Saturday, August 29, 2009

Quick Ends

It's been two days since I came back from the land of smiles and I'm currently sitting in the bedroom being highly unproductive. I'm typing this post and listening to cheesy pop songs on Youtube. For a man who has sunk the better part of his meger savings into high-end sound equipment, I get my musical fixes off Youtube. Fun to listen to all the tracks that you want to, good for helping the brain rot.

It's not been a bad 48-hours. Managed to get Richard Sng, Singapore's Sun Tan entrepreneur interviewed in the Straits Times Money section. Yes, Singapore has several solariums and Richard has actually expanded across the causeway. You have to hand it to the guy. I remember thinking that the idea of a sun tan studio in Singapore was nuts. Used to write press materials thinking...."Jee,,,,this is nuts." But hey, the guy has proven his sceptics wrong and found a niche market in this part of the world.

I am also enjoying being sacked by the former PGFNB. I remember the world was laughing at the Malaysians a few years back when they implemented "SMS Divorce," (All you need to do is to SMS your wife 'Talak, Talak,Talak' - which is Sharia compliaent.) but I agree with it. I mean, having been through one divorce, I think it's a good idea to have sms divorce.

Seriously, when things are over, you should allow for a quick and easy end and let people move on. All Gina and I did to get married was to book a date on a website, show up at a place and say a few soppy words to each other. This cost us some S$200, including the price of a ring. With this we were legally bound to each other - call it a lifelong contract. However, when it was clear to the world that we were not meant to be, we had to look for a lawyer, show up in court and this cost us a grand total of $3,000 plus - the process took over a year, which means we both a had a year less of not being allowed to see other people.

It's quiet wierd in the world of corporations too. If you want to set up a business in Singapore it's easy. Just drop by the Acounting and Regulatory Authority (ACRA), fil out a form and pay a fee (not more than $350). By contrast, if you want to disolve a company, you need to do things like call in the service of a liquidator and a lawyer and professional fees can run into the thousands. Once again, this could take forever.

So, I'm often wondering why let people rush into marriage but make it so difficult to get out of. Marriage is supposed to be a lifelong comittment and making it easy makes it cheap. In the crudest terms, I got married because I was getting a regular lay and so when she put the conditions in front of me (I abort, you sign ROM doccuments), my brain was in between my legs and so I said yes and stuck to it. Neither of us had time to work through the initial hormonal surcharge of new relations. My mother always puts it simply - "There's more to a relationship than fucking and when the desire for constant fucking ends, there's got to be something to keep you together."

Much as I hate to admit it, Mother did know best on this occasion. Gina and I had great bonks for the first year. For men we love getting laid regularly. For women, love and lust become confused. If the bonking was going to be a constant, we might have lasted longer but beyond the bonks we actually had shockingly little in comon. As my favourite rogue says,"She had fireplace writen all over her place and you want to get out and do things."

Will both of us make the same mistake? I can't speak for her but I know I could. Zen always reminds me that my best fortune in the past few months was the fact that the former PGF was not offering sex. She's right.

If the former PGFNB had been offering me mind-blowing sex on a regular enough basis, I would have convinced myself that there was something real and before you know it I would have signed away my life. Men are particularly vulnerable when it comes to a regular source of sex and I would have convinced myself that her self-description as a vulnerable person putting on a tough exterior was the right one and then walked into Registry of Marriages to tie myself to a self-aborbed, lazy nut case with a violent temper and no sense of morals.

If that had happened, I'd be swimming in shit. It would take several years to extracate myself and unlike the ending with Gina, there would be children involved - in short I would be guilty of hurting Marcus and Nicollette.

OK, I got lucky this time but who's I won't lose myself if I get picked up by another nut job. Who's to say that I'm the only person who has a shit track record when it comes to crazy women. In Singapore, you don't need to have a trouser snake bigger than your brain to get married. Allot of people get married because they want to move out of parental home. Housing laws are such that affordable housing is easily available to married couple. Singapore men don't say, "let's get married," they say, "Let's get a flat together."

This is wrong. You should make marriage a little bit more challenging. If it's more challenging, people will treasure it more. Under Singapore divorce law, you need to be married for three-years before you get a divorce. Why? Who are you protecting? Trying to keep people together when they've decided that they no longer want to be together only leads to keeping them miserable.

But imagine if you ensure that entry point to marriage is more stringent. Instead of saying, you have to be married for three-years before you get divorced, why not say, you should date for three-years before you get married. This will allow couples to really get to know each other.

My favourite littigator told me that fakes are usually the ones who want to rush things through. Genuine cases will wait for you to do your due dilligence. If what he says of business is true, surely it should be even more true of personal affairs like marriage. I chose to ignore the fact that Gina was pushing to get married fast but imagine if I had to wait for three years before taking the plunge into marriage.

For a lifelong comittment, marriage is surprisingly easy to enter into. OK, you can't equate it with business thanks to the heavy emotional baggage involved but surely some common sense laws should apply. I mean if people married each other for more than a flat or more than a regular supply of sex, you'd find that less people would want to get divorced.

We live in a topsy-turvey world where it becomes easy to say "I do" but surprisingly difficult to deal with the consquences. Surely making a lifelong comittment should be something that people value or are made to value. Surely when people find they've made a mistake, they should be allowed to end things quickly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's the End of the World as We Know It and Yipppyyyyy

Just Come back from a family vacation in Bangkok, an industry function and now I can't sleep. So, I guess this means that those of you who enjoy rantings of the depraved will get another treat -another one of my early morning insomniac blahs.

I always enjoy visiting other Southeast Asian countries, its always refreshing to be in a real country as a opposed to a city-state on steroids. According to the world of the Singapore media when it comes to reporting events in the region, you'd get the impression that you're living in Heaven in Hell or if you prefer a more accurate Biblical analogy - Paradise dropped in the Middle of Armageddon.

Statistically speaking, there's some truth to this. I can't keep pointing out that you get most of the basics in Singapore - it's clean, green and safe. Our GDP per capita is on par with the industrial nations of Europe and we "kick ass" when you talk about things like government efficiency and transparency (which means don't try and bribe customes). Our Ministers are highly paid but hey, they're only earning "peanuts" when compared some of Wall Streets heroes and doing a better job and spending other people's money.

What do statistics actually mean? For me, I make the odd trip across the Causeway just to find out what it means from time-to-time. I've been shaken down for a bribe once in the last 3-years that I've been visiting the other side. OK, this is a little new to me, such things don't happen on this side of the Causeway.

I also don't drink tap water in Malaysia and in the last three days of staying in Bangkok, I stuck to drinking tea and wine. So far, so good - Singapore still kicks ass. Max did remind me that Thailand had a recent scandal where tourist would be offered free-gifts, then stopped by the police for stealing - the gift giver and the cops would then split the bribe......This sort of thing will NEVER happen in Singapore.

Having said all of that, I don't see much of a desire for Thai's, Indonesians, Malaysians etc to become Singaporean. I mean they don't mind coming to Singapore to earn Singapore dollars - which puts them in the same catagory as Americans, Austrlians, Brits and other desireables. A good deal of the less educated ones don't mind a passport but even then, they don't seem to want to "Beome" Singaporean in the truest sense of the word - which puts them on par with Americans, Australians and Brits (who presume they're educated?)

Surely, you'd imagine that the Thai's, Malaysians etc would be rushing to become us when we have all the things that they don't have. We clearly have better infrastructure as well as a cleaner and safer environment - so why the hell don't they want to become us?

It could be something to do with our personality and our values. For example, you get the likes of the former PGFNB (I got sacked as her PBFNC while on holiday ;) who is not officially a prostitute (goes to Church) but has a shap eye for other people's credit card, car and condo and can't stop talking about the barrow boys who want to poke them. I suppose this type of behaviour is charming if you're a barrow boy living of someone elses money.

By contrast you have the girls in the massage parlours who have the decency not to look through the contents of your wallet after you've paid for one round and don't jabber on about how talented they are.

Thanks to the former PGFNB, I understand why the third world does not always want to ape paradise. What our neighbours have are basically problems that can be solved with money. By contrast, Singaporeans seem to have psychological issues - it could be the inbreeding but more likely it's the way we live our lives. We're a curious lot. The chosen elite a protected from real life as long as they can string a sentence together. When you don't get the thrill and hunger - you get bored and that's a form of stress. The rest of the mice are kept on a treadmill and pushed to get bigger and better things that they can't really afford but need otherwise they're sex organs shrink (though occasionally you get the odd balls who twig that the size of their sex organs are not connected to owning things - but these are highly discouraged)

Being supposedly supperior makes us forget that we're not the centre of the earth. I love the creature comforts of being in Singapore but from time-to-time, a trip across the Causeway helps bring one back down to reality. Sure, it's not as swanky as what we have but somehow people get by and are quite happy. It's especially noticeable when you see the chicks cross over. Suddenly they look prettier - they smile - you'd be surprised how much a smile can do for a woman.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Makes a Dad?

I've never fathered a child before and so I suppose this is a rather strange posting for me. My only biological experiment with fatherhood ended up in the dustbins of Thompson Medical Centre and the result of that was a three-year legal bind with Gina. I've dabbled in the topic a little. Thui was the first but thanks to Han Li's relationship with immigration that ended within a few short months. Now, it's PGF's kid's - Nicolette and Marcus who give me the odd glimpse into the joys of fathterhood - as things would have it, the only enjoyable times with the PGF are when the kids are around. But I can't call myself a Dad (though Thui has aknowledged me as Papa on a few odd moments) because I've taken on the job full time.

However, I can comment on being on the recieving end of what fatherhood should be about. My mother was married to three fairly decent men who provided me with a fairly set notion of what a father should be. Both Lee and Thomas (Mum's second and third husbands) helped me to understand that being a Dad is not necessarily a biological process. Lee in particular deserves credit for showing me that a man can love a child that's not necessarily his biological one. I've been lousy in the pay-back department in as much as I can't do for him what he did for me - ie take care of the old boy. But I do what I can to offer my heart to the children of the various ladies who have entered my life.

I'm an unusual freak in the sense that not only was I blessed with two (not just one) spectacular stepfather, but I had a pretty darn good natural father, who when I think about it, doesn't always recieve the credit he deserves. My father is a wonderful mix of East meets West. His casual in a very Western way. He's not into ceremony or the "I'm your father so..." type of thing that most Chinese father's are supposed to be into. Yet, he's Chinese enough (Cantonese remains his first language) - my Dad is not a cuddley type of Dad. I guess because of that, I don't open up to him the way I usually open up to my mum or dare I say to my stepfathers.

Like all things in recent months, it takes my PGFNB to make me understand how lucky I've been in the parent department. Today I had the misfortune of following PGFNB and following her into Family Court for one of her battles with the Ex. After months of hearing so much about him, I finally put a face to the name.

True enough, he's utter gutter scum and the fact that PGF could be married to him for 10-years means she's not much better - but then to be fair, a notch above shit, is still a notch above. Perhaps looks are decieving but he looks melevolent. - Sue for me for slander if you will but I'll say this in court about him.

OK, let's give credit where credit is due - I wouldn't want to be married to the PGFNB too. His new wife is younger and probably hell of allot nicer to live with. I can even give him credit for being genuinely in-love with the new wife. PGFNB is not a person who invites you to fall in love with her...it's quite the opposite.

I'll concede to the point where her financial demands might be excessive. She's currently demanding $1,600 a month - which is the equivalent of a salary for a company recetionist.

Where I have bad vibes about the guy is the fact that he has no interest in his kids. Both Nicolette and Marcus have somehow developed into wonderful people despite their parents. I think it's privillege for anyone to be their parent. Both a funny, intelligent and loving despite their parents who are spiteful.

This man is particularly vile. He's never sent a single birthday card nor has he made an effort to ask how they're getting on. His only association with his children is when he's telling the courts that they don't need him. To me, that show's a lack of human decency. Like I said, PGFNG is not much fun to handle but in my mind, there are certain responsabilities that go with the job of being a Dad.

OK, my Mum let's lose from time-to-time that it wasn't always fun collecting child support from the old man and my Dad wasn't much good with the birthday cards. But after meeting PGF's ex-husband, I realise more deeply that my Dad what a Dad should do - he provided the financial means to ensure that I would have the basic tools in life. If anything, the Old Man provided for me a little too well - I was one of the few students who didn't need to look for a part-time job - Daddy's gold card solved allot of issues.

My father has had his business ups and downs. When he was doing well, he spreed the money widely. When he was not, he still ensured that school fees were paid. I am sitting here in Singapore as a Public School educated, university graduate because my father ensured that I had the means to be.

Then there was medical health care. When I developed a lymphoma in my left thigh, I had to come back to Singapore to get it removed. My doctor was Dr Susan Lim, one of Singapore's leading surgeons and the bill was over $2,000 for a day surgery. Was reluctant to do it because he had just flown me home, got me a job at one of the hardest banks in the world to enter and then there was this.----He told me to do the surgery. Yes, he could afford it but he could also have dennied that it was too expensive. To him, it was something that needed to be done and do he got me to do it.

He's also done the same for Max. Both of us have been well taken care of by the old man and although he's lousy at expressing certain things, he does like to feel involved in our lives, though he'd loath to admit it.

So thanks to my Dad, I believe that a father is obliged to take care of certain basic things for a child. When it comes to your financial status, you can suffer but somehow you have to find a way to make sure that your kids don't worry about the basics. I'm against giving kids a free ride. I had too much pocket money and a credit card - the result was I didn't need to discover the school of hard knocks until I started trying to earn a living. But basics need to be taken care of. A father has to see his kids have food and education.

Sure, you cannot be unrealistic in what you ask a man to provide. PGF's ex is legally a bankrupt (though a very talented one - he has savings). It's pointless to ask him to house his previous family in the Istana. But he must provide his kids with the basics. If he thinks the maintainance is too high, he can make alternative arangements to ensure that education and health care are provided for. He doesn't do it.

A friends have suggested that he's only acting naturally ie - PGF only wants matainance money for her lifestyle and not the kids and so, he's decided why bother? To my mind that logic does not work. If you have kids, you jolly well make sure they're taken care of. If you think the ex is going to blow it all, find an alternative to make sure the money goes to where it's needed.

I remember another friend telling me that most men don't bother fighting for custody. To an extent there's some sense there. Mother's are usually better able to nurture children and so courts usually give custody to mum's with visitation rights to Dads. But there are cases where Mum's are unsuited to take custody and a responsible father should recognise this. I put it this way, if Gina and I had kids, I would have fought for custody in a divorce hearing. PGF's ex filled for divorce based on her "Bad Temper" (which she has), claming she was violent and yet, he made no move to obtain sole custody.

I don't know how Nicolette and Marcus cope with this. How they ended up OK is beyond me. They're father is gutter trash and their mother ain't great either.

I've told PGF that after seeing her ex, she's not allowed to be attracted to me for whatever reason. I fear there's something about her that might turn me into this gutter trash that she married. Miserable failure of a father, a miserable failure of a human being.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Meaning of Patriotism

National Day just ended about an hour ago and the news about how great and wonderful we are continues to play. In case you missed it, the parade will be broadcast again - sometime next week. For me, I was at the PGFNB's trying to deknot her back with my knuckles and Marcus was probably the most excited person in the room when it came to saying the pledge - which was, for once set a peculiar time and the local media took delight in reporting on how people stopped their daily activities to say the pledge.

Do I sound bitchy here? Perhaps I do. I mean this with no disrespect to the guys who participated in the parade, I know the personal effort that was invested in making sure that this was a good show. The parade has also become an institution that the nation looks forward to. As such, despite the dollars spent on the parade, I don't hold anything against the parade.

What I do question is the annual chest thumping. Yes, Singapore has achieved allot and I can say that Singapore is a pretty darn good place to live in, even when compared to many cities in the developed world. I'm always reminded of a US Navy boy telling me, "If you think Geylang is your worst area, you haven't seen an American city." Being known as a "boring" place is better than being known as a place where people get stabbed every three seconds or a place where people can spend years in school and emerge not knowing how to read or write.

I lived in the "Wonderful" West for my formative years and I came home to Singapore quite happily. After nine years of living here, I have no overwhelming desire to go back to live in the West. Other than visiting a few friends and relatives, there's no reason for me to look West. Let's face it, life in Singapore is exceedingly comfortable. There's allot to say for streets that don't stink of piss and having to look a whingy but able bodied guy asking you for spare change at every corner on the streets of your somewhat exclusive neighbourhood (In my case it was in London's Soho.)

Yes, Singapore has achieved allot in 44-years, which on the scale of things is not allot. We have allot to be proud of and let's give credit where credit is due, the PAP governments that have run the place have delivered the goodies. Say what you like about the PAP's constant electoral success, but it's a political party that has delivered consistently.

Having said all of that, I have ask myself if all of this chest thumping is actually patriotism or real love for the country. Chat to enough people and you'll find that Singapore is heaven on earth if you talk to a foreigner. The Straits Times even went as far as having a Canadian tell us to be greatful for Singapore. Talk to a native born Singaporean and what you'll here are grumbles. Life is Singapore is comfortable but its expensive and getting more so. Talk to enough native born Singaporeans and you'll find complaints about how this is a country that no longer cares about its people.

Is this true? Well, to an extent I would disagree. Yes, the government is very money minded but because it is money minded it has accumilitated enough money to benefit the people.

However, what I do disagree with is the idea that the future is only capable of being decided by a select few. Without fail, National Day turns out to be an occasion for the powers that be to remind the Plebs who's boss. One year it was Ministers deciding that it was better for the Nation to increase their high salaries than to assist the least able. In the last two-years we've seen worse examples of this - namely the escape of Mas Selamat and the Minister in question's lack of remorse for the lapses in competence by his ministry and the continued presence of the Prime Minister's wife as CEO of the company set up to invest the money of the people after her company has invested incompetently.

In both instances, the public is only told that "shit happens," and the only people who defend these actions are usually the people who are only good for pissing on - ie people who talk about values but when it comes to sacrificing their time for the nation, they run away.

People who ask valid questions are quickly discouraged and discredited. I'm told by a senior editor that this is not true about the Singapore establishment and quite often it's the people trying to get close to the establishment that choak the efforts to create a discussion. You become lablled unpatriotic.

That's not patriotism, that's parotism - and the two are distinctly different. The Parot waves his flag on national day and may be attends a few grassroots sessions to tell the poor to stop being poor and contribute to the nation by giving more money to the rich, but when it comes to doing anything real for the people or for the country, they quickly run away. In National Service, you'll find that they usually end up working in Manpower base as clerks.

A patriot is something differnet. He recognises the good and the bad of his country but makes a choice to be in his or her country. He or she is open to dicussion when it comes to talking about flaws. Usually, you find patriots serving National Service in a combat unit, in a combat role.

It's fun to have a public holiday but I think we need to look beyond the hype of what exactly National Day is and ask our selves if the love we feel for the country is based on something more than the Ministry of Community Development's advertising campaign.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Temasek Holdings, one of Singapore's Soverign Wealth Funds has been a major feature in the news during the past two weeks. First, it's CEO-designate, Mr Charles "Chip" Goodyear decided not to take up his post due to "strategic" differences between himself and the board. Then news leaked out that Temasek had lost a staggering amount of money and finally, Ms Ho Ching, the current CEO (and wife of the Prime Minister) decided to announce that Temasek would invite the public to invest alongside it.

Even the most devoted columnist could claim that this has been a good month for Temasek. The internet chat rooms and forums were abuzz with scathing remarks about Temasek and it's major shareholder - the Ministry of Finance. Just as Temasek tried to put a spin onto things, the usual detractions about the "lack of transparency" were being thrown all about cyberspace.

Both sides may have a point but I believe that they miss the "bigger" picture. At the heart of all of this is the question of whether politicians necessarily make good business people and visa-versa. This question becomes especially prominent in the Singapore context in as much as our top politicians and civil servants usually become heads of the large local corporations that dominate the local economy.

There is a certain logic to this. The Singapore government invest heavily in developing people. The schoolars selected by the government do end up in the world's best educational institutions. Look at any major change of command parade in the military and you'll find that both incoming and outgoing generals got into Cambridge and graduated with a first and then proceeded to do their MBA in places like Harvard Business School or Cornell. Top civil servants and politicians have glowing academic credentials and one would imagine that such people would have no problem switching between government and business.

To some extent it's worked. I happily use government subsidised health care. I dreaded the idea of being in an NHS hospital in the UK. For British Airways, profitability only came with Thatcherism and being sliced out of State Hands and placed into the care of the business people. By contrast, SIA has been profitable from day one - even with a high level of government ownership and several former Chief of Air Force on the board of directors.

So, it's not necessarily true that State ownership is bad for busienss. The Singapore government is exceedingly business minded. In international survey after international survey, Singapore is ranked as one of THE best places in the world to do business. In the past year, I've dealt with the Economic Development Board for the opening of a plant for both 3M and Alcon. As one representative from an Indian Multi-national says, "If you think your EDB is awful - try dealing with the Indian version."

A good businessman can be a good civil servant and that applies in other parts of the world too. Saudi Arabia's SAGIA (Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority) is a prime example. Mr Amr Al-Dabbagh, SAGIA's Chairman and Governor was a former businessman before he took over the investment authority and that's not all. SAGIA recruits from people with business experience. Meshari Al-Khaled, SAGIA's Country-Director in the ASEAN region is a former ABN Amro banker. Thanks to the international and commercial experiences of its key people, SAGIA is regarded as highly efficient and effective in what it does.

However, the very concept that a good civil servant or politician automatically making a good business person is flawed. Generally speaking, these three groups are good when they stick to being what they are and not when they cross into different turfs. In the Singapore context, this is somewhat of heresy but if one has spent a day or two in the real world, one will realise the fallacy of civil servants and politicians making good business people - even in an economic crisis where the business community has run to the government for help.

It's so simple - government and business are two different games and the people who are good at the respective games have different skill sets meant to deal with their respective games. Perhaps sports offers the best analogy. How many world class soccer players do you know who managed to become world class rugby players. Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players in history but he tried to play baseball - he didn't get very far. Ivan Lendel was one of the great tennis players in his time. He tried to take up golf as an alternative career - it didn't work out.

In business, the focus is on profits and business organisations are geared towards that. Everything that a business man does goes towards trying to make a profit. A businessman will hire and fire according to the needs of the business. Fancy degrees will only get you so far, if you don't deliver. A head of a mid-sized accounting firm put it best, "I simply ask, am I making money from you?" Business by its very nature is not meant to be charitable, even if good social affects come out of it - things like jobs for people, better technologies for society are the by product of a good business.

How do business people stay focused? The answer is simple - competition. As long as a businessman has to face competition, he'll be forced to think of ways to hire more effectivly and come up with better products and services for the customers. Once competition is eliminated, the business person has no incentive to give you "good-stuff" if he can make the same amount of money giving you "crap."

Business and markets are good at creating jobs and wealth but if in checked problems start. One of the usual problems comes when businesses become too cozy with each other. Look at the current financial crisis. Business people were cozy with banks, which didn't always lend with the strictest financial criteria in mind. Wise governments recognise this and generally let businesses run themselves and only step in when it looks like a dominant business is about to eliminate all competition.

Government is a different ball game. A politician needs to consider many factors in decision he makes. To a businessman, firing people makes sense becomes it's less headcount and therefore wages to pay. To a politician, firing people is very difficult because these people either become dissillusioned enough to vote against you or worse - start a revolution. For the civil servant, life is about ensuring that the political mashine runs. Business heros are people like Jack Welsh who value candour and make swift (and sometimes harsh) decisions. Politics by contrast is a game of compromise.

It's clear that the skill sets are different and assuming and putting people who are good at one game to play another usually end up in dissapointment. Yes, many of the Temasek Linked companies are cash rich and many have established overseas branches. With the exception of SIA, this usually has nothing to do with common business skills let alone managerial talent and everything to do with near monopoly powers in the domestic market.

One ingenious way of promoting a general's skills in business is to talk about how he ran Chartered Industries or Singapore Technologies Pte Ltd. Yes, tecnically the organisation in question is a private company but you can hardly call it a real business when the only business the company has is to sell products to one customer - the Singapore government. Shifting army generals into Chartered Industries is not sharing talent to increase value to society - it's simply moving someone from one branch of the government to another.

How many people on Temasek or GIC's board of directors faced "competition" and the idea that they could go "bankrupt" if they screwed up. Mr Goodyear comes to mind and by now, we should all know what happened to him. I just hope for his sake that his parachute was made of solid gold and he's now making Crosus blush

Personally, I think the best thing to do is to float Temasek on the stock exchange. Everyone will win. The public will feel a sense of ownership as shareholders. The government will no longer have to spend time writing letters to the foreign media explaining that the CEO's position has nothing to do with her position as the Prime Minister's wife - something which not even Singaporeans believe. Most importantly, Temasek will honestly be able to say that it makes decisions purely on commercial grounds.

One example where this has worked is in Israel. Given that Singapore borrows allot of its ideas from Israel (SAF was created by instructors from the IDF), let's borrow another good idea - make the State holding company a commercial venture. Israel Corp is run by business people rather than former civil servants. It is listed on the Tel Aviv exchange and most importantly, its been highly profitable. When Israel Corp claims it's made money, nobody tries to hide in a corner and mumble - it's financial claims are open to public scrutiny.

Israel's culture is notoriously secrative and yet it allows it's national holding company to be run by business people. The results are there for all to see.

Yes, the Singapore government has been good to business but it's been good to business as a government. As government's go, Singapore is exceedingly lucky to the have the government that it has.

But being good at being a government does not mean that the government is good at running businesses. The results of the government in business are mediocre at best. Just look at Temasek. Surely, we should heed the words of our transport minister, Mr Raymond Lim who says,"We should not be in business found in the Yellow Pages."