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Archive for the ‘Infrastructure’ Category

Don’t see S’pore on this list of most productive ports

In Economy, Infrastructure on 21/03/2015 at 4:27 am

 

Singapore had 73 total berth moves per hour in 2013 .http://www.joc.com/sites/default/files/u48502/Charts/Singapore-Transshipments.jpg 

Aqua Lions?/ No worries about coup/ SMRT no got this

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 20/03/2015 at 4:47 am

So the SAF was upset that the swimmers called their team “Red Lions”, the description that SAF’s parachuting team uses? And the swimmers decided to drop the name.

What the heck? Given that it’s a swimming team, “Red Merlions” is more appropriate? Or “Blue Lions” or “Water Lions or “Aqua Lions”?

What do you think? A lot better than “Sea Lions” that GCT suggested? [Last sentence added at 7.15am].

Actually, this storm in tea cup could have been engineered by the SAF’s special ops team to divert attention from the fact that three ex-SAF commanders are showing themselves to very incompetent: the tpt minister and the CEOs of SMRT and NOL.

Shouldn’t Khaw be calling fot Lui* to commit hari-kiri? Or resign? But then our leaders always talked cock about Japanese style responsibility: only for the “little people” not them. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/learn-from-japanese-set-example-leh-elites/

But let’s look on the bright side of the incompetncy of the transport minister and the CEO’s of NOL and SMRT

Given that they  are scholars and two are ex-generals and one an ex-admiral, and given the problems that the tpt ministry and NOL and SMRT are facing, SAF generals and admirals are sure to cock-up any coup attempt**.

Seriously, the u/m report amazwd me

Transport operator SMRT said on Friday that it will accelerate the setting up of a new maintenance operations centre, which will provide swifter responses to rail incidents.

Experts stationed at the centre will be able to communicate directly with maintenance teams on the ground, and provide in-depth diagnostic advice to speed up service recovery.

The centre is expected to be ready in the coming year, SMRT said in a press briefing which was called in light of the recent spate of train disruptions.

Only one other metro has such a maintenance operations centre, SMRT added, while declining to say which one.

– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/transport/story/smrt-beef-its-team-engineers-and-technicians-20150306#sthash.soP3EC4t.dpuf

Given that Kuek was an ex-SAF general, I’m surprised he didn’t make establishing such a centre a priority given the situation he was left by the previous Ferrari driving CEO. This FT told commuters to bugger-off if they weren’t prepared to be crammed like sardines, pointing out that they had a choice not to take the train, and anyway trains were more packed elsewhere.

If as an army general, he doesn’t know the importance of a state-of-the-art command-and-control operations centre, what does he know?

Kuek would never have made it into the German general staff: From the mid 19th century to the end of WW II, the train section, an elite section,  of the elite general staff had to ensure that the trains would run on time when war came. When the Kaiser on the eve of World War I asked his chief of general staff if he could stop the mobilisation, he was told that the train schedules wouldn’t permit it. Now if Kuek had been in charge of the train section, the trains would have delayed and WWI prevented.

*I suspect post GE, he’d join Raymond Lim.

**Fortunately, Indon and M’sian generals and admirals are just as incompetent as our SAF ones: think the MH 370 incident (military radar not switched on, or if it was no-one was watching); or the inability of the Indon navy to curb piracy and sand smuggling.

SG50/ HDB: PAP man didn’t take salary? Kidding me leh?

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 18/03/2015 at 5:20 am

Continuing the theme of the HDB and public housing, let’s remember Lim Kim San.

I had tot of him when I read this a few weeks ago: My grandfather sold his plot of land to the government in the 1960s and moved into a HDB or Housing Development Board home, thousands of which were sprouting up all over the island. It was an affordable way for Singaporeans to buy property and raise their standard of living.

“We had a huge task when we first started in 1960. At that time our population size was 1.6 million, out of that, 1.3 million lived in squatters – not to count thousands of others living in slum areas and old buildings,” says Liu Thai Ker, who was known as Singapore’s “master planner” in the 70s and 80s. The new HDB towns that Liu oversaw came with their own schools, shops and clinics. The high-rise buildings introduced many Singaporeans to the miracles of flushing toilets and clean water at the turn of a tap.

By 1985, in just one generation, Liu says, the HDB was so successful in its rehousing policy that Singapore could claim to have “no homeless, no squatters, no poverty ghettos and no ethnic enclaves”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31626174

Sad that Lim had not been mentioned. Maybe the BBC writer, an FT of S’pore origin, didn’t know about him because I get the impression that he has been moved into the margins of the right narrative of our history despite being highly  praised by one LKY.as one of the Government’s past “political entrepreneurs”, who had seized opportunities using powers of analysis, imagination, a sense of reality, drive and character, “He has a lively, practical mind …” http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/data/pdfdoc/088-1996-11-28_lky.pdf

Let’s start at the beginning. He volunteered  in 1960 to be the HDB’s first chairman and was not paid for three years (but (Jos, Grace and Hen should take note) it seems. But then he was rich, very rich and as an Oz tycoon said A$5m is enough money to live on, though I’m sure Jos and Grace will disagree: money always not enough say the aunties.

He was in charge of the massive construction of high-rise, low-cost (Note: not affordable) housing that made the PAP popular with the masses.

LKY said he could organise and plan. But his planning was “rough and ready”: using simple estimates, not derived from detailed stats (there were none then) and detailed analysis (not that number of number and data crunchers around, and there were no computers).

Critics said he could not build 1,000 units a year because the HDB did not have the capability and the materials to reach the target. By the time a committee published its report on whether HDB could reach the target, the HDB had already completed 1,000 units of housing.

I’ll let his Wikipedia entry tell the rest of the  story.

In the first Five Year Housing Program, HDB achieved its goal of completing 5000 units of housing by 1965. The largest project at that time was Queenstown, a satellite town of more than 17,500 apartments capable of housing close to 22,000 people. The new neighborhood was built as a self-contained entity, with all amenities and shops built along with the houses, so people will not need to travel to other areas for basic necessities, thereby lowering traffic congestion. This philosophy (which was ultimately extended with the concept of regional centre), is generally accredited by many to have significantly contributed to the lower rate of congestion and burden on the central business district than before. [If so good why CBD charges introduced? And then island-wide tolls? Raise monney isit?]

In May 1961, the Bukit Ho Swee Fire broke out and some 16,000 people became homeless. Under Lim’s guidance, the relocation and reconstruction of the lost housing was completed in just over four years, and 1200 housing flats were made available to those who lost their homes in the fire.

The success of the housing project was considered by some to stem mainly from the standardized architectural designs that were used. Another important factor was Lim’s decision to use private contractors rather than employing construction workers directly. This allowed the HDB to supervise the contractors to ensure standards, rather than dealing with minute problems. Also, overall cost was kept low by using a large pool of contractors and different sources of building materials.

There are some who said that by solving Singapore’s housing problem, Lim saved the PAP in the process. However, Lim himself was more modest, saying the success of the housing programme was also due to government funding, as housing was, and still is, a top priority.

Part of Lim’s success at the HDB was that he had the trust of the Prime Minister at the time, Lee Kuan Yew. He also worked closely with the Minister of Finance at the time, Goh Keng Swee. These connections allowed Lim keep the housing program well-funded. Another political factor that allowed the success of the Housing Project was that Lim managed to cut through bureaucratic red tape and rigid regulations that would have otherwise hindered the housing program.

As to why he’s almost invisible? Maybe because he didn’t take a salary for three yrs? I mean with Grace, and Grace, you can figure out why he can’t be that popluar among younger PAP ministers. .

One cheer for the PAP’s housing policy?

In Infrastructure on 17/03/2015 at 4:56 am

During the Parliament debate on Tuesday (10 Mar), National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan talked about the affordability of HDB BTO flats and how Singapore housing system is better than other countries’, “Recently, UK newspaper The Independent (Jan 23) had an article and with this headline: ‘Londoners queue overnight in sub-zero temperatures to buy one bedroom flat for 400,000 pounds’. 400,000 British pounds is equivalent to about S$840,000. On the same day, in Hong Kong, South China Morning Post (Jan 23) reported 130,000 applications for 2,160 subsidised flats in Hong Kong. The article’s headline reads: ‘Only 1 in 60 chance to win in Hongkongers’ rush for subsidised flats’. The flats, which are roughly the size of our 2-room flats, are priced between HK$1.9million and HK$3.3 million. This is more than 4 times our Build-to-Order (BTO) prices.”

“I think they put into better perspective our much more benign situation in Singapore,” he added.

He got a earful from TRE regular contributor Chris K who has lived in London. http://www.tremeritus.com/2015/03/13/khaw-talked-nonsense-comparing-hdb-prices-to-londons

I leave it to a letter righter to the FT to put the situation in the UK into perspective for us S’poreans: “For the young rent is over 40% of wages. Why do we have to keep paying the rentiers who generate no wealth? We don’t need a new productivity revolution we need to crush the rentiers. There is your paradigm shift.”

But many S’poreans for all of Khaw’s KPKBing about our HDB policies shares one problem with the Brits: Lord Best has spent a lifetime working in social housing and sums up how things stand: “Everybody under 40 has got some kind of housing problem. They’re paying too much for their mortgage, they’re paying too much for their rent, they’re in trouble one way or the other.”

Interesting even that lover of all things HK, Goh Meng Seng, hasn’t attacked Khaw’s comments on HK’s public housing programme. Neither has any other anti_PAP cybernut. In fact no-one has it seems.

So we are one up on HK? One cheer then.

 

 

Fare reduction in 2016? Dream on?

In Infrastructure on 26/01/2015 at 4:45 am

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said last Monday that commuters could see fares fall by about 1% in 2016 because of a drop in energy prices last year.

Three amber signs that this will not happen? Or should that be three straws in the wind? Constructive nation-building CNA carried three stories on 22 January and 23 January that could indicate that even if oil prices remain at the US$50 level (or even below US$100), public transport fares will rise.

Fare review formula review : PTC

The overhaul of the bus industry would require the fare review formula to be relooked, with the Public Transport Council (PTC) having to consider, among other things, whether to apply different sets of fares for a period of at least a few months in 2016 when some bus routes would be under the new bus contracting model while others would not.

The bus contracting model – under which the Government will own all bus operating assets and collect the fares, while operators run the services – will be implemented in phases, starting from the middle of 2016.

Three packages of routes, making up about 20 per cent of routes, will be tendered out first. The remaining 80 per cent will be grouped into nine packages, which will be run by incumbents SMRT and SBS Transit on negotiated contracts under the contracting model, for about five years after their Bus Service Operating Licences expire on Aug 31 next year. After the negotiated contracts expire, more bus services will be gradually tendered out.* (CNA)

“Energy costs are not the biggest contributor to fare rises”

So said Nanyang Technological University transport economist Walter Theseira in another article

SIM University’s urban transport management expert Park Byung Joon said bus and trains operations are not making “huge money”. “We are not in the government contracting model (for buses) yet, we are still in the operating mode (where) the expenditure has to be recovered from fares,” he added.

Dr Theseira said a large part of the increase year to year is usually due to the rise in labour cost and other operating expenses, while fuel cost is not a “large explanation” for the increase in prices over time.

While energy prices have been high over the past few years, they have also been stable. “Usually, year on year, public transport becomes more efficient, so the fuel cost component will be dropping over time,” he said.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said while no one likes to see a hike, there is a price to pay if Singaporeans want to see a better public-transport system. “And I think the key thing in this whole exercise is that the authority or Government must make sure fares are affordable, especially to low-wage workers, minority groups, senior citizens and students>”

Fares not tied closely to changes in oil price.

That is a key finding of a study by Boston Consulting Group, which shared the report exclusively with Channel NewsAsia.

Boston Consulting tracked changes over the past 17 years and it found that bus and MRT fares increased at a much slower pace than oil prices.

[W]ages rose steadily between 1997 and 2014 – the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose at a slower pace for the first 10 years, before picking up pace from 2008. …fare increases have lagged behind wages and consumer prices … fare increases kept pace with CPI for about the first 10 years, before slowing down. It added that Singapore is one of few cities in the world that keeps its transport costs low.

“The state actually invests in majority of the infrastructure – so the MRT, LRT lines, the bus interchanges, they have been built by the state there is an expectation that the public transport operators should achieve efficiency and productivity improvements every year,” said Partner and Managing Director of Boston Consulting Group Singapore Dinesh Khanna.

“So even if you are expecting inflation to go up, fares should be growing at rates lower than inflation. Over the past few years, the state has also subsidised and put in place more concession fares for the senior citizens and other important interest groups.”

So are we screwed yet again?

Maybe an election in 2016 will stay the instincts of the Pay And Pay administration?

Finally MPs who can afford not to take public transport (think monthly allowance of S$15,000 each which makes them outearn president Xi: they each earn in two months whay he earns in one yr) pontificate

MP Seng Han Thong, who is deputy chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for transport, said the middle-income group would be most affected by the fare hike. However, as buses and trains improve connectivity, it would benefit this group.

GPC chairman Cedric Foo (Pioneer) added that those who “fall between the cracks”, such as the jobless, could apply for public-transport vouchers.

MP Lim Biow Chuan noted that a person who takes two public-transport trips a day would see increases of about S$1 a month. “It’s still bearable.”

What are you waiting for? Go buy SBS, ComfortDelgro and SMRT.

————————–

*Rest of article

RELOOKING THE FARE REVIEW FORMULA

The existing fare review formula is valid from 2013 to 2017, but PTC Chairman Richard Magnus said it could be relooked before the new model is implemented. He added that it would be a challenge to review fares for the routes under the existing and new models, as well as those in transition. “We will need to begin to rethink how fares will be then,” he said.

On whether there would be different sets of fares, he cited social equity and distribution as factors for consideration.

Nanyang Technological University transport economist Walter Theseira said that under the new model, the Government could keep fares down, “effectively throwing money into a loss-making operation”. “It changes the nature of how subsidies are provided to the system,” he said.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said there was also room for the PTC to make the formula more responsive to inflation, wage levels and energy prices, though he acknowledged that it takes time for the relevant data to be available. Under the existing formula, there is a one-year lag in the indices used for computation.

SIM University urban transport management expert Park Byung Joon saw the merits of the current approach. “The whole idea … is that we want to avoid a situation (where there is) see-sawing (of fares) every time fuel prices go up and down.”

 

Big Data, the PM and the Oppo

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 10/12/2014 at 5:19 am

But bear with me first on the LTA and Uber and other taxi apps.

The PAP administrationis  afraid of losingrevenue from CoEs is the reason why LTA is creating its own taxi apps and making life difficult for Uber etc?

Because of Uber and other such apps, “Millions of people may decide that they no longer need to own a car because using Uber will be cheaper than owning one.”? This was said by Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber, on a new round of financing which values Uber at US$40m.

For “Uber” read “Uber and rival apps”

(A reminder of what LTA has done.

[A]nnounced plans to put its own taxi app into the growing market just after it announced regulations for the existing players in the industry.

The app, Taxi-Taxi.SG, will launch in mid-December, and will show commuters the number of available taxis near them, as well as signalling to taxi drivers the locations of potential customers. No details on app charges have yet emerged.

The Singaporean market already has t… Uber, local competitor Grab Taxi, and a number of apps from the individual taxi firms and smaller companies. These apps are free, but charge customers a cut of the taxi fare.

The plan comes as Singapore announced a new regulatory framework for private sector taxi apps, which are transforming an old-fashioned industry into a fiercely competitive and lucrative marketplace.

The regulations mean that all booking services must be registered with the LTA, specify their fees upfront, provide customer support services and prevent bidding on nearby taxis.

http://www.futuregov.asia/articles/5792-singapore-land-transport-authority-takes-on-uber-with-own-app)

Somewhere in the mix of measures,  the govt commended the LTA for its use of big data analytics to monitor travelling patterns and demand from commuters.“With this insight, LTA was able to perform targeted injection of bus capacity, which saw a 60 per cent reduction in the number of bus services with persistent crowding in spite of year-on-year increase in average daily bus ridership,” LTA.

Well if the data had been publicly available (and not confined to LTA, the transport regulator), perhaps the public good would be better served.

PM talks big about the use of big data analytics in developing S’pore. But my impression is that in S’pore, unlike in the UK, the data is only available to the right people: govt, state agencies and GLCs. In the UK and the West, big data is publicly available so that anyone can access the data to make sense of it, or develop apps, or both.

But if that happens here, the PAP administration will no longer have the monopoly of the data that is needed to formulate policy. Oppo parties like the SDP, NSP can come up with detailed policies based on the data. Now that would be a problem for the PM who has said the opposition have not articulated a vision for Singapore.

The SDP says:

This is untrue. The SDP published Dare To Change: An Alternative Vision for Singapore in 1994.

Dr Chee had also recently described a new vision for Singapore in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal. Mr Lee ignores these and claims that the opposition has not articulated one.

But more than just a vision, the SDP has laid out concrete and comprehensive alternative policies in key areas such as housing, healthcare, population, the Malay community, education, Ministerial salaries, and (soon-to-be launched) the economy. The SDP’s campaign for the next GE will focus on these alternative policies.

The SDP, NSP and TJS’s gang have come up with policies: the problem is that lackof access  to basic data (something often available in the West but not here despite S’pore being a first-world state) makes their policy papers little more than motherhood statements.

Thinking about it, the PAP should treasure the Worthless Party, not rubbish or fix it. All it wants is to check the PAP administration, something where the WP talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, and hopes that the PAP needs it as coalition partner.

If the PM can’t live with this, what does he want? A PAP dictatorship? Even LKY never went that far. He juz he made sure he won big in elections, something son has a problem doing.

 

 

Why SGX keeps on messing-up? Too many FT cooks in the kitchen?

In Infrastructure, Uncategorized on 04/12/2014 at 1:25 pm

It has three FTs in the most impt areas:

— CEO is ang moh FT, brought in for his tech expertise;

— president (COO) is Indian FT (Anyone knows his background?); and

— Chief Operations and Technology Officer is Indon FT (Brought in for his financial expertise*?)

Btw, when the first computer cock-up happened and TRE KPKBed about the Chief Operations and Technology Officer’s lack of hands-on IT experience, I pointed out to Richard Wan that by that line of reasoning, Richard, an IT scholar, shouldn’t be handling editorial matters at TRE.

At the National Youth Integration Forum on 22 November, Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing spoke to some 300 local and foreign tertiary students at the ITE College East, urging them (and other S’poreans) to embrace the opportunity to learn from foreigners, “They can share different perspectives and provide new ideas. The interplay of those ideas with our ideas will help Singapore stand out as a global city.”

So S’poreans can learn from these three-highly paid Foreign Trashes that its OK to balls-up** continuously and still not get the sack?

Bet you some true-blue S’porean manager will be held responsible for the IT cock-ups. Taz why SGX still has Singkies,  need scapegoats for FTs. FTs can do no wrong.

Pmk should say to these three FTs:

We command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! … lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!

———-

*Going by his CV (courtesy of TRE)

In September 2012, SGX announced the appointment of Timothy Utama as its Chief Operations and Technology Officer, effective 1 December 2012 [Link]. Mr Utama joined SGX’s senior management team and reported to the Chief Executive, Magnus Bocker.

“We are pleased to welcome Mr Utama to our management team. His diverse and global experience and knowledge will help further improve our operations and technology capabilities,” Mr Bocker then said.

Mr Utama actually started his career in banking with Bank of Trade (LippoBank) as Senior Credit Analyst/Account Executive in Los Angeles from 1989 to 1991 [Link].

In 1991, he joined Standard Chartered. For the next 13 years, he held various positions there:

  • SCB Indonesia from 1991 to 1992
  • Profit Improvement Unit Officer SCB Regional Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia from 1992 to 1993
  • Head of Trade Services from 1993 to 1995
  • Senior Manager Middle Market from 1995 to 1997
  • Senior Manager, Trade Products Group Trade Banking from 1997 to 1998
  • Head of Service Delivery from 1998 to 2000
  • Head of Global Clients from 2000 to 2002
  • Head of Banking Operations from 2002 to 2003
  • Senior Manager, Service Excellence from 2003 to 2004

He then moved to ANZ Bank in 2004 for the next 4 years:

  • Head of Trade Service Delivery from 2004 to 2007
  • Head of Trade Sales from 2007 to 2008

He rejoined Standard Chartered in 2008 as the Head of Wholesale Banking Operation of Standard Chartered India based in Chennai.

After his stint with Standard Chartered, he joined Indonesian bank PT Bank Permata Tbk in 2010. There, he was on its Executive Board of Directors as their Technology and Operations Director from 2010 to 2012. In December 2012, he jumped ship to SGX where he now serves as its Chief Operations and Technology Officer.

Mr Utama holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accountancy and Finance from Texas A&M University, College Station, USA.

**Partial list of balls-up

— attempted takeover of ASX

— Thai exchange now biggest exchange in SE Asia

— penny stock fiasco

— not many major IPOs

— two computer failures in two months

 

SingTel: Free lunch from S’poreans?

In Infrastructure, Internet on 27/11/2014 at 4:28 am

And this after screwing us, itself and shareholders (us again) on footie*. WTF!

In mid May it was reported that

SingTel customers will be able to access a new high-speed WiFi network that is being progressively rolled out at popular shopping malls and underground MRT stations.

According to a statement by the telco, SingTel’s WiFi network average typical speed will range from 4 to 10Mbps, which is five times faster than typical free public WiFi services. More details below**.

I was surprised given that SingTel is cannibalisling its 3G and 4G networks with this rol out. No free lunch in S’pore esp for the public where TLCs, TLCs and the PAP admin is concerned. it’s pay and pay.

Recently, I came across the u/m which seems to explain why SingTel is rolling out wifi:

Once viewed as a threat to their precious 3G/4G services, Wi-Fi is now seen as the most cost-effective way of helping mobile-phone companies meet their customers’ insatiable demand for bandwidth. The recent explosion in data traffic—especially among mobile users viewing video on their smartphones and tablets from websites such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu or using popular messaging apps like Vine and Snapchat—has forced mobile carriers to start building their own Wi-Fi networks.

One reason they are doing so is to prevent the rapidly expanding number of public hotspots—in cafes, stores and other places—from hogging too much of the traffic and threatening their cellular revenues. Another is to offload as much of the video streaming as possible from their congested cellular networks to Wi-Fi’s unlicensed public bands. Doing so not only helps them maintain the quality of service for cell-phone customers trying to send text messages or make phone calls, but it also reduces their capital-investment requirements. Installing Wi-Fi hotspots is easier and cheaper than erecting cell towers—or, indeed, having to bid for more wireless spectrum.

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21632739-wi-fi-hotspots-become-ubiquitous-who-needs-cellular-wireless-when-wireless-worlds.

And it’s a free lunch for SingTel

Besides, public hotspots can be made to piggyback, at minimal cost, on broadband routers installed in people’s homes***.

——-

*It’s unlikely to have made money on its footie rights given the small market here.

**Coverage is currently available at more than 100 hotspots at 11 locations such as Raffles City and Plaza Singapura. SingTel said that it will progressively roll out the network to all CapitaMall shopping centres.

Hotspots will also be available at Orchard, City Hall and Raffles Place stations from Aug 22 onwards.

The service will be progressively rolled out to 16 MRT stations on the North-East Line, as well as eight other stations with high commuter traffic over the next nine months.

This new WiFi service is part of SingTel’s new Combo plans, which offers high-speed WiFi usage in addition to 4G data bundles.

From Aug 19, the Combo plans will replace SingTel’s existing plans for customers who renew their contracts or subscribe to new lines.

Customers will enjoy unlimited WiFi usage until 31 July 2015 as part of its launch promotion. Subsequently WiFi data allowance will be capped at 2GB.

Combo plan customers will be able to switch automatically between the 3G, 4G and SingTel WiFi network without a manual password login.

SingTel hopes to set up 1,000 hotspots at more than 100 locations across Singapore by March 2015. It said that the numbers are expected to double by March 2016.

For the full list of SingTel WiFi hotspot locations, please visit www.singtel.com/stwifi.

grongloh@sph.com.sg

See more at: http://digital.asiaone.com/digital/news/singtel-unveils-new-wifi-network-overhauls-data-plans#sthash.mXwHeMGb.dpuf

***And offices and shops.

 

What LTA, SMRT & SBS CEOs, senior mgrs must do

In Infrastructure on 10/11/2014 at 1:52 pm

Commute to work using their very own system. The head of Moscow’s Metro explains why

Dmitry Pegov, head of the city’s metro, has signed an order obliging his own deputies and heads of departments to use the underground to reach the office “just like ordinary passengers”, the state-owned TASS news agency reports. “One should personally see and understand what is going on in the department that they oversee, how the work is being conducted, and what should be improved or changed,” Mr Pegov says. “I go to work on the metro, every day I get down to the station and travel for nearly 35 minutes, and even have to change lines,” he tells the agency. One of the perks of his job means Mr Pegov could travel up front with the driver, but he says he prefers to be in the carriage with the masses.

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-29954523

Well for starters, SMRT will step up the security of its depots as its CEO and senior managers won’t want to get blown up. At present, it’s our problem, not theirs if a bomb explodes.

Seriously, investors should sell SBS, ComfortDelgro and SMRT shares if the mgrs have to use their transport systems to commute. Expenses will balloon.

SMRT is dysfunctional, still/ Why unaffordable CoEs should make S’poreans happy

In Financial competency, Infrastructure on 15/10/2014 at 4:52 am

What was SMRT thinking?

SMRT said on Monday it had decided against making a takeover bid for Addison Lee, London’s biggest minicab operator after

Britain’s Sky News reported over the weekend that SMRT was planning a £800m (S$1.6bn) for Addison*.

It shouldn’t have even tot of bidding because SMRT’s market capitalisation of S$2.3bn was only 30% more than reported bid price.. It’s finances are not in great shape either. At the end of its last financial yr, cash flow was negative and gearing stood at 65%, while it also suffered its first loss in its fare business.

It also has operational problems here.

So what were the ex-scholar and his fellow ex-SAF officers thinking?

Plenty of things to do in S’pore (including more reliable service) and it doesn’t need any distraction abroad,”

And going abroad in a political nightmare for the govt and SMRT: if it loses money, S’poreans will be screaming (rightly) that the public is subsidising their failure overseas.

The investment bank that brought a proposal to SMRT to bid should have been sent packing immediately, not entertained enough so that a staff member would leak that SMRT was planning to bid.

Happinness is taking public tpt

It’s ’cause commuting by public transport makes people happy.

No this isn’t ST propoganda for the the PAP govt, LTA, SMRT or ComfortDelgro/ SBS.

But a study in the UK where cars don’t cost a fortune, and where the public are unhappy with expensive and crowded public transport.

The University of East Anglia study surveyed 18,000 passengers and found that even when other factors that may affect wellbeing were taken out of the equation commuters who travelled to work on public transport were happier (that is, scored lower on feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness and sleeplessness) than those who drove. Key to it all is what public health experts call “active travel”. Drivers are choosing a “non-passive travel mode” requiring constant concentration. This can be boring, isolating and stressful. Active travellers, on the other hand, have time to relax. The simple walk to and from the station appears to have intrinsic value. As the UEA economist who led the study put it: “It appears to cheer people up.”

While we’re putting things simply, apparently the people who chose to take public transport were around half a stone lighter, too – the bodyweight benefits were found to be on a par with cycling. I don’t wish to do down the car, and perhaps I’m unusual in some ways – my commute is often the only hour in my day that is truly my own, which must go some way to making it special. If I had all day to read and listen to podcasts and radio programmes, perhaps I’d feel differently. But who has all day to do those things? Moreover, who wouldn’t feel better if they added half an hour or so of moderate exercise to their daily routine?

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/sep/28/why-commuting-public-transport-makes-you-happy-lauren-laverne

The LTA and our constructive, nation-building media missed a PR trick when they disn’t highlight the UK study (The Guardian is the kind of paper that only Maruah-type people and economic illiterates like Roy read) when trumpeting, The number of bus services that were crowded during peak periods has fallen substantially over the past two years, following the addition of 450 buses under the Government’s Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP).

‘Giving an update on the programme, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the number of bus services carrying passengers at more than 85 per cent capacity during peak hours had fallen from 96 before the implementation of the BSEP to 38 in July.

The S$1.1 billion BSEP was launched in 2012 to boost connectivity and bus-service levels. Under the programme, a total of 1,000 government-funded buses will be added to the public transport network by 2017. [CNA]

The media went ape reporting the joy of commuters at the extra buses.

Locals can still afford CoEs

So we learnt last week that FTs didn’t cause CoE prices to (only 13% went to foreigners, Wonder waz the PR %? As usual not given.

———————

*Addison Lee is being put up for sale by its private equity owner, Carlyle Group, which paid £300 million for a majority stake in April 2013. Carlyle has decided to start an auction process after receiving unsolicited offers for the business.

Private equity firms BC Partners, CVC Capital and Charterhouse were reportedly among those making bids.

 

 

Urban planning: a constrasting tale of UK cities & S’pore

In Environment, Infrastructure on 12/08/2014 at 4:21 am

As I’m still in a celebratory mood about past achievements, let’s remember a UK prophet and his prophecy of urban planning

This appeared in the Economists’s obituary on Sir Peter Hall, a leading UK urban planner:

At first, Mr Hall was an enthusiastic supporter of that top-down, rational approach. One of his early books, “London 2000”, published in 1963, argued that London and the south-east should be comprehensively rebuilt, with vast areas of the inner cities bulldozed and replaced by blocks of flats, winding streets by a rectilinear system of motorways and on-ramps, and pedestrians segregated from traffic by walkways in the sky. Detroit, the spiritual home of the motor car, was his guiding light. The planners, in their patrician wisdom, would determine where the people would live, where they would work, and how they would spend their leisure time.

Sounds familiar? He would have loved the PAP govt’s HDB programme which has won global accolades though not from anti-PAP cyber-warriors who missed out on the rise in HDB apartment prices and are banging their balls and cursing the PAP and the 60% who voted for the PAP in frustration.

But this top-down, rational approach didn’t work in the UK, He soon changed his mind. Wherever that approach was tried—in Birmingham, or Glasgow, or around the elevated Westway in north-west London—it caused exactly the sort of ugliness and alienation he had hoped to banish.

So,

In the 1970s he began arguing that one way to deal with urban decay might be a bonfire of regulations; the idea, he said, was to “recreate the Hong Kong of the 1950s and 1960s inside inner Liverpool or inner Glasgow”. That sort of fertile chaos, he came to believe, was exactly what made cities so important, and such exciting places to live. He was an early advocate of the view—these days the received wisdom—that by allowing people to form connections with like-minded colleagues, cities are the engines of a country’s economic, cultural and artistic life.

The HDB programme worked because we had pretty gd planners, a sheepish population (emigrants from Animal Farm?), and one LKY whose gang was not afraid to bang heads to make sure that the sheep people behaved responsibly in the new environment: rememer the punishments for littering and killer litter.

Funnily, the govt is now trying to diktat Sir Peter Hall’s “fertile chaos”* idea. Maybe taz why the SPF allowed the Little India riot to happen? And allow ang moh FTs to get drunk and to beat up locals? And PRC FTs to litter, dirty MRT stations?

Related posts:

LKY & greenery

Green S’pore

———–

*Btw, HK city in the 50s and 60s was not a pleasant place if one didn’t live in Repulse bay or on the Peak.

Asean travellers, KS, security conscious? Use Changi Int’l

In Airlines, Humour, Infrastructure on 15/03/2014 at 6:59 am

Home Team’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority has been in the sights of DPM Teo and netizens (a rare distinction: err where’s the co-driver?) for a series of recent balls-up. So the tragic disappearance of a MAS plane gave its PR team an opportunity to blow its trumpet, (justifiably, no BS or hype)

Visitor passports presented to immigration officers at Singapore checkpoints are screened against Interpol’s database of lost or stolen travel documents, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Tuesday.

And if a passport is one of more than 40 million on Interpol’s list, the officer is automatically alerted and the traveller pulled aside for further checks.

This procedure has been in place since May 2008, an ICA spokesman told The Straits Times.

He did not elaborate on how the system works, but security experts said that this verification typically takes just a few seconds.

But despite the fact that checks are quick, Singapore remains one of only a few countries that use Interpol’s database to ensure border security, experts noted. (Wed ST)

EDB, and the tourism board should be following this up with a regional advertising campaign:

“Taking a flight of more than an hr? Transit via S’pore: all passports are checked against Interpol’s database of lost or stolen passports. Does yr airport do this? Or are they like KL?”

BTW, a gd riposte to the M’sian Home Affairs minister’s comments

“I am still perturbed. Can’t these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian (passport holders) but with Asian faces,” he was quoted as saying late on Sunday.,

would be for immigration officers will say that they use to seeing Chinese and Indian faces on MALAYsian passports. So no issues about seeing Asian faces on European passports.

Seriously comment shows he has prejudices, hangups or is still living in the mid 20th century.

SMRT: only now meh?

In Infrastructure on 04/03/2014 at 4:55 am

I’ve only recovered from this piece of news on SMRT: on 16th Feb it was reported that “Singapore’s two train operators will adopt a “predict and prevent” approach to their maintenance regimes from now on.

‘Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said … this new approach will see operators actively monitoring the condition of the rail system to prevent breakdowns and delays.”* Seems they were using a find and fix” approach. Easiest way to “find” problems is sit back, drink kopi and wait for news of train delays, breakdowns?

Maybe taz why a CEO who is a scholar and ex-SAF chief is needed, not a Ferrari-driving FT retailer? Horses for courses?

Anyway now that SMRT is adopting state-of-the-art, cutting edge management techniques, time to buy stock? Stock set a new 52-week low during yesterday’s trading session when it touched 1.02. 36.7% down from a 52 weeks ago. That it yields 1.95% is a reflection that the price has collapsed.

DBS wrote this in 2012: SMRT has a dividend payout policy of at least 60% of net profit. In fact, in the past few years, it has paid over 70%, hence providing a reasonable yield.

ComfortDelGro, on the other hand, has paid only 50%of earnings as dividends. – See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/transport-logistics/markets-investing/smrt%E2%80%99s-dividends-risky-in-2012-dbs#sthash.k1ywpunr.dpuf

(Comfort yields 3.63%)

Surely after GE (next yr after August,  is my prediction), fares will be increased? Time to buy and wait now that mgt is better?

60% dividend policy. SMRT has a dividend payout policy of at least 60% of net profit. In fact, in the past few years, it has paid over 70%, hence providing a reasonable yield.
ComfortDelGro, on the other hand, has paid only 50%of earnings as dividends. – See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/transport-logistics/markets-investing/smrt%E2%80%99s-dividends-risky-in-2012-dbs#sthash.k1ywpunr.dpuf
60% dividend policy. SMRT has a dividend payout policy of at least 60% of net profit. In fact, in the past few years, it has paid over 70%, hence providing a reasonable yield.
ComfortDelGro, on the other hand, has paid only 50%of earnings as dividends. – See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/transport-logistics/markets-investing/smrt%E2%80%99s-dividends-risky-in-2012-dbs#sthash.k1ywpunr.dpuf

But then think again as NOL is run by another general and scholar and NOL recently lost serious money. Here’s analysis from last yr after an earlier set of results https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/scholar-cant-repair-nol-maersk-steams-ahead/

——-

*Mr Lui was responding to questions from Members of Parliament on the reliability of train services, in the wake of several disruptions last month, including a delay on the North-South Line that affected some 19,000 peak-hour commuters.

So far, operators SMRT and SBS Transit have been using the “find and fix” approach to correct existing issues with their rail systems.

Mr Lui said he had called up SMRT’s senior management to convey his concerns after the recent spate of incidents.

He said: “They take it seriously, and as the CEO told me himself… the team was actually very disappointed themselves with the series of incidents, as well as with how the staff on the ground had handled it.”

SMRT will be reviewing its contingency plans on a station-by-station basis to better support its ground staff, rather than rely on a generic plan that covers stretches of the network.

Mr Lui said: “SMRT’s management has already committed to review its contingency plans on a station-by-station basis, and refine its command and control structure in times of disruption to better support ground staff.”

Both SMRT and SBS Transit have also switched to a “predict and prevent” strategy for their maintenance regimes.

For instance, some trains on the North-South and East-West lines are already equipped to collect real-time data and detect problems as they run.

Several MPs had asked why train disruptions continue despite efforts in recent years to improve the train services.

Mr Lui said: “Service disruptions do happen from time to time, especially as our rail network further expands and ages, and as we run more and more train trips.

“But in the case of the January incidents, SMRT could have done much better in service recovery, especially to provide timely information to affected commuters.”

Both train operators, however, have put in hard work to improve train reliability since 2011, Mr Lui added.

Government estimates showed that SMRT has increased its yearly repair and maintenance expenses by over 65 per cent from S$38.3 million in 2011 to S$64.6 million last year.

Both train operators have also hired more engineers and expanded their maintenance teams.

The Land Transport Authority is also upgrading the rail infrastructure.

The North-South, East-West lines’ third rail system will undergo a full, system-wide change-out this year, Mr Lui said, and the North-East Line’s overhead power system will also be improved with new corrosion-resistant materials to minimise cracking in its components.

In a separate statement, SMRT said it takes responsibility for the recent incidents, and will leave no stone unturned to improve the reliability of its train services. (CNA report)

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.

Another reason why SMRT sucks

In Infrastructure on 27/01/2014 at 4:27 am

Last Monday, I made one of my irregular trips on the MRT. I entered Eunos Stn in the late morning and one of the escaltors was closed “for maintenance”. I returned home via another route partly to avoid walking down the stairs on the return journey

Last Friday, I again took the MRT from Eunos Stn. Guess what? The escalator was still closed for “for maintenance”. When I made the return trip (wanted to eat at a great but expensive Malay food stall at Eunos Hawkers’ centre: stall always asking why I don’t eat more regularly and I explain to them I don’t use the MRT that often), several hours later, the escalator was still not working.

Err how to expect train services not to be disrupted (five already this yr according to TRE*) if cannot even repair or service escalator within five days? But to be fair, maybe engineers too busy repairing tracks etc to bother about escalator. Got to prioritise everything, according to jnr tpt minister Jos Teo.

I will have to again use the MRT from Eunos this Wednesday and then the following Monday (yah lot of travelling these few weeks: pushing my luck leh), and I’ll keep readers informed.

Meanwhile, avoid the stock. It’s going to take huge fare rises to make it a gd dividend yielding stock again because it needs to spend more, a lot more to get (and then keep) the trains running on time. With an election likely in 2015, these fare increases are unlikely https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/why-a-2015-ge-is-now-more-probable/

Meanwhile, I wish MRT users a disruption free day, though the odds are rising against this probability.

Thinking about it, SMRT may have closed one of the Eunos escalators to save money as per this story about the London MRT (tube) system.

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.

So, in order to meet this energy-saving goal, the London Underground is prepared to cause unnecessary delays to passengers, even though time-saving for passengers is always a crucial element in any evaluation of a transport project. It is also prepared to create potential dangers to public safety as bunching occurs while people wait for the only up escalator that is operating. And as that happens another escalator stands idle, with the big investment that has been made in it in effect written off.

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)

Hmm, thinking about it, the setting of stupid objectives, and why the absence of the profit-motive when providing public services (like transport) is not a gd idea, may be the subject of posts after the CNY hols. Must try to stop writing about ang moh tua kee Bernice Wong and her masculine, not sheltered, babyed & childish (so unlike local boyars) hubbie, Anton Casey.

*Or is it four http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/01/26/smrt-5th-smrt-breakdown-not-a-breakdown/ (Updated one hour after first publication)

Jos double confirms that govt doesn’t plan for S’poreans

In Infrastructure, Political governance, Public Administration on 17/01/2014 at 4:44 am

A TOC reader highlighted this bit of ST’s interview with Talk Cock Queen Jos http://www.singapolitics.sg/supperclub/josephine-teo-%E2%80%98free-mrt-rides-has-allowed-lifestyle-change%E2%80%99

Q: You lead the committee for Changi Airport’s expansion. Is it expanding fast enough? Our aviation correspondent said given the projections, Changi Airport could be operating at more than 90 per cent capacity (in the few years before Terminal 5 opens).

A:We’re still building ahead of demand. When you plan airport handling capacity, you also plan with a service standard in mind.>

The person then commented: “Apparently, there’s no need to build ahead of demand for housing, local tpt & medical needs (remember the hospital crunch) OR is it NEW PAP don’t plan with a service standard in mind> when it comes to population needs?”

For the record, I had blogged in 2012  about the lack of planning when it came to immigration

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/integrating-fts-its-our-problem-now-contd/

and in 2011 on the difference between the difference approaches taken as regards the airport and public tpt https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/why-are-trains-overcrowded-but-not-the-port-or-airport/

PM should give her another tight slap for spilling for double confirming that PAP thinks we are “second class”, not “first class” like foreigners even though 60-70% of S’porean voters support the PAP.

Taz in addition to insulting his dad.

BTW, I hope readers noticed that LTA gave her (its boss, remember she senior jnr transport minister) a hard kick in her behind. In the above link, I said she refused to concede that inadequate signage contributed to the congestion on the MCE (and bad PR for the govt). Yesterday it was reported: “Two weeks after the opening of the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday acknowledged it could have done more in terms of pre-publicity and putting up more signs to get motorists familiar with the new expressway and the surrounding road network.” (Today)

Hey PM, even her subordinates getting annoyed with this NUT NTUC person?

Maybe she could serve S’pore (and the PAP)  better by having a fourth child? She had said if she hadn’t entered politics, she’d have a fourth child. One more baby, one less FT.

Tpt minister looks after shareholders, the poor and the disabled?

In Infrastructure, Public Administration on 15/01/2014 at 4:27 am

What about other disadvantaged S’poreans?

The Public Transport Council (PTC) will release its decision on raising fare adjustments for public transport tomorrow and a reasonable person would conclude that fares will go up based on what Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew wrote  on a Facebook post on Monday.

“I told (PTC chairman Gerard Ee) that the government was ready with our package for the low-income workers and persons with disabilities and that we would like to announce this together on Thursday. These two concession schemes will be fully funded by the government,” wrote Mr Lui, stressing that the schemes would make transport fares much more affordable for both groups.

Isn’t he telling the PTO, pls feel free to help out the tpt companies (and their shareholders*) because the govt (us tax-payers, including said poor and disabled: remember that they too pay GST) will absorb the increases for said groups.

Mr Lui also said that the discount under the scheme for low-income workers would lower their fares to around the same levels as 10-15 years ago, depending on the journey. Meanwhile, the discount for those with disabilities will be “even more significant”.

Hey what about retirees and those who never got pay rises?

BTW, the WP’s silence on nationalisation is deafening, even though WP Low told us last yr that WP still believes in it. I have my doubts  https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/wp-changes-mind-on-nationalising-smrt-sbs/

Backgrounder: In December, transport operators SBS Transit (SBST) and SMRT applied to the PTC to raise bus and rail fares this year, with SBS – Singapore’s biggest bus operator – citing cost pressures.

—–

*Some shareholders do get a free lunch:despite claims by scholar and ex-general running SMRT that its biz model is broken:

Using back-of-the envelope calculations and figures in annual reports, since it was listed SMRT (over a decade ago) has paid S$562.79m in dividends to Temasek, and ComfortDelgro has paid the S’pore Labour Foundation (a statutory board affiliated to the NTUC) dividends of  S$150.46m*since 2003 (Comfort and Delgro merged in 2003, and SLF had a stake in Comfort). The amount that ended up with the government was S$713.25m, with SMRT contributing 79%. But ComfortDelgro is likely be the main beneficiary of the S$1.1bn bus plan**, given that, at present, SBS Transit (a listed co 75% owned by ComfortDelgro) provides most of the buses. Taz an example of how messed up things are.

The funds’ flows also show that the government is putting back all the dividends it received from these two companies and then adding 35% more. So it’s wrong to say that the SMRT and ComfortDelgro are getting free lunches. At most the government is subsidising their lunches by 35%.

The government should get credit for ploughing its share of the “loot” (as the proponents of nationalisation would put it and MPs Puthu, PAP, and PritamS, WP, might put it), but it doesn’t. Taz how messed up are.

(Incidentally, one could reasonably argue that the other shareholders — and the minority shareholders of SBS Transit, remember ComfortDelgro owns around 75% – are getting a free lunch while the government returns its share of the dividends. But let’s nt get into that today.)

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/oh-what-a-tangled-web-we-weave-mrt-comfortdelgro-and-the-government/

Small wonder that foreigners snapped up ComfortDelgro at gd discount last year though tapering caused some wobbles https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/when-raising-fares-sbs-smrt-govt-dont-have-this-problem/. Now above price bot. in.

.

Jos keeps on talking cock

In Infrastructure, Political governance, Public Administration on 14/01/2014 at 4:52 am

“We cannot have the attitude that everything will be perfect from Day One. If we go in with that attitude, it can only mean that we have to build in a lot of redundancy.” – Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Transport.

As someone who once upon a time reported directly to people who reported directly to LKY and Dr Goh, I can safely say that they all expected things to be perfect from Day 1. So now Ms Teo implying  that because of their exacting standards, they were encouraging inefficiencies and wastefulness?

Even before he is dead, LKY gets slimed? Son should give Jos a tight slap to show his filial piety this CNY. Co-driver too busy looking at bank statements and feeling happy.

Seriously, the govt should stop giving excuses for a simple cock-up: it should simply admit that it was an honest mistake by civil servants who didn’t drive because they couldn’t afford the COEs. Insufficient signs were put up as I explained here and this was a major source of the problem.

(Pic from TRE)

Waz interesting is that even now she refuses to concede that there were insufficient signs:

Q: After the jam, more signs and advertisements on the routes came up. Why not earlier?

I once got a speeding ticket (in Singapore) and was adamant there was no signage (for speed limit). I had driven on this road umpteen times. I thought: “Never mind. Tomorrow I’ll pay attention.” True enough, I saw the sign. Sometimes we don’t notice (the signs) because we don’t need them.

You can always have more (signs and advertisements). But you have to be interested.(http://www.singapolitics.sg/supperclub/josephine-teo-%E2%80%98free-mrt-rides-has-allowed-lifestyle-change%E2%80%99)

Here’s a great comment from TOC’s facebook in response to her remarks about redundancy:

Tremendous time/effort would be incurred when trying to rectify a flawed design/system. Doing it right the first time is critical. A good design is the result of thorough research/ consultation/ brainstorming and that will ensure the success of the project. eg. years ago, woody goh said handicap people should stay away from travelling for safety reason, now we have to retrofit busses/MRT stations for wheel chair access. same for HDB flat, now installing lifts on every floor and the whole project takes decades to complete, what if the HDB architechs had done that in the first place? zero effort for wheel chair access! Our MRT trains adopted designed with 6 carriages while HK MTR already up and running and uses 8 carriages. We could have learnt from HK, instead, we choose ONLY 6 carriages. Now we are flooded with immigrants over crowding the transport system but we are handicapped in increasing the MRT stations capacity by using 8 carriages and must go for the stupid solution of changing the signaling system to cut down only 20 sec peak frequency. using tens of millions and takes 5 years or more to do it. Now who is the stupid one? which way is more cost effective?

BTW, notice that NTUC MPs were, are a bunch of cocks (the exception is Halimah). Think Jos, Lims ( Cheap Zorro, Cry Baby), Hard of hearing Han, Irene the Whiner, Choo the criminal and racist, BG Yeo’s MP from Hell (Cynthia) and NMP Terry Lee.

Related posts:

Jos: Talk Cock Queen

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/jos-too-is-talking-cock/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/reputations-be-mean-laugh/

Jos: Empress Dowager of Bishan East

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/thanks-jos-for-giving-nishan-east-residents-another-reason-not-to-support-the-pap/

Govt’s mistakes, S’poreans blamed

In Infrastructure, Political governance, Public Administration on 10/01/2014 at 4:42 am

Twice in three days, S’poreans get blamed by the PAP for govt mistakes.

The traffic snarls on the Marina Coastal Expressway’s (MCE) first day of operations occurred as motorists were unfamiliar with the newly opened highway, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew. (MediaCorp 7th January)

I see this this as Lui shifting the blame to motorists using the MCE for the initial congestion problems on the MCE for what a user (at 11 am on the Monday day, so he had plenty of time to observe his surroundings) told me was a failure by tpt officials: “There is only one sign indicating the first exit into the city. One would have tot that based on the signage used on other expressways, there would be signs saying ‘Exit to X, 100m’ etc at regular intervals.” As the media reports a lot more signage going up since I heard this comment, I assume this problem has been fixed. And that this is the source of the problem.

If additional signage was required, then it wasn’t only the fault of daft S’poreans, was it minister?

Then there is the problem of a shortage of hospital beds. Dr Chia Shi Lu, who is a MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, said the shortage of hospital beds is “due to holiday season”, effectively saying that it’s the fault of S’poreans who rather not be discharged.

The facts? From a medical professor albeit a SDP member:

— This is a perennial problem and unfortunately is a result of funding policies which are very hospital-centric. It has become something that doctors in the public sector have become accustomed to

“In my opinion, the obvious reason for the beds’ crunch, may to the best of my knowledge, has never been highlighted in the media – that the total number of hospital beds in Singapore has seen zero increase over at least the last 12 years or so, despite an increase in the population by more than 1 million.”  http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2014/01/interview-with-dr-paul-on-the-bed-crunch-issue-in-public-hospitals/

And Uncle Leong has been beating the drum of a shortage of hospital beds for several yrs: “In my opinion, the obvious reason for the beds’ crunch, may to the best of my knowledge, has never been highlighted in the media – that the total number of hospital beds in Singapore has seen zero increase over at least the last 12 years or so, despite an increase in the population by more than 1 million.” (This quote appeared very recently)

Looks like among the PAP’s new yr resolutions, there isn’t one one changing the Hard Truth, “The PAP is never wrong. It’s always the fault of daft S’poreans”. Seriously, it’s so typical of the PAP: blame S’poreans for an thing that could imply that the PAP govt is less than perfect. What next? PM blaming S’poreans* for the recent riot?

And this comes from me, who after the MCE operated smoothly after the addition of a few signs sent an email entitled: “Can’t help thinking of you guys )))” to a few of the usual “PAP are bastards” paper activists who had been yelling their heads over MCE, attaching this from TRE:http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/01/04/bang-balls-to-tre-whiners-mce-traffic-is-smooth-now/

*Actually he can, the driver of the bus that killed the migrant worker was “a S’porea resident”. He could be a PR from M’sia though. Name definitely not PRC name.

 

When S’pore has 8m people and counting

In Infrastructure on 04/01/2014 at 4:58 am

An unofficial map of how the MRT system will look like when fully developed

http://transitmaps.tumblr.com/post/68121163229/singapore-bernie-ng

 

Infocomm Dysfunctional Authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

In other Asean round-up news:

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

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

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

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

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

Waz the “right” kind of gotong royong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— TOC’s and TRE’s continued existence;

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

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

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

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

— Function 8;

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

— pastor Khong’s gang funding a legal suit;

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

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

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

— Maruah**;

— the volunteers who help FT manual workers;

— the LGBT community; and

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

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

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

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

SMRT: Rights issue coming?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cheaper” to build F1 track

In Humour, Infrastructure on 08/09/2013 at 6:21 am

Netizens in July were making comments about a SMRT river training for F1 following a tragic accident when a bus alleged to be speeding overturned. The driver (apparently an FT PRC) claims the brakes didn’t work. http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/07/24/smrt-bus-crash-at-dairy-farm-road-actual-video-of-crash/. Nothing further has emerged.

For us lesser mortals, when F1 comes to town, those of us who have to work, have the inconvenience of blocked roads and altered bus routes. And the shops at Suntec have to deal with falling biz. All this so that S’pore doesn’t have to build a proper F1 track. Guess we now know why only Monaco, Montreal and S’pore have street races: peanuts compared to the number on permanent circuits. The public are inconvenienced, and the public cannot be upset even in countries where the people can’t vote for the govt ruling them. BTW, in Montreal, the street race ain’t in the heart of the city, and in Monaco, people commute by helicopters and boats too (at least the rich do).

It’s not as though there is a huge savings gap. In fact it’s more expensive to stage a street race, even without taking account of the economic losses.

However, the annual running costs of a street race are greater than those of one on a permanent circuit: temporary grandstands need to be built and the roads need to be upgraded to F1’s high safety standards. The biggest single expense for the operators is staffing (c£10m), followed by rental of grandstands (c£8m) and construction of safety barriers and fencing (c£5m). 

In total, the annual operating cost of an F1 street race is in the region of £36m. Then comes the hosting fee, which is paid to the F1 rights holder. The average hosting fee came to £17m in 2011 but the sting in the tail of the contracts is that the price accelerates by as much as 10 per cent every year. Most new F1 race contracts are for ten years, so by the end of the agreement the annual fee comes to around £40m thanks to the escalator clause in the contract. That means that over the ten-year duration the bill for hosting fees totals an estimated £272m (see below) with the cost of running the races coming to £360m. That makes a total over ten years of more than £600m.

With annual running costs that are far lower than those for a street race, the total cost of building a Grand Prix circuit and hosting an F1 race over a ten-year period comes in at around £560m. But promoters need to dig deep to fund that initial track construction… http://www.babusinesslife.com/Ideas/Features/The-cost-of-hosting-a-Formula-1-Grand-Prix.html … how much the key elements of a brand new Grand Prix circuit are likely to cost… [£164m]

So the difference is spending S$80m more over 10 yrs to “save” on the cost of building a permanent track. Of course, I ‘m assuming the cost of the circuit land is zero or nominal. But this being S’pore where giving away the land for public housing would be “raiding the reserves” (Mah Bow Tan), this is a non-starter. Anyway the usual suspects would shout “corruption” even if the govt was willing to lease land at a nominal price.

So, the end result is that the “little people” who have to commute by way of public transport, get screwed, So waz new?

(Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/f1-sharing-the-1bn-in-value-add-with-the-losers/)

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

Hopefully SMRT and SBS are tapping F1 to make our tpt system more reliable and efficient. In the UK, train and bus companies have started working with the Williams Formula One team to help improve their service.

The companies are buying advice and equipment to make their vehicles more reliable, something every passenger in the land will be grateful for.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23132335

At the moment, SMRT’s only links with F1 is that the previous CEO drove a Ferrari, and is alleged to have had a Mercedes super car. Maybe when Desond Kwek and his ex-SAF mgrs want to buy super cars with their mega-bonuses, Williams could call them to see if something win-win can be arranged for them, Williams and SMRT? Free sex is no longer an option after recent corruption court cases.

SMRT might be interested in this: talking train window ads

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23167112

I mean its CEO is claiming that its business model is not sustainable i.e. he can’t raise fares to cover the costs of salaries and maintenance. Cut dividends leh? As at end February 2012, SMRT has paid SMRT paid S$562.79m in dividends to Temasek since its listing.

(Another way of raising $https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/how-smrt-can-spend-more-on-maintenance-while-contd-paying-gd-dividends/)

Finally, great video that shows guy driving round Manhattan at speeds that breaks the law. http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/sep/06/manhattan-island-24-minutes-video. Driver records 24-minute fastest lap around Manhattan

Govt doesn’t highlight subsidy problems in M’sia, Thailand & Indonesia; wonder why?

In Indonesia, Infrastructure, Internet, Malaysia, Vietnam on 07/09/2013 at 5:58 am

The govt likes to warn about the dangers of subsidies, forever quoting the deficits in the West. Well what about telling us about problems nearer home? And how come it’s ok to “subsidise” HDB flats at home? ‘Cause it not really a subsidy is what the usual suspects would argue.

Malaysia has cut fuel subsidies for the first time in more than two years as it tries to reduce its budget deficit.

The subsidy on petrol has been cut by 20 sen (6 cents; 4 pence) a litre and on diesel by 20 to 80 sen a litre.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the cuts would result in savings of about 3.3bn ringgit ($1bn; £650m) a year.

The government spent 24bn ringgit on fuel subsidies last year, which contributed to a widening budget deficit.

Malaysia’s budget deficit was 4.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23926411

Some analysts said that the cut in fuel subsidies was an attempt by the government to increase investor confidence and persuade them to leave their money in the country.

Malaysia’s ratio of public debt to gross domestic product (GDP) “is approaching worrying leve according to a Bank of  America Merrill Lynch (BOAML) report. It said that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio had risen to 54.6%  at the end of the second quarter, from 53.8% in the first quarter.

The figure is just short of the country’s mandated debt ceiling of 55% of GDP. In the 1960s, the limit was made law by then-finance minister Tan Siew Sin to ensure fiscal prudence.

BOAML said that it could worsen. “Rising longer-term bond yields (and hence higher debt-servicing costs) may accelerate the climb.”

Meanwhile, total debt including guarantees is piling up.

“Government guaranteed debt came in at RM147.3 billion (S$56.4 billion) in the second quarter, slightly lower than RM147.8 billion in the first quarter. Adding this to public debt brings the quasi-public debt to about 70.2 per cent of GDP at the end of the second quarter, up from 69.4 per cent during the first quarter.” [BOA report added after first publication)]

Other Asean round-up news

Thailand‘s Thaksinonmics runs into trouble

Thaksinomics has always been about two things. First, it was about establishing a secure hold over the voters, and in that it has unquestionably been successful.

But it is also supposed to be about driving the domestic economy.

The original schemes for micro-credit, affordable healthcare and local product promotion have lifted the living standards of millions of poorer Thais, as has this government’s decision to raise the minimum wage.

But the benefits of the car and rice purchase schemes are more doubtful, especially given their cost.

Thailand still remains heavily dependent on exports and on foreign direct investment for its growth.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23903476V

What Viki’s US$ 200m exit says about S’pore’s, M’sia’s and Indonesia’s startup environment

And one of the reasons for the flight of money from Indonesia, is it’s failure to tackle the rising cost of its fuel subsidy. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23015511

http://sgentrepreneurs.com/2013/09/02/what-vikis-usd-200m-exit-says-about-singapores-startup-ecosystem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=

CNA Group’s Vietnam-based subsidiary, CNA-HTE Vietnam Co, has landed a $10.6 million contract to renovate, upgrade and expand the domestic terminals in Ho Chi Minh’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

Under this project, CNA will provide mechanical, engineering and plumbing services such as the air-conditioning, ventilation and electrical systems at the airport’s new two-storey domestic terminal. CNA will also upgrade the airport’s existing domestic terminal, which will be equipped with a new bus terminal building and a VIP lounge. Its roof will be upgraded.

The project is slated for completion in October next year and will contribute to the group’s financial performance for the fiscal year ending Dec 31, 2013. It boosted CNA’s order book to $74.2 million, from $63.6 million as at June 30.

This is CNA’s second airport-related project in South-east Asia this year; it won a contract for Laos’ Luang Prabang Airport in April for common-use terminal equipment, typically used to facilitate passenger check-ins. BT

SMRT: Another breakdown!

In Infrastructure on 29/07/2013 at 10:49 am

Fortunately it’s not the trains, or the buses. It’s minor. Shares are marginally off today, so market doesn’t worry about this latest dyfunctionality

Still even think about investing in it because the continuing dysfunctionality  is not reassuring, inspite of having as CEO, a scholar and ex SAF head, who was brought in to get the trains (and buses) to run on time again. Still not running. There have been several train delays, the most publicised of which was in April when a crack on the northbound track between Somerset and Orchard stations slowed trains to a crawl. Then a speeding bus (driven by FT PRC driver training for F1) crashed overturned.There were injuries and a death. And then there was S’pore’s first strike (legal or otherwise) in decades.

All this on the watch of a scholar and general? Err what would have happened on the watch of a non-scholar, sales char bor FT? Actually, we know: overcrowded trains, poor working conditions for FT drivers, contempt for commuters.

Back to the latest failure: SMRT’s Vice President for Corporate Marketing and Communications, Ms Kalai Natarajan, has quit after only 5 months. She was among several senior management staff (mostly ex-SAF officers, but not her) brought in by the new CEO Lt Gen (NS) Desmond Kuek after he took over in Oct last year. She was hired in Feb this year, taking over from Mr Goh Chee Kong, who left last year. Mr Goh is the guy who insinuated, “Better you die, than damage SMRT property.” OK, I exaggerate, but not by much. He was ex-SAFer. (Her quitting shows the gd for the FT, where “T” stands for “Talent”, running Temasek’s public communications. I once blogged that he had turned down the SMRT post.)

During her short tenure, more than five in her communication team of about 10 people resigned.

According to ST, her departure is unusual because she is not required to serve notice. She told ST that she is leaving SMRT today (Monday). She confirmed that she will not be serving notice. Usually the notice period for senior management is three months. Seems she hasn’t another job waiting for her.

A HR expert speculated in ST report that there may be a “cultural misfit” if senior management staff “are not on the same wavelength”. Let’s watch to see if the Hongkie that was brought in to run train operations, quits.

If he does, then commuters should be worried, very worried, that experienced professionals have left, leaving only ex-SAFers, not experienced in running public transport operations or public communications.

Related posts: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/smrt-can-still-wait/ Interesting that it is still trading way above its “Sell” target price.

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/for-they-have-sown-the-wind-and-they-shall-reap-the-whirlwind/

When raising fares, SBS, SMRT & Govt don’t have this problem

In Infrastructure on 17/06/2013 at 5:33 am

SBS and SMRT are grumbling loudly that their present biz model (after delivering golden rivers of dividends for Temasek and the S’pore Labour Foundation) doesn’t work. SLF even sold 8% of SBS’s parent at a huge discount to the market price. Great move as this was done before market meltdown. (BTW, at current price, tempted to buy into ComfortDelgro. It closed last Friday at 1.755, up 3% from Thursday. The co’s fundamentals havenot changed since institutions bought SLF’s stake at 1.94. It is likely that when they bot from SLF, they would have been given assurances of the fundamentals at that price.)

And govt has been pouring our money ($1.1bn and counting) at the public the transport system. And the Wankers’ Party remains quiet* about its Manifesto call to nationalise the public transport system.

If the PAP govt weren’t concerned that it would lose votes if fares were raised without a marked improvement in service standards, fares would have gone up by now to keep the dividends flowing. Screwing the public (by making the public pay-and-pay) is the PAP way pre the 2011 GE and PE.

Anyway, SMRT, ComfortDelgro and the govt should be grateful that this doesn’t happen here when faresw are raised: Protests against bus and underground fare rises in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo have turned violent.

Police fired rubber-coated bullets and tear gas, and detained more than 200 people. Police say they seized petrol bombs, knives and drugs.

Violence has also been reported at protests in Rio de Janeiro.

Prices for a single ticket in Sao Paulo were raised on 2 June from 3 reals ($1.40, £0.90) to 3.20 reals ($1.50, £0.96).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22899748

For that, they have to thank people like this TRE reader

My Middle name is AhLong:

We need to organise a movement similar to BERSEH of Malaysia now to demand clean election. We need to ensure a proper way to secure and account for the ballot boxes en-route to the counting station …We must demand at the counting station, after all ballot boxes are accounted for and examined, all the ballot tickets should mixed into a single bunch and count from there. In this way, the sly election department will not be able to get the data for gerrymandering in the next election.

Finally, to have a level of playing field, election department should NOT be under PMO!

If he is serious, he should be trying to organise shumething, instead of juz bitching anon. His use of the word “We” is simply a way of saying “You”.He juz wants to let out hot air, like VivianB, Auntie and her favourite Singh, the M’sian gals from S’pore Writers, and the Nairs, Gopalan and Rajan. He doesn’t want to do the hard slog, like Low, Ah Huat, Ah Lian, the NSP’s Dynamic Duo, the Ravis (M and P) and Team SDP. If you’re wondering why Siow is not on the list, he’s away in the US until year-end. And no, he is not attending the CIA’s regime change course.

*To be fair, Low mentions it in passing, now and then.

LTA, SMRT: Learn from NY & Dubai pls

In Infrastructure on 04/06/2013 at 5:48 pm

“Sponsorship is already used on metro systems across the word in places like Madrid, Dubai and New York,” says a Tory party report, and it suggests “Sponsorship deals to rename London Underground lines and stations should be considered as a way to fund a freeze in fares, Tory politicians have said.”

A report by the Conservative Party on the London Assembly said if £136m was raised in sponsorship it could freeze fares for a year.And it claimed £204m would cap rises at inflation for the next three years.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-22745677

“Transport for London (TfL) said the cost of of changing maps and signs made a deal of that kind unfeasible”, and bet you that LTA and SMRT would give the same excuse.

But here’s shumething that SMRT cannot say, “Every penny of this and our other revenue goes towards keeping fares as low as possible”,. because as a listco, controlled by Temasek, it got to pay dividends.

Estonia doing it, S’pore still talking about it

In Economy, Infrastructure, Political economy on 19/05/2013 at 7:39 am

The inventors of Skype came from Estonia. More importantly, the economy there is using IT to leverage its productivity. Not like S’pore where FTs are thrown at any problem.

Estonian schools are teaching children as young as seven how to programme computers.

Estonia’s e-revolution began in the 1990s, not long after independence. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, then the country’s ambassador to the United States, now Estonia’s president, takes some of the credit … He read a book whose “Luddite, neo-Marxist” thesis, he says, was that computerisation would be the death of work.

The book cited a Kentucky steel mill where several thousands of workers had been made redundant, because after automatisation, the new owners could produce the same amount of steel with only 100 employees.

“This may be bad if you are an American,” he says. “But from an Estonian point of view, where you have this existential angst about your small size – we were at that time only 1.4 million people – I said this is exactly what we need.

“We need to really computerise, in every possible way, to massively increase our functional size.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22317297

Keep using the platform Sports Council

In Infrastructure on 13/05/2013 at 3:02 pm

The Marina Bay floating platform was meant to be a temporary structure until the Sports Hub was completed. But it was reported in ST today that it will be staying put for at least a while longer. The Singapore Sports Council (SSC) – which owns and manages the platform – told ST that it is “considering retaining the facility for recreation, sports and community use”, even after the hub is completed.”

Keep using it until it becomes to expensive to maintain SSC. It’s something different.

Hope it gets used “permanently”. Thanking SSC in anticipation.

AsiaOne pix

HPH Trust: Cost of strike settlement

In Infrastructure on 08/05/2013 at 7:29 am

Port workers in HK agreed to a pay increase of 9.8%, after initially demanding a hike of more than 20%. This works out to an increase of 5.6% to the costs of HPH Trust.

Earlier post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/hph-trust-time-to-buy/

Can now focus on analysing the revenue prospects. Watch this space.

SMRT/ LTA: Another PR problem round the corner?

In Infrastructure on 07/05/2013 at 5:06 am

Questions have been raised over the health impact of high levels of tiny airborne metal particles discovered in a European underground train system.

Millions of people travel on underground urban transit systems in cities across the world.

Researchers at Southampton University say metal in the air thrown up by trains running on metal tracks could pose a health risk.

Airborne particles small enough to be inhaled are known to damage health.

They increase the risk of developing asthma, lung cancer or cardiovascular disease.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22404446

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/smrt-can-still-wait/

 

SMRT: Can still wait

In Infrastructure on 05/05/2013 at 5:15 am

SMRT’s FY2013 profit missed expectations as cost inflation outpaced revenue growth. Margin pain will persist until SMRT moves to a more sustainable business model. Until then, not only are profits at risk, so are dividends.

Dividend payout was cut to 45 per cent versus its previous 60 per cent policy. FY2013 core net profit met only 92 per cent of our and consensus estimates. We cut our FY2014-15 EPS estimates by 21 to 27 per cent and introduce FY2016. Our target price (discounted cash flow, weighted average cost of capital 6.5 per cent) falls to $1.26. CIMB April 30.

The last target price I saw, six months ago I think, put it at 1.33. Not sure whose.

Buying for yield requires co to have a sustainable business model, something that SMRT admits it doesn’t have. Keep on watching.

 

These Hongkies must wish NTUC represented them

In Humour, Infrastructure on 01/05/2013 at 6:57 am

The striking port workers say their real wages have fallen in the past 17 years, while their working conditions have worsened. They say many work 24-hr shifts without toilet or lunch breaks, FT reports.

S’pore needs FTs like these! PSA should bring them in, and offer them 18-hr shifts without toilet or lunch breaks. Our port workers do 8-12 hr shifts with toilet and lunch breaks in-between. Throw in the right to buy “subsidised” HDB flats, and they will be be forever grateful to the PAP, unlike our present port workers who loved JBJ.

Bet you this piece doesn’t get republished in TRE. It shows S’pore in a gd light!

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/hph-trust-time-to-buy/

 

HPH Trust: Time to buy?

In Infrastructure on 25/04/2013 at 6:27 am

Is it worth a buy? HPH Trust has fallen 4% since the strike in HK. Its handling capacity is back above 80%, having fallen to below 50% when the strike began. But the gap between oits wage offer (7%) and the strikers’ 20% demand, is big. And even its 7% offer adds 4% to total costs calculates CLSA.

And there is China’s slowdown and competition.

Nah let’s wait to see the terms of the settlement. Remember buy this for yield, not capital appreciation.

PAP listening to SDP?

In Infrastructure on 11/03/2013 at 6:22 am

Err didn’t the govt rubbish the SDP’s idea of lowering the cost of HDB flats by making it a condition of getting cheaper flats that they be resold to HDB?

And didn’t Khaw just say that this idea will be studied? But didn’t credit the SDP for suggesting it?

As an oldie using SingHealth, here’s hoping the SDP’s healthcare ideas be adopted* and that Paul A** gets co-opted to become Health minister.

——

*Never mind if it bankrupts S’pore as healthcare costs in the US and UK are bankrupting these nations, I’ll be dead.

**He was a possible SDP candidate for Punggol-East. Gd that he didn’t stand because he couldn’t claim to be born poor: even s/o JBJ claimed that although born in a pram made of gold, silver and ivory, he became poor when his dad took on the PAP. He dared make this claim even though he went to very expensive ang moh schools. JBJ became so poor that he could send his son to expensive schools? Come on, man who doesn’t know the Pledge, pull the other leg, it’s got bells on it.

 

Safe? Are you sure LTA?

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 10/03/2013 at 6:32 pm

Sinkholes happen when a layer of rock underneath the ground is dissolved by acidic water.

Usually this layer is a soluble carbonate rock, such as limestone or its purer form, chalk …Typically rainfall seeps through the soil, absorbing carbon dioxide and reacting with decaying vegetation. As a result, the water that reaches the soluble rock is acidic.

The acidic water causes the erosion of the soluble rock layers beneath the surface – eventually creating cavernous spaces.

The soil or sand over the limestone collapses into a sinkhole when it is no longer supported because of the cavity below. This final collapse of the surface might take anything from a few minutes to several hours. Read http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21600410 for more details on how they occur.

After reading the article, I’m left wondering how LTA can be so confident that the other lanes are safe*? Ain’t the other lanes sited on the same piece of land? It’s that to imagine that the hollow in the ground coincide with the lane: surely the hollow, if any, is spread over several lanes? As the article points out, holes can appear suddenly and unexpectedly, when there is a “tipping point’.

And if other sinkholes appear on other lanes: another “honest mistake”?

But let’s be fair, if the LTA had closed sections of the road while it conducts tests, and then found no other problems, the “Govt are bastards” brigade on Facebook, TRE, TOC, TRS and the internet would have a field day. And S’poreans who were inconvenienced by the road closure would bltch like bleating lambs too.

In first-world democracies, the emphasis would be safety over convenience, partly because govt’s and officials are afraid of lawsuits when people die. Here the culture seems to be public convenience over public safety (and cross fingers and hope no one dies). We had one example of this attitude when the public inquiry into MRT breakdowns, revealed that LTA was upset when SMRT wanted to extend disruption of service to conduct more checks. And the bitch brigade bitched when a minister dared to suggest that there might be a need to stop services to conduct checks or repairs. Nothing further was heard from him.

A balance has to be struck between public safety and public convenience, and this requires a consensus. Now wouldn’t this issue make a great topic for NatCon? And isn’t this issue connected to the issue of how many people we want here, given our population density. We are among the world’s most densely populated places.

———————-

*The patched-up sinkhole on Clementi Road has reappeared.

The gaping hole is about two-metre wide and a metre deep.

It was fixed on 4 March but it collapsed again on Friday.

A Land Transport Authority spokesperson said the affected lane was closed off immediately for repair works.

They are investigating the cause of the hole and are also conducting scans below the affected portion for any possible cavities.

The other lanes on Clementi Road remain safe. CNA

“WP will vote for the White Paper,” Moley

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 04/02/2013 at 5:31 am

(Update after Auntie’s speech: Moley and I are most happy that we got it wrong. But let’s wait and see. I was happy about being wrong about Punggol East, until Low told us that a vote for the WP is a vote to maintain PAP hegemony)

Given the overwhelming majority of PAP Members of Parliament, there is no question where the debate will be heading – towards a total endorsement of the policy recommendations and continued population influx, despite the message sent to the PAP by the Punggol East electorate and many Singaporeans.

Dear readers, would you vote for your MP in GE 2016 if he or she approves of the immigration targets drawn up in the Population White Paper? (http://singaporearmchaircritic.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/broken-trust-broken-policies/)

Neat idea but what if WP votes for White Paper?

We got to vote for Mad Dog Chee’s elitist Singapore Indian Party SDP*, or No Substance**, or the Clowns Brigade: s/o JBJ, the Saints boy, SDA, or the Chiams, because Morocco Mole tells me that  the WP will vote for the White Paper too. Now Moley has been right about WP refusing to raise issue of public transport nationalisation in parly. (Sorry JG, GG never raised the issue as you claimed. He just asked the govt to justify its rojak policy and then when as you rightly pointed the minister gave an incoherent response, GG didn’t respond with a nationalisation call.)

Sure will have wayang by Drama King PritamS and Drama Auntie (Remember their rants against govt changes to the mandatory death penalty? They voted for the changes on the quiet, juz like PAP MPs. And remember WP voted for the Budgets, despite bitching about the said Budgets).

WP will vote for the White Paper. And unlike all the examples cited above of the WP quietly supporting the PAP, while attacking it publicly, WP is taking a principled stand on the issue. LTK and Auntie have been asking the govt to go easy on the policy of cutting FTs, speaking out against the govt’s policy (now discarded?***) of starving the SMEs of FTs. Chinese-owned SMEs  fund the WP on the quiet, so WP has to keep them happy.

And the PAP (the real deal) has just given WP the best excuse to support the White Paper:

— “Reiterating that the 6.9 million figure should be viewed as “the worst-case scenario”****, Mr Khaw wrote: “We hope we do not reach that figure; we may never reach that figure.”

–“Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said … he fully agrees with Mr Khaw’s explanation that a 6.9 million population is not a target, but just a worst-case, aggressive scenario the Government must prepare for.”

“Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S Iswaran assures Singaporeans that the 6.9 million population figure in the White Paper is not a target the government is setting itself to achieve.”

(Excerpts from MediaCorp)

“6.9m? What 6.9m? Only projection, worse-case scenario, to spur debate leh,” WP Low will say, says Morocco Mole, Secret Squirrel’s side-kick. [This sentence was added an hour after initial publication.]

Which brings me to a suggestion on helping us monitor and assess a MP’s performance (from http://berthahenson.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/a-political-performance/)

Each MP should put up a yearly account to their constituents of what they did or said in Parliament. How many sessions did they turn up for? How many Bills did they vote on – and what did they say about them in Parliament? How many questions did they ask from ministers – both oral and written. What sort of answers did they get – and did the questions work in getting things done? … this keeps constituents politically attuned and keeps the MPs accountable. Simply saying vote for me again (I am looking ahead to the next GE) because I am kind, good, committed etc and my party has done what and what… isn’t good enough. Thing is, what have YOU done lately for me as my voice in Parliament?

But I doubt WP would adopt such a first-world practice of transparency and accountability. It would make transparent the WP’s two-headed snake strategy of being all things to all voters.

If ordinary netizens want the WP to vote against the White Paper, please start sending a strong message to the WP: use TRE, even TOC, or email direct to WP.

*I mean both SDP candidates were highly qualified Indians from very, very privileged backgrounds. They couldn’t claim, like s/o JBJ, that they were rich kids made poor by the PAP. But maybe they could argue that their families have been wealthier if the PAP had not come into power? Seriously, maybe the SDP is an elitist party that believes “multiracialism” is more than “an aspiration”: the voters are colour-blind? Says a lot for SDP’s idealism vis-a-vis that of the PAP and WP.

**NSP is getting its act together policy-wise: a good piece on population, responding to the White Paper   http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/02/02/nsp-proposes-alternative-population-plan-for-singapore/. And in working the ground. The problems lie in internal bickering and giving the WP the excuse to “knife” the NSP. An example of the latter: a prominent blogger who juz happens to be a NSP member was very vocal in his attacks on the WP’s leaders and followers during the recent by-election campaign. He accused them of PAP-like arrogance. (Even I won’t go that far in criticising the WP.). While I’m sure, the NSP had no hand in his attacks, which sounded as though they were written by s/o JBJ, it could cause trouble. NSP had no quarrel with WP over the by-election, yet its member felt free to attack WP. Low is very correct in telling his activists to toe the party line on the internet and social media. It could lead to misunderstandings. The WP now has the perfect excuse to move into Tampines, Marine Parade, Kallang and Mountbatten: a NSP member savaged WP on the internet and the NSP kept quiet would be the WP excuse.

***I’m confused. Cutting FT supply but by growing it?

****Shades of Yaacob, Remember he said this when one LKY shouted a Hard Truth about Malay Muslims.

SMRT: Dump

In Infrastructure on 31/01/2013 at 5:15 am

Brokers had forecast cost increases in staff, repair and maintenance costs, but not the 29.1% in maintenance & repair; and the 18.2% in staffing costs (all those new recruits from SAF?*) reported this quarter.

Brokers are putting a target price of around 1.34, a big drop.

But maybe there is the usually Biz School approved front-loading of costs, expenses whenever there is a new CEO. For yield buyers like me, the next Q’s numbers are awaited.

——

*https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/smrt-noticed/

 

 

 

More FTs on way, a lot MORE!: DBS

In Economy, Infrastructure, Political economy on 22/01/2013 at 6:29 am

OK, OK, I exaggerate: only 8% more of population if S’poreans don’t start breeding like rabbits.

DBS Vickers expects an upcoming white paper on Singapore’s population to raise its population target to 7 million from 6.5 million, which will benefit construction, land transport, property and healthcare companies. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/18/markets-singapore-stocksnews-population-idUSL4N0AN3GR20130118

SMRT is not on the “buy” list. It too has concerns about SMRT, like me and many others.

SMRT: Noticed?

In Infrastructure on 21/01/2013 at 5:45 am

I had planned to blog on the new appointments http://www.sammyboy.com/showthread.php?138562-8-New-hires-to-get-SMRT-on-track-4-from-military but forgot until today. Old age.

Noticed that SMRT has created seven new posts? Looks like Kuekie wants to spend, spend, spend on expanding management.He must think SMRT like SAF, money not an issue.

Taz two reasons to avoid the stock. The only reason to buy is to capture the gains from increased fares. But I’m not sure if fares would be allowed to rise this year, let alone this side of next GE: unless there is a marked improvement in service.

And speaking about service, on Boxing Day, for the first time ever, I couldn’t board a train because it was full: I didn’t have the right to board a crowded train, it was too crowded. It was at noon at Bishan. Note, I avoid using MRT and buses during rush hrs. And on Boxing Day and 31st Dec, there were problems when I used the NE Line.

SMRT: Buying target price

In Infrastructure on 20/12/2012 at 7:03 am

OSK DMG has a target price of $1.60 (6% above current price) and a Neutral call. I’ll monitor price to see if it falls to below or near that level. And then evaluate it to see if worth buying for dividend yield. The CEO’s talk of getting rid of FT drivers’ supervisors, could if carried out herald a change of culture.

BTW broker has a  Nneutral” call on the sector, with preference for ComfortDelGro (S$1.72 BUY TP S$1.85) for its cheaper valuations and overseas growth potential.

SMRT did not brief FT drivers on labour law?

In Infrastructure on 07/12/2012 at 5:17 am

I’m glad that the four FT PRC drivers that are facing charges for instigating an illegal strike are going to get help from some civic-minded lawyers.

Following the guilty plea by one driver who it seems had no lawyer to advise him, I was dismayed.

I had heard via Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole that the PRC FT drivers had never ever been briefed on the labour law here: particularly that there was a procedure to be followed before striking. And that SMRT has no documentary evidence that it ever briefed its FT drivers.

So when I read that one driver had pleaded guilty, I tot it was unlikely that these issues,  assuming they were true, or even probable would be raised in public by the drivers.

Now that the remaining four charged drivers have legal advice, if these allegations are probable, they would be raised, in mitigation.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. But ignorance of the law particularly when it is in a foreign language should be taken into consideration when passing sentence: especially if the employer did not brief its FT employees about the legal process involved in taking industrial action.

As to whether SMRT could have been so dysfunctional as not to brief its FT drivers on labour law, fact is that its HR department is pretty dysfunctional.  “MOM [Ministry of Manpower”] said it has reiterated to SMRT that labour and contractual grievances raised by the workers should be a priority and addressed quickly.” And after all, SMRT only introduced the following after the strike:

— “[T]old its drivers at the sessions that it has set up a 24-hour hotline for drivers to call if they have concerns or grievances”; and

— “They have also appointed liaison officers who can speak Mandarin to deal directly with the drivers, said SMRT.”

(CNA report)

Avoid the stock especially as SMRT’s focus on profit is one of the many factors why SMRT has been facing problems, according to its CEO Desmond Kuek. If the CEO talks like this, you can be pretty sure good dividend payouts are not one of his KPIs.

SMRT: Better not take the bus

In Infrastructure on 30/11/2012 at 5:16 am

(If you are short of time, juz read the last two paragraphs on why taking SMRT buses may be dangerous, otherwise read on.)

TRE reprinted this and Neutral responded as follows:

To be fair, “ex-SAF chief and scholar” was only in charge recently and so not really his problem. More like it’s “Miss colour hair” legacy.

 However, it is interesting to see how he handle this situation and if he applies a military approach, these “strikers” can jolly well go home to PRC for christmas.

I disagree.

Ever since the illegal strike began, SMRT has goofed in its handling of it:

— Came out to say initially 102 didn’t turn up: later said 171. If it got it wrong by 10%, fair enough, but it got it wrong by 67%. If it didn’t know how many drivers didn’t turn for work, it means it didn’t know how many drivers extra it would need. If a transport company can’t keep track of attendance, there is something wrong with its management info systems.

— But maybe it wasn’t the fault of the mgt info system but of the internal communications system?

— Then there was SMRT saying that striking workers were sacked; and then saying more had returned to work the next day. If they were sacked, how can return to work?

— As the law is very clear on what constitutes a strike (minister’s comments), management did not take decisive action in calling it an “illegal strike” until after the minister said so, it seems. This did the constructive, nation-building no favours, forcing it into some contortions to explain the initial non-use of the word “strike”. The media will not thank the management for the public ridicule it got.

And

— SMRT has admitted that “swifter actions could have been taken to improve dormitory conditions”. It should have admitted it could have communicated better with the PRC workers. It said on Wednesday, “the additional pay adjustment of S$25 a month for drivers from China was finalised last week and that it is in the process of communicating this to the drivers.” (CNA). Couldn’t they have told the drivers, before they saw their pay slips?

— The dormitory conditions should not have been so bad. SMRT is a TLC and GLC, not any SME.

— SMRT should have encouraged the FT PRCs to join NTUC. SBS did this. If they were part of Zorro’s gang, maybe things may not have reached this point. As Siow Kum Hong wrote on his FB page, “[A]ctually, i think people go on strike only if they feel disenfranchised and after they think they’ve exhausted other options.”

— As the strike took place when the CEO was away on overseas leave, it showed a lack of foreknowledge of worker unhappiness. Or worse: SMRT knew but CEO couldn’t be bothered to change his vacation plans.

These failings reflect badly on the ex-general, ex-SAF chief and scholar. And shouldn’t he be on the first plane back? After all, first illegal strike in Singapore since 1980 and in a TLC. The CEO was an ex-SAF chief and then senior servant: is this boh chap attitude a reflection of the ethos of public service?Thank God, there was no military or national security crisis during his stint as SAF chief.

Avoid the stock. It’s a dog that has fleas on the dog’s fleas.

And what happens if one of the FT drivers is so frustrated that he turns suicidal when driving a bus full of commuters. Or if he runs amok? Has the ex-colonel and scholar in charge of bus operations tot about the possibility that putting unhappy drivers on the road is endangering S’poreans and FTs. Imagine the damage that pictures of passengers being burnt alive will do to S’pore’s reputation as employers’ paradise?

Better give SMRT bus services a miss if you can. And if you have to take a SMRT bus, better make your will first, and check your insurance cover. Better safe than sorry?

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”

In Economy, Infrastructure, Political economy, Political governance on 27/11/2012 at 6:01 am

Well, well. So 102 FT drivers recruited from China (5% of all SMRT’s drivers) refused to work yesterday, disrupting SMRT bus services. They were not happy about their pay. Happily for commuters using the affected bus services, they agreed to return to work while talks continue.

Whither the FT policy, and LKY’s pride in FTs? Striking was a no-no for workers (except, as I recounted yesterday, when the govt had another agenda). S’porean sheep workers did not strike partly because they were afraid of retribution. Now FTs have led the way and have so far got away with it. They might even get more money. If they do, will locals realise that they too can get away with striking? If immigrants whom LKY respect can strike, why can’t they?

And if S’poreans start striking, will the MNCs move on?

Something for the cabinet, PM and his dad to ponder.

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.”

As for SMRT, time to forget about the stock. Management is still dysfunctional, despite having a ex-SAF chief and scholar in charge. Err might even turn into another NOL, where as I have recounted another ex-SAF chief and scholar has run it aground (Search “NOL”  on this site).

SMRT is in the biz of transporting people

In Infrastructure on 16/11/2012 at 6:31 am

TRE republished this and improved on it by adding part of  the newspaper report that annoyed me.

Here are some great comments posted on TRE about the “unprecedented offer”

TheFortyPercent:

The SMRT’s attitude is typical of the legacy left behind by LKY. If SMRT makes a generous compensation, people will throw themselves on to the MRT rails. If we have too generous welfare benefits, people will laze around and not work. If we have good health benefits, people will fall sick, get cancer and not take care of their health. If we don’t pay our civil servants and ministers the highest salaries, they become corrupt. If we don’t have the ISA, people will become militant. If we don’t have a meritocratic law of the jungle system, every Singaporean will become lazy and indolent. If we don’t bring the thousands and thousands of foreigners, Singapore will collapse and your mothers, wives and sisters will become maids. And the list goes on….. It just shows how much confidence LKY and the PAP has in its citizens! No other country in the world in all history has its leaders, as Singapore has, condemned, spoken derisively and rubbished its own citizens. This is the wonderful legacy that LKY has bequeathed to all Singaporeans! His money of course goes to his family and the ten generations of descendants after him.

One Eye Dragon In Your Pants:

Wow, so that’s what SMRT thinks of us. Money grubbing opportunists who would do anything (even getting our limbs amputated!) to get some compensation. Yeah, in their eyes, we are all lesser mortals who deserve nothing. Have they looked at themselves in the mirror lately? If only public transportation isn’t monopolized by SMRT & SBS, I would outright boycott their services.

Truth:

It is shameful that SMRT has such bad social grace to say such words of the public , implying the young Thai girl has a motive to lose her legs to get some money. Are we in some foreign lands where people sell their body organs to get some money ? Then why the need to say such unkind words of your commuters, to the effect that they would intrude on the SMRT tracks and implying try some antics to get some donation.

Lousy public relation, presenting a inhumane image of SMRT. These words are really mean and uncalled for.

Thought those infamous word ” opportunity to make money ” sent to the taxis after the breakdown of the trains last December was bad enough, and now these words. The SMRT never learn, or with a new PR people, has still not got its acts together again.

By the way, why is the PaaPa government making the common folks pay for upgrading and repairs bill $1.1 billion for the SMRT ? The Board of directors( past since 2002 )each receiving $200,000 annually and the chairman $500,000 should contribute their fees to the repair bills if they have some conscience. They failed in their duties as directors, and yet keep this money for private enjoyment . Shame on them, especially on Mr Chew Choon Seng, now chairman of SGX, who was the chairman of the board in 2002 that appointed a wrong unsuitable person to be CEO. They got away scot free, enjoying their director fees privately, but now the taxpayers have to bear with the cost of the repair , through no fault of theirs.

Today had reported that the ang moh FT I tot had joined SMRT had still not joined, and is unlikely to do so: Smart “Talent”. When you have a PR person, unapologetically, saying that $15,000 was an “unprecedented” offer to a girl who lost her legs; and that non-payment policy is to deter people from deliberately losing their limbs or lives  to get money from SMRT, it shows the kind of culture ( “choose not to board crowded trains” and “trains can be packed more” and “opportunity to make money” and “never ever damage SMRT property even if you are suffocating in a train that has stopped, and there is no electricity and you are left in the dark”) he would have to defend about if he signed on. Maybe the previous PR boss, an ex-army colonel, should reapply for his job?

He fits the culture to a “T”, blaming the bad English of the staff for them not communicating with the public. He was the person who also said that SMRT should never ever be damaged. Wonder why did he “move on” if he fitted the culture to a “T”. Goh Chee Kong approved comments like this.

Finally, we get to the title of this post:  SMRT is repositioning itself as an engineering company. I’ve commented on why this may be a bad idea: engineering companies tend to gold plate operations.

SMRT should think of itself as a “Mass Rapid Transit” biz: moving crowds of people quickly, in reasonable comfort and efficiently at low cost. Be like AirAsia, EasyJet or Ryanair, the best low cost airlines: decent customer service at lowish prices. And handicapped and elderly people: take a taxi if you are not happy with the service. Don’t bitch too much. Ryanair tells them in no uncertain terms, not to use it. It tells them there are alternatives.

 

SMRT: $15,000 not enough

In Infrastructure on 07/11/2012 at 7:26 am

Talk of bad PR.

When I read that the Thai gal sued SMRT, I didn’t think much of her case. I tot that she should have accepted reasonable compensation and moved on.

But when I read that SMRT says that its $15,000 offer was “unprecedented”, I tot what a dumb, mean company.

I don’t know waz a fair amount would be taking into account her injuries and that it isn’t SMRT’s fault. But $15,000 is not it. Its legal costs would easily exceed $100,000.

I had been looking to buy shares in SMRT, but I’ll give it a miss for the time being. Want to see if mgt changes are working.

Anyway, hopefully the FT brought in to replace an ex-SAF officer will do something to change SMRT’s bad record in public communications. The SAF officer said once “Better you die, than damage SMRT property”.  Ya I exaggerate, but that was the message he gave when a commuter smashed a glass panel to let air into a train stuck in a tunnel.

Circle Line: the unasked questions

In Infrastructure, Media, Political governance on 28/10/2012 at 6:06 pm

I’m writing this on Sunday evening.

On Saturday morning, I read that replacing the Circle Line ‘s power cables would take 18 months, beginning from January next year.

SMRT said the areas between Dhoby Ghaut and Dakota Stations are more problematic, compared with other parts of the network, as the cables sit in an area that is prone to water seepage from the ground.

SMRT’s executive vice president for trains, Khoo Hean Siang, said there are plans to replace all the cables.

He added: “We want to change out to a higher grade cable that can submerge, (be) more water resistant to make sure … the system will last for 20 to 30 years.” CNA report.

But neither, MediaCorp nor SPH reporters asked:

—  “The North-South Line only started giving serious problems last year. It was opened in 1987. Why is the Circle Line giving problems so soon?”

— “Given the newness of the line, first opened in 2009, and with the latest stations connected just last year, how come the electric cables need replacing so fast?”

— “Why were these cables used?”

— ” As the total cost was nearly S$10bn, not peanuts, by any measure, why were these cables chosen?

— “What other problems could possibly happen, given the cables gave problems much earlier than anticpated?”

— What is the cost of replacing the cables?

— Who is bearing the cost of replacing the cables? SMRT? Or the govt? If SMRT, will dividends be affected? Or will fares have to rise?

And neither did they ask these questions on Sunday. and my Secret Squirrels and Morocco Moles in both these constructive, nation-building media organisations, tell me that tonite’s programmes and tomorrow’s editions will not ask these questions.

These are the questions that the media should be asking. I’m sure PAP MPs  and Lina Chiam will be asking some of these question in parliament.  And I’m sure netizens are already asking these questions. But I’m sure the WP MPs will be silent. Too busy looking at their bank statements to see if the 30 pieces of silver ++ have been paid into their accounts? Taz what my disillusioned Morocco Mole in WP is wondering.

At the very least, S’poreans must be told why the decision to purchase a cable, now known to be sub standard, was made or allowed to be made? Was it an “honest mistake” by someone or an entire organisation, or an organisational failure, or was there corruption?

My very simplistic answer is that in the 1980s when the first lines were being built, one LKY was PM. No-one wanted to explain to him why the trains would not be running on time. The Circle Line was largely built when the PM was one Goh Chok Tong, and his DPM was one Lee Hsien Loong, today’s PM, his chosen successors. Whatever history may say about LKY, the train lines built when he was PM lasted over 20 years, before giving serious problems. Under his chosen successors, the Circle Line didn’t even last fault-free for five years.

Sometimes change is not for the better, even ifthuggish methods of management have been replaced by more civilised, possibly less effective, methods.  

And while there is no longer fear in the air the media breathes, the mental “knucklebusters” still remain in the minds of the media.

Cost effective ways of keeping us healthy?

In Infrastructure, Political economy on 17/10/2012 at 5:36 am

Yesterday, I read that the government is planning to do more to help the depressed and I remembered that I chanced across this (see below) response to an Economist blog piece on escalating medical costs in the developed world. It suggests (among other suggestions) adding various soluble drugs to the water Americans drink as a way of keeping healthcare costs down: one of the drugs is Prozac which is a drug that helps control mild clinical depression. Other drugs suggested are statins and aspirin.

Now that VivianB (a MD) is water minister, he may want to help out the Health minister. These measures seem to be in line with S’pore’s policy of spending as little as possible on health (around 4% of GDP) without upsetting economic efficiency or upsetting the masses compared say to Switzerland (around 8%).  And we already drink recycled water. LOL.

Seriously I hope the SDP looks into these suggestions. SDP has a very gd team of doctors helping out. (BTW what do these MDs have to say about:

this plug for govt health policy;

the latent flaw in any public health insurance scheme; or

innovative ways of helping the elderly in ways that don’t cost too much money?)

(Note writer below is talking of the US, where fluoride is already added to the water they drink. Always wondered why this doesn’t happen here.)

America comes up short in international comparisons of health statistics principally because life expectancy lags despite the highest spending for healthcare. For less than one dollar per capita , I propose Ten Inexpensive Health Interventions WILL Improve Health Outcomes. These will lengthen life expectancy, improve health, increase happiness and decrease dysfunctional behaviors.

We already fluoridate the water to prevent dental caries. And chlorinate to reduce bacteria. We can use the water supply as a medication distribution network by introducing very tiny or trace amounts of medicines that have been known to reduce major diseases.

1.) Simple cheap ASPIRIN dramatically cuts rates of Strokes, Heart Disease and now recently proven in a longitudinal study, reduces Cancer death rates by 20%! Put ASA in the water supply–if would be cheaper than fluoride.

2.) Put STATIN drugs in the water supply. Heart disease and stokes are declining for the first time in history. And it is despite the epidemics in Diabetes and Obesity. It is due to widespread use of effective anticholesterol drugs known as ‘statins.’ ie. Lipitor. High cholesterol is endemic and contributes to strokes and heart attacks. Just about everyone benefits from lower cholesterol.

3.) Water Born Oral VACCINES. Up to 30% of parents do NOT believe in the value of vaccinations and many act on this belief. Utilize water borne vaccinations in the water supply, such as the oral polio Sabin Vaccine. Put Folate in H20 to prevent neural tube defects in fetuses.

4.) PROZAC to decrease Dysfunctional Behaviors and improve Mental Health. Far more common than crime is non-criminal personal dysfunctions. Up to 40% of Americans will experience a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime including Depression, Alcohol abuse, illicit Drug abuse, Anxiety disorder, PTSD, Obsession-Compulsion, Eating disorders. Half of these will remain undiagnosed. And love ones suffer by enduring the mental ill relative like an affliction. Virtually all these maladies would benefit from Prozac type drugs which increase brain serotonin neurotransmitter. It is a vital tool in psychiatry: ‘Vitamin P’. Put Prozac in the water supply and we will be less sad, less depressed and less dysfunctional. It will shrink dysfunctional behaviors, criminal behaviors, afflictions and addictions. It would save BILLIONS in the Criminal Justice System. Lead to more productive fulfilled citizens who are happier. Less alcohol and drug addictions. Less DUI, trauma and killing sprees.

5.) Perhaps an effective future drug to treat or prevent Diabetes or Obesity–put it in the water. We have a new Epidemic of Obesity never before seen in the history of civilization. All interventions have been stymied to reverse the epidemic. We have to be creative about how to address this problem. The water supply is a simple and effective vector that treats the entire population. Observe the effectiveness of fluoridation on cavities for pennies per capita per year.

6.) Ban Tobacco Products, the leading Preventable cause cancer deaths, heart attacks and strokes. It would cost nothing in health care but would literally overnight vault the US life expectancy over the #1. Japan.

7.) Restrict television broadcasts to 2 hours a night of quality programming from 8 pm to 10 pm. We get 24 hours of 1000 channels–98% is garbage programming. It would force Americans to find other more healthy forms of recreation like walking, exercising, reading and even talking with each other. We undersleep and spend 4-6 hours of waking hours watching TV.

8.) Make Supermarkets reflect a Vegetarian Diet. 80% of floor space for Produce. 10% for dairy. 10% for the meat department. Vegetarians live longer and are more active. We have to make it easier and more desirable to enjoy vegetables Likewise encourage walking, exercise, and activity.

9.) Tax Alcohol extremely regressively to the point that consumers have to hurt to make a purchase. They will value that little sip of brandy or Chardonnay even more. Make bottles much smaller at around 100 ml. Like a Coca Cola at the turn of the century: medical tonic amounts. Yes people can drink, but moderation(less than two drinks) is best.

10.) Milk-Based Nutrition/ Beverages. To increase calcium in young persons, make all flavored beverages and hydration drinks MILK BASED. A milk based Coca Cola. We will see taller, more active, healthier citizens. Perhaps the best way to combat osteoporosis in the elderly is fortifying bones in teen age girls. And using high impact sports like simple rope jumping. This will make a difference in the wide spread osteoporosis of the elderly. Your skeleton will thank you decades later.

This is a radically different way of thinking about Public Health, Medicine and Wellness.

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures.

Make Public Health medication an automatic feature by incorporating it into normal plumbing.

Let people OPT-OUT by buying their own water and we will have 95% participation.

We now have an OPT-IN system for medicine that is not working.

Healthcare delivery is a complex problem requiring smart solutions, but sometimes solutions can be as simple as fluoridating water. We need a Fluoridation System for the 21st Century.

SGX/ Bursa M’sia: Back to the future UPDATE

In Infrastructure on 06/09/2012 at 11:12 am

Err spoke too soon of returning to the old days. Today’s BT reports:

KEY questions about the long-delayed Asean trading link continue to confound investors even as the tie-up between the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and Bursa Malaysia (BM) is slated to finally begin in less than a fortnight.

Details about custody, costs and other operational matters are still unclear ahead of the Sept 18 launch, observers said. And while traders and investors on both sides of the border think the link could fly in the long term, no one, it seems, sees an immediate need for the change …  But the implication of the tie-up on basic operational details remains a mystery to many investors and professionals.

Sigh: SGX goofs again? Is SGX paying for Foreign Talents or Foreign Trash? The CEO is ang moh FT, while its president is Indian FT.

SGX/ Bursa M’sia: Back to the future

In Infrastructure on 06/09/2012 at 4:59 am

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) and Bursa Malaysia will once again be reconnected from September 18, allowing easy trading access to investors from both sides of the Causeway.

Thailand will join the system later.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporebusinessnews/view/1223777/1/.html

I joined a stockbroking firm in S’pore in 1987. Then M’sian and S’porean shares were jointly listed. Then the two exchanges split and there was CLOB. Then in 1998, CLOB was closed.

While SGX’s FT CEO wanks, KL bags yet another mega IPO

In Infrastructure, Malaysia on 22/08/2012 at 5:30 am

1Malaysia Development Bhd., the state investment company known as 1MDB, plans to raise as much as $2 billion in an initial public offering of its power assets, Reuters reports. The IPO may take place in the first quarter of next year.

M’sia Boleh, what with Felda Global Ventures Holdings and IHH Healthcare completing two of the world’s three biggest IPOs this year. Companies have raised a combined US$5.1 billion in Kuala Lumpur this year, compared with US$2.9 billion in Hong Kong and US$2 billion in Singapore, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

SGX’s ang moh FT has yet to get on his own bat a mega IPO. Can only talk.

Related rant on ang moh tua kee: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/another-msian-mega-ipo-2/

Another M’sian mega IPO

In Infrastructure, Malaysia on 15/08/2012 at 9:58 am

MMC Corp has hired CIMB, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and Maybank as the joint global coordinators of a US$ 1 bn IPO of its 51% of power unit, Malakoff Corp, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile SGX’s FT ang moh CEO has failed to attract mega IPOs here. M’sian stock exchange, no FTs there, has had a string of mega IPOs: Felda, IHH (also listed here but no thanks to FT ang moh), Astro (coming) and now this. One of leading bourses for IPOs this yr.

M’sia Boleh! And no FTs to teach locals how to do things.

How SMRT can spend more on maintenance while cont’d paying gd dividends

In Infrastructure on 13/08/2012 at 6:55 pm

Find sponsors for MRT stations Dubai style.

The station at Changi Int’l Airport can be renamed after Changi Airport, or SIA or any airline wanting publicity. Raffles City can be renamed after Robinsons or Westin. Raffles Place can be named after a bank sponsor while Temasek can sponsor Dhoby Gaut.

While new CEO as an ex-SAF chief and senior civil servant (also a scholar) should ensure that the trains run on time (in the early 20th century in the US, retired generals were in demand to run railwa s because the army like the railways were complex organisations), he might not be gd for profits. As I explained here, SMRT is now seeing itself as an engineering co, not a transport co, but problem is that engineers tend to gold-plate their operations.

Peril of being at the cutting edge of high tech, high frequency trading

In Financial competency, Infrastructure on 08/08/2012 at 6:08 am

Trading algorithms are potential weapons of mass destruction: here they blew up their creator.

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/trying-to-be-nimble-knight-capital-stumbles/?nl=business&emc=edit_dlbkam_20120803

http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/08/knight-capital-0

And here is SGX trying to encourage more of this type of trading here, which incidentally affects adversely (even if nothing goes wrong) other players esp retail investors. And meanwhile SGX is using SIAS to get heartlanders to play in the casino. I was present when Dr Goh Keng Swee called the stock market a casino.

Another gd reason for moving ministers around

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 27/07/2012 at 6:40 am

In this and this, I talked about one reason why moving ministers around was good: the new ministers can “move on” from their predecessors who because they were the ministers who made the decisions or who were otherwise responsible were in denial, or too defensive about their actions, couldn’t take remedial action: flood prevention measures, and public housing and transport problems. 

The news in the past week, about a major flood prevention project (see below), reminded me  of another reason: a minister who was a dud in another portfolio could turn out to have the skills needed in a new portfolio. VivienB is the person I have in mind. As welfare and sports minister, he was a flop: making fun of the elderly needy, and while refusing to spend more on them overspending wildly on the Kiddie Olympics.

But as water minister he dares to be decisive: approving an expensive but much needed project. PUB’s plans to build a diversion canal and detention tank at the Stamford Canal Catchment to better deal with intense storms. The cost has not been revealed but given that it involves construction work in the Orchard Road area, it will cost serious money.

Well VivianB is not afraid to give it his approval. If Yaacob had been in charge, senior PUB engineers tell me that he would still be thinking about it: asking if they could find cheaper ways of mitigating once in half a century floods that juz happened twice in two months in 2010. After all as an academic, he would say that the events of 2010 could be juz statistical flukes. If so, why spend money unnecessarily based on outliers?

And thinking about it, Yaacob is a good “information” minister. He took his time over introducing a Code of Conduct for bloggers. And now seems to have shelved idea for yhe time being.

We would not have liked it if he had been decisive and autocratic about it. And imagine the egg on the face of the government if he had acted decisively and forced the CoC down the collectively throat of netizens: a CoC that was modelled on the practices of the mainstream media; only for revelations to hit the fan that STOMP used paid “content providers” to pose as citizen journalists, one of them faked a news item, and for the STOMP content team to admit that they are FTs from China?

So PM, let’s move on to yr dad’s policy of moving ministers around and out. No more jobs for life that Goh Chok Tong and you seem to favour.

Reason WP quietly ditched its public tpt nationalisation call?

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 09/07/2012 at 7:01 am

(“Trying to serve residents better, WP ditches manifesto call nationalise public tpt?”)

My WP “Morocco Mole”* (the sidekick of  “Secret Squirrel” in the carton series: bit like Yaw to Low) tells me that at July’s parly seating, GG will again keep quiet on the above issue in the debate after the ministerial statement on the major disruption in the MRT system. Tells me no other WP MP will raise the issue of public tpt nationalisation, as this is GG’s responsibility.

He asked, “Why so cock, when the Commission of Inquiry’s findings  that SMRT was skimping on maintenance can be used to support WP’s election manifesto call to nationalise public transport? Also shows WP can think better than PAP.”

I referred him to this ST report, where it was reported that MPs are lobbying LTA  for better bus services in their wards: all because the $1.1 bn subsidy.

I told him since WP has appointed Ah Huat (remember him?) to co-ordinate its efforts for more buses to serve Hougang and Aljunied, it would be most awkward for him (and WP) to beg LTA, and SMRT and SBS to improve services in WP areas if the WP is publicly proposing to destroy their staffs’ rice bowls. It would have no leg to stand on.

His response, “Tan kuku. Even if Sylvia, Glenda and Angela (remember her?) perform [expletive deleted] on the LTA, SBS and SMRT male managers, and Show Mao [expletive deleted] the female managers, think that they will improve services in WP areas? Why WP so cock?” 

He has a point. SIGH (Victor Hugo: “A traitor always pays for his betrayal in the end.”)

Related post: https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/hougang-only-up-to-a-point-lucky/

—-

*Moley is a WP cadre but not on the Central Executive Council,. He is ex-Barisan. He early last week told me that the WP had tabled only one question abt public transport (abt the release of the COI report). He is right. Which makes WP’s silence on this issue more deafening. Look at the topics raised: what the public wants raised for the most.

ASEAN trading platform: Yet another delay

In Infrastructure on 05/07/2012 at 5:46 am

The launch of a proposed cross-border electronic trading link for South-east Asian stock exchanges has been delayed as the participating bourses are still testing the technology and driving investor awareness, according to a joint statement issued on Tuesday.

“The ASEAN Exchanges is currently in the midst of firming up the launch date of the ASEAN Trading Link that is ideal and amenable to the members of the ASEAN Exchanges and its stakeholders,” the statement from the exchanges in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam said.

The stock exchanges had signed a preliminary pact in February 2009 to develop cross-border trading links to cut costs and attract investment. The launch of the trading link – a common platform to enable cross-border order routing and trading across seven exchanges in the six countries – had initially been planned for last month, after it had been delayed from last year, if my memory is correct. 

In May, Bursa Malaysia Chief Executive Tajuddin Attan said the ASEAN link will begin with the stock exchanges in Malaysia and Singapore in July, with the Thai bourse joining in August.

Indonesia: Talking cock is not helpful, helpful

In Indonesia, Infrastructure on 13/06/2012 at 7:32 am

Work on a new deepwater port for container ships on an island between Batam and Bintan is set to begin next year, creating a potential rival to Singapore’s port. The port, on Tanjung Sauh, aims to be a major transshipment center for Indonesia, and is part of the country’s overhaul of its transport infrastructure to cope with growing domestic demand.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/05/21/deepwater-port-near-batam-set-rival-singapore.html

Well in 2005, Indonesia annced a major expansion of the port on Batam. It even awarded a contract to a French company. Err nothing ever happened. Wonder if this time, it will be anything different. And remember that Batam has one unused int’l airport. It was built to rival S’pore’s airport in the late 1970s.

Readers will know I’m bullish on Indonesia. But that is despite, not because, of its officials or the government planning agencies.

But here’s one talking cock project that works: using social media to help farmers get info they need http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18193993

SMRT: OCBC further justifies its “Hold” call

In Infrastructure on 20/05/2012 at 5:16 am

Remember that with the exception of JP Morgan and OCBC, all other brokers are calling a “sell” on SMRT. Only Morgan And OCBC were SMRT bulls.

Share price has held steady since results

As for SMRT’s share price, it has held steady despite initial selling pressure following its weak FY12 results, and has managed to outperform the FTSE STI Index over the past two and a half weeks (-0.9% vs. -5.3%). While the COI continues its public hearings, we deem the possibility of further sharp sell-offs to be remote as SMRT services and its operational cash flows remain in demand and resilient.

Maintain HOLD

We reiterate our belief that SMRT will not have difficulty addressing its higher capital outlay requirements given its existing net cash position and available MTN programme, and leave our conservative 60% PATMI dividend payout ratio estimates unchanged. Maintain HOLD with a fair value estimate of S$1.71.

http://yieldstocks.reitdata.com/2012/05/17/smrt-ocbc-3/

SMRT: “Cowboys” were right

In Corporate governance, Infrastructure on 14/05/2012 at 8:52 am

Since the trains started breaking down towards the end of last yr, bloggers and posters (not I) have been attacking SMRT for putting profits before safety, and disregarding the engineers’ advice (though without having a clue abt the said advice). Yacoob’s exemplar for the new media, the constructive, nation-building media were deafening in their silence on this national issue. I was silent because I was trying to figure out if I shld go buy some SMRT shares.

Well, based on the comments by the chairman, Koh Yong Gua, reported by ST and ST’s headline on an inside page, the inhabitants of cowboy towns were correct. (Explain that Yacoob and DPM Teo.)

“SMRT to refocus on its engineers” read the headline. This implied that SMRT had lost its focus on engineers somewhere along the line, assuming it once had such a focus.

Mr Koh said that “SMRT will be repositioned an engineering company”, begging the question “What was its earlier positioning?”. Retailer, property developer, financial engineer, or cash cow for Temasek? Since SMRT was listed in 2000, Temasek has received $694.3m in dividends (I’ve including the dividend declared recently).

The promotion of Mr Khoo Hean Siang in March 2011 to COO was meant to show the importance of engineers, he said. The previous COO who was “removed” was not a technical person. Wonder what was he? Ex-SAF officer or financial man? With the CEO a retailer, it surprises me that until 2011, the COO was not a technical man. And that board meetings did not include a very senior engineer in attendance.

Actually, I think Mr Koh still hasn’t got it. SMRT is not an engineering company. It is a company whose main business is moving large numbers of people around S’pore safely, and in reasonable comfort (most of the time). By focusing on engineers and positioning SMRT as an engineering company, he could be laying the seeds for a serious problem somewhere along the track. Investors in the West have found that companies dominated by engineers tend to goldplate processes and systems. Siemens, Rolls-Royce, Westinghouse, Boeing, Airbus and even GE, had to be run by non-engineers before shareholders benefitted.  

Commuters may say so what? So long as it is safer and doesn’t breakdown, power to the engineers. The problem is that goldplating is expensive, and eventually someone has to pay. This is likely to be the commuter (via fare increases) or his avatar or alter ego the taxpayer.

I was planning to buy into a rights issue when one is annced, as I expect. But given the positioning as an “engineering company” and its “refocus on its engineers”, I think I’ll give the stock a miss for the time being. But never ever bet against Temasek when it comes to a local company.

Related post:

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/smrt-quiet-re-nationalisation/

SMRT mgt failures: What does it say abt SAF?

In Infrastructure on 11/05/2012 at 10:19 am

“The experts questioned having the bus bridging services ply a route mirroring the entire train line as this may not be the most effective way to move people. They suggested that the bus bridging services should ferry commuters to one to three stations, or to the next working station.”

Huh? Having been lucky enough not to kanna caught in one of these disruptions (my 87-yr old mum on her only second MRT outing was at a station when a disruption occured), I’m surprised to learn that this wasn’t done or that it isn’t now SOP?

Given that it is a well-known fact, I believe, that retired SAF officers are given senior jobs at SMRT (presumably because they have the experience of managing large and complex organisations), I’m surprised that foreign experts recommended the following “fairly common sense and not rocket science” command and control procedures:

http://www.todayonline.com/Singapore/EDC120510-0000079/Foreign-experts-give-tips-at-SMRT-inquiry

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1200227/1/.html

We need genuine Talents to help us run our public transport systems, not ex-SAF officers, M’sian PRs or PRC bus drivers that we have been getting. And no “ang moh tua kee” attitude when getting Talents please. Hongkies, Japs, Taiwanese and Koreans who speak Inglish should be considered. No PRCs because China’s MRT systems are very new.

As to our defence, are we spending money foolishly on hardware, when what we need are a few good men? The government should be worried. It’s not us “lesser” citizens are at risk. It’s the FTs and rich S’poreans who need protection. An Indonesian pirate chief after reading of SMRT’s failures despite employing retired SAF colonels, may be tempted to raid Sentosa Cove, plunder it and kidnap people.

SMRT: Quiet re-nationalisation

In Infrastructure, Political governance, Temasek on 06/05/2012 at 7:34 pm

(Or “SMRT: Has the government and WP switched positions on the quiet)

On Friday, SMRT reversed its recent losses and was up 0.9% to 1.65. It was at 1.81 juz on 24 April.

Interestingly among the slew of brokers’ reports calling it a “sell”, “nationalisation” seems to be a dirty word, never raised except by two honourable brokers. Only Citigroup was willing to hint at re-nationalisation, “We’d even dare conjecture a Government-led end game, while only Kim Eng suggested that “selective nationalisation” is already taking shape, “A hybrid model, where the Government comes in to inject money, is perhaps the best model possible under the circumstances … like selective nationalisation where the Government pumps in money in certain areas … being done already – take for example, the Government co-paying for the buses to help operators expand the fleet.”

UBS said SMRT is highly likely to move to a new rail-network financing framework where it would pay the government for an operating lease instead of owning train assets,

And only Citigroup is willing to hint at, “We sense more drastic actions are needed, perhaps raising capital to shore up finances.” In simple English, it says a rights issue is possible. Everyone else was silent on this pink elephant in the room.

I think a rights issue is very highly probable.

Let’s go thru some numbers. At Friday’s close, the mkt cap of SMRT was $2.49bn., of which $1.35bn can be attributed to Temasek (It owns 54.3% of SMRT).

Now SMRT has plans to spend $900m over the next eight years and it wants LTA (i.e. the taxpayer) to share the cost. What if the government tells SMRT that it shld fund two-thirds of the cost because the Commission of Inquiry finds that SMRT was not maintaining the tracks properly. (I’m assuming the COI makes this finding based on the way the inquiry is going).

To fund this $600m, SMRT’s directors call for a deeply discounted rights issue to raise $600m (about 24.1% of SMRT’s mkt cap as of Friday). Add to that they say that dividends will have to be cut drastically*, and that Temasek has agreed to underwrite any shares that minority shareholders refuse to take up. Temasek will say that its decision to support the rights issue is a “commercial decision” of a long-term shareholder. Right, and pigs can fly, a leopard can change its spots, KennethJ and TJS can stop boasting, Chiam can renew the SPP’s leadership, and Yaacob can tame the internet tsunami by building a CoC flood wall.

In such a scenario, Temasek could end up with 75-80% of SMRT, as many minority shareholders decline to take up their shares because of the reduced dividend payments.

Ain’t this partial re-nationalisation? And Temasek can have its cake and eat it too, depending on whether the other shareholders subscribe to the rights. Since SMRT was listed in 2000, Temasek has received $694.3m in dividends (I’m including the dividend declared recently). A $600m rights issue and assuming it has to take up all the rights shares still leaves Temasek $94.3m ahead. Might as well make it $700m rights call then, shall we?

Ain’t nationalisation of the public tpt system in the WP’s manifesto (I’ve blogged on this and that the transport minister parrots his predecessors’ defence of the rojak “for profits” system). Lucky Tan has this video of my friend Eric Tan then a WP member (and treasurer) talking abt nationalisation at the last GE. So the silence of the WP which I’ve raised before) is strange, and in the longer term worrying (No can trust its manifesto promises, why shld voters trust the WP?).

So I hope in the May session of parly, GG for one can raise the issue of nationalisation and put the government on the defensive. Why GG? In July last yr, he wrote this on nationalising the public tpt system. This was after Eric Tan had left WP in a huff, so the call for nationalisation of the public tpt system did not end when Eric Tan left.

If the WP remains silent on nationalisation of the public tpt system, it would remind me of a Sherlock Holmes mystery:

Detective: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

BTW, OCBC (a ex-bull on SMRT) is still relatively bullish. It downgraded SMRT to hold from “buy” and lowered its target price to S$1.71 from S$2.04, citing weaker-than-expected earnings for 2012 because it estimated that SMRT’s capital expenditure in 2013 will rise to S$500 million due to higher expenses needed for upgrading its assets.

CIMB cut its target price from $1.68 to $1.50, suggesting a switch to ComfortDelGro to maintain an exposure to the land transport sector. Deutsche cut its target price to $1.61 from $1.75 while J P Morgan downgraded the stock from “overweight” to “neutral” with a target price of $1.60. Phillips cut its target price to $1.33, maintaining its “sell” call. I suspect Phillips is right. A rights issue will be priced at around the $1.33 level.

I’d buy some shares then. Never bet against Temasek when it comes to a local counter.

——

*”Some [analysts] expect SMRT to cut its dividend payout from 70-80 per cent of profits historically to at least 60 per cent.” (BT). What if this was reduced to 25%?

SMRT: Dividend of 5.7 cents but price down another 2 cents

In Infrastructure on 02/05/2012 at 7:22 pm

From the day last week when SMRT annced its eight-year $900m programme to upgrade many infrastructural and systems components on the North-South and East-West lines would exceed what it had spent on repairs and maintenance in the past 10 years, and

– no details on how the cost will be co-shared with the Land Transport Authority (to be negotiated); and

– no details on many parts of the upgrading programme,

till Monday, its share price fell 7.2% from 1.81 to 1.68. It then annced its results (not gd as expected) and today closed at 1.66 down another 1.2%. It went as low as 1.63. All this despite paying a dividend of 5.7cents a share or 3.4% of Monday’s close. (Mkt was closed on 1 May.)

Starting to look interesting as a dividend stock with recovery prospects. Time to analyse results in detail.

Mean of me, but I can’t resist reposting OCBC’s note dated 9 April when stock was at 1.74 and OCBC reiterated its “buy” call.  

————–

OCBC report on SMRT dated 9 April 2012

Strong selling pressure as anticipated by more than half of the street failed to materialise with the counter trading tightly range-bound for slightly more than two months.

During this period, SMRT has also kept to a lower profile with the announcement of work completion from its Internal Investigation Team as the only major development.

Ahead of the upcoming earnings release at the end of the month, we continue to stress that SMRT is likely to see an upswing in fuel costs, following the run-up in prices as well as the additional train runs commissioned in the face of higher ridership and public pressure.

Coupled with higher staff costs related to seasonal merit increments and additional headcount to meet service requirements, we are likely to see the weakest quarterly performance for FY2012.

In terms of fallout from the December 2011 service disruptions, we do not expect any incremental costs at this juncture as the more important inquiry by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) has yet to be completed.

While SMRT’s FY2012 results are likely to stay uninspiring, the counter’s attractiveness as a dividend play remains its key selling point. SMRT’s management has maintained and reiterated its commitment to maintain its dividend payout policy.

Although its prospects going forward will be challenging – COI findings, no fare increments – SMRT’s ‘customer’ base is still growing.

Ridership levels continue to grow especially with support from the current trend in COE prices, while rental and advertising yields are naturally competitive given the high foot traffic locations of their stations.

With this backdrop and earnings support and stabilisation in SMRT’s price, we continue to call for an attractive entry point for SMRT.

Maintain ‘buy’ at an unchanged fair value estimate of $2.04.

Integrating FTs: It’s our problem now cont’d

In Infrastructure, Political economy, Political governance on 02/05/2012 at 5:50 am

Remember a few days ago I ranted abt the comment by DPM Teo* that, “Singapore needs to pay extra attention to facilitating the new immigrants who are ready to sink roots here, so that they integrate into society more quickly … urged Singaporeans to do their part to make newcomers feel welcome, and to help them imbibe the values that have made Singapore strong as a society”? It was the fault of the governing PAP, so it should fix it, not pass it on to us.

Well this morning, while scanning thru BBC Online, the following comment by France’s president leapt at me,  “Our system of integration doesn’t work. Why? Because before we were able to integrate those who were received on our territory, others arrived. Having taken in too many people, we paralysed our system of integration.”

In view of DPM’s Teo  passing-the-parcel, our problematic MRT system, crowded buses, and expensive public housing one could say that his words describe what has happened here.

——————————

*I think he is one of our “betterest” ministers along with Tharman, Khaw and VivianB (so long as you keep him away from the poor and needy and give him engineering tasks). Gan, Chan and Tan seem to be coming along nicely.

SMRT: Reality hits shareholders

In Infrastructure on 26/04/2012 at 7:47 pm

SMRT is down another 2% today closing at 1.70 (-o.o35). It was down 4% yesterday (Wednesday) closing at 1.735 (-0.075)

Well with Tuesday’s announcement that SMRT’s eight-year $900m programme to upgrade many infrastructural and systems components on the North-South and East-West lines would exceed what it had spent on repairs and maintenance in the past 10 years, and

— no details on how the cost will be co-shared with the Land Transport Authority (to be negotiated); and

— no details on many parts of the upgrading programme,

the sell-offs were to be expected.

What was surprising was that the stock was trading 1.81 on Tuesday  As I mentioned here last week, I was surprised that the stock had not fallen after the most recent problems on the Circle Line. In fact the stock had gone up since 9 April , when OCBC called a buy at 1.74. This despite the ongoing inquiry had yet to allocate blame, and no announcements (then) of spending plans to maintain and upgrade the system so that it would be fit for purpose.

Mkt in SMRT shares was not efficient.

Seeing the funny side of SMRT’s woes (Part II)

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 19/04/2012 at 7:19 pm

(Part I)

I also had a laugh when despite Second Solicitor-General Lionel Yee pointing out from the start that the inquiry looking into the December 2011 breakdowns “is not an adversarial proceeding but a fact-finding one”, the lawyers for LTA and SMRT put the blame on each other’s client.

(Leading to a Voice to comment, “Since it has been stated upfront that the proceedings are non-adversarial, why is there a need to hire expensive senior counsel, some at the expense of taxpayers? … SMRT Corp and the Land Transport Authority must have competent senior officials who are capable of assisting the COI with the investigations.”)

I can understand SMRT wanting to evade responsibility for commercial reasons. It could be fined heavily, and made to spend more on maintenance, depriving it of revenue to pay management bonuses and shareholder dividends. But should be so be so aggressive trying to pin the blame on SMRT. Scared of showing LTA was less than competent?

LTA’s lawyer Andrew Yeo, from Allen & Gledhill, took issue with the SMRT’s maintenance regime which could be improved, although it was “comprehensive and satisfactory”.

Citing a report by the transport operator’s internal investigation team, Mr Yeo said: “SMRT’s maintenance expenditure and manpower headcount for the maintenance of trains and trackways has not been increasing in recent years, at the same rate as the increase in kilometres travelled per train,” said Mr Yeo.

According to Mr Yeo, SMRT records showed that there has been a reduction in the number of wheel-profiling works between 2009 and last year even though there has been an increase in incidents of wheel defects over the same period. He also said that SMRT’s maintenance budget had not kept pace with the increasing ridership.

SMRT also “could do better” in terms of record-keeping, especially in the tracking of defects. “That would in turn enable any lapses or deficiencies in maintenance work to be easily detected and rectified,” Mr Yeo added.

Mr Yeo’s comments drew a response from SMRT’s lawyer Cavinder Bull. The Senior Counsel from Drew & Napier asked: “Whose duty is it to do what?”

He pointed out that the infrastructure was technically owned by the LTA. Also, any modifications to the infrastructure “must be submitted to the LTA for their review and approval”, Mr Bull said.

Alluding to findings from a team of experts, Mr Bull said that the SMRT has acted with “appropriate due diligence” in terms of its maintenance and engineering regimes.

Mr Bull added that any wheel defects or third rail gauge variation – which may have contributed to the higher vibrations, which in turn may have contributed to the dislodgement of claws – “did not occur due to a lack of maintenance”.

In fact, he said, the SMRT’s maintenance regime has been more stringent than what is recommended by the manufacturers: The various checks on the third rail are done every three or six months, which is more than the yearly inspection which manufacturers recommended.

Mr Bull also stressed that the dislodgement of the multiple claws which led to the breakdowns was caused by “a rare confluence of factors, none of which individually could have resulted in the incidents”.

Reiterating that it was not the SMRT’s intent “to shirk its responsibilities”, Mr Bull said that after discussions with the LTA, SMRT intends to change all the claws to “fifth generation” ones, which are installed on the Circle Line, as well as the Changi Airport and Boon Lay Extensions. Today article

Seeing the funny side of SMRT’s woes (Part I)

In Humour, Infrastructure on 19/04/2012 at 7:10 pm

With

— a foreign wire, AFP, reporting, “Services were disrupted along a new multi-billion-dollar Singapore metro line on Wednesday, the third straight day of rush-hour delays for the city-state’s gleaming train system”; and

— ST

—— pointing out, “No fewer than five disruptions took place within a week since last Friday, with all of them affecting rush-hour commuters”; and

—— “Statistically, this frequency far exceed the average one-per-week disruption that lasted more than 10 minutes between April 2010 and March last year, and the 0.6-per-week average recorded between 2007 to mid-2009″,

I couldn’t help but wonder if OCBC would change its mind on SMRT because on 9 April, OCBC issued a BUY call  on SMRT which was then trading at 1.74. BTW it closed at 1.81 today, so the recent problems have not affected the share price, another laugh there

—————

OCBC report on SMRT dated 9 April 2012

Strong selling pressure as anticipated by more than half of the street failed to materialise with the counter trading tightly range-bound for slightly more than two months.

During this period, SMRT has also kept to a lower profile with the announcement of work completion from its Internal Investigation Team as the only major development.

Ahead of the upcoming earnings release at the end of the month, we continue to stress that SMRT is likely to see an upswing in fuel costs, following the run-up in prices as well as the additional train runs commissioned in the face of higher ridership and public pressure.

Coupled with higher staff costs related to seasonal merit increments and additional headcount to meet service requirements, we are likely to see the weakest quarterly performance for FY2012.

In terms of fallout from the December 2011 service disruptions, we do not expect any incremental costs at this juncture as the more important inquiry by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) has yet to be completed.

While SMRT’s FY2012 results are likely to stay uninspiring, the counter’s attractiveness as a dividend play remains its key selling point. SMRT’s management has maintained and reiterated its commitment to maintain its dividend payout policy.

Although its prospects going forward will be challenging – COI findings, no fare increments – SMRT’s ‘customer’ base is still growing.

Ridership levels continue to grow especially with support from the current trend in COE prices, while rental and advertising yields are naturally competitive given the high foot traffic locations of their stations.

With this backdrop and earnings support and stabilisation in SMRT’s price, we continue to call for an attractive entry point for SMRT.

Maintain ‘buy’ at an unchanged fair value estimate of $2.04.

ComfortDelgro: Int’l value investor kept selling

In Infrastructure on 18/04/2012 at 6:59 pm

Obviously it is not impressed with ComfortDelgro getting $733m or 67% of the $1.1bn package despite paying the state only 20% in dividends over the years*

Silchester International Investors LLP sold 21.49m shares in Comfortdelgro Corporation on March 30 at an estimated price of $1.56 each. This reduced its holdings by 15% to 123.893m shares (5.92%).

It had sold 42.62m shares from Nov 8 to Dec 12, 2011 at estimated prices of $1.425 to $1.44 each and 63.37 million shares from October 2009 to February 2011 at estimated prices of $1.62 to $1.54 each. Overall, the fund manager’s stake is down by 127.48m shares or 51% since October 2009.

Note the 13% rise in the share price since the second half of December 2011 from $1.385.

——

*The S’pore Labour Foundation (a statutory board affiliated to the NTUC which has 12%) has received dividends of roughly $150.46m from FY2003 to FY2010 (Comfort and Delgro merged in 2003, and SLF had a stake in Comfort.

Oh what a tangled web we weave: MRT, ComfortDelgro and the Government

In Infrastructure on 02/03/2012 at 5:58 am

According to the Christian doctrine of the trinity, there is only one God but God is three persons: the Father, the Son ( Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. But each person is God, whole and entire.

Well our public transport system is some sort of trinity: the government*, ComfortDelgro and SMRT. Except while they are legally separate entities, in practice there is a kind of blending. This makes the Christian doctrine of the trinity easy to understand by comparison.

I’ll use the flow of funds between the companies and the government to illustrate an example of S’pore’s unique trinity at work. Using back-of-the envelope calculations and figures in annual reports, since it was listed SMRT (over a decade ago) has paid S$562.79m in dividends to Temasek, and ComfortDelgro has paid the S’pore Labour Foundation (a statutory board affiliated to the NTUC) dividends of  S$150.46m*since 2003 (Comfort and Delgro merged in 2003, and SLF had a stake in Comfort). The amount that ended up with the government was S$713.25m, with SMRT contributing 79%. But ComfortDelgro is likely be the main beneficiary of the S$1.1bn bus plan**, given that, at present, SBS Transit (a listed co 75% owned by ComfortDelgro) provides most of the buses. Taz an example of how messed up things are.

The funds’ flows also show that the government is putting back all the dividends it received from these two companies and then adding 35% more. So it’s wrong to say that the SMRT and ComfortDelgro are getting free lunches. At most the government is subsidising their lunches by 35%.

The government should get credit for ploughing its share of the “loot” (as the proponents of nationalisation would put it and MPs Puthu, PAP, and PritamS, WP, might put it), but it doesn’t. Taz how messed up are.

(Incidentally, one could reasonably argue that the other shareholders — and the minority shareholders of SBS Transit, remember ComfortDelgro owns around 75% — are getting a free lunch while the government returns its share of the dividends. But let’s not get into that today.)

What a mess. Even the government implicitly accepts that the present “rojak” system of organising the public transport here is not something that it would have introduced, if it had been prescient:

— it is is now planning to publicly funding the bus fleets of Comfort Delgro and SMRT with S$1.1bn; and

— in 2009, the then transport minister, a private sector PAP “catch” (“retired’ after the 2011 general election when the WP almost won the GRC he was helming) that joined the government was trying to fix the system while not admitting that the system was broken even then. (Thank Alex Au’s write-up on this for reminding us what that minister said in 2009.)

So it is no surprise that the the WP’s call in its 2011 general election manifesto to nationalise the public transport system**** is getting a lot of support (the nationalisation, not the WP’s call) from netizens. There may be merit in a nationalised public transport system: instead of being run for shareholders who are only interested in profits, and dividends, the system is run for the benefit of commuters. One of these days, I may run through the arguments. But don’t hold your breath. I think the debate is sterile as it all depends on one’s assumptions and definitions.

Sorry, back to the “rojak” system:  in the short-term, there is a problem of overcrowded buses. And this problem needs fixing. Nationalising the system ain’t as easy as passing a law. Shareholders have to be compensated and this requires valuations to be made, and agreed upon, or adjudicated. And it ain’t as though the shareholders are FTs. As mentioned earlier:

— Temasek owns 54% of SMRT; and

— The S’pore Labour Foundation, a statutory board linked to the NTUC, holds 12% of Comfort Delgro. SLF is Delgro’s single largest shareholder.

(Incidentally these stakes especially Temasek’s controlling stake shows how absurd the system is. S’pore has public transport private monopolies that are partially owned and controlled by the government. And the government regulates the fares and the routes. And as mentioned earlier, the government’s share of the dividends are now ploughed back and added to, but not appreciated by the public.)

Meantime, who is to run the system, and fund the fleet expansion? Public has to wait while these issues are sorted out? It’s OK for those critics who don’t use public transport that often, especially those who have one car per family person. But most S’poreans are not that fortunate.

To me, the government spending on the buses is a pragmatic quick fix both for the public and itself. The commuting public (self included when forced to travel during peak periods, admittedly a rare occurrence) gets less annoyed with the government, while the government is seen as publicly responding positively on a matter of public unhappiness.

As to the concern that the system is being fixed to bring more FTs in, let’s reserve judgement on that. Too early to even speculate. To even speculate, shows the level of mistrust that some people have of this government. I’m not one of them.

So while longer term, nationalisisation may be the best way to run a public transport system, it ain’t a short-term fix. The short-term fix is what the government is doing, throw money at the problem.

Critics should focus on whether the fix is the most cost-effective means of solving an immediate problem, not focus on a possible long-term solution. They should be making a case (not juz asking) for ComfortDelgro and SMRT to make massive rights issues to fund bus fleet expansion. Or asking for detailed details on what taxpayers get in return? Or how to ensure that the other shareholders don’t get a free lunch because of the S$1.1bn package.

Plenty of things to do to keep the government on its toes.

BTW, the full quote in the title is:

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

——-

*I’ve simplified: there is a universe within the government — including the Land Transport Authority, the Ministry of Transport, the committee that fixes train and bus fares, the S’pore Labour Foundation, the Minister of Finance (owner of Temasek), the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the police force.

**Dodgy this calculation as I’ve used a dodgy, lazy assumption, but near enough for all but CFAers, or investment analysts, or myself when analysing an investment)

***The government has allocated S$1.1bn to the purchase of 800 new buses, 550 of which will be paid for by the government (that is, through public funds), with the remaining 250 paid for by the PTOs. The S$1.1bn is also to fund running costs over the next 10 years. More on the use of the money, and an assurance that the operators will not benefit because it is a subsidy for us commuters. [Last sentence is an update on @ March 2012 at 9.00am]

****Unless the WP has quietly ditched this too like its benchmarking of ministers’ pay to the poor. I am not being mean or nasty. In January 2012, Gerald Giam had to be reminded in a private conversation where I was present that nationalisation was in the party manifesto for the 2011 general election. GG seems to have difficulty remembering things. He had some problems in parliament during the ministers’ salaries debate.

SMRT: Stating the obvious

In Infrastructure on 01/02/2012 at 11:20 am

At SMRT’s 3Q financial results briefing yesterday, chief financial officer Catherine Lee said that, while “expenses arising from the recent MRT disruptions incurred this quarter were not significant … the profitability of the train operations will be impacted by the consequential costs” in the next 12 months. SMRT has to wait for the Committee of Inquiry to complete its investigations into the recent train disruptions and release its findings before SMRT can make an assessment on how this will affect profits, she said.

For the record — “SMRT posted S$37 million in net profit for the three months ended Dec 31, a 13.9 per cent decline from S$43 million in the corresponding period a year ago, even as revenue rose 10 per cent to S$268.2 million.
The increase in turnover was driven by higher train and bus ridership, higher taxi rental revenue, as well as higher rental and advertising revenue, the SMRT said. But costs surged due to higher headcount after the opening of Circle Line stages 4 and 5 and increased train runs as well as higher energy prices.” Quote from Today.

News submerged in “ponding”?

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 25/01/2012 at 6:12 am

The u/m news report appeared in ST’s Breaking News on 21 January 1012. And a much more detailed version in ST.

=============

Better model to predict floods likely in the near future

It will include 3-D land-height map of Marina catchment area for a start

Published on Jan 21, 2012

National water agency PUB could be using a better flood-prediction computer model in the near future.

It will include a 3-D land-height map of just the Marina catchment area for a start, to predict the direction in which rainwater will flow at ground level during storms, and where flooding might occur.

Such a map, which the PUB has commissioned, will depict land height in that area to within 10cm accuracy.

Computer models now in use only predict how rainwater flows within drains and canals, and the intensity of rainfall they can handle.

=================

So it seems that no detailed studies were done on the catchment area that resulted from the new Marina Barrage.  So how can it be claimed by the authorities that the barrage did not cause the “once in 50 yrs” Orchard Rd floods. They occured twice in two months in 2010. And late last year, parts of Orchard Rd were “ponded”. 

No wonder this news came out on a day when S’poreans  were at the start the CNY hols? It was a gd day to “pond” the news? So did the same PR people who advised the use of “ponding” advise releasing the news on a day it would disappear without trace? If so, VivianB should kick the PUB’s new CEO again, juz as he did over the use of “ponding”. [The last two sentences were only added at 9.00am, hrs after the original posting.]

BTW, the “50-year flood” minister (“Speak to me in English” Yacoob) is now in charge of taming the Internet Tsunami. Can’t solve “ponding”, so moved to handling a tidal wave. Taz meritocracy S’porean-style? He is also a poster boy for a “sacrificing” minister. He was an associate professor at NUS earning at most couple of $100,000. He then became junior minister, with a starting salary of abt a million. Wow some sacrifice!

Investing in Water

In Infrastructure on 14/01/2012 at 9:12 am

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/13/uk-waterfunds-investments-idUSLNE7BC01B20111213?feedType=RSS&feedName=hedgeFundsNews

 

Three Cheers for VivianB, Pls Go Yaacob

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 04/01/2012 at 5:31 am

No, I’ve not gone wacko like Quan Yifeng on the three occasions she was found guilty of mischief (twice) or criminal violence (one). (Err wonder if the tea or teas she was promoting had the effect of lowering or raising her wacko EQ?).  But despite all my previous rants abt VivianB, I think he deserves credit for acknowledging that there is a problem with the flood control system along Orchard Road. I mean the new CEO of PUB was in late December still in denial over the matter (S’poreans were complacent according to him, imitating SMRT’s CEO), witness the “ponding” media release.

This was shumething Yaacob refused to acknowledge even daring to claim that the flooding at Orchard Road was the fault of a 50-year flood. Yah great excuse. Two such floods in less than two months.

No but thaz not reason why he has to “move on”. As Arts minister, he is responsible for allowing one Melvyn the Dodger to perform at a venue that belongs to the state. The National Musuem website even had this

Dreaming Debussy : Melvyn Tan, Piano Solo

Venue Exhibition Gallery, Basement
Date Thurs 5 Jan & Fri 6 Jan 2012, 8pm.

Melvyn Tan opens the series …

DPM Teo rightly said years ago , Whether such NS defaulters, who have answered for their offences in Court and paid the penalty, should be eventually accepted back into our fold, is not something that MINDEF can determine. It is for society to decide. And society will also look at whether such individuals, apart from having paid a penalty, are sincerely contrite for having failed to serve our nation, and whether they have attempted to make amends.

(Note that DPM Teo admitted that the Dodger had gamed the system, Melvyn Tan’s case has highlighted an inadequacy in penalties for those who have defaulted for so many years that they are no longer able to discharge their National Service obligations in full. Perhaps MINDEF should have acted earlier. I concede that. But MINDEF will now be acting to address this inadequacy by asking the Prosecutor to press for jail sentences in serious cases of NS defaulters. This will help to send a clear signal that defaulting on National Service is not acceptable.

By allowing Melvyn the Dodger to perform in the National Museum (albeit the Basement), Yaacob is saying, on behalf of the cabinet, that dodging NS is acceptable. Will he and Mrs Yaacob grace one of these nights to show S’poreans that NS is for losers? And as a sign that his sons will give two fingers to their NS liabilities?

Yaacob kanna snookered? As I’ve written, Melvyn … gave two fingers to S’pore, and now to the performing arts elite, he is a heloo. What is beyond me is why the performing arts elite want him back? To put the noses of ordinary S’poreans out of joint? Or because he charges nominal fees because the elite treats him as a heloo, not as the pariah he deserves to be treated as? And why does the government allow this elite to get away with this? Hey PM, the voters have spoken. One FT MP sneering NSers is enough.  Voters also don’t care for self-appointed elites too much.

He was back last year for a concert, but ST didn’t cover his return, so only the artistic elite knew he was back. This year, the elite is determined to make us S’poreans eat crow over him?

SMRT: Ask judge to step down?

In Infrastructure on 03/01/2012 at 5:38 am

PM did the right thing by us S’poreans who use public transport* by appointing a judge that regularly commutes by train as the chairman of the Commitee of Inquiry that willl look into recent train breakdowns. But is this appoitment open to challenge by SMRT?

If SMRT were keen on shareholder value it should ask the judge tasked to lead the Commitee of Inquiry, Chief District Judge of the Subordinate Courts, Mr Tan Siong Thye, to step down because he was reported by ST as saying:

As a daily user of the MRT myself, to and from work for more than 10 years, I share the concerns of many who want to know what went wrong and how to restore confidence in our MRT system.”

He said the breakdowns on Dec 15 and 17 were “quite unprecedented”, adding that “they caused significant disruption and inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of commuters”.

“Such incidents can also potentially pose a public-safety issue if they are not well managed.”

SMRT’s lawyers could cite the legal principle, “Justice must not only be done, but seen to be done”. They could point out that if the judge has been commuting for over 10 yrs (What no can afford car or cab to work meh?), he would have personally experienced the increase in overcrowding and congestation over the years, and that this would prejudice him against SMRT.

(I was an occasional train user but I tried avoiding the trains for the last  few yrs because of the congestion in off-peak hours.  Only since the May GE, have I resumed using SMRT trains during the off-peak periods given the government’s assurances that the trains are less crowded. But it’s all relative. My 88-year mum recently tried taking the SMRT on Saturday mornings around 7.00am. She has returned to taking the bus because she can’t always get a seat even at this time on the train. The bus is almost empty at 7.00 am. If anyone is wondering, she can afford a cab.)

But if SMRT’s lawyers make such a challenge, we could have riots if S’poreans decide to show SMRT and its controlling shareholder, Temasek, what they think of SMRT.

Looks like SMRT is the stock from hell for the time being, just like  Quan Yifeng is the “artiste” from Hell. Buy ComfortDelgro or SBS instead?

*shumething can be right and popular, PAP. Juz because shumething is unpopular, diesn’t mean it’s right, PAP.

“F” word banned by PUB?

In Economy, Infrastructure, Media, Political governance, Tourism, Wit on 27/12/2011 at 6:03 am

Trust a former President’s Scholar to come up with the solution to prevent floods in Singapore. VivianB got PUB to rename “flooding” as “ponding”. Why didn’t Yaacob do this instead of calling a flood a 50-yr event. Well there were two 50-year events in less than two months last year.

Seriously, I don’t think it was VivianB’s idea. Likely to be the new CEO of PUB that is behind the renaming. He after all blames us for the floods, saying S’poreans took things for granted*. I say to him, “Don’t try to deflect blame like SMRT’s CEO who told us to guard the trains when there was a security break-in. PUB did not do it’s job.

Ain’t this renaming juz daft and misleading? PUB said of the heavy rain last Friday “there was no flooding at Orchard Road … However, water ponded at the open area of Liat Towers, the underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City, and the basement of Lucky Plaza due to the sustained heavy downpour”.

Sorry PUB, these places were flooded. The ponds were at least ankle deep, at Starbucks, customers walked on chairs to get out, and shops had to close**.

I’m glad that MediaCorp didn’t buy into this euphemism. They called these “flash floods”, as they used to. As to ST, they tried to be truthful, while keeping VivianB and PUB onside. No wonder SPH is such a good dividend payer, while unlisted MediaCorp continues to struggle financially.

If VivianB and PUB were doing their very best to ensure that tourists are not scared off (Remember that the retail trade is tourist dependent to keep profitable and that the overall economy is heading for a slowdown, if not a recession), they failed as far as Malaysia is concerned.  Bernama reported:

Flash Floods In Several Parts Of Singapore Including Orchard Road

Flash floods hits several areas of Singapore including the republic’s most famous shopping alley, Orchard Road, following prolonged heavy rain in the southern and central parts of the city state Friday …

Nice try guys. But better for the economy, retailers and S’pore’s image if the PUB improved its “ponding” prevention measures, not try to play word games.

—-

*”But maybe we have also become victims of own success. Because we have been so successful, alleviating floods, that we have not seen a flood situation for a long time. So when it came, it did catch Singaporeans by surprise.”  Channel News Asia

**How Today reported the situation

The underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City remained closed yesterday evening. Some shop owners at the ground floor of Lucky Plaza said that water levels were ankle-high, but the situation this time was better than during previous floods.

At retail store Giordano, store in-charge Lyn Molino estimated losses of up to S$7,000 and said that customers were not only deterred by the wet floors but also by the stench from yesterday’s floodwaters. “This is supposed to be a good opportunity for us to have extra earnings but it has all been affected,” she said.

The floodwaters also washed out business at Starbucks and fast-food restaurant Wendy’s, among other establishments, at Liat Towers. Wendy’s manager (marketing and branding) Seng Woon Fa estimated losses of about 60 per cent of the day’s earnings. “We are now just busy cleaning up and hope to resume business as soon as possible … we are still checking if any equipment is spoiled,” he said.

SMRT: Waz missing from board’s apology?

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 6:34 pm

The directors did not apologise for the racist remarks of a member of their PR team that “one of the reasons for SMRT’s unpreparedness to deal with the disruptions last week was … the bad command of English by SMRT’s Malay and Indian staff.”*

The original allegation was made by a PAP MP and he has not retracted this statement, even though he has apologised for his personal remarks on the quality of English spoken by Malays and Indians. https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/smrt-racist-pr-team/

As neither SMRT nor the directors have denied that an employee made this comment to the PAP MP, and the MP has not withdrawn the allegation, the public has to assume that the MP is telling the truth.

They have not also apologised for or clarified or disassociated SMRT from the remarks made by SVP Goh Kong Chee, the head of communications, from which one can draw the reasonable inference that SMRT property must never ever be damaged to save lives even if the emergency systems do not work.   https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/

SMRT is dysfunctional from the board down.

———

Update on 23 December at 9.05am

BlogTV has come out to both deny that a PR person made a racist remark and at the same implied that the MP was hard of hearing. Either that or, a reasonable inference is that Seng Han Thong is a casual racist to this bones in missing the word “Chinese”.

“A comment was made by SMRT’s Senior Vice President for Communication and Services Goh Chee Kong in response to a question on how SMRT planned to improve its communication with passengers.” This was broadcast over the radio:

““What we’re mindful of is that our people, our staff at the stations and in the trains may not be making sufficient announcements and also good enough announcements. And that’s because our staff of different races, it could be Malay, Chinese, or Indians or any other race, they sometimes find it difficult to speak in English. However we’ve encouraged them to make the announcements and not to worry about that……………………”

— BlogTV Facebook

SMRT: Racist PR team?

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 9:13 am

Hey S’poreans, don’t juz “blast” PAP “Flame on” MP for his racist comments, “I noticed that the PR mentioned that some of the staff because they are Malay, they are Indian, they can’t converse in English good, well enough, so that also deters them, from (sic) but I think we accept broken English.”

Remember, he was also quoting SMRT (SVP Goh “You die first, don’t damage SMRT property”?). According to Yahoo!, “During the latest episode of “Blog.TV” on Channel NewsAsia on Monday, the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC had said one of the reasons for SMRT’s unpreparedness to deal with the disruptions last week was, according to the company’s public relations team, the bad command of English by SMRT’s Malay and Indian staff.”

If SMRT does not come out to deny that one of its PR  persons made the racist comment, then we have to assume that the remark was made. Juz like the assumption that SMRT places a higher priority on its property than commuters dying or being put in distress. Remember SMRT never clarified SVP’s Goh comments on damaging its property to save lives if the emergency syatems did not work. They were not working when SVP Goh made his remarks about not ever damaging SMRT property.

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/

Phew, glad I’ve not bot SMRT shares yet. What a bunch of inept managers. According to Senang Diri, there are possibly several ex-SAF colonels in SMRT. Our neighbours must be watching with amusement. We may have the “betterest” weopens, but are our officers any gd? Looks not judging by those ex-colonels in SMRT.

Still keep an eye on SMRT. If senior managers are culled, and new gd ones brought in, the stock could be interesting. I’m putting it on my “watch” list.

SMRT v Delgro: Who treats us better?

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 8:48 am

Depends on what you mean by “us”.

Usually when I have to go to and from Raffles City or Place, or Shenton Way, I take the bus, as it is the most convenient means of transport (driving included).

On Tuesday at about 4.20pm, I was at Outram and decided to take the train to Eunos and then switch to a bus to return home. When I boarded the train, it was full. I was very fortunate to get a seat as I had a heavy load (I had juz bot six books). When it got to Raffles Place, more people entered than departed. But the number entering was light (The slaves don’t leave until 5.30pm at the earliest). But at Raffles City, the train became very packed as masses got in, and not so many left. The train got less crowded at Bugis. But until Eunos it was full (but not packed), standing room only, as more people got off than in And this was at 4.20- 4.40pm!

Now at 4.20 –  4.40pm if I were at Raffles Place or City, I would have no problem getting a seat on the bus. The bus would only be at best three-quarters full of sitting passengers.

Draw your own conclusions.

As an investor, I can draw the conclusion that Comfort Delgro is not extracting full value from commuters. This could affect shareholder value? Management should learn from SMRT. Maybe bring in SVP “Better you die than my train or bus gets damaged” Goh Kong Chee from SMRT*

*OK, OK. I exaggerate a little, but not that much

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/

SMRT: Another dumb statement

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 5:30 am

Is SMRT the place where foot-in-mouthers find jobs. Seems like it.

Here’s another silly, dumb statement that SVP Goh must take responsibility for since he is head of communications. Last week, when SMRT raised its taxi fares it said, “our drivers need a more substantial level of income, not just lower costs or rental rates, in order to cope with the increasing cost of living and higher diesel prices, and continue their businesses”. Also, it had to “keep pace with the fare revision by other taxi operators”.

Juz wondering. Has SMRT tried lowering costs and rentals before raising fares? And if not why not? And ever heard of competing by increasing demand via lower fares?

Also if Mr Goh is the kind of person one gets when one hires a retired SAF colonel and MINDEF spokeman? Trying to justify the need for another FT PR or public communications head, rather than a true blue S’porean.

SMRT: Waz int’l best practice benchmark?

In Infrastructure on 19/12/2011 at 6:11 am

When SMRT, its regulator, LTA, and the government were in denial about

— overcrowed trains; and

— security,

the CEO, Ms Saw Phaik Hwa , was allowed by all three to get away with remarks like, “Not as crowded as in Tokyo leh”*, and “Other places got security lapses too”* and “People can board the train, it is whether they choose to” despite the howls of upset commuters.

Well now that we have three serious disruptions (one “immensely serious” according to the transport minister) of service within the space of four days (And the second breakdown in three days on the North South Line. Whoever said, “Lightning never strikes twice on the same spot”?), shouldn’t S’poreans be told what are the international benchmarks of best practice when it comes to disruptions of service for a city the size of S’pore in the developed world? And what are the benchmarks in Hong Kong and Shanghai? And the frequency of breakdowns in HK and Shanghai? And what the train operators in other cities pay for maintenance, as a % of their pre-tax income.

True as this is S’pore (not Ms Saw’s beloved country, Malaysia**), we should aim to better these benchmarks. But, if we want to beat them, we should know what they are. After all, if the CEO can make comparisons with other cities when it comes to overcrowding and security, it is only fair that other comparisons be made.

Hopefully, the SMRT, LTA or the government can tell us what these are. If not, then what about the constructive, nation-building local media? If not then the netizens of the Wild, Wild West have to do their part, as usual.

Trumpets pls. I was right,  “Commuters have a choice. They can have more trains or less breakdowns. They can’t have both.” (See our MSM reports, “MRT trains to go slower, frequency reduced”.)

https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/commuters-have-a-choice-they-can-have-more-trains-or-less-breakdowns/

————————————————————–

*Not her exact words.

**She loves M’sia so mich that despite living here since her school days (she is 58), she is still a PR.

Sorry she is 57 going to be 58 soon.

SMRT SVP is great believer in shareholder value?

In Infrastructure on 18/12/2011 at 2:03 pm

Juz wondering if anywhere in any other first world city transport system got someone so dedicated to shareholder interests  like senior vice-president for communications and services, Mr Goh Chee Kong, who said last Friday, “If you are stuck inside a train, never smash the windows or force the doors open. Stay calm and wait for help”.

But what if passengers are in great discomfort or suffocating to death in the dark because the back-up system that was supposed to activate emergency lights within the carriages and provide ventilation was not working? And passengers don’t know when help is arriving because the driver is not authorised to tell them, or he doesn’t know?

Still no smash windows to breath fresher air, Mr Goh?

The reasonable implication of what Mr Goh says is that SMRT (remember he is SVP) prefers S’poreans to suffer great discomfort or die rather than damage SMRT property.

Shareholders will be pleased that they have someone, like Mr Goh managing SMRT, who is so concerned about shareholder value that he would rather people die than damage SMRT property.

I’ll go buy some SMRT shares tomorrow. With managers like him, nothing for shareholders to worry about neh?

SMRT: Another “Commuters can choose” comment

In Infrastructure on 17/12/2011 at 11:08 am

So another failure, the third in four days, and the second breakdown in three days on the North South Line. Whoever said, “Lightning never strikes twice on the same spot”?

And here we have SMRT’s  head of communications telling people, “If you are stuck inside a train, never smash the windows or force the doors open. Stay calm and wait for help. … Senior vice-president for communications and services, Mr Goh Chee Kong, said that in the event of a power failure, there is a back-up system that will activate emergency lights within the carriages and provide ventilation”,  ST reported.

What the FISH! We should be told why the, “back-up system that will activate emergency lights within the carriages and provide ventilation” didn’t work. After all the commuters were suffocating.

Commuters should not be told that they must suffocate to death or suffer in the dark stale air, rather than damage SMRT property, if the back-up system fails to work. The head of corporate communications should know better what to communicate.

Is there any good manager at SMRT?

 

“Commuters have a choice. They can have more trains or less breakdowns.”

In Infrastructure on 16/12/2011 at 6:18 am

Juz wondering whether the recent breakdowns be due to the strain of running more trains during peak hours to appease commuters’ anger abt crowded trains? If so, Ms Saw should come out and say, “Commuters have a choice. They can have more trains or less breakdowns. They can’t have both.”

Could the breakdowns be due to skimping on maintenance to maintain profits in the face of higher oil prices? I mean if SMRT was skimmimg on security, why assume it was not skimping on routine maintence of the system?

If the government will be using NSmen to provide additional security to protect SMRT’s revenue, why not use SAF technicans to help maintain trains and network?

Wonder if the CEO’s and other senior executives’ bonuses are subject to clawbacks? What about the bonuses of senior LTA executives? And whether the bonuses that Raymond Lim received as transport minister will be clawed back too?

Finally wonder what if these breakdowns had occured juz before May GE or presidential election. Potong Pasir would be still in SPP hands? And a GRC or two would have fallen? And would the PAP even get 55% of the popular vote? And Tan Cheng Bock would be president?

The “FTs are betterest” policy is coming to roost.

Comfort Delgro: Give CEO and PR people credit

In Infrastructure, Wit on 08/12/2011 at 8:37 am

Amid all the rubbish and abuse thrown at them, let’s remember that the CEO and his PR team are not like those of SMRT. I hear the lady in charge of public communications, an ex-ST biz editor (must be a rare breed) is one smart lady who likes Victoria’s Secrets underwear.

Taxi users have not been told, “You have a choice. Don’t like our fare hikes, talk a walk, train or bus, or buy a car.”

Instead of complaining so much, if you use taxis and buses a lot,  think of buying Delgro shares to hedge against taxi and bus fare rises. Management in Delgro are smarter than the average SMRT managers.

Update at 10am 8th December 2011

Profit boost for ComfortDelGro unlikely: analysts. Fare hikes not likely to see immediate cab rental revision, they say.

DBS bullish on China infrastructure play MIIF

In China, Infrastructure on 29/11/2011 at 6:19 am

In a note dated 25 November 2011, DBS is bullish on MIIF. Interesting as there is current net cash of about S$115 m and  prospective yield of about 10.5% assuming mgt is correct. My previous post in January this year https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/miif-unnoticed-china-play/ reflects my concerns about this stock. But it could be I’m wrong, and DBS is correct. Anyway, nearly a year has passed.

International Infrastructure Fund (MIIF) is now leaner, fitter and wholly Asia-focused … MIIF has divested its non-Asian assets, and repaid corporate level loans with the sale proceeds … a cleaner balance sheet with current net cash of about $115 million.

The sale of stakes in other funds also eliminated the black-box problem (assets with limited financial visibility) and the fund now focuses purely on key Asian infrastructure assets.

MIIF’s three key investments

Taiwan Broadband Communications (TBC), the third largest cable TV network in Taiwan;

— Hua Nan Expressway (HNE), a 31 km urban toll road in Guangzhou, China; and

— Changshu Xinghua Port (CXP), a multipurpose port in the Yangtze River Delta region of China.

We visited these …  impressed by the management and operations … fairly confident of steady organic dividend growth from CXP and TBC, though traffic growth at HNE could face some near-term roadblocks. MIIF [has] used its surplus cash (from the sale of prior investments) to increase its stake in TBC from 20 per cent to 47.5 per cent …  higher dividend receipts from TBC.

MIIF paid out a three-cent dividend for FY2010. After restructuring its portfolio, MIIF is now guiding for a dividend per share of 5.5 cents for FY2011, based on expected cash flow generation plus existing cash reserves (2.75 cents already declared for H1 2011). We expect this is achievable and given the healthy implied yield of close to 10.5 per cent at current prices, we are reinstating coverage with a ‘buy’ call and TP of S$0.64, based on a discounted cash flow valuation of underlying assets. The share buyback programme … provides further support …

Not expecting perfection, minister

In Infrastructure on 22/11/2011 at 7:46 am

Responding to Mr Giam’s question on whether the authorities plan ahead of time, Mrs Teo said that “there is advance planning but projecting demand and ridership is tricky business and hard to get 100-per-cent right.”

Err minister, going by the transport ministry’s and LRT’s track record, no-one is expecting them to get things 100% right. They, after all, makes whoppers like underestimating the traffic on the newly opened Circle Line by 100%.  If analysts in the private sector makes such misjudgements, they’d be sacked immediately, not given another chance ofto goof up.

No, minister, we expect them to make simple correlations. For example if the population of S’pore grows by a factor of X, expect overcrowding by a factor of A in W years, if no new trains are ordered, or signaling improved, and plan accordingly.

All we want is some common sense.

Update on 22 November 9.45am. Corrected misspelling. Apologies.

 

Why are trains overcrowded, but not the port or airport?

In Infrastructure, Political economy, Political governance on 17/11/2011 at 6:21 pm

When I read on Wednesday that Singapore is improving the International Cruise Terminal with the aim of seeing the number of berths double by the second quarter of next year, it reminded me of the constant planning and work that goes into upgrading S’pore’s links with the rest of the world, which I contrasted with the reasons (excuses?) given for the overcrowding on our trains, which according to a media report on Sunday would take up to 2018 to resolve, and which led to the usual howls from netizens that there was bad planning by a government that didn’t care about commuters comfort.

I remembered a few years ago analysing how forward looking was S’pore when it came to developing the airport. S’pore was always planning to grow the airport so that it would never get congested. This was unlike Thailand. A few months after the new airport was finally open a few years back after failing to be completed on time, the new airport was working beyond its planned maximum capacity, resulting in congestion and delays.

I remembered remarking in a report that this could never happen here. S’pore was always expanding capacity, knowing that it took time to build infrastructure. It never wanted the airport to look like a congested, overcrowded slum. It gave a bad impression to visitors.

Likewise the port.  It is  always expanding capacity and erring its projections on the side of overcapacity rather than congestion. And it’s doing the same for the cruise terminal. Singapore is investing heavily in cruise infrastructure to ensure the industry becomes a driver of growth for the tourism sector.

If the government errs, it errs on the side of overcapacity, not undercapacity. It feels that the demand would be there, and even if it didn’t materialise as planned, the spare capacity would attract demand.Contrast this spending with what happened in public housing and trensport. In this Donald Low explains why the government became wary of building more public train lines and public housing. It all has to do with projections that went wrong in the 1990s.

The contrast in the spending patterns seem to show that comfort and well-being of S’poreans are not as important to the government as securing the engines of economic growth? In the name of latter, building to meet possible demand seems to be in order, but not when it comes to the former? Why not?

Note that the plans for development of the rail, sea and air transport links are made within the transport ministry, whose spending plans are scruternised by the finance ministry. Yet the approach seems different between domestic and international links.

SMRT: CEO stupidity discount?

In Infrastructure on 08/11/2011 at 6:00 am

Wonder if analysts will be building into their models, the assumption that SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa will continue making stupid remarks that upset commuters, thereby making it harder for SMRT (and Delgro) to get their desired fare rises? Will they also make the assumption that such gaffes reflect her inability to manage a public transport company?

In a recent ST report, the SMRT CEO commented that the MRT system is “still reliable compared with other systems” and “I don’t see anything significant” in the number of disruptions and delays.

She attributed the train breakdowns to higher service frequency, new trains that “need to break in”, and more rainy days in Singapore. She cites the newly installed platform screen doors at surface stations, which need to synchronise with train doors, as another factor in train disruptions.

Maybe by M’sian Chinese standards (she refuses to become a citizen, preferring to be a PR), comparisons with third world cities and even NY, London and Tokyo are in order. But she should not forget that she is the CEO of a transport company in a city that has aspirations to be a leading edge global city. If our ministers can set the global bench-mark paywise, SIA for premier service or or our local banks for solid balance sheets,  why can’t she set the global city benchmark disruption-wise when it comes to MRT systems?

Her other verbal gaffes: The SMRT chief had annoyed commuters last year when

— the issue of overcrowding was raised, “People can board the train, it is whether they choose to”; and

— she told commuters that they had a role in ensuring that trains were properly secured when there was a break-in at a train depot. She want us to volunteer to guard her train carriages.

SMRT CEO still does not get it

In Infrastructure on 23/08/2011 at 8:07 am

True, she says, “We cannot have another incident”. But Ms Saw said that in the rest of the world, graffiti on trains is quite a normal occurrence. “What has happened here is not the only time in Asia that you have penetration and graffiti on the train.

She still thinks we are upset because of graffti.

I hope it doesn’t take a few hundred deaths caused by bombs planted by terrorists  to make her realise that the issue is public security and safety not graffti.

SMRT: Another reason for selling

In Infrastructure on 20/08/2011 at 10:30 am

It’s amazing to read that it only found out that security guards were not patroling the fence perimeter at its Bishan depot after the break-in.

What this shows is that management is not only complacent abt security, but is incompetent. It found out the failure to patrol after reviewing CCTV footage. Shouldn’t a review of the tapes be routine?

Update on 21 August at 9.20am

It gets worse. The security company claims that it didn’t patrol the area because SMRT didn’t allow it to. And if it could have patroled the area, it would not have detected any intrusion because there were no lights in the area. SMRT says it is asking its lawyers’ opinions.

Our Muslim minister should do a Haj to thank Allah that terrorits didn’t spot this flaw. Hundreds of commuters could have been killed, and with them S’pore’s reutation as a safe place to live and do biz in.

SMRT: Third time unlucky?

In Infrastructure on 19/08/2011 at 8:31 am

Investors should seriously consider selling their SMRT shares.

There has been another serious of breach of security at a train depot. This after security was supposedly  tightened after last yr’s break-in that went undetected for days. This time the break-in was detected within hours. Even so the vadalised train was on the tracks before being recalled.

SMRT (and commuters) have been lucky twice. The break-ins resulted only in vandalism. But will this luck hold?

We have been told that Muslim terrorists have targeted S’pore because it is a friend of the West. So SMRT (and commuters) could be the victims of a bomb blast if SMRT continues being unconcerned with security.

If commuters are killed in a bomb blast resulting from explosives being planted in a carriage after a break-in at a depot, SMRT will be sued for tens of millions. And fined tens of millions by the government.

So selling yr SMRT shares now, may be a gd idea.

Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation

In Infrastructure, Telecoms on 27/06/2011 at 7:41 am

DBS issued a “Buy” on KT&T last week when it traded at S$1.32. The interesting fact is that  the stock is trading at a 35% discount to DBS’ sum-of-the-parts-based target price of S$1.65. Too bad yield is only 2.65%.

The Next Generation National Broadband Network and growth in cloud computing are fuelling demand for data-centre space in Singapore. Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation (Keppel T&T) is the only listed player in Singapore with significant exposure to data-centre business and is among the top five players in Singapore.

Besides, Keppel T&T is positioned to benefit from the increasing trend of logistics outsourcing to third-party players in China and South-east Asia. The recently acquired Keppel DigiHub data centre in Singapore and the newly built Nanhai Distribution Centre in China are the key growth drivers for 2011.

Keppel T&T has set up a dedicated fund (initial closing of US$100 million) to invest in Syariah-compliant data centres globally in an alliance with Saudi Arabia-based Al Rajhi Holding Group. Ever since the appointment of new management in January 2010, Keppel T&T is focusing on growing its data centre and logistics business with less emphasis on the legacy business of network engineering.

Core business is deeply undervalued. Excluding M1, Keppel T&T’s core business is trading at only 6x estimated 2011 full-year earnings, based on our conservative estimates. Global data centre players such as Equinix and Digital Realty Trust trade at 40-50x earnings, reflecting higher growth in the sector. Initiate with ‘buy’ for 35 per cent upside potential to our sum-of-the-parts-based TP of S$1.65.

DBS bullish on Hutch Port at US$0.95

In China, Infrastructure on 02/06/2011 at 6:29 am

Find it difficult to poke holes in DBS’ analysis. But note DBS was one of the IPO mgr and that HPH is trading below its IPO price of US$1.01. DBS says:

Firm prospects over the short and medium term. We like HPH Trust for its stable and growing earnings profile, which we believe will be driven by continued rising trade volumes into and out of the Pearl River Delta region, translating into an annual growth of 10 per cent in distributions to unit-holders for the next few years.

HPH Trust is due to report its interim results by mid-August, and we are expecting a distribution per unit (DPU) of about 1.8 US cents to be declared.

Maintain ‘buy’ and US$1.15 TP. Given that HPH Trust seems to be well on its way to meeting our projections in FY2011 and FY2012, current FY2011 and FY2012 yields look very attractive at 6.6 per cent and 7.2 per cent, respectively; expect DPU compound annual growth rate of 10 per cent up to 2013.

Our target price implies a total return potential in excess of 30 per cent at current prices. Among Singapore-listed Reits, business trusts and high yield plays, HPH Trust offers one of the highest combinations of yield and DPU growth.
BUY

SGX: Things can only get worse

In Infrastructure on 21/04/2011 at 8:11 am

DBS lowered its target price from S$11.50 to S$10.50 while Deutsche Bank revised it from S$10.50 to S$9.50.

Credit Suisse said when maintaining its “Neutral” call, “The SGX lacks near-term organic catalysts and is also exposed to M&A risk after the failed ASX-SGX merger.” IIFL issued  a “Reduce” call on the stock and lowering its target price to S$7.40.

Hyflux: Qns to ask?

In Infrastructure on 19/04/2011 at 12:23 pm

Why is Hyflux willing to pay out dividends of 6% per annum on the pref shares when it can borrow at 3.85% annum? This is a premium of 56%.

Is it lowering its debt to equity ratio from 75% to 25%, only to raise it again in the near future? If it does this would affect the risk premium of the preference share in future, thereby affecting its yield.

Six per cent is a gd rate but think of the risks which includes projects in the Middle East.

Hutch Port listing: I goofed

In Infrastructure on 08/03/2011 at 10:15 am

I blogged that I doubted it could happen because HK would change its rules and allow the listing there.

Funny HK allows a highly leveraged Russian co to list, but doesn’t allow “Superman” to list this trust. Buyer beware.

China Water Play: and its not an S-Chip

In China, Infrastructure on 08/02/2011 at 9:44 am

United Envirotech is owned by local blue chip UEL

OCBC likes the stock despite revising its value downwards by 5% to 0.65. When report was issued on 2 February, the stock had closed at 0.455. Read the rest of this entry »

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