Saturday, January 31, 2009

Survey: Democracy

Ho Cheow Seng wishes to help me to educate people about values and character. He has written this article about democracy.
Participate in this 
Here are the

Survey: Active Citizenship

What are your views on these issues affecting our society?
Here are the

Give your views on budget 2009

How do you feel about the budget 2009?
Read the survey results.
The average rating from 95 respondents are:
a) The budget is good for business (rating 3.78)
b) The general election will be called in 2009 (rating 2.97)
c)  The average rating for the other questions are lower than 2.66. 
A rating of 3.0 is neutral. A rating below 3 indicates that more people disagree with the statement, compared to those who agree.  
On the whole, the respondents are less confident about the benefit of the budget for the people, in saving jobs, in spurring economic recovery or helping the unemployed. There is also a negative level of confidence in the leaders.
The ratings are similar across age groups. The employed have a slightyly higher level of confidence, compared to business and the unemployed/retired.

From Financial Times

Sometimes dubbed the world’s most socialist country, Japan never went in for the CEO cult. On average, big company executives earn about three times as much as the rank-and-file – comfortably within the four-fold ideal espoused by Plato two and a half millennia ago.

That is also a far more modest gap than the 39 times differential prevailing among FTSE 350 board members and employees, as measured by research house IDS. It is not even in the same universe as the US, where the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies reckons CEOs take home 344 times more than the average worker.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Survey: How to cope with recession

Read this article.
Here are the survey results.

Budget 2009 is not pro-people

Comment by SB on the survey results for Budget 2009

Lim Swee Say as head of the workers movement must robustly champion the workers' interest within the tripartite. In what is supposed to be a rescue package ultimately for the benefit of workers and the people of Singapore, it turns out that companies turn out to be the main direct beneficiary getting the lion's share of the $20.5 billion help package. As sure as the sun rises, companies will still fold, workers will still lose jobs or suffer pay cuts. To these workers, the money which will go to the companies will have no benefit to them.

Not by any measure is he, as supposedly the workers' champion, justified to declare full satisfaction with the direct allocation to workers and to those who will be retrenched. Why didn't he tell the public that he had fought for a bigger direct share for the workers, even if he failed to get his bosses, oops I mean the other members of the tripartite, to change their minds.

Do you notice that with all the distractions of the recession and the help budget, the govt. has opportunistically sneaked in an increase of almost $1000 million to the security (defence and home affairs) budgets, bringing the Defence and Home Affairs Budgets to historical highs of over $11.4 billion and $3 billion respectively. This is one of the real reasons (quietly though) why our past reserves have to be used for this year's budget.

The Defence spendings tower above every other budgetary spendings. This, despite the gloomy outlook for the next 24 months or more. Money should be conserved (and channeled to fund more direct people-help programs, say, for retrenchment benefits). Some military spendings could surely be postponed or paced out until better days come back. It is not as though we are under-invested in defence. After years and decades of heavy military spendings, we have as of now already the most invested and equipped armed forces than the rest of ASEAN combined. That betrays the under-emphasis on real care and focus this govt has on people-related needs vs. growth and power.

The rating of “best” for this Budget is I think mainly based on the huge total amount of help programs. But if you look at the measurable benefits that will land in the hands of Singaporeans, then “best” is somewhat an overstatement. Let me say why:

1. The direct help for individuals & households amount to less than 13% ($2.6 billion) of the total. 66% ($13.5 billion) is given directly to companies. Past reserves are accumulated savings and wealth of the nation and hence of its citizens. If the reserve vault is to be opened, the direct benefits should be skewed for more to go to them instead of to companies. The $2.6 billion allocated represent only a modest increase over similar (such as GST refund, Workfare) 2008’s pre-recession and pre-hyperinflation help-budget. The stated justification for the huge allocation to companies is that individuals will be the beneficiaries of the help programs through jobs saved. The problem is the extent of leakages in this flow-down effect to individuals as huge number of jobs in aggregate is still projected to be lost despite these help programs.

2. Citizens are subject to various forms of means testing for programs such as the hospitalisation subsidies and share of workfare payouts. On the other hand the Job Credit program gives money from our reserves to all employers, regardless of whether they are financially strong or weak, big or small, earning big profits or suffering losses. If we citizens are subject to means testing, why is the govt. so generous without setting criteria to pre-qualify companies to be entitled to this particular. Banks, large property developers, large GLCs, most MNCs and govt ministries do not deserve nor need this financial subsidy to continue to be viable. Public reserves should not be used to enrich private enterprises, particularly the healthy ones. Mind you, these companies have logged in bonaza profits in the past years, and even if they will performance not as well in the near future, they will still make reasonable profits without Job Credit program.

Companies drawing on wage subsidies are not obligated to refrain from cutting jobs, cut pay or put employees on no-pay leave, if down-sizing is needed to ensure survival. So reserve money will drawn down and many workers will still get fired as the recession spreads and intensifies. If there is some form of means testing on companies, money saved can be used instead for another program to help individuals directly, say, for the retrenched whose jobs are not saved or the retired/aged with little income or have fixed income and are weighed down by the increased cost of living from last year’s inflation.

3. Even without the benefit of the Job Credit program for these healthy companies, the other numerous programs, taxes cuts/rebates and training subsidies/allowances, are still available to them and all other companies.

4. The bottom line is that although the help programs are declared to be ultimately to help the citizens by saving jobs, individuals will actually be getting the much shorter end of the $20.5 billion. More could also be done to help ease their cash-flow tightness, for example waiving or reducing GST on essential goods and services at least during these hard times or allow a small portion of a retrenched worker’s CPF savings to be withdrawn to tide him over while he seeks for new employment (by the way CPF is the worker’s own money and not even a subsidy).

That’s why I think this pro-company help-budget falls short of being BEST because it under-performs for the individuals.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Letter from the grave

Read this letter from an assassinated journalist
People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. 
An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niemoller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. 
Niemoller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niemoller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:
  First they came for the Jews
  and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
  Then they came for the Communists
  and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
  Then they came for the trade unionists
  and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
  Then they came for me
  and there was no one left to speak out for me.

DBS CEO has cancer

Jan 29, 2009
SINGAPORE'S DBS Group , Southeast Asia's biggest bank, said on Thursday that Chief Executive Richard Stanley, who was hired in May last year, is suffering from leukemia. Koh Boon Hwee, the bank's chairman, will take charge of the bank during Stanley's three to six months' absence for medical treatment, the bank said in a statement.

DBS shares were suspended from trading on Thursday morning before the announcement and resumed trade around 11.30am. By 11.35am, DBS shares were down 0.8 per cent at $5.17, underperforming a decline of 0.3 per cent in the benchmark Straits Times Index .
Mr Stanley, 48, was hired last year from Citigroup with an aim to expand the bank's reach beyond its two core markets, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The bank said Mr Stanley has been diagnosed with 'acute myelogenous leukemia' and has started undergoing medical treatment in Singapore.

A surgeon at a Singapore hospital, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters that acute myelogenous leukemia is a fast-spreading cancer of the blood that requires immediate chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant at a later date.

Analysts said the bank's strategy would not change during Stanley's absence because DBS was in defensive posture amid a global economic downturn.

'If he is out of action, then the critical decisions will be delayed until his situation stabilises or DBS finds an alternative,' said David Lum, an analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research.

The bank said Mr Stanley sought treatment for what appeared to be ordinary flu-like symptoms on Monday after experiencing a cough and high fever during the Lunar New Year weekend.

He was hospitalised the following day and his medical condition was confirmed this morning, the bank said, adding that Mr Stanley's illness is treatable.

DBS reports its fourth-quarter results on Feb 13. --

A voice from the generation of the 40s/50s

Dear Kin Lian,

I am inspired by your exemplary mission to help redress injustice and rectify wrong public policies that are detrimental to nation building and also oppressive to the poor and average Singaporeans.

I appeal to you to raise awareness of the pride of aged Singaporeans who have toiled thick and thin with the PAP to build Singapore over the last 50 years. Now these senior citizens are left with little welfare from the state which they had sacrificed so much to help build Singapore to a first world economy. Instead they were told to work as long as they can, not because they like to, but because they have to bring in extra income to support a decent "golden" lifestyle. They are so afraid to fall sick because hospitalization and wipe out their hard earned savings and put extra burden on their struggling children.

I am living in Australia and I am a retiree at 62. I observe how seniors are being looked after by the government here. They enjoyed adequate basic welfare and excellent aged care support, especially for those who are disabled and sick.

Citizens who served in the Australian military received special treatment when they retired. They enjoyed pension, medical care and recreational facilities.

The argument that we are not a welfare state is an excuse. This is NOT about lavish welfare spending to make people laid back. This is about a nation and a society that values GRATITUDE, paying back to the senior citizens and NS personnel who have sacrificed so much to help build the nation so that Ministers can afford to be paid million dollar salaries.

What do NS personnel receive when they grow old after giving their best 20-25 years after enlistment? Struggling to raise a humble family, they have to worry when they grow old and if they are unfortunate to be struck down by illness. Where is the motivation for National Service when the State does not look after them when they become old, sick and frail?

I hope you can devote a little of your time to raise awareness of the political elite to come to term with the type of society we really want to nurture. Where would our younger generation learn the value of GRATITUDE when the government's role model is just meritocracy, survival for the fittest and the ruthless pursuit of economic success. Can we not be 1st in everything and be first in a gracious and caring society?

TS (Teck Suan) Low

Spanish bank offers full compensation to its clients

Perhaps our financial institutions should consider this Spanish Bank's gesture to their valued clients?

"Wednesday, 28 January 2009 12:03

Spain's largest bank, Santander, is to offer full compensation worth more than US$1.8 billion (€1.4 billion) to clients who lost money in an investment fraud allegedly run by the US financier Bernard Madoff. The compensation scheme covers only private individual clients.

'The group has taken this decision given the exceptional circumstances surrounding this case and based exclusively on commercial reasons, given the interest it has in maintaining its business relationship with these clients,' the bank said in a statement.' "

A BBC financial commentator said he was not surprised since the bank's reputation and relationship with client should be worth more than the US$1.8 billion. He expected other banks to follow suit or they will lose their valued clients to Santander.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Intelligence Quiz


The famous scientist, Albert Einstein, was reported to have created a puzzle involving 5 houses in different colours, occupied by five different nationalities, drinking different beverages, keeping different pets and smoking different brands of tobacco.

 It took me half an hour to solve the puzzle. I found it fascinating. I searched the bookstores for a book containing many puzzles of the same type. There was none.

 I finally decided to publish a book containing many puzzles, with different degrees of difficulty. The book of puzzles will be available in the bookstores in February. Retail price: $7.90.

 When I introduced the puzzle to children and adults, they were fascinated with it.  Parents will find the puzzles to be excellent for training their children on logical thinking.

In the next few pages, you will find sample of the puzzles in my book. The quizzes are identified according to the following levels of difficulty:

Easy (4 houses, 9 clues)
Moderate (5 houses, 15 clues)
Difficult (6 houses, 20 clues)

The answers are shown in the last page. You can learn the technique to solve the quiz in my book. It is also available here:

If you wish to order 5 copies of more of the book at a special price of $5 per book, you can send your order to Postage is free for delivery within Singapore. Payment will be by credit card or PayPal.

I am able to print a customised version of the puzzles for corporations wishing to provide this book of puzzles to their clients. It can feature the products of the corporation.

Tan Kin Lian

Unjustified Jump in Food Prices during Chinese New Year Season

Dear Mr Tan,

I hope you can post the below link on your blog.
I tried surfing CASE website but then it seems quite troublesome for an individual to lodge a complaint.
I perhaps need some guidance or education on the process.

Loh Hon Chun

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2009 - the year of the Bull

In 1985, when Singapore was in a recession, I presented a bull sculpture to Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, who was then the Minister of State for Trade & Industry.  I said "I hope that the bull will revive the stockmarket and the economy. " It did!

2009 is the year of the Bull. I hope that someone will send another bull sculpture to the Prime Minister.

South Korea: Children are too expensive

South Korea struggles with its low birth rate.

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