Friday, 5 October 2012

Watz Buzzing - 5 Oct 2012

Singapore's demographic time bomb 

Singapore has the lowest fertility rate in the world, thanks to a generation that's increasingly delaying, or avoiding, the traditional milestones of marriage and childbirth. For a government with a fondness for social engineering, the failure to boost the baby rate is deeply frustrating. Joanna McCarthy reports

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S Pass increased 12.5% last 6 months

I refer to the articles “S'pore on right track to cut foreign labour dependency” (Straits Times, Oct 1) and “Shrinking the foreign workforce 'would have dire results'” (My Paper, Oct 1).

The former states that “Overall, the growth in foreign manpower, excluding maids, slowed to 34,100, a 7 per cent drop from the growth registered in the first half of last year”. 

79,800 increase in 2011 -The increase in foreign workers for the first half of this year (excluding maids) was 34,100, and the increase for the whole year of 2011 was 79,800. 

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The Average $52 million Temasek Employee

More than most professions, the pay of financial service professionals is or should be tied to their performance.  It is easy to quantify the returns the investments they recommend return and easy to compare their performance to other financial service professionals.  When executives perform well they frequently receive large bonuses.  However, should they receive large bonuses when they fail to meet their own internal targets and consistently underperform the market over many years?

Over the past few years Temasek Holdings senior management has awarded itself bonuses for consistently underperforming the market and even failing to meet its own internal hurdle rates.

hurdle rate is the rate of return an investment manager must exceed before collecting a bonus.  Temasek states on its website that its risk adjusted hurdle rate ranges from 8-9% over the last few years.  They further state in the Temasek Review 2012 that: 

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Misplaced priorities: IMH spending $4.4 million on study 
Koh Mui Tee: Why do you need to spend $4.4m to study the well being of elderly? Why don't you just spend the $4.4m on the well being of the elderly?
Today Online, 3 Oct 2012 
The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) is working with international and local researchers on a three-year nationwide study on the well-being of the elderly in Singapore.

Called Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE), it'll be comprehensive and aims to establish data on the burden of dementia and depression among the elderly in Singapore.

It also aims to bridge the knowledge gap on the risk factors, healthcare use and economic impact.

The S$4.4 million programme is funded by the Ministry of Health and Singapore Millennium Foundation. CHANNEL NEWSASIA Link
Singaporeans think government is rich and therefore expect more from government: PM Lee Hsien Loong

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Malaysia’s third grade thinking ticking again

I call it envy thinking or missing the woods for the trees. Malaysia is unhappy that their companies are paying Malaysian employees less than Sinkie employees. They want to pay their employees as much as the workers in Sinkieland are being paid.

The first question, are the Malaysian workers really underpaid?

I don’t think so. A Malaysian employee earning RM3000 or RM5000 will probably be much well off than his Sinkie counterpart earning $3000 or $5000. His cost of living is so much cheaper relatively and he could own a much bigger home, maybe even landed properties than the Micky Mouse flats which Sinkies called home and so bloody proud of it. But you can’t blame them when they have been so conditioned to think less is best.

Was no gag order on Cecilia Sue prosecution's undoing?

Most of the criminal sex related cases so far have been going on smoothly. Most notably, the cases involving the underage prostitute. I can't help feeling that the reason why the Ng Boon Gay / Cecilia Sue case gets to be so messy is because of the one factor this case does not have - ie the gag order on the star witness' identity.

In all probability, a deal was struck between Cecilia and the prosecutors/investigators. It could be that if Cecilia were to be co-operative such that it was enough to vindicate Ng, she would have charges against her dropped. In all probability too, it was told that a gag order would be awarded to keep her identity undisclosed to facilitate this deal.

Although rumours were already flying long before the court case that she was the woman, having her name mentioned in court would be a totally different thing. As such, if her name and identity were not disclosed in court, she would have probably been more willing to speak up in court as much as what she did during the investigation stage. 

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Straw Men and Paradigms: A Response to Alex Au’s Recent Article

In a debate one tactic which often works is to ascribe to your opponent a position that he does not hold, which is easy to refute, and then demolish that. Or else to quote his arguments out of context or associate him with a group who superficially might seem to be saying the same thing but actually are not. This is what is called the “straw man” fallacy presumably because you set up an argument which you proceed to easily demolish and by doing so claim you have demolished your opponent’s arguments.

While I always enjoy reading Alex’s writings, which are frequently intelligent and provide a genuinely fresh perspective, he is guilty of deploying the straw man fallacy against me in his latest blog (“In the national conversation, some kinds of talk don’t come cheap”, This is taken from his speech at a recent SDP forum entitled the National Conversation Roundtable (though strangely the only attendees apart from SDP were the usual civil society suspects).

The main thrust of his argument was that, however much his fellow speakers might think more social spending was necessary there was no easy way to pay for it without substantial rises in taxes, in fact a doubling of rates. 

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I am now a member of National Solidarity Party

This is a note to those who follow my blog. I've made an important decision and felt that it is important that you hear it from me first, before you see it elsewhere. I have joined the National Solidarity Party.

Since I came back from the USA in 2008, I have been very active in the socio-political scene. Initially, I being wary of pigeon-holing myself, had no intention of getting involved in partisan politics, and so served where I felt I was most needed, and where I was called.  I was an active contributor to The Online Citizen, through which I, an ordinary Singaporean, have been able to express my views and thoughts to a wider audience. I am thankful to TOC for that.

I am also proud of the fact that I was one of the founding members of MARUAH. Through my interactions with Braema and others in MARUAH, I grasped enough knowledge about how to take a rights-based approach in viewing issues. 

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On foreign labour and the income gap: Acting in moderation or muddling through?

In a blogpost on 30 September, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-jin laid out some numbers to show that the growth in the foreign workforce is moderating. At the same time, he discussed the difficult balance that has to be struck between business anxieties about labour shortage and popular frustration over too many foreigners in Singapore.

Popular frustration takes three forms: (a) job competition, (b) crowding and infrastructure overload, and (c) cultural destabilisation. Different people would give a different weightage to these concerns. For this discussion however, I am going to focus on job competition alone.

While his figures might show a recent effort to slow down the rate of increase in the intake of foreign workers especially at the Employment Pass level, the five-year figures give us a better picture of what happened previously. Other figures that I have located for this essay suggest that productivity improvements — a matter Tan touched on in the blogpost too — remain elusive. 

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Behind Chamber Doors. (Why wait for the Judgement when the State Media have already decided the IMF Loan Case outcome?)

In the IMF loan case the Today report on the hearing on 20 September ( ) starts with the use of the emotive term “thrown out” to describe the court’s dismissal of our application to have the hearing moved to open court. The effect is to try and give the impression that our suit is frivolous and has no grounds.

While it may not be “ordinary practice for application for leave to be heard in open court”, as Today put it, I felt that there were enough issues of importance to Singaporeans to warrant the case being held in open court. At least Singaporeans would have been able to attend and hear the arguments rather than have them filtered through the State media.

It may be ordinary practice but that is in democracies where there is a free media and certain standards of objective reporting. In particular newspapers in those countries would have to grant me the right of reply which is denied me by the State media here.

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Singapore's PMI shrinks for 3rd month, recession looms
Singapore's manufacturing sector contracted for a third consecutive month in September as new orders fell further, a business survey showed, bolstering the view the trade-dependent city-state likely slipped into recession in the third quarter.

The decline in the Purchasing Manager's index (PMI) is in line with other export-driven Asian economies facing tepid demand in Europe and the United States. A similar reading for South Korea showed a fourth straight month of contraction.

Singapore's PMI slipped deeper into negative territory last month, dropping to 48.7 points from August's 49.1....Full story

  1. Singapore’s PMI shrinks for 3rd month, recession looms - The Malaysian Insider
  2. Singapore's PMI shrinks, recession looms - The Indian Express
  3. Singapore Manufacturing Falls For Third Straight Month In September - Nasdaq
  4. Singapore's PMI shrinks for 3rd month, recession looms - Yahoo! Finance

Unique No More

Second Minister (Trade and Industry) S Iswaran claims that extending the Formula 1 contract will bring S$1 billion worth of "additional value-add" for the economy over a 10-year period, betting all his poker chips "to keep innovating the night race to keep it unique".

That's adjective for being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.

According to the Bangkok Post English-language daily, Thailand's tourism and sports minister Chumpol Silpa-archa told AFP that its first Formula One race in 2014 is likely to be held at night as in Singapore. Apparently Thai officials had met with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on the quiet late last month, when negotiations with Formula One's governing body, the FIA, were already more than halfway through. 

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Blame GCT and Lee Junior, not LKY

Following this post wondering why shumeone very senior from ST was dredging up quotes from a long time ago to show that one LKY preferred S’poreans to FTs; JG, a reader, responded in defence of LKY.

Before readers brand her a “running dog” like the ST chap, pls remember that she wrote this: on why the PAP will fail: ’cause “always behind the curve”. And also remember that the FTs are “betterest”policy took off when his son became PM.

(BTW, JG, you may not have heard the rumour that LKY was alleged to have said that he tot that DPM Teo would have made a better PM than his son. He was rumoured to have muttered this after it was alleged that his son told him to desist from campaigning for (or is it against?) the PAP in last year’s GE.) 

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Singapore to allow dual-class shares to attract listings after MU lesson

Reuters, 3 Oct 2012

 Singapore will allow companies to issue different classes of shares to help its stock exchange to compete for new listings and the country to maintain its competitiveness as a financial centre.
"Companies will be allowed to issue non-voting shares and shares carrying multiple votes if their articles allow it and subject to certain safeguards," the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on Wednesday.

 "This will give companies greater flexibility in raising capital, and meet different investor preferences." Full story

Singapore to allow dual-class shares to attract listings - The Malaysian Insider
Singapore to Allow Dual-Class Share Structure for Public Companies - FoxBusiness