Wednesday, October 29, 2008

STI is among lowest PER & P/B markets

From BrokeragesReport yahoogroup list:

The Straits Times Index is among the lowest priced markets in the world...

Exhibit (1): A list of market indices sorted according to P/E

Source: Bloomberg

Exhibit (2): A list of market indices sorted according to P/Book

Source: Bloomberg





BBC E-mail: Deadly car bombs hit Somaliland

TWC saw this story on the BBC News website and thought you
should see it.

** Deadly car bombs hit Somaliland **
Nineteen people are killed by three car bombs in Somaliland, while two suicide attackers hit neighbouring Puntland.
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** BBC Daily E-mail **
Choose the news and sport headlines you want - when you want them, all
in one daily e-mail
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Movie Cape No. 7 海角7号 & Thoughts About Taiwanese Identity & Singapore

Yesterday, I watched the hottest Taiwanese movie this year, Cape No. 7 (海角7号).  Quite nice and pleasant.  It is like what my Taiwanese friend, August, called very 台台,i.e., very Taiwanese.  The characters switched between Mandarin, Taiwanese (aka Minnan or Hokkien) and Japanese all the time - not unlike Singapore movies do between Mandarin, Hokkien, Singlish and English in a mixture that reflect an officialised "mother tongue" that is not really what our forefathers really speak, our dialect heritage, a bastardised local dialect and the language of our former colonial masters.
The story was about how an out-of-luck local boy who came home to the small town of Hengchun in southern Taiwan and got involved with an unlikely local band put together hastily by a Japanese girl stuck in Hengchun.  The story went on about how people in the small town was struggling to prove there is real local talent, and not everything resides with Taipei.  I guess this strikes a cord with many Taiwanese who in recent years feel a sense of loss with the rising power of China, of how the world has bowed to Beijing and of how Taiwanese feel that much of their talent is fast flowing overseas.
The frequent reference to the good local beaches, sea, climate and even wine, plus the interswitch between languages lead to what to many Taiwanese is very nostalgic and Taiwanese "乡土气息".  I can appreciate why the Taiwanese love this movie, perhaps in the same sense we Singaporeans appreciate some of our local movies - not just for the local smell and flavours but also of how we feel a sense of loss in a world of globalisation.  Increasingly, the Taiwanese, whether or not they support KMT or DPP, see themselves as Taiwanese first and then ethnic Chinese.  Almost no one wants unification with China, at least not with a communist China.  This is also why movies that make them feel Taiwanese appeal to most of them.
There is also the Japanese theme and related subplots in the movie.  Firstly, the local band was rushing for a beach concert by a Japanese superstar.  I wonder if this is linked to a respect the Taiwanese have for Japan as a "metropole", and Taiwan as, unfortunately, a kind of sideplay to greater regional centres. 
Taipei under Chiang Kai Shek was once the metropole of overseas Chinese but have since lost that role with the rise of China.  But what comes in play now?  Since Beijing and Shanghai cannot be the cultural metropole of Taiwan due to the divergent politics, then Japan, the former colonial master, has assumed that kind of role for the Taiwanese.  What then is Singapore's cultural metropole?  London, Shanghai or NYC?  Do we have one at all?
It is also interesting how the local Hengchun people in the movie scoff at Taipei snobs and outside people (I presume from Taipei) buy up local beaches but feel warm towards a bigger power located further away.  But isn't that's how we feel towards our neighbours and how we feel warmer towards even much larger but further away Australia and UK who kind of "neutralise" the pressure we get from Malaysia and Indonesia?
Secondly, the modern day plot of the movie runs in parallel with romantic letters written by a Japanese school teacher to his Taiwanese sweatheart after the end of WWII.  He was among the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who lived in Taiwan during the first half of the 20th century and forced to return to Japan after WWII.  Taiwan became Japanese territory after the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895. 
Contrary to what many Chinese nationalists would like to assert, Japanese rule in Taiwan was to some people quite benevolent after the initial years of pacification.  The Taiwanese hardly rebelled and were treated as loyal subjects of the Japanese state.  In their disappointment over the existing state of political affairs in which Taiwan has been shorn of international recognition, some Taiwanese looked back nostalgically at Japanese rule as a golden era.
Whilst the subplot about the Taiwanese-Japanese romance may warm of the hearts of many Taiwanese, I can imagine how mad Mainland Chinese or pro-China overseas Chinese would felt at this romantic portrayal.  They probably call those characters 汉奸 or traitor.  But sometimes I feel that whatever political view one may have, perhaps it is more useful to seperate political views and examine the complex realities of history and of national identities.

Singapore Biennale 2008 (South Beach)

Went to the South Beach wing of the Biennale on Saturday.  Not as impressive as the one at City Hall.  Worse - there is no air condition there!
Many of the items are of questionable artistic merit, I think.  If someone can put up photos of crewing gum (complete with saliva) and litter a few rooms with black art and call all that art, maybe I can take close-up photos of stool and dirt as a submission too!  Haha... 

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Iceland makes a new friend

Do you know the meaning of fair-weather friends?  Iceland now does.  Its traditional Western European friends didn't lend the country money.  It has to turn to Russia instead.  The poles are shifting.
I picked this from a news report:
Meanwhile, the Icelandic government has asked Russia to give it a loan of 4bn euros lasting for three to four years, to strengthen its foreign exchange reserves.  
"We have not received the kind of support that we were requesting from our friends. So in a situation like that, one has to look for new friends," Mr Haarde (Icelandic Prime Minister) said.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Iceland on the brink of bankruptcy - Some Thoughts & Memories

Now Iceland is on the brink of bankruptcy.  I recall the days when I was in London Business School, reading with amazement about Iceland's spectacular dealmakers and how they took over huge groups in the UK.  I visited the country around 2000 and was very impressed with the country and wondered how this small country got so wealthy so quickly.  I wrote about my amazement about the country's growth and development model in my book "The Greenland Sealhunter" (
LBS also had many Icelandic students, in numbers far exceeding the size of the population of the country - only 300,000 people live in Iceland.  I recall that they were very intelligent, sophisticated people and vague impression that many are into complicated financial engineering stuff.  Obviously, the American investment banking model had brought a great degree of prosperity to Iceland, which became one of the world's richest countries - perhaps the richest last year.  Now it is on the brink of bankruptcy.  We in Singapore have to be cautious not to over-reach ourselves.

Financial crisis: Iceland's dreams go up in smoke

What a difference a year makes. Only last November, Iceland's status as one of the most successful economies in the West was underlined when it was judged the best place to live in the world.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Capitalism: Rise & Fall

When I visited the building of the Secretariate of Public Education in Mexico City, the murals by the renowned leftist artist, Diego Rivera, struck me as shockingly depictive, in particular, the first one here on the hedonistic lifestyle of the rich and famous.  It reminded me of the wine, dine and sin lifestyle of a City investment banker in London, and also, I must say, of the business class here in Singapore as well.  Perhaps, it is even worse among those deeply involved in China-related businesses for business in the China of today inevitably corrupts many with the easy and low-cost availability of sex, sin and hedonism.
The dramatic collapse of investment banking and late 20th century capitalism, driven by pure greed and the uncontrolled use of derivatives, might well lead to the outcome shown in the second mural attached.

The Market is crashing even after the bailout bill was passed. Entering the no man's zone?

The Market is crashing even after the bailout bill was passed. Entering the no man's zone?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Funeral Service of J.B. Jeyaretnam at St Andrew's Cathedral (4 October 2008)

I attended the ceremony today, at the historic St Andrew's Cathedral.  I have never completely agreed with all his ideas when I first listened to his debates in Parliament in the 1980's.  But over the years, frequent travel as well as years living overseas have opened my mind and allowed me to critically examine life and politics in this country. 
In my opinion, JBJ is an extraordinary son of Singapore, who had undertaken enormous courage to confront a system that is so overwhelmingly crushing and harsh, in order to defend his belief in fundamental democracy and freedom.  For his perseverence, he had suffered greatly and yet remained unmoved, even forming a new political party at the age of 82.  Irrespective of whether you believe he had succeeded or not or whether you even agree with his ideas, I believe that, all Singaporeans owe him a salute, at least for the sacrifice he had made for all of us.
The funeral service at St Andrew's Cathedral began at 2pm and was attended by more than 1000 people including Singaporeans of all races and walks of life, as well as a few in wheelchairs - such is the support of JBJ among ordinary Singaporeans.  The entire main nave of the cathedral was full and chambers on the second floor as well as tentage in the cathedral compound were set up, equipped with huge screens of the proceedings.
Moving eulogies of this great hero of Singapore were delivered by his sons and multi-ethnic daughters-in-law.  Tears flowed among the many people who came to pay tribute to him.  The service ended at 3:30pm thereupon the entourage set off for Mandai for the cremation.
Mr. JB Jeyaretnam, Rest in Peace.  History, I believe, will be alot kinder to you.