Monday, February 27, 2012

The Unfortunate Story of Yeo Chong Lin

Today in the news we read the story of Mr Yeo Chong Lin.
Tycoon gives $1 inheritance to each of his children
Sin Chew Daily/ANN
Saturday, Feb 25, 2012
Shipping tycoon Yeo Chong Lin is giving only S$1 (RM2.40) inheritence to each of his four children.

The 77-year-old Singaporean did not leave a single cent to his girlfriend of six years.

Instead, Yeo left his entire 5$45 million fortune to his seven siblings.

He told Lianhe wanbao that he had severed ties with his children.

Yeo, the main shareholders of Yeo Holdings, lost a divorce suit in which he was ordered to pay S$24 million to his ex-wife Nancy Tay last year.


"For the past 60 years, I work so hard everyday, sacrificing myself so that my family get to live a comfortable life.

"I sent my children to study abroad. Not only that they need not work to earn the tuition fees, they could drive new cars around.

"They never appreciate what I've done for them. I don't owe them anything!"

Seriously SMRT, what on earth is going on?

I wanted to blog about this issue when I saw the news article last weekend about a 2nd rail clip being found in 4 days. But today, I open the news and then I see that a 3rd (!) rail clip has been found in a week!
3rd MRT rail clip found dislodged near Ang mo Kio
Feb 17, 2012
By Lin zhaowei
Another dislodged rail clip has been found below an MRT viaduct - the third in a week.

This 10cm, palm-sized metal piece was found a few hundred metres from Ang Mo Kio station along Ang mo Kio Avenue 8, near a jogging track in the space below the viaduct.

But train operator SMRT said its checks did not turn up any clip missing from the track near where it was found.

These rail clips are supposed to secure the MRT rail to the wooden plank under it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why it Pays to be a Foreign Talent PR in Singapore, Today!!

Singapore is a great place for foreigners to live, work and play! Just take the example of Mr Peter Breitkreutz, an Australian citizen who came to work in Singapore and who fell in love with the country!

Mr Peter Breitkreutz is an Australian citizen who attained his Singapore Permanent Residency (PR) in 2008. Mr Breitkreutz is currently a Senior Vice President of Citibank in Singapore, and is very proud about the fact that he is a Singapore PR. He owns a resale HDB flat in Sengkang West and is married to a Shanghainese wife, and they have two sons.

Mr Breitkreutz is the self-proclaimed "Singapore's favourite expat" and who writes the "most read and subscribed to expat blog in Singapore." He has won several blogging awards, and has even been recruited by the Singapore Government (MICA) to help promote Singapore to foreigners as a great place to live, work, study and play! The Singapore Government absolutely LOVES talented foreigners like Mr Breitkreutz, so much so that it has a special name for them - "foreign talent"!

Friday, February 24, 2012

In Singapore, the Rich Get Richer... while the rest of us Struggle with Inflation

A couple of headline news in the Business Times caught my attention today. The first is regarding record high price for a luxury bungalow plot in Nassim Road:
Peter Kwee sells Nassim Rd plot for about $47.8m
$2,000 psf on land area is a new high for a GCB on Nassim Road

(SINGAPORE) Motoring tycoon Peter Kwee is said to have sold a vacant plot along Nassim Road for about $47.8 million or $2,000 per square foot (psi) based on its freehold land area of about 23,920 sq ft.

While the psf land price for the transaction is slightly shy of the $2,081 psf islandwide record for a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) Area set last year, it is nonetheless said to be a fresh high for Nassim Road.

Newsman Realty confirmed it brokered the latest deal. The buyer is a Singaporean  businessman, said the firm's managing director KH Tan.
The second article is regarding the introduction of the Pagani Huayra into Singapore.

Nonsensical Forum Letter on Cheap Foreign Labour

A letter by a certain Ng Ya Ken was published on the TODAYonline Voices section. It contains several nonsensical and idiotic statements that I would wish to debunk. Note: I have no affiliation with SPP and have no vested interest in defending the SPP.
Cheap foreign labour: Who's responsible?
Letter from Ng Ya Ken 04:46 AM Feb 22, 2012
THE Singapore People's Party's chairman, Mrs Lina Chiam, thinks that the effect of foreign labour "is akin to the use of performance-enhancement drugs in sports", as reported in "Opposition parties weigh in on Budget measures" (Feb 19).

Her analogy may not be appropriate, as the use of foreign labour is mainly out of necessity and demand stems mainly from the private sector.

Tin Pei Ling Next in Line to Sue TR Emeritus?

Channelnewsasia reports that TRE and Lee Hsien Yang have reached an "amicable settlement". Lee is reportedly satisfied with the deletion of the allegedly defamatory comment and the expression on the part of TRE.

Mr Lee's lawyer said: "My client is satisfied that his requests have been met, that the false and defamatory postings have been removed and that TRE' has acknowledged and expressed regret over this posting. The vindication of his name and reputation is important."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Budget 2012: Thoughts on the $1.1 billion Bus Fund

Here is my take on the $1.1 billion that Tharman announced the Government will be setting aside to help alleviate the public transport problem. While there are not many details currently released on how the partnership between the Govt and the PTOs is going to be structured, IMHO the Govt should follow these principles in structuring the public-private partnership.

A History of Defamation Suits and Other Similar Actions in Singapore


Lee Kuan Yew sues Far Eastern Economic Review for defamation. Damages unknown.


J.B. Jeyaretnam sued for slander for allegedly implying that Lee Kuan Yew had abetted Teh Cheang Wan's suicide and helped to cover up Teh's corruption. Jeyaretnam was found guilty and was ordered him to pay damages of S$260,000 plus costs to Lee.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tharman's 2012 Budget Speech & the Spectre of Government Failure

One of the key features, if not the key feature of the 2012 Budget Speech, is the reduction in foreign worker dependency ratio ceilings (DRCs) and Man-Year Entitlement (MYE) quotas. Stung by the results of the 2011 general elections, the PAP has u-turned on its pro-foreign worker stance and the Minister for Finance has stated unequivocally to businesses that they must reduce their dependence on foreign labour.

Read deeper between the lines, however, and you will see a tacit admission of Government failure. Here are two critical paragraphs in Tharman's budget speech regarding the clamping down of foreign labour inflow:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Open Challenge to PM Lee Hsien Loong

In the light of the recent events surrounding PM Lee's lawsuit threat against TR Emeritus, I would like to issue a challenge to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Board of Directors of Temasek Holdings, to put to rest, once and for all, the doubts and rumours surrounding Ho Ching's appointment as CEO of Temasek Holdings.

Instead of wasting time and money on unleashing lawsuit threats against hapless bloggers, the Prime Minister and the Government of Singapore should practice the highest standards of transparency and accountability with regards to the corporate governance of Temasek Holdings, for the benefit of its ultimate beneficiary owners, the citizens of Singapore.

I demand that the Prime Minister provide complete, incontrovertible, exhaustive documentary evidence demonstrating beyond a shadow of doubt that the selection process that ended in the appointment of Ho Ching as CEO of Temasek was made "on merit and through proper process".

Monday, February 20, 2012

PM Lee's Lawsuit Threat is a Serious Strategic Mistake

Following in the footsteps of Minister for Law K Shanmugam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's lawyers have served a letter to TR Emeritus over a commentary the latter published which, amongst other things, "alleged that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong secured or was instrumental in securing the appointment of his wife, Mdm Ho Ching, as the chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited for nepotistic motives". TRE has been threatened with legal proceedings and damages and costs will be pursued if TRE does not delete the article and publish an apology.

This is an unfortunate turn of events in Singapore's political history and political media. It is a politically regressive move by the PAP ministers which undoes the efforts of the PAP to "shape a more inclusive society." For the following reasons, these lawsuit threats must be regarded as serious strategic errors by the PAP.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

K Shanmugam should "Come clean with the people"

In a now infamous letter to Alex Au of Yawning Bread, K Shanmugam's lawyers declared,
1. We act for Mr K Shanmugam.

2. We refer to the following comments that you have made on your website,, under the Responses section of the blog posting entitled “The Media and Yaw Shin Leong” published on 8 February 2012:
“I take the points raised in the above two comments. Indeed, I think the role of the mainstream press in this issue needs to be contrasted with the relative silence when it came to allegations swirling around K Shanmugam and Foo Mee Har at various points in the recent past. That there were rumours is widely known, though as in the Yaw Shin Leong case, no one can point to any proof. But that’s not my point here. My point is that the mainstream media’s interest in the Yaw affair does not look like neutral journalism. “
(Response No 24 dated 9 February 2012 at 23:34hrs) (the “Blog Comments’)

3. The allegations against our client that you have referred to in the Blog Comments have been put up primarily by a person who calls himself “scroobal’ on the internet. The allegations are false and scurrilous.
 With reference to the above letter, K Shanmugam should clarify the following:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Myth of PAP’s Miracle – Paul Krugman Revisited; Productivity Problem Redux

Singapore has struggled with the issue of productivity growth for a very long time.

As far back as 1972, Singapore set up the National Productivity Board (NPB) to improve individuals' and companies' productivity in all sectors of the economy. The NPB adopted a so-called "total productivity" approach, which emphasized productivity measurement, product quality, worker training, and assistance to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In the 1980s, growth via productivity was a key agenda on policy makers’ minds. In 1981, Singapore set up the Productivity Standards Board (1981). In 1982, NPB launched a nationwide productivity campaign (remember Teamy the Productivity Bee?) to encourage the move from labor-intensive activities to more highly-skilled and technology-driven work. In 1986, then cabinet minister BG Lee Hsien Loong pointed out that Singapore was industrially “still predominantly a manufacturing production base. Products are designed overseas, and then only produced in Singapore factories on our production lines.” The budgets of the 1980s had as part of their objectives, the goal to get out of the cheap-labour trap and to move into high-skill industries. 1980s budgets often created incentives and disincentives for this transformation.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Tan Jee Say Endorsed by Low Thia Khiang: Dream Candidate for Hougang By-Election?

Now that there is going to be a by-election, pundits are speculating whether there will be a third party contesting Hougang, in addition to the definite participation of PAP and WP. Straits Times reports that at least two non-WP candidates, 2011 Presidential candidate Tan Jee Say and Frankie Low are interested in contesting the ward.

While I think Frankie Low is a long shot who is likely to lose his election deposit if he chooses to contest in Hougang, Tan Jee Say could potentially be a dream candidate if he joins the WP and is endorsed by Low Thia Khiang to stand in Hougang. At the moment, the alternatives in the WP are not very strong, with the front runners being the previous contestants from East Coast GRC.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Foreign Talent" Issue is a Symptom of the Power Struggle between the Political, Corporate Elite and the Working Class

There has been a lot of argumentation about whether the "foreign talent" policy is the right policy for Singapore and the PAP Government as the primary proponent of Singapore's hyper liberal immigration policies, has given all sorts of reasons why Singapore needs a massive influx of foreigners. These reasons consist of arguments regarding Singapore's need for foreign labor to supplement economic growth, and to "top-up" the shrinking population." Meanwhile the opposition and other critics of the foreign talent policy usually fall into the trap of engaging the PAP on their terms and use counter arguments as to why the policy doesn't really work. Such arguments usually run along the lines of foreigners overloading the infrastructure, depressing wages, lowering the standard of living, lowering productivity etc.

Housing Prices and the Credit Impulse: A Singaporean Analysis

According to latest reports on the Singapore property market, the number of private homes sold soared to a 14-month high in January 2012, indicating that housing demand remained buoyant, contrary to expectations of a slowdown in housing market activity due to the implementation of ABSD (additional buyer stamp duty) in December 2011. Indeed, ABSD appears to have had a muted effect on reining in demand for mass market properties, and recent launches such as the Watertown and the Hillier selling extremely well, and approx 90% of sales going to Singaporeans.

As to be expected, none of the articles published and none of the experts quoted have made any detailed analysis of the state of credit expansion as a facilitator or driver of housing demand and housing prices. Economist Steve Keen and other analysts have argued (see references below) that the real explanation for rising house prices is rising credit. To be more precise, what drives the change in house prices is the acceleration of mortgage debt. The acceleration of debt has been dubbed "the credit impulse" by Michael Biggs et al, and more recently termed the "credit accelerator" by Keen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yaw Shin Leong's Folly Matched By Workers' Party's Principled Stand

Yaw Shin Leong was today expelled from the Workers party. His expulsion is an unfortunate event.

Yaw was a rising star. According to the WP statement, the 35 year old Shin Leong had been a core member of the Party leadership for more than 10 years, and had made significant and unique contributions towards WP's growth. In the recent elections, Yaw rode the WP wave to win 64.8% of the votes in Hougang, the highest of all the opposition. There is no doubt that Yaw would continue to grow to become an anchor member of the WP in the years to come as MP of the workers party stronghold in Hougang, and given the obvious talent that he had in politics. Alas, that was not to be.

Latest Online Prostitution Scandal Isn't the First, and Certainly Won't Be the Last

According to media reports, several Singapore public servants are being probed for their alleged involvement in an online prostitution ring. One of them is the former principal of a prominent primary school, but he is believed to be just one among 80 men being questioned for their involvement the prostitution ring. Several other public servants from other government agencies are also believed to be involved in the investigations, amongst which at least one is believed to be a scholarship recipient and another a former police officer. Bankers, lawyers and other professionals from the private sector were also amongst those called in for questioning.

Apparently, women from countries like Thailand, China and South Korea were being offered on the website in question at a price range of SGD80 to about SGD300. Eastern European and Russian women were also available. Most of these women come into Singapore on short-term visas and the syndicates involved in the ring gets regular "batches" of girls.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Singapore Sex Scandals: Simi Dai Ji? (What's the Big Deal)

Much has been made of the public sex scandals of late, and there are many different views from different quarters. Some commentators are asking, what's the big deal? Adultery and infidelity happens all the time so why are we engaging in these character assassinations and making such a big hoo-hah over these events. Others are saying we are all human and so we shouldn't judge these individuals who have engaged in infidelity because then we will be guilty of hypocrisy.

Well, let me suggest to you guys what the big deal is.

Yes, adultery and infidelity does indeed happen all the time and can happen to anybody in any job at any time and any place, and yes, nobody is truly justified in judging another person's morality because we are all human and fallible and capable of succumbing to temptation.

But that's precisely the point.

"Feng Shui Finance" and the Singapore Property Market

You know that a property bubble is brewing when Feng Shui gurus are getting into the property market. A recent article on propertyguru quotes the comments of a Feng Shui master on the state of the nascent 'shoe box' market in Singapore. According to Feng Shui expert-cum-architect Shang Zong Wei,
"we are now living in Period 8 where high-rise developments with small units and expensive pricing will become the norm. Period 8 refers to the 20 years spanning 2004 to 2023. This is represented by the trigram Gen (艮), a characteristic of Qi (气) normally relating to mountains, children, feet, ankles and so on. Hence, in Period 8, erection of high-rise housings may be anticipated - modern structures manifesting as 'mountains with livable caves', complete with 'mountain-high' prices. The trend of dwelling units becoming smaller and smaller may seem a natural response to market demand, but it can also be just a natural tendency towards 'children scale'. What is really uncanny is the nickname given to such units - 'shoe box', because Gen (艮) also relates to feet and ankles."
Well, I seriously have no idea about Feng Shui, but according to the Skeptic's dictionary, "Feng shui has ... become another New Age "energy" scam with arrays of metaphysical products from paper cutouts of half moons and planets to octagonal mirrors to wooden flutes offered for sale to help you improve your health, maximize your potential, and guarantee fulfillment of some fortune cookie philosophy. " Also, "in countries where belief in feng shui is still very strong, feng shui has become a hodgepodge of superstitions and unverified notions which are passed off in the university curriculum as scientific principles of architecture or city planning." 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sex Scandals in Singapore: What's Going On?

Sex scandals have recently been hogging the news headlines in Singapore. High profile individuals in positions of senior responsibility in the public service, as well as an opposition MP, have been alleged to have committed adultery. All three of the accused senior public servants (the chiefs of SCDF and CNB and a primary school principal) have been forced to resign from their positions, while opposition MP Yaw Shin Leong has resigned from his leadership position in the Workers Party. The serial expose of infidelity has left me wondering: what is going on with Singapore's leaders? Why are so many sex scandals happening in this island nation?

The Systematic Implosion of Lee Kuan Yew's "Intellectual Class"

Hot on the heels of the resignation of the SCDF and CNB chiefs, an online prostitution ring has been reported to be busted, in the process exposing the involvement of a police officer and the principal of a top primary school in Singapore. Singaporean parents have been reported to be "totally disgusted" by the news, and at least one member of the public has been quoted as saying that "these public servants should be sacked on the spot."

Members of the PAP, trying to respond to the fiasco with a semblance of relevance, have been quoted with such platitudes as "civil servants should be expected to uphold the reputation and integrity of the civil service" (Hri Kumar) and "I think [it's] difficult for ... teachers ... to look up to [a person with] moral flaws in his character." (Lim Biow Chuan)

Of course, none of the PAP MPs have the decency (nor the insight) to analyse the fundamental flaws in the scholarship and leadership selection process, and incentive system.