Saturday, January 31, 2015

Goh Chok Tong: SG as a garbage city

Well I am glad he is no longer PM. He is out of touch and worse he thinks badly of us.

I think much better of ourselves. If there were few foreigner workers (it is no realistic to think there will  be zero, only the stupid think that way) cleaning our garbage we will just simply develop the habits to keep it clean in our own way. Unlike our grand parents, we have become really proud of our homes and our beautiful island.

We have ourselves to blame for developing the bad habit of having others pick up our litter as help were so easily available. We will adapt if there are fewer of them. Nearly all of us do that when we no longer have a foreign domestic worker.

We wasted years not effectively teaching ourselves not to litter because in the early days we needed to get clean in a hurry. Back then we just want to be the cleanest city regardless of the method. The quick and convenient approach of hefty fines, shaming and foreign cleaners can never encourage the habits of public cleanliness that we want. Instead of being cognizant of how we got here the ESM and his successor chose to scold us instead. I wouldn't have minded if they also had admitted their unavoidable failure from the trade off  LKY government had to make but no, they are always right.

Update: Feb 2, 7:30am

VB listed three reasons whether people will avoid littering. They are the familiar ones any student can expect to hear from school principals, which had been repeatedly endlessly. They are not wrong, they are just incomplete.

Stepped up enforcement have doubled the numbers nabbed for littering. I get the feeling if they step up even further they can double the number of people fined again.

There was a time when people do not litter because they were really afraid of getting caught. That fear is gone. It was never wise to roll back enforcement without successful education. By and large the foreigners take their cues from the locals. When they see us do it, they assume it is OK. Do not forget that many come from places which are far dirtier. If what they used to do at home is allowed, they would happily indulge themselves.

Everyone think, we litter the cleaners come and clean it up. A terrible idea but often true until that last event in GBB. Some litter as a protest against the government. I don't know how many are in this category but I think they should be fewer now.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The working poor: a wonderful biz opportunity

What a long story which I had to read in installments. I think the writer is giving it a human interest angle to help readers make an emotional connections. The short story is that the poor are a wonderful business opportunity and the means to their pocket is the auto loan. You can drive your car to work but you can't drive your house to work. These folks try really hard not to have their cars repossessed. The interest they are charged with is easily above 20%.

Fortunately we have no equivalent in Singapore. We should never allow anything similar to be a permitted business here. You can't blame business people from getting involved if you allow them as that is the nature of business.

I don't think the auto sub prime market will become anything like the one on property mortgages that did us in.

Update: 5:05pm

I didn't shared earlier that sometime before I had read about Warren Buffett investing in auto dealerships. Now I learned that Soros is also doing the same.

There is a pot of gold here eh?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

MAS Sing Dollar Surprise

I was explaining what happened to the Singapore dollar this morning to my elder child this tonight.

Those who understand what happened got the news elsewhere but how is the average person going to understand what "slope of monetary policy" mean? They tried so hard to simply downplay the most meaningful fact, i.e., the SGD has depreciated massively against the USD because of MAS decision.

I just found this to explain to the kids.

Ah they know way more than enough math to handle the meaning of the "slope". They mostly called it gradient in school.

Because we also like to brand ourselves as a hard currency, the look good graph has an upward pointing slope hinting of currency appreciation. Singaporeans like a strong SGD especially when they go on overseas holidays.

In the A levels economics they were taught the official reason for our targeting the exchange rate in order to target inflation to achieve sustainable growth. I told them in real life right now that objective is secondary to protecting jobs by helping our businesses remain competitive. Low inflation has no meaning if you have no job and no money.

I told them the economics they learn in school is mostly "useless". The only thing they could take with them is that such ideas, concepts and models exist but you can't just apply them. They will have to de-learn and learn to be flexible in applying the knowledge.

Things are happening very quickly and MAS couldn't wait till their meeting in April to act. Now that is a double message from them. People who are clued in shouldn't be surprised with what MAS had done. Of course you can't tell when exactly but definitely before the next scheduled meeting. In fact they have many arbitrary dates from a wide range of days to make this move. So how can you ever pinpoint the moment? Those who want to profit should just get ready and wait. Those who naively believed MAS officially stated monetary objective will lose money because what's the problem waiting for April to act except that they ended up acting early? At least ours don't mislead and lie like their Swiss counterparts.

Janadas Devan first class speech at IPS

A beautiful and moving speech by Janadas Devan. He is as gifted with the pen as his late father was.

Let our present leaders note and the people remember we had luck on our backs getting here! If you believe in prayer, you must pray for your country and not stop. If you are not a person of prayer, you must remain humble and optimistic. It is OK to exclaim, "Heng Ah!" The believers will cover for the unbelievers.

In the context of the present I cannot help but also use our historical experience to better understand the stand off between Greece and the EU. However I don't want to spoil this post discussing that unholy matter here. Sure, there wasn't anything holy too about what we went through. It is time and tides that have hallowed it during which we were refined in the crucible. Sadly but rightly Janadas Devan warn us that we might have lost much of it. We need to recapture that and SG50 is the right occasion.

This is the year of remembrance and bonding as one people, one nation. Those who are only here for economic reasons, you are second class. We will have a mutually beneficial, as good as it last relationship. No hard feelings, it was only business eh? We mustn't waste time and moderate our expectations from our guest citizens. In order to survive, we must get real. Who can be counted when the crunch comes. Don't know when but it will come.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ben & Jerry with funny money

These two ice cream sundaes from Ben & Jerry at Dempsey cost us $40.90

I won't pay so much for them but we had funny money that must be used by the end of the month.

One experience and we quickly understand why they are uncompetitive in our market.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Li Ka Shing as tea leaf

Looks like KS Li is doing what the legendary Fan Li would have done except that the greater legend would have acted sooner and use more smoke and mirrors. But what is the matter as long as he succeeds. I see him as an example of putting an idea I had harbored to the test. Many people who got very rich will lose what they had gained eventually because they never admitted and even confused their luck with their skill. Only the really good ones will keep their wealth. Sounds like a large number of HK tycoons will eventually be caught in the net.

From the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Washington Consensus to now, it feels like the world is going through another turning point. I hope Singapore leaders have a good grasp of what is happening. Among a growing number of  people they are no longer known for their foresight and have even less of what KS Li possess.

What does KS Li care as long as the Chinese government let him be. I am more piqued by his implied long term optimism in Europe which everyday looks like a sick man to me. Of course Europe is too big to fail (China is also too big to fail) because it will take the world along with it. So he must believe in another time and context the mood and determination of the Europeans will change to be very much better. Now if he buys cheap he will finagle a way to sell it expensive. He always has and perhaps to us too eh?

At the micro or deal level I had from the beginning doubted Temasek's wisdom in purchasing his Watsons chain of stores. I feel as queasy when they also paid for Blackstone assets. I would be careful to avoid buying from those who are smarter than me. I guess Temasek has a higher opinion of themselves. Time will tell and fortunately Temasek is sufficiently diversified, but today I heard on radio they and Aberdeen asking for the removal of StanChart CEO.

Now for the most important bit. When tycoons elsewhere gets frightened it will also be easier for our leaders to fairly redistribute wealth on this island and close the wealth gap. Nearly everything I have read about how to narrow the gap are good on paper only. None of those solutions are practical. Instead people should think in terms of how things will change in the days ahead to bring about the correction we need. More importantly when those moments arrive would we be ready or just simply bungle it.

The greatest and most difficult skill is strategic waiting and the only leader I notice practices it and got completely misunderstood is President Obama. Give the man time. History will be kinder to him than his critics and even some friends.

The Tragedy of the Egyptians...Arabs

I feel so sad for the Egyptians and its neighbors who had lived through the Arab Spring for nothing.

What is the lesson here? That what they had under Mubarak was bad but it was also the least worst.

The world is not going to stand still for Egyptians and Arabs. Perhaps it should because the Middle East will be a spoiler as it gets left behind.

When you look north where Europe is, there is only weak leadership. They can't even look after themselves properly not to mention their Muslim minorities. The Europeans will only be trying to desperately put out fires when their interests face imminent threats.

The Chinese will be the most motivated to step up to the plate. America will find its erstwhile key partners have become feeble. The world is going to look very different in the decades ahead.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hoarding Cereals

Valu$ shop that is convenient for me is quite unreliable at offering this cereal. So when I saw them on offer at Fairprice at $4.95 I hoarded them. There were four and we added two more today. There is no more space for any more.

All must be consumed by September this year. Hardly a problem. Looks like wifey already opened one this morning, the third one from the left.

MBC on Sundays

We like to come here for a quiet and peaceful lunch on some Sundays. Mapletree Business City is absent the crowds and buzz on a week day. All the restaurants are closed except Astons, and this outlet is better than the other outlets we had tried.

The view from outside Astons.

GBB CNY Flower Dome: Dahlias over Chrysanthemums

Last year GBB used mainly Moms but this year they have switched to beautiful Dahlias. Not as big as the fields of giant ones we saw at Floriade in the Netherlands but they definitely are better than last year's.

How can you have CNY without Mums? Yep, they are used mostly to make the goats. I think we will see more mums outside the flower dome as we draw nearer to CNY. We will be back several more times to enjoy the gardens.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

BCG: Public transport fares not tied closely to oil prices

Read this early this morning on CNA which BCG had exclusively shared with them. Interesting given my training and background. Spent some time toying with it as shown in the A, B and C. Told myself this is the usual approach fund managers typically present their results to retail investors too. You can tell any story you desire as long as you choose the right starting point. Don't use actual numbers but create an index. But I tell myself this chart looks fair but my sense tell me I am off. Will look at it again later when I have time.

I left it at

Point A: people were unhappy (were they? as this is history now)

Point B: Happy but have forgotten point A. Also kept quiet.

Point C: Happening now. People are grumbling.

Now in the afternoon I test the results wearing different hats and I am not happy. I imagine our young policy makers interning with these consulting firms when they are not in business but government. I imagine technocratic ministers who has forgotten that they are also at the same time political leaders and style themselves as managers and business leaders. I recall the meaninglessness of the CPI for far too many people and how some go to MPS etc, for assistance.

I remember how foreign publications praise our government as being run like business. The whole country is in business.

Truth is the whole country must be in business and MORE, MUCH MORE!

I am a lazy blogger and I like to insert the important point by a HBS doyen which the BCG types go to learn from: Clayton Christensen.

Singapore is making a tragic mistake to think too much in business terms to the exclusion of anything else. Truth is given our position we ought to think even more businesslike together with the social and political much more than now.

See Christensen, which I had made my children watch sometime back.

My first purchase at GBB

First time I got myself something at GBB after so many years. A microfibre cloth to clean my smartphone display. I also discover it works better than the little piece that comes with wifey's iPhone 6 plus case.

Paid $3.60 after member's discount.

First purchase off Qoo10

This little and very quiet fan is my first purchase off the Qoo10 platform. Overall the buying experience has been very positive to the point that I would be shopping more here than on eBay. Only 3 days from the point I ordered online to receiving the goods. It helps they did not use Sing Post but of course I had to pay $3.50 for delivery.

I haven't checked the numbers but I wouldn't be surprised that eBay the pioneer in this business is in trouble. They didn't grow to become dominant and there are so many worthy competitors out there. Neither did they upgrade themselves over time, a fatal mistake in this business.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh locations

At Song Fa Bak Kut Teh website only three location are listed.

Last night we had dinner at Song Fa again and I notice on the back of their wet towels, they are at five places.

I would need to come to this blog to find the other two.

Philips Home Media Player

Wifey bought this yesterday at Harvey Norman for $45. We tested it last night with her 2TB HDD loaded with uncountable movies. She was very pleased with it. What we are not so unhappy about is the M1 Mi Box this is replacing. It had never worked well as its remote control was hard to use. Often we had to move our arms in yoga positions to get the cursor to the go where we want. We can't even do that now. The remote is kaput.

Our dishonest doctors

I read the stories of how some of these local doctors were caught for inflated or non existent treatments. They were stupid. It was easy to catch them. What about those who are more careful and meticulous. How many of them and what are the sums involved. It is impossible to tell.

Friends have been complaining about how expensive it is to visit the doctor. Attendance at Polyclinics have sky rocketed.

Wifey's O&G doc always asked if we are claiming insurance, i.e., the charges would be higher.

A couple of days ago, both girls had to see the doctor. In the morning elder girl was charged $66 and in the evening her sister went for a minor eye problem and had to pay $31 for consultation and a small bottle of antibiotic eye drop.

Have they liberalized medical charges? Unlike my visit to the dentist a couple of months back I don't see a schedule of common treatments and their charges any more.

Dental treatment here is very expensive too. Some friends have decided to hop over to Johor to for the more pricey procedures.

I digress, but the common thread here is that medical cost is going up and in a pooled system like insurance and government reimbursement, it is likely to go up faster and further because for every dishonest doctor you catch you don't know how many got away laughing to the bank. You always guard your own little pot of scarce money far more closely than those paid to watch and pay from a very large pool. Whatever, doctors reputation among us can only head south.

Why wouldn't our doctors be less money minded than their American counterparts or anywhere else in the world? It is a matter of money making opportunities. In China many kids do not want to be doctors for exactly the opposite reasons American or our kids desire to be.

In a society where money acquisition is so highly valued, an SAF where too many learned that you can do anything you want as long as you aren't caught, we must not be surprised if corruption is creeping back. And I haven't talk about imported corrupt habits.

Many years ago my boss and I were invited by one of the richest man in HK for lunch. I do not know why, but he spent half the time with us explaining why there is plenty of moral corruption in Singapore. I said you can't charge somebody with that but eventually that corruption will grow and we will be arresting it very late as a culture of corruptibility would have permeated the system. I think we are closer to that now. Like suicide rates, we only count those that died but how many doctors in the privacy of their mind are thinking how to get more money from the government and insurance companies than is owed to them? How many in the civil service and in corporations? Some were afraid of collecting money so that had sex instead. If we don't work harder at this they will become bolder and have both.

We must not forget we are not like New Zealand a society which values honesty more than we do. We checked corruption with harsh punishments. It doesn't come naturally to us. For the same result we have to work much harder than Denmark, Finland, Sweden and New Zealand. But I think the situation in NZ is worsening. Why this is happening there is the subject of another post if I have the time.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fired over the Shangai Stampede

Those officials who were fired over the Eve of New Year stampede would have wished they were Singapore civil servants. Here nobody gets fired unless it begins with an invitation to CPIB for kopi.

Of course you can kinda of lose your job if you happen to be an elected official because the voters would push you out.

The PAP will pay a horrific price if they had failed to let Michael Palmer go. The same for the WP with Yaw Shin Leong.

Chinese accountability is like elsewhere and probably more severe. Except for elections the way they run their place is very similar to us. After all by now thousands of them have visited us to be trained. It is fair to compare governance in Shanghai with Singapore.

So much for accountability here.

I am waiting for the next time someone steals into a train depot again. Hopefully it would only be graffiti and not a bomb.

What if it is a bomb? I think nobody would get fired too. I don't mind to be completely wrong on this one.

Remember if bombs go off on our trains, unlike many western cities that were attacked, economically we cannot clamp down like them as that would choke our open economy. I think we avoid trouble by making sure that we are not as high a priority target as other foreign cities. It is a precarious life.

Johor land reclaimation: Geopolitically significant

Found an article about Johor's plans to reclaim the sea for some development. Forest City is a very long term project lasting 30 years but Princess Cove and Sungai Tebrau are new to me.

The Singapore authorities simply by avoiding any welcome noises is telling us the government is quite unhappy. In fact these developments had caught us by surprise. We do not see  what the Johoreans are doing to be friendly.

There are larger issues at stake here which are geopolitical. Our neighbors will never give up trying to supplant us. The hard truth for us is that peace and cooperation in reality is just another form of war that is much preferable to shooting at each other. Just adapting from Clausewitz and Sun Zi OK. Unfortunately the man in the street is unable to grasp this.

I don't understand the near by proposed oil and gas hub next to Forest City. It is a stupid idea. Who would want to pay up for resort living and see the ugly oil tanks when they open their windows or sit at their balconies?

Anyway I wouldn't be surprised if these projects flopped. All these are small problems when I ponder over our weakening leadership.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Karen Armstrong: Religion and Violence

"All religion have been violent, including Christianity". Popular views about religion and violence are mostly wrong because most people are still religious and they never blame their religion.

I like the way Karen Armstrong writes and have many of her books. I only wish I have time to read them all but one must do what is important than like.

I checked my Kindle and I am only 6% into her latest book.

At 2% of the book, Karen Armstrong repeated herself for the second or third time which I have highlighted below. 

Sure, this is not new, I have seen and heard it on BBC documentaries, but it is the way she puts things across to readers like me. This has been on my mind for many days: the necessity of violence.....good for Singapore bad for many of its people. 

One important feature of the 21st century is the continuous need to de-learn. It is also what cause many to misunderstand America and gobsmacked the Chinese on and on about their greatest rival. Closer to home, our leaders are poor de-learners. 

Please, what you know is good only for a time. Even if they are still good you gotta to look at them differently and therefore at a deeper level for it to remain useful. This is not new because Jesus Christ continues to ask, "Who do you think I am?"

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SG: Because we let some get rich first

Far too many blame and some even went as far as to curse the MIW for making Singapore society what it is now with a yawning income and wealth gap.

To me, I thought LKY as the power behind the PMs after him made the mistake. He followed the American Republican party and Deng which said: Let some get rich first.

So he let some get rich first and the wealth got stuck like it does everywhere and the $$$ gaps appear and stayed there.

Survey the economies across the world which are not enemies of America. This is the same outcome and often worse than ours. Even Iran an arch foe of America has a widening wealth gap.

And what if we had chosen differently. I think we would be more equal and markedly poorer as well. If so, we made a mistake to avoid a bigger one. Now as long as a decision is seen as a mistake you get no gratitude. You have to figure a way to be around to fix it.

This is beyond our control but what we need now is for the major powers to start taxing their rich class so that we can also do the same here with little negative impact on ourselves. This is the life of the price taker.

Now I want to see how the WP milk this. Then I know if they are as bad and opportunistic as the PAP.

Among politicians I suspect and fear many are Gou Jians. Then we become a normal country and we go down.

Related: Obama small step to narrow the wealth gap

Pope Stumped: Why does God allow children to suffer?

Unlike the Yahoo story, I am quite sure Pope Francis wasn't stumped or surprised by the 12-year old question. Neither was Francis the only one who knew how to respond to such a question but most of us really would be stumped.

The Pope is a very public figure and for those who gets it, he actually answered the question almost you might think his Lord would have given the same answer.

The greatest poverty in the world Mother Teresa said in countless speeches is the poverty of love. So when the Pope saw an embodiment of that great poverty the answer is compassion, and he told others to do the same.

Through tears and love, with much prayer that is not visible beforehand the answer will come. Not once, but over the days, months and years until the end of your life and to the end of time.

It's a lifetime answer.

Here is a sample of too common foolish and loveless response we often see. This is taken from a response to Yahoo's article.

But we should not be surprise that people are like that. Clueless to them but several degrees of freedom removed they contributed to the plight this 12-year old girl and countless others.

This child's question did not invite an answer to of the sort why the sky is blue. It must be answered actively, sacrificially with loving action. Well fools do not know they are and so they are very public about their foolishness.

Now here is Nicholas Kristof apt and compassionate response as a journalist who had witnessed much human tragedy and told us what he had often seen. He gets it.

Meanwhile some Singaporeans will look at this Pope and also to their caring government and try to reconcile the two. But for much of  the world, most people don't even bother to answer if their government care.

So what is love? It is the most misunderstood word in the world. It is also the great test to tell the wise from the foolish too.

Update: Jan 23, 2:20pm

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Obama small step to narrow the wealth gap

It is really hard to tell if Obama will succeed with this one. Besides we do not yet know the details but the WSJ has shared some possibilities.

I don't now how long the still peaceful fight between the haves and have-nots will go on. I only feel that in this prolonged struggle the have-nots will eventually get a break and many will escape the vicious cycle of poverty they are trapped in. After a while the tsunami will crash onto Singapore shores because we are price takers.

The smartest of the rich will figure a way to protect their wealth and they are a small minority. The many clueless and lucky new rich will eventually have quite a bit of their wealth redistributed. It will begin first in America and then in many places around the world. But they are at the moment still struggling to make this movie and nobody knows when show time is. I believe it will come because the present arrangement is a ticking time bomb. As the ticking gets louder and faster the case for the have-nots become stronger.

Update: Jan 21, 11:10am

Obama's State of the Union speech is happening right now and the WSJ pumped this to its readers. Thought I read the President's mind well enough. I pray he makes progress with a very difficult Congress. He is one of their best if under rated Presidents.

The average fellow here don't know, but often what happens over there and China is more important that what our leaders do.

Party Newsletter

Remind me please that this is just the PAP newsletter. So sad, they can't find anyone from within Zaobao and Shin Min to be promoted. They had to go outside for a safe pair of hands from the admin service.

Is this guy going to take over from Alan Chan one day? This is a minor issue when compared to the difficult times SPH is sailing into over the new few years. Just staying relevant to us is a tall order. Many things here are changing that some people will feel that everything is changing.

Victorinox for JC

Bought the daughter a Victorinox yesterday for the next phase of her school life. In a matter of weeks she will go to JC like her elder sister before her.

Cost us $119 and I wonder what the future price would be given what had happened to the CHF.

The stickers on the door reminds me of the times when she was a kid. Although I disliked it, I have never removed them. It is just my little personal version of being far seeing. I decided what was unsightly would be nostalgic and beautiful over time.

I am no artist but in my personal way I have captured the passage of time.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

10 years as PM: Miscue on cost of living

The knee jerk reaction from many reading this is that the PM and his ministers are out of touch because they live separate lives from us, which they never lacked anything especially money. May be they lack time with the family, but so do we.

Go back to basics which he ought to know better than most of us running the economy successfully for the short term.

In life, you grow or you begin to die. Even academics must publish or perish and the armed forces need to constantly upgrade themselves to fight wars they never hope will come. NGOs are different. They succeed when they are no longer needed because they have achieved their aims. Does Singapore want to be an NGO? I am not kidding because some of us undervalue the primacy of economic growth to sustain everything we do here.

Cost of living complaint is nothing but the tangible feedback to the more nebulous concept of growth. The average fellow thought in unimaginative and simple terms which regularly fail to capture the full meaning of what his heart meant. Simply put, people here and everywhere else want to grow and in such a way that the ceiling is so high they don't even need to worry about hitting it. America attracts immigrants by the hordes because there are many pockets of such opportunities. Not all offer monetary rewards.

In economic terms, we can look at it in both ways as us growing to the point when we hit the limits of growth and begin to experience zero sum games and also diminishing returns. Therefore we need to find new niches and many of them will not be financially and material resource based. But before we move on to any of these new areas, you cannot have a starting line where people see themselves are belonging to winners or losers. That is why so many here envy the Swedish example but never bother to assess if it is practical here. The message if the PM still don't get it is we want a more equal society but without its uncompetitive drawbacks which would make us equal but poor.

Of course the PM and his ministers if they think within this economic box, the problem cannot be solved. You have to make everyone happy to begin to explore new niches and start the game all over again, otherwise they will remain myopic and fight for and protect their share of this small pie. Keep with this for I don't know how much longer and Singapore must go down.

We mustn't have have Socialism with Capitalistic characteristics. We must have Capitalism with Socialistic features in order that we can move on to explore brave new worlds and grow.

10 years as PM: Assessing Opposition MPs

S-pen marked this on my Note 4 this morning from today ST. The PM was commenting on the quality of opposition MPs. I disagree with him because after a while you can tell that the opposition MPs are better than many of his party's MPs. I can't even recall many faces and names of PAP MPs! If you make no impact with me, as far as I am concern you don't exist and is irrelevant. On the other hand I can identify all opposition MPs, NCMPs and many NMPs.

What we have in Parliament today is unlike in 1955. The PAP government is a world class government (but not parliament), so it was easy for LKY and the two others to make short work of the government of the day. It is a totally different situation today. The government is among the best in the world and is not easy to check but nevertheless is nowhere near perfect to be left without check and balance.

I hate this sort of occasional convenient arguments from the PM. Whilst he could persuade quite a few people, there is also a substantial group which can see through this. I bet the number of perceptive voters is growing over time too. Make good honest arguments than easy convenient ones. Not only does it cuts not ice with some of us, but eventually on social media it makes your supporters echoing you look really stupid especially when they get imaginative and brainlessly elaborate your point.

So they should learn from Deng and seek the truth from facts. The WP admitted to the quality of the PAP government which is unthinkable in Westminster type adversarial politics. But this it the truth which they built on and score victories. If you build on falsehood you build on shifting sands and eventually collapse.

Highly intelligent, the PAP sadly has no political wisdom and my be even eroding integrity.

Love of Money: Boy who came back from Heaven

I remember this book with a different cover; a boy with outstretched arms against a yellow background. I got my copy from the NLB eLibrary but never got round to reading beyond the first few pages because though I didn't smell a rat there was a faint hint of one.

Turned out the whole thing was one big lie.

These evangelicals were more interested in the money they could make touting this book than anything else. It has now stopped because the truth has emerged in a powerful way and they simply can't continue selling it. Otherwise I bet they will keep mining profits with this one.

Their God is Money. It is the God of many. It is also the popular God that is worshipped by loving action than loud mouthful praise which they leave for the God of their Bibles.

In other words, they were two timers. I have more respect for the more honest single timing money worshiper.

Friday, January 16, 2015

NUS UTown food court experience

Visited the daughter at UTown this evening and had dinner there. The prices are better if we use her matriculation card.

We got a place at the edge of the food court which afforded us an excellent view of the field below.

Overall this is a nice place. Wifey and I never imagined something like this would materialize at NUS when were students there. In the 80s you usually see and hear local voices but at this food court you would be hard put to hear them. Instead beside the familiar mainland Chinese tongue there were languages I couldn't really make out other than they were Asian. So where are the Singaporeans or at least the Malaysians among them?

PM: A decade on the job

The PM unequivocally admitted his government failure to provide adequate infrastructure for our needs is most welcomed. However I am still disquieted by the plans to house 6.9 million as per the PWP. Sure it is a planning number but it wouldn't be when the time comes. It will be real numbers.

For the civil servants and ministers to show that they have maximized assets, they will figure all sorts of ways to top up to 6.9 million population if the capacity is created. As always when they build too many flats they also find all sort of ways to sell them. It is just how they think and act and this cannot change until they first assure us they will not indulge this habit.

Foresight is difficult but my daughter's essay revealed some of its secrets. For me, I have lowered my expectations of this government because their ability to see far is quite limited. Just manage risk well and most times the foresight deficit will take care of itself. As I observed repeatedly, they can't even do this bit well, so please don't sell me your foresight.

Don't pay too much attention to those scenario planning stuff. It was made of a world which no longer exists. It had failed to deliver and provided policy makers with a false sense of knowing the future.

And always remember, everything costs money but money is not everything.

Our lesson: Tiger eats the Swiss Central Bank

The SNB shocking depegging of the Franc from the Euro caused massive losses to many especially the small guy.

Many hedge funds got slaughtered too because the smart money cannot be smart when it is the market right?

I was clueless for a while since I had duly forgotten about the peg.

To me the SNB tried to get off the tiger it had ridden for the last few years and got mauled and eaten by it. This is a massive screw up and will inflict lasting damage to the Swiss. Meanwhile their exports just became totally uncompetitive over night. Rolex, Patek Philippe etc., might still sell some but Swatch and perhaps Victorinox are in trouble. I just had a Toblerone after lunch. May be add that one too if it comes from the Alps.

The Swiss have certainly lost their way. I wonder if they even knew they were riding a tiger and those who knew never imagine they would be so crazy to get off it.

If the ECB prints money, I am afraid the SNB must also do the equivalent. Once you have decided to go down this path, you must go all the way. It is like joining the triad, you can't get out any time you like.

It is too late now.

I hope this never happen to Singapore because we have also developed similar bad habits as the Swiss. We want to ride the Tiger and also get off and on as and when we like. Luckily for us the Tiger was busy with other matters but one day we will get mauled like the Swiss if we don't know well enough what we are doing.

Singapore cannot mortgage what it is to be Singaporean and still remain Singaporean. The voters grasp this fact better than the PAP.

Printing Francs is absolutely un-Swiss. So they decided to be Swiss like again and remove the peg and trigger a disaster. One day we will also wake up and realize that we have to make some very un-Singaporean choices after a long series of un-Singaporean choices ("money most important") which our leaders thought were worth it. What happens then? Is it already too late for us?

Update: 10:30 pm

Just read this by Paul Krugman. Very similar thinking  but coming from a different perspective. He was thinking of America's interest and me Singapore.

Terrorists: Winning by Losing

I wonder if Europe do not already have hidden in plain sight the critical mass of militants to make this strategy possible.

If they do or when they get there they no longer need to succeed in most attacks they attempt. They would just need to attack often enough to make whole populations in cities feel on edge. They can win by instilling constant fear.

On the other hand European governments know this is possible. That is why there is an overwhelming police and military presence now in France.

When push comes to shove, the Europeans will have to temporarily suspend some of their civil liberties to preserve their security. Unlike the Americans, these guys had spent too much time talking peace. often hypocritically and failing to prepare for war.

The Swiss just gave up their peg to the Euro. It is getting darker in Europe but there is no other way to fair weather without passing through the storm.

Similarly the front page of today's papers tell me that Singapore economic restructuring is too painless to get the results we need and stronger pain is coming. It could be at the most inconvenient time for the PAP when they need to call for elections.

Update: 6:40 am

Some numbers from the WSJ article.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PM: Expending more resources against Corruption

I didn't have the time to finish what the PM said on this issue last night but the main thrust of his message is clear: They are bringing new vigor and thoroughness to the business of fighting corruption in public service.

Like in the SPF, we do not have enough officers in the CPIB. That will go up by 20% shortly. Even laws would be tweaked.

We have consistently erred on the side of financial prudence to the point it becomes penny wise and pound foolish. Almost every virtue taken to the extreme become a vice. Singapore has become an unbalanced society from giving too much priority to accumulating money at the expense of many things which include train maintenance, caring for the aged (not rectifying) to this issue etc., Put together the budget numbers must eventually look ugly with looming deficit unless more money is raised. The public mostly cannot make meaningful comments because there is not enough data or they are all over the place and very time consuming to organize.

Perhaps we have far more financial resources than the public knows. We know we are not even trusted enough to vote wisely. We were always talked down to until it start to backfire that they appear as emperors without clothes....

Late because we have fallen two places for being corruption free, but the PM is doing the right thing now.

Meanwhile things might get worse before they get better as corrupt acts committed earlier will be waiting to be uncovered and punished. Just like traffic offences, they must have thought the government didn't have enough resources to go after them.

Update: Jan 14 8:20 pm

The ST today says more were nabbed for illegal fishing partly due to stepped up enforcement efforts. I think it is mostly due to deploying more officers unless they had invested in more surveillance technology.

The government is under resourced for safety, security and crime including white collar types.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tharman: You're The Boy

Just caught this when Tharman shared it on his Facebook page. This resonates with me and I am sure I am not alone. Sure, I was too young to know then and I do not know why. Perhaps it is the story and the way it was told. Sadly Shirley Nair is no longer with us.

We must leave heart prints before it is too late. But sometimes it just isn't possible.

Security: A hypocritical DPM Teo

There is a glaring omission from the DPM? What about the repeated security compromises at the MRT depots?

Don't talk to me about resilience when you are hardly doing a good enough job!

A few hours later his deputy in Home Affairs S. Iswaran pretty much spewed the same platitudes.

I have no regrets if both of them are not in the next Cabinet, especially the DPM. Wasn't he the one in charge of the population white paper too? Also he had a totally wrong concept of what nurses do.

Update: 4:55pm

Even before I read and posted Teo Chee Hean Facebook post, I had read this from the NYT earlier this morning. It made me wonder how much that was true of France is also true of us. Are we waiting to be tested and found wanting before we do something.

We have an inadequate culture of accountability. In Shanghai I am sure we will see heads roll over the stampede during the New Year Eve celebrations.

Door Chime Battery

Just changed the battery of the remote for the door bell ($1.70)

So this is a Lead-Mercury bettery, 12V.

Wonder when is the next time I need to replace this again. Can't remember how long the previous battery lasted.

Update: Sep 28 2016

The battery ran out of juice today! So it lasted less than 2 years.

Elle backpack

The white balance is off. The red is much darker.

Bought this Elle backpack for wifey at OG Alber Complex today for $79.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Dinner at Song Fa

A quick dinner at Song Fa with wifey last evening and they are really good.

We drive by this place pretty often and always wonder why there is always a crowd any time except when they are closed.

Of course we had to join the queue too but was surprised to be allowed to skip ahead because we were behind a big group. I looked around, I  think it is much easier to get a seat if you go as a party of two only.