Posts Tagged ‘Looking back’

How times have changed since the late 70s (Moral suasion)

In Corporate governance, Political governance, Property on 01/06/2012 at 6:39 am
Someone wrote in to Voices as follows
Property developers countering govt policy
The extra stamp duty of 10 per cent was introduced in December to curb excessive foreign investment in private residential property. This cooling measure has failed. New private home sales last month were the strongest in nearly three years.One possible reason is the increasingly common practice by property developers to absorb the extra stamp duty as part of their marketing strategy, visibly offered as a carrot to potential buyers in their advertisements of property launches.If a government policy could be circumvented this easily, then it has lost its effectiveness. The Government should make it illegal for property developers to absorb any stamp duty.
In the late 1970s, never mind making it illegal for property developers to absorb any stamp duty: someone would call up the developers offering this deal and tell them that what they were doing was “not in the national interest”, and please scrap the offers. Developers would listen to the polite request to behave responsibly in obeying the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law because no developer wanted the tax authorities going thru their books if they decided to follow the letter of the law.
How times have changed since when I started work. For the better or the worse in this instance, I am uncertain.

What the fall of Roman empire can teach the PAP

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 01/06/2012 at 6:13 am

(Or “Why group feeling is so impt” or “How times have changed since the late 70s (Worth of being a S’porean)”) 

Reading the u/m, I was reminded that Ngiam Tong Dow (Sparta, Athens and the Chinese imperial exam system) and the PAP (George Yeo and his mis-readings of history, one being why Venice did better than Genoa*) have used history to preach to S’poreans

First was the widening gulf between the social classes, rich and poor. When rich and poor start to live completely different lives this leads (then as now) to the poor opting out of the state. All studies today show that society is happier when the gap between rich and poor is reduced …

Widen it and you affect the group ethos of society, and also the ability to get things done through tax.

In the Roman West real wealth lay more in land and property than in finance (though there were banks) – but in the 300s the big land-owning aristocrats who often had fantastic wealth, contributed much less money than they had in the past to defence and government.

That in turn led as it has today to a “credibility gap” between ordinary people and the bureaucrats and rich people at the top.

Other strands in the collapse of the Roman West are more difficult to quantify, but they centre on “group feeling”, the glue that keeps society working together towards common goals. Lose that and you get a kind of nervous breakdown in the social order, which leads to what archaeologists call “systems collapse”.

The growing inequality in S’pore society we know and bitch about, but the loss of “group feeling” is shumething “we see through a glass, darkly”.  We sense it but we have problems articulating this loss of group feeling. Symptoms of it are often ascribed as the problem. Examples: The

— unhappinness that male FTs (like PAP MP Puthu) have a free ride here because they don’t have to do NS;

—  resentment against the PAP government because it appears to elevate FTs to a higher status than locals; 

— resentment against one LKY who called S’poreans “daft”, who needed to be “spurred”,

are symptoms of this loss of group feeling, not the problems themselves.

The government is largely to blame for this loss of group feeling thru its strategy of keeping the economy growing by using FTs to keep wage costs down because otherwise the strong S$ would make S’pore an uncompetitive economy.  Its asset enhancement policy and forcing S’poreans to leverage to their foreheads to buy property, has it made it impossible for S’pore to have low economic growth without triggering serious problems for the PAP and S’poreans. Imagine all HDB owners having -ve equity on their flats?

The sad, funny thing is that the PAP government fostered the sense of collective identity through schemes like NS to strenthen its grip on power after S’pore was ejected from M’sia. Older S’poreans like me can remember the days when the government told us that we S’poreans were special, compared to the Indons and M’sians. Look at the M’sian and Indon Chinese trying to get in. Today, according to the then PM, S’poreans are “daft”, and need “spurring” (or is it to be “spurred”?).

Oh and as the extract showed, “group feeling” is linked to wealth inequality. The bigger the gap, the less “group feeling”.


*Actually, I’m surprised that he didn’t put in down to the Venetians having a more authoritarian form of republic with power centralised in the doge). A rebuttal.

How times have changed since the late 70s (Dividends)

In Financial competency, Financial planning on 31/05/2012 at 6:03 am

No this is not going to be a piece abt the governing PAP.  When I first started work, US stocks paid big dividends , and local stocks yields were “peanuts”.

iShares offers its longstanding MSCI Singapore Index Fund and more recently rolled out the MSCI Singapore Small Cap Index Fund. Both funds are heaviest in financial stocks, at 45% and 51% respectively, followed by 24% in industrials for EWS and 13% in that sector for EWSS.

Singaporean equities tend to have high dividend yields, which are somewhat reflected in EWS’ trailing yield of 2.74%. The iShares Web site shows an SEC yield of 4.14% for EWSS, but the fund is too new to have paid any actual dividends yet. This compares to a dividend yield of 2.01% for the SPDR S&P 500.