Monday, October 02, 2006

Of SingPost and other Temasek-linked companies

Post offices to offer one-stop service for buying, selling properties

SINGAPORE : Customers will soon be able to buy, sell and rent residential and commercial properties at the post office.

SingPost has signed an agreement with ERA Realty Network to provide a one-stop service to customers looking to sell, buy or rent public and private homes and commercial properties.

It will initially be offered at three of its post offices in Ang Mo Kio, Marine Parade and Toa Payoh from October 16.

SingPost says the initiative is part of its diversification strategy to leverage on its wide retail network to offer more value-added products and services to its customers. - CNA/ms



Hi Friends,

The above is yet another example of a Temasek-linked Company (TLC) making a foray into the local market. SingPost and TLC’s are like behemoths making use of their economic muscle and physical presence to their fullest benefit.

So what else is new? One can already walk into the post-office to get an unsecured loan (conditions apply-of course); buy insurance and even book one’s next flight out of Singapore (albeit only on budget carriers). It is but natural progression isn’t it (or so we are told)? Go to the post-office to sell your apartment, or buy two if you are so inclined!

Oh yes, would you like to hazard a guess what “Speedcash” is? Bring in your family heirloom, (but only if they are of at least 18K gold), in exchange for the cash that the loan shark had been pestering you about! Yes Singapore Post is in the “pawn shop” business too!

Singpost and other TLC’s ,are the epitome of Singapore Inc. Anything and everything is for sale. There is no protection for anyone. Mum-and-pop stores are passé. The NTUC, a trade union co-operative, through its subsidiaries or associated entities already run scores(hundreds?) of 24-hour convenience shops all over the island, including in most ExonMobil petrol kiosks.The saying goes that NTUC has businesses that take care of your family from the “cradle to the grave”. Yes they really have a casket service (I am dead serious!).

Does the government (through its linked companies) crowd out private enterprise? The argument by officialdom has always been that if the TLC’s do not move in, the Carrefours and Walmart’s of the world would. We are supposed to be eternally grateful to TLC’s for being Singapore’s “white knights” against the Carl Icahn’s of the world!. Strange, but none of my acquaintances subscribe to these theories. Maybe my friends are all skeptics or cynics?

We are told that globalization entails that there be no protection for the locals (against foreign competition), no protection for the (economically )weak from the onslaught of the marketplace. There is no protection. Period. You are on your own! (The only exceptions being strategic industries like newspaper publishing and airlines.)

I cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness when I look at the forlorn faces of old men and women who belonged to a past era. They are relics of a distant past. They just have to sit and wait. Wait for the next handout. Wait for the next Progress Package or Economic Restructuring Share or whatever fanciful name it is called by next.

Is there a place for them in the new Singapore? Is their place only in our hearts?

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


PS: I have nothing personal against any SingPost staff. In fact the two ladies that I encountered at Tanglin Post Office were extremely polite and helpful. But the service to re-direct my mail for 2 months totaled more than S$50 and I think it is a tad expensive!

9 comments:

YCK said...

Dr H,

You wrote, "Does the government (through its linked companies) crowd out private enterprise? The argument by officialdom has always been that if the TLC’s do not move in, the Carrefours and Walmart’s of the world would."

What do you think of the defense that it plays a part in providing competition needed to keep down the prices for the consumers?

nofearSingapore said...

Hi yck ( thanks for visiting),

That is an attractive hypothesis.

Of course from micro-economic principles, the consumer gets the best deal when there is perfect competition. Supply & demand (blah blah blah) ensures that this happens. That is why all of us are glad when Singtel lost their monopoly of telecoms. Who can forget the $10/min trunk calls of the past?

Ideally, S’poreans should be free-dealing entrepreneurs who run companies, which because they are efficient and gives most value, can compete on the level playing fields with TLC’s locally, or even with the GE’s or Microsoft’s of the world.

But it does not happen because very few start-up’s can compete with our local giants (who somehow happen to be TLC’s) . In the name of the consumer, TLC’s get their foot in the door and before we know it, they are in a monopoly position and where does that leave the consumer? .. at the mercy of the ogre called MONOPOLY.

In the long run, we get 1.inefficient monopolies, 2. consumers who are worse off 3. a nation in dire need of entrepreneurs.

So I say, TLC’s go out and play with the big boys. If you are good, you will be the next GE. If you are not, you deserve to be a nobody. Leave mum-and-pop’s stores alone because, they need to make ends meet, and mainly, they need their dignity (or whatever they have left of it). Only when these artificially propped up companies are gone, can a new generation of start-up’s grow.

I admit that my understanding of economics is rudimentary as I only have one year of Economics ( from UOL external program) , but I am one of the more conscientious students there! Ha ha

Thanks

Dr.H

Anonymous said...

Dr h.: "Strange, but none of my acquaintances subscribe to these theories. Maybe my friends are all skeptics or cynics?".

Strange, just like your acquaintances, I do not subscribe to those theories either. Maybe I'm also a skeptic and/or cynic?

Pushing the TLCs/GLCs solution is easier for MIWs than to take the effort to review laws/policies that impede the development of local entrepruenership. Heard of the joke about Singapore's "U-Turn" law? If something is not declared to be legal, in Singapore it's illegal, but in Hong Kong, it's legal. Strange, thought both inherited British colonial laws.

Just take a look at China, Taiwan, or nearer home at Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia... entrepruenership seems not quite stiffled there. Yeah, right, their govt is not as "squeaky-clean", not as "world-class" efficient, blah, blah, blah. But hey, why does it seems like their people have more opportunities (employment or business) even as globalization enter their countries? In fact, local entreprueners benefit when MNCs enter the market, e.g.:
1. MNCs merger/buy-out of local brands to expediate their entry into the local market.
2. Local entreprueners provide auxillary services to MNC clientiles.

Dr H: "We are told that globalization entails that there be no protection for the locals (against foreign competition)".

Dr H is forget the special MIW taskforce that are afforded protection for their "world-class" pay and pension despite their below "world-class" performance.

If the MIWs lack the "world-class" creativity to solve the Singapore economic challenges, then the least they can do is to eat the humble pie and take a look at how other developed countries balance between global competition and "protection for the locals". There are many developed countries to study from.

Basically, would these MIWs bother? Their rice-bowl (and retirement) are secured, and importing FTs will add to those contributing to the MIWs security. So what if locals suffer? Guess whose asses count?

Dr H: "I cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness when I look at the forlorn faces of old men and women who belonged to a past era. They are relics of a distant past. They just have to sit and wait. Wait for the next handout".

Sadly, I think my fate and those of majority of post-65'ers Singaporeans will become like theirs in time to come. Just spoke with some younger Gen-X friends yesterday. How many (non-scholar) graduates get decent pay and job prospects in recent years? If young grads (supposedly top 10-20% of a cohort) have such a tough time, what more of the average heartlander?

Unless some drastic changes take place in the social-economic and political scence of Singapore, the downward spiral continues. Given the broad control of PAPpies-led govt on all the above aspects, required changes seems unlikely to take place. Meanwhile, it seems the only way out for me and other post-65'ers is the signpost pointing the "WAY OUT" literally.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anon 2:48
I get frank and honest from yourself very frequently. I feel sad at your despondency and sense of helplessness. I really don't know what to say.
About entrepreneurship: You alluded the NUTS( No U-Turn Syndrome) where in S'pore we have become so conditioned that we only turn at junctions with U-turn signs whereas in the days when I was younger, we turned anywhere and everywhere so long as there isn't any NO U-TURN signs.

It is completely different way of thinking. One way is : How can? and the second and better way is Why not?. We should learn from young that NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE instead of always looking for Big Brother for instructions.

S'poreans have lost the survival instinct. as Dr. Catherine Lim has alluded to, this will seriously affect our longterm survival.

You and others like yourself ( presumably post-65ers unlike myself) must stand up, organise yourselves and tell MIW that you will not be ignored and that you want to make a difference ( sorry to sound so cliche).
Don't just give up. Try before you finally take the step our the door.
Dr.H

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anon 2.48:
"typo" in first line,
It should read "I get frank and honest comments from readers like yourself very frequently."
Dr.H

YCK said...

Dr H,

Thanks for sharing your knowledege of economics. I do not know much about it at all but have always thought that the defense sounds suspicious. Thanks for confirming it.

On the No U-turn syndrome, I think we are in a sort of a catch-22. As you and anon has pointed out that the TLCs and often the government regulates the "protective" environment in such a way that decisions need not be made and choices are not available. Then we get blamed for the lack of entrepruenership, creativity, initiative etc. when the occasion arise to excercise our "free-will".

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