Wednesday, December 31, 2008
First I would like to start off with an extraordinary solution that was put in place early part of this year. With the rising cost of living, stagnant wages and the 2nd highest electricity tariffs in the world, a large number of Singaporeans defaulted on their electricity bills. After much thought an ingenius solution called PAYU was implemented. Poor Singaporeans now have to accumulated enough cash to top up their cash cards to have access to electricity. To me this solution embodies many principles that the PAP govt operates on - the GLC (in this case, Singapore Power) cannot be put at risk of making less profits, the problem is viewed as one caused by poor Singaporeans using too much electricity and the solution put in place forces them to on electricity usage. The relentless increase in tariffs that resulted in Singapore's electricity costing 62% more than Hong Kong and govt policies that resulted in incomes of the poor being depressed are not to be blame - the poor have to be blamed because they are using too much electricity ...more than they can afford so the solution was designed to force them not to use electricity unless they have money. Yes, the problem is always caused by people who are paid less than $1200 a month and never by those who are paid millions a year supposedly to take care of Singaporeans.
Mas Selamat's escape gave a further understanding of what accountability means to this govt. Accountability for this govt means being able to blame the people down the line for deficiencies in processes for which the people on top are responsible. Also, notable was the actions of the govt after his escape - the couldn't decide if he was really dangerous ...he was dangerous enough to be locked up without trial but posed no danger to the population when he escaped. I really wonder where Mas Selamat will be celebrating the New Year tomorrow. Any idea?
Throughout the year we had numerous issues about the transport system. The solution was always the same - congestion? Raise ERP. MRT service no good? Raise fares. Whatever the problem was, the solution always involved Singaporeans paying more. You wonder what the Minister is for when all the solution is so mechanical. We discovered what the minister is for towards the end of the year - he is there to explain why the fall in price of oil cannot result in fare reduction even though the rise in oil price caused much of the increase. Don't understand? You probably need a Phd to figure that one out that is why they chose a Dr. to be the Transport Minister.
The highlight of the year for me was the minibond saga. The govt deregulated the financial sector allowed structured products that can only be understood by financial engineers to be missold by relationship managers whose main motivation for selling was commissions. When these products imploded causing 10,000 Singaporeans to lose their life savings, the 1st reaction of this govt is to act like nothing happened. When it became apparent the victims would not remain silent MAS hammered a deal with the banks to put in place a process to handle the compliants without ever meeting the vi. Unlike the authorities of other countries who spoke to the victims to see what can be done to help them, MAS kept its distance. MAS refuses to conduct direct investigations into the complaints letting the banks handle the complaints from the people were supposed to have victimised. Our leaders stepped forward to blame the victims for their plight blaming their desire for better returns for those losses. This incident showed how extraordinary our leaders are for they acted differently from the leaders of every other country where the problem occurred. This incident shows clearly where our leaders will stand when Singaporeans suffer from misfortune.
While 2008 has been an extraordinary year, I'm sure that our understanding of our govt will be further deepened in 2009 as the effects of the current crisis start to bite and the govt has to make the type of choices it had to make during the minibond saga and Mas Selamat's escape again and again throughout the coming year. Our govt is indeed extraordinary - that is why this blog exists ...if the PAP is like any other govt, there will be nothing to write about.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
1987....and greed was good.....
We have had many national sermons on the evils of welfare - how it was destroying western societies, making its people lazy and bring down its economy. At the end of the day what brought down the western and global economy?....Unregulated, unbridled capitalism. The total cost to western govts and damage to the society far exceeds the money given to the needy and underprivileged. Singapore rejected the welfare part and but liked its capitalism - greed was good! The hedge fund and wealth management industry will bring us prosperity....take us to Switzerland faster. Deregulate the banks, invite those crappy Chinese companies that can't get listed in Hong Kong to come here, allow those structure products that can't be sold in the west to come here.....and the best part is our leaders admiration for Wall Street and western banks - the Merills and Lehmans resulted in billions of our reserves burnt in the incinerators of Wall Street. Here we are a nation that debate vigorously parliament over whether the really needy should or not get that $20 more per month to cope with the rising cost of food but not much debate about the billions....gone...
Welfare has been a dirty word in Singapore. ...but which nation has gone down because it helped the weakest members of its society? More often they are brought down by incompetence and greed. Look at Iceland, the country is now broke because of what its banks did. Greed, of course, grease the wheels of capitalism...driven by self-interest, individuals create wealth not only for themselves but the whole society. However, greed like fire can warm you or burn you. We have to control it the same way fire is controlled. ...contain, regulate and monitor. ...and keep a fire extinguisher around in case something goes wrong.
Giving help to people who need it is never a waste of money -it is used to buy food, electricity and medical treatment. You really have to wonder why Singapore is so allergic to this and the people in power can simply lose billions and move on without accountability.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
In the early 1980s there was this magazine called 日本第一 (Japan No. 1) which had monthly updates of the developments in Japan. The title reflected the widespread belief that Japan would surpass USA and become the No. 1 economy in the world. At that time the Japanese economy was considered a miracle - a phoenix that rose from the ashes of WWII to conquer the world economically. It turned out that the Japanese economy was largely a bubble and it only became clear how flawed the system was and how incompetent the people running it were when it fell apart. The real miracle was the how the highly motivated and extremely hardworking Japanese workers held up the whole system for so long. Nowadays so-called economic miracles are common place. China, India, Taiwan, S. Korea, Hong Kong and of course Singapore have at one time or another been described as economic miracles. The S. Korean miracle was unravelled during the Asian crisis and it was only when the chaebol system and the political system fell apart that ordinary citizens understood its weakness.
There were changes that could have been implemented to avoid to downside but it is difficult in countries like S. Korea which had an authoritarian govt that believed that it was largely responsible for the past success and stand to benefit by keeping the flawed system going. Critics who pointed the flaws when they were hairline cracks were silenced. It was only when the cracks become gaping holes that cannot be hidden that political and economic reform came.
Singaporeans wonder at which point something will be done about those cracks ...cracks that bloggers and members of the opposition have brought out. You would think that a highly paid admin service would quickly steer the country away from trouble but things don't work that way...never have. Civil servants working in a very hierachical system and they climbed up this system doing what they are told, obeying the rules and pleasing their bosses. If such a system could have worked withour additional external check and balance, the Soviet Union would still be around today. This year many cracks showed up and even the PAP govt acknowledged there is a need for change ...but they want to "change themselves". It will never happen because it has already shackled itself in its own form of elitist ideology.
....and the cracks are getting bigger:
1. Income Inequality. A decade old problem that keeps getting worse every year. Why is it getting worse? The floodgates of foreign workers caused not just structural unemployment and underemployment of older workers, it also caused the wages of Singaporeans to be depressed. Singapore has the worse income inequality in the developed world and worse than all our peers in Asia. The PAP's claim is that the import of these workers is necessary to keep businesses in Singapore. Labor is only one cost factor and the others ( rental, utilities) have increased over the years as wages remained stagnant for a large segment of the population. The shopkeeper who hires a mainland Chinese for $1000 instead of $1200 now pays $200 more in rent to the govt or the landlord. Company profits as a % of GDP has risen to record highs. Also, foreign workers are willing to accept low wages, poor living and working conditions because they are from 3rd world countries where there are few laws to protect workers from exploitation. Importing these workers without the implementation of minimum wage and other laws imperils our most vulnerable workers.
2. Debt. Debt levels have risen because the cost of living rose as wages remain stagnant. The household debt as a % of GDP is among the highest in the world. Debt is what makes slowdown and recessions painful. Debt for public housing burdens a family for 20-30 years. We see the wave of downgrading, defaults and bankruptcy every slowdown...this recession HDB saw an 8% default rate at the beginning of the recession. This number is set to rise. There have been numerous letters to the forum asking HDB to be more transparent in the pricing of flats. HDB's standard reply is that public housing is affordable and subsidised - this reply is no longer good enough for so many Singaporeans financially strained by the cost of housing. Expensive housing drains CPF funds meant for retirement. The HDB has responded by saying it will build 4000 smaller flats.....yes, the solution to the problem is to have Singaporeans lower their standard of living not HDB containing the cost of new flats. HDB is now sort of stuck because it has sold so many "expensive" flats, lowering the prices of new ones will cause earlier buyers to scream.
The other problem with debt is the level of unsecured lending - credit cards and credit lines. Many banks have resorted to predatory lending activities to boost their profits. Many other Asian govt have stepped in years ago with tough legislation on predatory lending while the rollover credit card debt has been growing in Singapore.
3. Rising costs. The average Singapore worker is pushed to work much harder today than he did 20 years ago. More households today have both parents working than in the past decade yet the financial strain on the Singapore family has been rising. Why? Cost of living has been rising much faster. 30 years ago the cost of a HDB flat was $35-40K. Today the same flat sells for $350K. The cost of medical care and transport have escalated. The worker is pushed to work much harder for the same wage as wage increases are kept below productivity for decades....while the everything else rose in price.
4. Rising profits. Company profits as a share of GDP steadily over the decades to the highest level in 2007. When the Transport Minister was asked if the public transport cost can be lowered he said the GST has to be raised if we do that. What about SMRT profits which has been rising over the years? Singapore Power made so much profits it was able to buy billions worth of assets in Australia even as a rising number of Singaporeans had their electricity cut off because they can't afford their electricity bills.
5. CPF and Retirement. The govt urge workers to work harder and longer so that they can retire. But at the same time, it adopted policies that caused and worsened structural unemployment. We are not talking about people in their 60s finding it hard to get a job. People in their 40s whose financial obligations are high find it hard to get employment. For many, getting a job to make ends meet is already hard so you can forget about saving for retirement. The govt tweaks to liberalise the CPF has caused it to be inadequate. The lastest tweak to introduce compulsory annuities only guarantees more tweaks because the amount people will be getting in annuities will not be sufficient to live on.
6. Temasek and GIC. For many years Singaporeans asked for greater transparency in these entities. We really have no idea what is going on. We did get a glimpse when they made spectacular and what was seen by many at that time as risky bets on western banks. The loss at this point in time run in the billions. Anywhere else in the world where the politics allow, it would have resulted in a big outcry and reform. But in Singapore.......nothing. While the govt can afford to lose billions, it still cannot afford to give out sufficient funds to those on Public Assistance to live on.
There was this belief in the PAP that if they kept the GDP growing fast, everything else can be solved. They took policy decisions that made the GDP grow and many of these did not benefit the ordinary Singaporeans. Instead of looking at what was happening to ordinary Singaporeans they took comfort in this number. When demographics dictate that the GDP growth had to slow, the PAP open the floodgates to foreign workers to keep it up. During the 'Golden Period', Singaporeans held on hoping that some of the wealth would trickle down to them. The 'Golden Period' is over and that hope is gone. Miracles often turn out to be illusions and illusions are shattered when reality arrives. We were suppose to be headed for the Swiss standard of living...but for many Singaporeans it is still very much about keeping their homes....keeping the electricity and water running in their homes and being able to afford medical treatment when they are sick. Singaporeans are running on a treadmill....and they have been bumping up the speed to make you run faster ....they play this nice video with great scenery (of Switzerland?) and sound in front of this treadmill so that you think you're running to a better place. 2 decades later on the treadmill your legs are tired and you're all worn out....the treadmill breaks down, the video gets turned off and you step off and realised you haven't run any where at all......that is when reality hits you...and illusions get shattered.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
In the past few months, the rise in the US$ against every currency except the Yen caught many speculators by surprise. Peter Schiff, Jim Rogers and many others who foresaw the recent troubles the US economy encountered were caught wrongfooted. On hindsight it become clear that as than money that was pulled out of risky assets from around the world when Lehman collapsed was mostly American and when converted back to US$ caused most other currencies to fall. The Yen rose because the Japanese investors were big investors in US and when they pulled their money out it caused the Yen to move up. The rise of the US$ was extended further as in the case of oil by speculative trend following hedge funds that will prounce on these movements and added on their bets as they profit from the trend.
Yesterday, Bernanke cuts interest rates to a range of 0-0.25% and issued a statement that they will do their best to prevent deflation. What will follow is quatitative easing : [Link] to fight the deflationary pressures. Bernanke is also known as helicopter Ben and his critics refer to his tactics as the "helicopter printing press". The Great Depression was a deflationary recession with falling prices. Bernanke, a respected scholar of the Great Depression, has written several articles [found here] that the Great Depression could have been avoided if the US Fed had ease monetary policy. It looks like Bernanke will flood the system with money turning on his "helicopter printing press". Deflationary has to be avoided at all cost because of the large amount of debt in the US - when deflation occurs debt becomes harder to pay back (read here for explanation of this).
I believe the US$ is positioned for a fall because all the factors supporting it in the past few months have disappeared - just like the large reversal of the oil prices which rose from 40 to 140 then the sharp fall to 44. There is a big price to be paid to avoid deflation. As Peter Schiff put it : what is the point of inflating away the debt when it will cost US$400 to fill your refrigerator with food. The price to be paid later is massive inflation. Given the Americans and their govt have borrowed so much to consume, there is just no way to avoid the pain of repayment. If the their currency debased by this helicopter printing press to pay off the debts, the Chinese and Japanese will simply get smart and stop lending them.
Monday, December 15, 2008
For years the PAP govt focussed its policies on economic growth, even as income inequality rose, cost of living escalated and poverty among Singaporeans increased. The MoM stopped releasing its figures on unemployment among Singaporeans and tries to shore up its grand achievements by releasing something called the 'employment rate'. The reality is one quarter of the workforce, 500000 workers, take home less than $1200 per month[Link] as the cost of living rose and living standards fell for a large number of Singaporeans. Professor Stiglitz (Nobel Prize 2001) tells us focussing narrowly on GDP as a measure of performance may not be good for society.
"GDP doesn't tell you what happens to the typical citizen...." - Professor Stiglitz.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Singapore seen emerging Asia's weakest economy
Thu, Dec 11, 2008
Reuters HONG KONG- Singapore is poised to be emerging Asia's worst-performing economy next year, when it is likely to remain entrenched in recession as the global downturn erodes demand for its exports, a Reuters poll shows. The poll predicts the island state's gross domestic product (GDP) will contract 1.1 percent in 2009. That marks a rapid deterioration in the economic environment from two months ago as the global financial crisis has deepened - a similar poll in late September forecast 4.6 percent GDP growth in 2009. "Singapore is particularly open to external trade - its export-to-GDP ratio is more than 180 percent, compared with an Asia average of 60-70 percent," said Eric Tsang, an analyst at Calyon in Hong Kong. "So as U.S., European and Japanese consumers spend less that will hurt Singapore's exports and have a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy." Economists see some rebound in 2010, forecasting 4.2 percent growth, but that would be well below average annual growth of 6.8 percent between 2003 and 2007. Singapore slipped into recession - defined as two quarters of negative quarterly growth - in the third quarter. Philip McNicholas, an economist at Ideal Global in Singapore, said the first quarter of next year would be especially tough - he forecasts GDP will drop at an annualised rate of 15 percent, seasonally adjusted, as exports plunge. "That will be mainly due to a collapse in U.S. sentiment," McNicholas said. "The U.S. plans a fiscal stimulus package early next year, but it's got to get that through Congress and to the people, so that may not be until the end of Q1 or the start of Q2." The government pledged $1.5 billion last month to help firms secure credit and said it was prepared to run a bigger budget deficit to boost the economy. Manufacturing accounts for about a quarter of the economy and factory output fell 12.7 percent in October from September, seasonally adjusted, and 12.6 percent from a year earlier, led by sliding electronics and drugs output. Manufacturing is expected to be harder hit next year as the downturn in advanced economies accelerates and job losses in the sector will rise as a result, analysts say. Rising unemployment will dent consumer spending, which is not being helped by a decline in tourism since August. As the weak economy will encourage the authorities to keep monetary policy loose, the Singapore dollar is likely to remain sluggish, the poll forecast.
The real battleground will be in Hong Kong, the US and Europe when it comes to lawsuits on mis-selling. Singaporeans will have to fight with both hands tied behind their backs. Justice will come to people in countries with govts that believe in it.
HONG KONG - TWO former Singapore residents have sued DBS Bank (Hong Kong) for selling them structured products linked to the now-collapsed United States investment bank Lehman Brothers. The retired couple, Mr Stephen Tou Kwok Woon and his wife Wong Fung Chun, filed a writ on Monday against the bank in the High Court here. The pair, who now live in San Francisco in the US, are seeking to recover the US$1.26 million (S$1.89 million) they had invested in DBS Constellation Notes in July 2006 and April last year. In their lawsuit, the couple have alleged misrepresentation and breach of duty of care. According to court papers obtained by The Straits Times, the couple said they had returned to Hong Kong - after living in Singapore - with a view to retirement. They had sold their property in Singapore and moved the proceeds - nearly all their life savings - from DBS Singapore to an account with the bank in Hong Kong. In July 2006, the couple said, they were sold Series 43 Constellation structured retail notes for US$950,000 by a relationship manager at a DBS branch. They claimed they had initially asked about putting their money in a fixed deposit account for retirement income and told the bank employee that they had little investment experience. The relationship manager then allegedly recommended the structured notes, saying they were as safe as a fixed deposit account. The couple said they were told that the notes were issued on the strength of eight well-known financial institutions or listed companies with high credit ratings, representing a low-risk portfolio. They said their attention was not drawn to any potential risks. Instead, they were told that in the unlikely event one of the institutions failed, the worst that could happen would be a one-eighth reduction in the principal value. The sale was completed in 20 minutes, they said. In April last year, the relationship manager phoned the couple, who were by then in the US, recommending Series 73 notes, which were 'of the same nature' as their previous investment. The couple said they agreed to put in US$310,000. The couple said that in late October or early November this year, a DBS representative called them to say, without further explanation, that the notes had lost all, or nearly all, of their value. They lodged a complaint with the bank but have yet to receive a satisfactory answer. They said they found out only in October that the notes were high-risk financial instruments. The failure of one institution could lead to a total loss. DBS has 14 days to indicate if it wishes to defend the lawsuit, after which it has another 14 days to file its defence. When contacted yesterday, DBS declined to comment as it is an ongoing legal matter. The couple's legal team is led by Senior Counsel Anthony Neoh, who has served as chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission. email@example.com
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Recently, the telcos have done what amounts to cheating. The send an SMS for a service and if you don't reply to cancel it, it means you have agreed to subscribe to it. They will proceed to bill you. If you're too busy, you won't even notice these billings.
Here are some stories....
Watchout for deceptive Singtel charges and practices.
Singtel includes a 3 month Free MP3 Download service in the fine print of new mobile plans
At the end of 3 months you must OPT-OUT to avoid a $5/mth change
It appears to be impossible to opt-out of this service
Last week I discovered a charge of $16.05 for something called "MP3 Music Pack" on my Singtel mobile account. I called Singtel to get it removed as it was not something had requested or used. After much discussion the operator told me the charge was for 3 months use of the service, after the initial 3 month FREE trial period expired. Six months ago I signed up for Singtel's Mobile Broadband plan, not changing my basic phone plan, but seems that Singtel included this free value added service. She told me I should have responded to an SMS message that was sent to me if I DID NOT want to continue with this "service" at a costs $5.35/mth.She cancelled the $16.05 change and I told her to cancel this value added service. I thought that was the end of it. An hour ago I got this text message:"MP3 Music Pack FREE offer will end in 3 days & a charge of $5.35/mth applies if you wish to continue. You may unsubscribe from MP3 Music Pack site."I have just wasted 45 mins trying to find any reference to this website - there is nothing on the SingTel site as this seems to be a 3rd party service. I managed to log on to my IDEAS account and discovered this:Date & Time Transaction Description Content Provider Qty Price Transaction Fee 01/11/2007 12:00:46 AM MP3 Music Pack Oracle Vision 1 $5.00 $0.00 Even googling Oracle Vision and MP3 Music Pack does not provide any way to opt-out. Only other people complaining about the same problem.Unfortunately I am travelling for a few weeks and cannot easily call Singtel but will give them hell when I get back.In the meantime check your bills.This is clearly a scam and Singtel is enabling it by including it in most new mobile plans, and then making opting-out virtually impossible (at least for me). According to Singtel's website you get this "MP3 Music Pack" service and the additional $5.35/mth charge if you have signed up for Singtel's iOne+, iTwo Value, iTwo+ plans - it's most popular ones. It is highly likely Singtel have signed-up many hundreds of thousands of people to new plans this year. At $5 per month that is getting to be pretty serious money.If you can figure out how to opt-out of this "service" please let me know.
I feel like I have just been cheated by Singapore's biggest phone services provider, Singtel.I think I have to alert people out there because number-porting is now available, and more people might be unknowingly penalised like me.Here's the story:My Singtel 2-year contract ended on 29 Oct 2008.I want to change provider to Starhub while retaining my old hp number which I use on the Singtel SIM card.Hence, I sign a plan with Starhub on 22 Oct 2008 and ported over my old number to Starhub SIM card on 31 Oct.Obviously no premature termination of contract.And I did not expect Singtel to bill me on permature termination while jumping ship to Starhub.What I am angry and sad and disappointed about Singtel:Last and latest bill from Singtel charged me on "Equipment Plan Termination" - $250.
There is no explanation, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT EQUIPMENT PLAN TERMINATION MEANS. Which means, as a consumer with rights, I don't know what I am being billed for!I checked and found out that it means I bought my Handphone at a discounted or so called contract rate with them. e.g. less $200 off the phone if you sign ABC plan with us.Which I find totally absurd. I do not owe Singtel anything according to my knowledge.Throughout the 2 years with them I was a really patriotic customer who told everybody Singtel is the best, with the best coverage and clarity etc, and jio-ed the "whole world" to change Singtel.Facts:I did not buy a hp at point in time when I signed contract which ended on Oct 29 2008. Yes, I was told I would be charged for prematured termination. Yes, I agreed and signed on the dot.In the mean time, I bought a K800 at $500+ definitely empty phone no-contract price from Singtel dealer at Jurong Point. I lost it after 2 months, from Mar to May 2007.Hence, I bought another empty phone (I THOUGHT) from Singtelshop Weat Mall, N95 at $1188. HOW CAN THIS PRICE BE CONSIDERED CONTRACT PHONE!!!THE BEST THING: Singtelshop did not TELL ME nor ASK ME TO SIGN ANYTHING, that this is a contract phone, and that if I bought ANY phone from official big big SINGTELSHOP, it's ALL contract phone regardless of price of whether you sign plan. Hence it means that I have just agreed to ANOTHER 2-year plan to STAY with Singtel OVER my existing line plan. Which means without my knowledge, I am on a DOUBLE contract ending on different dates.They say there are fine prints under the T&C when you buy a phone. Thing is, we are not alerted to it AS USUAL. And I did not SIGN anything. If I were made to sign, I AM THAT KIND WHO READS EVERY FINE PRINT! Then I would know, and would not anyhow terminate my contract.They don't ask you to sign, and they expect you to know. AND I was under 21 years old. It means, under the law which is SUPPOSED to protect not-so-liable citizens who are supposed to be gullible and cannot sign anything (I can't even apply for my own roaming services), they should ask for a guarantor besides me when I buy the phone, to double check.ALL THESE, they did not do.I feel like the DBS cheat old people with money case now!They did not lie. They just DID NOT TELL YOU THE WHOLE TRUTH.EVEN MORE ANGRY BECAUSE:Singtel only sent me a small and unobvious SMS to offer me to stay with them (since we can now retain numbers regardless of providers).They did not make a single meaningful effective effort to ALERT customer that their plan is ending, and to retain their customer.Maybe they are just planning to cheat people into penalties like premature termination and all. They think they are the biggest, so give us this DISGUSTING attitude that they don't need us. And we want to leave, leave.Wheareas, Starhub has been treating its customer with sincerity and care (I have cable and maxonline) and show us they THEY KNOW WE EXIST.HOW DOES SINGTEL EXPECT A CUSTOMER LIKE THIS TO NOT JUMP SHIP???I wonder.I complained to them about this, and they automatically waived my caller-ID charges at $5 a month for 5 months. ABSOLUTELY STUPID and useless as I have already told them clearly in the complaint that I have switched lines. CAN'T THEY USE THEIR COMMON SENSE!!!Please be alert, those of you who want to retain you number while changing providers, especially if you bought a phone from Singtelshop not on the point in time that you signed plan. And let your friends know, ask them to check as well.*I know most people buy phone when they sign plan, and I might be minority victim.Now, I will have to pay the charges. But this is going to CASE. I hope they will put up measures to protect consumers... sigh.
wah so jialat....i similar situation as u but mine is e broadband...i sign 2 yrs contract with them in 2005, which means after 2007 i'm free to choose to either cont / stop rite??den i moved out of my hse early 2008... my bills were not paid from march to july.... $35 x 5 = $175... in e end they terminated e line in aug and charge me a total of $500+!!!i called e hotline and they told me early termination fee = $88++, admin fee = $53++ and miscellanous fee.... WTF? can from $175 jump to $500.... anyway by e time i read e lawyer letter ( thank god i went hm tt day! ) i left 2 days to pay up or pay more money to e lawyer... i LPPL pay up first lor.... happened 3 days back... dun understand y got termination fee also since i'm not under any contract...
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Part 2 is here : [LINK]
Mr. Leong did quite a thorough job to explain the problems caused by HDB policies. I have just a few more points to add.
HDB sells the most expensive public housing in the world but stilll claims that it's flats are affordable. The default rate for HDB concessionary loans has escalated to 8% - this is higher than the 5% default rate in the US at the height of the subprime problem. When confronted with this grim statistic, the govt put the blame on Singaporeans saying they should only buy what they can afford . This is an insult to the intelligence of Singaporeans - the HDB has income ceilings to force Singaporeans to purchase bigger flats and they now turnaround to say people have been buying flats they can't afford.
In the 1980s, the CPF was liberalised for the purchase of private housing. This single rule change caused the price of private property to surge. Shortly after, the govt decided to liberalise the use of CPF for HDB flats. The property index went up from around 40 in 1986 to 180 in 1996 a surge of 450% in one decade outpacing the growth in household income. The use of CPF for housing caused a severe insufficiency in retirement funds for Singaporeans. The govt kept raising retirement age and asking people to work harder and longer to fix the shortfall. Last year the govt introduced compulsory annuities in the form of CPF Life. The point is we had serious problems during the "good times" because of bad policies and these are simply going to get worse as we move ahead. The 8% defauilt rate occurred before the mass retrenchments started and at the beginning of this recession.
In the 70s, when you bought a home, you pay for it in cash....settled on the spot...$30K for a landed private property....zero debt...and you slept well at night. Financing for home started to expand - housing loans started stretching from 10 years to 15 years to 25 years to 35 years. At the same time, job security disappeared over time and the income gap ballooned. This is a formula for disaster. A person is supposed to have uninterrupted and continuous employment for decades to service his housing loan....the high household debt makes the balance sheet Singaporean households very fragile. The problem gets worse with a large segment of the population whose income is actually stagnant or declining. Servicing a loan for 2 or 3 room flats at HDB's prices causes them to live under tremendous strain and misery.
These problems caused by bad policies have existed for a while. However, they are masked by the good times when Singaporeans held on hoping that the rising tide can lift them. The PAP govt's first reaction to the worsening situation is to blame Singaporeans for buying flats that they cannot afford. Given the govt sets the policies on how flats are priced, allocated, financed and sold to the public, such a claim is simply absurd.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Remember MI185? Several years ago, a Silkair Boeing 737-36N crashed into the Musi river. A few weeks later a story in an aviation magazine suggested that the crash was caused by pilot suicide. This was shocking to those who knew the pilot and his friends spoke out against this suggestion saying it was inconsistent of what they knew about the man. They were drowned out later by "mysterious" leaked reports about his insurance policy purchased before this flight, his losses on the stock market, his disciplinary problems, how the flight recorders were switched off before the plunge ...and there was even a story about the MI185 crash occurred on the anniversary of the crash of a group of "Black Hawks"(?) stunt pilots of which the captain was part of the team but couldn't fly on the day of the crash that killed his friends. When the investigation which took years to complete by the Indonesian authorities was closed, the Indonesian insisted that the pilot suicide theory was inconclusive and that conflicted with the findings the US NSTB helping them. The NSTB issued a separate annex that concluded that the crash was caused by pilot suicide. By then many of the passengers' relatives had accepted the suicide theory and went on with their lives. They were all tired of waiting for the conclusions of the investigation, accepted compensation from Silkair and move on with their lives....all except for a small group of 3 families.
This group pursued legal action against Boeing right up the Los Angeles Supreme Court aided by American lawyers. They won the lawsuit 7 years after the crash in 2004. The lawyers found evidence that the servo valve controlling the rudder can actually malfunction at a certain height and temperature. When that happened, the plane wouldl nosedive. They also showed the flight recorders can stop recording under mechanical strain. Not only that, the American law firm Nolan Law Group found that the US NSTB had data showing that the FDR stopped recording only 30 s before the crash not 6 minutes as previously reported but this was not given or ignored by the Indonesian authorities. They obtained this information using the Freedom of Information Act. The Nolan lawyers showed the actions of the pilot was consistent with someone trying to bring the plane back into control rather than crashing it. The company that made the servo valve did not rollover and admit guilt - they appealed the ruling but decided they couldn't win and settled out of court.
What am I getting at?.....These few points:
1. It is not easy to fight big corporations. Do they play by the rules? Why were there information leaks during the investigation?
2. They will fight you even when they know they are wrong....especially when compensation is involved. The idea is to wear you out.
3. The authorities who are suppose to find the truth can make mistakes.
4. Most govt agencies in a certain little island state is more interested in moving on and hoping everything quiet down than pursuing the truth and justice. Justice is a DIY thing. Once you give up, it is game over.
5. American law firms whose survival and prosperity depends class action lawsuits can wage effective battles against corporations. The good ones have a track record of success. They don't win, they don't eat and don't survive.
6. The MI185 families took their fight all the way to Los Angeles, USA where they won. The playing field is not level around the world when you're fighting big companies.
Truth?...what kind of justice you get depends a lot on your determination to pursue it. It would be better if the people who are suppose to be on your side such as elected representatives are helping you - you see that in Belgium, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Banks are not going to feel guilty and compensate you even if they are wrong, they will fight you all the way. You can go through the process of filing complaints like the govt ask you to but you'll soon find yourself at the end of the road alone with the other victims. The idea is if you give up and become silent, the problem is solved in the eyes of the govt. They will just move on and leave this group of people behind just like they did many others. Moving on is an art our govt has mastered and silence is sin that Singaporeans often commit.
HK mini-bond holders invited to bring suit in US: lawmaker
5 hours ago
HONG KONG (AFP) — Hong Kong investors who were allegedly mis-sold mini-bonds in the collapsed bank Lehman Brothers have been invited to mount an international lawsuit against the institutions involved, a lawmaker here said Friday.
James To, a lawmaker from the Democratic Party here, which is acting for most of a group of some 40,000 mini-bond holders in the city, said US lawyers presented them a proposal for a legal action in a US court.
"The lawyers have presented us a very detailed proposal. Their proposed action will be to sue some of the US institutions involved in the handling of the mini-bonds for a breach of duty according to American law," To told AFP.
More than 40,000 Hong Kong investors, including many retirees, put a total of 15.7 billion Hong Kong dollars (2.01 billion US) into mini-bonds and other complex financial products backed by Lehman Brothers.
To refused to divulge the background of the lawyers or details of the institutions listed on the proposal. But he said that the lawyers had made sure that those were the institutions whose assets remained intact following the bankruptcy of the investment giant Lehman Brothers in September.
The lawmaker said the lawyers had also approached affected investors in other places, including Singapore.
"These lawyers are very aggressive. They have identified the Lehman saga as an excellent business opportunity for them," he said.
His party is now consulting US legal experts for their views on the proposed action. He said the party would only discuss the matter with the investors if they could be sure that the lawsuit would not place the investors under further financial burden.
The Wall Street icon filed for bankruptcy in September as it buckled under the weight of the collapse in US subprime, or high risk, mortgages.
The investors mounted protests against the banks, the Hong Kong government and the city's financial regulators, urging a full refund.
Friday, December 05, 2008
"Misleading advertising violates legislation on trade practices. The question is whether the people, when they bought these products, if they were properly informed about the possible risks. There was talk of capital guarantee- 100% and it then it turned out that 1) it was a product that was not from the same bank they bought it from; and 2) afterwards it also turned out to be a bank that was vulnerable to problems..." - Minister Van Quixkznborne of Belgium.
The protestors were received by Economic Minister Quizkznborne.
Point 1 : Singapore investors are not unreasonable to ask for compensation like investors every where else.
Point 2: Unlike Singapore ministers who are too busy to even talk to Singaporean victims, the Belgium minister received the protestors and spoke to them to see how he could help. Now you know why Singapore ministers are so highly paid. They are so busy they don't have time to handle small matters such as the loss of lifesavings of 10,000 Singaporeans. Not only are our ministers busy, our top public servants in MAS are also very busy.....too busy to talk to ordinary Singaporeans. The leaders of other countries are incapable of saying these things to their citizens - "you go in with your eyes open", "case closed", "it is all in the prospectus"....which makes our leaders unique....
Penang voted for the Opposition in the last elections. Now what kind of information do they get? Here's an interesting piece of info posted in Jeff Ooi's blog. It shows the cost of a study trip the Penang govt made to S. Korea:
They spent RM$32K ($14K) on the 5 day trip which had a contigent of 52...10 ministers/civil servants + 42 private sector reps. Now that is less than S$300 per person for the trip. Assuming the 42 private sector fellers paid their own way - the cost for each member of govt is $1.4K. Boy that is cost effective govt - flying economy class, not staying in 5 star hotels. I wonder if $14K is enough for a single minister in Singapore for such a trip .....I guess I'll never know because it is a state secret.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
The public servants at NLB was really terrfied when they found its logo on the posters of U60SG an event celebrating the 60th anniversary of UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) in Singapore. It was removed from all the softcopies but it was too late to remove from the hardcopies which were already printed. I hope our public servants are more vigilant next time.....and not get involve with these religious fanatics next time.
The main problem with the UDHR is that it incompatible with our system of govt. Remember our system has evolved under the PAP govt to be superior to that what they have in any other country - that is why only the PAP is able to change it because nobody else can change it by copying the best practices from somewhere else.
There is no way for the UDHR to be adopted in Singapore, here's why:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
If we are suppose to treat everyone with equal dignity how is the govt going to warn us about evil opposition members without humiliating them?
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Singapore is famous around the world for its treatment of domestic helpers otherwise known as maids. Our govt has refused to require the inclusion standard clauses in the such as giving the maid a minimum 8 hours of sleep per day, 1 day off per week and limits on salary deductions in the employment contracts. Giving the maid 3 meals a day was a requirement added in 2006, it took the govt sometime to realise that that the maid needs 3 meals a day like other human beings.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
How is our govt going to protect us from Marxist Conspirators if it respects this? How is our govt going to protect us from evil men like Chia Thye Poh if it doesn't have the ISA to detain people without trial and sometimes without comprehensible reason?
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Singapore adheres to this as long as nobody wears kangaroo T-shirts into court.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 12 is okay except members of the opposition especially this person called CSJ who has been called a liar, cheat, psychopath, gangster, madman etc. Once you can't appreciate the grand achievements and the great ideas of the PAP, I guess you don't deserve any honour and should have your reputation smeared and destroyed.
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
If your surname is Chee and have to attend a course in Stanford, you have no right to leave the country[Link]. Our govt spend millions on branding Singapore as a hip and happy place, we simply can't allow people to leave the country and give foreigners a different impression of Singapore. Article 13 is definitely not suitable for Singapore.
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Article 30 conflicts with our illegal assembly laws that requires a permit for 5 or above to gather....by default not granted if you want to associate with evil opposition members.
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Everyone in Singapore knows that elections are to show support for estate upgrading. Our leaders are selected for us through the PAP selection process and we can't freely choose our leaders unless we are willing to live in a degraded environment without lift upgrades, covered walkways and blue dolphin fountains.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Elitism gone wrong! Once recruited into the system, generous scholarships, good cushy jobs and predefined formulas for success. They don't earn the respect of ordinary Singaporeans who compete and struggle for a living. They have lost touch with the ground.
Recession.......and the approaching hardship
It is pushing more Singaporeans to speak out;
Will they be serious enough to affect the political landscape in next 10 years? By Seah Chiang Nee.Nov 29, 2009
WILL a long, severe recession that seems to be shaping up during Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s advancing years reshape Singapore’s future landscape?
How much hardship will it inflict on a people who are unused to it? If the answer is “a very painful lot” will it then throw up a new set of leaders who can reinvent Singapore’s brilliant past?
In a small way, changes are beginning to show economically – and also in politics.
For one thing, more Singaporeans are shedding their reticence to speak out, and even making a stand. Both the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and the opposition are attracting promising recruits.
Take a recent development: A former PAP stalwart and ex-CEO of a government-linked insurance company, Tan Kin Lian has been openly taking on the government and creating waves.
A member of the ruling elite who recently quit after 30 years over policy differences, Tan announced his conditional intention to contest in the next elected presidential or general election as an independentcandidate.
He is creating ripples at a time when Singapore is facing its worst economic crisis in decades.
Tan explained his reason, saying, “When I joined the PAP, it was the party of the people.
“It carried out many remarkable projects, such as building HDB flats, and created a transparent economy,” he said in an interview. “But as the years go by, I think the party has lost touch with the ground.”
Before committing himself, he would like to get 100,000 signatures of support to be collected by online sympathisers – a tough proposition in apathetic Singapore.
“I need to know that people want the change. If not, then there is no point.”
After 10 years serving in a senior constituency position, Tan became inactive and finally quit three months ago because he had disagreed over the years with its value system.
Calling himself an egalitarian, Tan hit out at its elitist rule. He said he found it unfair how a disproportionate number of the academically successful had come from higher-income families.
“How many of our leaders take the MRT and bus like me? If they do, they will know that the MRT is crowded even at 10pm,” he asked.
His emergence has boosted the hopes of Singaporeans who were hoping for an opposition figure to emerge to fill the vacuum left behind by the recent death of Mr. JB Jeyaratnam.
Tan has become the “Man of the Hour” to many youths, especially some 10,000 victims who were allegedly misguided by DBS, a government-controlled bank into buying Lehman structured products and losing S$500mil.
He is fighting on their behalf, speaking at public rallies almost every weekend and sending repeated petitions to the authorities for compensation to the victims.
In fact he has been hitting the news more often than most government leaders.
An adept public speaker, he is also ahead of cabinet ministers in one respect: he operates a busy weblog to connect with Singaporeans, where he answers questions about their investment problems.
The significance lies firstly in the timing. His appearance takes place just as the recession and unpopular policies are souring the ground for the ruling party.
Secondly, the government is preparing for a snap general election to get a fresh mandate to tackle the recession. Elections are not due until 2011.
An election in 2009 could result in Minister Mentor Lee deciding to stand for another five-year term, which will let him stay on, health permitting, to age 93 – instead of 95 or 96.
Even if Tan were to stand and win entry into the presidency or Parliament, it is unlikely to change the political equation.
Only severe hardship and perhaps the PAP’s own mistakes in handling it can. Tan’s challenge will, however, add a little to the PAP’s vulnerability.
Not everyone is cheering him on. A minority accused him of exploiting investors’ troubles to serve his self interests.
Few analysts expect the PAP to lose an election anytime soon. Its record as a stable, capable government remains in many people’s minds despite the crop of unpopular policies it has pushed through.
The younger set of leaders is, however, undergoing a baptism of fire and not exactly coming out with flying colours.
“These scholars are not of the same calibre as the first generation of leaders like Lee, Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam” is a general comment on the ground.
To an extent, it is not a fair comparison.
For 40 years, Singapore has changed into a modern, rich country whose citizens have lived stable lives with little exposure to real trouble, let alone a national disaster.
This is not an environment that can normally produce brilliant leaders.
Throughout much of history, men like Abraham Lincoln, Mao Zedong, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill – or Lee Kuan Yew – were thrown up by the chaos or wars in their countries.
On the contrary, nations that lived in stable abundance, like the United States, Canada, Western Europe and Australia, will find it almost impossible to throw up leaders of vision.
So reverting back to my earlier question: Will Singapore’s predicament generate enough chaos to throw up a new set of brilliant leaders like those in the 60’s?
The answer is: Probably not. At any rate no one wants to create leaders in this manner anyway.
With its better skills and work culture, Singapore will likely resume its previous growth path in 10 years’ time – whether under the PAP or outside it.
(This article was published in The Star on Nov 29, 2008)
Hey, given the grand achievements of the PAP govt, its 4 decades of building trust, a caring govt, a govt of the highest integrity and govt of the highest competence, one can expect at least a few ordinary Singaporeans to stand up and say a few good things about the govt. Where are these people? There has to be something good about this govt worth defending. Surely there is someone who is not paid by the govt, does not depend on govt for business or a job ...surely given the quality of this govt, there has to be someone willing to stand up and say a few good things about the govt.....what happened to all these people why so quiet?
When the Internet became widely used, all we get is this negativity about the govt sloshing around in cyberspace. It must have been disappointing...even terrifying for our govt. Given what they thought of themselves, they must have expected a thousand blogs dedicated to the profound thoughts of MM Lee and another thousand dedicated his grand achievements. There should be another thousand blogs dedicated to explaining the superiority of the Singapore govt's policies and planning over those lesser govts. But all we see is citicism...more criticism. Our leaders who have made a painful sacrifice to lead us are so disappointed. They tried to first to control the Internet by regulation, monitor it to induce fear,....but decided recently that they needed to embrace it....yes, it has been a love-hate relationship with the new media but they realised that they have no choice but to love it and hope it will love back.
If Chee wants protests to be allowed everywhere in Singapore, he should really do the opposite of what he has been doing. He should send someone to Hong Lim Park every week to say wonderful things about the govt or talk about the evil western media. I'm sure a video of this will make it to the desk of our PM and he will be so delighted and happy with the decision to allow protests in Hong Lim, he will allow protests in every housing estate...and may be everywhere in Singapore. If the Internet did bring with it 1000 blogs dedicated to promoting the Singapore form of govt and explaining the superiority of our system over the inferior ones in the western world, our govt would have embraced it from day 1. Singaporeans are not ready for freedom of speech until they learn to use that freedom to praise our esteemed govt. Singaporeans are only ready for their human rights the day they learn to use it against the oppressive western media that imposes its ideas on us. Singaporeans are not ready for democracy ....until they are ready to use it to defend the great ideas of this govt...