Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Core Business in the 'Rot'

Seems like many big companies like SPH, SMRT and SBS are struggling with their core business profit margin, while their divestment business is becoming more profitable.

SPH property investment is reaping handsome profit so much so they are thinking of spinning it off as a REIT.

SMRT retail business is booming. SBS outdoor advertising/rental is very profitable too.

SBS outdoor advertising/rental employed only 70 staff but contributed $36.5 M (EBITDA) to their coffer in 2012. Their bus service employing 6,821 staff generated only $40.2M (EBITDA). This is despite a average daily ridership of over 2 million and revenue of $600.9 M.

We have seen SMRT getting into hot soup due to their greed and focus on inflating the company profitability at commuters expense. Their ex-CEO had been so focus on expanding the retail sector arm that she forgotten that SMRT core business is about running the train.

Will the same fate happen to SPH and SBS ?

Note : a coincident that all these companies start with the letter 'S'


Things under 'Lifestyle' category cost much more. Once upon a time, bakery shops in heartland sold - bread. I recalled a red bean bun costing about 30 cents. Then came BreadTalk which sells 'Lifestyle' bread, -costing double.  Sadly, 'lifestyle' bread has penetrated to all HDB heartland bakeries. We have no choice but to consume lifestyle products and pay more if we still want to eat bread.

This is the same for pets.  Back during my Pre-U days (which is termed JC now) a rabbit cost $6. During my working days, it cost about $35 and a white mice $3.  Now, a pedigree rabbit in HDB pet shop costs about $200. They no longer sell mice but pedigree hamsters.  May be there is no pedigree mice, so it is not profitable to sell them. Only pedigree animals are sold nowadays in pet shops all over the it a hamster, guinea pig, and dog.

In the past, those who wanted 'lifestyle' pet will go for Chinchilla, pedigree dog and cat.  But society has changed, every thing is about 'brand'. This extend even to pets - they must carry a 'name' behind them to inflate profit margin for the seller and boost the ego of the buyer.

There are parents who do not blink an eye to get a $4000 pure breed pup for their kids.  Then when the doggie is naughty, they 'give it away'.  SPCA is loaded with abandon pedigree pets due to change in social value for the worst. To some, a pet is just a form of entertaining toy to be discarded when they are tired of it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Complicated Polyclinic Billing

In 2005, the billing in Polyclinic used to be clear and simple with just 2 columns and 2 rows for a straight forward consultation :

 Service Description                        Total Amount Payable
 Consultation - Adult (C)                                 8.00
 Total amount payable (include 5% of GST)       $8.00

Fast forward to 2012, somewhere along the way billing process has become very complicated, just like all other things in S'pore from taxi fare, CPF & HDB policies, COE........etc, etc

Now Polyclinic billing reflects 5 columns :
1) Service Code
2) Description
3) Quatity
4) Full Amount (S$)
5) Payable Amount (S$)

For the same consultation , the number of rows in the bill has increased to more than 10.  Basically, they are screaming to tell you that government is subsidizing the bill. So we have rows stating :
- Less : Government Grant
- Amount Payable Before Tax
- Add : 7% GST
- Amount Payable After Tax
- Less :GST Absorbed By The Government
-and so on...etc

Now the full amount for consultation is $36.82, the payable amount is $10.50 for a straight forward consultation. Even private GPs in HDB do not charge over $36 for medical consultation. How the govt arrives at this figure is strange. But it is not surprising as it is their usual tactics distort the subsidy amount to make it looks good.

They can be so blind to their illogical policy that they fail to see how ridiculous and unjust it is. They recently just abolished the $3 administration fee they charged patients in Polyclinic who chose to use their own CPF money in Medisave to pay Polyclinic bills instead of paying cash.

This policy has been in force for decades and citizens have been crying foul. $3 out of $8 is 37.5% in 2005 Polyclinic charges and 28.5% in 2012 bill. The govt is worst than Ah Long (illegal loan sharks). At least if one is desperate enough to borrow from illegal money lender, one is paying interest on loan from the lender. Here we have lower income patients who used their own money in CPF and being ripped off by the govt! What sort of govt would enforce such policy to penalize the poor, instead of helping them ?

Pigeons are PEST in S'pore

In other countries, pigeons are just birds. But over here, it has been officially classified as pest for decades. In S'pore, besides pigeons, there are about 4 other species of birds which are under pest category because of their 'large' population.

Crows and mynas are under pest category too.  Crows being large and aggressive are culled so frequently that their number has reduced drastically in recent years, that they are hardly noticeable. They are normally shot down.

Pigeons are poisoned to reduce their number. Another method is trapping. Not sure how they are murdered killed after being removed from the traps. What we do know is that even before they are removed, they may suffer thirst and hunger for days if the pest control firm task to undertake the job 'forgets' to retrieve the traps. So many may die in the traps intentionally 'unintentionally.'

Perhaps being shot down is a less painful death. Dying by poison and being trapped are horrific death for these poor birds.

Mynas which are small chippy birds are relatively harmless, just like pigeons. But too bad, just because they are fit and can survive well in S'pore harsh urban environment,  they become pest.

Pigeons have the worst adverse publicity. Town Councils often used scare tactics that pigeons spread diseases to the old and young.  As more than 80% of the human population  lives in high rise flats, pigeons are also blamed for dirtying washing hang out to dry. It is the environment that make them into pest.

Our tiny state human population has increased drastically in recently. Despite years of  'Keep S'pore Clean' campaign, we still depend on the large numbers of cleaners and sweepers to keep the city state clean. Thus, would we not qualify as 'pest' too ? 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

S'pore - just one big construction site

There was this joke years ago when S'pore was 'blooming' - that we were a 'City of Cranes'. Cranes -being construction cranes.

Now S'pore is in a frenzy state of construction activities due to years of poor planning with regards to housing and transport infrastructure. These 2 important items are not able to cope with the high influx of immigrants. With the PAP's crazy insistent to house 7 million - S'pore has become just on big construction site. Every where you go, you will see HDB flats and condo being built. Then, there is so much digging all over the island for the Downtown MRT lines.

Even once upon a time peaceful estate like Pasir Ris, is not spare from heavy construction activities. Everywhere you go is road division, pedestrian division, barricades all over....sigh!

It is very humid and warm recently - with so much dust from construction activities. Besides, the air quality is again hit by fire 'hot spots' (agriculture crops clearing by burning) from Indonesia. One gets 'sticky' all over easily when outdoor.

The occasional rain, which used to bring relief in previous years, does not help nowadays. In fact, it becomes even more humid after the rain.