Grow or bust

Slow down? I will starve to death!

Based on a true story. A fat man walks into a clinic one day. “Good morning, mister, how can I help you today?” asks the doctor. “Hey doc, I have a problem,” the man says, not looking too happy. “I’ve been on a supersized diet for the last forty years. It used to make me strong and muscular, fitter than everyone else, but in the last twenty years or so I have grown so much, now I have difficulty getting around. “Everyone hates me because everywhere I go, I jam up the space. In trains, in buses, on the streets,…

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Rise of shadow industries in Singapore

One of the main worries over a slowing Chinese economy is the proliferation of its shadow banking industry, where non-bank lenders such as hedge funds and special investment vehicles grant loans to companies without regulatory oversight. It is feared that hidden debt levels and unrestrained risk taking may trigger a far-reaching crisis in a severe slowdown. In Singapore, two forms of unregulated shadow industries are thriving as well, one also related to alternative lending and the other of a very different kind. And we saw these past two weeks how both government action and inaction could fuel their growth further….

All quiet on the Changi eastern front

All quiet on the Changi eastern front

When plans for the Cross Island Line were announced earlier this year, environmentalists — being environmentalists — went up in arms over a track alignment that looks like it will cut through under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The Nature Society was quick to register its concerns, and a few months later put out a paper to propose an alternative route that cuts around the reserve, not through it. There was also a protest at Hong Lim Park where an “eco-artist” and her supporters warned of the environmental impact. And all this before the Land Transport Authority has even decided…

UK marks 15 years of minimum wage

Yesterday, the UK marked 15 years of its national minimum wage, a policy that has not only won over all doubters across the political spectrum in this country but was also voted by experts as the most successful policy in the last thirty years. From The Financial Times (do check out the Resolution Foundation report as well): Happy birthday, national minimum wage By John McDermott A few months into Tony Blair’s government, The Economist argued that “coming up with a minimum wage that will not seriously harm the economy, and destroy jobs, will require the wisdom of Solomon – or extraordinary…

Past and present pride and joy

The PM’s midnight musings

So now we know what keeps PM Lee up at night is not so much Ho Ching’s snoring but midnight musings over how to retain the “specialness” of Singapore. This so that outsiders can look at us and say: “Wow, let’s go and see what’s happening there.” Appearance matters, after all, when keeping up with the Jones of the world. PM Lee also said that if he could persuade another ten billionaires to Singapore, he would have no qualms doing so even if it results in higher income inequality, “because they will bring business, they will bring opportunities, they will…

Productivity Fail!

Productivity Fail!

Is it really a mystery why productivity levels in Singapore remain abysmal despite government efforts to restructure? Here is a light-hearted series of real photos culled from our local media that shows how we are better at brute force economic grinding than working smart. Changi Airport employs a real-life scarecrow. Benefits include big yellow car. Apparently the airport has never heard of automation. Two NEA officers checking a “massive” hole for mosquito breeding. At this rate, is it any wonder they need to hire another 300 such officers in the next two months, for a total of 1,150? Four guys (presumably)…

Why do we attract hedge funds to Singapore?

Why do we attract hedge funds to Singapore?

Besides the reader who contacted me with his thoughts on my post “Why a front office Singaporean core is important”, fellow London-based blogger Limpeh Is Foreign Talent has also responded with a post suggesting it’s not all the bad for Singapore’s financial services sector. I will comment further on what he wrote on. First of all, I believe the point Limpeh is trying to make is that Singapore is still doing okay as a financial centre because top banking talent from around the world are still heading to the country. But he points out that this is more because our government…

Front office Singaporean core: Response to a reader

Front office Singaporean core: Response to a reader

Hi Void Decker! I refer to your latest article “Why a front office Singaporean core is important” ( I assume that you’re not working in the financial sector. Please forgive me if I’m wrong). I would define myself as a determined individual with a strong passion for finance. I graduated with a diploma in banking and financial services and I intend to pursue a related degree at LSE. I would never claim to be an expert on the financial sector (after all I’m just a student), however I just want to share with you my experience based on my dealings…

Why a front office Singaporean core is important

Why a front office Singaporean core is important

At a recent discussion, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam reiterated the importance of banks in Singapore, particularly the foreign ones, to develop a “Singaporean core”. Besides having Singaporeans adequately represented in these banks, “it is also important that they take on a good spread of positions, including the best jobs in front office for treasury and trading”. We only need to look at what’s happening in cities like London to know why this last bit about taking up “the best jobs in front office for treasury and trading” is so important. This is not simply about appeasing Singaporeans with fancy…

Having your pie and eat it

Economic growth and happiness in Brazil

In a recent May Day speech, PM Lee reminded us that growing the economy is the best way to boost wages. He said, “If we can grow the economy, produce more, become more prosperous, we can distribute, everybody can have a share and everybody will be better off.” We know this, of course, as the “rising tide lifts all boats” gospel that his father and the PAP government has championed all these years. In the blog post “Brazil isn’t growing – so why are Brazilians so happy?”, The Economist explains why, despite slowing growth in the last two years, Brazilians…

Small shops in tight spaces

Restrict investors, not shoebox shops themselves

I’m beginning to wonder if our National Development Minister is claustrophobic. After intervening in the private housing market in November last year to restrict the number of shoebox apartments allowed in suburban residential projects, Mr Khaw Boon Wan is now targeting “shoebox shops” in malls. We can only conclude that he just doesn’t like small spaces. The minister’s beef with residential shoebox apartments was the increasing trend of Singaporeans buying up these units because normal sized private apartments are priced out of the range they could afford. With prices going north of $1,400 psf even in the Outside Central Region (OCR),…

The jestor

A one-of-a-kind union that rejects minimum wage

Every good party needs a clown to provide the laughs, and it was Zorro Lim (not his real name) on the PAP roster yesterday. At the Budget debate, NTUC Secretary-General Lim Swee Say rejected renewed calls by several MPs, including Inderjit Singh and NMP Lawrence Lien, for a minimum wage system. Instead of speaking up for the workers that he is supposed to represent, he is strangely the one voicing the objection, even if we know all along that the government is never keen on the idea. This must be an absolute one of a kind. Nowhere in the world will…