Thursday, September 30, 2010


Practically on an annual basis the main local paper like to trumpet about S'pore competitiveness among top 5 in the world since the 1990s.

Quoted definition below is the best i come across. In the 1990s most of S'poreans have seen their living standards rise. However from 2000 onwards it has become stagnation or decline for most- folks savaging rubbish bins & old folks cleaning at hawker centres/food courts.
"Competitiveness is the degree to which a nation can, under free & fair market conditions, produce goods & services that meet the test of international markets while simultaneously maintaining or expanding the real incomes of its citizens."
Are real incomes of citizens as bolded increase? Why harp about competitiveness when majority of citizens experienced otherwise in their daily lives? Reading the bolded words woke me up as to what is wrong with their 'competitiveness' good news.

What kind of competitivenss when it is reported that S'pore has the highest income inequality in the world?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Trying to Look Good

Saw the below 2 headlines in the main daily which rank low in press freedom.
Over 700 reclaim $750,000
MORE than 700 local workers recovered some $750,000 from their employers through the Labour Court in the first half of the year
On surface it look good, however is just around $1000/worker. Going through the court to recover this amount is a rough indication how much $1000 means to the worker who is most likely a lower income worker. Is just the tip of the iceberg since there's lots more with no balls or given up in their claims.
Subscribe to ST, get a gift
A SLEW of gifts worth more than $2 million are up for grabs from now till Nov 27.
Not long ago, business model of New York Times print version is in question for the future. With internet, people are less & less inclined & juicy news spread like wildfire fast online.

With government linked companies squeezing as much $ from populace, how can suddenly be so generous? Truth is less & less people are subscribing whether is print or online version of the govt propaganda.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Disappearance of Good Hawkers

Someone wrote to the papers today about decline of hawker food quality. S'pore is known as a food paradise. Hawker centres used to be built by the government. It provides affordable food & is a tourist attraction. However the privatisation of hawker centre in Sengkang & the food courts in shopping malls is like a cancer.

Bad food quality coupled with higher prices. Employees hired to man the stalls in the food courts hardly have pride in the food they whip up to sell & serve others unlike the self-employed hawkers in hawker centres.

Most hawkers in hawker centres work fewer hours & have a 'life' unlike those slogging away elsewhere to pay for high rents. GST was up by 40% (5->7%) few years back & we are told is to help the poor. If the hawker centre is still operated by govt, we & the tourists get to benefit with better food at reasonable prices.

So much for the 'scholars' in government planning leading to:
  • Decline in hawker food quality
  • Decline in reputation as food paradise for tourism
  • Decline in affordability
  • Taxes are not in a way recycled back to help people temporarily down

If we want good hawker food to flourish in Singapore, we must stop squeezing out our hawkers.

While upgrading hawker centres is a good idea, raising rentals simply makes the hawkers' life harder.

In addition, turning over the running of hawker centres to private operators is a bad idea as their main motive will always be to maximise profits. They will bid high to get the right to run the centre and then squeeze the hawkers to recoup their investments.

Hawkers cannot mark up the prices of their food too much. This means that for them to earn more, they must sell more. However, there is a limit to how many bowls or plates they can sell each day.

Increasing rentals raises the cost of doing business significantly for them & they will have no choice but to resort to cost-cutting measures like changing the quality of ingredients used & how they are procured. Is it any wonder that the quality of hawker fare has gone down across the board?

If we do not want to lose our hawker food heritage, we must build an environment that makes it financially viable for existing hawkers & even their successors to do well.

Our hawker food culture is something worth keeping & the Government should continue to nurture that which is uniquely Singaporean.-Joseph Khoo

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Growth of GDP per Hour Worked

New term i come across. Are you pissed off by the constant harping of high gdp in the mass media? I sure do as gdp is not a good indicator as it includes destructive & unhealthy elements.

Now growth of GDP/hr worked is another sensible indicator.

"How often have you read about Eurosclerosis & how those poor Europeans suffer from low growth & high unemployment in their high-tax, inflexible, anti-entrepreneur welfare states? It is true that U.S. GDP has in recent years grown faster than EU GDP, but so has U.S. debt.

Moreover, if you look at growth of GDP per hour worked, Germany, France & America are virtually tied. How come? Americans work a lot more hours. Time with family doesn't count in GDP, but Europeans think it's important."-Clyde Prestowitz

Sound familiar? So many S'poreans work long hours nowadays. Family structure is weak as recently recognised by the minister who overblow the Youth Olympics Games budget. S'pore even has a 'Eat with Family' day since early 2000s to encourage workers to dine with family.

Common sense don't seem common as with this indicator i'm now aware of. Consider it like km/litre of gas you get from a car.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Govt Desperate about Low Birth Rate

Foreigners seeing how govt treat its own citizens will convert to citizenship? In a bid to boost population the floodgates are slammed wide open & now govt is targeting youths to embrace idea of marrying & having children early. Seems to be a desperate measure as most foreigners are just here to work, earn enough & retire back in their home countries. Can't blame them as i would do the same if i were in their shoes.

Harry Dent wrote in his book 'The Great Depression Ahead' that S'pore will experience a boom due to immigrants & then a long decline. He based it on demographics. With the current govt this desperate to 'brainwash' youths to marry & give birth i'm afraid S'pore may be near the start of the long decline...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Punctured Tire

Embarassing to say that after cycling for over 10 years i still don't know how to fix/replace punctured tire. Just came back from exploring Zhenghua park connector & Pang Sua connector, rear tire punctured on way back at Bukit Batok. Press ahead at slow pace with squeaking sound that's embarassing as well.

Rim is damaged anyway as is uneven on this old old clunker 1st bike of mine. Road bike i bought was stolen a few months after. Thief cut away the cable. Heartache at that time as it cost me $2k+.

Zhenghua park connector has a couple of steep slopes & narrow paths. It runs parallel to Bukit Timah Xpressway for some parts & the sound of vehicles from xpressway disturbs the peace. Pang Sua connector is 1 of the better connectors in the west in terms of scenery.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cost Breakdown of Desaru Cycling Trip

Spending on experiences is better than shopping at infested shopping malls over the weekend. Meal is excellent value for $ compared to high percentage of bill paying for rental component back in S'pore.

There's no lunch on 1st day as we must reach Deseru before dark. Organiser seems like a frugal guy too as we stop at Bandar Penawar near Desaru to pack dinner on way to Desaru.
  • Peanut pancake - 2RM
  • Nasi Lemak - 3RM
  • Ferry Back - 35RM
  • Dinner- 23RM (vegies, tonic chicken, crispy tau pok, steamed fish, coconut)
  • Ferry To - $11
  • Chao Kway Teow - $2.50
  • Bike Rental - $22
  • Hotel - $38 (twin sharing but can sleep 3)

Inclusive of buses & mrt is around $110. Without bike rental at Changi village, cost would be around $90. Rental bike is better than my old clunker. I also had doubts about cycling to Changi since i just finished in-camp training the day before. If one is even more daring can cycle up eariler via causeway though is longer to avoid boat fares(uncertain wait too) to & from Pengilih ferry terminal.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Complacency of the Young

Most have fallen into the trap of glass is full thinking their degree certs is the end of the road to learning. There is a joke i come across that says As work for Ds, Cs work for Bs, Bs work for As. D being the entrepereneur who is not good in studies. I think there's some truth to it.

Those who acknowledge early in life & still possess fighting spirit know they need to avoid the academic dogfights & focus on something else they are good in.

With the influx of foreigners with unknown paper certs in recent years, many locals are shocked about the value of their paper certs that they attach much value to that don't seem to give them an advantage.

Bill Gates among others commented that: 'current education system is broken. System arose during shift from agricultural to industrial economy & served needs of that time by pumping out literate, skilled, docile factory workers. But development of educational system has not kept pace with subsequent changes in society & economy. In context of today's knowledge-based economy, it feels more than antiquated as if it had been designed specifically to squelch creative thought.'

Is not surprising there's no passion for learning for many people due to 'forced' learning in the 'paper chase'.

Young S'poreans content with being just good, not the best
NUS survey finds many believe they do not need to learn


A SURVEY has shown that most younger Singaporeans aged 19 to 23 are satisfied with just being good & not the best, & that many believe they do not need to learn - even though most believe that learning is the key to success.

In the survey, the National University of Singapore quizzed 270 young people to find out how driven they are. It found that while 56.3% always want to win, only 3% are extremely competitive when it comes to winning.

The 3% rated their desire to win at nine or 10 on a 10-point scale - on which one meant 'strongly disagree' & 10 meant 'strongly agree'.

But 6% of those surveyed appear not to care about winning at all, having given a one or two-point rating to the statement, 'I always want to win'.

Most survey respondents are also willing to settle for just being good, & they would not go the extra mile to be the best.

About half of respondents said they would settle for being good & not seek to be the cream of the crop, with just 6% expressing a strong desire to be the best.

Another surprising result is that 54.1% of those surveyed disagreed that they need to learn - even though though 53% believed learning is the key to success.

And none of the respondents agreed strongly that they need to learn more.

While the results appear worrying, NUS business school associate professor Ang Swee Hoon, who did the study with a student, said there is a silver lining.

'That we also have a segment of youths who are not so competitive may appear disconcerting initially. However, if everyone strives to win all the time, then there will be disenchantment in some quarters,' she explained.

'Moreover, organisations have leaders and followers. Having a group of determined leaders followed by others more moderately driven & those less so makes for smoother running of most organisations.' Prof Ang said the apparent the lack of passion to learn - as compared with a keener desire to win - could mean young people here are 'satiated already given our education system'.

'A break in studies, like when they start working, may re-energise in them a yearning to learn,' she said.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Introvert-Unlikely Labor Leader?

World we live in today places more emphasis on extroverted traits especially in the workplace. Why put on a mask & try to be more extroverted when being yourself is effective as well? What is the driving factor for overcoming fear that 1 can be fired for leading the strike? It boils down to what's the worst case scenario that could happen & is it acceptable?

The duo are fired & from that experience i believe both are stronger with their courageous act & can survive without a big 'parent' like a corporation to look after them.

  • Change can come from unlikely places/persons.
  • Extroverts with their talkative mouth can be more fearful than you think at times.
  • Leadership is always in short supply.

Touching off a wave of strikes at Honda plants & other workplaces.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dollar Cost Averaging is Useless in a Company Stock that's Bleak

Bleak prospect & still average down so as to buy more shares? This strategy doesn't make sense but is in many stock investment books as an easy strategy.

To put it in simpler terms: Do you Dollar Cost Averaging to buy more shares in a horse wagon company when that industry is in sunset?

Also downside to this strategy in S'pore is transaction cost - it enriches your broker on a somewhat regular basis. It might work for index funds but in my opinion is best to accumulate $ & buy during the recession rather than averaging. There's a season for 'planting' rather than planting all year round.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

No Train Between Clementi & Jurong East

No train services between Clementi & Jurong East over weekend due to upgrading. Passengers being ferried between the 2 stations with long bendy buses. I reckon it'll take 5-10mins longer.

What i like cycling especially to nearby places is that it gives me control & freedom. I find it rather foolish to throw my $ away for just 1 train station away. Timing is about the same after factoring in walking to station, waiting for train, depart station & walking to destination.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

HIV Test During Incamp Training

Compulsory HIV screening during ICT. Was told policy was implemented at start of this year to all conscripts, regulars & reservists in all branches. A Dr said 2% of blood tested at hospitals are infected.

Loathe getting pricked by needle & still have to take ippt later, however through this mean, is the best possible way to force large numbers of local males tested.

I got a feeling this HIV thing is creeping up faster than the flu pandemic if not why compel so many to be tested?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Deriving Weak Self-worth from Externalities

During ippt test at incamp training last week, a guy in my test group wore a JP Morgan singlet. 2 others commented on JP Morgan. He got that singlet while working there & partipating in a company outdoor event. Seem to have a nice feeling being associated with JP Morgan & others commentating on it.

Reminds me of Lehman Bros. Before financial crisis, people got a sense of prestige associated with it. Then bankruptcy & is like plague.

A simple t-shirt with Nike logo is marked up so much & i'm amazed at the suckers paying for it. Seems to me these people derive their self-worth from being identified with an external entity(eg namecard) like a corporation or logo.

Weak minded individuals get sucked in this keep up with the joneses madness aka consumerism.