5 reasons to live in Singapore

Posted: June 30, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

The New Paper published this article yesterday...

S'pore's the place to live in
By Larry Haverkamp (Doc Money)

OUR gross domestic product averages $53,000 per person, which makes us one of the wealthiest nations.
The International Monetary Fund ranks us number 22 among 180 countries. The World Bank puts us at number 19.
Did that just happen? How did it come about? Many of us take life in Singapore for granted, probably because we've never lived anywhere else.
I made a comparison, which will save you the trouble of moving overseas to find out for yourself!
Here are five advantages of life in Singapore.
1) Low taxes. Our tax rates are 0 per cent for the first $20,000, which makes life easier for low-income earners.
For the rich, taxes top out at 20 per cent for incomes over $320,000. It attracts high-income workers who appreciate not having to pay most of their income to the Government.
In comparison, countries charging the most taxes are Denmark (59 per cent) and Sweden (56 per cent), reported Telegraph.co.uk last year.
Companies here also enjoy low tax rates. They pay a top rate of 18 per cent on incomes over $300,000, which will drop to 17 per cent next year.
When it comes to investing, we offer the undisputed best deal. Our taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains and inheritance are all 0 per cent. You can't get lower than that.
2) Simple taxes. In the US, H&R Block is a US$4-billion ($5.8b) company that prepares income tax returns.
The US tax system is complicated. It has many loopholes and no one wants to miss any. So, 21 million US taxpayers pay an average of US$175 to 137,000 H&R Block tax experts to file taxes for them.
We don't have such an industry since our tax code is simple. It takes less than an hour to complete taxes online, which was the preferred way of filing for 90 per cent of taxpayers this year.
3) Low interest rates. We don't think about interest rates much, but they have a lot to do with our success.
Low interest rates make homes affordable. Our family, for example, pays only 1.6 per cent interest on our mortgage.
In the US and most of Europe you can't find a 3-year variable rate home loan for less than 4 per cent, and that is already an all-time low.
Businesses also benefit. Low interest rates make it easier for our local companies to keep costs down and compete internationally.
4) Good location. We are lucky. We don't sit on an earthquake fault like Sumatra and are not in hurricane alley like Hong Kong, the Philippines or Bangladesh.
We are located at a natural transit point that has made Singapore a logical port.
Our Port of Singapore Authority has made the most of this advantage. Today, Singapore is the most efficient and widely used port in the world.
5) Low crime. I have a friend from Germany who told me: 'Singapore is a very good place for good people and a very bad place for bad people.'
In many countries, parks are not crowded at night because people don't dare to walk through them. The chance of being robbed is too high.
We tend to take safety for granted. Our yearly murder rate is only 5 per one million residents.
That comes to about 25 murders per year, which is about one every two weeks. That may sound like a lot, but it ranks us among the four safest countries among 79 surveyed by the United Nations.
World's most dangerous and safe countries
*Annual murders per 1 million persons
Most Dangerous
1) Columbia: 618*
2) South Africa: 500
3) Jamaica: 324
4) Venezuela: 316
Most Safe
76) Singapore: 5
77) Japan: 5
78) Morocco: 5
79) Saudi Arabia: 4
* Source: The Ninth United Nations Survey of Crime Trends
This article was first published in
The New Paper.

My 2 cents:
"Low interest rates make homes affordable. Our family, for example, pays only 1.6 per cent interest on our mortgage.In the US and most of Europe you can't find a 3-year variable rate home loan for less than 4 per cent, and that is already an all-time low."

This is misleading, as the 1.6% he is paying is also near an all-time low, and is a variable depending on the SIBOR. American's higher mortgage interest rates means their savings (e.g. Fixed Deposit) interest rates are also higher. Our CPF interest rate at 2.5% is nothing to shout about either.

The fact is our GDP figures are skewed, as shown by our GINI coefficient. We attract high income citizens like Jim Rogers and Jet Li and Gongli and all that yes. So??? Jim Rogers is not really in Singapore most of the time anyway. Let's watch, if Jim Rogers' or Jet Li's kids will one day end up serving 2 yrs of NS in Singapore.

The citizenship is to park his money in a tax haven that's about it. Does it really make a difference to the lives of Singaporeans if Jim Rogers lived here? The answer is no. Oh no maybe there will be some economic effects from >> Jim Rogers buy a Lambo >> Lambo dealer gets big pay >> Lambo dealer go KTV >> foreign 'social' worker gets a big one >> foreign social worker invests in Singapore Condo >> Property price increase in Singapore >>End result: We are 'successful' and hence 'happy'. Or are we??

Jokes aside, the fact that Scandinavians are among the happiest people in the world is proof enough we don't need a low tax rate to be happy, nor another billionaire migrant. The key here is, beyond a 3rd world level of GDP income, what makes us happy is not what our media keeps wanting to have us believe. Maybe we should model ourselves after happy countries, not high GDP countries? Maybe PAP, as an elected government, should seriously take what the citizens want as what is good for us; and dispense with the tiring practice of showing up nearing the elections with freebies and handouts. Yes, humans are creatures with short term memories, but the internet and blogosphere has seriously changed that. Politicians need to play a new game.

I am tired of hearing on TV while on a crowded and slow moving bus ride, from yet another news anchor announcing another wave of fanatic property hunters swarming over an already expensive housing launch as if it is the best thing in the world. What happened to inflation control? Hmm, seeing as our property market didn't quite go through a correction like the US or Europe, perhaps it is time to consider a monetary policy move to address asset inflation becoming a Singapore-only bubble? How embarrassing that would be if it really came to pass.

Yes, a population of 6 million will indeed drive GDP growth. If that's the case, why not go for 8, or 9, or 10 million? We already know Singapore's natural limitations, why not address the problem now, rather than later on when over and above problems of growth, there is also over-crowdedness to deal with. What we need is a sustainable, organic growth model. Unlike Taiwan and Hongkong and South Korea, Singapore IS the smallest and WILL BE the first to come up against the wall that is limitation in size. What then? If Mr. Lee Hsien Loong stays as PM loong enough, which is highly possible given his young age, he might actually have to face his own doing.

If you check wikipedia, you'll find that Singapore's GDP per capita is higher than that of Australia's. Does this imply that the average Singaporean has it better than that of an average Australian? If yes, why are our average Singaporeans old folks still slogging away at the age of >55, and maybe selling the tail end of his flat for some retirement money, when the average Australian retiree is sitting in a cafe enjoying a book in the morning. Maybe the Singaporean lau uncle is taking his cue from Mr Lee Kuan Yew, whose advice is to "keep on working beyond retirement if you don't want to die, because people die soon after they retire"*. Exemplary are his tiring duties of flying around countries to meet interesting people.

I don't really know what is wrong, but I know something is wrong. I hope one day things will change drastically in Singapore, for I still wish to be able to live with my aging parents in a country they call home.

I reference this link for those of you keen to read more:


*not a word for word quote

James - Getting away with it (all messed up) - Live in Manchester

Posted: by fievel in Labels:

Cover of the week - Amanda

Posted: June 29, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

Strong wings, deep roots

Posted: June 28, 2009 by fievel in Labels: , ,

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong made a comment in the straits times today (See below for article) on the alarming number of Singaporeans leaving for greener pastures.

June 28, 2009
Strong wings, deep roots
SM Goh urges schools to help students retain their emotional bonds to Singapore
By Goh Chin Lian
MORE than one in five of the top students from the 1996-1999 A level graduating cohorts are not working in Singapore today. And of those from the same batches who went on to universities overseas without a scholarship bond, more than one in three are today carving out careers outside the country.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong gave these statistics on Saturday to illustrate the urgency of getting young Singaporeans to sink roots here even as they become more entrepreneurial and break out into the global economy.

'If more and more of our bright students do not return, this begs the question whether our success in giving them wings to fly far and high will result in our eventual decline as a nation, especially as we are not even reproducing ourselves.

'No nation will be able to sustain its growth and prosperity without sufficient talent, much less a small country like Singapore without natural resources,' said Mr Goh.

He was speaking to more than 1,000 guests at the 70th anniversary dinner of Chung Cheng High School last night. He urged schools to help students retain their emotional bonds to Singapore, 'so that they think of Singapore as the home which nurtured them, and want to contribute in some ways to the country of their birth'.

To do this, he suggested that schools inculcate in the young certain values, such as being appreciative of those who help them advance in life; and not taking for granted the academic, sports and arts programmes they can enjoy here and abroad, when many children elsewhere cannot.

Mr Goh hoped that the end result of such teaching would be students who have strong links with their schools, close ties with their friends and a strong sense of responsibility to their families - even if they choose to live, work and even settle down overseas.

Switching to Mandarin, Mr Goh said: 'I hope Chung Cheng and our schools will give two lasting bequests to our children. One is strong wings; the other, deep roots.

'Like wild geese that migrate each fall, young Singaporeans should be equipped with the courage, strength and adaptability to venture to distant lands in search of opportunities. But when spring returns, they will come back, as this is their home.'

Indeed, Mr Goh further argued in English, helping young Singaporeans stay rooted here was the most important challenge facing the Education Ministry. This is because the number of young Singaporeans working overseas will grow, given that the education system is producing more and more students equipped with the right skills to go global.

Read the full story in Sunday's edition of The Straits Times


My 2 cents:

PAP succeeded in developing Singapore from a fishing village to an almost-first-world city. I don't know if this is indeed what drives us out of Singapore one by one, but at least among my circles and myself included, there is a gap between what our generation expects out of life and what our govt thinks we want out of life. Our handsome GDP growth can be achieved without a good distribution of income. Our richer capitalist/businessman citizens and high wage expats can love their lives in low tax Singapore. What about the rest-of-us?

How do you give the rest-of-us a fair chance at climbing the financial ladder in Singapore's high asset inflation environment? Our local university degrees (unlike that of our better off classmates whose parents had the money to send them overseas to study Law or Medicine and then returning to yet another generation of success in their family), are worth as much as what our hordes of 3rd world country classmates are willing to take for their salary. Take it as a challenge, I hear you say, but look, you simply cannot compete when people think SGD2000 = 10,000 xxx currency back home. A Singaporean lad is thinking, "hey how the heck am I ever going to get out of this poor-heartlander vicious cycle? "

That's not gripe and careless complaints my friends, that is reality that can bite our families one day when the aged falls ill and medical treatment is depleting family savings with or without insurance coverage, and that'll probably come, what, when the lad is in his 40s and nobody wanna hire him for his expected pay anymore? This is different in USA, this is different in Australia, this is different in Canada. Minimum wage laws, public medical health care, local work experience bias in the workplace, but to name a few.

We are a small island country without resources, but we do have world's best (if pay is indicative) leaders. Please solve these problems. The kids SM Goh is targetting might become the world's most appreciative citizens, but financial realities will eventually hit them when they come of age. When that time comes, the end will be the same, appreciative or not. But then again, I suspect the leaders won't hear these words or agree with these words from where they are.

Sudden Death

Posted: June 26, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

This morning I awoke to the news that Michael Jackson has passed away suddenly due to cardiac arrest. I do not feel a shred of emotion for his death, perhaps because, iconic as he was, he was but a popstar and not anybody in my life. Or perhaps I felt his life in the last couple of years had deteriorated into an abysmal state, dogged by child molestation charges and impending bankruptcy, that he didn't seem happy at all. Or...it could be that he had his shot at life already. He'd accomplished much more than many of us mortals would before our number is up.

2 weeks ago, an acquaintance passed away suddenly as well. I only knew him briefly from a rival firm in the finance industry. As one of those brokers/traders that hailed from the open outcry days, his jacket symbol was BVO and everyone knew him as Bravo.

Bravo was only 35, and he left behind a wife, a son aged 9 and daughter aged 4. He was a good man, a loving husband and father, and from what I heard, a hardworking and loyal lad at the workplace as well. Despite knowing him only briefly, I decidedly liked him as a person. He suffered from cardiac arrest while on the phone with a client in the office. By the time paramedics arrived, he was gone. Just like that, on a not so special weekday, all his sales projects, all his material pursuits, all that, no longer mattered.

His sudden death really puts matters into perspectives for me. Most of us Singaporeans go forward in life caparisoned in immortality, chasing after materialistic desires, which can hardly be faulted given the natural design of our nation, where basic human material desires can mean a lifetime of installment payments; but with events of deaths we sometimes get the chance to fully realize the transitoriness of life, and perhaps be jolted out of the folliness.

I hope the day I go, I do not regret the way I'd spent my given time here on this beautiful planet.

Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová - Falling Slowly

Posted: June 23, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

Since the splitting up of Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová might just be the best duo to look out for. Glen Hansard, notably, is also the lead from the band, The Frames.

The Swell Season originally refers to the 2006 album by Irish musician Glen Hansard and Czech singer and pianist Markéta Irglová. Since their mutual rise to prominence after starring in the 2007 film, "Once"(check out the movie trailer!), they increasingly referred to themselves as "The Swell Season" in promotion of their performances until it has unambiguously become the formal name of their collaboration in 2008.

This song actually won the unlikely duo an academy award for best original song.

Cover of the week - ' Boston '

Posted: June 10, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

There are so many talented non-commercial artists on youtube these days...Here's the first of the series 'Cover of the week'.

Virginie's cover of Augustana's Boston is a quirkily comforting rendition...enjoy!

Gary Jules - Mad World

Posted: by fievel in Labels:

It's been a while since I last spent time looking for nice songs I never knew existed...today I came across Gary Jules' cover of Tears for Fears' <Mad World>...and I find that he is a real gem of an artist and his other songs like <Falling Awake> has a tinge of 'Iron and Wine' feel to it...

"Mad World"
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very, very
Mad world, mad world
Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen
Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher, tell me what's my lesson?
Look right through me, look right through me
And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very, very
Mad world, mad world, enlarging your world
Mad world

'A' division badminton finals: RJC vs JJC

Posted: June 4, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

As a former badminton player in the inter-school circuit, I found it rather surprising when I saw the contenders for the title this year, RJC vs Jurong JC. What? JJC? What happened to VJC? Or ACJC? Or even TJC? Well the twist of story came to light when I managed to track down my former doubles partner at the badminton hall amidst the good old deafening RJC cheering. He is one of the teachers-in-charge now and the inside scoop is this...

Me: How come JJ is so strong now?
Him: They are all Chinese import students/players.
Me: Where do they find so many Chinese players?
Him: They have agents for that nowadays apparently...
Me: Then how can they cope with 'A' levels just coming into Singapore like dat?
Him: They don't. Their school don't care. They return to their country or find other things to do after the 2yrs in JC.

For a more informative read, below is a better documented article taken from the Kent Ridge Common.
Some really 'funny' comments also ensued the article...of which I extracted one...see below!

Warning signs of unhappy sentiments against foreigners
Kelvin Teo ⋅ June 2, 2009

SINGAPORE - Last week, the National Inter-school ‘A’ division badminton finals featured a showdown between Jurong Junior College (JJC) and Raffles Institution (RJC). What was supposed to be a simple final duel between 2 schools ended up being polarized into a Singapore versus China showdown. How did that happen? The boys’ and girls’ teams from RJC consisted of Singaporeans, while the girls’ team line-up from JJC wholly consisted of Chinese nationals. Of the 7 members in the JJC boys’ team, 4 were from China, 1 from South Korea and 2 were Singaporeans.

JJC made history with its first appearance in a badminton final. However, the line-up of its teams came under heavy criticism, and there were hints of unhappy sentiments. Vice-captain of the Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) badminton team, John Low, echoed the sentiments of his team:”‘It’s unfair and we do feel a little resentful.” RJC coach Hamid Khan agreed with Low’s unfair assessment, adding that there should have been a cap in the number of foreign players allowed to participate. Others felt that a cap in number of foreign players would have the advantage of improving sporting standards without adversely affecting the participation of local players. The polarized contest between Singapore and China was summed up by Lim Boon Tiong, an RJC reserve player:”A lot of us feel like we’re playing for Singapore, not just Raffles”.

The resentment went to the level that even supporters from ACJC cheered on RJC. This is a thought that any ACSian in his right frame of mind would never ever entertain given the rivalry between ACS and Raffles. The fact that the former cheered for the latter just showed how polarized the contest is, which transcended inter-school rivalries.

Such unhappy sentiments were reminiscent of those expressed in the wake of the open door policy, which opened the floodgates for waves of foreign employees into our work force. These sentiments were expressed occasionally in our very own Straits Times forums, and online in blogs and other popular Internet forums. Like those who were concerned over the badminton showdown between JJC and RJC, there were repeated calls to exercise a strict cap or quota on the number of foreign employees a company can hire. Like local badminton players losing out on the opportunity to represent their school, local employees fear losing their rice bowls to foreign employees. If the calls remained unheeded, such unhappy sentiments against foreigners will rear its ugly head. The events at the badminton final provided a stark reminder to all.

nsnsns ·
9 hours ago
Wake up, the Singapore male will eventually lose in the game of life when you finish your A-levels and are forced to enter NS slavery. The "JJC China loser" will move on to your varsity place and fuck your girls. I hope something ugly breaks up at a larger scale. It will be a much better show than this childish badminton.