:56 am

(Asean round-up)

But before I go into what I mean here’s something on how Thailand’s woes are benefiting S’pore: Singapore Institute of Purchasing & Materials Management ‘s executive director Janice Ong said (according to BT) that there has been anecdotal evidence that the political turmoil in Thailand is diverting orders to Singapore’s manufacturers. But economists believe that the impact would be slight at best.

UOB economist Francis Tan said that the clusters in which such diversion may occur, such as hard disk drives, make up only a small proportion of Singapore’s manufacturing sector.

Divine compensation for Temasek’s purchase of Shin?

Now back to the subject matter of the title. One aspect of the crisis is the sense of entitlement by the Opposition. It was explained by this analysis

[P]olitical power and economic power no longer coincide in Thailand. The parts of the country that generate most of Thailand’s GDP do not ally with the ruling party, which commands most of the vote. That simple fact no doubt explains some of the bitterness of the country’s crisis. In the chart below, we try to quantify this simple insight.

Thailand’s redshirts back the government and most of them look forward to the election on February 2nd. They support Pheu Thai, the third incarnation of a political party founded by Thaksin Shinawatra, a tycoon and former prime minister whose sister, Yingluck, now heads the government. The protesters, on the other hand, want to derail the election and rid Thailand of the influence of the Shinawatras, whom they accuse of rapacious corruption and ruinous populism. They tend to support the opposition, led by the Democrat Party. 

In the last general election in 2011, Pheu Thai won 48% of the votes cast for the national political parties*. They were the leading party in 46 of Thailand’s 76 provinces, helping the party and its allies take control of Thailand’s National Assembly. But, according to calculations by The Economist, the party’s political strongholds account for only 38% of Thailand’s GDP.

The opposition Democrats, by contrast, polled 35% of the party votes. They were the leading party in 30 of Thailand’s 76 provinces and also its capital city. Added together, these territories account for 62% of the nation’s GDP. Bangkok alone accounts for about 30%**. In Thailand, in short, domestic power and domestic product reside in different parts of the country.

the chart illustrates the enormous gap between the Democrats’ political power and their economic clout. This gap may help explain both their feelings of alarm and their sense of entitlement. It shows the enormous scope for redistribution from Democrat-ruled provinces to those dominated by Pheu Thai. This redistribution, which has been taking place for decades, accelerated in 2001 when Thaksin first became prime minister. Back then the Thai state spent 16% of the national budget on the provinces. Today, under his sister’s government, their share has increased to a quarter.

The figures may also shed light on the opposition’s sense of entitlement. Some in the old Thai establishment no doubt feel that they make a disproportionate contribution to the country’s prosperity and development. To them a constitutional arrangement that gave them about 62% of the political power might feel about right. It would represent a realignment of domestic power with domestic product.

 This situation could be replicated in M’sia. Selangor is biggest contributor in GDP terms to M’sia (as of 2013)  and Penang is 5th based 0n 2010 data. Both are controlled by the Opposition. Attempts by BN to buy votes need money, and taxes can only come from the richer states. You can guess the rest …

Even in S’pore, such entitlement is not absent. I came across this comment: [O]nly 40% of the population are paying income tax to support 60% of the population. Increasing revenue from direct taxes will penalise the very people who have been contributing to the nation’s coffers. With countries in the region cutting their corporate taxes, Singapore has to rely on higher indirect taxes and reduce the proportion of revenue arising from income and corporate taxes. Otherwise, the minority tax payers can very well vote with their feet and offer their investments and skills to someone else.

Fortunately, this is rubbish. because (based on last yr’s Budget estimates only 14% (third largest) of govt revenues come from personal income tax. The largest contributor is corporate tax (17%). GST at 17% is the second largest contributor.

 

 

What PM should say this Sunday?

In Political governance, Public Administration on 07/02/2014 at 5:11 am

“Sorry”. For what specifically you may ask? There are many things the PAP should repent for after all.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will announce the details of the Pioneer Generation Package on Sunday. Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing said the package will take care of the seniors for the rest of their time as Singaporeans.

Mr Chan said: “It is not about giving them something for one year and that’s it. It is more than that. It is a package… to take care of them for the rest of their time as Singaporeans, and the rest of the time they are with us.

“We want to make this commitment because it is a testimony to what we believe as a nation, that as the Chinese say, ‘yin shui si yuan’, (meaning) when we drink from the well, we will remember the source.”

Mr Chan was speaking at a Lunar New Year dinner for residents from Tanjong Pagar GRC.

He added that a key focus of the package will be on healthcare costs, noting that this will help those who are taking care of the pioneer generation.

Mr Chan said: “And we also understand that for many younger parents, the younger generation people who are supporting the pioneer generation, that healthcare has been a main focus for them.

“And because of this, we will focus the first step of the Pioneer Generation Package on giving the pioneer generation and their families a sense of assurance that their healthcare (needs) will be taken care of by the society as a whole.” CNA

Of course the devil is in the details, and it could be juz spin. But I’ll give the PAP and the govt the benefit of the doubt ’cause the general election is round the corner: 2015 is my prediction.

Here’s a constructive, nation-building, and vote-winning suggestion for the PAP: If the PM really wants to show his sincerity, he should, on behalf of the cabinet, apologise to the pioneer generation for his then welfare’s minister’s sneering words aimed at the unfortunate members of the pioneer generation.

Dr Lily Neo:

Sir, I want to check with the Minister again when he said on the strict criteria on the entitlement for PA recipients. May I ask him what is his definition of “subsistence living”? Am I correct to say that, out of $260 per month for PA recipients, $100 goes to rental, power supply and S&C and leaving them with only $5 a day to live on? Am I correct to say that any basic meal in any hawker centre is already $2.50 to $3.00 per meal? Therefore, is it too much to ask for just three meals a day as an entitlement for the PA recipients?

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan:

How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?

To add insult to the pain of this slap, said minister was overspending on his pet project: the Kiddie Games: S$387m (more than 3x the estimated S$122m). To be fair, the original budgets of these kinds of events are always works of fiction. The sponsors always keep demanding more, while the organisers always underestimate: ome reason why it seems one LKY never had S’pore bid for such prestige events.

The minister did not apologise. Nor did the PM or any other minister rebuke the minister in public or disown his remarks: though to be fair to the govt, Lily Neo did get her wish: there was a relatively big increase later. This could be the govt repenting privately?

But if it waz private repentance, doing it quietly doesn’t do the PAP any gd. A public apology for the remarks made by that rich, privileged  ACS kid would be a gd start to the PAP’s GE campaign, showing that it really, really appreciates the pioneer generation. It should because its intl’ reputation as a successful govt, and grip on power owe much to the pioneer generation willingness to “eat bitter”, something that their children (increasingly) and grandchildren (100%) are unwilling to do anymore.  Blame, partially, the mega-rise in ministerial salaries in the 90s. Only partially because better education and the internet have led them to expect more from the govt. On its part the PAP failed to keep the basics affordable: look at the cost of education, public tpt and public housing. On healthcare, decent healthcare has always been expensive.

SMRT: Update

In Infrastructure on 06/02/2014 at 4:38 am

.There could be a rights issue coming to shore up its finances. But to call it, it must be pretty sure of profits for dividends somewhere down the line. Massive train price increase after 2015 GE?  Don’t see PAP losing power or even losing a two-thirds majority. Or even PritamS becoming a cabinet minister in a PAP, WP coalition govt.

But remember the CEO is an ex-SAF chief, juz like in that dog with fleas, NOL :https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/scholar-cant-repair-nol-maersk-steams-ahead/

Good article on SMRT by someone whom I don’t usually think highly of: http://www.baldingsworld.com/2014/01/29/why-is-smrt-raising-fares/

This video has been making the rounds on Facebook: During a 45 train delay, SMRT begs passengers on board repeatedly for a pair of scissors

Taz why PTC raised fares. After paying Kwek and his SAF buddies, got no $ for proper tool box? LOL

Gd reports

— SBS (ComfortDelgro)  benefits more than SMRT from price hike

http://sbr.com.sg/transport-logistics/news/chart-day-these-charts-show-how-transport-firms-will-be-impacted-fare-hike

— Sports Hub to make $ for SMRT

http://sbr.com.sg/transport-logistics/news/singapore-sports-hub-could-turn-around-souring-smrt-profits

 

“Why Government Should Not Be Run Like A Business”

In Infrastructure, Political governance, Public Administration on 05/02/2014 at 4:29 am

The above article from Forbes has been making the rounds on Facebook following the public tpt fare increase. Meanwhile, the WP is now saying, “The WP believes that public transport should be provided as a public good and not for profit”*

The Forbes piece explicitly says, while the WP’s motherhood statement implies, that if only public services are run sans the profit motive, everything will be fine. Profit is the evil. In its place, would be a serious of targets that would in PR jargon “enhance the users’ experience”.

It follows that the guiding principle of target setting should be an analysis of function—ie, what something does, not what it is.

Sounds good but as usual the devil is in the details: here the devils (legions of them) are in the the targets set.

The flaws in setting targets in public services have long been apparent. The single-minded pursuit of them in the NHS has contributed to some of the scandals in treating patients. Hospitals became so fixated on meeting national targets that they lost sight of their overriding responsibility to look after the people they were treating and to make them better.

Now the London Underground offers another example of the perverse effects of targets, especially when they are pursued in a simple-minded way. Green Park is one of the busiest tube stations in London. It has three escalators to the station concourse from the Piccadilly line, which serves not just London commuters but international businessmen and tourists travelling to and from Heathrow. Yet routinely one is closed at peak times.

The reason? According to station staff Green Park has been set energy targets and this is the way that it is meeting them.

What folly. Whether or not this is intended by the top brass at Transport for London is unclear. But this is what happens when stupid objectives are set and managers are either pressured into meeting them come what may or follow them without paying heed to their primary responsibility, which in the case of a tube station is to convey passengers as swiftly and as safely as possible to and from the trains. (http://www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2014/01/trouble-targets)**

Another problem with the attitude articulated in the article and the WP’s motherhood statement is that they are quiet about the danger of “capture” of public services by the people working in the public sector.

As a student in London in the late 70s, I saw this capture at first hand. The London public tpt system and the state-owned British Airways were run for the convenience among other nationalised industries)ce and benefit of the employees (managers, executives and workers) not the commuting public.

The real issue when discussing the improvement of public services is finding ways to quantity the “public good”, something which Bloomberg tried hard to do when he was mayor of NY City. Bloomberg who recently finished two terms as NY city’s major, leaving office with a reputation as one of the best mayors the city has ever had, has said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

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

(https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/culture-ministry-morphs-into-quant-ministry/)

Even the mystic and poet Blake who portrayed in his poetry Issac Newton, the scientist who discovered the maths behind the universe, to an evil god wrote, “Generalisation and abstraction are The plea of the hypocrite, scoundrel, and knave.”

The profit motive, while not perfect, and often misused (to benefit mgt, and shareholders) at least forces measurable quantification. It’s all about quantification as Bloomberg said. Note that his successor during the election campaign talked of ditching quantification. He was supported by the public services unions.

Of course quantification can go wrong like in our Arts ministry and the Vietnam War, https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/culture-ministry-morphs-into-quant-ministry/

*This is not the nationalisation it once called for. In its election manifesto, WP called for public tpt nationalisation, something Low reaffirmed after the Punggol East victory. Now, it says “public transport should be provided as a public good and not for profit”. In its manifesto for GE 2011 it said,

  1. Instead of public transport being provided by profit-oriented companies, all public transport including the MRT & public buses servicing major routes should be brought under a National Transport Corporation, a public body, to ensure a smooth integration of the overall national transport network and to avoid unnecessary duplication of services and overheads incurred by multiple operators.
  2. The Public Transport Council should be dissolved. Government accountability for public transport matters should be via a unit under the Land Transport Authority. This unit should receive feedback, audit services, review productivity and examine the need for fare adjustments.

**BTW, maybe someone in SMRT reads me? Further to this where I promised to report if the escalator at Eunos stn is working, last Wednesday when I was there, it was functioning.

Baer says Nay to S$ in 2014

In Currencies, Economy on 04/02/2014 at 4:27 am

THE one-way bet on the Singapore dollar which had a pretty good run the previous five years is gone, and with foreign investors staying away, expect private property prices to fall 10 per cent in the next 12 months, said Mark Matthews, Bank Julius Baer head of research Asia.

Singapore, the most expensive city in Asia is fast losing its lustre for many expats, noted Mr Matthews.

It is also the seventh-most expensive city to live in the world, while traditional rival Hong Kong is cheaper at 12th place, and Tokyo is a relative bargain at 19th, according to the website Expatistan. (BT on 31st January 2014)

BTW, Baer means bear. So bear mauls horse? TRE, TOC readers will he happy. A weak S$ leads to higher inflation*, leads to higher interest rates, leads to collapsing property market, leads to PAP defeat will be their reasoning.

Related posts

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/tre-readers-are-illiterate-in-economics-and-finance/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/why-banks-tested-for-50-plunge-in-property-prices-and-other-wonderful-tales/

Happy Neigh Year as the Disney channel cartoon characters will say.

*Update at 9.00am on 4 February 2014:

I juz came across this report again  http://sbr.com.sg/economy/news/singapore-inflation-moderated-24-in-2013yesterday, while looking for something else. It was trupeted by ST as a triump by the govt- moderating inflation

It reminded me of an interesting observation juz before CNY. At the Outram MRT stn there is shop selling rice dishes like chicken rice. In mid November when I exited the station, it was selling the dishes at $2 (a price I know it has held for several yrs). When I next passed the stall on 29th January, the price was $2.20.

Inflation moderating? What moderating? To misquote the sleeping co-driver.

Anton Casey chooses wrong PAP minister to emulate?

In Humour on 03/02/2014 at 4:17 am

What is the link between Anton (masculine, not sheltered, babyed and childish like local men according to wifey Bernice “Beauty Queen” Wong), the Pope and two PAP ministers?

Pope Francis is a Jesuit, a Catholic order which has traditionally, among other things, served the rich and powerful as teachers and confessors. At its best, a Jesuit education inspires the mighty to serve the lowly. The Pope’s address to the business and political leaders assembled at the World Economic Forum at Davos fits right into that tradition.

He flatters the “innovative” for “improving the lives of many people by their ingenuity and professional expertise.” Then he hits. Davosians, he says, “can further contribute by putting their skills at the service of those who are still living in dire poverty.”

In other words, if you are clever enough, and determined enough, to rise to Davos-level, you should do more to help those who cannot help themselves. It’s hard to disagree. (Emphasis mine)

Almost all the delegates have a surplus of something valuable – money, knowledge or influence. Almost all of them waste that surplus, by the Pope’s standards. Francis thinks they should invest the surpluses in what the bishop of Rome calls “the life of humanity.” If they wanted to they could do much more to promote: “an inclusive approach which takes into consideration the dignity of every person and the common good.” (Economist)

The Pope’s views reflect the values of one K Shanmugam Sc:

I have been asked what I thought of Mr Anton Casey and his statements. Like many Singaporeans, I am terribly upset and offended by what he has posted. Deeply offensive, wrong, and unacceptable. Those who have done well in life should always be looking out for others – especially the less well-off or needy. It is basic human decency. Instead Mr Casey showed contempt. Having money and a Porsche, does not automatically mean that one is superior. Character is important. I am glad the community has come together to condemn what he has said. He has attempted to apologise to Singaporeans. But some feel that the manner of his apology showed a lack of sincerity. And I think there is some basis for thinking that …

They are role gd models for anyone, especially for Casey: They could have tot grammar schoolboy (English schools — mostly fee paying) where entry is by way of competitive exams like our PLSE) Anton Casey the meaning of not sneering at those less off or less fortunate or smart or pushy or any combination thereof.

But maybe his role model was another PAP minister born into privilege and wealth? What do you think of someone who makes the u/m remarks about the “Pioneer Generation” praised by PM who fell on bad times, then went on to overspend on the Kiddie Games, food poisoning included? Remember them?

Dr Lily Neo:

Sir, I want to check with the Minister again when he said on the strict criteria on the entitlement for PA recipients. May I ask him what is his definition of “subsistence living”? Am I correct to say that, out of $260 per month for PA recipients, $100 goes to rental, power supply and S&C and leaving them with only $5 a day to live on? Am I correct to say that any basic meal in any hawker centre is already $2.50 to $3.00 per meal? Therefore, is it too much to ask for just three meals a day as an entitlement for the PA recipients?

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan:

How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?

S’porean connection in Google’s £400m AI purchase

In Humour on 02/02/2014 at 6:40 am

A few days ago Google spent £400m buying a UK firm that specialised in artificial intelligence.

DeepMind is a privately-held company founded by Demis Hassabis, a 37-year-old neuroscientist and former teenage chess prodigy, along with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman.

Demis Hassabis’s mum is a Singaporean (Chinese) and his dad a Greek-Cypriot.

If LKY were still the boss-man, as a believer in eugenics, he’d be bringing in Greek Cypriot men to mate with S’porean Chinese wimmin. BTW, wonder if Demis Hassabis’s mum is a grad? Remember LKY tried to discourage non-grad mums from havong kids?

He Haw in the Neigh Year.

More on the purchase: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25927797

A MINT next door

In Indonesia on 02/02/2014 at 6:32 am

(Asean round-up: Indonesia special)

Last yr Indonesia’s stk mkt in US$ terms was -23%. A fitting tribute to it being a member of the “fragile five”: South africa, Turkey Brazil, India and Indoesia. who are dependent on foreign inflows of capital and hence QE tapering is problematic. This week three of them SA, Turkey and India have craised rates in response to weakish currencies; Turkey has doubled rates by some benchmarks.

But Indonesia (and Turkey) are part of MINT: if Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey get their act together, some of them could match Chinese-style double-digit rates between 2003 and 2008.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25548060

The coiner of the term MINT was the guy who coined BRIC: Brazil, Russia, China and India, and readers should know how ell the economies did until recently.

And recently it was reported that Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group, the major supplier of Apple Inc’s iPhones and iPads, may build high-tech factories in the United States and low-cost plants in Indonesia as the appeal of ‘made in China’ fades into a burden.

So maybe he will right again. But to be fair, he is least bullish on Indonesia: Indonesia, I am less sure about. The country’s challenges are as big as I thought and I didn’t hear too many things that made me go “Wow” in terms of trying to deal with them. The country needs more of a sense of commercial purpose beyond commodities, and has to improve its infrastructure.

His less bullish stance is supported by a recent govt measure.

The country introduced a controversial ore export ban on Jan 12, although last-minute amendments aimed to ease the impact of the export ban on concentrate miners like Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold and Newmont Mining Corp. They now face a progressive export tax on concentrates.

“There has been no concentrate export since Jan 12,” Bachrul Chairi, director general of foreign trade at the trade ministry told Reuters … “As of now, no miners or companies have requested export approval for concentrate or processed ore from the trade ministry.”

Freeport Indonesia and Newmont are in talks with the government over the new rules and are yet to resume exports since the new tax was introduced, while the Mineral Entrepreneurs Association has filed a legal challenge against the ore export ban.

The ban on mineral ore exports from Indonesia, the world’s biggest nickel producer, is poised to benefit miners in the neighbouring Philippines, who are predicting an increase in sales. Shares of Nickel Asia Corp advanced to the highest intraday level in two months.

The ban is positive as demand and prices for Philippine supplies will increase, according to Emmanuel Samson, chief financial officer at Nickel Asia. The Taguig City-based company accounts for about a third of Philippine output, Mr Samson said.

While the Indonesian ban is intended to encourage local processing and boost the value of commodity shipments from Southeast’s Asia’s largest economy, the curbs may hand an advantage to rival producers such as Nickel Asia.

Buyers in China, the top user, stockpiled ore before the ban and it may take as long as six months to work off that extra inventory, according to Mr Samson. Producers in China also need to adjust to the lower grade of ore that comes from the Philippines, he said.

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/our-neighbour-the-new-brazil/

 

Martial arts training in China

In China, Holidays and Festivals on 01/02/2014 at 6:27 pm

Something for Neigh Year hols viewing

http://www.bbc.com/travel/slideshow/20120712-chinas-kung-fu-revival

Chinese zodiac’s animals: global distribution per capita

In Humour, Indonesia, Malaysia on 01/02/2014 at 4:33 am

To herald China’s most important holiday, we [Economist] have taken a light-hearted look at the global distribution of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. The Middle Kingdom is home to some of the world’s largest herds, flocks, packs, and broods. It has the second-largest number of horses, 6.7m, after America’s 10m (although neither feature in our charts, which account for population). Instead, Mongolia, where horses are integral to its nomadic tradition, tops the ranking. Similarly, there are four times as many pigs in China as anywhere else, but Denmark’s huge pork industry means it has the highest pig-to-person ratio. Of the ten animals shown, China is among the top nations in total numbers for all but tigers, dragons (Komodo) and rats (guinea pigs in Peru and Bolivia, the only numbers available from the FAO). Snake (the departing year) and monkey are omitted for lack of data. Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Asean countries– Brunei (Rooster), M’sia and Thailand (Tiger), Indonesia (Dragon) and Laos (Tiger and Ox) — appear on several of these charts.

Click link to see all all the charts or in bigger format http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2014/01/daily-chart-19