Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is it so hard to find an IT architecting job?

After working through so many SDLCs, I have always wondered why so little emphasis is on the translation of requirements from the real process, to the software features. In my opinion, a successful software project hinges on 3 points:
  1. Good project management
  2. Good requirements gathering
  3. Good translation of user requirements to software requirements and design

I have been through it all, but it seems that most of the time, 2 and 3 seems to be lacking in focus. In fact, most of the time, I keep hearing comments that it's of no use doing 2 and 3 properly because requirements always change.

I beg to disagree... I have done at least 1 project that points 2 and 3 did not change after design specs are signed off. In fact, in all the projects that I have done, only 1 project has that dubious honor of ever changing requirements, even after the system is launched. Granted it was done very early in my career but still, once is enough. The key point is the process for points 2 and 3.

To me, this area is where a software architect comes in. A person who can understand the business processes and requirements, and transform it into software requirements that suit the business needs. I like that translation process, although it is very tiring.

Recently I have been reading up on my own on the 4 big areas of software architecting which I felt is important in any organisation:
  1. Business architecting
  2. Data architecting
  3. Application architecting
  4. Technology architecting

This is where you look at all the IT solutions in a macro view, most often in an organisation view. How different systems will talk to each other to fulfil one common goal, the business processes.

I believe in looking at the solutions from both the micro and macro view. As a result, some people say that I plan for too many contingencies. However if I see a problem, I will nib it at the bud before it happens. This is my style... I can't help doing it.

Now then comes the problem... It seems to me that at least in Singapore, there are few who believes in this type of architecting. I have tried to look for jobs with regards to this area but it seems that I might not be looking hard enough. In fact, I've only found one job description that is similar to what I'm interested in, but to-date, I have not received any reply.

People do comment to me that I have a knack of doing this kind of solutioning. Is it that I'm not ready for this type of solutioning, or organisations are not ready to walk down this path of looking at IT in a different manner? Such jobs seem to be very rare, at least from what I can see from the jobs listing.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm in wrong era or something... Or am I in the wrong country?

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Monday, January 26, 2009

GST Rebates vs Roll-back of GST

Today I was reading an article on asking for the roll-back of the additional 2% Goods and Services (GST) tax to ease the burden. Maybe it's due to the CNY but somehow, the GST rebates came into mind.

An average young Singaporean, staying in a HDB 4 room flat, earning about $30k per year will get $400 GST rebates (Refer to the Budget 2009 rebates here).

Calculating this amount in reverse, that means the Singapore government is actually subsidising $20,000 worth of expenses (2% GST tax) annually. Effectively, the government is actually rolling back the GST tax increase to selective people, mainly Singaporeans. This rebate will depend on how well-off you are, in the government's eyes. Noted that this rebate is only temporary, and not a fixture every year.

For some reason, I've not never seen this mentioned in any news. Of course this might also be an un-intentional reason.

This sort of selective "GST refund" I see arises from 2 main points that were repeatedly brought up by Singaporeans:
  1. Roll-back the 2% GST
  2. Foreigners getting the same benefits as Singaporeans

Rolling back the 2% GST will benefit everyone, including foreigners. Dolling out GST rebates selectively will "hopefully" target the Singaporeans who need it.

Finally, I see some advantages of being a Singaporean. Hopefully this kind of rebates will be a permanent fixture every year. Many of the foreigners see absolutely no reason why they should become a Singaporean, because it makes no difference to them.

Anyway, Happy Chinese New Year everyone. A new year, a new beginning. I hope...

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Learn to play guitar using your computer

It seems like technology has taken another step forward. Now, you're able to learn to play the guitar using a full 3D animated program that allows you to pan, zoom, and slow down the video tutorial. I came across this video in YouTube.

However, coming from a guitar player's perspective, I do not think this can replace an actual guitar teacher, especially if it is classical. But still... Wow.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's time to 捞魚生 again

It's time for me to dig up the thread I posted last year about 捞魚生. Chinese New Year is here again. Just went for dinner and I saw many people doing it.

You can refer to my previous post here on the so-called procedures. Seems like there's a lot of versions though.

Takeaway from Singapore Budget 2009

After posting the summary of the Singapore Budget 2009 here, it was easy to see what is the government is trying to do during this severe recession.

In my opinion, this is what they are trying to do:
  1. Preventing job losses by partially subsidizing the employees' pay, and encouraging the employers to send those employees for retraining under SPURS.

  2. Encouraging employers to pay CPF to their employees as this is the only way they are going to get the subsidy. This relief I believe is targeted to Singaporeans and PR.

  3. Helping the businesses to stay afloat by reducing their taxation

  4. Encouraging more businesses to set up shop in Singapore by introducing some new funds.

  5. Increasing rebates to Singaporeans and encouraging Singaporeans to donate more to charities if possible.

  6. Providing some jobs by investing in certain sectors.

This budget is not about rejuvenating the economy. Instead, it's all about lessening the blow of the recession until demand recovers. The problem is ... ... Will demand recover?

Many analysts are predicting a V-shape recovery for Singapore, but I am less optimistic than them. The world is largely dependent on U.K. and the USA for most of the demand for goods, and I do include China and India too. However, I can see from the signs that U.K. and U.S.A is not going to recover anytime soon. Their banks are too over-leveraged, and the excesses are not exactly drained out as of now. Not only that, their citizens finally realised that they should be saving more. The USA household saving rates might be up by at least 1% compared to 2008. In fact based on data from OECD, almost every country is upping their household savings rate. The only reason I felt that the world's economy was expanding at such a rapid pace previously was because of over-leveraging.

If everyone is saving more, where is the demand for goods? The answer is none. So why is everyone predicting that the economy is going to pickup late 2009? That is because of history. They have their eyes on the average recession period, but not on what's happening around the world. Currently, I did see a glimmer of hope from the insurance for toxic assets that Britain is introducing. Other than that, I've not seen any innovative solution that can get us out of this mess. Demand improving late 2009? Highly unlikely. In fact, my view has not changed that this recession might even match the great depression.

One should not also forget that in some countries, the population is shrinking. Economic growth is also based on the fundamental concept of increasing population. So when the population shrinks instead of increasing, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict a lowering of demand.

Granted, the government can do nothing about Singapore's recession. Singapore is too dependent on the outside world. In fact, sometimes even Singaporeans wonder how come foreigners are treated better than the citizens. What's the advantage of being a Singaporean? We have no minimal pay, government is always pro-business rather than pro-citizens, and we have a lot of other taxes even though our income tax is one of the lowest in the world. In Hong Kong, they even have 1 brokerage refunding the money for all the investors affected by the downfall of Lehman. In Singapore?? The only response was "Please read carefully before signing anything". There will most likely be a off-budget stimuls, and it will come several times. Looks like the reserves finally came in handy.

The only hope I see for Singapore, and Asia, is that somehow Asia could band together and initiate a joint stimulus, while at the same time opening up the trade borders with each other to excite the flow of goods and services. This may provide some demand stimulation that will circulate within Asia itself, and hopefully generate some sustainable demand internally, instead of always relying on U.S.A and U.K. We should no longer rely on demand from U.S.A and U.K.

A dream?

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Summary of Singapore Budget 2009

To summarize Singapore's Budget 2009:

  1. Jobs Credit
    Employers will receive a 12% cash grant on the first $2,500 of each month’s wages for each employee on their CPF payroll.

    The Jobs Credit is for one year, and employers will receive the Jobs Credit in four payments: March, June, September and December 2009.

  2. SPUR
    Course fee subsidies for PMET-level courses that are eligible for SPUR will be increased from 80% to 90%, the same subsidy level as rank-and-file level courses. This includes all Specialist and Advanced Diplomas offered by the polytechnics.

    Selected tertiary courses at UniSIM and the three publicly funded universities will be included under SPUR

  3. Workfare Income Supplement (WIS)
    The Government will give low-income workers a temporary WIS Special Payment to supplement their pay and encourage them to stay employed. The WIS Special Payment will provide low-income workers with an additional 50% of the WIS payments that they will receive over the course of this year.

    The Government will also relax the work eligibility criteria of the WIS Special Payment, in order to enable more low-wage workers, particularly those with less regular employment, to benefit.

  4. Government Hiring
    18,000 public sector jobs (including Government-supported jobs outside of the Government in areas such as childcare, tertiary education, and restructured hospitals) are expected to be available over the next two years.

  5. Special Risk-Sharing Initiative
    The New Bridging Loan Programme (BLP)
    Loan Insurance Scheme - Plus (LIS+)
    Trade Credit Insurance Programme (TCIP)

  6. Enhancement to existing credit measures
    For loans made under Local Enterprise Finance Scheme, the Government will increase its risk-share for loans made to local non-SMEs, from 50% to 80%. This will be similar to the Government risk-share for LEFS loans made to SMEs.

    For loans made under the Micro Loan Programme, the Government will increase its risk-share, from 80% to 90%.

    The Government will increase the maximum loan quantum for the Internationalisation Finance Scheme per borrower group, from $15 million to $50 million.

  7. Other credit related measures
    To encourage banks to continue making adequate loan impairment provisions and bolster their financial strength to underpin continued lending in the downturn, the Government will extend the tax deduction on loss provisions made pursuant to MAS Notice 612, as well as other equivalent MAS notices for finance companies and merchant banks, for a further three Years of Assessment.

  8. Property Tax Rebate
    The Government will provide a 40% property tax rebate for industrial and commercial properties for 2009. The Government strongly urges landlords to pass on the benefits of this rebate to their tenants.

  9. Rental Rebates
    JTC, HDB, and SLA will provide a 15% rental rebate to their tenants and land lessees, exceeding the savings due to the property tax rebate. JTC, HDB, and SLA will be releasing the details of these concessions separately on 22 January 2009. The rental rebate will also be extended to stallholders who are paying market rents in markets and food centres managed by NEA.

  10. Enhancements to Loss Carry-back scheme
    The loss carry-back relief system will be enhanced for Years of Assessment 2009 and 2010. The cap on losses that can be claimed against past taxable income is increased to $200,000 from $100,000. Businesses will also be allowed to claim losses against the taxable income of their preceding three Years of Assessment, instead of just the immediate preceding year as under the current scheme.

  11. Tax exemption on Remittance of Foreign-Sourced Income
    The Government will temporarily expand the scope of the Foreign-Sourced Income Exemption scheme to cover all foreign-sourced income, and not just foreign-sourced dividends, branch profits and service income. The Government will also temporarily lift the conditions that are currently required for foreign-sourced income to be exempted from tax when remitted to Singapore. With these temporary enhancements, businesses will be exempt from tax on the foreign-sourced income that they remit between 22 Jan 2009 to 21 January 2010 (both dates inclusive), provided that the remitted income is earned on or before 21 January 2009.

  12. Transport Rebates and Concessions
    A 30% road tax rebate for goods vehicles, buses and taxis for one year. This rebate will take effect on 1 July 2009.

    A 20% concession in port dues to be granted to all harbour craft (except pleasure craft for personal use) which will help local companies engaged in commercial activities within Singapore’s port waters. This concession will be for one year and will take effect on 1 April 2009.

    An increase in aircraft landing fee rebate from 15% to 25% for 2009.

    Extension of the special tax exemption for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles until December 2011. From 2012 onwards, the CNG special tax will be removed and replaced with a CNG duty of $0.20 per kilogramme of CNG.

  13. Government Fee Freeze
    The Government will extend the freeze on Government Fees and Charges to December 2009. This will include fees charged on all Government provided services, charges in public carparks, and all license fees. (Regulatory charges, such as those in the transport sector and the development charges applied in the property market, will not be frozen. The Government fee freeze is not applied to fees charged by non-government entities, such as the universities, restructured hospitals and town councils.)

  14. Measures for Property Developers
    Defer property tax for commercial developers for land approved for development for up to two years. Land approved for development refers to land with a valid Provisional or Written Permission granted by the URA. The property tax deferral will take effect from 22 January 2009 or the date of Provisional or Written Permission, whichever is later. The deferral will lapse on 21 January 2011, or at Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP), or date of transfer of the land, whichever is the earliest.

    Allow a one-year extension of the project completion period for private residential projects. This would give flexibility to developers to phase out their projects in the current uncertain market conditions.

    Allow re-assignment of Government Land Sales (GLS) sites and private land owned by foreign housing developers for applications made by 22 January 2010.

    Extend the period for developers to dispose of all residential units from two years to four years. Developers may also rent out unsold residential units for a maximum of four years to mitigate holding costs.

  15. Deferment of Increase in Assessment Rate for Hotels
    The Government will defer the increase in assessment rate for hotel rooms, which was due to increase to 25% on 1 January 2009, by one year.

  16. Corporate Income Tax (CIT) Rate Cut
    The Government will reduce the CIT rate from 18% to 17%. This reduction will take effect from the Year of Assessment 2010.

  17. Accelerated Capital Allowance (CA)
    The Government will allow plant and machinery acquired during the financial years ended 2009 and 2010 to qualify for an accelerated write-down. This temporarily accelerated write-down will allow businesses to write down the costs of these newly acquired plants and machinery within two years with 75% of the write-down taking place in the first year of CA claim alone.

  18. Writing Down of Renovation and Refurbishment Expenses
    The Government will introduce a tax framework for qualifying corporate amalgamations. This framework will alleviate the tax cost associated with corporate amalgamations. A public consultation will be held in February 2009 to seek views on this new tax framework for qualifying corporate amalgamations.

  19. Enhancements to and Streamlining of Fund Management Incentives
    Currently, there are conditions such as the fund cannot be 100% beneficially owned by resident investors and there are limits placed on the holdings by resident corporate investors in these funds. The Government will now remove all these limits on qualifying funds so that they can accept investments freely from resident corporates, in addition to resident individuals.

    This enhancement of the fund management incentives will also apply to qualifying funds that are constituted in the form of Limited Partnerships. A qualifying fund is one which, amongst other conditions, has at least $50 million under management at the point of application for the tax incentive. Fund managers may apply for the scheme with effect from 1 April 2009. Both the existing and enhanced fund management incentives will also be subject to review after five years. MAS will release the details by April 2009.

  20. Recovery of GST for Qualifying Local Funds
    The Government will allow qualifying funds that are managed by a prescribed fund manager in Singapore to recover a substantial portion of the GST incurred on prescribed expenses. This change will be in place from 22 January 2009 to 31 March 2014 (both dates inclusive). MAS will release the details by April 2009.

  21. Expansion of Scope of Tax Exemption under Fund Management and Trust Incentives
    The enhancements will take effect from 22 January 2009. MAS will release the details by April 2009.

  22. Enhancements to Headquarter Services (FSI-HQ) Scheme
    The Government will enhance the FSI-HQ scheme by granting withholding tax exemption on interest payable on qualifying loans taken by an FSI-HQ company. The Government will also subsume the current tax incentive scheme for provision of these processing services under the FSI-HQ scheme, thus allowing FSI-HQs to enjoy incentivised income from their provision of high value-added processing services. These enhancements will be effective from 22 January 2009 to 31 December 2013 (both dates inclusive). MAS will release the details by April 2009.

  23. Extension and Enhancement of Commodity Derivatives Traders (CDT) scheme
    The Government will extend the CDT scheme (which is due to expire on 26 February 2009) and subsume it under a new Derivatives Market (Commodity Derivatives Trader) award under the Financial Sector Incentive scheme. The Government will also lift existing counterparty restrictions for trades carried out on exchanges under this scheme. These changes will be effective from 27 February 2009 to 31 December 2013 (both dates inclusive). MAS will release the details by April 2009.

  24. Zero-Rating for the Aerospace Industry
    The Government will expand the scope of qualifying aircraft to include all aircraft, including private aircraft, which is wholly used or intended to be wholly used for international transportation of goods and passengers. This is in line with the zero-rating of international transportation.

    To ease GST compliance costs for the MRO industry, zero-rating is also extended to cover the sale, maintenance or repair services of aircraft components or systems, as long as they form part of a qualifying aircraft. A new scheme will be introduced to facilitate the import of aircraft components or systems for qualifying aircraft without GST.

    These changes will take effect from 1 April 2009. IRAS will release the details by March 2009.

  25. Suspension of GST and Duty on Goods Temporarily Removed from Zero-GST or Licensed Warehouses
    The Government will, with effect from 1 April 2009, suspend GST and duty on goods (including wine) that are temporarily removed from a zero-GST or Licensed warehouse for auctions or exhibitions, even if the goods are sold during the auction or exhibition, provided that the goods are returned to the warehouses subsequently. Singapore Customs will release the details by March 2009.

  26. Exemption of Duty to Facilitate Wine Trading Activities
    The Government will exempt duty and provide GST relief for a specified quantity of wine for use at approved wine exhibitions and conference events with effect from 1 April 2009. Singapore Customs will release the details by March 2009.

  27. Withholding Tax Exemption for Maritime Industry
    The Government will extend the withholding tax exemption on interest payable on qualifying loans taken by shipping enterprises to acquire vessels which are registered with the Singapore Registry of Ships under the Block Transfer Scheme, subject to conditions. This extension will be for a further period of five years with effect from 1 January 2009.

  28. Accelerated Writing-Down Allowance (WDA) for acquisition of Intellectual Property (IP) rights for Media and Digital Entertainment (MDE) content
    The Government will enhance the current WDA incentive to allow MDE businesses to write down the costs of their qualifying IP rights for MDE content in two years, instead of five years. This accelerated write- down will apply for qualifying IP for MDE content acquired between 22 January 2009 and 31 October 2013 (both dates inclusive).

  29. Test-Bedding Fund
    The Government will put $200 million in a Test-Bedding Fund to make Singapore a “living lab” for companies and entrepreneurs to nurture new ideas, test innovative solutions and develop future global businesses. The fund will be managed by the Economic Development Board (EDB).

  30. Taking the Lead in Innovation
    In 2008, the Government set up the Core Innovation Fund to help private companies collaborate directly with government agencies to develop innovative solutions for public services. We will set aside $180 million in the fund over the next two years. In addition, the Government will be more proactive in seeking collaboration with the private sector, through the use of Calls-for-Collaboration (CFC). This will bring clusters of companies together to develop solutions for government agencies, businesses and the public.

  1. Goods and Services Tax (GST) Credits and Senior Citizens’ Bonus
    The Government will double the GST Credits and Senior Citizens’ Bonus that citizens will receive in 2009. This additional tranche will be paid on 1 March 2009

  2. Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) Rebates
    The Government will provide an additional one month of S&CC Rebates to those living in a one-room to three-room HDB flats, who will therefore receive a total of three to 4.5 months for this year. Those in four-room HDB to Executive apartments will receive an additional half-month, or a total of one to two months of rebates. The additional S&CC rebate will be paid in April 2009.

  3. Rental Rebates
    The Government will provide an additional month of rental rebates in 2009, to eligible households in public rental flats. The additional rebate, to be paid in March and December 2009, will supplement the existing rental rebates these low-income families are already receiving as part of the 2007 GST Offset Package.

  4. Personal Income Tax Rebate
    The Government will give a personal income tax rebate of 20% (capped at $2,000) for tax-residents for Year of Assessment 2009. This will provide an immediate reduction in the tax payable for these individuals for last year’s income.

  5. Instalment Option for Personal Income Tax Payment
    The Government is allowing individual tax-residents who have lost their jobs in 2008 or lose their jobs in 2009 to pay their personal income taxes for year of assessment 2009 in monthly instalments of up to 24 months, up from the current 12 months allowed. Affected taxpayers can apply to IRAS for this extended instalment assistance.

  6. Property Tax Rebate
    The Government is providing a 40% property tax rebate for owner-occupied residential properties for 2009.

  7. Removal of Tax on Net Annual Value of Property
    The Government will remove this income tax on Net Annual Value of residential property with effect from Year of Assessment 2010.

  8. Increase in Additional CPF Housing Grant
    The maximum AHG quantum will be increased from $30,000 to $40,000. At the same time, the household income ceiling will be increased from $4,000 to $5,000.

  9. Other measures
    Utilities-Save (U-Save) Rebates: Eligible households will receive U-Save rebates of $70 to $210 in 2009.

    Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) top-up: Young Singaporeans aged 7 to 20 will receive a top-up of $100 to $400 to their Post-Secondary Education Accounts (PSEA) in 2009.

  10. Public Transport Fund (PTF) Top-up
    The Government will top-up the Public Transport Fund to $10 million to provide public transport vouchers for all low-income households who need help.

  11. Financial Assistance Schemes for Education
    The Ministry of Education (MOE) will enhance the financial assistance schemes for students in our schools, and introduce a Short-Term Study Assistance Scheme (SSAS) for students in our ITEs, polytechnics and autonomous universities.

  12. Public Assistance Rate
    The Government will increase the Public Assistance Rate for single-person households by $30 per month to $360

  13. Singapore Allowance
    For government pensioners, the Government has decided to increase the Singapore Allowance by $20 per month to $240.

  14. Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) ComCare Fund and Self-Help Groups (SHGs)
    The Government is increasing funding to the CCC ComCare Fund to $7 million a year, for the next two years. It will also increase funding to SHGs to $9 million a year, for the next two years.

  15. Increased Tax Deduction and Additional Grant for Government Funded Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs)
    The Government will increase the tax deduction for donations made in 2009 to Institutions of Public Character (IPCs) and other approved institutions from 200% to 250%.

    To support government-funded voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), the Government will provide an additional $15 million in funding to them for one year (2009).

  16. Extending business measures to VWOs
    The Government is extending the Jobs Credit provided to companies to all VWOs.

  17. Extending Start-up Exemption to Companies Limited by Guarantee (CLGs)
    The Government is extending the start-up tax exemption to Companies Limited by Guarantee. Under this exemption, qualifying start-ups can enjoy full tax exemption on their first $100,000 of chargeable income and 50% exemption for the next $200,000, for their first three Years of Assessment. This extension will take effect from Year of Assessment 2010.

  1. Expanding and Accelerating Public Sector Infrastructure Spending
    The Government will increase public sector construction spending to between $18 billion and $20 billion in 2009. This is significantly higher than the $15 billion contracted in 2008 and $6 billion in 2007.

  2. Developing Suburban Nodes and Rejuvenating Neighbourhoods
    Investing in new regional commercial nodes such as Jurong Lake District, the new Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central;

    Rejuvenating our public housing neighbourhoods, including enlivening the public spaces within our estates and pushing ahead with ABC Waters Programme;

    Linking together all parts of the island through a comprehensive road network and developing viable mass transit alternatives by expanding our rail networks;

    Spending more on basic amenities such as our drainage and sewerage network.

  3. Pushing Ahead on Sustainable Development
    In total, the Government plans to spend $1 billion over the next five years on sustainable development initiatives. The funds will support programmes such as energy efficiency for industry and households, green transport, clean energy and the greening of our living spaces.

  4. Enhancing School Education
    Providing better facilities for an all-round education in every school, and accelerating some projects like the roll-out of indoor sports halls;

    Enhancing both the size and quality of the teaching force; and

    Bringing in allied educators into our schools to collaborate with teachers in providing better attention for every child.

  5. Expanding healthcare capacity
    Investing $4 billion over the next five years in healthcare infrastructure which will include the redevelopment of older hospitals, medical centres and a new hospital in the west, as well as seeing through existing projects like the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in the north;

    Building new community hospitals and boosting capabilities in treating chronic diseases (e.g. stroke, heart and kidney failure) and other age-related conditions (e.g. dementia);

    Enhancing capabilities for long-term care (including rehabilitation, home care and palliative services after patients have been discharged from hospitals); and

    Developing an electronic health records system that will be accessible by authorised medical practitioners at hospitals and polyclinics, and eventually extending to the community care sector.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1.2% Singapore GDP growth for 2008

As indicated in my previous post here, the numbers were really bad for December and Singapore 2008 GDP growth has been revised down from 1.5% to 1.2%. I have seen nothing currently that will bring any cheer to this month's figure. If anything, it will be worst. All developed countries will be in recession and developing countries will be struggling.

When I first saw the estimate of -1% to 2%, I really wanted to laugh out loud. Then they revise again to -2% to 1%. And now -5% to -2%. My advice... Stop estimating. The trend of using history to measure growth does not work in such a scenario. I did not even both to contradict their estimates. I just laughed...

Judging from the way the market is going, no one is holding out any high hopes for the budget day tomorrow. I reserved my judgement until I hear the details, but I foresee tomorrow is another gloomy day. The high expectations of this budget might be a little... too high, if we judge our government using past history as a guideline.

Inflation is up 4.3%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2008:
January: 6.6%
February: 6.5%
March: 6.7%
April: 7.5%
May: 7.5%
June: 7.5%
July: 6.5%
August: 6.4%
September: 6.7%
October: 6.4%
November: 5.5%
December: 4.3%

Food and Housing is leading the charge, rising by 6.5% and 14.4% respectively year on year. The inflation rate is still moderating downwards, and more so since most of the year-end sales have been extended to an indefinite timing.

The average inflation for 2008 is 6.5%, a shade lower than my earlier estimate of 6.6% here. It just goes to show again how rapidly the world changed over the past year. I would have never expected oil to reach USD 33 per barrel, but it did recently.

As indicated in my other post, downward pressure will be there for all the groups, and it'll be of no surprise to me if we experience deflation for the year 2009. That would be welcome for all the mid to lower income groups. I would think we will experience deflation for at least 6 months due to the high base last year.

However, with all these talk about deflation, I still find that I'm spending a lot of money on necessities and transport. Especially transport.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Leaving my comfort zone

I am finally leaving my comfort zone once again. It's a big irony that I am always looking for jobs when the economy is at it's worst. It happened back in 2003, and now in 2009. And to be fair to my current bosses, I have given notice even before I've began to look for a new job.

I've been working for over 5 years with my current employer. Such a decision was difficult for me to make, but as I grow older, my priorities change. I not only need to take into account my own difficulties, but those around me too. It has come to a time where I need to move on, and to also try other things. Believe it or not. It took me a great deal of courage to go at this time. However, circumstances have forced my hand. It's much easier for me to stay at my current job, than to leave right now. The standard reply I had to whoever I've talked to is that it was a knee jerk reaction. Well, it's not. I've thought long and hard about it.

Life was never too kind (or too bad) to me. In all that I have achieved, I've always need to work very hard for it. Although my bosses have been trying to change my mind the past few days, I have already made up my mind. It's time for me to leave my comfort zone.

It has been a long time since I've written a resume, and it is also difficult to remember all the many different types of projects that I've did over the past few years. Guess I have to start somewhere.

It's an irony that I'm leaving when no one has even offered me, but I've refused to leave when I had offers that were practically in my face. Anyway, now I can finally begin to look around for something else that I wish to try. Believe it or not, I'm still quite busy even though I've given notice. Oh well...

Monday, January 19, 2009

More information on ministers' "pay cut"

The previously reported numbers on the 2009 pay cut back in this post here:
  • President: $3.14 million
  • Prime Minister: $3.04 million
  • Ministerial Grade (MR4): $1.57 million
  • Superscale grade (SR9): $353,000
  • Members of Parliament Allowance: $190,000

The newly reported numbers today reported in ST:
  • MR4: $1.54 million
  • SR9: $351,000

Doesn't look like the drop in the economy has put any dent on the maximum amount of salary that they can earn.

However, there is one key point I've read that puzzles me. Mr Teo says that the total annual remuneration for ministers and top civil servants was $1.92 million in 2008. Based on my research done in this post here, that is not possible. The Prime Minister's pay is already $1.4million just for the base. So how could the total be $1.92 million? Even the MR4 grade I will presume will be around $780,000 annually. I'm sure we have more than 1 MR4 grade minister.

The way the article was written in the ST, it would seem that the definition of ministers and top civil servants = MR4 + SR9. However based on my calculation, that is not possible unless there are very very few SR9 and MR4 grade civil servants. So far I've also not found any statistics on the number of ministers we have per grade. So either my definition of "ministers and top civil servants" is wrong, or my definition of "base salary" is wrong.

I mean if they want to reveal the amount spent, they should reveal the total amount, including ministers' allowance, our prime minister, and our president. Why give us half-truth numbers?

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Insurance for toxic assets

This was the best news I've seen today, and also quite innovative. Charging insurance for toxic assets.

The problem with all the measures being done by the world is that it never addresses the root problem, which is the mortgage crisis. All the loans interest rates are sky high. It will be a wonder if there isn't any crisis. The original plan by the US was good. Keep the mortgages low, and hold the toxic assets.

But some people have to come in and say, hey, taxpayers money. I must earn a return if I'm using it. So they come up with all the half-baked solutions when they hope they will get returns, and hopefully resolve the problem.

Obviously the problems will not be resolved. Fundamentally, this problem was caused by 1) lax regulation, and 2) taxpayers over-stretching themselves. Is it fully the bank's fault if they lend you the money to buy the property, but you choose not to repay it in full, and instead over-leverage yourself? Like it or not, you need a full solution, and not a half-baked one that will keep drawing you to pour money down a black hole.

The insurance is quite a good and innovative idea. The government charges insurance premiums, and guarantees 90% of the value. This will help them to stop the write-downs of the assets, giving the chance for the mortgage rates to stabilize. Coupled with helping to drive the interest rate lower, this will in turn help home owners to keep their homes, thus preventing them from defaulting. In the meantime, the government will collect the premiums from the banks, and banks pay for their lax credit checks.

Looks like innovative people are still around... Thank goodness for that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Interest only loan? Another money making scheme.

Just today I read the newspaper talking about a certain bank launching a product that will allow you to only pay the interest of the housing loan, without paying back the principal. It even says that this product is suitable for this climate.

However, has the writer ever considered, if you keep paying only the interest of the loan, but not the princpial, doesn't that mean you'll be forever paying the bank that amount for the rest of your life?

Do take note that now in Singapore, and maybe even in the rest of the world, there's no such thing as an iron rice bowl. This current crisis spawned out due to the lax regulation on the housing sector.

In fact, I'm surprised that such a product was approved in Singapore. If I'm allowed to offer such a product, I will do it in the blink of an eye. I get free income for the rest of my life, and they will forever be indebted to me.

Why not?


I was reading a book recently and I found the following quote quite meaningful:

Professionalism means making sure that one does not accept a job knowing that one does not have the time or ability to do it well.

So many times we have heard this word repeated, but how many know the true meaning? More importantly, how many will try to follow by this rule? Are they just saying the words, but not reflecting on the meaning of it?

Considerate Analyst

Knowing oneself is a key to improving yourself. No wonder I like to do solutioning. :)

about you
You are an Analyst
  • Your attention to detail, confidence, sense of order, and focus on functionality combine to make you an ANALYST.

  • You are very curious about how things work, delving into the mechanics behind things.

  • Along those lines, how well something works is usually more important to you than what it looks like.

  • You find beauty and wonder mainly in concrete, functional, earthly things.

  • You are very aware of your own abilities, and you believe that you will find the best way of doing things.

  • Accordingly, problems do not intimidate you, as you believe in yourself.

  • You trust yourself to find solutions within the boundaries of your knowledge.

  • You don't spend a lot of time imagining how things could be different—you're well-grounded in the here-and-now.

  • It is important for you to follow a routine, and you prefer the familiar to the unknown.

  • You're not one to force your positions on a group, and you tend to be fair in evaluating different options.

  • You're not afraid to let your emotions guide you, and you're generally considerate of others' feelings as well.

  • You prefer to have time to plan for things, feeling better with a schedule than with keeping plans up in the air until the last minute.

  • You do your own thing when it comes to clothing, guided more by practical concerns than by other people's notions of style.

  • Generally, you believe that you control your life, and that external forces only play a limited role in determining what happens to you.

If you want to be different:
  • Try to embrace the imaginative, creative part of your personality more often.

  • Try moving beyond the things that you find comfortable—open yourself up to a broader range of experiences.

how you relate to others
You are Considerate
  • You trust others, care about them, and are slow to judge them, making you CONSIDERATE.

  • You value your close relationships very much, and are more likely to spend time in small, tightly-knit groups of friends than in large crowds.

  • You enjoy exploring the world through observation, quietly watching others.

  • Relating to others so well, and understanding their emotions, leads you to trust people in general, even though you're somewhat shy and reserved at times.

  • Your belief that people are generally well-intentioned contributes to your sympathy regarding their problems.

  • Although you may not vocalize it often, you have an awareness of how society affects individuals, and you understand complex causes of people's behavior.

  • You like to look at all sides of a situation before making a judgment, particularly when that situation involves important things in other people's lives.

  • Your close friends know you as a good listener.

If you want to be different:
  • Because other people would benefit immensely from your understanding and insight, you should try to be more outgoing in social situations, even when they make you uncomfortable. Others will want to hear what you have to say!

The Prayer

The first time I heard this song "The Prayer", Mich and LS were singing it. I heard it again today, but this time sang by Andrea Bocelli and a girl (not sure who). Just surfed around and found this version by Andrea Bocelli and Heather Headly. I find that both matched each other quite well, and I like the orchestra that supported them.

Somehow since I first heard Andrea Bocelli, I like the way he sings even though I totally do not understand Italian. Somehow, you can hear the emotion and what he wants to convey just by listening to him sing. Heather Headly is quite amazing too, with her powerful voice.

I find it amazing that you can enjoy music without totally understanding the lyrics. Just by listening to the emotion, and the music, you can somehow get a general feel of what the song is trying to convey. A hallmark of a good song?

This is the version I found:

This is roughly the lyrics:

I pray you'll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise, in times when we don't know.
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way.
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace.
To a place where we'll be safe.

B: La luce che tu dai
G: I pray we'll find your light
B: Nel cuore restera
G: And hold it in our hearts
B: A ricordarci che
G: When stars go out each night
B: L'eterna stella sei.
B: Nella mia preghiera
G: Let this be our prayer
B: Quanta fede c'e.
G: When shadows fill our day

B: Lead us to a place
G: Guide us with your grace
Together: Give us faith so we'll be safe.

Sogniamo un mondo senza piu violenza,
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza.
Ognuno dia una mano al suo vicino,
Simbolo di pace...di fraternita.

B: La forza che ci dai
G: We ask that life be kind
B: E desiderio te
G: And watch us from above.
B: Ognuno trovi amor
G: We hope each soul will find
B: Intorno e dentro se.
G: Another soul to love.

Together: Let this be our prayer,
G: Let this be our prayer
B: Just like every child.
G: Just like every child.

Needs to find a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe
E la fede che hai acceso in noi
Sento che ci salverai...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Practicing 1 hour a day

I remember reading somewhere last week about a couple with 2 kids, who owns 2 companies. They are also musicians and they played in a group regularly. What caught my eye is that they were still able to squeeze in time to practice 1 hour a day.

I remember a long time ago, I was still able to practice guitar at least 1 hour every day. Now, it seems that I can only practice an hour before my practice officially starts. I was talking to a few people these past 2 weeks and it seems that my timing seems to be abnormal to them. They always seem to have time to do stuff. :(

Oh well... I have to go back to that stupid place again later. On a Saturday! Disrupts all my schedule.

Any surprises for Singapore budget?

Singapore's budget day is coming on the 22nd of Jan 2009. I guess it's the most awaited day for most Singaporeans. How the government will help Singapore or at least alleviate some of our sufferings.

Based on what limited time I had recently, it seems that the government is tight lipped on the details of the budget. Based on Singapore's "track record", I can only think of the following perks that seems to be feasible:
  1. Subsidising the employers' CPF contribution temporary for a year.
  2. Giving a tax break across the board for employers to keep their costs low.
  3. Cutting the property tax temporary for a year.

There would be of course the usual spending for public works, and maybe addition of more training programmes. I would think that's about it. The icing on the cake would be a cut in the ministers' salaries.

There's basically nothing the government can do to restore the economy. This is the result of relying on others.

Be prepared for hardships till 2010 at least.

Problems of speed reading

I've been reading a bit the past few weeks and I have found a big problem that I've not realised till now.

It seems that I've been unconsciously speed reading and I've been reading faster and faster. I guess it is due to the lifestyle that I currently have, which requires me to read quickly as I have many things on hand.

However, there is one big problem with speed reading, at least with mine. I can always only get the gist of the content, but not the details. And to my dismay, I can no longer read slowly.

I've spent the past week trying to slow down my reading again, so that I'm able to catch details. Speed reading is good if you just want an overview, but it is hazardous if you're reading something important with many details.

I believe I have made some progress on slowing down my reading. I wonder if it is a lifestyle problem. :(

HKMA vs Singapore MAS

I've been out of touch these past 2 weeks, but I've managed to have a glimpse of the newspapers here and there. One thing that caught my eye though was something about Hong Kong.

The following are some of the measures that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) will be implementing after the Lehman fiasco.
  1. Attaching warnings to retail structured products
  2. Separation of risk assessment and sales process
  3. Audio-recording of sales process
  4. Mysterious shopper programme

Comparing to Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the gist of what MAS has told us is:
  1. Please read carefully before signing any document

Thank you very much Singapore.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why you should not sell your HDB flat below valuation

It seems like many people do not know what happens to the money after the sale of your HDB flat, and why you should not sell your HDB flat below valuation.

First, some definitions:
  • Outstanding HDB/Bank Loan - The amount that you still owe HDB or the bank due to the purchase of the HDB flat.

  • Required CPF Refund - The principal amount withdrawn from CPF that is used to pay off your loan, plus the accrued interest of that principal amount. You can see this amount when you login to CPF.

  • Accrued interest - The interest that is charged to the amount you have withdrawn from your CPF to pay for your HDB flat. The interest equals to the CPF-OA interest rate. This amount can be substantial, and can go up to even 20% of the principal amount withdrawn to pay for your flat.

The proceeds from the sale of your HDB will be used to pay off the following, in this order, depending if you have taken the HDB or Bank loan:

HDB Loan:
  1. Outstanding HDB loan
  2. HDB resale levy (if any)
  3. Required CPF Refund

Bank Loan:
  1. Outstanding bank loan
  2. Required CPF Refund
  3. HDB resale levy (if any)

For HDB and Bank loan, you will not need to top up the shortfall for the Required CPF Refund if you have sold your flat at market value. Market value is the valuation of your HDB flat.

If you have sold the flat below valuation, you will need to pay CPF the full amount of the Required CPF Refund, even if your sale proceeds isn't enough to cover the amount. You will need to come up with the cash and pay CPF. Translated: You will not receive any proceeds from the sale of your HDB flat, and instead, you will need to cough up cash to refund CPF.

Click here to see examples provided by CPF.

I'm surprised few people know about this rule. I remember reading about this when I was looking around for HDB flats.

Where to find help

Times are going to be hard. Singapore will be hit by its hardest recession ever since independence. I did some surfing around and found a list of useful sites if any Singaporeans is in need of help. Will update it if I find any others.
  • CDAC - Chinese Development Assistance Council
  • SINDA - Singapore Indian Development Association
  • SIET - Singapore Indian Education Trust
  • Mendaki - Yayasan Mendaki
  • CDC - Community Development Councils
  • PA - People's Association
  • NCSS - National Council of Social Service

Do not award to lowest bidder II

Just last month, NTUC has already made a statement in the newspapers not to award projects based on lowest quote. I've written about it here. Today again, they made the same plea. What they said, again is pretty much common sense.

Vendors need to eat. You know what you want (supposedly). If you word your RFQ/Tender ambiguously so as to get a better deal, in the end both sides loses. This is simple common sense, and yet ignored. If you do not know what you want, then pay someone to write your RFQ/Tender requirements. And when things go wrong, it's always the vendor's fault. The mentality here seems to be it's never my fault. It's always your fault.

Mark my words... Sooner or later, no respected vendors will take your project and you will end up with solutions that doesn't resolve your problem if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, it will cause more problems for you.

I'm tired of all these squabbles.

Access Windows Machines using the Finder

I've always been wondering why do I only see Mac machines in my Finder, and my friend could see both Windows and Mac machines. I've finally realised that it is because I've set my Mac firewall to Allow only essential services. That was why I could only see Apple machines/devices.

I dug a little deeper and I've finally managed to see the Windows machines in my network in the Finder. To do that, you have to set 2 settings.

Enable File Sharing:
  1. Click on System Preferences
  2. Click on Sharing
  3. Ensure the checkbox next to File Sharing is checked
  4. Click on the Padlock on the bottom left hand corner to enable your administrator rights (You will need your administrator password)
  5. Click on Options
  6. Ensure that Share files and folders using AFP and Share files and folders using SMB checkboxes are checked
  7. Click on Done.
  8. You can adjust the File Sharing settings if needed (optional)

Set Firewall:
  1. Click on System Preferences, or Show All if you are already in the System Preferences
  2. Click on Security
  3. Click on the Firewall tab
  4. Click on the Padlock on the bottom left hand corner to enable your administrator rights (You will need your administrator password)
  5. Make sure you do not select Allow only essential services as your setting for the firewall
  6. You should be able to see File Sharing (AFP,SMB) in the big textbox in the same screen.

That's it... For me, I've set the firewall setting to Set access for specific services and applications. Any services you have enabled in the Sharing settings will be seen here automatically. This setting also basically means that for every application that is executed, it will ask the user whether to allow the application to receive connections, if the Mac detects that the application uses the network. I will be able to change the settings later at the above screen if I change my mind.

You should be able to see your Windows machine immediately in your Finder under the Shared section after you have set these settings. At least I did.

Hope this helps...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Origins of Karaoke

First the pronunciation... I've seen many interesting ways some people try to pronounce it, especially in the Western world (American Idol). :) You pronounce Karaoke as car-ra-okay.

Karaoke is actually a Japanese word and yes, this popular form of entertainment is actually invented by a Japanese in the 70s. Karaoke literally translate to Empty Orchestra. From what I understand, it's actually a term used by Japanese for the tapes used by singers who perform without a band.

Karaoke is a very popular form of entertainment at least in Asia. People can just stay hours singing/screaming in a room. It's also a popular form of socialising in Asia.

Karaoke, unlike the Western way of doing things, is not patented. That is why you can see that the technology in Karaoke has been improving tremendously since the 70s. Innovation is practiced to the extreme. Now, there's even technology in Karaoke where you can sing duets with somewhere that might be halfway across Japan. This has also influenced some Japanese musicians to play duets where they are physically not in the same place, like this Canon rock guitar post here.

This is one very good example where the world should not have patents. Whenever you put money in the equation, it usually spoils the end product due to the comercialisation, which will deviate from your vision of a good product. You'll be influenced by others to create something that sells, instead of creating something that is useful.

Innovation... Something that is sorely lacking in Singapore. Oh well...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What to expect in 2009

Time flies by quickly and it's now 2009. I never have the habit of making new year resolutions because I find it a waste of time. If you want to do it, why must you wait for the new year to do it? Just do it right here right now.

Anyway, 2008 has passed by very quickly for me. I've been super bogged down by work for this year. So much that when my other half asked me what am I busy with, I could not even answer her. I am doing so many things until I do not know what am I doing.

Come 2009, I have to start to tone down, and start to emphasize on the family. I'm already not as fit as I use to be and running 100% almost consistently for the whole year has wore down my engines. I guess I have to watch my health too. I've been having headaches recently, and I never have them previously. 2009 also means that my flat is coming. I have to start planning on that aspect, especially the CPF portion, and of course the big day.

I also shouldn't forget my guitar. I've been super neglecting it for 2008. Now I only practice guitar once a week and that's Saturday. LS doesn't seem to be letting up on us and he's going to more complex pieces. My sight reading still sucks and it's getting worse. Guess I'm really out of practice. Where to squeeze time for practicing. Well... I'll think about it. :p

One thing at a time...

And Always Look On The Bright Side of Life. Da da, da da da da da da.

1.5% Singapore GDP growth for 2008

Updated 2 Jan 2009: Actual estimates

Singapore has announced that the growth for 2008 is a miserly 1.5% due to the global economy meltdown. No surprise at the numbers, although I was expecting around 1.9% instead. It goes to show how quickly the economy has deteriorated in the past few months, and especially for 4Q2008.

Even though I have started warning people of this recession since I came back from the US in June, the sudden deterioration of the global economy is also beyond my worst expectations. Our government as usual said that because Singapore is an open economy, we're very much affected by what's happening in the world, and thus we must work together to weather this storm.

Singapore's 1H 2008 GDP growth was 6.5%. That means that the 4Q GDP numbers are very ugly. 2H 2008 GDP growth would have contracted at around 3.5% for the numbers to reach 1.5%. According to the MTI data:








Overall GDP








* = Advance estimates based on Oct and Nov 2008

Seems like I was wrong for the figures for 1H2008. It's much worse than expected. However, if the estimates are from Oct and Nov 2008, then it's highly likely that the figure will be revised downwards if they boosted up the numbers with the "December effect". December was very bad in 2008 compared to the norm.

On a side note, CEOs from around the world, especially in the US, has announced that they are not going to get any bonus in 2008. So considering Singapore likes to follow their pay, will the Singapore ministers forgo their 2008 bonus to show their leadership and commitment to Singaporeans?

I'll wait and see.
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