Thursday, November 29, 2012

Life of Pi

Another interesting and thought provoking movie. Life of Pi is directed by Ang Lee. The movie is based on the book by the same title written by Yann Martel, who won 2 book prize award for his novel in 2003 and 2004.

 I entered the cinema late and missed the starting 15 minutes.  What a pity. Maybe I will catch it again since I enjoyed its humour and fantastic cinematography. I look forward to getting hold of the book too.

The setting for the novel is in Pondicherry, India. The story is philosophical without sounding serious. It is also religious without trying to sell any particular faith. In fact, it is all embracing as the leading character Pi, is a Hindu, Christine and a Muslim all in one. He does not find it conflicting, though his father advised him to decide on a single path.

The story center around the adventure of Pi when he was stranded in a life boat with a zebra, an orang utan, a hyena and a tiger, after the ship capsized, drowning everyone on it, including his family.

It is both touching and humorous, - his relationship with the Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker, which drifted with him on the lifeboat in Pacific Ocean for 227 days, before he was rescued.


This book is recommended for those who are interested in investing in REITS. It is written by Bobby Jayaraman, published by Marshall Cavendish. The title is "Building Wealth Through REITS".

It gives a comprehensive explanation on the various types of REITS. The examples and analysis given are based on local REITS.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Creative Advertising

Nippon Paint latest advertisement links their colour scheme to the Chinese horoscopes. So they have various auspicious colour for each of the 12 animals in the horoscope. But will one repaint his/her home just because the existing colour scheme does not match one's horoscope?

Many of the colours offer are of  'modern'  hue. Doubt such colours even existed in ancient China when such stuff were first written in the horoscope. Wonder if Nippon 'invented' them for advertising purposes.

Osim has a series of advertisements line up for this Christmas. The series has a heart warming story line base on love. So we have the husband and wife story, where the guy gets his wife a massage chair for Christmas, making her grin from ear to ear.

Then we have the lover theme, where the girl gives her boy friend a leg massage equipment. The 3rd one revolves around a grandpa and his grand daughter. It shows the girl growing up and gets her grandpa a neck massage equipment for Christmas.

The advertisement series has pleasant background music with nice lyrics. Then the short 'punch' lines to convince consumers to buy the item for their loved ones.  Good sale pitch.

Just an observation :

- Man buys the most expensive item for his wife - a chair costing more than $6K.

- Girl  friend gets the legs massage unit costing a few hundreds dollars.

- Granddaughter only buys the low end range of OSIM product, costing hundred plus.

So the advertisement even cater to the earning power of various group. Wonder why can't the wife gets the husband the chair, while the boy friend gets his girl the legs massage ? Gender stereotype with regards to earning power ?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Interesting Lawsuit

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has filed a lawsuit against Sea World using anti-slavery laws in a bid to free the whales and dolphins in the theme parks.

PETA argument is that whales and dolphins are capable of abstract reasoning, have vocal languages, exhibit family group culture and as individualistic as human. Thus, these mammals should have the rights of being a free  'person'.

If they are successful, it could help change this inhuman practice in many theme parks around the world, which includes S'pore RWS, which make use of these popular mammals to generate profit.

Banning Plastic Bags

Delhi, India is enforcing a ban on the use of plastic bag, due to environmental issue generated by 250,000 tons of plastic waste annually. They have tried unsuccessfully to do so before in 2009. Let us hope they will meet with success this time.

Then, Delhi will become a shinning example for the rest of the world major cities to follow.

In S'pore, plastic bags are given out generously by all shops. In many instances, it is not necessary to bag the item purchase, but all shop assistants will automatically put the item in a plastic carrier. We have become a city of plastic bag culture.

Supermarkets are one of the main culprits, as they are extremely generous when it comes to the use of plastic carriers. They will double and even triple bag groceries. When customers ask for more bags (for personal use), the cashiers willingly oblige.

The only retailer that walk the talk on environmental issue is IKEA. They have successfully 'trained' their customers bring their own bags.  Customers will be charge a nominal fee for plastic carrier if they don't.

In fact some supermarkets give a token discount to customers who bring their own carriers. However, the outcome is pathetic.

They just don't get it - it is human psychology that we don't like to be charged for carrier bags. It 'hurts' more to pay for them no matter how small the amount is. The token reward does not entice consumers to make the effort to bring their own carriers.

If only our supermarkets will do as IKEA does, our plastic bags culture will change for the better.

S'pore involvement in Wildlife Trafficking

S'pore has became a hot laundering spot for wild birds from Solomon Islands being exported as captive-bred pets.

Nothing surprising as over the years our govt has only given lip service to conservation and wild life protection issues. Basically there is more noise than action from them. NGOs group are the ones actively promoting and supporting conservation matters.

Malaysia govt has suspended bird imported from Solomon Islands due to concerns of such illegal activities, but not S'pore.

For details, visit

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Casino Wayang continues.....

All the talk in parliament about more target measures to rein in casino visits by locals - sigh - the wayang has to continue.

It is only about 2 years since the 2 casinos started operation and we are already faced with mounting issues of  problem gamblers.When they want to approve of something, they focus on the positives and side step the negatives. Build the casinos first and then put on the wayang show.

It is not as if they do not know the negative social impact. It is a conscious decision by PAP. So they have planted not 1,  but 2 tickling time bombs amongst the citizens knowingly.

It becomes more unbearable when they talked about the consideration to  renew the casino licences in 2015 based on the benefit vs social cost. Of course they WILL, NO DOUBT about it, whatever the findings turn out to be!  We know statistic is malleable. PAP is never open nor transparent with regards to raw data. So only they will  interpret the data and then paint to us a beautiful picture at the end of the day.

All the hypocrisy is disgusting. They will never shut down the casinos by not renewing the gambling licences.

They will not defuse the time bomb, as they lack the courage to go near it. Their lives are too precious. They would rather let it explode amongst the citizens and later make a big loud fuss of cleaning up the mess. Then they will do plenty of self praise to take credit for the clean up. This is the PAP way. We have seen how they work after all these years. Sigh !

SMRT - $15 million mistake !

The Circle line is the newest amongst the existing MRT rails and yet it is already suffering from numerous serious breakdown. It is announced that SMRT is changing the faulty power cables to high grade ones. They will be replacing over 1,000 cables over 120 km in length. They blame the problem on deterioration due to water exposure, manufacturing defects and damage during installation. Good grief ! One cause is bad enough, we have almost all the major avoidable causes listed.

Does it means that they are cutting corners and using sub grade cables in the first place?  What sort of project supervision is there? It is not as if Circle line is our first MRT project. Our MRT has been in operation for more than 2 decades. So there should not be any excuse for using sub standard materials nor lack of experience. Besides, we are famous for getting external consultant and expertise. Our close neighbours like HK, Japan and Taiwan all have good experience in mass rapid transport system. SMRT could have tapped on these countries expertise, if despite SMRT 2 decades of experience they still could not handle the project.

Such mistake is unacceptable as it is damn costly!  The replacement cables is estimated to cost around 15 million!

Money Funds advertisement

JP Morgan Asset Management has taken up advertising space in the MRT trains. Their advertisement boosts of 4.1 to 8 % yield for their money funds. Sound so credible with the point 1 decimal place and a yield table stating the return.

But beware there is a plain strip below the attractive poster with tiny prints clarifying the yield percentage. In other words, those numbers stated are just  'ideal' figures, which means it is unlikely you will get such attractive return. All these financial institutions are still up to their old tricks without bending the law as there are always loop holes in the law.

With the current interest rate so miserably low for saving and even fixed deposit, those conservative investors may end up being the target for JP Morgan.

Note : With the train moving and folks seat below the advertising poster, it is impossible to get close up to read the tiny prints. So putting them there is to protect JP Morgan interest, BUT does not clarify anything for the public since they can't even read it.

Semakau Landfill

Semakau island which is currently our landfill site for refuse is a scenic place. Yes - scenic is the word to describe it, though of course it is 'man-made'.  As with most 'nature' sites in S'pore - they are normally artificial.  Nature Society often conducts bird watching and intertidal walks there, so do other organisations.

Our daily tons of refuse are incinerated and remains are used for landfill. This is our only waste disposal site. The sea between Semakau and the adjacent smaller island is used for landfill. It is divided into cells. These cells are filling up fast. We are now left with the last 2 remaining cells. Looks like S'pore conservation effort is not successful as we are churning out more refuse than ever.

It is just like the keep S'pore clean thingy. After decades, we are still as dirty as ever, if not for the hard work of the swarm of cleaners employed to sweep and sweep and sweep.

This is one adverse environmental impact due to our current over population which is hardly mentioned. Most of the time the feedback centered on the lack of supporting healthcare and transport infrastructure. Running out of space to dispose of our waste is a serious problem.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Argo - the movie

This is a movie not to be missed. It is based on a real life hostage crisis in 1979, where 6 Americans working in Iran's US embassy managed to escape and hide in Canadian ambassador's resident, while the rest were capture by the Iranian regime. It has an exciting plot on how CIA send 1 of its man to rescue the 6 with the help of Hollywood. Sound unbelievable but that is what makes the story so absorbing. There is a sense of irony cum humour in the mist of the trilling spy action.

Besides, it offers a glimpse into history.  The ugly fact is that US is not always the 'hero' fighting for freedom and democracy. Their true agenda is often selfish as they wish to protect their source of oil which powers their economy. They would  interfered with any foreign government which they deemed threaten their oil supply.  When Iran nationalized the international oil companies such as Shell, etc, US helped to orchestra an uprising to put their 'puppet' to head the country in order to protect their interest.

As a result, Iran was ruled by a corrupt dictator whom US backed. His citizens lived in poverty and misery while he flew over his 'special' meal from France using the a Concord plane ! When the long suffering Iranians succeeded in overthrowing the corrupt regime, the strong negative reaction against US is hardly surprising. The situation was further aggravated when US offered sanctuary to the corrupt dictator after his escape. This is the background for the movie Agro.

Argo is actually the name of the Hollywood science fiction movie the CIA agent staged as an excuse to get into Iran to rescue the hostages.

Monday, November 5, 2012

S'pore Vision in the Past

Mr S Rajaratnam was S'pore first Minister for Foreign Affairs from 9 Aug 1965 to 31 May 1980. He was also one of the core leaders and architects of independent and modern S'pore. Below are some quotes from his statement to the General Assembly on 21 Sep 1965, on the occasion of S'pore admission to the United Nations.

1) "Under British colonialism S'pore was developed not only as the commercial hub of South-East Asia but also as a military base for consolidating Western imperialism."  He went on to say that S'pore will never allow the base to be used for aggression.

2) "Singapore feels that money spent on weapons of war and armies is money wasted." His reason was we can never adequately secure our defence and that ultimately our defence and security must be secured through the collective and effective strength of the United Nations and peace keeping effectiveness.

3) "We seek a welfare state and not a warfare state. If independence and freedom are not to be empty slogans then we must continue to spend as much as our resources as we can fighting the only war that matters to the people - the war against poverty, ignorance, diseases, bad housing, unemployment and against anything and everything which deny dignity and freedom to our fellow men."

So we have confirmed once again S'pore is NOT a backward fishing village when PAP took over. This is what LKY claimed in order to inflate his own ego.

Then we also realised PAP policies have gone off tangent over the years and their vision becomes clouded due to their hunger for greater power and greed. S'pore beats all our neighbouring countries in defence spending, though they know in their heart that it is money down the drain. All these latest war 'toys' are only good in boasting their ego of what they can 'afford' to buy with $$.

During the initial years, the vision was cleared as welfare of citizens used to be top priority. Now PAP has became a self serving party interested in jacking up their bonus, on top of their excessive pay through all their extractive policies.

- Our income gap is the one of the greatest amongst developed countries. It is a common sight to see our elderly working  in physically demanding jobs which are unsuitable for their age.

- They do NOT like us to be well informed. What they want is to keep us ignorance if possible by controlling of MSM and press freedom.

- Our healthcare spending as a percentage of our GDP is amongst the lowest even when compare to developing countries. What a SHAME ! A few weeks in hospital can end up with a bill over $130K. This is almost the current CPF minimum sum for retirement.  How to retire then ?  They have the cheek to boast that they are very kind to allow interest free payment stretching over 42 years !  Cannot ever fall sick again if not the 2nd or even the 3rd generation have to pick up the hospital bill.

- Public housing has become million $ affair. Loan period stretch over our life time till almost 'grave' time.

- Our wages suppress due to cheap and abundant influx of foreign labour. Foreign 'talents' have infiltrated into all job areas name it, they are in it. Our PMET end up jobless at 40+ and we have the most educated taxi drivers in the region. Not only do we have plenty of degree holders, we also have Phd driving taxi.

- Our Seniors could not enjoy their twilight years in dignity but are seen searching through rubbish bins for drink cans and cardboards to sell as they don't have enough for retirement even after working throughout their lives.

- Freedom ? What freedom do we have when a gathering of 3 is deem illegal !  There is only one miserable corner at Hong Lim Park where we can apply for permit for public gathering and open speeches which is subjected to approval.

Where is the clear vision of PAP ? It is all in the PAST.

CPF Hungers for MORE of our MONEY

Seems like CPF hunger for citizens money can never be satisfied. Their policies are forever changing in order to get more and MORE money from us. Previously in order to con more money from us, they encourage us to top up the CPF of our spouse and parents, who are our immediate family. As CPF appetite increases, they ask us to top up money into our siblings, grandparents and even NON-immediate family such as spouse's siblings, parents-in-laws, grandparents-in-laws CPF account (s).

Their carrot is the 2.5% interest which is higher than what local banks offer. Bear in mind, we can do what we like with our money in the bank. But we have no control over our money in CPF account. CPF dictates if we can draw it out, when we can draw it, how much we can draw out,...etc.

Another of their carrot is the tax incentives. However, it is limited to $7000. Anyway the direct personal income tax rate is relatively low. It is the INDIRECT taxes such as GST, ERP, COE....etc, etc that are making life hard for the citizens. Thus, this is NOT really a carrot even for high income earners.

When it comes to conning money from us, our govt is very creative. So now they twit the CPF policy again in order to get more money into CPF.  Previous there is a cap to the top up amount, which is the Retirement minimum sum required minus what is in the Special account, approved sum used for investment, etc. Now they claimed they 'simplify' it. Basically, they minus off less items so that the top up amount increases tremendously. The difference in the previous cap and current cap can be as much as $50K or more !

For those who are enticed by CPF 'carrots' - BEWARE ! Remember that CPF has the habit of changing the policies and shifting goal post. It is more practical that we give cash outfront to those we loved than deposit it into their CPF, whereby they can't even 'touch' it.

S'pore has low external debt but very high internal debt as CPF money is used to buy into govt bonds, directly and indirectly filter into GIC and Temasek which in recent years gone into high risk investment and incurred heavy losses. We the public do not know how much fund is left untouched in CPF and how much went into buying bonds and investment.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Propaganda Leaflets at Community Center

There are plenty of so call 'information' leaflets at all the Community Centers, which are under People Association. We know for a fact that it is not neutral but takes direction from PAP, though it is NOT suppose to be a political organisation. What to do, when we have one political party dominating the scene for decades, they have control over every aspect of our public sphere.

These leaflets are mostly propaganda in nature, trying to sell PAP's policies to us. There is this one on 'Our Population, Our Future' - with lots of nice sounding slogans such as "Creating Our Future Together".  We know that there is no such thing as together, but rather the way PAP wants it. So the leaflet informs us that the govt is reviewing our population policies and would like to hear our views. We are currently have a 'National Conversation', which is more like a one way street. Despite the loud and clear feedback from the ground that S'pore is getting unbearably crowded, PM just said that 6 million plus should be no problem ! Is he hearing us ? It only confirms that they have been stone deaf for years but pretending to listen. Sigh !

The leaflet also claimed that middle income household with 2 children can 'enjoy' $142K from baby bonus, leave, tax and subsidies. The work leave component alone accounst for 83K. So much saving - REALLY ?  A local blogger, has just said that "Having children is a bad economic proposition" in S'pore as the cost could be from 500K to a million just to bring up a child. PAP being an extractive govt, is never generous to the citizens. Even their past policies to encourage childbirth over the decade have been met with failure as they were all half hearted effort due to their stinginess. They have overpaid themselves so excessively that they lost touch with ground reality. They can never understand the hardship face by middle income to make ends meet just raising a child and supporting aging parents.

Then it tells us about old-age support ratio. What contradiction - as they have pictures showing seniors working. We are suppose to work till 65 and beyond. We are force to have Minimum sum in our CPF account for retirement, besides Medisave, Medishield and Eldershield. Recently they have force all CPF members to buy into their CPF Life which is an annunity plan with miserable payout. All these compulsory force saving and insurances which they keep telling us will see us through old age - are they another con job by PAP, to retain as much money in CPF as possible, which we have no control over ?  If not, why keep 'frightening' our young that they have so many old people to support ?

Basically these useless leaflets tell us what we already know for years like falling birthrate, aging population, under capacity transport infrastructure etc. They are stating the obvious without providing concrete solutions, but trying to psycho us that they are doing something about them. Hello - we know all these teething problems because they are with us for years! Their policies of patching pot holes are NOT getting to the root cause of the problems. These problems will be with us as long as PAP is in power. They are more interested in their political party preservation than citizens' well being.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Money Never Enough for MIW

Inflation is already a prominent feature in S'pore. It is on the raise and yet our cost of living if further burden by so many increases in fee by all the various govt. extractive institutions under MIW. No wonder our productivity is on the declines for years. At the 1st sign of rising administrative cost, they pass the bucket to us instead of looking into ways to reduce it and do the work more effectively. What is infuriating is that they are making good profit.  They are using increase in cost as an excuse to suck more money from us.

Some examples of these greedy extractive organisations are :

1) Town Councils under PAP wards increased the Service / Conservancy Charges in various HDB estates. We know for a fact that Town Councils have so much excess revenue that a large portion goes to their sinking fund every year. They have blemished record of losing this sinking fund in the past by gambling it away in risky investment products. Till today, there is no accountability to this episode. It is from this incident that we came to know they have collected more than is needed. Now they have to be more transparent due to public outcry. After the money losing incident, Town Councils have to declare their yearly financial statement. This confirms our suspicious that they are charging higher fee than is needed to cover the estate maintenance administration expenses.

2) HDB Refuse collection charges up also went up recently. The excuse this time is it is due to collection of recycle materials. We support environmental policy and end up paying for it. Recycle materials are sold to recycle company. So where does this money goes to ? Town Council or HDB ? Why is this money not use to offset our refuse collection fee ? Should not our fee go down instead ? After all we have been recycling materials for years. Previously we have 3 recycle bins for segregation of  materials. Now we have only one recycle bin. So the cost of collection should go down instead of up as it is easier to gather up 1 bin instead of 3.

3) CPF  Medishield - From 2001 and 2010, MediShield collected $2.11 billion in premiums and paid out only $1.26 billion in claims. So they collected $850 million more than they paid out. This is no surprise as all of us know the likelihood of making a claim is slim since the deductible is sky high.Yet they are still increasing not only the premiums, but again jack up the deductible.

Is there any good solid reason for all these increase in fees ?  The answer is an obvious NO !