Friday, October 30, 2009

Bankers' Pay

From the Financial Times,

Bankers fear transatlantic pay split
US financial groups with operations in London are increasingly concerned that British regulators’ tough stance on pay could create a two-tier system in which UK bankers’ bonuses are smaller and spread over a longer period than those of American colleagues.

I welcome this. The US needed some external pressure on this matter. I shan't say more. Guys like George Soros has been more than cogent why these financial types shouldn't be paid like before.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some wisdom from Soros

I got this from the New Yorker and I have also read the FT articles alluded to.

Soros logic is both simple and compelling. I agree with him.

OCTOBER 27, 2009

As a rule, I do not put much store by the statements of billionaires and central-bank chairmen. The former are accorded undue respect because of their wealth, the latter because of the positions they hold. In my experience, neither great riches nor high office are strongly correlated with economic wisdom and common sense. For today, however, I am making an exception: first for George Soros, the veteran speculator and philanthropist, and, in my next post, for Mervyn King, the head of the Bank of England.

Earlier this month, at a conference organized by The Economist, I heard Soros make the elementary but crucial point that rising bank profits, and thus bonuses, are no accident. The Fed, through its zero-interest rate policy and generous lending programs, has deliberately created an environment in which a chimpanzee could run a big bank and make pots of money. Banks can lend from the Fed at zero per cent, buy long-dated Treasury bonds yielding three and a half per cent, and pocket the spread. Rather than nationalizing stricken banks and recapitalizing them that way, Soros said, the U.S. government had opted to help them earn their way back to sound health.

On Friday, in an interview with the Financial Times, Soros elaborated on his theme, declaring, “These earnings are not the achievements of risk takers. They are gifts, hidden gifts, from the government, so I don’t think these monies should be used to pay bonuses. There’s a resentment which I think is justified.”

Finally, in an article in yesterday’s FT, Soros called for stricter regulation, endorsing a twenty-first-century version of Glass Steagall in which banks that benefit from the de facto government safety net, such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Citigroup, would be banned from trading on their own accounts. “This may push proprietary traders out of banks and into hedge funds, where they belong,” Soros noted.

It would also mean that taxpayers were no longer subsidizing “heads I win, tails you lose” bets placed by banks that are too big to fail. Does that not sound like an idea worth exploring?


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Public Transport Strategy Not Working

The public transport strategy to raise its sare to 79% of all trips by 2020 has suffered a reversal.

From the ST today,

"..public transport's share of the total number of trips made during the morning peak period shrank to 59 per cent last year from 63 per cent in 2004 and 67 per cent in 1997..."


"while public transport journeys increased by 16 per cent, car journeys jumped 31 per cent.

'The heavier car usage has led to an overall drop in the public transport mode share last year,' said the minister.

Between 2004 and last year, car numbers grew by 32 per cent to 550,500."

What this means is simple. Cost of owning a car would have to go up. Car use charges will also be creeping up. The current transportation trend is not tenable.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Prawn fritters

Look at the prawn fritter standing tall in the middle of the plate. My daughter spotted it and wanted to honor it. In the end we honor it by eating it last. She got it.

This entry was made because she wanted me to. Guess our vain attempt to immortalise it.

iPod Touch

This iPod Touch which I got with the intention of using it as an e-reader and kindle reader has done far more for me. It has reshaped how I use computers.

I am looking forward to what Apple is offering with their tablet device.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Singapore: One of the great cities in history

Singapore is listed as one of the great cities of modern times.

As I understand about this government, Singapore no longer belongs to Singaporeans because some believe that is the way to lose it. Singapore now belongs to the world and along the way they will carve a niche for Singaporeans.

In the same way, NY cannot be for New Yorkers only. It is part of America. Ditto Shanghai for China. Therefore Singapore for the world but we have to navigate the politics of sovereignty riding on the economic imperative, i.e., Globalization.

Nothing is worth trading our intangibles for except survival. Not sure if this is the right thing to do.

Excerpt from it: Note Singapore is one of the cities.

And so we reach the Age of the Modern City. It opens – for the purposes of this book – around 1800 though all the cities are hard to confine within a chronological compartment, spreading across centuries, defying our attempts to arrange them neatly in sections. By now, the industrial revolution was well under way, resulting in mass immigration from the countryside to the towns and the appearance of the megalopolis. London and Paris are here for the second time, since both are undergoing a dramatic change: London with its tremendous population explosion – made possible largely by improvements in sanitation – and Paris with the radical surgery of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann. North America –which has not up to this moment put in an appearance – now looms large: in Canada we look at Montreal, in the United States at New York and Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. Here too we witness another astonishing innovation – the skyscraper, which in turn owes its existence to the invention of the electric elevator. South of the isthmus of Panama, we cast an eye on Buenos Aires and São Paulo. Europe – apart from London and Paris – is represented by Barcelona, Berlin and Budapest; Asia by New Delhi and Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo: and Australasia by Sydney.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Windows 7

This is a CNet video of the new Windows 7. Quite neat user interface but I wouldn't be upgrading to it any time soon. One of our Notebooks will get a free upgrade. When it arrives we will install and try it. The rest of our machines, I imagine we will only make the switch when we need to replace them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ANZ to Add Bankers in Asia

ANZ to Add Bankers in Asia

ANZ plans to hire as many as 600 bankers and other staff in Asia in the coming 12 months as it pushes ahead with plans to boost its presence in the region.

The above from the WSJ.

They are getting more and more confident. Wonder how many know what they are doing and how many are just playing following the crowd.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Silent God

Found this at a seventeen year old blog. One day it will be my children's turn to wrestle with this issue. We do not wait for that moment to come. If we learn anything from our own experience when we were that age and from others young people a few years ahead of ours, it is time to pray.

I already know what to tell them but in the end it is a journey each person must take alone. We can only point the way. Perhaps they might draw inspiration, learn from examples of the past.

One important point. Adam and Eve didn't go looking for God, but He went looking for them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

You can do it

Just recounting an episode of the many times I told my kids that they can do it when they thought otherwise.

Last night Lin made the list to be a grandmaster at She joins five others in her school to enter this club. There are no member's privileges here but the work put in to get there has to a child many unobvious benefits. It will take a while for them to become aware.

I don't think I would be able to cajole her to achieve that had she not had a bruising experience at the Orals earlier.

We must always turn adversity to our advantage. We might not always be able to do so immediately, but we must.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Education in Dubai

I have read it months before and now I am getting another version of it from this week's issue of the Economist. In "Laggards trying to catch up, Education in the Arab World" I excerpt from it as follows:-

The most rigorous comparative study of education systems, a survey called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) that comes out every four years, revealed in its latest report, in 2007, that out of 48 countries tested, all 12 participating Arab countries fell below the average. More disturbingly, less than 1% of students aged 12-13 in ten Arab countries reached an advanced benchmark in science, compared with 32% in Singapore and 10% in the United States. Only one Arab country, Jordan, scored above the international average, with 5% of its 13-year-olds reaching the advanced category.

Quite a few of my girls' teachers at the international school were quite good. Their classmates were mostly very kind, friendly and helpful but they are just not interested in working. They have the potential but not the values or motivation to achieve them my older daughter often chimed.

Teachers? More like trainers

After listening to my daughter describe school. Put with it all the stories and some as eye witness I have seen about teachers, I think it would be more realistic to call them trainers than teachers. Once they have succeeded as trainers, then we designate them as teachers. The bar would be lower as the expectations of teachers are often incredibly high. Why set such a high water mark that many cannot hope to hurdle across?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


For the US, there is no need for inflation. I don't expect it either. Too much supply, not enough demand. Sad to see some of this supply will eventually be destroyed and people will lose their jobs, if not already. The USD will be weak for the very reasons it was strong: Returns in US based assets ertswhile attractive will be underperforming for sometime to come.

I am a believer of Pimco's "new normal"

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Bill Gross, who runs the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., increased holdings of government debt last month and cut mortgage bonds to the lowest level in more than four years.

Gross boosted the $185.7 billion Total Return Fund’s investment in Treasuries, so-called agency debt and other bonds linked to the government to 48 percent of assets in September from 44 percent in August, according to Pimco’s Web site. The holdings are the most since August 2004.

The global economy’s “new normal” as the financial crisis eases will be characterized by heightened government regulation, lower consumption and slower growth, officials at Newport Beach, California-based Pimco have said. Investors should expect total returns on equities of about 5 percent annually as consumers curb spending and increase savings, Gross said in an interview last month with Bloomberg Radio.

The Total Return fund cut mortgage debt to 22 percent, the lowest level since February 2005, from 38 percent. Cash and equivalent securities comprised 2 percent, rising from negative 10 percent, according to the Web site. The fund can have a so- called negative position by using derivatives, futures or by shorting. Pimco is a unit of Munich-based insurer Allianz SE.

Gross said on Sept. 28, he had been buying longer maturity Treasuries in recent weeks as protection against deflation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Barnes and Noble ebooks

Downloaded their ebook reader to try today. Verdict: Unimpressed. Mobipocket is better. I didn't bother with their reader for the iPhone. What turns me off are the prices. For many less popular titles their prices are way beyond what is offering. E.g., Snowball is $28.00 but you can get it for $9.99 at

Barnes and Noble would have to try harder to create a more compelling case to sell ebooks. They are probably more interested in making sales from their walk in customers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Backlash against foreigners

As happening elsewhere, a rising backlash against foreigners here. First it was the lady PR who marched for China's National Day, now this. GV must have been clueless about the mood out there. I thought they should have known better. As usual Singapore style of management often miss critical information. It is our culture.

Citizens do not see the benefits of admitting so many foreigners.

Why give discounts to China patrons only?

Tue, Oct 13, 2009

The New Paper
By Elysa Chen

SOME Singaporean moviegoers were unhappy over Golden Village's "buy three get one free" promotion aimed at Chinese nationals for the Chinese movie The Message.

Netizens felt it was unfair that only a specific group got to enjoy the promotion for the thriller about Chinese spies in the 1940s.

About 160 people even signed up to boycott Golden Village cinemas.
Explaining the promotion, a Golden Village Multiplexes spokesman said: "Rather than GV trying to segregate Singaporeans, this was meant as an incentive for Chinese nationals who might not otherwise have celebrated their national day (by) watching the movie.

"And it's a common practice among many marketers to tactically go for a niche market to increase their sales, such as promotions specially for students and the elderly, etc."

In a post on the Stomp forum, one netizen suggested that the move could be part of the Government's initiative to help foreign talent integrate better with locals.


Yesterday I opened my Facebook page to friends of InspiringThots. Suddenly I feel so exposed but I believe it was the right thing to do. Not sure where this would lead to though. I didn't want to inundate the mailing list. With Facebook a friend is free to visit. With a mailing list, you are intruding. Sure they gave you permission when they signed up. Some even complained that I don't write to them enough. I just feel we shouldn't over do it. I am irked by the endless emails from

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Monday, October 12, 2009

What happened Ghim Moh Primary School

The school have joined with other schools into New Town Primary School at Tanglin Halt in a larger building which used to be Tanglin Primary School. Ghim Moh Primary has been converted into the Singapore Chinese Language Centre.

Naturally they have also given the place a Chinese look.

The former school canteen is now a restaurant, good prices and open to the public too. Most items on the menu will gradually be made available. Yes, the place is new.

Air-conditioned sitting with fake bamboos and cheap Chinese Calligraphy. One read "马到功成". Cheekily I wondered if we would eventually get to see grafitti beside it with "赌马赚钱".

You can see the reception area in the distance.

They hung this outside the school.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Christmas comes early

At Daiso! Got this photo at Plaza Singapura. I mean, we haven't gotten to Deepavali yet. I guess Christmas is where the money is next. Halloween hasn't made much inroads here yet and I hope never. Short of local festivals to celebrate, I would like to see Thanksgiving celebrated here. It has all the right values.

iPod Touch

My iPod Touch is one of the most useful computer device that I have ever got. It surprised me that I am using my desktop PC less now. I am getting so much better at using the onscreen keypad, not to mention less electricity too.

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Worried about inflation?

I see it transmitted to us via the rising property prices. Car prices are rising too but its logic is peculiar to itself because of government control. What is worrying is when people start acting on their inflation expectation. So far there is no goods hoarding. The money is going into financial assets.

One full circle they will discover that the economy is weak and the higher prices aren't justified. Asset bubbles will burst.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thermo Pot to Kettle

Switching from a thermo pot to a hotel style kettle usually isn't something worth blogging about. The increase of 12.5% in electricity tariff prompted us to give up out thermo pot. Giving it up represents a long foregone rite of passage for our children - surrendering the milk bottle. When you make milk for babies and toddlers it is very convenient to have a ready supply of hot water. When this need disappears, we continue to enjoy hot water on demand, but having seen how wasteful Dubai was we have become more sensitive about energy use. We like everything to be energy efficient. We started using energy saving light bulbs when we got married more than twenty years ago. Over the years, we have gradually become more energy conscious and that include what we eat too! Eat more than enough, and you have to carry extra baggage everywhere.

Monday, October 5, 2009

HSBC pessimistic

HSBC chief fears another downturn soon. Who will join this club. PIMCO felt it even earlier going by their bingeing on government debt, now standing at 44% of their portfolio.

The markets could do s 'W' but the real economy will just be scratching the bottom of the barrel.

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Exit 17? to the Marina Barrage

I am planning/looking forward to taking the family to visit the Marina Barrage. Understand that it has attracted almost half a million visitors so far. It was opened to the public last year but we were living in Dubai then.

Let me see, looks like the best time to visit is early in the morning? When you can see how the morning sun dart among the features of the landscapes?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Viktor Frankl

Victor Frankl's, "Man's Search for Meaning" is going to be quite useful input for producing inspirational flash movies and may be a better way to organize them.

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Tree climbing bougainvilla

I have always wanted to come up close to this tree climbing bougainvilla along Commonwealth Avenue West. I got my chance today but not with my regular camera. I have to be content with my modest Nokia phone camera.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pen Flipping

That was me flipping my pen against a background of matching color. Used to be able to do this much better when I was in school in the 70s and 80s. Hardly carry a pen these days and so I am quite out of practice. My children told me they don't see anyone in school doing it these days. I wonder when they lost it. Perhaps at one time the schools banned them?