Monday, June 27, 2011

$1 Desert & Housing Prices

Ok. $1 desert & housing prices - how are they linked?

Honeydew Sago

When the current ruling party first came to power it had the interest of the population at heart. Housing units & hawker centre land parcels are for the benefit of the masses with little markup. This kept the cost of living low & a respectable lifestyle without absurb amounts of debt.

Over the years the ruling party's mentality has mutated beyond recognition. It now sought to maximise $$ going into its coffers by sucking as much $$ out of the populace. Housing units are at record highs by manipulating supply & demand. Retirement fund of the masses are sucked up by insane 30 year mortgages in a volatile economic environment. Land for hawker centres are tendered out to private developers with a reserve price bid. This in turn led to: record bid -> record rentals -> high consumer prices.

If price of many daily necessities are kept affordable, the ruling party wouldn't have to resort to flooding in hordes of mainly cheap foreign workers to keep business cost low & competitive.

Imagine $1 desert (hawker ctr) vs $4 desert (eatery booth in mall). That's how absurb the rentals i find. Why should my $$ go into paying for such unproductive high rentals which only benefit a few while the rest are suffering?

Might as well eat $1 desert at the hawker centre than $1 coffee/tea from opposite coffeeshop. With $1 i can savour 4 different types of desert compared to the mall's $4.

Think value for $$ & not cheap price alone.

Personally, i consider S'pore is already on track for long term decline just on demographics alone. Writer who wrote to the State Times is too generous when he wrote few generations. No need to wait for few generations to pass, S'pore is declining already with pro-birth policies being an utter failure since implementation 10 years ago. Root of problem not solved - sucking of people's $$ to govt hands.

Housing prices can keep Cupid at bay
Jun 25, 2011

THE decline in marriage rate to a historic low last year is alarming. This, combined with the record low fertility rate last year, presents an existential crisis for Singapore, within a few generations' time.

This news comes on the back of record high property prices, both in the private market as well as in public housing.

These 2 issues are inter-related. For example, I am looking to marry & have children soon, but the heavy debt burden of housing that I will be subject to for 30 years is a major discouraging factor that I will have to consider.

Similarly, many couples my age simply cannot afford to get married & have children, with the many financial burdens they are made to bear, such as servicing loans for university fees, forking out money for the upkeep of elderly parents & dealing with rising inflation.

Cost of housing is by far the heaviest financial burden for people aiming to have kids & start a family & if the Government is serious about tackling the national crisis in the severe decline of marriages & births, it must consider lowering public housing prices for first-time applicants.

This is a grave crisis & it must be dealt with more drastically, even if it means lowering the amount of money that will go into the reserves. The very existence of Singapore is at stake.

Nicholas Loh

Friday, June 24, 2011

$1 Ice Kachang @ Tanglin Halt Hawker Ctr

Probably the best value for $ desert stall in S'pore as most of its deserts are $1. Is at the round shaped hawker centre at Tanglin Halt. Whenever i pass by while riding during its opening hours (7am-8:30pm, some Wed off)i make an effort to stop by.

Tanglin Halt is the probably the only area in S'pore where 2 hawker centres are a stone throw away from each other. Both offer food at reasonable prices (for a frugal guy like me). Besides that area is under Tanjong Pagar GRC which is helmed by MM Lee. Is mostly a lower income area & if cost of living are raised there would be unrest & disatisfaction which is a terrifying scenario for the henchmen working to please old man Lee.

Ice Kachang sold by the open booth eatery outside IMM is a rip-off at $4. Though i have not tried it before i still find it ridiculous. I can order 4 bowls at the Tanglin Halt stall & i'll probably can't consume anymore after 2 bowls let alone 4. So much of the costs go into paying rentals & few mins of aircon hence is definately not a good use of my $$.

Furthermore i'm more inclined to support small local businesses.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Library Modelling After HDB in Manipulating Demand for $$?

Severe pent-up demand for Robert Kiyosaki's latest book 'Unfair Advantage' leaves me wondering if Library Board is following the footsteps of HDB(Housing Development Board).

How to manipulate? 1st they ordered 3 copies of this popular author's books for entire nation. With just 3 copies the demand in reservation for the book went to the stratosphere! Take a look:

Every single copy (each library has 2 copies) are reserved at a price of $1.55 .There ought to be 2 reservations per book so the library gets $3.10 to recoup part of a book's price.

I have no intention of buying his latest book. Saving $$ is 1 reason but the other reason is shelf space. I'll read the book twice & return it. Unless the book is really good & worth buying to keep as reference the limited shelfspace is increasingly impacting which books to buy for reference.

People's homes are increasingly cluttered these days.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

F1 Pace of Life in S'pore

Lights emanating from a construction crane for the rebuilding of Jurong Entertainment Mall. Construction work ongoing too for Jurong Hospital & the mall beside Jurong mrt. Time? 10:30pm on friday. This is a day when regular working hours people are eager to knock off cause the weekend has arrived.

What does this say about the F1 pace of life here? Isn't it hardly a wonder:

  • why so many are stressed out?
  • Increasingly mental illness
  • More & more malls for people to buy buy buy as a form of therapy(very short term)
No doubt speeded up construction let people enjoy the facilities earlier. However the pervasiveness of speed in s'pore comes at a cost.

Are you driving a 'F1' in your life? Any thought of slowing down & unplugging from the 'grid' at least once in a while?

Monday, June 13, 2011

KTM Bukit Timah Railway Station (bicycle trip)

All railway tracks will be dismantled from next month onwards when end point is Woodlands instead of Tanjong Pagar railway station. A Green Corridor petition was started to preserve & turn it into a green corridor. Sad to say with the present money minded govt the petition is pretty much futile.

Tanjong Pagar & Bukit Timah stations will be preserved but as we know the preservation will add a lot of fakeness to it. One need not look further than Chinatown which has lost much of its authenticity. Do tourists come here to look & savour the fake stuff?

I rode to Bukit Timah station to have a last look in its true form before is gone.

Entry point is the side path leading up just below the black railway bridge. This smaller path leads to the station but it is not so roadbike friendly. Other side path which is wider on other side is more friendly to roadbikes.

3 tracklines to allow repair locomotive & for other train to stop & wait to avoid collision in the single line track winding through S'pore.

Device to activate switching of tracks. All these will be gone with the dismantling. A piece of local railway history is gone...

Railway bridge over the Bkt Timah/Dunearn Road near King Albert Park.

I don't suppose the bridge will be dismantled since is a waste- it can take a train.

To left is towards Tanjong Pagar Station. To right is Woodlands & then Johor, Malaysia.

Abandoned building opposite Bukit Timah Station. I suppose it used to be some admin or staff quarters in the past. Hope this building will be preserved as well.

Bukit Timah Station & its platform. Without the condos nearby this place really look & feel like kampung(hamlet). Peaceful & quiet place unlike the busy artery road just few hundred metres down the slope.

Station master coordinate from here to avoid collisions. Malaysia flag(left) will be gone from next month onwards.

Stitched up photo of the station.

Room storing the device for station master to switch tracks. All will be gone soon...

Toilet. There's no toilet at the station. Looks dark inside but i see a cable going in so i suppose got light to turn on inside.

Waiting area at center of station beside the device storage room. Seats a couple of passengers in the past.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Is a new term i heard when it surfaced during the great recession(subprime bubble). Stay at home country for vacation in order to save $$. The US subprime crisis might be over but the overleveraging still lingers on. Many people are heavily in debt. This is essentially a credit fueled economic growth. More & more debts to drive growth.

Question is how much growth is there further down the road when there's so much debt already? Even more debts & interest payments? A period of deleveraging is needed. With staycation becoming more & more common it is a sign many people are stretched to their financial limits. Notice the staycation promotion ad appear around the area where luggages are sold. Ironic.

Someone who wrote to the State Times has mentioned valid points which i have bolded:
Jun 9, 2011
Tackle excessive speculation

IT IS heartening to learn of the plans to build more flats in mature estates ('New HDB flats likely in Kallang/Whampoa, Tampines... but not in 'built-up' Tanjong Pagar'; last Thursday). But this additional supply may not necessarily make housing more affordable if policies are not put in place to deal with excessive property speculation.

With the high liquidity in the financial markets, Singapore's 'open door' policies, and low-interest environment, it is inevitable that many would be tempted to borrow & leverage to invest in property. With the current pricing policies, newly built flats may still not be affordable to younger start-up families & the average working-class family.

The notion that flats are affordable simply because the buyers can afford to pay the mortgage using just Central Provident Fund (CPF) money is a myth. The CPF was originally meant as savings for retirement funding. Now, if the CPF savings are used towards paying off heavy mortgages, where then is the money needed for survival during retirement?

Despite that, many home buyers nowadays are stretching mortgage repayments over 30 years or more.

The Government ought to look at home affordability at greater depth. How has income grown over the past decades vis-a-vis property prices?

High property prices drive up rents, which in turn drive up business costs, which in turn cause price increases that are passed on to consumers - inevitably increasing the cost of living.

Gradual asset appreciation in line with income growth & overall standard of living is fine. But asset inflation causing runaway price increases, coupled with excessive borrowings to finance speculation, would be dangerous.

Kang Sing Fong

Selling of overpriced property by govt has essentially transferred people's retirement savings into govt's hands. Modern form of slavery. Exorbitant form of indirect tax too.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Storm Drain @ Sungei Pandan Patch Up

Drain from Sunset Way emptying into the Sungei Pandan canal leading to Pandan reservoir. Upper slope patched with cubes of rock. Undergrowth has cover up much of the bottom concrete slab.

Slow down in life & notice more changes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Getting off the 'Grid' Once in a While

Mobile phones are a common companion among many people who are leading an increasingly hectic life. Increasingly it has become an annoyance with work following where a person goes with the cellphone after workhours. Personal/family & work life are increasingly blurred. Ever thought of leaving your cellphone switched off or at home while you go out to be a free spirit?

I leave my cellphone at home when i:

  • jog (at all times)
  • play badminton (usually)
  • short distance cycling (usually)
  • short errands (usually)
  • stroll after dinner (usually)
  • quiet time alone (usually)
Another negative that comes with the cellphone is that it allows people to 'disappear' from appointments/dates at the last minute since can do so easily. Back in the olden days when cellphones are not ubiquitous, a person has to make effort to show up for appointments/dates since is not easy to cancel by calling/sms. In this aspect the cellphone has lulled many in not honoring their appointments/dates.

Punctuality is often not honored with the advent of cellphones as well.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Why I Loathe CCAs in School

A mother wrote to the state paper lamenting about the obsession of CCAs. When i was in secondary school i loathe CCAs too. During my time in the 90s is called ECA (extra curricular activities). Activities offered was limited & i hated the idea of staying back after school for more activities.

Back then i liked skateboarding & subsequently cycling. I used to play badminton during my primary school days but i sucked at it & still suck till this day though i play it for fun & exercise. After countless games of badminton is obvious to me my motor reflexes are slower than most people. I have joined badminton club during primary school & because i was lousy & with 3 courts available the teacher couldn't be bothered with lousy players. Thus i have no intention of rejoining badminton club during secondary school.

Guess what i joined? Is Art Club! I suck badly at art & have no artistic flair at all. So why do i join it? Because is only:

  • once a week
  • on a weekday (my weekend is free!)
  • 2-3 hour session
  • no skateboarding or cycling club
I figured that by joining art club i'll have more time after school for myself. Back then i've always wondered why school encourages activities like uniformed groups, basketball, volleyball, musician band etc. Activities are that more group-orientated. I don't seem to fit in at all. Is only a couple years later being more matured that i realised i'm more suited to individual activities(eg cycling) due to my temperament & physique.

I share the mother's sentiment that is disheartening that students nowadays are becoming nothing more than tools to win awards/medals for the school so that principals & teachers in-charge of those activities can get promoted. With much rote learning in school & now making it from Extra(E) to Co(C), it supresses the creativity of students even more. Creativity does not flourish well in an environment that is rigid & demanding conveyor belt(go faster) learning environment.

Isn't it any wonder why so many S'poreans can't think out of the box after rolling off the school factory?

End obsession with medals (Schools & CCA)

I AM a mother of two secondary schoolgoing children. One of them is happy to be in the co-curricular activity (CCA) of her choice, while the other is miserable as she did not have much of a choice to begin with. I believe this is true of every cohort of students entering Secondary 1 every year.

Why are schools so obsessed with achieving ranking/awards/medals in sports, uniformed CCAs & the Singapore Youth Festival? Many a time, this is done at the expense of the overall educational experience of students, not to mention the large amounts spent on hiring coaches to train students to win competitions. Isn't the journey just as important as the award?

When a CCA is not 'performing' - that is, not bringing in good results - it is either dropped or given very little support. There are not many CCAs left that are recreational any more. What kind of values are we passing on to the children?

Everything a school decides to carry out is geared towards achieving a school excellence award, or quality award. Do we have to run schools using business models? It is very disconcerting to see so many banners advertising the school's achievement in academics & CCAs.

There is one other concern. The multiple tasks faced by a teacher has diluted the passion to join the teaching profession. This is because teachers are assessed more on how much & how well they perform in non-teaching duties rather than how much they really care about students.

Over the years, the system has lost many passionate & committed teachers as they are just too tired to take on so many non-core duties.

Chan Peck Lian (Ms)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Railway Track to be Dismantled?

Railway station owned by Malaysia will relocate to Woodlands immigration & customs from 1st July. Tracks of railroad will revert to S'pore ownership in exchange for prime land(building) in Marina area with Temasek as slightly smaller shareholder.

This is the rail track near Tanglin Halt Blk 76(to be demolished for enbloc soon). I used to come here after a meal at lunchtime when i worked nearby to enjoy some peace & watch the afternoon train roll by. Rather sad to see this piece of relic go. People have petitioned to have the tracks conserved as nature corridor but as many know about the extreme capitalistic mindset of the current govt, is unlikely to happen (Just look at the less plastic bag campaign).

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station may be conserved but the tracks are likely to be dismantled. With tracks gone it frees up many constraints on development for the govt to milk even more $$$(eg hidden taxes via 30year hdb loans) out of the populace in an increasingly volatile economic environment.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fast-Food Happiness

More & more malls being built with the latest a 5 story mall(incl basement) beside Jurong East MRT station to be open before year end 2013. Jurong east area already has IMM nearby & Jurong Entertainment Mall slated to be open later this year.

With more & more shopping malls popping out what does it say about the general happiness of the populace?

Do u buy things because u
  • are stressed?
  • are unhappy?
  • husband/wife ignoring u?
  • boss yelled at u?
  • shower children with gifts to allay your guilty conscience for not spending time with them?
  • buy things to impress people who are also trying to impress u?
  • are sucked in by the crowd who is also buying?

Welcome to fast-food happiness where people drown their bad emotions for a couple of minutes of happiness from buying things. With many stressed from their work they want immediate decompression - shopping. In the age of instant noodles, the motto of advertisers is 'BUY/CONSUME NOW!' & pay later through installments.

Only by BUY/CONSUME NOW can stressed people feel a sense of control & power by exercising their buying power. Many people fall into this trap & get further into debt & hordes of seldom used clutter clogging their homes. Are you 1 of them?