Friday, October 29, 2010

62? 65? 68?

Am I surprised about the news that they intend to raise the retirement age to 68? Nope. I sort of expected this when I read that Europe is intending to raise their retirement age. Other than what the news has mentioned about Finland, Britain is also intending to raise their retirement age (for men) to 68 from 65 years of age.

However, one important point was missing from the news article. The reason for the other countries' decision to raise their retirement ages is because of *drum roll* their pension funds. So what's our reason? Our pension funds? What pension funds?

All this talk on raising of retirement ages and working as long as you can is all based on one big assumption. We all enjoy our work and will like to continue working as long as possible. This is really a big assumption. Are all of us happy at work? How many of us drag ourselves to work everyday? How many of us look at our retirement as an end goal when we go to work?

Not all of us are able to find work that matches what we like to do. For example, if I choose to play classical guitar for a living, will I survive in Singapore? Not very likely. However, will I play guitar as long as I can? Yes I will.

There is a mismatch in expectations. We're expected to work longer because Singapore depends on human capital for its growth. The prices of goods and services are also rising faster than our salary due to the "productivity" drive. As a result, we become more stressed at work and work longer hours to "do more with less". What does that result in? Lesser babies. I've written about this in another post here.

Some people will of course ask, where is the proof? Where is the connection? I just ask a very simple question. Do you have the mood for intimacy if you're stressed up?

This leads to a vicious cycle where the number of elderly people will soon surpass the number of younger folks. Lesser people working will lead to lower taxes and consumption which results in lesser jobs. Solution? Easy way which most are taking is to redefine the definition of elderly. 60 considered as old? No no. 62. 65. 68. They will keep increasing the retirement age. The not so easy way? Innovation that will allow different industries to do things differently, and in a more efficient manner. For example, look at how Android helped Motorola.

All this talk on increasing retirement age is valid and achievable, if and only if, innovation is encouraged in all the different types of industries, and there is no need for people to switch industries to chase after the latest "trend". People can choose to work in areas that they are interested in, and yet able to make a living. When you're working on things that you're interested in, it's more likely that you'll be able to enjoy your work, leading to a reduction in stress levels. It's also more likely that innovation happens when you're doing things that you're interested in.

Anyway, productivity doesn't help you do more with less. Innovation does.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Inflation is up 3.7%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2010:
January: 0.2%
February: 1.0%
March: 1.6%
April: 3.2%
May: 3.2%
June: 2.7%
July: 3.1% 
August: 3.3%
September: 3.7%

Transport and Housing are once again leading the pack, rising by 9.1% and 4.7% respectively year on year. Other than Communication costs, all other items' inflation is once again in the positive zone.

I believe the increase in inflation is mainly because of the rise in electricity tariffs, and this would be the theme for the rest of the year. This spike is unexpected though. I will refrain from adjusting my inflation estimates, but it would seem that it would hit 2.7% or even more for this year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nowadays they don't go to elections with concrete plans?

I watch with interest in the upcoming US elections in November. It seems that the upcoming US election is not about giving concrete plans on how to move ahead, but to see who is more popular. Republicans are rumoured to be able to grab the majority of seats in upcoming election because of the dissatisfaction with the ruling party. That would be a pity though.

Ok, I don't live in the US and I can't say that I know a lot about US politics. However, I do know that it seems that whatever the Democrats proposed, the Republicans are sure to oppose. I don't know about you but if someone seems to be vetoing everything that I'm proposing, how will I then resolve the problem? People seem to forget that the economic crisis was years in the making, and it cannot be resolved overnight. People also forgotten which ruling party caused the US deficits and in a way, this economic crisis.

One example of the politics being played now in US is the topic of the growing US deficits. The Republicans initially aim to continue the tax cuts even for high-income people, contending that taxes shouldn't be raised during the economic recovery. It was said that the economic harm of ending any of the Bush tax cuts would outweigh deficit concerns. However, did they come out with any concrete plans to reduce the deficits? So those people earning millions can be exempted from income tax, some of whom were "saved" by the injection of funds by the US government?

It doesn't really seem fair to the Democrats because they were not even given the chance to implement their policies in the first place. But then again, life is never fair. Pity...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why bother resenting?

I quote from Catherine Ponder:

When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I really wonder what's the consultation all about

I really do wonder whether any thought was given to the topics that the Singapore government throws out for consulting. The recent consultation which I found laughable was the increase in fine if the telcos violate their licence conditions or codes of practice. Instead of having a fixed ceiling of $1 million, they are considering tweaking the formula so that operators can be fined up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover.

I find it very amusing that the government is consulting the very companies that they're regulating and asking them if it's reasonable to increase the penalty. Which company will say oh it's perfectly fine. 10% of the annual turnover is reasonable. Yes yes. And pigs can fly too.

If the government consults us, the citizens, if it's reasonable to fine someone $300 for littering, do you think anyone will say that it's reasonable. Most I guess will say that a warning is more than enough. Does that mean the government is going to remove the fine?

Speaking of $300, recently SMRT was fined $300 as two of its services failed to leave the bus terminals on time on three occasions in the last six months.

SMRT, a big company earning millions of dollars per year, being fined $300 for not adhering to the contract.


Citizens, most earning around 5 digits per year, also being fined $300 for littering.

Laughable right? What's the use of the penalty then as deterrence? $300 for a big company like SMRT. I will say that they can even pay for it by getting the staff in one of the divisions within SMRT to donate $1 each. I always find it amusing whenever I read such news.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Android 2.2 is not suitable for tablets and yet the manufacturers are still making tablets??

I find it very amusing that even though Google has announced that Android v2.2, codenamed Froyo, is not optimised for use on tablets and the apps will not run on that form factor, you still see many manufactuers creating such products based on Android v2.2. That would also explain why some of the Android tablets are curiously small.

So is it profit all that matters? Did those manufacturers not do any R&D to see if Android apps works on the tablet form factor? The key point in Android is not in the operating system, but it's apps. The existence of apps in smartphones have so far define the success. Looking at the iPad, it seems that this is true too.

It would seem that many of the manufacturers doesn't seem to be quite conversant in technology.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quantitative Easing only delays the inevitable

I am not sure what the Feds are thinking when they are looking at going back to quantitative easing. The term quantitative easing describes a monetary policy used by central banks to increase the supply of money by increasing the excess reserves of the banking system. The results speak for themselves.

With quantitative easing = economy up
Without quantitative easing = economy stagnant or on a downward trend

My question to the Feds is whether are you going to do "quantitative easing" forever? Is that the way to prop up the economy or should you try to find the root cause and resolve it? If no one is purchasing financial assets, including government bonds, agency debt, mortgage-backed securities and corporate bonds, from banks and other financial institutions, is there something very wrong with the assets and/or the risk management and/or the product structure?

I really like to see how long the Feds can continue quantitative easing. Why do they want to delay the inevitable?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thoughts on the Liverpool Sale

Thoughts that I have on the Liverpool sale. I quote from Angela Merkel:

I feel sorry sometimes for these sportsmen and women who put in just as much effort as the footballers. For example, athletes train at least as hard as footballers but have to be happy if they can earn enough to finance a decent education.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Impose a limit where the developer must build on the land that they acquire

I am not sure if there is such a limit in place but quite often, I've seen news where URA and HDB have announced that they have sold so and so land parcel for x million. However after that, there is no news on the construction until much later.

I believe there lies the problem. The government may be using the land sales as the reason that the developers are well-supplied but the problem is that the developers are sitting on the land, doing nothing. What matters to us is that houses are built, and not the land that is sold. That piece of land means nothing to us.

We all know the reasons why developers are sitting on the land. Waiting for the right moment to launch their property so that they can make a fat handsome profit, etc. Imposing a time limit whereby developers must start construction of their properties will help in preventing excess inflation of property prices because the developers will bid cautiously in view of this time limit. This will also prevent excessive houses being built in a certain quarter as the respective authorities can space out their land sales so that a certain number of houses are available every quarter. This will in turn prevent excessive rise in prices.

I still think the property prices are crazy. An executive condo costs more than a condo?? Then the government might as well take over all the housing construction.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Windows Phone 7 worth all the hype?

I did not feel any excitement when Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7. I guess the reason may be because back when I was still doing mobile programming, time and time again I was disappointed by Microsoft Windows Mobile, especially when the promises that they made never happened (e.g. Uploading from mobile IE did not work for the longest time).

Anyway, some of the Windows Phone 7 will hit Singapore shores on 21 Oct 2010 (Singtel at least). Singtel will be releasing the HTC HD7, LG Optimus 7, and Samsung Omnia 7. Starhub will release the HTC 7 Mozart and LG Optimus 7 while M1 will only release the HTC 7 Trophy.

I was looking through the YouTube videos on the first look for Windows Phone 7 and indeed, it's much better than the Windows Mobile and will help Microsoft to catch up with iPhone and Android. However, I don't like the tiles (you can take a look at the Youtube videos below) format, which is what Microsoft is using to differentiate themselves from the iPhone and Android.

It seems to me that when you access the Home Screen, the tiles seem to start loading images to be super-imposed on the tiles. Some say it's cool. Personally, I don't like it because:
  • everytime you access the Home Screen, you'll be using your data plan to download these images to be super-imposed on the tiles. The more tiles you have pinned on the Home page, the more images you have to preload.
  • the phone will be constantly using the data plan if you're always going back to the Home page (not sure if they're cached).
  • the battery life will suffer due to this constant usage of the data plan.
Furthermore, I find that the screen is a little confusing because too many images are put randomly together. In one of the Youtube videos below, you'll see the reviewer even had problems trying to find the Pictures app. Icons are there for a reason and I very much prefer icons than a tile that constantly changes. No one talked about the battery life but judging from the tiles that I'm seeing, I don't think it'll be good. By the way, there is no copy and paste.

Even though Microsoft said that they are not targeting any specific market when they build this OS (personally, I think he shouldn't say that because that means that they have no idea which direction they are going and they are playing catch-up), it looks to me that they are targeting the MS Outlook and Office users. It remains to be seen how XBox Live will be positioned for the Windows Phone 7 but personally, I think that they have made a miscalculation. The user experience for games on the PC/XBox and a touch-screen phone is completely different. Likewise for Office documents. It's a long shot to convince users that you can use the full Microsoft Office features on a mobile phone.

If you're still interested in Windows Phone 7, I found some Youtube Videos below on the mobile phones to be released in Singapore. Here is a self-help link from Microsoft if you're interested in taking a look at the user guide.


LG Optimus 7

Samsung Omnia 7

HTC 7 Mozart

HTC 7 Trophy

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beware of the draft HTML5 specs

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the official governing body that oversees HTML5, warned the Web community that HTML5 is not a ratified standard and that implementing it too soon is not wise.

"The problem we’re facing right now is there is already a lot of excitement for HTML5, but it’s a little too early to deploy it because we’re running into interoperability issues," said Philippe Le Hegaret, W3C interaction domain leader.

The earliest date that was floated around for HTML5 is early 2012. If you're really going into HTML5, just be prepared that you may need to change it again in 2 years time as the battle may go anywhere now. Not only is Ogg fighting against H264, Google has also complicated the landscape (again) by introducing WebP, a method of lossy compression that can be used on photographic images.

Things will most probably change closer to 2012. They always do. Is it wise to implement HTML5 now? If your target audience are the iPad, iPhone and Android users, maybe. Your code will just be a whole lot more complicated and if you're using video, you'll need to provide both ogg and H264 videos to ensure usability across browsers. You can take a look at my post here on how to use HTML5 for videos.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mediacorp assumes that everyone likes football???

I'm going to keep this short. My question to Mediacorp is quite simple. If there is at least 1 football season every month (YOG, Commonwealth and the upcoming Asia Games in October), does that mean Ch 5 and Okto are going to show football all the time and assume all Singaporeans like football?

This looks to me like bad planning.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I quote from Jim Goodwin and Sydney J. Harris:

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.

Start relaxing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The 26 charging stations are not really usable

I read with amusement on the 26 charging stations that are being built for the electric cars. Out of the 26 charging stations, only 1 of which allows 45 mins of quick charging. The rest requires 8 hours of charging.

There is a serious usability problem in this setup. First of all, will someone even wait 40 mins to "fill up the tank"?

It seems that they built the charging stations using the technology as the starting point. Instead, they should look at it from the use case perspective. How will people use the charging station?

Looking from this angle, they should instead outfit certain car parks or shopping centers with chargers that can be activated using credit card. This would encourage usage as this is the most likely scenario where people will park their cars for 45mins to 8hours. They could also sell charging kits that will allow DIY charging.

Who will use the charging stations if you need to fill up even for 45mins?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Web Analysis: Another use of Cloud Computing.

Recently I was reading about a certain organisation's social media monitoring tool and I agree that it is one of the types of cloud computing applications that would be useful to any organisation.

Basically, you're using the cloud computing infrastructure to scan and analyse the web for certain bits of information that are of interest to you. In the above context, it's to check on what people are saying about your organisation. However, this could be anything ranging from a certain rival's product launch, or a certain area that you're interested in and wish to "follow".

Cloud computing will be useful in this case because you may need the information on an ad-hoc basis. Therefore, it's not cost effective for you to own the infrastructure to support such a setup if the information is only needed maybe once a month.

Quite interesting to see that cloud computing vendors are finally providing applications that businesses are really interested in.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

SGX doesn't provide visibility to the counters

Just today there was an article talking about companies delisting from Singapore. Personally though, I think the reason is quite simple. SGX is only just providing a public exchange for organisations to list, but SGX is not providing any value-add to it. I'm not sure what the Hong Kong exchange provides but it's a known fact that organisations listed in the Hong Kong exchange have much higher valuations.

SGX is not helping by coming out with a super unfriendly interface that prevents investors from getting up to date information about the organisations that they are interested in. It's rather difficult to retrieve announcements or reports from the SGX website.

SGX also does not provide any visibility to the newly listed counters or make use of the information that is stored within SGX. Unless the investor is patient, it'll be quite difficult to even know the existence of a listed organisation. If you wish to further analyse it, it's even more user unfriendly.

Personally, I think SGX is making it very difficult for listed organisations to attract the investors' attention, and it's up to the individual organisations to make an effort to engage the remisiers or the brokers to "sell" their organisation. If I'm the CEO, this will come to mind. Why am I paying SGX all those listing fees anually if I need to do everything myself? If I'm not getting a valuation that is comparable to other exchanges, why should I list here?

Makes sense to you?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Golden Rule

From the Golden Rule (Wikipedia):
  1. One should treat others according to how one would like others to treat one's self (positive form, passive voice)
  2. Treat others as you would like to be treated (positive form, active voice)
  3. One should not treat others in ways one would not like to be treated (negative/prohibitive form, passive voice; Also called the Silver Rule)
  4. Do not treat others in ways you would not like to be treated (negative/prohibitive form, active voice. Also called the Silver Rule)

The common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". A key element of the Golden Rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group. The world will be a better place if everyone follows the Golden Rule.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mediacorp needs competition

I really miss SPH Mediaworks now. When SPH Mediaworks were around, Mediacorp tried to innovate and the result was interesting programmes for both SPH Mediaworks and Mediacorp programmes. After SPH Mediaworks merged with Mediacorp, Mediacorp has went back to its old ways most probably because there is a lack of competition. They are the only broadcaster in Singapore and they have no incentives to innovate and improve because there is no need.

One of the examples of how laid back Mediacorp is now is last Sunday's movie showcase. I believe all of us seen the I am Legend advertisements the past few days. Guess what movie was shown just now? I-Robot. Wasn't it suppose to be I am Legend?

This is such a simple task. A sign of complacency?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Working from Home is not for everyone

Read an article today about working from home. I did have the opportunity to work from home previously and my feeling is that working from home is not for everyone. Advantage of working from home is that you cut your transport time but it does not work for all types of jobs.

Self discipline is very important when you work from home. Your family must know that at certain times, you are not to be disturbed. Being outcome driven and an expert in time management are mandatory requirements. You must know when to say no.

Working from home also does not apply to all types of jobs. If your job requires frequent interaction with people or requires access to location specific information, your job is not ideal for working from home. It does not apply to all types of jobs.

Last but not least, you will still have to meet up or go back to office once or twice a month. Like it or not, most of the jobs we are holding requires us to work as a team. If you are working as a silo, you are not working efficiently. The meet up is to catch up on the progress of the project and to discuss about the critical milestones.

I can go on and on about working remotely. For those interested, read up about kaizen, in particular the section on remote teams. It explains the advantages and disadvantages of such a setup.

Most importantly though, your boss must trust that you are responsible and will get the job done. That is the most important criteria if you wish to work from home.

Personally though, I like the face to face interaction. More work can be done for me if I am able to trash things out in person. Some things are hard to convey through written words. 8)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Global Logistics Properties and MapleTree Industrial Trust do not look that great

Updated 11 Oct 2010: More information about GLP's dilution based on the latest prospectus as of now.
Updated 12 Oct 2010: More information about MIT's dilution based on the latest prospectus as of now. 

I guess most people are talking about the upcoming IPOs by GIC (Global Logistics Properties) and MapleTree (MapleTree Industrial Trust). However, I am unsure why the choice was made to launch these 2 IPOs because based on their prospectus, the offers do not look appealing at all.

One thing for investors to note about the Global Logistics Properties (GLP) is that it is not a REIT. You're investing in a company that invests in/build logistic properties, that does not have any dividend policy. In fact based on the wording, I have the impression that there will not be any dividends issued because the funds will be mostly used to fund acquisitions in China. Personally, I feel that there are other better companies to invest in, especially of the fact that GLP's properties are all concentrated in China and Japan.

What that was shocking to me is that according to the prospectus, investors subscribing for and/or purchasing the Offering Shares at the Offering Price will experience an immediate dilution in net asset value (“NAV”) per Share immediately after the completion of the Offering. The dilution percentage is approximately 29.2%.

Seriously, this is the first IPO I've seen in the last 5 years that will suffer an immediate NAV dilution upon completion of the IPO. Is that good? Not to me.

Based on the latest prospectus, the dilution has been reduced to 8%. That's much better than the 29.2% which was in the preliminary prospectus. However, there is a reference to the recent developments where GLP will be purchasing 2 companies, paying 70% of USD335 million using shares. I've roughly estimated that the dilution will be around 13%, give and take due to the exchange rates. The dilution will be dependent on the share price when the payment is made. This is still better than the 29.2% dilution which was noted previously. However, as I'm looking more for dividends in this type of companies, I do not think I will subscribing to this IPO.

Next one I thought that I might consider is MapleTree Industrial Trust. This is a Singapore REIT consisting of industrial properties that MapleTree has acquired from JTC. Although the Sponsor is MapleTree, it is stated specifically that MapleTree Business Centre and Comtech will be excluded from the first right of refusal by the Sponsor over future sales of industrial properties by the Sponsor or any of its wholly-owned subsidiaries. Seriously though, I'm more interested in the MapleTree Business Centre than the other properties that are in the REIT.

One thing I also had an issue with was that out of the ~$1.1billion that is raised, only 183million will be used for the acquisition of the 6 properties held by MapleTree Singapore Industrial Trust (MSIT). The majority of the proceeds will be instead used for:
  • payment of the MIT Private Trust Distribution to the Existing MIT Unitholders;
  • partial redemption of the MIT Private Trust Units; and
  • repayment of S$977.8 million of MIT’s existing debt.

In fact, the majority of the proceeds will be used to repay MIT's existing debt. If the issue price is higher than expected, more payment will instead be given to the MIT Private Trust Distribution. I would have very much preferred that the extra amount raised will be put into working capital, which is not the case. This IPO to me seems to be an avenue for MapleTree to get a new debt facility. Furthermore, the REIT managers are the same as MapleTreeLog. Their track record isn't that great to me and they did commit a mistake initially that pushed the gearing of MapleTreeLog quite high just before the great recession. The MIT gearing upon listing is around 38.5%, quite high I would say even though they have spare cash of about $65 million.

MIT, like GLP, will be also be priced above their NAV. The dilution upon listing will approximately be around 7.5%.

All in all, my take is that both of these IPOs can be given a miss and will most probably drop below IPO price after 6 months. I do not see how the use of the proceeds of the IPO can aid the companies to grow post-IPO.

When there is a will, there is a way

I quote from Vince Lombardi:

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.

Quite often success translate to attempting to achieve something that has not been done before, be it be you personally or the organisation/world. That is why you'll need strong will in order to achieve it. You'll need to overcome the barrier to change. You'll need to convey the usefulness and effectiveness of what you're doing even though the outcome may only be visible years down the road.

You will need the will.
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