01 April 2011

April Fool's Day

What to do in an en bloc sale?

First, you need wit. Second, you need wits.

Here are some of the classic e-mail jokes that friends, acquaintances and strangers send me ... to keep me enthralled and sane, I guess. Since April is Month No. 4, I am enshrining four jokes for posterity on this April Fool's Day.

1. As 1 April 2011 is a Friday, I will start off with this story:

It was Friday morning, and that meant it was time for an activity that the teacher called 'Add to the picture'.

The teacher would call students to the chalkboard one at a time. The first student would draw an object on the chalkboard, and each following student would add something to the picture to make it a new picture.

The teacher called on James to start things off.
James returned to his seat.

The teacher called on Ernie next.
Ernie returned to his seat.

Now it was Suzy's turn.
Suzy returned to her seat.

Next, the teacher called Jerry to the board.
Jerry returned to his seat.

Kim was called to the board.
Kim returned to her seat.

About this time, little Johnny began waving his arm hysterically. Little Johnny was well known for being off centre, so the teacher was reluctant to call on him for anything. But as the teacher looked at the picture on the chalkboard, she thought that there was no way that little Johnny could possibly do anything to make this picture dirty. So she called on little Johnny, and he ran to the chalkboard.
The entire class erupted with laughter ... the teacher fainted.

Rejoinder by The Pariah: Art is a matter of perspective, eh? And of interpretation, eh? Some people spot "the sun" and they giggle nervously. Others guffaw heartily as they note "the melting snow" and think it's the nose ... or could it be another appendage of sorts?

In Singapore, statistics in graphical representation are also matters of perspectives and interpretation. In Weakipeek No. 1 of my 2011 Chinese New Year blog posting, I reproduced a 7 Oct 2010 Business Times graph to make my point that the property market cooling measures weren't cutting it:

Slicing off the above BT graph from the initial property cooling measure in Oct 2007 when the Deferred Payment Scheme (DPS) was withdrawn, this is what the graph segment looks like:

But National Development Minister, Mr Mah Bow Tan, at the Committee of Supply Debate on 3 Mar 2011 said that "... the efforts we have made so far have prevented prices from spiralling out of control. Fig 1 shows that the rate of price increase has reduced quarter-on-quarter and continued to fall since the first set of measures were introduced in Sep 2009". This is what Fig 1 looks like (never mind the "inconvenient truth" that DPS happens to be the first of the property cooling measures rolled-out in Oct 2007). Just shift the peg ... and hey presto!!!

1+1=11, dummy! Statistics and graphs will tell you whatever you want them to say, eh?

2. Carrying on April's merriment, there was an e-mail exchange in Singlish back in 2008 between a certain “Chin Chai One” and “Ah Beng, Grassrude Secretary”.

(A) Letter from Chin Chai One:

Date: 28 Apr 2008

From: ChinChaiOne

Dear Prime Minister,

We citizens of Singapore urge you to PLEASE MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

We DO NOT NEED your help. Every time, you mention HELP, we have to run for cover!!!

Help the poor? Raise GST (Goods and Services Tax)!

Help traffic flow? Up ERP (Electronic Road Pricing)!

Help passenger service? Up Bus fare/MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) fare!

Help us get taxi? Raise taxi fare!

Help us get good government? Raise Minister and Civil Servant salary!

Everytime YOU WANT TO HELP, we all PAY FOR IT!!!

THANK YOU THANK YOU. TOLONG LAH, please, we will HELP OURSELVES, no need your help liao. We DARE NOT ask for help any more!!! ["Tolong lah" in Malay = I beg you]

Sir, most honoured sir, I urge you NOT TO HELP Singapore INVEST also!

Everytime your wife invest, we all lose money! Kao liao, kum siah! ["Kao liao" in Hokkien dialect = Enough; "Kum siah" in Hokkien dialect = Thank you]

Just let us have a dose of bad governance, like recently the Mas Selamat case, like dat so far, it is ok, your incompetence, we ACCEPT!

PLEASE DO NOT help us have better security! Wait we all kena PAY FOR IT!! I believe ALL SINGAPOREANS REFER NOT TO HAVE CRUTCH MENTALITY! ["Kena" in Malay = Get hit]

I think it is ok lah, please just take your salary and enjoy life ok?

Thank you, thank you,

I am very chin chai one, any how any how, no need to help oso can one. ["Chin chai" in Hokkien dialect = Easy-going]

Post-script by The Pariah: On 31 Jul 1998, PAP Gahmen "helped" us to "take advantage of enhanced plot ratios to realise their full development potential, which would have created many more housing units in PRIME 999-year leasehold or freehold AREAS FOR SINGAPOREANS. A SECONDARY BENEFIT is that these developments, especially the older ones, could have been REJUVENATED through the en-bloc process."??? [Capitalization emphasis is by The Pariah.]

But the percentage of Singaporean buyers in the new en bloc redevelopments in prime residential districts of 9, 10 and 11 has plummeted when compared with PRE-en bloc numbers. And most estates are less than 30 years old at the point of en bloc sale. POST-en bloc, we have more shoe-box aquarium units in our equatorial climate and with neighbouring buildings that jostle cheek by jowl ... not very liveable but WHO CARES? So long as it is very buildable and very profitable for the corporate developers - that is what matters most, eh? Because that in turn translates into GDP Growth Bonus of up to 8 months' salary for our ministers, senior civil servants and MPs when GDP Growth is more than 10% (in fact, it's a piece of cake if the previous year was already a low base)!

(B) Reply from the Prime Minister's Office:

Date: Saturday, 2 August, 2008.

Dear Chin Chai One,

10Q you for your letter. On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am replying to your letter as follows:

As the erected party of Singaporeans, we are here to serve.

We are demon-cratic country, you are master, we gahmen servant, we serve you. You got problems we must help. You say no need our help? That means you're not Singapore's master. You say you run for cover? Cannot one, our police will find you.

GST is to help the Gahmen (government) to help yourself. The Gahmen Service Tax is everywhere, you go America also have one, cannot run one.

Traffic very bad, so bad that we have to hold car racing at nite to avoid traffic jam. We believe there is no free lunch like PM's father say before, you use, you must pay, so Every Road Pay ... So you see no ERP cannot one.

Needless to say, passenger service also must pay. The increase in bus fare and MRT and taxi fare are very little already. We foresee world inflation coming: oil, steel, pay of foreign talents, etc, so we have to pay for the service.

You see, many foreign talents come to Singapore . If we don't pay our ministers well, they will go other countries to be their foreign talents. So must raise salary to keep them. If not, Nathan, Shanmugam, Bala etc will go India and work. Khaw will go Malaysia, etc, etc. Must keep them. To keep them must pay well.

You are right, any help also must pay.

To help yourself? No, it's illegal. You mean you can build your own MRT? Run your own buses? Drive your Ba-Ong-Chia (Hokkien dialect = Unlicensed taxi sharing). Build your own roads? Seow liao (Hokkien dialect = Crazy really)!!! Everyone help himself, then how? No social order lah! Ga ga (Hokkien dialect = Be daring) ask for help, we are here to serve you.

We understand some of you have temporary problem. Don't worry, it is only short term. We must look long term. We must invest long term. Now lose a bit, don't "cow beh cow boo" (Hokkien dialect: literally "cry for father, cry for mother"; complain excessively). Long term!!! Yes, remember. 30 or 50 years later we will own Swiss banks, US banks, UK properties, maybe even South Pole condominiums. We must tighten our seat belt and bite our false teeth. The future very bright.  As long as you continue to support the Gahmen 30 to 50 years you will see bright future. So "Chiang See Tong" a bit lah. ["Chiang See Tong" Hokkien dialect = bear with it temporarily; pun on the name of Opposition MP Mr Chiam See Tong] Also, investing is very complicated business, not easy. We must pay school fee to learn from advanced countries.

On Selamat's case, we also must learn our lesson. We encourage life-long-learning. I learn whole life time, you learn whole life, Mr Wong Can't Sing (pun on name of Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng) also whole life learning. It's actually good. Mr Wong already apologise, don't force a dog to jump over the wall, the wall may collapse. Old dog cannot jump high also.

Selamat's case gives us many lessons. We must be on alert, not too complacent. Now every Singaporean know there can be a terrorist among us any time. This is the best self-defence education!!! PM will give Mr Wong another salary increment for that.

Also now we merge the prisons and detention centre, more space will be available now. We will build it like another IR - Integrated Retention - so those don't want our service and thinking of doing illegal service will go there.

We will pass a new law too, the expenses for stay in that IR will be deducted from your CPF money.

Remember we must be grateful to people who help us --- and pay.

I hope I have explained the situation and give you the message clearly. If you still need help, please call my handphone: 9990-6767 9990-6767, it's toll-free.

By the way, Mr Chin Chai One, our pioneer Toh Chin Chai already toh long ago. So if you choose to be Chin Chin Chai Chai, you will also Toh. ["Toh" in Hokkien dialect = Collapse]

10Q you again,

Ah Beng
Grassrude secretary

3. In 2010, “Life in Singapore” made its rounds - to which I now have the dubious pleasure of “adding salt and vinegar”, as the Chinese would say.

Life in Singapore .....

In Singapore, the majority of us live in Highly Dangerous Buildings (HDB), and most people have already got used to Pay and Pay (PAP).

They say your kids are "not hungry". But they remain "hungry". When they "retire" from being a minister with portfolio, they become ministers without portfolio. If they should be "redundant" because there is already a minister in charge of that portfolio, they also become ministers without portfolio and are comfortably parked in the Powerless Minister's Office (PMO).

Because you "lesser mortals" insist and persist to Pay-and-Pay to feed their hunger for multi-million dollar salaries and GDP Bonuses of up to 8 months' salary, they become Yaya-PAPayas in their Perfectly Arrogant Party (PAP). ["Yaya" in Malay = Arrogant]

Those who don’t fancy living in Highly Dangerous Buildings (HDB) buy private condos. But it’s even more dangerous!

Why? Because your neighbours can keep you dangling in suspense as they die-die-must-sell en bloc and boot your whole family out of the suspended air space that was once your
“Endearing Home” (slogan of Ministry of National Development) - viz, witless you, your hapless spouse, your not-hungry kids, and your useless Ah Ma (Grandmother) [Ah Kong (Grandfather) has already been put in JB (Johor Bahru, Malaysia) Nursing Home under one of the "options" so kindly offered by the "filial" Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyEZII_MJDw

How? By staying Mum, Numb and Dumb (MND), MND got MINLAW to draft and craft MINdless LAWS. In this drafting process, MINLAW consults you-know-who? Who else but the developers who end up as Ultra Rich A _ _ holes (URA). Developers “buy 1; get 4”. The flip side of this coin is: After en bloc, Owners “pay double the price or get half the size” (2X Price; ½ Size).

For estate maintenance, they send you to Bo-Chap Authority (BCA) ("Bo chap" in Hokkien dialect = Don't care). To fight en bloc battles, you go to this tribunal where it is Sure Tak Boleh (STB) ("Tak boleh" in Malay = Cannot). Not enough, then go all the way and be Sure Canned (SC for Supreme Court). Not only do you have to pay, you Pay Until Bankrupt (PUB).

If that's not enough, somebody still Purposely Want to Dig (PWD) and get more from you. But PWD dug so deep that they found themselves in a Big Black Hole and is now summarily defunct.

So what more can you do when you are in this Money Only Environment (MOE)?

With the current Mad Accounting System (MAS), you are forced to Pay the Sum Ahead (PSA), which will leave some people Permanently Owing Some Banks (POSB). And if you can't repay your loan, you will just have to Live in Tent Always (LTA).

When you fall sick and happen to be admitted to a Money Operating Hospital (MOH), you might be able to use your Cash Prior to Funeral (CPF). Ahhhh ... by now you should know why Minister Khaw Boon Wan in charge of MOH wants you to pack Ah Kong off to JB, eh? Not too late for you to find out - General Election 2011 akan datang ("akan datang" in Malay = "Coming" phrase used to denote next movie screening).

If you are out of luck, you may meet doctors who Never Use Heart (NUH) to treat you, and you will Sure Go to Heaven/Hell (SGH), depending on how many families you have mercilessly booted out in en bloc sales in this life-time.

To help ease the traffic, motorists have to pay Cash On Expressway (COE). If that doesn't help, they can always Eternally Raise Prices (ERP) on the roads.

If you don't own a car, you can always make a Mad Rush to the Train (MRT) as you transfer for the nth time after being squashed in a bus Side By Side (SBS). All because the Profiteering Transport Council (PTC) claim our fares are not just distance-based but duration-related and transfer-pegged. Let’s not forget that we are less than 45 km at our widest in this “little red dot” of a grand total size of 710.3 sq km!

Lastly, under all these pressures, there are not many places we can relax, not even the good old place we used to go because it has become So Expensive and Nothing To See Actually (SENTOSA)!!!

4. In summary, we can chuck out the 5Cs and gun for the 5Bs - Yes, you've guessed it! One of the new 5Bs is a Bungalow. They can't en bloc you out from a bungalow WITHOUT your consent. But please make sure that it is a GCB (Good Class Bungalow) that you can easily afford on the salary of a Singapore senior civil servant or a Singapore cabinet minister (with or without portfolio - it doesn't matter except that you should know that there are presently 14 cabinet ministers with portfolios and 7 ministers WITHOUT portfolios paid with taxpayers' money).

Why must it be a GCB? Because that's where most of our multi-millionaire ministers and senior civil servants live! And because URA could up the plot density ratio one fine day ... then all your neighbours could each agree to join land plots and merrily go en bloc, thus leaving your terrace house/semi-detached bungalow intact but perched precariously with a half-wall or your bungalow left standing forlornly, overshadowed and crowded-out by the shiny new condos much covetted by our "fallen" talent (sorry, some Chinese tongues can't quite roll with the "r" in "foreign").

No more 5C'S but new 5B'S in Singapore
I don't need a CAR. I want a BMW.
I don't need a CONDO. I want a BUNGALOW.
I don't need a CLUB. I want to own a BANK.
I don’t need a CREDIT CARD. I want to be a BILLIONAIRE.
I don't need a CAREER. I want to be a BOSS.

With 5Bs, you won't feel this dire need to pose for a pic with a Kate Spade box (I trust there is a Kate Spade handbag inside that box, eh?). Such are the tell-tale signs (leading indicators, if you will). The impression of "Fluff and Bluff" is alarmingly affirmed based on:

(i) Vacuous Fluff - Ms Tin Pei Ling's interview on razor TV on 28 Mar 2011.

(ii) Contradicting Bluff - Ms Tin Pei Ling's speech at PAP Party Convention on 11 Nov 2007. Her contradictions were drawn out in the Temasek Review opinion article by Mr Michael Lim at: http://www.temasekreview.com/2011/04/01/the-problem-with-tin-pei-ling/

I quote the words of no less than our Minister Ng Eng Hen, also PAP Organizing Secretary (Special Duties) on 30 Mar 2011 during the introduction of new PAP candidates ... after "nearly 200 tea sessions" over "4+ years" with "260 candidates", ... after expending "exhaustive efforts" with "thousands of man-hours spent by senior members of the Party", ... after assessing the candidates "over a period of time", ... and applying "stringent standards". Pardon the pun ... but doesn't it sound kinda tinny to proffer Ms Tin as a specimen of "future PAP leaders" to represent the voices of Gen Y? Is the PAP even serious or "ting-tong" (Hokkien euphemism = off the rocker)?

Sheesh ... and they call us "daft"! Pot calling the kettle black, ugh?


joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Pariah said...

Dear Joe:

Thank you for your compliments.

Am also grateful for your appreciation. It does take effort to keep track of developments and statistical trends, contextualizing them for blog postings.

Just hope that these blog entries help Owners (esp Owner-Occupiers with only one residential property in Singapore) who bear the full brunt of en bloc sale consequences.

Knowledge is Power. Often times, bona fide home-owners face en bloc sale for the first time in their lives. Typically, home-owners do not know enough of the en bloc law and end up being ripe for EXPLOITATION by:

- die-die-must-sell desperadoes,

- quick-quick-must-sell flippers,

- no-sale-no-fee marketing agent/lawyer, and

- deaf-dumb-blind MinLaw under the PAP Government who skewed the law to unlock land value for BIG BUSINESS to DISPLACE SINGAPOREANS with en bloc sales and REPLACE WITH FOREIGNERS in redevelopment projects

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condo manila said...

Great article. I like it and I find it incredible and well written as well. I had a great time with your post. Big thanks for sharing.

Charles A

The Pariah said...

Thank you, Condo Manila, for your compliments.

I am still gathering en bloc sale statistics - in itself quite an onerous task when one is not an urban planner.

Nonetheless, it is to me a worthwhile undertaking to expend my time and energy on this. I see it as part of active citizenry - my itsy-bitsy teeny way of trying to make a difference as a Singaporean.

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