Friday, April 29, 2011

Auto-complete in your command prompt

Ever tried to type in a long directory name and wish that you're able to auto-complete it? Actually this feature has been there for some time but few people know it.

Just go to the command prompt (e.g. run: cmd), and type out: cd\ |Tab| (e.g. cd \Pro|Tab|)

Using the key will help you scroll forward all the different directory names. Use shift |Tab| to scroll backwards.

That's it. For your information, the above also helps you auto-complete any filename within the directory you're in too. Have fun.

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So are we going to get S$3,000 every budget year?

It seems like there was nothing new being mentioned in the rally. Measures such as S$3,000 to S$4,000 of benefits, top-ups and bonuses have already been explained during the budget talk and debate. However, this does not resolve our problem. We are still slowly being priced out of our country because these benefits are not recurrent.

I have written a post here on my thoughts on this topic. We do not only encounter this cost of living issue last year. It is every year and if you look at the past history, you can count how many times Singaporeans were given payouts. In fact, I remember a certain budget year where the goodies mostly went to businesses. Seems like businesses are treated much better than citizens.

Like I have mentioned in my previous post, this kind of payouts should be a recurrent fixture every year if the GST is really meant to be redistributed out to Singaporeans. If not, then I do not see these payouts as a solution to our problem.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

iPad 2 available in 11 countries including Singapore on 29 Apr 2011

Seems like the iPad 2 was released in Japan today and it is finally coming to Singapore tomorrow! The prices are as follows:

StorageWifiWifi + 3G
16 GBS$668S$848
32 GBS$798S$978
64 GBS$928S$1108

The iPad 2 will also be launched as planned on Friday in Hong Kong, India, Israel, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Inflation is up 5%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2011:
January: 5.5%
February: 5.0%
March: 5.0%

Transport and Housing are once again leading the pack, rising by 13.4% and 7.1% respectively year on year. The inflation for Transport has reduced once again although the price of oil is still high and inflation still remains elevated across the board. The effect on inflation may be muted due to the constant strengthening of the Singapore dollar. Housing inflation has most probably increased due to the increase of the electricity tariffs.

As expected, the inflation level has not changed much compared to February. This month's inflation however may be lower due to the housing rebates given out from the budget, but my estimate is still around 4%. Relatively high.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do not worry about what may never happen

I quote from Benjamin Franklin:

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.

Simple quote, but yet hard to achieve. Maybe due to my line of work, I always worry about things that may happen. Rightly so because the projects I deal with are not of small amounts. However, I should try not to let it affect my personal life.

Keep in the light and look at the troubles that came, not those that may come.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Foreign workers can help to create how many jobs?

My wife and I are quite different in terms of our thinking and sometimes, our debates and discussions can have very interesting outcomes. We were discussing about the workers that are hired by IM Flash in Singapore.

According to IM Flash Singapore, they are employing 1,200 workers, of which six in 10 are Singaporeans and permanent residents, while four in 10 are foreigners. In the technician and manufacturing jobs, two-thirds are foreign workers, but in the managerial and professional positions, two-thirds are Singaporeans and permanent residents.

However, the question is how many managers and professional positions can there be in a company? If you're talking about a highly efficient company that also uses automation in its work, I won't be surprised if the ratio of managers to employees can be about 1:15. Seriously, I would think the ratio would be higher for a high-tech company such as IM Flash, but I'm also taking into account professionals.

Let's say we're using the above ratio, that means there would be about 80 managers/professional positions among the 1,200 people, of which only about 54 are Singaporeans and permanent residents. How many of the 54 are Singaporeans, and not permanent residents? What is the breakdown of the 720 Singaporeans and permanent residents being employed? I find it quite hard to believe that many are Singaporeans, especially in the technician and manufacturing jobs as we have been producing many graduates.

Without the actual numbers, I can only use assumptions and I don't think my assumptions are that far off. After all, how many managers will such a high-tech company need?

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Efficient MRT systems owned by the government

To add on to the post here about the efficiency about government owned MRT systems, I did a little digging and realised that other than Taipei, 2 of the other MRT systems that I admire, namely Tokyo and Hong Kong, are both also majority owned by the government.

The Tokyo Metro is 100% owned by the Japan government (about half of which is owned by Tokyo), while the MTR Corporation that runs the MTR line in Hong Kong is 76% owned by the government of Hong Kong. Do note that the MTR Corporation has also won big in the Metro awards, and mainly on the awards that count.

Therefore, I do not really understand why Singapore can't do the same. It's quite obvious that the duopoly situation in Singapore is not improving the MRT service levels at all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The new iOS for this June 2011?

Seems like someone from Vietnam has gotten hold onto a white 64GB iPhone with a slightly different iOS. Based on what I've seen in the videos, this is the key summary of changes:
  • Multi-tasking on the iPhone (double-tap on Home button) will now be similar to how you open multiple websites in Safari. However, does that mean there will only be a maximum of 9 background apps?

  • The search bar seems to have shifted to the multi-tasking screen.
  • A new pop-up screen design for creating app folders within the iPhone.

However, I did notice from the videos that Springboard was installed which means that the iPhone has been JB. There is a possibility that someone has added these custom features into the current iOS. Personally, I think it doesn't make sense for the search bar to be at the multi-tasking screen.

Personal opinion. I think this is a fake.

Anyway if you're interested, below are a couple of videos in Vietnamese on what I've mentioned above.

The famous 27 year old girl is now parked under Marine Parade GRC

After the widespread disapproval of the youngest candidate to be fielded for this election, I'm surprised that she is still in the list of candidates and parked under the Marine Parade GRC no less (although it's not confirmed until nomination day).

A democratic election is meant to represent the will of the people, the citizens. After widespread disapproval, I would expect that the party to withdraw the candidate and give her greater exposure so that she will be ready for the next election. To put her under a GRC helmed by the SM after such widespread disapproval from the citizens, is the party telling us that our opinions mean nothing to them? Furthermore, I think this is the first time in my memory that there is such widespread disapproval of a candidate even before the elections. Did we have such widespread disapproval when Dr Amy Khor and Dr Lily Neo were elected? Not that I remember.

Seriously if she is that good, why don't someone nominate her as a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP)? Show and prove to us that she is that good and she should have no problems in the next general election.

Is this the message that the party wants to send to all the citizens? Our opinions don't matter? The feedback from the ground is just to be noted, and not to be action upon? Actions speak louder than words and so far, this is the message that I am getting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Worrying gets you nowhere

I quote from Glenn Turner:

Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.

Worrying may be a natural instinct for all of us, but this should not stop us from taking steps to resolve the issue. Focus your energy elsewhere as worrying really gets you nowhere.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What's wrong with nationalising the MRT operations?

Recently, there were concerns that a nationalised public transport system can result in inefficiencies and a drop in service levels. I have to disagree with that way of thinking.

If you have read my previous post here, you will know that I am quite impressed with the Taipei Metro. I did a little digging and guess what? The Taipei City Government owns 73.75% of the Taipei Metro. Is the Taipei Metro inefficient? Far from it.

I believe that it should not be a given that all services provided by private companies will be efficient. My opinion is that companies will only be efficient when the circumstances require them to. If the company is in a monopoly or duopoly position, how efficient can they be? For example, one of our current MRT providers seems to be focused on renting out spaces in the MRT station then focus on improving the service levels.

Theoretically, if the MRT operations are run by the government, any feedback will go directly to them. Unless the ones in-charge are not receptive to the feedback, any changes required will not take more than 20 years due to contract obligations. Just this alone will make the operations more efficient. Furthermore, I'm sure the government will also be focused on running the MRT operations well, and not let the leasing of shops divert their attention away from the core business.

Is spending 6-12 mins waiting for the next train at all our MRT stations and interchanges efficient? If the Taipei City Government can run their operations such that the waiting time is only 3-6 mins, I believe our government can match, or do better.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

iOS 4.3.2 at a glance

Updated 20 Apr 2011: Added additional comments

Seems like Apple released a patch for the iOS 4.3.1 last Friday. Not sure why Apple likes Fridays so much.

Below are the patches of iOS 4.3.2 at a glance:
  • Fixes an issue that occasionally caused blank or frozen video during a FaceTime call
  • Fixes an issue that prevented some international users from connecting to 3G networks on iPad Wi-Fi + 3G
  • Contains the latest security updates

The only thing that I did notice is that my iPhone 3GS seems to shut down faster than the previous iOS. Other than that and the security patches to iPhone's Safari, I do not see any noticeable difference.

Update 1: After using for a while, it seems that it also starts up faster than the previous OS. Not only that, power management seems to be better too as my battery lasted a little longer than usual (maybe about 3% difference).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why the focus on economy growth?

I was looking through some headlines recently when I saw a World Bank report talking about economic growth. It is challenging the view that high economic growth alone cannot reduce the poverty and unemployment. This report is in the context of developing countries where the economic growth is enough to reduce poverty, but it failed to benefit the masses and address repression, corruption and high unemployment.

However, the talk about high economic growth being unable to reduce poverty and unemployment got me thinking whether if it applies to developed countries. I tried to apply it in Singapore's context.

We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world so at one glance, it doesn't seem to apply. However, when looking deeper behind the reasons for high economic growth, I start to see some similarities with the above headline. Why do we need high economic growth? Main reason is to create employment and reduce poverty. Why Singaporeans are complaining about foreign talent? That's because they do not see the high 14.5% economic growth filtering to the guys in the street. Therefore, based on the widespread public opinion in Singapore, it will seem that it is quite possible that high economic growth does not filter down to the average citizen.

In my personal opinion, I feel that the government should take the focus off economic growth. Instead, they should manage by objectives. The objective is never about having high economic growth but it's all about increasing the standard of living for all citizens. Therefore, the focus should be on the objectives, and not on the process.

For example, why is there a focus on economic growth? Economic growth is only one of the ways to increase the standard of living for all citizens. Why narrow your focus to only one of the enablers? Why can't the focus instead be increasing the median income of all citizens? When your focus change, the number of alternatives that you have will also increase.

High economic growth may not filter down to the citizens if there are not enough safeguards to protect the rights of the workers. I'm sure some of us know or have encountered people who were lured to sign an employment contract that is totally unfair to the employee. Work for free during probation period? Have to give a few months notice to resign? There are such people around and because the employment contract is signed and there is no overarching employment law to protect the average employees, no one can do anything about it, even the lawyers.

I will only state the above example or my post will become super long. Look into all the feedback from the citizens and you may see the hidden message behind it. To end off this, I will point to another common grouse among Singaporeans. Minimum wage. 

Why is it important to Singaporeans? Is it really because of the money? Or is it because employees are not treated fairly? Think about it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Diversity in top-level executives

I was reading an interesting article that was describing on the challenges for those doing businesses. One of which is that beyond the challenge of retaining talent in businesses, having more diversity among top-level executives is desirable.

This triggered some of my thoughts on the need for diversity among top executives. Drawing from my own personal experience with my previous team, I understand the rationale behind diversity. The reason is quite simple. Every individual brings a unique perspective to a problem, and have their unique strengths. The more varied they are in their backgrounds, the more perspectives you have to the problem.

It is only in such teams that I truly understood the meaning of 1 + 1 = 3. The challenge is more to evaluate and derive a solution, and yet encourage all to continue to give such perspectives in all instances.

With no such diversity, you'll get a team of people who are too like-minded with the same ideas. Your team will most probably be productive, your team will most probably be efficient, but your ideas will most probably be limited.

Personally to me, different perspective of the same problem will usually bring about an innovative solution. The process may be longer, but the solution will most probably be not the standard run-of-the-mill type. I guess that's why the article I read recommend such a team of top-level executives.

Sometimes, it's not all about efficiency. Innovation is the key to a successful business, or team for that matter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Live your life and follow your heart

I quote from Steve Jobs:

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Another reminder why our infrastructure cannot support the population

Last year in March, I have written a post here detailing the problems of simple cellphone access in our underground MRT stations. Fast forward to April 2011, the problems are yet to be solved.

Just last week, there was an "electrical fault" in the vicinity around Outram Park MRT station. The result was an hour long delay for all the trains along that line, and some passengers were stuck in the tunnels.

The problem? Those people stuck in the tunnels are unable to call out at all as they have no signals on their mobile phone. Just imagine that you have an important meeting to attend to, and your boss is waiting impatiently for your appearance but you're unable to contact anyone.

This signal problem is evident to anyone who takes the train to work everyday, and nothing visible was done to resolve it. Seriously, I don't buy the reason that it takes time to install extra mobile cell stations in the tunnels because I've encountered the problem since the year before. Let's say that they have a year to fix the problem. The trains would have stopped running by 1am everyday. Using an estimate of 4 hours of work for a year (364 days) roughly adds up to about 60 full working days (1 working day = 24 hours as I am calculating by working hours).

So 60 full working days is not enough to resolve this problem? I didn't know installing extra cell stations in the tunnels take that long.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Giving Mapletree Commercial Trust a miss

I had a quick look at the upcoming Mapletree Commercial Trust (MCT) IPO to see if it is of any interest. Sad to say that I will give it a miss because I find the other REITs in the current market more attractive.

MCT is a Singapore REIT that will be established with an objective of investing in a diversified portfolio of income-producing real estate used primarily for office and/or retail purposes, whether wholly or partially in Singapore, as well as real estate related assets. It will start off with Vivocity, Bank of America Merrill Lynch HarbourFront and PSA Building in its portfolio.The sponsor has also mentioned that they are open to injecting assets like Mapletree Business Centre (MBC) and The Comtech into the REIT when the time is right. The distribution yield ranges from 5.47% to 5.92% for this financial year, depending on the IPO price.

The following are some of the areas that I am not comfortable with in this IPO:
  1. The objective of MCT basically has a catch-all phrase, and it seems like they will inject anything that is real estate related. The perception that I had from this objective is that the REIT has no specific purpose, other than being a vehicle for Mapletree for injecting their assets.
  2. It seems like a high initial IPO price will not increase the cash reserves of the REIT. I believe this is similar to the Mapletree Industrial Trust that I looked at previously. Based on the prospectus, if the MCT IPO price is on the high side, the difference in cash will be used to top-up the amount used to to inject Bank of America Merrill Lynch HarbourFront and PSA Building into MCT.

    I personally believe that is not very fair as I would expect it to be put in the cash reserve so that they can use it for acquisitions or asset enhancements.
  3. Vivocity will contribute more than 75% of the income generated for MCT even through the next FY. This makes the REIT very dependent on Vivocity for its revenue source. Furthermore, the debt gearing will be 39% for MCT post-IPO, one of the highest among all the REITs in the SGX Market. Although it is stated that MCT will have about $50 million in cash, but I believe the cash is needed because PSA Building is currently under renovation and payment is required for the renovation works.
  4. With a 39% debt gearing, how can they afford to inject MBC or any other yield accretive assets into MCT? The answer is very difficult as most REITs keep their gearing below 40%. I did a rough calculation of MBC's value based on an average of PSA Building's psf value and it amounted to more than 1.7 billion dollars. Private placement or rights issue? Only they will know but either case, the dilution of shareholding is quite substantial due to the amount.
  5. Last but not least, I believe there are a number of REITs like Starhill Global or Ascendas REIT that are giving yields that are above 6%, with lower gearing than MCT. Lower gearing means more opportunities for the REIT to acquire yield accretive assets before they are required to raise capital.

    After all, do not forget that REITs is mostly about the distribution yields.

All in all, I will give it a miss like the industrial trust. Maybe I will take a look again after MBC is injected into MCT.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why the focus on foreign workers and productivity?

I was contemplating whether to add this portion into my previous post about the debate here but I decided against it as it will make the post too long.

I believe some people will wonder why the government is always talking about foreign workers and productivity, and why it is a necessity. The reason is simple. It's all because of the economy.

Why must the economy grow? Simply put, to keep pace with inflation. All our salary increases, bonuses, etc are all signs of the economy growth, and it's usually proportionate. In boom times, you get big salary increases, big bonuses, etc. In recession times, you may not even hold on to a job. Some people call it the virtuous cycle, and some say the vicious cycle depending on your perspective of life, but that's the way life goes on in this current century.

To grow the economy, the industries must be able to grow. Based on my personal opinion, there are only 2 ways in which an industry can grow:
  • Hire more people to produce more goods and services
  • Train the staff to produce more goods and services with improvement in processes / technology.

Take a look at the unemployment statistics below that was released by the government.

Unemployment Rate (Annual)
Overall (%)
Resident (%)

* unemployed person refer to persons aged 15 years and over who did not work but were available for work and were actively looking for a job during the reference period. They include persons who were not working but were taking steps to start their own business or taking up a new job after the reference period.

Our unemployment rate has been quite constant except for the blip in 2009 due to the great recession. So what happens when the country is close to full employment? The result will be that the country will try to import more workers, and focus on productivity and having babies, which is exactly what the current government is doing. The focus is on increasing output to boost the economy.

However, the unfortunate side effect of "importing" more workers in is the downward pressure on the locals salaries. This is inevitable because foreign workers will by nature be more productive. If you're in a foreign land with no family, most will work their butts off, earn as much as possible, and return home and enjoy life. How can locals compete with that, with our strong commitments to our family and friends?

So is this a chicken and egg problem? May not. Maybe the focus should be on the type of jobs created, not the type of workers needed.

On a side note, 2009 was where the Jobs Credit was introduced. Looks like more locals were being retrenched at that time than the foreign workers. Interesting statistics.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Action or Inaction Matters

I quote from John Stuart Mill:

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.

Note that inaction in also a cause of injury. Keeping quiet on the wrongs that you see is as guilty as the person who did it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A perspective on the debate

It was marketed as an unedited debate between all the parties in Singapore. However, it was a little disappointing to me as all the issues and "solutions" that were raised are not new and were already reported previously.

The flow of the debate went off-tangent a few times, but from what I understood, it revolves around these issues:
  • Cost of living
  • Foreign workers vs locals
  • Income gap

The issue of increasing cost of living is nothing new, but it was disappointing that the solutions raised during the debate is also not new. One of which is no GST for essential foodstuffs, and to implement tiering of GST. This has been mentioned quite a few times I believe.

Based on what I know, I have to agree that what I called the re-distribution of GST, as explained by the minister, is in the best interest for Singapore. Let's say you spend $15 a day on 3 meals. You'll spend about $5,475 in a year, which will result in $383.25 being paid for GST. The minimum growth dividends given for this year's budget will more than cover this GST amount if you have served NS. The U-Save & S&CC rebates more than cover the GST that was taken.

BUT... There is always a catch. What was not being said is that the re-distribution of GST to Singaporeans are not given out every year. The GST offset package that were announced in 2007 were only for a fixed period up to 2010. The highest payouts given at that time ($200) is not even sufficient to cover the simple example I have given above, except in 2009 where they doubled the GST credits given for that particular year. What we can see now is that the GST is used to increase the revenue for the government, not to offset rising cost of living.

I believe we all know that the GST together with all the other taxes collected, is a source of revenue for the government's expenditure. Currently, the re-distribution of GST is very dependent on the current government's budget allocation. It is not enshrined within the constitution that this must be done. Therefore, what the minister said will be true if and only if this GST re-distribution is a regular occurrence every year. What can be done is to fix a certain percentage of the GST revenue collected to be minimally re-distributed back to Singaporeans. This amount can be increased in special circumstances, subjected to approval of course.

I feel that this is much better than the GST tiering as it is an administrative nightmare to administer this kind of tiering, and guess who is doing the job? Definitely not the ministers.

The next issue is on the foreign workers. On paper, whatever the minister said during the debate is correct. If you look at the structure of how the permits are issued, you will realise that it is in a way, providing a minimum wage for locals (you must pay at least $x to hire a foreign worker, subjected to quotas). The key word is of course, on paper. I believe that all of us who frequent the hawker centres, shops, etc will not even know that a quota or permit is being imposed because we see foreign workers everywhere.

Therefore, the current permit system as explained by the minister, will be ideal if it is enforced. That's the only reason I can think of on the discrepancy between what is being said, and what we are seeing. Somehow, there is a loophole that some businesses are exploiting to get around this "work permit" for foreigners. A review should be done to plug these gaps.

To further protect the locals, there should also be a mandate by MOM that makes it mandatory for all job advertisements to indicate the salary that they are willing to pay.

Whenever someone is hired, a projection should have been done if the company can afford to hire this person for at least a year. Therefore, this number should have been available in the first place. Mandating this in all job advertisements will have several benefits:
  1. The government will be able to keep track of the indicative salaries to determine if the work permit policies are working.
  2. Employees will know what they are signing up for and will save everyone's time in the job hiring process for employers and employees.
  3. Increase competition for talent that will hopefully lead to an increase of our median income, and give employees incentives to upgrade themselves. This will also in a way address the growing income gap.

In other countries, it is actually quite possible that the base salaries of the CEOs (eg Japan Airlines) is lesser than some of the employees because it is recognised that direction is of no use if you do not have the people to execute it. Sadly, this is not practiced here. The income gap will be here to stay if the focus is on the profit generated for the bosses.

All in all, this election will be interesting. Let's see if all of us are given the chance to vote.

Friday, April 1, 2011

How to apply Rights Issue using Cashier Order

Previously, I've written a post on how to apply Rights issue using ATM. Recently, I had a chance to apply the Rights Issue using Cashier Order as my bank was not in the list of participating banks. This post is to document the process for future notes.

In your rights offer document, there will be a page stating how to apply through banker's draft/cashier's order. It will also come with another paper which is of a different color and an envelope for you to mail it back.

You will just need to take note of the following before getting your cashier order:
  1. How many rights units are you entitled to
  2. How many excess rights units are you going to apply for
Near the top of the form, there should be a number that will at least state the number of shares that you own currently. There will also be 2 boxes in the form. One is to fill in the total number of rights shares accepted, and the other is to fill in the total number of excess rights shares you wish to get. For example, if you are entitled to 1000 rights shares, and you wish to get 3000, then you have to fill in 1000 (rights issue accepted) and 3000 (excess rights applied) respectively into the 2 boxes.

For the particular rights issue I participated, I had to manually calculate the number of shares that I am entitled to, and multiply it with the rights offer price. Likewise for the number of excess rights that I wish to get. Total them up and that's the amount you need to put in the cashier order. Put in the numbers to the form as it will be easier for you to reference to it later. Based on my experience, it seems that you should only draw one cashier order for the whole rights issue. Translated, you need to fill in the same cashier order reference number for the rights issue accepted and the excess rights.

There are a few ways to get cashier orders. There are some banks that allow collection of free cashier orders in certain branches if you "order" it online, and of course the more common one is to walk inside the bank and pay a small admin fee to process the cashier order.

If you're going to the bank for your cashier order, bring the form and the envelope along as it will contain instructions on how to draw your cashier order (e.g. “NOT NEGOTIABLE, A/C PAYEE
ONLY, addressee, etc).

If you're going to the bank, you will need to fill in a form for the cashier order. The teller will assist you to fill in the form so just fill in whatever that you can. My experience is that the envelope itself also contains instructions on how to write the cashier order so I passed the envelope to the teller too.

The teller will then process the cashier order for you. The last thing for you to do is to write the cashier order reference numbers in the 2 boxes provided and sign it. That's all to it.
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