Thursday, 28 June 2012

Watz Online - 28 Jun 2012

Ho Yeow Sun: '$23 million bid for stardom'

Ms Sun Ho wearing a body-hugging black outfit in the music video for her single Fancy Free. She had four No. 1 hits on the Billboard dance charts. -- PHOTO: SUN HO MUSIC

What did a purported $23 million do for Ms Ho Yeow Sun's music career?

It apparently gave her four No. 1 hits on the Billboard dance charts, an English-language album produced by famed rapper-producer Wyclef Jean, a slick music video featuring her gyrating to a pulsating beat, and a US$20,000 (S$25,500) a month Hollywood Hills mansion.

On Tuesday, Ms Ho's pastor husband and four others were arrested for allegedly misusing at least $23 million in church funds to finance her career without the knowledge of the church's executive members, who were not told how the funds were being used.

read more

Singapore Airlines clings to luxury as budget carriers thrive

An Airbus A380 jet of Singapore Airlines takes off from the airport in Zurich March 21, 2012. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Tony Fernandes, the flamboyant chief executive of budget airline AirAsia, joked last month that he could buy Singapore Airlines and even displayed an artist's impression of his competitor's plane painted in AirAsia colours.

It was a tongue-in-cheek jab, but one that struck at a painful truth for Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI). The company has stuck to its luxury image even as low-cost carriers picked off passengers in a weak global economy, and profits have suffered.

The airline reported an unexpected loss in the January-March quarter, its first since the tail end of the global financial crisis in 2009 which crushed global air travel. Its shares are down 29 percent in the past 12 months, while AirAsia's (AIRA.KL) are up 10 percent.

While AirAsia pecks away at the low end, Dubai's flagship carrier Emirates is challenging Singapore for the title of top luxury carrier. Emirates does not have publicly traded shares, but its operating margins over the past six years have outpaced Singapore's, 8.6 percent to 6.5 percent.

read more

Singapore Homes Most Affordable as Rents Climb: Mortgages

Shivram Anantharaman paid a monthly rent of S$2,650 ($2,069) until March. Now, he’s paying S$40 less every month after buying a three-bedroom condominium inSingapore’s East Coast region.

“The clincher in Singapore is that monthly installments toward repayment of your loan are lower than what you would pay in rent,” said Anantharaman, a private banker at ICICI Bank Ltd., who took out a S$1.04 million mortgage for his S$1.3 million property late last year. “It’s one of the few countries in the world where that is possible,” because of the lowinterest rates, he said.

Homebuyers like Anantharaman are taking advantage ofmortgage rates at an all-time low in the Southeast Asian island-state, even as prices are almost at a record high and the government introduced measures to cool the property market. Home affordability in Singapore has risen to the highest in a decade because of historically low interest rates and flexible payment options available to buyers, according to Jefferies Group Inc.

read more

Singapore Woos Millionaires With Murakami, Leibovitz

What’s the connection between racing car driver Lewis Hamilton, Michelin-starred chef Joel Robuchon and New York gallery owner Sundaram Tagore? The answer is Singapore.

The city-state’s relentless quest to attract money and millionaires, which includes the world’s first nighttime Formula One race, $10 billion on two casino resorts and a private gold vault, has now drawn some international galleries to an enclave that once housed British soldiers.

Gillman Barracks will commence business in September with the simultaneous openings of 13 art spaces including Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Takashi Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki Gallery andShanghArt of Shanghai.

The project is a joint effort by Economic Development Board, the National Arts Council and the landlord, JTC Corp., a state-linked infrastructure developer. Sundaram Tagore, gallery founder, says the government’s role is a mixed blessing.

read more

How Singapore Policed the Foreign Press

Publication in the National Gazette was just one of many tools including contempt of court and libel suits

A few years ago the word “gazetted” was possibly the most feared word for any publication operating in Asia, especially Southeast Asia. The term described the way the Singaporean government policed the foreign press by selectively curtailing or expanding a publication’s circulation within the island republic.

The term “gazette” merely referred to the fact that the circulation curtailment order from the Information Ministry was published in the National Gazette. But as a verb it had a sinister connotation, sort of like being “garroted” or maybe “guillotined.” It was appropriate since a gazetted newspaper or magazine had its circulation cut by more than half.

I was reminded of those days with the marking recently of the 25th anniversary of “Operation Spectrum”, a severe crackdown that the Singaporean government launched against about two dozen of its citizens it said were part of a “Marxist Conspiracy” to turn the island republic into a communist state.

read more

Corporate Profits Just Hit An All-Time High, Wages Just Hit An All-Time Low

In case you need more confirmation that the US economy is out of balance, here are three charts for you.

1) Corporate profit margins just hit an all-time high. Companies are making more per dollar of sales than they ever have before. (And some people are still saying that companies are suffering from "too much regulation" and "too many taxes." Maybe little companies are, but big ones certainly aren't).

Corporate profits as Percent of GDP
Business Insider, St. Louis Fed

2) Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades.One reason corporations are so profitable is that they don't employ as many Americans as they used to.

Employment Population Ratio
Business Insider, St. Louis Fed

3) Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low.This is both cause and effect. One reason companies are so profitable is that they're paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP. And that, in turn, is one reason the economy is so weak: Those "wages" are other companies' revenue.

Wages to GDP
Business Insider, St. Louis Fed

In short, our current system and philosophy is creating a country of a few million overlords and 300+ million serfs.

read more

Singapore wants Florida brainpower

Florida State University President Eric Barron told Gov. Rick Scott’s higher education reform panel that budget cuts are making his faculty a “farm team” for out-of-state schools.

It looks like out-of-state schools are not the only organizations looking to

recruit Florida’s STEM talent. The Singapore National Research Foundation is actively recruiting PhDs under 40 years of age and offering $2.4 million* individual fellowships if you take your brain and ideas to Singapore.

According to Bloomberg, 1780 people gave up their US citizenship last year. So, you can take the money, head over to Singapore and maybe have lunch with Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. Sayonara. Following is text of the Singapore pitch:

read more

'Power of We' - An Interview with Straits Times

What Chen Show Mao wants, more than anything, is to be a catalyst to get Singaporeans more engaged in their citizenship and to play their part in fixing what is wrong with society, he tells Susan Long.

THE question foremost on most minds is: Is Mr Chen Show Mao for real? Ask him that and his brows knit in perplexity.

Well, it is hard not to do the cost-benefit analysis of him throwing in the almost-certain success of his pedigreed, multimillion-dollar law career for the uncertain prospects of joining Singapore's opposition.

But he challenges that calculus, saying it wrongly assumes the cost was all borne by him. It was not, he maintains.

'I didn't spring forth from my mother's womb, fully formed by my own talent and ambition. It took my parents who made sacrifices and a whole community of teachers, scholarship boards, donors, taxpayers and others to give me an education and since I can't pay them all back, I hope to pay it forward.

'Even if you just look at it in dollars and cents, I couldn't have attended university without help,' says the 51-year-old who attended Harvard, Oxford and Stanford on university scholarships and the Rhodes scholarship.

It becomes clear that he views things through a different lens. Since he was voted into Parliament in May last year - when his Aljunied GRC team, led by Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang, won 54.7 per cent of valid votes - most of his public speeches have been an exercise in reframing.

read more

Woman bites off attacker’s lip

A woman bit off the lower lip of a man she claimed was molesting her in Singapore.

The woman, a China national known only as Loo, was punched on the nose by the man who fled the scene.

She only realized that she had bitten off the man's lip when she felt something inside her mouth and spat it out in the 11 p.m. incident on Saturday. It was a piece of flesh measuring about 2 centimeter in length.

Loo, 39, who works as a cleaner in the republic, said she was walking back to her hostel alone that night when the man grabbed her from behind.

read more

Apple iTunes store to open in Philippines, Singapore

Apple appears ready to open the virtual doors to its iTunes store in the Philippines and Singapore, putting an end to over three months of rumors sparked by a "Parental Control" setting in iTunes 10.6.

Update: Apple released an official announcement saying that iTunes has launched in 12 more countries in Asia, and besides the Philippines and Singapore, customers in Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam can now access paid music, movies and books.

AppleInsider readers noted on Tuesday that they were able to access the Apple iTunes store in both the Philippines and Singapore after it was suggested in a March report that the service was on the verge of being launched in a number of Asian countries.

read more

Singapore preps Electronics Virtual Career Fair

Singapore preps Electronics Virtual Career Fair

Singapore has announced its first-ever online recruitment fair for the country's electronics and semiconductor sector.

At this virtual fair, you will be able to meet and chat with the line managers and recruitment representatives from key electronics companies in Singapore, including Broadcom, Infineon, Intel, Lantiq and Micron.

"Electronics is the bedrock of Singapore’s manufacturing activities, contributing 30% to the nation’s manufacturing output," say the organisers. "We are looking out for top engineering talent to advance technology and innovation in Singapore, to better lives and to power energy efficiency."

read more

Howard Shaw Pleads Guilty in Singapore Underage Prostitute Case

Howard Shaw

Howard Shaw, left, leaves a courthouse where he was formally charged with having paid sex with a prostitute under 18 years old. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Howard Shaw, a member of the family that built an Asian movie production and real estate empire, pleaded guilty today in Singapore to having paid sex with an underage prostitute.

Shaw, 41, was among 48 charged involving a minor selling sex to men in Singapore in a scandal that has expanded to include a former bank executive and a school principal. Shaw was the executive director of the Singapore Environment Council, a non-profit organization.

“Mr. Shaw is not asking for any special treatment” given his family background, said his lawyer Harpreet Singh, who asked the judge to impose a fine instead of a prison term as he had made a “honest and reasonable mistake” in believing the girl was at least 18 at the time of the offence.

The incident happened on October 2010, when Shaw paid S$500 ($391) at a budget hotel at the edge of the city’s downtown. The offence for paid sex with someone under 18 carries a maximum seven-year jail term as well as a fine. While prostitution is legal in Singapore, soliciting for customers isn’t and offenders may be fined as much as S$2,000 or jailed for as long as six months, according to the city-state’s statutes.

read more

Singapore is 8th on the list of cities based on cost-of-living

Tokyo is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, pushing Luanda, Angola, down to second position, according to Mercer’s latest Cost of Living Survey.

Osaka is in third position, up three places from last year, whereas Moscow remains in fourth and Geneva in fifth positions. Singapore and Zurich share sixth place, up two and one places respectively since 2011. Ndjamena, Chad, drops five places, but Hong Kong retains its ninth place.

Karachi (214) is ranked as the world’s least expensive city for expatriates, less than one-third as expensive as Tokyo. Recent world events, including economic and political upheavals, have affected the rankings for many regions through currency fluctuations, inflation, and volatility in accommodation prices.

In the UK, London (25) is the most expensive city for expatriates, down seven places from last year. At 133, Birmingham is up 17 places, having overtaken Aberdeen (144) and Glasgow (161). Belfast (165) is the UK’s least expensive city, up 13 places in the ranking since 2011.

The survey covers 214 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. The cost of housing is also included and, as it is often the biggest expense for expatriates, it plays an important part in determining where cities are ranked.

Mercer's cost-of-living survey is the world’s most comprehensive and is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. New York is used as the base city and all cities are compared against it. Currency movements are measured against the US dollar.

read more

SingTel Boosts CEO Pay, Sees Potential in Mobile Advertising

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (ST)Chief Executive Officer Chua Sock Koong, who was paid S$4.9 million ($3.8 million) last year, said the mobile advertising industry holds “significant potential” for the company.

The phone operator, Southeast Asia’s biggest, paid Chua 9 percent more in the past year as its mobile subscription base jumped 10 percent to 445 million from 403 million with investments in markets including Australia and Indonesia, it said in its annual report. Mobile operators in both developed and emerging markets could use location data provided by customers to target the right ads, she said in the report.

“We are particularly excited about the potential of mobile marketing in emerging markets, where mobile phones offer advertisers the most compelling avenue to reach hundreds of millions of current and future customers,” Chua said, adding that the mobile advertising industry is in a “nascent stage.”

Would Paying Politicians More Attract Better Politicians?

 Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives at G20 Cannes

Whenever you look at a political system and find it wanting, one tempting thought is this: Maybe we have subpar politicians because the job simply isn’t attracting the right people. And, therefore, if we were to significantly raise politicians’ salaries, we would attract a better class of politician.

This is an unpopular argument for various reasons, in part because it would be the politicians themselves who have to lobby for higher salaries, and that isn’t politically feasible (especially in a poor economy). Can you imagine the headlines?

But the idea remains attractive, doesn’t it? The idea is that, by raising the salaries of elected and other government officials, you would a) signal the true importance of the job; b) attract a kind of competent person who might otherwise enter a more remunerative field; c) allow politicians to focus more on the task at hand rather than worry about their income; and d) make politicians less susceptible to the influence of moneyed interests.

Some countries already pay their government officials a lot of money — Singapore, for instance.

read more