Just a thought

Posted: July 31, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

By the way I think with all the heat online about Temasek, maybe the citizens can be expecting a little bit of angpow goodie again soon! Can pay for maybe 1 month of ezlink. Phew.

Research on Slander Cases in Singapore No.1

Posted: by fievel in Labels: ,

Jeyaretnam Joshua Benjamin v Lee Kuan Yew, 1992



Posted: by fievel in Labels: ,

I sometimes wonder if I will get into legal trouble for writing about issues concerning Singapore critically. Like libel suits and what not...maybe for writing about stuff with a tad bit too strong an emotion that translated into what can be somehow in a convoluted, legal way, become construed as accusations. As it is I am already doing my best to steer clear of making statements that can be held as inflammatory. This fear that my outspoken blog will come back and bite my ass is getting stronger.

Some friends say "so-and-so blogger dares to write that way is ONLY BECAUSE he or she is outside of Singapore already", and I cannot refute that their sentiments bear some truth.

My fiancee wants me to write more about non-political stuff...saying its "boring" for me to keep on this topic. I feel the concern.

If there are any legal eagles out there who are reading this, please leave your comments for me, perhaps to guide me on how to blog, express my views, without getting too close to the sharp blades of Singapore's legal system.

Sydney Morning Herald - Lumbered with the boss' wife

Posted: by fievel in Labels: ,


People are speculating in online forums if they will get sued for publishing this already... interestingly the writer is based in Singapore

Ms Ho Ching's speech about Temasek's loss

Posted: by fievel in Labels: ,

Note the Value-at-Risk portion...I really hope she will come out and address how come their VAR model is using a 16% tail and not 1% - 5% as per usual practice.


Jokes of the day

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

Joke No. 1

Ho Ching has done it again! Read this article from Straits Times. It's just one shocking revelation after another.

Ho Ching's ability to lead Temasek is proving to be rather questionable. She does not have even the basic knowledge of risk management to lead Temasek. And she totally exposed this today by saying :

In our Temasek Review last year, we reported an annual value-at-risk of almost $40 billion last March. This meant a 16 per cent probability for our portfolio value to drop more than $40 billion by March this year. Indeed, it has turned out to be so, and more,' said Ms Ho in her speech.

Not a risk person myself, I still sensed something was wrong. So I checked with a professional risk manager friend of mine, and he rubbished her statement. He said she probably got fed the info from her kakia that they operate with a 16%, 40billion VAR, which is traditionally a 99% Confidence Interval, or thereabouts, meaning in the tail event of 1% chance, which did happen this time, they would lose 40 billion, unless Temasek operates on a 84% Confidence Interval VAR, which is actually scarier than the prospect that Ho Ching does not know her risk management ABCs. Anyway, keep a lookout for my friend's professional analysis of her statement on his blog sgpirategame.

Joke No.2

To top off a good publicity day for Temasek, they also announced today that they "may allow" retail investors to co-invest. Read article here. Hahahaha. Another friend of mine, a hedge fund trader, told me he would "farkin liquidate everything if he could", and that "this must be the joke of the century".

But if we think about it, well the joke is on us, because we the citizens are in effect the unwilling investors by having our CPF funds invested in Temasek's bonds at 2.5%, which is kinda ridiculously low for a corporate bond that is obviously nowhere near low risk, one with an undiversified porfolio like theirs does not get to pay only 2.5% for their bonds in the free market.

A good read...

Posted: by fievel in Labels: ,

Speculators Reign Supreme

Posted: July 29, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

The recent proposal for taxation on selling more than 1 property within 4 years was met with much dismay, shock and protest from the industry players ranging from banks to housing agents to individuals who could do a little flip here and a little flip there and get what a billion flips at the Macs kitchen will never get ya. Capitaland's stock prices took a small hit when the proposal came out but with the follow up declaration that it IS NOT AN ANTI-SPECULATION measure, everything has gone back to normal for all the actors in this theatre. What, may I ask, is so wrong with curbing speculation on the residential housing market?

MP for National Development, Mr Mah, how about we create a 4th segment to Singapore's property market? A segment for foreigners to flip and speculate on and on and on, and allow only foreigners to buy and live in. Get rid of this speculation cost from our non-speculative Singaporeans' dream of true home ownership that is not a 99 yr leasehold in the form of HDB. Speculation on derivatives such as Commodity futures is condoned only because it facilitates a proper functioning of the primary physical market. It is the vehicle that transfers the risk for the primary producers. Here in Singapore's housing market case (unlike other countries that has capital gains tax on foreigners) it is but transferring the wealth, and perpetuating the income disparity. Where is the value-add?

Analysts say more feedback should be gathered before amending tax policy
By May Wong, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 10 July 2009 2332 hrs

SINGAPORE: It may be best to gather more public feedback before changing the tax policy on profits earned from property sales, say analysts.

Analysts Channel NewsAsia spoke with said that it is because some are concerned the proposed amendment may hurt the property sector.

The Singapore residential property market is showing signs of picking up, but analysts say the proposed tax amendment may hurt sentiment and derail the rebound.

That is because potential buyers may hold back on fears that if they sell more than one property during a four-year period, they may then be taxed on the profits.

The Finance Ministry has said there is no change to the current and longstanding income tax treatment on property sales.

It said the proposed amendment does not mean that individuals who have sold more than one property within a four-year period will automatically be subject to income tax.

The ministry said the only change proposed is to give certainty that individuals will not be taxed on the gains made from selling their properties if they have not sold any properties in the preceding four years.

It also stressed that the proposed change is not an anti-speculation measure.

However, it is still something to think about for those with more than one property, or planning to own more than one.

Chong Lee Siang, partner at International & Corporate Tax Services at Ernst & Young, said: "It probably comes as a surprise to a lot of people. But the government has said that it's not an anti-speculation measure so that may be a little assuring, but still (at the) back of people's minds would be 'when will I be taxed?'

"As you can see, the public is reacting and giving its feedback and expressing its concerns. So hopefully, the government will take a while to think through it more carefully and see what would work better or make people more comfortable."

If the proposed change for the tax policy goes through, observers say local banks would get hit badly as housing loans make up a large chunk of their business.

Looking at the housing rental agreements, some say the government may want to consider introducing a two-year period of non-taxation if a person sells only one property, instead of the suggested four years.
As many HDB flats are financed through banks today, some believe that misconceptions over the suggested tax amendment may hurt the banks' portfolio.

Jeremy Goh, associate professor at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business in the Singapore Management University, said: "The banking business is basically taking deposit and making loans. If this proposal puts a damper in the market, then it will definitely have an impact on the bank.

"There will be less people needing loans, or people staying out of the housing market. So the demand for loans will be somewhat affected."

The public consultation for the draft Income Tax (Amendment) Bill ends next Tuesday. So far, It has attracted about 50 responses.

John Mayer - Free Falling

Posted: by fievel in Labels:

Tom Petty's 1989 single, Free Falling, covered by John Mayer last year in LA.

Singaporeans, Don't worry be happy

Posted: by fievel in Labels: , ,

CPF Life - The policy that recently got many a politically pathetic (as opposed to apathetic) Singaporeans really worked up over the provision that this compulsory annuity program cannot be guaranteed against insolvency. Reading around online about it here, here and here...I find that there is really a lot of good stuff being analysed and written out there...but hey if you find yourself to be like me, kinda more concerned with the smaller things that are to do with me myself and I today, or tomorrow at best, this is my take-away - Chill Out! Actually, with most of the public policies in Singapore, that seems to be the message if you managed to cut through all the clutter and big words and noise. It really always simply boil down to the following;

MP "so and so", Minister of wadever, announces that we have a new scheme or act or amendment to the original schemes or acts...

I was never too good with schemes and acts so I've historically had great difficulties truly understanding what that wonderfully crafted great piece of news in Straits Times' HOME section really means for me. But as I grew older I started to be able to sieve through the words and today I realized, that at the end of the day, I just had to find the same comforting encrypted message staring me right in my face - it's telling me, don't worry, just be happy...you are being taken care of, somehow. So what I gleaned from reading the news was that -CPF Life is mandatory, we all will gain blah blah, there are some concerns raised by another PAP member blah blah, but it ends there, there are some noise made by citizens blah blah but it also ends there. So I think to myself, "You are not going to change anything even if you try very very hard you know?".

Being easily defeated I mentally agreed, so ok, I flip to the backside of HOME section to land myself smack in the MONEY section and there I read that the speculators have done it again, our home prices have gone up! Our economy might not be great but hey, pharmaceutical did well last month! Ok the housing price inflation piece, I read and go SHUCKS! but what can I do? My lost, somebody's gain it must be. All that happy faces in the photos. Mr. Mah says there's no "excessive speculation" (which by comparative deduction must be correct since he said the same thing in 2006 when prices were going up so much faster)... so this must be just the naturally occuring amount of speculation Singapore must have. That GDP got buoyed by some Tamiflu production must be really great news for my Malaysian factory worker cousins...so I was glad for them on that. Still nothing for me...

But hey, why should I worry about any of the above when they are all not in my hands anyway.
So yeah, just Don't worry, Be Happy.


Posted: July 28, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

is not a dirty word.

Everybody Hurts

Posted: July 27, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on
Don't let yourself go, 'cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong. Now it's time to sing along
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on

'Cause everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts. Don't throw your hand. Oh, no. Don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone, no, no, no, you are not alone

If you're on your own in this life, the days and nights are long,
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts. You are not alone

Azure Ray - November

Posted: by fievel in Labels:

Hi friends, donate or help spread the word...

Posted: by fievel in Labels:

Below is an email I received from Nuffnang, the Singapore start-up that matches online ads with blogs etc... Do help if possible.

Nuffnang is organizing a charity fund-raise for our four-year old Nuffnanger, Charmaine who has been cruelly diagnosed with Neuroblastoma.
As she is in the 4th stage of the illness, Charmaine’s chances of survival are bleak (10%-20%) if she remains in Singapore for treatment. But with the treatment offered in the U.S., she has a higher chance (40%-50%) to survive this ordeal.
However, the cost of treatment in the U.S is high, with the initial deposit coming up to $500,000SGD.
As we strongly pride ourselves as a community where we share both joys and woes, we sincerely hope that our Nuffnang community will be able to do a little something to tide Charmaine and her family through this trying ordeal.
The fundraising campaign will run from 23rd July to 24th September 2009.

How you can help:
Step 1: Donate
Monetary Aid- With the strength of 40,000 Nuffnangers in our Singapore community, if each of us donates just $2, we will be able to raise $80,000 in contributing our bit.
Please refer to http://www.nuffnang.com.sg/ forcharmaine/howto.php in making a donation.
Your contribution, however small, will definitely make a difference and we sincerely urge all Nuffnangers to donate their share to this cause.

Step 2: Spread the Word
Spreading awareness of cause- Beside monetary aid, we urge all Nuffnangers to:
I. Select the option of “Allow charity ads” on your blog manager II. Blog about this campaign in order to achieve our targeted amount together! Link the blog post to : http://www.nuffnang.com.sg/forcharmaine

A life is precious and you can’t put a price to it. We sincerely hope the Nuffnang community will rise to the occasion and show how powerful our blogging community is.

Thank you very much on behalf of Charmaine, her mother Cynthia, the rest o f their dedicated team.

For further enquiries, do not hesitate to contact Elaine at forcharmaine@nuffnang.com or you may reach her at 8254 8256.
Best Regards,Nuffnang T eam

Bell X 1 - Eve, the apple of my eye

Posted: by fievel in Labels:

Thanks for sharing this with us, Rach.

This is "Bell X 1", formerly known as Juniper, the band that Damien Rice was once part of...

Singapore's Medical care - Is it your "daiji" (problem) ??

Posted: by fievel in Labels: , ,

After talking to a friend who doubted that our medical care system in Singapore is indeed possibly leaving some fellow citizens in the lurches without a voice, them being minority, I decided to finally dig a bit deeper into what is covered by our medishield and what is not, and you can deduce from there, why some families have to sell their HDB to keep a loved one alive.

This is the link to the List of Excluded Treatments and Medical Expenses for Medishield

List of Excluded Treatments & Medical Expenses
Generally, the following expenses are outside the scope of MediShield and cannot be
 Entire stay in hospital if the member was admitted to the hospital before he was
insured by MediShield
 Treatment of any of the following categories of pre-existing illnesses or any other
serious illnesses for which the patient had received medical treatment during the 12
months before the start of MediShield cover:
o Blood disorder
o Cancer
o Cerebrovascular accidents (stroke)
o Chronic liver cirrhosis
o Chronic obstructive lung disease
o Chronic renal disease, including renal failure
o Coronary artery disease
o Degenerative disease
o Ischaemic heart disease
o Rheumatic heart disease
o Systemic lupus erythematosus
 Ambulance fees
 Congenital anomalies, hereditary conditions and disorders e.g. hole-in-heart, hare-lip
 Cosmetic Surgery
 Maternity charges (including Caesarean operations) or abortions
 Dental work (except due to accidental injuries)
 Infertility, sub-fertility, assisted conception or any contraceptive operation
 Sex change operations
 Mental illness and personality disorders
 Optional items which are outside the scope of treatment
 Overseas medical treatment
 Private nursing charges
 Purchase of kidney dialysis machines, iron- lung and other special appliances
 Treatment for which the insured person received reimbursement from Workmen's
Compensation and other forms of insurance coverage
 Treatment of any illness, disability, injury or any condition arising from or due to the
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) virus
 Treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism
 Treatment of injuries arising directly or indirectly from nuclear fallout, war and related
 Treatment of injuries arising from direct participation in civil commotion, riot or strike
 Treatment of self-inflicted injuries or injuries resulting from attempted suicide
 Vaccination

And here are the list of Medishield benefits (I cannot really copy and paste this so please just follow the link)

For observational purposes and no other intent, note that our parents are not covered once they reach 85. So in a few yrs time when many more of our parents are older than 85 and fall sick, such as dementia or wadever that plagues the old, then what happens? Nursing home too expensive for us then what? Send them to Malaysia's nursing home as some MP suggested? Or do we quit our jobs to take care of them at home and earn no income to feed the young? Mister Lee Kuan Yew is 86 this year. Does that make him not worthy of our help? If he were not as rich as he is, and if his sons were not as rich as they are, then god bless his health because if he were to require a costly treatment right now, they could be bankrupted for all you and I care because that's the age we, as a society, collectively decided to be the age where we no longer need coverage, or is ok to "just die lor".

Maybe some of you heard about the Medifund, our so called last resort. Yay! We can go to Medifund, no problemo. Teennnghhh!. Wrong. You can go to Medifund ONLY when you have exhausted all your alternatives. See Link. Do you know when you can go to Medifund? When you have become an INDIGENT Singaporean. Phwoa, I never even knew what that word INDIGENT meant until I got to know Medifund. According to Dictionary.com it means to be: lacking food, clothing, and other necessities of life because of poverty; needy; poor; impoverished. Wonder why a simpler word that's more commonly understood couldn't have been used...like "destitute" or "bloody pathetic"...heh.

If we really want to go seek out the many other loopholes in our system and Singaporean families who have already been left out of the system when catastrophy hit them, we'll probably find that most of us wouldn't want to be them in our worst nightmares....but until that day comes and, oh, by then it'll be either too late or we'll be too caught up to make even a whimper, we'll just continue to live the "I'm ok right now, I don't care what else is happening to others" Singaporean "dream". Nothing wrong with status quo. It's the same as saying, to hell with minimum wage, to hell with public outcry (by the way you are not covered by medishield if you incurred it during a civil commotion lest you did not read through the caveats above).

So let us all fly the flag proudly again this August.

Happy 44th Singapore.

Singapore's health care needs reform

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

Once again, I have to urge everyone to read this yet another simple, cut-to-the-chase, important post about Singapore's public policy by LuckyTan. This time it's about our health care system.

Please do read it. It might affect you and your loved ones too, and when it does...my god will you wish you knew what to think and make of our public policies earlier...

The TRUTH about Healthcare .... posted by LuckySingaporean

The US healthcare system is really in bad shape. There is no universal coverage with 47M Americans left uninsured because they can't afford insurance and costs have spiral out of control. In an earlier post, I posted a video that attempts to explain what has gone wrong with their system[Link].

Obama faces a big challenge ahead fixing healthcare[Link] and if he fails to deliver a solution, it will severely undermine his administration as healthcare reform was one of main reasons for the support he received during the elections. What happened to the Americans is a lesson for the rest of the world, if the govt does little and allow the system to evolve driven by market forces, you can end up with a costly system.

In the next few paragraphs, I will point out a number of interesting facts about our healthcare system and you're free to post your opinion and disagree with me....

Okay where do we start....the last major policy initiative was to impose means testing. According to the govt, the rationale behind this is to reduce the subsidy of people who can afford more so that more help can be given to the poor. While this may sound sensible, only the first part has taken place subsidies for the lower middle class and above have been cut, but the subsidy for the poor remains at the same (80% for class "C" and 65% for class "B")[Subsidy Table]. Have a good look at the subsidy table. If you're middleclass and (touch wood) suspect that you have a serious illness, you will choose class "C" to save some money, however your bill is now 75% higher because the subsidy has been reduced from 80% to 65%....you pay 35% instead of 20% which 75% more. Many people don't realise this and think the reduction in subsidy is small. Some people are still happy because they are getting some subsidy..better than other countries?. ...think again!

The chart shows how cost of healthcare is shared between citizens (blue) and govt (red). In UK which makes all treatment free under the NHS, the cost of healthcare to the govt as a % is the highest. Singaporeans needing medical care shoulder the highest (or one of the highest) healthcare cost as a % of total cost among 1st world countries even higher than the Americans whose system is broken. This is because the govt has taken part of the CPF contribution and used it for Medisave since 1984. As the healthcare cost escalates, the rise is cost is passed on to Singaporeans through means testing, Medishield and Medisave. Money paid to Medishield and Medisave is your own money - you can even part-take in private schemes (AIA, Prudential, etc) for Medishield. Private insurers participate only when profits can be made. The chart above was generated before means testing so our govt cost will go down even further and the burden on Singaporeans who get sick will increase. Why is the govt doing this? The main advantage to Singaporeans (who don't get sick) is taxes can be kept low and the govt can allocate the cost savings to other things like defense and upgrading. However, if you look at taxation, it has become more regressive over the years with the govt cutting corporate and high earners' taxes while increasing GST. The benefit of lower taxation goes to those with the highest income earners and corporations. Singaporeans are beginning to question spending on defense[Singapore boosts defense spending][Why are we allocating so much to defense] and other areas while trying to reducing expediture on healthcare - that is an issue that has to be further deliberated but you have to be aware of all the tradeoffs as you will be asked to pay even more healthcare in the future..

You may hear people say, "I went to the hospital and found it affordable", "my mother got warded and the bill was okay" and so on. That is not the way to think about healthcare. In any system in the developed countries the majority of people will get good treatment and be able to pay for it. Even in the US where the system is considered bad, the main problem is 47M of 303M people are uninsured that is about 15% and 85% are covered. Out of the 15%, about 10%-20% will need hospitalisation in the next 5 years. So we are talking about under 5% in the US who will get into serious financial trouble due medical treatment....yet there is a need for reform there. In Taiwan, after studying the best systems in the world and creating their own universal healthcare system, they found that 99.5% of the people covered by the system. What happened to the 0.5%? They found out that the 0.5% were criminals in state prisons where medical treatment is free. For developed countries, where the quality of care is generally good, the main issue is universality....is every single person taken care of?...who is left out?..are there people heavily burdened by medical debt....?

(Incredibly, as I finish the last paragraph, my Sunday Times arrives and the headline is "100,000 women lack Medishield". It is Sunday 6:45am right now...lets continue).

There is a little secret about saving cost in a healthcare system without creating many unhappy people. In a hospital, a disproportionate part of the cost is due to a small number of seriously ill patients. The cost distribution resembles a pareto distribution where 80% of the cost is due to 20% of the patients who are seriously ill. Among the 20%, an even smaller number account for most of the cost. So there is a simple trick to cutting govt expediture and it doesn't take a lot of brains to figure it out - make the seriously ill and their family shoulder a large financial burden. A few days ago, there was this heart breaking story of a little girl called Marjorie Soh who struggled with cancer. Her grandmother sold 4 room flat and her father had to borrow from the banks and friends for her treatment(She was worth it all). Her bill was $400,000. The Soh family are not the only people who have to shoulder heavy financial burdens due to the govt zeal to keep its expenditure down - 400 babies are born every year with congenital defects and they are not covered by Medishield. The cost of treatment in ICU, incubators, operation etc easily reach upwards of $100K and $250K is not uncommon among this group that form 1.5% of the newborn. By leaving these babies out and make the parents shoulder the medical bills, the govt keeps its own expenditure and cost of Medishield down[Link]. The other people who were left out when Medishield was implemented were those with pre-existing conditions again to keep costs down.

We, as a society, have to decide how far we want to go to ensure healthcare is truly affordable for everyone. The issue is who we choose to leave out and why.... whether it is right to for the govt to save the cost of taking care of them to implement corporate tax cuts and increase other types of spending. The govt is already making sick Singaporeans (and the families) shoulder the largest % of total cost among developed countries.....with those who get seriously illness and parents of newborns with congenital shouldering extremely high financial burdens.

Taxi Uncle

Posted: July 23, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

I took a taxi yesterday, and yes at times like these when Im fast approaching the state of being "chronically unemployed" I really shouldn't be taking cabs anymore but let's leave that guilt trip essay for another rainy day, and I got into an interesting conversation with the cab driver.

Thinking back I should have asked him for his name, but I didn't, so let's refer to him as taxi uncle. Taxi uncle isn't all that advanced in age, he looked to be around 35, 40 at best. He spoke really good english with grammar being purposefully dropped for sounding more endearing as most conversations between Singaporeans in the heartlands go, and he started the whole conversation like this...

"What do you work as?" asked taxi uncle,in trademark Singaporean straightforwardness.

"I'm not working at the moment, im unemployed." I answered almost fashionably.

"Oh! How old are you?"

"30 this year" I wonder why I always add "this year" to this answer, as if that makes it any different.

"30 ah!? Can drive taxi lor." taxi uncle exclaimed without needing to further explain himself, 'cos I have already been reminded by my dad 30 is the legal age to apply for a taxi license :S

"Ah, no lah!" Talking before using my thick skull is sometimes what I do and I immediately felt ashamed for the obvious disdain I displayed for his profession, even if it was just disdain FOR myself doing it. And so I quickly added, "No lah, maybe just not for now, maybe next time."

Sensing my attitude wasn't of a rude nature, he said, "Look, I also used to think like you, but life and age can change how we think. I used to work as an Engineer you know, doing sales and earning more than 10k a month for a while. But ah...when I lost my job after analog got replaced by digital technology, I did many different jobs after that and one day I became a taxi driver. Strangely hor, this is the job I have enjoyed the most leh. No stress, enough money for family, have more time for my wife and kids now."

Look, at this point you can either doubt that he was really earning >10k a month long time ago, or you can just believe him like me, and begin to wonder if this man could really be me one day. It's not that I despise taxi driving, my old man was a bus driver and he earned an honest keep to support our whole family, it's just that I had always held higher aspirations for myself than working in menial labour.

The taxi trip was very short and so we had no time to bring the conversation much further than that, perhaps luckily so. It didn't occur to me to blog about this until earlier when I read on another blog about a man's question to MP Halimah Yacob.

See this The New Paper link and read below for excerpt.

THE man had a simple question for his MP:
I will be a security guard if I must, he said, but how can I encourage my children to do well in school if I can't find a good job despite my (tertiary) education?
It was a statement that shook even a battle-hardened MP like Madam Halimah Yacob (Jurong GRC). 'When he responded in that manner, I also started thinking,' she said.

Madam Halimah was raising this example with The New Paper last night after a hotly-debated Parliamentary discussion on how to help retrenched Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs).The man, a former manager in his 50s with an engineering diploma, was retrenched late last year. Unable to find a job, he became a taxi driver.

Part of the problem why our nation has so many structurally displaced, unemployed workers, mostly past their 40s, is because our labour market does not have the chance to evolve on its own. There is too much government intervention. In fact, it is entirely directed and controlled from the top down.

I'm not into thinking that there are jobs out there for me that are being taken by a foreigner. But there are others who are indeed so displaced. There is no way anyone can prove or disprove the government's stance that we need all the foreigners who are willing to show up at our shores, or that the absence of a minimum wage is indeed better. But what every democracy needs is a bit more of a tug-of-war between the people and the government. There should be more voice, more to-and-fro-ing before policies get laid on us the citizens. I just think we should have a more independent labour union, one whose representatives speak their minds more freely without either having to worry about legal consequences or their very own continued existence as a labour union member. I don't know if all of you can see it, but I'm guessing that the below video shows a union member, not really asking a question, but making a statement, at the 2009 tripartism forum. Obama was recently criticized for planting a question during a planned press conference. I'm not implying this is the same (I'm afraid of legal repercussions too!) but I sure don't feel the spontaneity in Mr. Gary Haris' "question", for whatever reasons I can only guess at.

Don Henly - Heart of the matter

Posted: July 21, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

Nobody can duplicate that voice...

These times are so uncertain
There's a yearning undefined
People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age
The trust and self-assurance that can lead to happiness
They're the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the work I put between us,
You know, it doesn't keep me warm


Posted: by fievel in Labels:

Watch out for this Natalie Portman lookalike upcoming song writer/singer! Presenting...Tamar.

Walao S in SMRT stands for STUPID is it?

Posted: July 18, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

After deciding not to pursue my plans to migrate anymore due to some issues about family and return to Singapore after what some might call a 1 week excursion in Australia, I finally got online to post a new entry about that...but came across something so ridiculous that this post has to wait...now we have to look at this stupid no eating on MRT issue.

What this video shows are 3 things; The complete and utter lack of sense and tact on the side of SMRT and its "Station Master" Roger Fool, the Singaporean's across-the-board, over-the-top fear for authority, senseless or otherwise, and the lack of comraderie of Singaporeans to stand up for each other when something wrong and unfair is happening to their fellow citizens.

Ask yourselves, how many of you have eaten a sweet on the train before? How many of you think that it's "against the law" to pop a mint while on the train, or take a sip from your water bottle? I urge you to forward this video link to as many of your Singaporean friends as possible. Hopefully sense will prevail and Roger Fool and his SMRT will have to come out and make a public apology for taking this woman's $30.

First day

Posted: July 15, 2009 by fievel in Labels: , ,

First day has passed.

I touched down to the strangely familiar cold yet sunny winter of Sydney this morning at 630am. People were friendly in the way everyone dealt with each other, even on the simplest things like asking how you are, asking if you need help with this and that...I totally felt the sensation of having arrived in a non-asian culture environment. Grass is greener, literally, sun is shinier, heck even the air smells more invigorating.

Yet somehow, the lens through which I now assess my new habitat is different than that of a 20 odd years old student, or a tourist, or any other forms of a temporary resident; I took on the lens of someone intent on making this place my home for the next many many years to come. And it had an effect.

It's the first time I have ever experienced the sensation of everything feeling right superficially and yet wrong on a spiritual level. Scorn, laugh, critic all you want, but this is truely how I felt throughout the course of the day. I actually felt like the nice feeling was not deserving. I see my dad and my mum's and my in-law's faces a lot as I coursed through the day. Family somehow became something that I couldn't shake off my mind. Shirley, yes, but that I can discern the whys and hows.

This is not the way I pictured it to turn out and I already feel like a mega-self-sabotaguer on the first day. I hope the next few days will somehow bring about a more crystalized conclusion for me on the whys, hows and whats.

I'm leaving...

Posted: July 14, 2009 by fievel in Labels: , ,

It's difficult to really write anything concrete about finally leaving Singapore today. Mixed feelings of anticipation, apprehension, excitement, fear, all rolled into one, and the magnitude is also muted by the fact that I'll be returning for a week in 3 weeks' time for my wedding =)

Something slightly amusing happened when I was applying for my Exit Permit from the Singapore Armed Forces. At the end of the whole process, they had a question for me....

They asked:
Please select the reasons below for your decision to go overseas for studies, in order of priority.

I guess I still feel a little indignant about how things are in Singapore and so I was glad to have the chance to provide some form of feedback to our leaders (since this was obviously not a SAF question).

There were 10 concrete reasons + 1 "others (please elaborate)" choices.
I chose, in order of priority:
1) I was unable to gain admission into the local education program I was interested in.
2) Others: I have been unemployed for a while now and when I was employed, I was unable to afford my desired standard of living. Housing is too expensive (then the allowed number of words was used up and I couldn't write anymore, otherwise I might have written a blog entry to SAF.)
3) I intend to migrate.

Ok, time to go wrap up the packing...

The truth about jobs jobs jobs

Posted: by fievel in Labels: , ,


This is something I have been thinking about writing but has not gotten around to.

Fast Food Nation

Posted: July 13, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

Rented the movie " Fast Food Nation " last night and I must say the docu-movie made Shirley and I aspire to become vegetarians...it's a really really cruel process, the way these cows are slaughtered and skinned. Attached below some videos...I must warn that the slaughter videos are not suitable for everyone, and definitely not for kids.

Fast Food Nation

Slaughter Videos

If you are interested in going vegeterian, you may want to start off with a pledge to go veg for 30 days at http://www.goveg.com/, also do check out this video:

30 reasons to go veg

What do you want to change in Singapore?

Posted: July 10, 2009 by fievel in Labels: , , ,

Straits Times featured a write up on our newly minted NMPs today. A lot of bloggers in Singapore has written and read about the fact that Mr Siew Kum Hong did not successfully obtain a second term as an NMP, despite garnering a lot of support for his outspoken and vocal style when it came time to bring up real-life Singaporean issues in Parliament.

The reason Mr Siew had so much support from the people is that he was willing to voice out our concerns in order to effect changes the people want. As such, I paid special attention to the portion of the report on what these newly PAP-selected NMPs said they would like to change in Singapore.

One thing about Singapore that I would like to change:

Teo Siong Seng, 54, Managing Director of Pacific International Lines
"The weather, so that we can have four seasons. Here, it's either hot or hotter."

Paulin Tay Straughan, 46, sociologist, Vice-Dean of NUS Arts and Social Science
"I think we are way too focused on academic excellence. I don't remember being so intense when I was in school. But now, I find that our kids are really being pushed very hard. It will really be good if we can strive for a middle ground where there is better balance in work and leisure."

Lawrence Wee, 63, Executive Director of Presbyterian Community Services Singapore
"The pace of change. Let some parts of our heritage remain to remind the older people of landmarks they grew up with or they may become a bit lost. Don't change too fast or we'll be just a land of glass and steel."

Viswa Sadasivan, 49, Chief executive of Strategic Moves, a media training and consultancy firm
"To change the worship of academic excellence and the way people put so much importance on paper qualifications."

Calvin Cheng, 33, Media Entrepreneur
"Our self-image. We may be a young nation, but our constituent cultures are ancient. As a cosmopolitan city, we need to welcome foreigners and make sure we attract the best talent. But this does not mean we always have to look to the outside to define ourselves."

Audrey Wong Wai Yen, 41, Artistic co-director of The Substation arts venue
"I would like us to be a more gracious society and that we can improve on our civic responsibilities."

Terry Lee Kok Hua, 57, a veteran unionist
"That we are not too kiasu, care and share more for others in order to achieve happiness for all."

Mildred Tan-Sim Beng Mei, 50, Managing Director of Ernst & Young Advisory
"This is not so much change as something we could become better in. I was struck by Hong Kong's response to severe acute respiratory syndrome. They were hit worse but could come out and rebuild and adapt. Its ability to change and respond is something we could learn from."

Joscelin Yeo Wei Ling, 30, former national swimmer, owner of swimming school
"The traditional mindset that it is not possible to succeed in academics and sports at the same time, and that you have to give up one for the other."

My question to you, the Singaporean on the street, is, what are the changes you want to see in Singapore and do these NMPs sound like they will be represententative of you?

A friend asked me this recently, "What are the 3 things you will change about the way Singapore is run if you were, um...you know, the Prime Minister?" (Note: this is entirely for the sake of discussion over a kopitiam session and not meant to be provocative)

..and my answers were...

1) I will not peg our politicians' salaries to that of the private sector.
My reason is that, beyond a comfortable amount of salary, it does not take even more money to get a civic-minded person to run our country. Even if we need a top-notch banker to be Minister of Finance for example, the true test of whether he will do a good job for the country, is not in his ability to fetch a higher salary in the private sector, but that he was able to fetch that salary in the private sector and yet willing to take a pay cut to serve the people. I mean, it's like passion over money. If a vet chooses to become a vet instead of being a doctor in Singapore simply because he would earn more money and not out of love for animals, then I doubt he will be all that great a vet. Fact is the high salary creates the problem that it will attract the wrong crowd...
Corruption prevention was another reason for the high salaries; but really let's look at the alternative...you see, drug trafficking is prevented by capital punishment in Singapore...punitive rather than rewarding. It sure works doesn't it?

2) I will enact a minimum wage law
Minister Lim Swee Say recently said during the 2009 tripartism forum that the absence of a minimum wage law allowed many employers to cut wages during the crisis and hence saved jobs. I beg to differ because a minimum wage law can protect Singaporeans at the very bottom of the labour food chain. The jobs that suffered a wage cut (hence saved) would not even be anywhere near a minimum wage of say, $4 or $5 an hour, jobs that a security guard, a cleaner auntie etc would fetch. This would would prevent employers from resorting to unfairly cheaper foreign labour that costs even lesser. $4 x 10hrs/day x 30 days = $1200. At least we give a Singaporean senior the opportunity to work to the bones and fetch an income to live like a human proper. A minimum wage law is the least our now arguably 1st world nation can do to save, protect and bring along our ultra low income fellow Singaporeans in the quest for further economic success. It is well documented that the capitalistic nature of the modern world creates a widening gap between the rich and poor. Without a salary floor to protect these Singaporeans as our cost of living continues to balloon, we are not bringing everyone along as we 'progress'. Yes it might be expensive, it might be a social cost, a dead weight loss or whatever you call it, but should we not govern with a bit more conscience?

3) I will report the country's progress not in GDP terms, but in GDP net of inflation for the average Singaporean. I may even go one step further and measure the happiness quotient, or attempt to reflect the happiness of Singaporeans, perhaps with a study into how many Singaporeans are thinking of leaving our shores, or are leaving our shores. Basically I propose a less materialistic and more humanistic approach. (This seems to resonate with what some of our NMPs are suggesting...)
We all know statistics is a tricky subject. GDP does not measure true benefits to our people, as it can be very unevenly distributed (go wiki Singapore's GINI coefficient), or that inflation can have it all taken away.

Anyway, the list goes on...

What would YOU like to change about Singapore?

Nick Drake - Northern Sky

Posted: July 9, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

Even 35 years after the death of Nick Drake, the gentle-voiced cult figure is still soothing tortured souls with his introspective folk music.

- Northern Sky -
I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky



Slavery exists in Singapore

Posted: July 8, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

Yes, at $5 a day, slavery is alive and kicking!

Is Australia racist?

Posted: by fievel in Labels: , ,

A friend asked this question early this morning, "Is the racism still bad in syd?".
Being highly concerned with this question myself, I have done a bit of snooping prior and found that there has been a recent increase in racism across various countries which primarily stems from the unemployment and a sudden spike in Asian immigrants, most of which are from China and India due to their rise in spending power. Indians, in particular, have been having a really bad time in Australia in the past months, culminating in public protests and undue tension.

Not unlike what we have in Singapore, there is a growing disgruntle to Kevin Rudd's continued policy of leveraging skilled immigration to bolster the economy, one that was really the works of John Howard. Australia is more multicultural than Singapore, and has been so for a long period of time. Kevin Rudd made headlines with his 2008 public apology made to the aboriginals. There is no denying that racism exists in Australia just like anywhere else but how much it affects you in your quality of life as a migrant is going to be for yours truly to find out. One interesting statistic I found though, is that 60% of Sydneysiders are not born in Australia.

On a personal note, I feel that as long as Australia's immigration laws do not veer to the extremes of that like we have in Singapore, balance and harmony will be achieved, without incurring too much wrath on the ground. Why? If you have ever tried your hand at figuring out your migration eligibility to Australia, you will find that the biggest impediment at the end of the day is in securing a job there, which is no easy feat if you do not first secure a permanent residency. Now try reading this article to compare the difference with our system here in Singapore.

Benjamin Solomon Carson

Posted: July 7, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

This is one of the world's most compelling speaker, Dr Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins. This is a long speech, but if you listen to the end, I hope you too will find something in it that is just what you needed to hear, no matter what your situation is right now.

Odd Job Nation

Posted: July 5, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

Came across an article in CNBC today, "Wanted: Fake Employees"...

Interestingly, some filmmaker started a business venture, called 'Odd Job Nation' that makes taking on odd jobs during this recession way cool. They have jobs like...

1) Foosball player
We are in need of a seriously talented fooseball player. Our office has had a reigning champ of foosball for way to long, and as a result, said champ has become overly cocky and boastful of his foosball superiority. He needs to be put in his place and annihilated by a foosball pro. If you think you can beat our champ, you will be rewarded with free beer during/after the match. If you can beat our champ, you will be given a $40 prize!

2) Mermaids for a birthday party
Perhaps fulfilling a long-harbored “Splash!” fantasy, one poster is looking for a couple of women to pose as mermaids and swim around the pool at a birthday party in July. The pay is $150 for three hours, and they will provide the costume if necessary, but there is one teensy caveat: You have to do it topless.

Trust the Americans to come up with anything cool and wacky.

The start of a new chapter

Posted: July 3, 2009 by fievel in Labels: , , ,

My Australian student visa has arrived! Despite all the hesitations and hem-hawings in the past months, I can now feel the first drips of adrenalin and excitement about all the possible events that will take shape in the next few years.

Suffering from yet another bout of self-induced doubt and panic yesterday, I went back to the drawing block and re-examined my choice; which is to study IT in Australia, as opposed to a Finance Masters in Chicago, as opposed to a, till-now non-existent, job offer to go work in Hongkong. For my own benefit of not having to go through another round of panic I've decided to list down my findings this time...


I spent a few hours poring through job websites in both Chicago and Sydney. I spoke to a pal in Chicago who alerted me to the dire employment situation there; he forwarded me the USCIS link to see how the 65000 H1B visa annual quota in USA used to be 'over-subscribed' on the very first day of release on the 1st of April every year and yet up till now (3rd July, 2009) there has only been about 45000 filings.

That thereabout dashed all naive hopes of thinking Shirley (my spouse) can land a visa sponsorship for a job there on goodwill, good faith, good connections or good whatever; and the high possibilities of myself failing to do so after my program (despite the constant thought that Chicago should be the natural career destination given its status as the mecca of capital markets and the birthplace of futures).

Looking to the job market in Sydney, using http://www.seek.com.au/ , I found a great deal of interesting jobs in the finance + IT hybrid domain. On top of that, Shirley will have the legal rights to seek full and meaningful employment in Sydney, a land where bakers, office administrative workers, lawyers, accountants and all the rest all start on rather equal footing.


I'm already established by all that know me well to be a fairly materialistic being. And so I went looking in http://www.property.com.au/ , zoomed in on a few decent, fairly close to CBD suburb neighbourhoods and started looking for housing under $500k; loved the sunny, bright, well-sized apartments/townhouses/houses I found.

I also checked with many many forums of people who lived in both cities/countries and were making comparisons. Sydneysiders really had a lot of good things being said about them. Something about people not caring for what you earned, or that you work to live not live to work etc...Racism is still something I keep thinking about, but according to my Chicago pal, its pretty much the same over his side of the world...and I thought about it, yeah it's true, caucasians have it better even in Singapore! So there really isn't much of a change to adapt to there.

All in all, I'm getting incrementally psyched about the big move!

Priscilla Ahn - "Dream" & "Are we different"

Posted: July 2, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

Joshua Radin - Winter (Live with Priscilla Ahn)

Posted: by fievel in Labels:

Those of you who can pick out the amazing voice of Priscilla Ahn in this rare duet version of 'Winter', she's a newcomer from LA I think...will follow up with a song from her...

Bernie Madoff

Posted: July 1, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

This video interview with Bernard Madoff in 2007 is really interesting because in hindsight, we can fully realize that a man who...

1) is dressed in a suit
2) is recognizably rich, hence successful (?)
3) gives talks on TV in an authoritative manner

...can be wrong, can be a cheat, and can be lying for his own benefit.

'It's impossible for fraud to be committed in the current regulatory environment....... at least for any length of time'. Bernie, 2007