UN WIPO is sitting on a treasure chest

By Emma Farge

GENEVA | Thu Aug 30, 2012 11:06am EDT

(Reuters) – Four months after a U.N. agency’s decision to send computer equipment to Iran and North Korea first stirred controversy, a feud has erupted between the body’s director general and a suspended senior manager over misconduct allegations.
In a suit filed with a U.N. tribunal, the manager accuses Francis Gurry, the Australian head of the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization, of pledging the equipment to the two sanctioned countries in exchange for their votes.
The suit also alleges Gurry earmarked posts for member states who backed him in his 2008 election and those whose votes he is trying to secure as part of his 2014 re-election bid.
WIPO is the U.N.’s richest body and is almost entirely self funded with annual revenues of over $300 million, mostly earned from patent application fees. It was created in the 1970s to promote intellectual property rights, particularly in the developing world, to further economic progress.
“The evidence suggests that the Director General has a track record of manipulating appointments to WIPO professional posts in exchange for votes,” said the complainant’s brief to the International Labour Organization’s Administrative Tribunal (ILOAT) filed on August 20.
The lawsuit was filed by Swiss-based lawyer Matthew Parish, partner at Holman Fenwick Willan, on behalf of a senior WIPO employee, Christopher Mason. Mason contends he was unjustly suspended for corruption in May 2011, wrongly accused of an improper relationship with a contractor at a firm bidding for a WIPO contract.
Gurry denied the allegations, saying he made no deals with any country in exchange for its support. He said a document cited by the claimant, which appears to list political appointments, was fabricated.
“No job pledges were made in exchange for political support, and no such document was ever created or approved by me. I believe that any document purporting to list pledges must be a work of fabrication,” he said in an emailed statement last week.
Mason’s lawyer Parish said: “The commitments document has been widely circulated throughout the diplomatic community for many months and is an open secret in WIPO.”
An International Labour Organization official declined to comment on the proceedings which she said were confidential.
Some diplomatic sources in New York, where the United Nations has its headquarters, dismissed Mason’s suit as a publicity ploy by an employee intent on embarrassing his former boss. They said they considered it unlikely the equipment in question would breach U.N. sanctions, which are less stringent than those imposed by the United States and European Union.
U.N. sanctions primarily target Iran and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. They also include a ban on arms exports and, in the case of North Korea, a ban on exports of luxury goods.
One diplomatic source familiar with the case said Mason may be motivated by a desire for revenge after his suspension.
Mason asked the WIPO Appeal Board to review his suspension in August 2011. The board found that the decision to suspend Mason from duty was “flawed” and recommended re-instatement and a moral injuries payment, a document of their conclusions dated March 2012 showed. Mason remains suspended, however.
Although the suit alleges that the transfers to Iran and North Korea were promised in return for their votes in Gurry’s 2008 election, it contained no proof to support this claim.
The allegations of vote buying could not be independently verified by Reuters. WIPO records show that Iran and North Korea were among 83 countries on the WIPO committee that selected the director general in 2008 in a secret ballot. The Iranian and North Korean diplomatic missions in Geneva did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Nevertheless, Mr. Mason’s supporters maintain that the suit’s claims are credible. These supporters include some inside the organization who declined to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the press and said they feared management retribution.
Mason’s sympathizers say further that the case offers a rare glimpse into what critics say is a widespread system of political patronage within the United Nations and raises broader questions about accountability at the world body.
For instance, the head of WIPO’s staff council Moncef Kateb has complained of political appointments “that contravene the most basic principles of international public service, particularly that of its independence”, according to a statement in 2010 before WIPO’s Coordination Committee, a body that advises the director general.
Kateb declined to comment for this story because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
“It’s totally unacceptable to have this type of deals and it corrupts the system,” said Hillel Neuer of U.N. Watch, a non-governmental group that monitors the United Nations. “Regrettably, it is common. Governments jostle for their own interests and a lot of unsavory dealings occur.”
Officials at the U.N. press office in New York did not respond to repeated email requests for comment.
The equipment in question, including servers, firewalls and computers worth roughly $200,000, was sent to Iran and North Korea, without the knowledge of other member states, according to a statement by Esther Brimmer, U.S. assistant secretary of state, earlier this month.
The 185-member agency says the transfers were legal and form part of a technical assistance program involving more than 80 countries to help them develop their patent offices.
The transfers of equipment by WIPO to Iran and North Korea are the subject of two U.S. government probes to establish whether they represented a breach of U.N. and U.S. sanctions aimed at curbing the development of nuclear technology.
The U.S. State Department said in July it was reviewing WIPO’s dealings with countries that are under sanctions after media released documents showing WIPO had been involved in shipments to Iran and North Korea. The Department’s initial conclusion is that there was no breach of U.N. sanctions because the items in question did not appear to be subject to a ban. The review is ongoing.
A U.N. Security Council diplomat said it was unlikely that its sanctions committees would take any action regarding the WIPO transfers of technology to Iran and North Korea for the same reason.
The U.N. panel of experts on North Korean sanctions said in its latest annual report that it was continuing to collect information on the WIPO case in relation to North Korea.
The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs is not yet convinced the transfers were legal, suspecting they may have involved banned items, a senior Congressional official involved in the investigation said. It is also reviewing a possible breach of the United States’ own sanctions as some of the equipment may have been produced by U.S. computer maker Hewlett Packard Co, the official added.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Lawmakers on the bi-partisan House Committee raised concern about possible WIPO retaliation against whis
tleblowers in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 12 and in a letter to Francis Gurry on July 16, both seen by Reuters.
“I can’t think of any action that has been taken against any whistleblower,” Gurry told Reuters in July.
Email correspondence dated July 20 from Gurry to WIPO senior staff member James Pooley, seen by Reuters, indicated that the director general denied him permission to give evidence to the House Committee. Pooley declined to comment for this story because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
Members of the Committee said a second senior WIPO staff member was prevented from testifying at the committee hearing in a letter to Gurry dated August 1, forcing the cancellation of the session.
Asked in July about claims that witnesses were being blocked, Gurry said he would allow any “properly competent person” on the Iran and North Korea projects to testify.
Gurry said in a statement on the WIPO website on July 19 that supplies to sanctioned countries would in future need to be referred to legal counsel, which would consult the U.N. Sanctions Committee where necessary. WIPO has also commissioned an external enquiry to review the projects with Iran and North Korea, led by a Swedish police official and a U.S. attorney.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; editing by Will Waterman and Janet McBride)
UN WIPO is sitting on a treasure chest, WIPO is the U.N.’s richest body and is almost entirely self funded with annual revenues of over $300 million, mostly earned from patent application fees. It was created in the 1970s to promote intellectual property rights, particularly in the developing world, to further economic progress. Every country wants to head this outfit, which will control the pulse-string of all UN projects, and the country which has the most patents which contributes most will most likely win.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Singapore's property market is heading like Japan's unless HDB is privatised, just change the rules in Parliament to allow HDB flats to be used for collateral

“We are coming towards the downward cycle of property demand which will bottom out in 2013/14 where supply is more than demand by comparing lower birth rates which is proportional to property demand where the slower economic growth will create enormous problems unless it is totally addressed by creating more demand by putting money into Singaporeans who owns 80% of HDB flats. The mass influx of FTs will not address this issue as not many are getting PR where the majority of buyers are Singaporeans.” – Contributed by Oogle.

Other sources of inflation, including from transport costs, credit growth and asset prices, should be “forcefully tackled,” the IMF added. http://sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/1-singapore-economy-slowed-weaker-221516166.html

Updated 08:00 PM Sep 01, 2012

More condo units returned this year

More buyers are returning their condominium units. Figures from a Singapore property research firm show the number has doubled in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.
Between January and July this year, more than 720 units have been returned. The figure was 488 during the same period last year.
Buyers who return units forfeit 1.25 per cent of the property value.
Analysts cite two main reasons for the spike. Mr Lim Yong Hock, senior vice-president, PropNex, said: “In the past six months, some property prices have exceeded S$1,800 per square foot. Some buyers who purchase on impulse may later regret and pull out. Another reason could be (that) some buyers are unable to secure a bank loan.” CHANNEL NEWSASIA

Peter Drucker wrote in his book Peter Drucker On The Profession of Management that “Demography is the future that has already happened”. Knowing the population dynamics of Japan’s population, he says, will allow one to predict that the demand for adult diapers will exceed those of baby diapers and businesses should prepare accordingly. This development has been reported by Bloomberg.
Every financial bubble (stock market, property, credit, etc) has a set of fundamentals behind that drive the initial boom. During the dotcom bubble, there were many new business models which were highly innovative and exciting and promised great returns. There were trailblazers like Amazon.com which revolutionized book selling, Yahoo! which took away advertising revenues from print media, etc.
Unfortunately, irrational exuberance led to a great bubble in the stock market, which drive the Nasdaq up to 5132 in January 2000 but subsequently crashed to 1108 in October 2002.
Similarly, there are fundamental drivers in the property market which often lead to boom and bust. It is intuitive that the greatest demand from housing come from the group of individuals between the age of 30 to 50.
Individuals in their 30’s are starting their family and aspire to buy a house or looking to upgrade to a bigger house to accommodate their growing families. Individuals in their 40s are usually at the peak of their earning power and will look to upgrade to bigger and more luxurious housing or investing in additional residential property.
Thus when these groups of individuals reach a peak in a country, they will kick start a boom in the property market. As the boom continues, investors and speculators will jump in and when things reach a fevered pitch, a bubble is formed.
Demand for housing will fall when the these groups of individuals age and their earning power reduces with retirement. A crash can be expected unless the population reproduces sufficiently to provide continued demand for housing.
Japan provides us with an excellent model to study from. The figures below are two population trends in Japan in 1990 (left chart) and 2010 (right chart). It clearly illustrates the dynamics as Japan’s population peak age group was in the 40’s in 1990 and increased to 60’s in 2010.

Simply comparing housing boom-bust cycles with demographic trends can be problematic as there are many other factors that contribute to the housing-market problems, eg. excessively loose monetary policies, immigration policies, lack of restrictions and curbs on property speculations, etc.

Nevertheless, these are important tell-tale signs which policy policymakers cannot ignore. The chart on the left shows the play-out of the boom and bust of Japan’s property from 1980 to 2005 which corresponds with its population trends.
Presently, China has a very similar population dynamic to 1990’s Japan. The figures below are striking. This has prompted the Bank of Japan to warn China about her housing bubble. (See here)
One cannot but agree with the Bank of Japan that present trends in China could result in very bad consequences for the housing market. The Japanese should know because they suffered from these mistakes for the past two decades.
It is debatable, however, whether the policymakers of China is willing or able to do anything about developments in their housing market.

Singapore’s population dynamics is also very similar to 1990’s Japan (see figure below). We will face a similar cycle in our property market unless our policymakers are willing to take unpopular measures to curb excessive speculation. We can also take steps to bolster the number in the 0-10 age group through increasing childbirth, etc.

Increasing the number of individuals in their 30s and 40’s through immigration will increase the size of this age group and add to the demand for housing in the present (further adding to the boom) but does not prevent the subsequent crash.
Unfortunately, the Government has tried for many years to persuade our younger generation to have more children without much success.
I suspect one big reason for many couples not having children or delaying forming their families may be that young people are finding housing to be increasingly unaffordable.
If so, controlling excessive property speculation may be one key to our low birthrate problem.
Dr Toh Beng Chye
*Dr Toh Beng Chye is a medical doctor and is a member of SDP’s Healthcare Advisory Panel.

There must be policy reforms or Singapore will sink

By Jeanette Tan | Yahoo! Newsroom
In a wide-ranging interview with former GIC chief economist Yeoh Lam Keong, Yahoo! Singapore’s JEANETTE TAN  finds out what he thinks are the key challenges Singapore faces in its quest for continued economic development. This is the last of a three-part series entitled “Behind Singapore Inc.” that takes a look at the country’s key policies and governance.
[Read Part I and II of this series.]
Former top financial sector economist Yeoh Lam Keong says the government should be more pragmatic in its approach and return to its roots to meet and serve the needs of the ordinary citizen.
The 54-year-old, who was the chief economist at the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation for a decade, said the ruling People’s Action Party succeeded and even exceeded expectations in doing this, from Singapore’s early years right up to the mid-1990s.
“One of its founding values, which is still found in large measure in government today, is pragmatism — ‘I will do what works to get what I need done, done successfully, regardless of ideology, convention or dogma’ — that’s a great strength of our government,” said Yeoh, who left GIC last year to spend more time with his family.
However, during a recent one-hour interview with Yahoo! Singapore, the economist said this innovative pragmatism has been replaced by a rigid mindset of conventional policy and what he terms an over-reliance on market forces as the best basis for social policy design. He singled out the area of social welfare, where the government believes spending should be avoided or minimised.
“It is unrealistic (for example) to expect individuals and families to be able to look after their healthcare needs successfully without hardship in our current system,” he says. “Right now, it needs more systemic government support and active management given actual wage, economic and demographic trends.”
“That kind of systemic policy reform and re-engineering is something they (the government) are very capable of, so they need to go back to being realistic and pragmatic, as opposed to defensive and ideological — assuming things will work out, that the market will adequately provide.”
The need for a change in mindset is pressing, says Yeoh, who warns of a potential backlash from voters in future elections that could hamstring policy should the party fail to tackles current issues head-on.
“They need to be more realistic and return to creating policies for true citizen well-being. If they don’t, they will likely continue to erode public trust in policymaking and government credibility,” said Yeoh, who lives in a five-room HDB flat in Marine Terrace and who still takes public transport.
Beyond that, Yeoh says this could lead to policy paralysis, or worse still, populist policy that sacrifices the long-term good for short-term political success.
“We can’t afford that in Singapore. You need strong public trust in government policy capability, and you need the government to be able to mobilise the public to do what is needed together, even if it is difficult.”
‘Start making changes’
How to show a change in mindset? Yeoh says the party simply needs to start making changes — in housing, healthcare, education, social security, unemployment protection and really tackling poverty.
“They need to wake up and smell the coffee, (and) make the serious, far-reaching policy adjustments — they are fully capable of it,” he says. “If they can go back and address those areas, and it’s well within their capability, they will win back a lot of policy credibility; they’ll win back a lot of their original brand.”
Yeoh said he felt encouraged by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s promise in his recent National Day Rally that his government will engage all Singaporeans in a National Conversation to re-look current government policies.
“I thought that the PM’s focus on heart issues and social policy was refreshing and authentic,” he said, sensing the government’s serious interest in re-engaging with the public.
He also called the PM’s National Conversation “a much needed move” toward genuine dialogue and collaboration on policy issues that matter to citizen well-being, but added his hope that it will not simply be a cosmetic one.
“My dearest hope is that it… will actually be matched by the substance of real policy solutions. Rather than just ‘re-affirm, recalibrate and refresh’, are we also willing to really re-think, reform and co-create a truly national social vision, with a supporting core of social policies that bring citizen well-being to a new, materially higher level?”
It is at this point that Yeoh raises his caveat: these changes need to be made realistically, in a manner suited to current times. They must also be sensitive to circumstances rising from globalisation, wage stagnation, ageing and rising structural unemployment exacerbated by wage restructuring.
“They (the government) just need to get into gear and deal seriously with it,” he adds. “They’re perfectly capable of managing overall policy reform, but they also have to realise that they need to be a lot more consultative and collaborative about it as the issues are a lot more complex than they used to be in the 60s, 70s or even the 80s.”
Yeoh also notes that given the new normal in Singapore, these sweeping reforms need to be designed and implemented in a politically participative and contentious public environment.
And indeed, consultation is key — something the PAP has been gradually doing more of in recent months, and even more so now with Education Minister Heng Swee Keat’s pledge to engage all in a National Conversation.
“They need to get real about facilitation of crowding in and aggregating expertise in co-creating policy,” he says. “Lots of big companies and regional governments are doing it; a lot of governments have done it — why can’t they? I’m sure they can. You need to realise it’s difficult but very, very necessary, and only then can you do it.”
Not counting them out yet
Despite the blunt manner in which Yeoh speaks out about policies and governance, he ultimately does still have faith in the capability of Singapore’s government as an institution.
“I haven’t counted the government out yet — I hope they may yet deliver on a lot of these things (housing, healthcare and education, in particular), and that they may actually move significantly in these areas,” he says.
Despite the wave of anti-government sentiment in Singapore’s online space, Yeoh says he genuinely feels that most Singaporeans want to give the government the benefit of the doubt.
“Most Singaporeans would love to see them deal decisively and pragmatically with these issues as they did long ago, and are rooting for them, but they’re just not giving Singaporeans who are hoping for somet
hing to cling to. And as a result their hope is sort of slipping away,” he says.
He adds, “That’s the real pity — the loss of the chance of real policy reform that can really bring the well-being of citizens to a new high that we can afford, and the loss of the leadership opportunity to craft a new social compact for Singapore’s future, by reclaiming our key founding values.”

New antenna that increases Wi—Fi speed by 200 times

Updated: Tue, 28 Aug 2012 17:29:51 GMT | By Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: Researchers from A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME) have developed the first compact high performance silicon—based cavity—backed slot (CBS) antenna that operates at 135 GHz.
About the size of a sesame seed, it is the smallest silicon—based CBS antenna reported to date for ready integration with active circuits.
IME’s innovation will help realise a wireless communication system with very small form factor. It is almost two—thirds cheaper than a conventional CBS antenna.
The antenna can support wireless speed of 20 Gbps — more than 200 times faster than present day Wi—Fi.
This means there will be ultra fast point—to—point access to rich media content which is useful in online learning and entertainment.
— CNA/cc

Singapore has become a haven for all kinds of shadow activities

Happily I go to Malaysia change my S$1 to $2.52+ ringgit every few weeks to spend… however, some Singaporean ya-ya-papaya think that strong S$ means Singapore economy more powerful or gaining strength on Malaysia and so on. This is the view of IGNORANT people.
1. Why did MAS allow Sing$ to go up so much despite negative GDP growth last quarter?
There is very high inflation in Singapore and raising the S$ makes the imported component of the CPI lower thus lowering the overall inflation figure to 5.3% which is already quite bad. Imagine at 6% our inflation will be higher than 3-month Spanish bonds!!!
This is a sign the Singapore govt is losing control of domestic price inflation and using the S$ to make imports cheap to hide inflation pressures.
2. Our export sector is hurting and property bubble is prop up to keep us out of recession?
Why you think MAS allow 50 year home loan. If property sector shrinks immediately, Singapore will be in recession because export sector is weak. The govt is just playing the number to prevent a recession by artificially propping up property sector.
3. As for some people think S$ strong almighty against the ringgit means Singapore BETTER
Actually Malaysian inflation rate is 1.7% vs 5% in Singapore. Malaysian economic growth is 5% vs negative for Singapore last quarter.
The way Singaporeans can gain from this is stronger Sing$ is to go to Malaysia to spend their money. But you cannot spend every S$1 in Malaysia no matter what. Most of your money has to be spent in Singapore unless you MOVE TO MALAYSIA. That means you’re exposed to high inflation while Malaysians are not, despite their weaker ringgit. The weaker ringgit means Malaysian exports are stronger.
4. Strong S$ despite strong outward remittance flow = high dependency on capital inflows of hot money, tax evaders and money launderers
Half the workforce is foreign. They feed their families back home in Philippines, India and China. This means there is high remittance flow as these workers convert their salary to foreign currencies putting downward pressure on S$. Our trade deficit is very large.
To balance our accounts we depend on rich people from India, China, USA to shift money here to avoid tax in their home countries. Some of the money (like Ma Chi’s) is of unclear origin. This means Singapore is forced to keep taxes on wealth artificially low even as income gap balloons. If billionaires stop parking their money here, the merry-go-round stops and things can sink FAST.
Singapore economy is propped up artificially. It is not healthy. We have no Samsung, Acer or HTC. We are flushing the economy with all sorts of money avoiding taxes, running from their own govt. This means we try to ‘makan’ the highly corrupt western banking pie as western banks fail – this is likely done by deregulation and allowing more shadow activities in Singapore. If Obama wins again, he is likely to shut down this type of parasitic business growing like cancer and breeding the most foul type of financial businesses and humans.
Ok… next week I happily go spend my S$ in Malaysia… but I not so ‘gong kia’ to think it is because things are so steady ‘poon pi pi’ in Singapore.


“Casino operators regret the growing power of ‘junket’ operators in mainland China that account for most of the Macau casinos’ earnings,” one U.S. consulate official reported in a 2008 Wikileaks cable obtained by Reuters through a third party. “They believe the operators are directly or indirectly involved with organized crime in Macau and the mainland,” it said. Do we have the same problems in Singapore? Definitely but everyone is closing an eye. I see tracks of evidence of human trafficking, loan sharks, money laundering, prostitution and all kinds of illegal activities making their inroads into Malaysia and Singapore from HK and mainland china. If there is no secret Swiss Bank accounts, everyone will get a shock how far the money trail will point to.

More than 47 years of abuse and milking the cow until it has no milk, this credit should go to LKY(666) and not his son LSL until things get so complicated, do not follow the footsteps of your father, where the love of money is the root of all evil, that we need to mass import FTs, build two casinoes that caused Singaporeans to live a life of sin and invite thieves and robbers to hide their shadow activities. We do not need PAP’s solutions, they are really betrayers, I am capable of ensuring we can build a future even without resources for our children and retirement. Come GE2016 Singapore will have a coalition government to rebuild from scratch what is lost, to ensure a bright future for Singaporeans again.
– Contributed by Oogle. 

PM Lee : Stop blaming Singaporeans, blame yourself

“Yeah, Singapore’s shared future – ‘HOPELESSLY expensive living’, ‘HEARTLESSLY replaced by foreign trash’ and ‘HOMELESSLY not your Singapore anymore’”. WHCL added, “These are the feelings of true Singaporeans fed up of Singapore’s current state today and which will not be published offline by pro-government media in any newspapers. If you don’t believe me, the above will be repeatedly uttered by many on many online forums.”

Please PM, stop talking rubbish. Stop pushing the buck by blaming Singaporeans.
We are not only angry with you for destroying the social, economic and political fabric of Singapore by senselessly importing 2 millions foreigners here but we want you out of Parliament by 2016 for such a disgraceful and totally irresponsible act.
The problem is you and your useless party, the PAP, and not anybody else.
We are true blue Singaporeans, not anonymous netizens as you want to black-mark us. So what if the international community call us anti-foreigner. If at all, you and your party are to be blamed. Foreigners will understand our total frustration and desperation if they know that our small island has a foreign population of 40% and counting brought about by you and your irresponsible party and no one else.
You have created a national crisis of mammoth proportion and you are calling for a national conversation to desensitize us. We do not want a national conversation with a govt that has gone mad and totally insensitive to the feelings and views of Singaporeans. We want you out of Parliament.
Now PM, why don’t you admit your blunders and resign rather than calling for a National Conversation. If there is to be one, it will be held after 2016 when you and your party are dead and gone, thrown into the dustbins of history as you so thoroughly deserved, a punishment for your extremely poor performances and the sufferings that you have brought to the people of Singapore.
2016 awaits…
PM Stop Talking Rubbish
* Comments first appeared in: PM Lee concerns over many nasty online posts by Singaporeans about foreigners

"The Emperor's New Clothes", what a joke – Singapore is the 'richest country'

By most standards, it would be reason to bring out the champagne bottle, but because of the extraordinary circumstances, the majority of Singaporeans are not cheering.
WHILE celebrating their 47th National Day, Singaporeans received news that people anywhere would die to hear that their country is now the richest in the world.
Technically speaking, this transformation from a poor, squatter island in less than 50 years has been impressive.
During this time, without much natural resources, the city has recorded one of the world’s fastest growth rates on per capita basis, exceeded only by Japan and Germany after World War II.
It has, like an invisible giant hand, lifted the bulk of a squalid population and moved it into the middle class. Few others with bigger natural assets have fared as well.
Yet the news has evidently impressed the world more than it did Singaporeans.
The reason is that the majority of citizens here are too concerned with the structured high cost of living that collective wealth has bestowed. It has made the city one of the most expensive in the world.
On perspective, however, most Singaporeans have benefitted from the progress over the generation. A minority has prospered greatly.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Singapore’s per capita GDP has reached US$56,532 (RM175,250) in 2010 – measured by purchasing power parity. This has beaten Norway, the United States and Hong Kong.
By most standards, this would have been reason to bring out the champagne bottle, but because of the extraordinary circumstances, the majority of Singaporeans are not cheering.
Since the report, the number of centa-millionaires – people with more than US$100mil (RM310mil) – has grown 13%, higher than the global average at 6%.
The problem is that it is predicted to grow by another 44% by 2016, which probably means higher inflation for all.
The fact is that Singaporeans – already hit by one of the world’s highest inflation rates – are too burdened by expensive housing, cars and general living expenses to be cheerful.
Yet, there is no denying that the majority of Singaporeans are living better than they ever had. Singapore has been transformed into a middle class society and now has the dubious title of being the wealthiest in the world.
But in the past five years, living standards have taken a turn for the worse for many people despite the collective affluence.
An influx of cheap-cost foreigners has resulted in acute shortage and income stagnation in many cases.
So why are Singaporeans so unimpressed with living in the richest land in the world? The reasons are as follows:

• Some 37% of residents are foreigners, quite a few of them ultra-wealthy. The import of billionaires provides little or no benefits to the average citizens except pushing up prices. Take the foreigner portion away and the city could be that much poorer; and
• A large part of the wealth is in corporate hands rather than with individuals. Not all of it ends up in big-paying jobs for locals.

As a result of the large amount of money sloshing around, prices of things like houses, cars and healthcare are rising with no sign of abating. Many loans and mortgages are increasing.
Forbes recently reported: “The latest list of wealthy Singaporeans showed lots of money sloshing around Singapore – but it may just be the tip of the iceberg.”
Good news? I don’t think so. No Singaporeans are crazy enough to pray for poverty, but extreme wealth in the hands of a few is just as bad. Without that the economic gap here is already the world’s widest.
Singapore’s richest people have a collective net worth of US$59.4bil (RM184bil), up from $54.4bil (RM168.8bil) last year. It now has 16 billionaires compared to 13 the previous year, Forbes reported.
Ten of every 100,000 households in Singapore are now classified as “ultra-high-net-worth” households, with each having more than US$100mil (RM310mil) in private financial wealth.
All these impressive fortunes are good for boasting, but believe me, I would rather wish for a more even distribution. The foreign billionaires can be here today, gone tomorrow.
Singaporeans are practical enough to realise that wealth in the form of paper notes is too transient.
Since it is measured in US dollars, part of the fast growth is due to the strong surging Singapore dollar.
Are we in fact richer than countries like Indonesia or Australia, which may not have our cash or GDP but have plenty of natural resources in the ground like oil, iron or even water that are more abiding?
This was an early reason that former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew gave for Singapore accumulating huge amounts of reserves. “It’s for a rainy day” a crisis to make up for lack of ground wealth.
As the wealth report was released, the pro-government The Straits Times reported that the number of households on short and medium-term public assistance shot up by 81% – from 5,471 to 9,911 over the past year.
This rising wealth is greeted with pride by a few elderly citizens who remember their poorer past. But, by and large, Singaporeans have reacted cynically to it.
Prominent blogger yawning bread wrote: “There might have been a time when people here would have taken pride in such an accolade.”
Now, he said, the publication of the news on page one of the major newspaper, The Straits Times, “must have annoyed a lot of people”.
“I don’t feel rich,” another Singaporean said. How could Singapore be richer than Switzerland or the US?
“Statistics can be toyed around to fit any agenda. Look around you – does this look like the richest country on the planet?” asked Invictus.
Seah Chiang Nee
Chiang Nee has been a journalist for 40 years. He is a true-blooded Singaporean, born, bred and says that he hopes to die in Singapore. He worked as a Reuters corespondent between 1960-70, based in Singapore but with various assignments in Southeast Asia, including a total of about 40 months in (then South) Vietnam between 1966-1970. In 1970, he left to work for Singapore Herald, first as Malaysia Bureau Chief and later as News Editor before it was forced to close after a run-in with the Singapore Government. He then left Singapore to work for The Asian, the world’s first regional weekly newspaper, based in Bangkok to cover Thailand and Indochina for two years between 1972-73. Other jobs: News Editor of Hong Kong Standard (1973-74),  Foreign Editor of Straits Times with reporting assignments to Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and The United States (1974-82) and Editor of Singapore Monitor (1982-85). Since 1986, he has been a columnist for the Malaysia’s The Star newspaper. Article first appeared in his blog, http://www.littlespeck.com.
Editor’s note: The quote from netizen Invictus came from TRE

August 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm

It’s a fact statistics can be toyed with to fulfil whatever agenda you have.
Look around you – does this look like the richest country on the planet.
We hardly have world class entrepreneurs to shout about, no nat
ural resources to brag about.
Things getting stupidly expensive, wiping out any real increase in wages the average person.
PAP only interested to create this impression to draw more of the rich to Singapore… Without thinking how it will destroy the fabric of the county.

HDB is a ponzi scheme to lockup your CPF monies so that the PAP is able to get cheap funding without collateral with the excuse they are protecting your “assets”. This “asset enhancement” scheme can only benefit you when your HDB flat is truly privatised, since even HDB housing loans are no longer provided by HDB direct but by private banks. There is no way we can reach “Swiss Standard of Living” without sacrificing this sacred cow and only the privatisation of HDB over say a period of 5 years estate by estate will help Singaporeans offset the increases of costs of everything, by creating wealth for 80% of the population. We can then be truly the “richest country”.
This problem is caused by PAP endorsing in the Parliament that HDB flats cannot be used as collateral, indirectly creating a liability for all flat owners, whereby even if your HDB flat makes money, you must sell it in order to net the proceeds. In order to unlock this for the privatisation of HDB, this rule must be changed. 
When HDB was first formed, the idea is to provide affordable housing for the masses, but since HDB land is pegged to market prices, it’s objectives has changed where “profit” is the motive and since everyone is paying market prices now, PAP must be forced to release their hold on HDB flats, and privatised the entire HDB.
“It is quite disconcerting to note that they (HDB) decided to choose a big house firm Allen and Gledhill which can rack up exorbitant legal fees. Allen and Gledhill is one the biggest and reputable law firms and can easily charge more than $10,000 for their work, depending on the complexity of the case. As this has progressed to the High Court, one can imagine the high legal fees already paid up-front.”
HDB is an organisation whose executive powers even the MPs have no powers to question whose purpose has changed from providing affordable housing to “profit” motives to fund the PAP war machine, their objective is to create the largest entity in the world so that it becomes a “resource” for PAP government to tap on, to fund their GIC and TH, this at the expense of Singaporeans, by denying the HDB flat owner access to fundings, making HDB flats illiquid except to themselves. This objective must be stopped at all costs, and the rights rightfully returned to all Singaporeans HDB flat owners. By using Allen and Gledhill they(HDB) want to intimidate everyone trying to challenge it’s authority, which they consider as absolute. 
– Contributed by Oogle.