Singapore Town

Recently our office renamed our conference room following a Singapore theme. On the way into office today, I saw the new signs to “Raffles” room and “Esplanade” room, and for some reason thought of the song “Singapore Town”:

You could take a little trip around Singapore town

In a Singapore city bus

To see Collyer Quay and Raffles Place

The Esplanade and all of us

Chorus:

Because in Singapore, Singapore

Their hearts are big and wide you’ll find

Because in Singapore, Singapore

You’ll find happiness for everyone

This upbeat tune playing in my head made me feel quite sad, because I’m not sure this song really describes Singapore anymore. Singapore used to have “friendly shores” that “welcomed our fathers long ago” (quoted from “This is my  Land”) but these days those same shores are just not as friendly anymore. Those same people whose fathers from China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and all over were welcomed just one, two or at most three generations ago are saying that they now have a birthright to this little red dot and they don’t want anyone else to partake of it. I’m all for a non-claustrophobic way of living. I almost hyperventilate when I’m at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on a weekend. But more important to me is a caring community, where everyone loves thy neighbour, including the foreigner.

More!

Recently the topic of Singaporeans being encouraged to have more babies is coming up again. The past 2 years during Chinese New Year when people saw Sophia (as a 1 month old and barely past 1 year old) the standard comment was “congratulations” and now when they see the 2 year old, I’m getting “time to try for more!”

I’ve been reading other bloggers write about how expensive it is to have a child in Singapore. The hospital bill for the delivery itself came up to more than $10k for my first child and something like $17-20k for all the medical expenses throughout pregnancy. True that I am more demanding when it comes to medical service standards and it is probably possible to keep it much lower but fact is I don’t want to save on anything connected with my child. Preschool fees alone will work out to more than $90k per child and that is assuming they don’t raise their fees (which is fat hope because Sophia’s preschool has already raised their fees by more than $100 per month between the time she registered a place less than a year ago and now).  And all these before we even talk about proper schooling. Its a good thing primary and secondary education is virtually free in Singapore but then comes university. According to this projection, 4 years of local university education in 2030 is projected to cost approximately $152,162, and that is provided the child can and wants to go to a local university. If she were to go overseas either for better prospects or because she cannot get into a local university, the projected cost can be as high as $430,239. Add to that food, accommodation, clothes and other expenses for 20 year (potentially more given the trend that is already apparent now where young people are relying on their parents to buy them their matrimonial house, car etc. ), you are probably looking at a cost of a million a child, roughly.

The babybonus, CDA account and other incentives are peanuts compared to the cost of raising a child. The monetary incentives should not, therefore, be the motivating factor for having children. That’s not to say that people should not have children. They should. I did and may continue to, but it should be for the right reasons of loving children, wanting to raise a family etc. I do embrace the new paternity leave package and the message it is giving on shared parenthood responsibility though. I just hope the men don’t use it to play more golf instead of spending time with the new baby.

Singapore smoking ban extension

Yay!!!! Smokers probably hate the new rules and yes I get it, from your point of view, you effectively have to stand out in the sun to smoke. But smoking in public areas like corridors would mean that lots of innocent people will have no choice but to take in your second hand smoke if they want to get to the other side of the corridor.

I’ve always been anti-smoking, even to my favourite grandpa I close my door on him when he lights up. And he’s considerate in that he prefers that I do that too because he knows its unfair for me to have to partake in second-hand smoke. But some people are not. This round of smoking ban extension came immediately after a hawker blew second hand smoke straight into the face of my 2 year old angel and when I covered her face to avoid it, shouted very loudly “Smoking is GOOD!”. So, you see, I am glad I can now officially call up the National Environment Agency and ask that they do something about people like that.

What are your thoughts about the new rules on smoking ban?

[Update] I struggled with the comments for a while but eventually decided to approve both the supporters and naysayers, except for those who make personal attacks on no basis. For the negative comment, I was very tempted to reply but on second thoughts, there is probably no need to, readers can judge for themselves. To Andrew, it is a rather tough job for NEA, one would imagine that it would be difficult for an enforcement officer to reach the spot before a smoker is done with his stick, and after that it would be impossible for them to impose any fine since there is no evidence of the offence. Also, smokers are complaining about the new ban and there are many of them so NEA also needs to be conscious of not generating too much unhappiness among the public. Its tough. But on the whole, I’m all for clean air and think the world would be a much better place without cigarettes. It just takes time.

Singapore Property Cooling Measures – January 2013

There goes my plans as an average Singaporean wishing to purchase a second residential property as small time investment (not speculation). Most of my peers are skeptical about even the last wave of drastic cooling measures which will dash hopes of the non-Singaporeans among us of owning their homes here and hopes of the Singaporeans among us of being a small time landlord. We feel that the rich businessmen in the region will continue to come in with their cash (so LTV ratio is not a problem for them) and the additional stamp duty may not deter them since Singapore remains a relatively safe, easy and cheap place to invest in property (~13%  didn’t deter them so why should ~18%). On the bright side, at least the government gets more income that it can use towards making lives of Singaporeans better, even if the measures don’t have as much effect as hoped.

For the benefit of those who didn’t have time to catch up on the news or do the calculation, here’s a summary of the costs involved in property purchase:

1. Option money

Mode: Cash

Amount: Usually 1%, but nothing in law to say its got to be 1%. I have seen a different amount once in a very specific circumstance.

Time: Whenever you decide you want to buy the property.

2. Exercise option

Mode: Cash

Amount: Usually 4% of purchase price, or whatever amount it takes to make up 5% when added to option money.

Time: Within the option period, usually 14 days from signing option to purchase.

3. Stamp duty

Mode: Cash

Amount: Normal stamp duty (1% on first $180,000, 2% on next $180,000 and 3% on subsequent amounts), plus Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty are as follows:

  • Singapore Citizens: none on first property, 7% on second property, 10% on third and subsequent properties
  • Singapore Permanent Residents: 5% on first property. 10% on second and subsequent properties
  • Foreigners and non individuals (such as companies): 15% on all properties

Time: Within 14 days of exercising option

4. Completion

Mode: Combination of cash, CPF and loan

Amount:

Loan:

  • First loan: 80% of valuation, or 60% of valuation if loan tenure is more than 30 years or extends past age of 65
  • Second loan: 50% of valuation, or 30% of valuation if loan tenure is more than 30 years or extends past age of 65
  • Third and subsequent loans: 40% of valuation, or 20% of valuation if loan tenure is more than 30 years or extends past age of 65

Cash:

  • First loan: at least 5%, or 10% if loan tenure is more than 30 years or extends past age of 65
  • Second loan: at least 25%
  • Third and subsequent loans: at least 25%
  • Legal fee: approximately $3000 for properties below $2m and $4000 for properties above $2m; usually banks will give a subsidy of at least $2,500 for this.
  • Agent commission: 1% or 2%

CPF:  Whatever amount towards property purchase that is not accounted for under loan and cash above.

Hello hello, what’s this thing that rings?

Sophia recently had her first encounter with a corded phone and was fascinated. Of course, it helped that her granduncle pretended to call her on it. When was the last time you saw a corded phone? This so reminds me that we’re raising a different generation. Remember how when we were young our parents could screen our calls because our friends had to call our land line and had to ask for whoever they wanted to speak to? And how it was such a privilege to have a phone in your own room when the rest of us plebs had to sit in the living room within earshot of everyone to talk? Or how, wow, it was so amazing to have caller ID so we can dash to the phone and pick it up if its from our friends. Now, kids just have their own handphones, that they will have their own ways and means to get their hands on even if parents refuse to buy them one, and use it they will. In this era, we really need to be very careful how we raise our kids. Very, very careful.

Sophia, phonecall for you!

Sophia, phonecall for you!

Graduation

I recently attended the Kim Seng PCF graduation ceremony and really enjoyed it. Principal Bunny Lo and his teachers really did a great job putting together the performance themed “Around the World”. It took real effort to put together the performances showcasing music and dances around the world and involving children of all levels even the toddler class – that’s Sophia’s age group! This may have been the first time I watched a concert put up by preschoolers and it really brings back memories of my own childhood. I remember being the youngest student chosen for a school performance when I was 3 really boosted my self esteem so I am convinced that opportunities to perform is a great thing for young children. Kudos to PCF Kim Seng for giving this opportunity to even their toddler class!

The valedictorians

 

Receiving their certs

 

The toddlers – aren’t they adorable?

 

Almost broadway standards

 

K-Pop!

 

 

 

 

Finally an end in sight

Are you sick of calls from banks and insurance companies and gyms soliciting for business in the middle of the workday like I am? Finally, an end is in sight! Last month the Personal Data Protection Bill is finally passed and among the provisions, provides for the setting up of a do-not-call registry. We can put our name on it and, if we do so, cannot be contacted for marketing calls unless we give our consent. 

Just a shoutout to everyone equally irritated by the unsolicited marketing calls!

Baby photos

The title of the blog post was going to be n@ked babies but I was worried with the random web filters and whatnot this very innocent blog would be blocked. In fact, it already is blocked in China, I know because my in-laws can’t access it, and I wonder whether its because wordpress is blocked (just as facebook, youtube etc are blocked) or beacuse of something I said or some picture I posted. I recall reading about green dam youth escort, the web filter that was going to be compulsory in China but eventually dropped, and how it would filter content based on the percentage of a picture that was roughly the colour of skin. A picture of doraemon would pass the test and garfield will fail.

The reason why I thought of this filter was I took some photos of Sophia in her birthday suit recently, because she refused to put on clothes after her bath and was happily rolling around on my bed. A common scene among toddlers I’m told. I toyed with the idea of putting up the photos here since they are so cute but I stopped myself and started questioning by what age is it unacceptable to post unclothed photos of children.

What do you think? Have you ever posted photos of your children in their birthday suit? At what age do you think it becomes inappropriate and do you think the children will be unhappy to learn of such photos floating around the internet when they grow up?

Conversation with the Prime Minister

Just a couple of thoughts after watching the tv telecast of conversations with the Prime Minister.

High on the list of topics is how to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies. Or, to put it in another way, what drives people to have babies? The Waiting puts it best in her post “The Person I Waited For“. If you enjoy the experience she describes (and mind you, you will only be able to really experience it if you have a child of your own), then you will want to have children. Wanting them and getting them, of course, are two different things but at least there is the desire. That immediately ups the odds. As for the incentive schemes that the government can roll out, honestly, they are good to have, they make life easier as a new parent but honestly none of them will actually swing my vote when I next ask myself: Do I want another child?

The other topic that gave me a slightly more interesting throught is that of “What next for Singapore?” Perhaps because the first person I discussed this with after the telecast was the IT manager of my firm, the topic brought to mind strategy games like Civilisations (which I’ve never played before but assume is similar to another game I have being Pharoah – they are all about building a city/country/civilisation), where you always start with building farms, hunting lodges etc, followed by more advanced industries leading to trade. Then when your people are wealthier you build schools. To me Singapore is kind of at this stage. The past 40 odd years have been about nation building and now our people are generally well fed, have a decent job and getting a good education. There will always be the few who fall through the cracks, like how some of my huts somehow will never evolve into spacious mansions, but generally the city is developed and people now need more. So you go into entertainment and things like that. Of course, comparing nation building to a computer game is grossly over simplifying the matter but its just something that popped to mind as to how surprisingly true to life these computer games are. I do indeed think it is time for Singapore to mature in the areas of arts, sports, culture etc. Of course, unlike the computer games, there are other fundamental issues to solve like the (perceived?) erosion of values, excessive stress, widening gap between rich and poor, affordable housing. All not issues with easy answers.

No wonder my colleague (not Singaporean) says he does not envy the government of Singapore. Frankly I don’t envy the government of any country. Its not an easy world to be in these days.