Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Little Hu

MR HU Chunhua is a rising star who is slated to reach the top echelons of power in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and his rapid ascent is unlikely to be derailed by the May protests in Inner Mongolia, according to observers.

The career of the 48-year-old Inner Mongolia party boss could even get a boost from the demonstrations which erupted across the grasslands after a Mongol herder was killed by a Han Chinese driver in a hit-and-run accident.

Mr Hu seemed to have dealt with the riots appropriately, with no more unrest flaring up since, noted analyst Wang Zhengxu from Nottingham University's China Policy Institute. This has enhanced his credentials in the party, he said.

'It (the unrest) won't affect his career path negatively,' Dr Wang added.

Dr Bo Zhiyue, an expert on elite politics at Singapore's East Asian Institute, agreed. Protests like those that erupted in Inner Mongolia are not uncommon in China and so do not necessarily reflect badly on Mr Hu, a protege of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Many believe that Mr Hu, aptly nicknamed 'Little Hu', could eventually reach the top ranks of the CCP.

If Mr Xi Jinping, who will succeed President Hu as CCP chief in the second half of next year, is seen as the centre of China's fifth-generation leadership, the younger Hu is being touted by some analysts as a possible 'sixth generation' leader a decade from now.

Mr Hu certainly has the right credentials.

He shares many things in common with his mentor: No illustrious parents, but experience in Tibet as well as in the Communist Youth League.

He impressed many when he volunteered to work in Tibet after graduating from Peking University.

In 2009, he was made party chief of Inner Mongolia, the fastest among his cohort to assume such a position along with north-eastern Jilin provincial boss Sun Zhengcai.

Experts believe that he stands a good chance of being promoted to the 25-member Politburo during next year's 18th Party Congress.

There is even an outside chance that he will be admitted into the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, an even more exclusive club currently made up of just nine men.

The older Hu set a precedent when he was given a place in the elite club at the 14th Party Congress in 1992. He was 49 years old at the time and would take over as top party leader in 2003.

'There's going to be a vacancy for the post of vice-president in 2013 after Xi is elected as China's president. They will need to fill the post,' said Dr Bo.

Adding credence to such speculation is recent talk in the capital that Mr Hu may soon succeed Mr Liu Qi as Beijing party boss. Mr Liu turns 69 in November and is expected to retire by next year.

If this happens, it will further boost Mr Hu's chances of becoming the front- runner for China's top post in the next decade.

Monday, August 08, 2011

where our ministers studied

Where our Ministes studied.

MM Lee Kuan Yew - Raffles Institution

SM Goh Chok Tong - Raffles Institution

SM S. Jayakumar - Raffles Institution

PM Lee Hsien Loong - Catholic High School / National Junior College

DPM Teo Chee Hean - St Joseph's Institution

DPM Wong Kan Seng - Outram Secondary School

K Shanmugam - Raffles Institution

Lim Hng Kiang - Raffles Institution

Raymond Lim - Raffles Institution

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan - Anglo-Chinese School

Dr Ng Eng Hen - Anglo-Chinese School

Tharman Shanmugaratnam - Anglo-Chinese School

George Yeo - St Patrick's School / St Joseph's Institution

Mah Bow Tan - St Joseph's Institution

Lui Tuck Yew - Anglo-Chinese School

Lim Swee Say - Catholic High School

Gan Kim Yong - Catholic High School

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim - Tanjong Katong Secondary School

Lim Boon Heng - Monfort Secondary School

Khaw Boon Wan - Chung Ling High School Penang

Mrs Lim Hwee Hua - Cresent Girls' School / Raffles Institution

Former President Yusof Ishak - Raffles Institution

Former President Benjamin Sheares - Raffles Institution

Former President Devan Nair - Victoria School

Former President Wee Kim Wee - Raffles Institution

Former President Ong Teng Cheong - Hwa Chong Institution

Current President S R Nathan - Victoria School

Saturday, July 09, 2011

China's growing middle class

from 4% in 2005 to 56% to 2030

HK's Centaline opens branch in Havelock

INTEREST from wealthy foreign buyers in Singapore's persistently strong residential property market is hitting new highs.

In the latest indicator of the mounting interest, one of Hong Kong's largest property agencies has set up shop here to muscle in on the local market.

This comes as Singapore-based agencies increasingly look offshore to wealthy foreign buyers - especially those in China - who are drawn to the Republic's rising prominence.

Hong Kong's Centaline Property Agency opened its first branch yesterday in Havelock Road. The firm already has operations in Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan and recorded HK$8.6 billion (S$1.35 billion) worth of commissions last year.

Centaline Singapore general manager Clarence Chow said that he sees potential in the Singapore market because, as has been the case in Hong Kong, property prices here have risen continuously.

The appeal for foreign property agencies moving here is that it allows them to cater to - and cash in on - existing clients keen on expanding their portfolio to include Singapore, which has appeared on many more investors' radar screens after the opening of its two integrated resorts.

Mr Chow said Singapore's comprehensive economic plans, advanced medical and educational systems and its open immigration policy are attracting international funds to its property market.

'(As) Singapore opens its gambling industry in order to boost tourism, this further enhances its economic growth... Centaline provides a platform for clients to seek investment opportunities between mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore,' Mr Chow said.

Centaline has 25 employees in its sales team and plans to hire 30 more by the end of this year.

It also plans to open up to 40 branches in districts 1, 4, 9 to 11 and 15 in the next five years.

It is exporting the Hong Kong model of property agencies with numerous small offices scattered across the island to allow buyers or sellers to walk in with their inquiries instead of looking listings up online or in newspapers.

High-end condos in prime areas, going for $3 million to $5 million, will be its first area of focus as these are the units that Chinese buyers are most interested in.

These buyers are also drawn by Singapore's strong economy and safe environment, the strengthening Singdollar and the more muted publicity when they purchase expensive homes here, Mr Chow said. Although the agency is small in size compared to local giants, its advantage will be its ability to draw on a sizeable network of clients in Hong Kong and China, known to be the most aggressive buyers, he added.

Local property agencies have also started to venture to overseas markets and are increasingly looking to tap burgeoning interest from Chinese buyers who make up the largest share of foreign buyers here.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said the firm started working with

China-based agencies about four years ago to help market some local projects there. Next month, it will also launch a Chinese website with information on foreign property ownership to cater to Chinese investors.

'I understand why some foreign agencies might be coming. It is market driven as many Chinese buyers now want their portfolio to be expanded to include Singapore so the agencies might want to offer a full suite of services,' he added.

ERA Realty key executive Eugene Lim added that while its businesses in other countries such as Korea, Japan and Indonesia are franchises, operations in Singapore and China are kept within the firm as it is keen to tap the interest of Chinese foreign buyers as well.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Psychotherapy a stigma in S. Korea

July 8 2011 Psychotherapy a stigma in S. Korea

Despite growing stresses and depression, few talk openly about emotional problems

SEOUL: It can sometimes feel as if South Korea, overworked, overstressed and ever anxious, is on the verge of a national nervous breakdown, with a rising divorce rate, students who feel suffocated by academic pressures, a suicide rate among the highest in the world and a macho corporate culture that still encourages blackout drinking sessions after work.

More than 30 South Koreans kill themselves every day, and the suicides of entertainers, politicians, athletes and business leaders have become almost commonplace. The recent suicides of four students and a professor at the country's leading university shocked everyone, and in recent weeks a TV baseball announcer, two professional soccer players, a university president and the former lead singer in a popular boy band killed themselves.

And yet Koreans - while almost obsessively embracing Western innovations ranging from smartphones to the Internet and cosmetic surgery - have largely resisted Western psychotherapy for their growing anxieties, depression and stress. Talk-therapy modalities with psychiatrists, psychologists and other types of trained counsellors are only slowly being accepted, according to mental health experts in the country.

'Talking openly about emotional problems is still taboo,' said Dr Kim Hyong Soo, a psychologist and professor at Chosun University in Kwangju.

'With depression, the inclination for Koreans is to just bear with it and get over it,' he said. 'If someone goes to a psychoanalyst, they know they'll be stigmatised for the rest of their life. So they don't go.'

Even when Koreans do seek out counselling, the learning curve can be steep.

A prominent psychiatrist with a practice in Seoul, Dr Park Jin Seng, said it was not uncommon for some new patients to come to his office, talk over a problem for 40 minutes and then be shocked when they are presented with a bill.

'They'll say, 'I have to pay? Just for talking? I can do that for free with my friend or my pastor',' said Dr Park. Patients also baulk, he said, at the idea of spending more than a couple of sessions on talk therapy. Instead, most patients simply ask for, and expect, medication, said Dr Park. About a third of his patients come for counselling, and the rest rely on medication.

'Koreans are getting more comfortable with Western psychotherapy, but this is limited to the highly educated and those familiar with Western ways,' said Dr Oh Kyung Ja, a Harvard-trained professor of clinical psychology at Yonsei University in the capital Seoul.

South Korean society has traditionally been underpinned by Buddhist and Confucian values, which emphasise diligence, stoicism and modesty. Individual concerns are secondary. Preserving dignity, or 'face', is paramount.

Meanwhile, the country's suicide rate is nothing short of alarming, nearly three times higher than in the United States. The rate doubled in the decade between 1999 and 2009. Suicide pacts among strangers who meet online is a growing phenomenon. Suicides by drinking pesticides, hanging, or jumping from tall buildings are the most common.

Some experts trace South Korea's emotional malaise to the decline of these traditional values and the rise of the country as a modern industrial power, starting in the 1980s. South Korea, once even poorer than woeful North Korea, now boasts the world's 13th-largest economy.

'As the society became more oriented towards materialism, people started to compare themselves,' said Dr Park. 'There's a lot of competition now, even starting in childhood, and the goals of life have moved. We have a saying: 'If one cousin buys land, the other cousin gets a stomach-ache'.'

Beijing may cut spending on strategic industries

Jul 8 2011

Beijing may cut spending on strategic industries

BEIJING: China may rein in plans to invest heavily in seven new strategic industries, including high-speed rail and wind power, scaling back cutting-edge projects for industries that suffer from old-fashioned problems such as corruption and overcapacity, sources said.

Beijing originally planned to invest up to US$1.5 trillion (S$1.8 trillion) over the next five years in the seven sectors, hoping they would grow into a pillar of economic growth and help shift the world's second-largest economy away from one centred on manufacturing cheap goods.

The pullback on spending stems partly from worries about corruption in the country's high-speed rail project and overcapacity concerns in the wind power sector, said two sources with ties to the Communist Party leadership and knowledge of the plan.

'The (size of the) retrenchment is still under deliberation,' said a source.

Beijing has long used infrastructure spending to generate jobs and economic activity, most recently tapping government coffers to stave off the effects of the global financial crisis.

While high rates of fixed-asset investment have helped maintain strong growth, some economists, such as Professor Nouriel Roubini, have argued that China's current levels of investment are unsustainable.

These days, China is more concerned about taming inflation and managing a mountain of debt piled up by local and provincial governments that the country's state auditor estimates at 10.7 trillion yuan (S$2 trillion).

The strategic industries cover high-end equipment manufacturing, alternative energy, biotechnology, new-generation information technology, alternative fuel cars and energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies.

Lower spending in high-speed rail is directly related to the departure of the railway minister, sacked this year under a cloud of corruption, said the sources.

Former minister Liu Zhijun spearheaded China's high-speed rail expansion until he was removed in March for 'disciplinary violations', a charge commonly used to denote corruption.

In April, Premier Wen Jiabao warned against corruption tied to big projects, telling 'cadres, their families and staff as well as heads of state-owned enterprises, state financial institutions and academic institutions not to intervene in or manipulate bids in any form'.

The ministry has denied any plans to cancel or downgrade rail lines.

But the new minister, Mr Sheng Guangzu, put investment in railway infrastructure this year at 600 billion yuan, compared with his predecessor's pledge of 700 billion yuan.

SGX plans circuit breakers by year-end

July 8 2011 Jonathon Kwok

THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) wants circuit breakers in place by the end of the year to prevent wide swings in share prices.

They will apply only to blue chips, and click in at times of price volatility by restricting trade and allowing investors to make more considered assessments.

Said a statement by the SGX yesterday: 'The proposed circuit breakers provide an additional safeguard... in times of high price volatility. This move will... increase confidence among market participants.'

Investors here and overseas endured some wild rides after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 unleashed violent price swings among blue chips.

Nerves were shredded again in the United States in May last year, when a flash crash wiped some 700 points, or about 7 per cent, off the Dow Jones Industrial Average within a few minutes, before a rebound kicked in.

That prompted the authorities to announce new circuit breakers for Wall Street.

Other markets, including those in South Korea, the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Japanese bourses in Tokyo and Osaka, also apply curbs when prices swing wildly.

Singapore's proposed circuit breakers will apply to the component stocks of the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) and the popular MSCI Singapore Free Index (SiMSCI). There are 30 stocks on the STI and 32 on the SiMSCI, with many overlaps, as some shares are found on both indexes.

Extended settlement contracts based on these counters and exchange-traded funds based on the two indexes will also be covered.

The SGX said these stocks are the 'most likely to impact market sentiment'.

It added that lower-priced shares could also suffer big price swings, but if circuit breakers are triggered frequently on these, it could disrupt the market.

The circuit breakers will operate during the 9am to 5pm trading session, but not during the opening and closing routines.

At the start of the trading day, a reference price for each stock will be set at its opening price. Trading can occur within a price band of 10 per cent above or below this reference point.

But if an incoming order causes a trade to be matched outside this band, the order will be rejected and a five-minute cooling-off period started, allowing market players to re-evaluate the situation.

Trading can continue during this cooling-off period if it is within the original price band.

After the cooling-off period, a new price band will be established. The earlier reference price will either be the lower limit or upper limit of the new band.

SGX statistics show that between 2006 and last year, blue chips mostly stayed within a 10 per cent range of the day's opening price, even during the bull run of 2007 and the post-crisis recovery of 2009.

The exception was around September to December 2008, in the highly volatile period following the Lehman Brothers collapse.

Circuit breakers like those being proposed would have been triggered 261 times in 2008, compared with 55 times in 2009 and only three times last year.

In April, SGX chief executive Magnus Bocker said the bourse operator would introduce circuit breakers by early next year, but the aim now is to bring them in by the end of the year.

The SGX also has other steps to address rapid price movements, such as a 'forced order' key range. This prevents accidental entry of orders outside a prescribed range by requiring market participants to use a forced key function to input the order.

Market participants and the public have until July 28 to comment on the proposal.

The SGX also wants feedback on how structured warrants on blue chips should be treated.

Fears of China's hard landing 'unfounded'

July 8 2011 by Goh Eng Yeow

AN ECONOMIST here believes China's red-hot economy is unlikely to suffer the sort of crash landing that gives nightmares to stock traders and leaders of trade-dependent nations in the region.

OCBC economist Tommy Xie says he is confident that such a scary scenario is not on the cards, even though China's mighty manufacturing sector recently showed signs of flagging.

China is now a big export destination for Singapore and commodities-rich South-east Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, taking up between 8 and 12 per cent of their exports.
So even as investors ride the recent stock market recovery sparked by Greece avoiding a default on its €340 billion (S$595 billion) debt, they are looking north with trepidation to see if China's insatiable appetite for raw materials is sustainable.

At a seminar run by OCBC Bank yesterday, Mr Xie noted that for a country used to growing at an average annual rate of 10 per cent in the past 30 years, any halving of the annual growth rate would be considered a 'hard landing'.

Fortunately, there are plenty of cushions to keep the mainland economy humming along. Unlike heavily indebted European countries and Japan, China is relatively robust fiscally.

Even after throwing in all the local government debt, central bank bills, treasury bonds and other contingent liability, total debt accounts only for about 66 per cent of the mainland's gross domestic product (GDP). In contrast, Germany, Europe's strongest economy, has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 74 per cent, while Greece's debt-to-GDP is 150 per cent.

This gives China leeway in pumping huge sums into massive projects to help underpin its economic growth.

Said Mr Xie: 'In the next five years, China commits to build 36 million affordable housing units, a 2.8 trillion yuan (S$530 billion) budget for a high-speed train network and another 600 billion yuan for a west-to-east electricity transmission system.'

This will mark part of China's efforts to transform itself from an export-driven to a domestic demand-driven economy.

Mr Xie also noted that in its battle against inflation, Beijing had repeatedly asked banks to set aside more of their cash and reserves so they will not be lent.

In fact, it has done this 12 times in the past two years.

In contrast, Beijing has raised interest rates only three times this year. Mr Xie believes the latest interest rate hike on Wednesday will be Beijing's last this year.

'It is a reflection that Beijing understands that many small and medium- sized enterprises are struggling to get loans and hiking interest rates will only add to their burden,' he said.

Economists at other banks concurred with his views that there may be no further interest rate hikes in China this year.

In its Asian strategy report, Deutsche Bank's chief economist Jun Ma said he expects Beijing to hold its policy rates for an extended period, after the latest hike in one-year benchmark deposit rates and lending rates by 0.25 percentage point.

'We also believe the People's Bank of China may begin to modestly relax credit policies by the end of the third quarter,' he added.

But DBS Vickers analyst Chris Leung noted that further tightening in China may still be possible as the country's asset inflation problem has not been resolved, as property prices in many smaller Chinese cities continue to surge.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 30 2011 S'pore workers 'world's unhappiest'

Survey of 14 countries finds local employees are also the least loyal- by Mellissa Ho

HATE your work? Dread going in on Monday? Considering quitting your job?

Well, you are not alone. Most of the Singapore workforce is with you, according to one survey.

A poll of employee attitudes in 14 countries has ranked Singapore last in workplace happiness. Unsurprisingly, this correlates to loyalty to employers, where Singapore is again ranked at the rear.

Talent management company Lumesse polled about 4,000 employees from a wide variety of industries.

People were asked about how happy they were at work, whether they felt their skills were properly utilised, the career paths open to them, and the training and career development opportunities they had.

The results put Singapore last in three major areas - we least enjoy going to work, are the least loyal and have the least supportive workplaces.

Only 17 per cent of Singapore's workforce see themselves staying with their current employer forever. The global average is 35 per cent.

'Clearly, very few employees feel bonded to their companies. This is going to be a problem as companies are not getting the full potential of workers,' said Mr Rolf Bezemer, Lumesse's managing director for Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

At the same time, only 19 per cent of those polled in Singapore look forward to their work each day, compared to the global average of 30 per cent.

When it comes to positive and supportive workplaces, only a paltry 12 per cent vouch that they exist in Singapore. Globally, 20 per cent believe so.

Mr Bezemer attributes Singapore's poor showing to the lack of transparency and consistency in workplaces here and an absence of stimulating jobs.

Ms Wong Su-Yen, senior partner and Asean managing director for human resources consultancy firm Mercer, said: 'Strong economic growth in Singapore has led to increased job opportunities, so organisations must work harder than ever to attract and retain people.'

Mr Phillip Overmyer, chief executive at Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, agreed: 'There are so many opportunities to be employed (in Singapore) that people don't mind job hopping as they know they can always find something equally good, if not better, elsewhere.'

That might suggest that monetary incentives are the way forward but money does not always make the world go round.

The Lumesse survey found that Singapore performed well on pay, with 14 per cent commenting that their salaries have gone up by at least 20 per cent over five years. The global average is 9 per cent.

Yet people are still leaving.

Ms Majella Slevin, manager for secretarial and support division at human resources firm Robert Walters, added: 'People stay in jobs also for a good work-life balance and clear career paths.'They must also feel that they are valued employees, she added

Sales assistant Janice Lin, who turns 26 this year, 'hopped' five times before landing her current job. 'It's very common for young adults to try out different things for novelty's sake. A lot of my friends do it,' she said.She estimates that an average working person like her will job-hop three times, staying in each place for about a year, before settling down.

In today's talent-scarce society, perhaps this should be taken as only natural. Rather than fight it, embrace it. Do not focus on seeking long-term employment from all employees, advises Mr Josh Goh, assistant director, corporate services, for HR firm The GMP Group.

Instead, he said: 'Focus efforts on building a strong employer brand by harnessing the best from employees during their employment.'

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Real Estate Sentiment Index (RESI)

(SINGAPORE) In a historic move, the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore has teamed up with the National University of Singapore’s Department of Real Estate (DRE) to develop a Real Estate Sentiment Index (RESI), and it shows a lower reading for the second quarter of this year than for the first quarter.

Developers and industry players continue to express positive sentiments but expect market conditions to be less robust, Redas and DRE said.

More respondents were still positive (rather than negative) on the overall performance of the prime and suburban private residential markets over the next six months but the consensus as indicated by net balances weakened in the second quarter compared with the first quarter.

On the other hand, the net balance for offices improved substantially, in tandem with improving sentiment in this segment in April-June.

The survey also found that 51 per cent of developers polled for Q2 expect price growth for new residential launches, down from 85 per cent in Q1.

‘The partnership between NUS and Redas has ensured academic rigour and added credibility to the new index.’ - Redas CEO Steven Choo

About 68 per cent of developers surveyed in Q2 expect more units to be launched over the next six months, down from 83 per cent in the Jan-March period.

The findings of the survey will be officially released this morning at the Redas Property Prospects Update 2010 seminar at Orchard Hotel.

Some market watchers welcomed Redas efforts in coming up with an objective method of gauging the confidence level of senior executives of property developers - and making it public. ‘It’s good to hear from the horse’s mouth,’ said DTZ executive director Ong Choon Fah.

Redas CEO Steven Choo noted that ‘while business expectation surveys are available for the manufacturing and service industries, there is currently no indicator specifically tracking sentiment in the fast-paced real estate market of Singapore’.

Some industry watchers also pointed to the refreshing change at Redas. ‘Previously, something like this, showing a slowdown in sentiment, would have been considered extremely sensitive and developers may have tried to hide it. Now they’re more open about it,’ said an observer.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Crouchen reisling

Finally I found a white that my wife likes- crouchen reisling brown brothers

Sweet pale yellow with aromas of ripe pear, tropical fruits and citrus. Clean and lively on the palette with some residual sweetness which is balanced by the reisling's crisp acidity

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