#262 the new year

What shall year 2010 bring?

Since the subprime and economic crunch — many lost their homes and jobs in the US and the stock markets plummet affecting the world economy– that appeared without warning in 2008 brought uncertainties and economic recession through to 2009, hoping 2010 will be better and brighter economically, politically and socially.

 

That which beyond my control, I shall not worry.

That which I can, I shall be mindful of — 

that is, in specific areas of attitudes, relationships and responsibilities.

Advertisements

#250 where is customer service at ntuc finesse supermarket?

Today while shopping at the Bukit Timah NTUC Finesse supermarket, I find workers at the fresh vegetable and fruit produce rather irksome.

My friend and I were trying to decide on some freshly packed salads when a worker came around to shove my friend aside. When I questioned him why was he so rude, his answer was: “I thought you were talking.”  The disgust was we received no word of apology!!!

In the first place, there was presumptuous on the part of the worker. Mind you he is only a WORKER and NOT customers! How dare such presumption!

WORKERS are paid to render service and CUSTOMERS paid for the services. If there is NO CUSTOMER, workers are NOT paid and soon workers will be out of job!

If the supermarkets want to survive, I suggest the management consider the RIGHTS OF CUSTOMERS and offer GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE!

Is this the new generation of WORKERS? Is this how the management is training its workers?

Is this what service means here in Singapore especially at the high end of the NTUC supermarket?

 

In the 1960s, at tender age, I remember shopping at Cold Storage, the high-end supermarket that treated their customers as kings.

All fresh produce and products were nicely placed on the shelves before the supermarket actually open its doors for service.

Today, generally Cold Storage still remain the same but not all outlets though. Marketplace and Kimisawa are worth the mention on generally courteous service. These are high-end supermarkets unlike…

 

By contrast today, we find workers streaming in at the same time as the customers. Often times, these workers are always in the way of customers and workers feel they have the right of way and boldly asked customers to move aside for them to trolley their produce or move aside for them to place the produce on the shelf!!!

Singapore has been talking about offering good customer service. Where is customer service especially at the high-end NTUC supermarts? Are these workers trained to be rude and abrasive and presumptuous to customers?

#248 poverty

Finally the real question is asked on poverty in some nations: why is Africa poor?

A commentator, an African, candidly acknowledges that Africa is rich in resources but it is their national leaders who are corrupt and squandered the people’s wealth for their own pleasure.

The leaders fill their own stomach but the people…?

Should surrounding or rich nations offer charity to help these poor?

Unfortunately civil unrests and killings are endemic in Africa. Why do people kill people? 

Many mad leaders who champion freedom exploited children to fight! The leaders would not soil their hands… How depraved some adults or leaders are!

What is freedom? Where is freedom? What is democracy? Where is human rights?

#240 thai red-tees

Sad indeed to see and hear that the red-tees protestors (of ousted and exiled Thaksin) stormed into the venue where the Asian Summit leaders were to meet over the weekend. The leaders were evacuated and the meeting cancelled.

These protestors appear to become bolder and bolder as the day passes…

“The government can’t do anything,” said Lada Yingmanee, a 37-year-old protester. “We will show them what tens of thousands of unarmed civilians can do. The people will finally rule our beloved Thailand.”

Speaking to the crowd at Government House, the prime minister’s office, a protest leader, Jakrapob Penkair, said a state of emergency was “a declaration of war against the people of Thailand.”
He added: “They will try to disperse the crowds, but we will remain at Government House. We will start a people’s war.”

They became lawless to the point of attacking the car of the prime minister! Have they disregarded the Parliament which appointed Abhisit as their prime minister?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7989023.stm

 “I believe the people have seen what happened to me,” Mr. Abhisit said on television shortly afterward. “They have seen that the protesters were trying to hurt me and smash the car.”

Do these protestors have an alternative person in mind if they had wanted the present prime minister out? Or are these protestors fighting air?

Have the red-tees fallen into the hand of Thaksin who had been making nightly broadcasts (according to sources) from Dubai, UAE?

In the midst of the global financial crisis and economic downturn, are those without jobs joining in these groups hoping for a miracle? Or, is this one way of making a few bahts to survive for the moment?

“We need reconciliation, and I don’t see any sign that it is coming,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University. “Signs are pointing in the opposite direction, which is that things are going to get worse.”

It is a situation that Mr. Thaksin may be hoping to exploit, Mr. Thitinan said, in which he could return as the only person to bring the red shirts under control.

“Right now the red shirts are on the resurgence, and we don’t know where they are going with it,” Mr. Thitinan said. “But the pendulum is likely to swing to very suppressive tactics and brutal and harsh reactions from the right, the establishment.”

#235 hedgefunds & derivatives

I read about hedgefunds and derivatives needing more regulations on US news.

However I do recall in February of 1995, the Barings Bank founded in 1762 in Britain was bankrupted by a rogue trader who was then posted to Singapore to manage its securities arm of the bank. He speculated on some derivatives contracts that left a $1.4 billion hole in Barings balance sheet that brought its demise — the merchant bank that once financed the Napoleonic Wars, Louisiana and Erie Canal and was Queen Elizabeth’s personal bank.

Why were these instruments still in the market since?

Why did those American financial institutions rationalise in support for such instruments that had brought the demise of a 233-year-old merchant bank in 1995?

Is this one reason that created the financial blackhole which cause this global economic meltdown?

#234 thot-provoking

I read this piece on blog ‘a baseline scenario’ written by Sanjiv Gupta for Huffington Post (?) dated on 10 March 2009 under the title — The Change We Need I: A Bank for America — :

 …Rather, I want to use the crisis in our financial system to pose a fundamental question about our political system.

Consider: What is democracy?

We normally think of democracy in terms of some essential, precious rights not available in any other political system, not the least of which are the right to vote that made Obama President, and the right to express ourselves freely on websites like this one.

But now we’re compelled to ask: What does democracy mean when our lives can be so drastically affected by the Market, in which the most powerful players are people we haven’t elected, and institutions in which most of us have little say?

When the Market, an entirely human creation, can ruin us as effectively as a hurricane, sweeping hundreds of thousands of us from our homes, destroying the livelihoods of millions more, and washing away the retirement security of an entire generation?

When the actions of organizations wholly unaccountable to us can imperil our public libraries, parks, fire departments, and schools? When many of our elected representatives have facilitated these actions instead of protecting our interests?

If there is a positive side to the financial crisis, it is this: We can no longer avoid confronting the limits of our democracy when our lives and communities are thrown into such violent disarray by individuals and organizations so completely outside our reckoning. (3)

It is this same crisis, moreover, that points the way toward a more complete democracy, one in which we will have greater control over the financial system. That is because the core of any government strategy to rescue this system will be — and already has been — a massive injection of our money into it.

If we’re going to pay to save the financial system, we have the right to shape its future.

Banking and credit are the economy’s air and water. They’re too important to be left entirely to private operators whose only concern is maximizing short term profits. Yet even the most ardent mainstream proponents of nationalization assume that once this crisis passes, the government should, and will, re-privatize any financial institutions it takes over.

What then? What is to prevent these organizations from continuing to invent ever more destructive “financial weapons of mass destruction?” (4) Will they be any more accountable to us after the next cycle of boom, bubble and bust?

It is time we considered the possibility of permanent public ownership and control of a large part of the nation’s system of savings and lending.

How might this work? One way is the creation of a national public bank along the lines of a credit union. Credit unions are owned not by shareholders but by their depositors, or members. We would own a national credit union in which all of us could be members.

A national credit union would combine our deposits into a huge pool of capital to lend, invest, and do all the other things banks do. Crucially, we would exercise far greater control over such a bank than we ever could over institutions like Bank of America. Credit union members vote for their board of directors. Unlike private banks, in which the greatest influence is exercised by those with the largest number of shares, every member enjoys the same voice in a credit union — one depositor, one vote.

Would a national credit union be competitive with large private banks? Like existing credit unions, it would return profits directly to us in the form of favorable interest rates for loans and deposits. For example the typical yield on certificates of deposit at the largest credit union in my area is about one percent higher than Bank of America’s, and the yield on its best checking account is over 4%, compared to less than 1% for BoA. (5)

A national bank structured along these lines may also be safer than large private banks. Credit union managers are salaried employees who earn wage increases rather than exorbitant bonuses for good performance, which reduces their incentive to take wild risks with members’ money. This would not by itself guarantee the stability of a national credit union, but its managers and directors would at least be accountable to us if things went wrong.

This is just one way the government could use our money to create a national public bank; there are other possibilities. (6) Whatever its specific form, a permanent national bank could compete with private banks and demonstrate the benefits of a financial institution owned by, and accountable to, the people.

At stake here is not solely or even most importantly the stability of our banks; rather, it is the very character of our democracy. A large, public financial sector could be a critical piece of a new democracy in which we cannot be held hostage by organizations over which we have no control. In this new democracy, the heresy would be not the notion of public ownership of financial institutions, but rather the idea that these institutions should exert so much power over our lives without being accountable to us.

Let us use this crisis to move ourselves in the direction of such a democracy. Let us demand that the government use our money not merely to bail out Bank of America but to create a new Bank for America.
NOTES

…3. Simon Johnson, ex-chief economist at the IMF and currently at the MIT Sloan School of Management, has been one of the few mainstream commentators to correctly identify the financial meltdown as not just an economic crisis but a deeply political one. “This is, after all, a critical fight to save American democracy, and it’s good to know what we are up against.”

4. This is the now famous formulation of Warren Buffett in his 2002 letter to investors in his mutual fund (p. 15).

5. One reason this credit union may be able to offer better rates is that membership in it is open only to employees of the local educational institutions. This may be a more stable base of depositors than most private banks like BoA, and translate into better rates. This could be a problem for a large national bank open to all.

6. Gerald Epstein, an economist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, advocates a reversal of the proposal that the government should detoxify bank balance sheets by buying their bad assets. “A much better approach is to turn the formula on its head. Let the taxpayers keep the good banks and leave the bad ones for the bankers…And the bankers will have to deal with their own mess, rather than foisting it off on the rest of us.” With the new good banks, the government could create “a completely different banking environment, one with a completely different mandate and incentives” and considerably greater public accountability.

#233 bonuses for inept executives?

Well, well, well — the management of AIG is using bailout money to give bonuses to executives who almost brought the company to brink of collapse.

The rationale: if the management did not, then the company would have difficulty in hiring talented people in future!

How irrational this can be? Giving bonuses to those executives who could not lift the corporation out of the rut in the US? Should these executives not be sacked in the first place?

Should AIG be made bankrupt, will the US economy come crashing? Are these executives any better than Madoff?

How many of these executives after receiving the bonus can sleep peacefully or eat their food contentedly when those whom they sold the premiums to have actually lost their security for life and living in poverty?

Will this be victory to Osama bin Laden in wanting to see the US economy go bust!

Is there concerted effort to open corruption among the AIG management? 

If the US economy collapsed, then those who invested in the US Treasury Bond comes to nought!?!

UPDATE several days later: Bonuses to be taxed at 90% of that received!?!