Sunday, February 28, 2016

Personal Update - Meaningless Holiday just ended meaninglessly.

Ok, time for another personal update.

a) Law School

I am so demotivated right now, I should actually be vetting my research papers instead of updating this blog.

Right now, I am going through the process of hunting for internships and Training Contracts and made quite a number of number of applications, some rejections have already starting trickling in and I am still shocked at how competitive this game has become ! I am praying for an interview in March.

Rejections as a rule leave a bad taste in my mouth because, to be fair, it seldom happens to me up to this stage in my life. I guess an important part of personal growth is to have the door slam shut in your face. Perhaps 40-something year-olds may look forward to more rejections in the future in Singapore.

To add insult to injury, I just ended a one week break which really isn't really a break at all. I initially rushed through two research papers so that I could consolidate my studies during the holidays but the consolidation took up such a large part of the break, it ended up becoming more intense than a regular study week with classes. Making matters worse, by the time I finished catching up with my work, my group assignment got released.

So for my entire holidays, I caught up with friends for just a few hours and had two fairly rushed RPG sessions.

My only consolidation is  that I did manage to celebrate Durandal's one month with my family.

b) Personal Finance

Is it just me or is the markets doing rather well lately ?

This past month defensive investors are really outperforming the rest of the markets with REITs and business trusts declaring fairly decent dividends. As most of my expenses on my son have been made, I was able to invest some amount I set aside for contingencies back into the markets. There is room for cautious optimism as the Fed would prefer to review their policy of raising interest rates. Where rates dip into the negative, I can expect SIBOR to ease up a a bit to give me more leeway to pump my dividends into the markets instead of pumping it into my CPF-OA to pay for my mortgages. Once floating rates exceeds fixed rates, it means local banks anticipate an easing in the medium term.

My challenge this year is to have net savings from my dividends, I really hope that I can shore up some REIT purchases as they are quite cheap right now.

c) Medical expenses and emergencies.

The year of the monkey continues to ravage this hapless Tiger.

The other event are medical expenses incurred by my mum for her treatment. In one instance, the financial advice from the hospital for a mastectomy was about $200 and I ended up paying paying over $2,200. In another instance, I was advised to set aside up to $7,000 for radiotherapy but the whole bill ended up only about $1,200. Clearly, there is something inherently meaningless when local government hospitals provide financial advise to hapless sick people in Singapore but I shall leave it to other members of the public to lodge a complaint. The first case is devastating to poorer individuals who do not have contingency funds, the second case damages investors who who will prepare the money in cash from their investment portfolio.

d) Readings 

I like books with anything to do with McKinsey Consulting. I read the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto over a decade ago and the Mckinsey Way when I was published because the anything Mckinsey is idiot simple to read and chock full of practical advice. If McKinsey wrote a book on Poems, Sexual Positions or Baking Cakes, I would buy it for the sake of curiosity.

The McKinsey Edge by Shu Hattori is chock full of tips for knowledge workers from how to structure a set of power-point slides to asking clients intelligent questions. It is a great read.

Right now, I am in the middle of this book called Simple Rules by Donald Sull. When I am done, I might have the tools to distill an entire investment philosophy into a series of simple rules of thumb. More on that later.

Sadly, I was unable to read any fiction this holiday. If I had a chance it would be Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu.

e) Visited Singapore's Silicon Valley.

Took half a day off to visit Block 79 and the government's efforts to promote start-ups seems to be ramping up to a whole new level. I spoke to a founder and met some ex-colleagues.

I am still digesting some of the news I received during my visit .On one hand the government seems to going all in into the start-up space with tax-payer money. On the other, I got news that a really prominent accelerator is no longer in that business.

On balance, I don't buy the idea of having a Singapore start-up although I would seriously consider starting one in my lifetime. Singapore needs to have the Google and Facebooks set up shop for me to change my mind.

But the free coffee at Blk 79 is good.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Before you jump into the Engineering bandwagon...

Readers might think that I have very reason to be cynical.

Graduating in 1999 with an engineering degree would have been great if not for the actions by the Government to welcoming foreign engineers into our economy which kept all engineers on a low salary scale. As a consequence of that, Engineering departments in local universities became dumping grounds with better engineering students aspiring to succeed as bankers instead of joining the technology field.

The SMRT breakdowns are a symptom of at least a decade of prioritising services over operations.

The government timing to refocus on engineering could not be better. And I should be upset as I'm already in Law School and the new SIM university would be soon in place to create a steady supply of community lawyers possibly making me the worse market timer for my human capital in the financial blogosphere.

Should I be bitter ?

Nah... Just because I'm in Law School does not make me less of a Technologist. If anything, I am completing my education to become a domain expert. Once I get an idea of how legal practice work, I would be able to tap on my friends to see if a solution to legal partner's problems can be resolved with IT automation. There is'nt too many Lawyer/Engineers so LegalTech will stay a blue ocean field in Singapore for quite a while.

Nevertheless, I think PM Lee's drive to make engineering relevant again is credible.

First, the government is willing to create a thousand baseline jobs to give the average engineering graduate a steady vocation upon graduation. This way they don't have to resort to selling insurance, MLM or real estate to have a decent income. Second, the government is rolling out the red carpet to incite the big boys like Facebook and Google to hire the best engineering students. So the really brilliant guys are covered.

I would have been more excited if Singapore would put in place more substantial measures to resolve the Changalore problem but the government has to tread carefully in order not to drive investments away so I don't see this moving beyond empty rhetoric in the medium term.

Here's some advice for the young undergrad who has chosen to major in Engineering.

a) Your degree depreciates really quickly. Start planning for an advanced degree immediately.

You hit to hit hard and fast when you join the job market. Your skills would devalue within 3-4 years due to the paradigm shifts taking place in the software industry. What matters are the fundamental skills you pick up in university like Statistics, Technical Writing, Law, Management and Accounting. Focusing on Micro-electronics and Digital Signal Processing will ruin you as your industry disappears along with jobs which require this expertise. For me, the best investment I made in NUS Engineering school was joining the Toastmasters club, it remains useful to me in Law School when I moot against my classmates. ( At least I have fewer time-fillers when making my submissions. )

On day one of your first job, you need to start plotting for an MBA, MAF, MPA,CFA or like me, the JD.  Your skill with numbers should not be underestimated and the higher engineering salaries help in planning for the financing of your advanced degree.

b) Expect your income to look like an inverse parabolic curve so investing is crucial for personal success.

Your salary will rise for the first ten years, stagnate for the next 5, and probably decline after that. If you are not an investment banker, lawyer or doctor, your salary will not escalate every year and experience matters less in an industry which changes so abruptly. Chance are you need to be able to save more and invest to maintain your salary momentum.

Fortunately, you have a higher starting pay and no real expectation to dress well or spend like a lawyer. You need to save and invest that difference. Preferably, you need to start generating passive income to cover for the days where you have to go back to school or start a small business.

c) You need to be global. And it's not just being able to work with foreign colleagues.

This is something I personally struggle with. Ideally, an engineer needs to be very mobile and must find work in any part of world which is willing to pay for his expertise. Silicon Valley respects technical professionals and pay up to $120,000 for some technical skills.

The next generation needs to completely master the art of geo-arbitrage. Work for an American firm, pay taxes under the Middle East, Invest for yields in Singapore and spend in Indian Rupees.

d) Never forget that it is not in Singapore's interest for engineers to become too rich.

The most important lesson is something I learnt a little too late.

Some professions exact a heavy toll on society if they are paid too well. Paying nurses and allied health professionals too well would make healthcare unaffordable. Paying criminal and family lawyers too richly would deny access to justice for lower income groups.

Same goes for engineers. The government can control the tap  and bring in more engineers from lower income nations to keep costs low for businesses if hiring good engineers become too prohibitive. They did this in 90s and the 2000s. Engineers are particularly vulnerable because businesses need them to survive and they are too tame to protest when policies change.

That is the most important consideration if you decide on a Technical career. You need to quickly exploit your higher salaries and numerical expertise to carve a more certain future for yourself. The Facebooks and Googles of today will rapidly become the HPs and Yahoos of tomorrow.

This means not locking yourself down to a sector or industry. And this also means not locking yourself down to a country or region.

Look after yourself and enjoy the fine toys you get to play with in Engineering school !

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Not a good day to be part of the JD programme.

I had to stop studying to write this article because my class was greeted with shock one day to find out that one of our classmates has been given a two month jail sentence for hacking into a Professor's account and deleting our property law examination scripts.

My script was one of those deleted. You can reference the newspaper article here.

As we speak, journalists are trying to contact my classmates to ask about this JD programme and I wanted to steal a march from the mainstream media to write an article clarifying some aspects of the JD experience.

Me and my classmates are TWICE victims. One is that our scripts were deleted. The other is that our investment into JD programme is now under media scrutiny.

( Not to mention that NUS might be laughing all the way to the bank )

a) Is the JD programme a pressure cooker ?

Yes. Like all good things in life, you pay an Iron Price to be here.

What was missing in the newspaper article is that qualifying for a Law degree is not enough for you to practice law in Singapore. You need to meet a minimum grade of 3.0 GPA. Georgy barely made that cut and it was that my speculation is that the fear that he would not be allowed to practice which led to him to execute that dumb move of deleting all our scripts.

This minimum grade is not easy to attain as it is an average B grade which is the equivalent of 70% and in spite of the general competitiveness of the program, some fail to qualify to take the bar exams.

Many of my fellow classmates have paid $70,000 of the program so you can imagine the expensive consequences of not doing well in school. This does not account for the 3 years of lost income and opportunity costs.

Furthermore, unlike most LLB guys, we have to complete the law core modules in 3 years so we do not have the luxury of making too many mistakes with our time management in school.

Another difference with NUS is that our seminar performance is graded. We have to interact with our lecturers by being prepared. There is no time to go through the basics and we have to delve into the case holding to survive the discussion. I might argue that no teaching takes place because we have to be fully acquainted with the basics even before class begins. When my son was born, I missed only two lectures and was back in class the next day because it would have hurt my grades.

We also do 50 hours of community service on top of  a compressed program. Most of us exceed that quota. When my daughter was hospitalized with acute bronchitis, I carried on my duties in Family Court. When the supervisor asked me why I even bothered to show up, I replied that SMU's reputation was at stake and we've been planning for the President's visit for a while so I had to make that choice.

b) The JD selection process.

Social media has started attacking the JD selection process. I challenge social media to improve it.

I doubt the selection process can be challenged, beyond an application which scrutinizes our grades. Shortlisted candidates have to write an essay. After which we have an interview where two interviewees interview at the same time so it's conducted like a duel. I even heard a very credible story of an interview candidate crying after being hammered in that round.

Some of my amazing classmates are into their fourth degrees, there is even a schoolmate who lectures in SMU at the same time. Some rejected seats at Oxbridge to be here.

If there is any criticism, I would only consider that JD candidates should requires 2 years of working experience because its designed to complement LLBs rather than compete with them. ( My classmates are likely to disagree with this point.)

( After some sleuthing, my classmates confirmed that Georgy himself graduated from Columbia with an LLM in 2011 so there is an Ivy League connection to all this. Link )

c) Foreigners in the JD program

Xenophobes are attacking SMU's openness to foreign students because Georgy is Russian. That is very unfair to my foreign classmates who work hard and bring a lot of civil law perspectives into the class.

More importantly, foreign students are important because they bring different values to an academic program. From what I experience in all the degree programmes I was in, Singaporeans dial up the competitive factor by being unreasonably kiasu. My foreign pals are a welcome addition because they see their role in a different light and don't see their journey as one with better GPAs and starting salaries.

Only small fraction of JD students are foreigners, I suggest xenophobes go apply pressure to other parts of Singapore like Changalore. The JD programme is a far cry from the liberal introduction of foreign engineers into the Singapore economy which has kept salaries down for over a decade.

d) Some minor IT points.

We are slowing figuring out what Georgy did to hack into the system, I was curious as to whether he employed a VPN to cover his tracks, if so, I would like to know how he was caught.. We are thankful that he deleted the scripts rather than making changes to the scripts because he may have been able to escape undetected.

The typical remedy to this incident like this is to adjust the security policy to prevent the USB ports from being used for all schoool PCs. I cannot imagine how much this would inconvenience the staff in SMU. I even imagine an OTP system for lecturers found in University tender in the medium term.

Anyway, I welcome any JD student or alumni to supplement this article. If you are NUS and want to revel in schadenfreude, you are also welcome to post because some of the negative feedback on JD graduates have also been very illuminating.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day Post - Singlehood is the new Venereal Disease ! Huzzah !

When I was single, I used to say that children are the most common venereal disease in this world. Now that I am a father of two kids, it is now a convenient time to declare that single-hood is the newest and most virulent venereal disease in this world.

Something is different about VD in 2016.

At the personal level, I can no longer celebrate Valentine's with my wife, she is still under confinement so instead I will buy a cake, some snacks, and celebrate with my in-laws which consists of about three couples and five kids. The focus of Valentine's Day is actually on my kids - Clio already has declared her wish for chocolate cake. There is also, of course, the issue of money and inflated prices of roses and general lovey-dovey stuff today which does not make economic sense to go out today.

At the broader level, I am seeing a change in the focus of business on VD. The most touted movie right now is a chick flick called How to be Single and not one which celebrates marriage ( like 50 Shades of Grey ). Otherwise, I am seeing a ramp-up in business activities to get singles to celebrate their status. I don't see any reason why singles need to be depressed on this day at all.

Actually it makes sense for local businesses to pivot from couples to singles. Couples these days are quite driven to settle down and have kids, most of the more highly educated ones actively plan for the future so it may not make so much sense to overspend on one special day.

Singles however, have all that freedom to do whatever they want.

Of course, this year is interesting because we may be seeing the effect of the rise of hook-up culture and the Dating Apocalypse brought about by hook-up apps like Tinder which backs my thesis that Singlehood is the new VD. Tinder gives guys (or fuckboys) a means to tap into a weak, localised networks for hook-ups by demand. And networks have an amazing ability to spread because now we effectively have some sort of peer-to-peer network which provides hook-ups on demand.

The effect is that the most eligible guys have an app which can ensure that they always get their fix. This raises the premium on single-hood relative to marriage. So the demand for marriage drops with single-hood as a more viable substitute. While people still get married and start families, the numbers will be reduced as rational guys take on Tinder and find a serious relationship later after they tire of hook-ups.

The net effect is universally bad for women who are serious about family and relationships. The pool of eligible men will dry up creating longer waits for a women to find a spouse and time is going to be an issue because men are still quite visual and expect their spouses to remain visually appealing.

Another interesting issue is the rise of match-making apps and whether they can turn the tide by using the same networks to help facilitate more marriages and family formation.

But somehow, I am pessimistic about the prospect of these dating apps.

Imagine a Tinder as a Stock Exchange where there's plenty of liquidity and trade. Your match-making app is like a sluggish OTC market with very low liquidity and a brokerage fee. Worse, when a match occurs in a match-making app, both market players disappears completely. I expect men to have both apps on their smartphones and will be very choosy while using a match-making app because Tinder will always be there to suggest alternatives.

Right now, the jury is out on how apps like Tinder will affect our local dating scene but the pivot of local businesses towards singles might be the first symptoms of a Tinder-fuelled singlehood becoming a better lifestyle choice.

Ironically, perhaps the only way to break the network effect of a hook-up app is via an actual disease like that spread by the Zika virus.

For family men, we will get to observe and have some popcorn to eat, but we will have to educate and direct our kids when they grow up if we do want them to settle down and start families on their own.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Microagressions - The breakfast of champions !

This is a very special Chinese New Year for me.

For the first time, Millenials have come together to crowdsource the micro-aggressions that were thrown their way for this New Year. I think this is a very useful dataset which should excite any armchair social scientist like myself.

You can access it here.

I want to assert that micro-aggressions are the breakfast of champions !

Micro-aggressions encapsulate all the dreams and nightmares of Ethnic Chinese families in Singapore. Once you create a taxonomy around these micro-aggressions,  you will be able to find the Singapore Dream and the Singaporean Nightmare hidden within it.

Some readers may remember that I have written about a model called Colonel Blotto some time ago where I theorised that living in a competitive society is committing your time and energy into various "battlefields". These "battlefield"s can be about getting workplace promotions, improving your social economic status, playing board games competitively or starting blissful families.

My thesis is that in a CNY gathering, you are in a game of Colonel Blotto against peers of your generation. Lose a battlefield to a cousin and their parents will toss a micro-aggression at your parents. The stakes in this game is your personal self-esteem and the pride of your folks.

My model then predicts that those with very little attention, focus, energy and resources can have a winning strategy by dabbling in many obscure hobbies. They can easily find niche that nobody else really cares about to occupy and become the master of his "battlefield" or domain. Doing this reinforces a person's self-esteem and gives him some way to one-up another person in another social situation.

There is an inherent problem with this strategy of finding an unoccupied battlefield - We still live in pragmatic Singapore that does'nt give a shit that you are the global expert on furry BDSM fiction. In Singapore, only a few "battlefields" matter and the CNY power plays give us a hint as to what these battlefields might be.

Based on my casual observation this is what matters :

a) Education

" You study at University of Buffalo ah. What kind of degree ? Bovine insemination izzit ?"

Many micro-aggressions are centred around education.

Professional courses like Law, Finance, Engineering, Medicine and Accounting trump general degrees. Ivy League and Oxbridge universities trump local universities which in turn trump private universities. I think Polytechnics so far have largely reached parity with JCs, but ITEs are still ranked below them. And the old discrimination against the Normal Stream still stands as it is ranked below the Express Stream which is now ranked below IP.

b) Career choices

" Whaaa your boyfriend is in the design industry ah ? I'm sure he is a leng zhai and a nice person. "

It looks slightly better here with some shade thrown at media and fine arts career tracks. The emphasis seems to be a lot of humble-bragging rather than throwing shade. And once again, only a select few careers are worthy of respect in a Chinese family.

It always goes back to Law and Medicine.

c) Conspicuous consumption

"Welcome to humble home.Please excuse my small car." * Gestures to the Maserati parked at the front porch of his bungalow *

Kate Spade has a good run during the 2011 elections. I sort of predicted that LV's will fall out of style as I think secretaries and personal assistants have started buying them so they are no longer aspirational. Perhaps the Hermes Birkin should be fully weaponised this year.

 d) Starting a Family

"No girlfriend ah. You've got a Tinder account ? Swipe to the right. So simple ! "

NB : I actually did that to tease a cousin ! But I did it before CNY.

This never changes and is so common, singles are not even showing up at CNY events because they don't want to be fingered as latent homosexuals. Married folks without kids are barren and invited to go for artificial insemination ( I was childless for quite a few years after marriage and understand the pressure  ).

 e) National Service

" See my son so dark and ugly because of jungle training. He just book out from OCS !"

This is something new to me. I've never felt that National Service would ever be weaponised in Chinese New Year because officers serve a longer tenure. I was also never inflicted with micro-aggressions over my lowly Corporal rank.  Some uncles who were cooks bragged about feeding sock-water Milo to their officers.

This is interesting because NS has been enhanced so much that people are now prouder of becoming an officer. Can't be all that bad for nation building.


How you deal with micro-aggressions will affect your own personal life outcomes.

As on only child, I have less of a personal choice because my parents have no other source of pride and have to stake their esteem on my personal success. But I am quite happy going through the laundry list of power plays and slowly ensuring that my ego will not be dented by the more common ones relatives tend to inflict on the younger guys. So I certainly played by the rules and made sure things looked good on paper.

For the others there is always the option to run.

At the end of the day, the game may be futile. I know that for Chinese families in general, retrenchment, infertility, dyslexia, autism, people coming out of the closet, divorce and criminal convictions will make the winners of one generation losers of another. This is normal.

So even if I do well, my children may undo the good work I did to look good in front of my relatives.

The wonders of a traditional Chinese family is this - If my kids screw up, everyone will make me account for the micro-aggressions I myself have inflicted in the past. So I put quite a large premium on raising my kids well.

But more importantly :


We all revert to the mean.

Therefore, micro-aggressions should be wielded judiciously every year.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Year of the Monkey - Unbent, unbowed and unbroken...

First off, a Happy Lunar New Year to all the readers of this blog.

Regulars might know that the previous year of the Goat had been a bitter-sweet experience. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer but I was also blessed with the birth of my son. I was hyper alert during the last few days of the year of the Goat because somehow I felt vulnerable after everything which happened to my family. A consequence of that was I pre-poned work on my research paper in anticipation that troubles would not allow me to finish them in March.

Turns out the paranoia was justified.

Just this afternoon, my dad fell down and had a nasty gash above his right eye and I spent about 7 hours at A&E at Khoo Teck Puat. My dad is ok now and resting at home, but I only finished my reunion dinner at about 10.30pm. It is actually fortunate that my wife was also not present today as she is confined at my in-law's place with my two kids. So, technically I had reunion dinner alone at the Subway when I had a sandwich waiting for the doctor's report.

The Year of the Goat would have been on balance good for Tigers. But it did not turn out as optimistic as I had thought. The year of the Monkey is supposed to be bad, but I guess it's something which would unfold over the next few months.

Nevertheless, it's great to survive a tough year and move on.

I am grateful for what I have.

Strange that this year is the one which I anticipate the least awkward questioning from all the relatives.

When I was single, people asked me when will I get a girlfriend.
When I got a girlfriend, people asked me when I will get married.
After I got married, people wanted to know when I would have kids.
After I had my daughter, people wanted to know whether I should try for a son.
Now I have a son and a daughter, the only question is whether I will get a job but I think I would not get so many questions in that area as I am quite public about my retirement and I have three semesters left of school.

Actually, I am not out of the woods because relatives react to life situations, I would have to endure questions about my HBA1C readings this year.

The truth about me is that I wrote off the Western notion of happiness quite a while ago. The Western notion of happiness is about following your passion. You find it on Facebook with the smiling faces of the folks who wanted to dodge the bullet and decided to travel somewhere else to avoid the inquisition from relatives. Western psychology has all the answers - buy experiential goods instead of material goods. Fake a smile to feel good inside. Hang out with folks who are relatively less wealthy than you are and you will be happy.

The Eastern notion is not an easy pill to swallow. Xing4 Fu2  or  is happiness in the Eastern context and beyond the individual's control. Your relative's conception of is the formation of the nuclear family with at lease one son and one daughter, they get to declare whether you are  or not. is also beyond the reach of a "selfish single".

I guess I am fortunate to be an only child. There is no sibling out there to carry out the proper duties of a son so I don't get to dodge the bullet. Over the years, I ticked every single box to make it less embarrassing to face relatives during the Lunar New Year.

But this year, at age 41, there is a slight change to the rules of the game.

This year, I get to ask the embarassing questions.

But I will be kind and use my newfound powers judicially...

恭喜发财 ! 万事如意 !

Friday, February 05, 2016

#1 Peak Prosperity - The Poverty Simulation angle.

Sometimes, getting an article for this blog is so easy it is as if the Gods conspire to help you with your next posting.

This week, news started to spread about Singapore Island Country Club members conducting a poverty simulation for their members. Of course the news attracted a fair share of brickbats and I'm not going to go about making things worse.

My stand is that a poverty simulation is good thing even though there might be a better way to go about doing it.

It can be argued that my life as a law student is some sort of poverty simulation, I have to feed my growing family without touching my investment capital for a minimum of 3 years without rejoining the workforce. After three years, I will review my portfolio to figure out whether my financial independence is for real. If it is not real, then my retirement would have to end and I would have to accumulate more capital for the next stress test. (Likely a passive income of $10k/month with no more mortgage, so it would be a tough target to meet.)

Poverty simulation is only a symptom of Singapore's problem and not the root cause.

The root cause is the decline in social porousness of Singapore society. The rich is losing touch with the rest of Singapore society.

The section on Edinburgh in the book Geography of Genius  tries to explain the rise of the Scottish intellectuals like David Hume. Scotland's intellectuals are particularly interesting to me because they are known to be quite scrappy and like to find practical applications to their theories so they appeal to my engineering nature. One section I find particularly relevant to Singapore is that the city of Edinburgh which spawned the development of medical and intellectual advancements had great social porousness during its peak of its intellectual prowess. Particularly interesting is that social spaces were areas where a blacksmith and intellectual can trade and argue at as equals.

I would argue that social porousness was present when Singapore first gained independence. We lived in the same kampongs, students in top schools had very few economic advantages over ordinary students. Some ministers had degrees and some, like S Rajaratnam, don't. By contrast, the modern education system in Singapore focuses more on sorting individuals based on intellectual capacity and then confining them to different silos so that they can learn at their own pace. SAP education makes it worse by some form of government-approved racial segregation. One bright spark is National Service where people of different castes and strata could get together to fight as a unit.

From the lens of social porousness, it would be hard to fault the poverty simulators. You spend your youth ensconced in your parent's Maseratis and having all your wishes fulfilled by domestic help. It alienates you from the common man, but you remain human, so you fear falling from grace.

Why not simulate poverty first to cope with your fear and anxiety?

Let's not judge poverty simulators too harshly.

Instead, we can consider turning Poverty into a CCA in our middle-class infested secondary schools.

A Poverty Society can be fun and enriching.

Kids from upper class elite schools learn about the rich-poor gap, the GINI index and then have poverty camps to simulate perhaps a life in the HDB heartlands or a pocket money of working class families. They can have field camps to neighborhood secondary schools and maybe role-play a perfect for a day. For fun and recreation, they can role-play the Beggar Sect from Chinese Wuxia drama.

Done correctly, the rich can be shamed or guilt-tripped into wanting to create decent jobs for fellow Singaporeans.

Monday, February 01, 2016

[Prologue] Peak Prosperity : How do we know that Singapore is in decline ?

I've got less than an hour before my lectures begin so this is going to be a short post.

Right now I am in the process of researching the concept which has the working title of "Peak Prosperity" which sounds so interesting, it may warrant a new book from me in the future.

In my previous books, I would pull out bad news and events from thin air to conclude that the Singapore Dream is being threatened by external forces. This time round, I hope to be more methodical so I would have to read more deeply before forming my conclusions. The biggest problem right now is that technology is displacing jobs faster than we can retrain but this problem affects the whole world and we are actually better equipped than most countries to deal with this problem.

So, the book I am reading is The Geography of Genius by Eric Wiener which may shed light on societies which reach its peak in the past and then declined with the times. My progress is quite slow and have covered only Athens and Hangzhou so far but on casual observation, city states reach their peak when they are the most open minded. Athens accepted foreign traders and had a great marketplace and only began its downward spiral when its citizens began to closed their minds to new ideas. Hangzhou was also the kind of place where people were encouraged to experiment and synthesise new ideas - Su Dongpo was a poet and an engineer.

Similarly Singapore is thinking twice about its foreign talent policy, I guess to prevent a decline, Singapore would need to continue to admit talented individuals but at a pace which is acceptable by the electorate. I think the government may need to, once again, pursue an unpopular FT policy once our transport woes are resolved.

But this research continues because I have to figure out what metrics can be used as a leading indicator to predict a decline in Singapore.

Right now I have no hints on which numbers to look at.

Any feedback or suggestions are welcome.