Saturday, January 31, 2015

Life And Death Links

The chart shows that Life Corporation Ltd's (LCL) original business line of cord blood storage wasn't doing too well. Lots more can be gleaned from its 2014 Annual Report filed with the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

Armed with A$5.5 million from the June 2013 sale of its cord blood and cord tissue banking businesses and assets in India, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Indonesia to Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) listed Cordlife Group Limited, LCL quickly bought up Singapore Funeral Services (known as SFS Care Pte Ltd since 2012) in September 2013. The chronology that led to the formation of Eternal Pure Land Pte Ltd (EPL) is spelt out in the annual report:
1 Dec 2013, SFS acquired;
8 Jun 2014, tender submitted;
17 Jul 2014, tender awarded;
22 Jul 2014, bonds signed with "Golden Meditech" and "Northeast" for S$3 million each, funds which may come in handy for the two installments due on 13 August and 14 October 2014.

The most interesting date is 12 June 2014, day when EPL was set up to bid for the land parcel at Sengkang, a newborn with no track record, and only the operating experience of the Singapore entity, Singapore Funeral Services.

LCL's consolidated revenue for year ended 30 Jun 2014 was only A$1,907,000, of which A$1,905,000 was contributed by SFS Care Pte Ltd. Net loss for LCL was A$2,637,000, an increase of 61% compared to the loss of A$1,640,00 for year ended 30 Jun 2013.

You have to wonder what were on the minds of the civil servants when they evaluated the bidders. For all we know, some name dropper may have casually made it be known that Goh Chok Tong's son is on the board of Cordlife. Dr Goh Jin Hian was appointed as a Director of the Company in July 2011. It is ironical that the science of cord blood banking, preservation of cord blood to help nurture life in the future, is now linked to the preservation of ashes, after science has given up on saving life.

There is more to the eye at Sengkang, it's not just "commercial" and "religious" issues at stake. It's so serious, LCL has called for a trading halt after Khaw Boon Wan told the story of deception by Butterfly Lover Zhu Yingtai. As usual, to find the answer to the quagmire, one has to follow the money.

Friday, January 30, 2015

No Go For Go Ahead

Love means never having to say sorry is a cliche from an old movie. The affection is lost on a guy who promised not to introduce a means test during campaigning, and quietly reversed it after the elections were over.

Owners of the Fernvale Lea units - let's call it the Fernvale Lea Group (FLG) - should give themselves a pat on their backs, they actually brought the minister to heel! Without explaining why he decided to overrule his officers' stubborn insistence on the fine print - both the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) had flexed their muscles by issuing a joint statement indicating that the columbarium at a Chinese temple planned in Sengkang will go ahead, despite objections from residents - Khaw Boon Wan made a dramatic U-turn in parliament yesterday, 29 Jan 2015:
“For that Sengkang site we do not want a commercial columbarium and we won’t have one.”

He didn't exactly own up to the mistake - that the Government had awarded a place-of-worship site to a company that was not affiliated to a religious organisation - but merely acknowledged that HDB had awarded the land tender to Australian company owned Eternal Pure Land under the (mistaken) impression that the company was a vehicle for a religious organisation to build and own a Chinese temple. In other words, HDB had shoddy due diligence done on the bidders. Not unlike the oversight of shady dealings in the Brompton Bikes purchase.

Surely the FLG deserves an apology from the pathetic lame duck of a member of parliament, Lam Pin Min, for acting as salesman for Eternal Pure Land, promoting their project as the first Chinese Temple in Singapore and in the region (outside Japan) with a modern automated Columbarium, private viewing booths and E-booking for visitation times. That plus the co-ordinated onslaught from the mainstream media to shame the FLG for harboring selfish not-in-my back-yard (NIMBY) attitudes. At an angry meeting with about 400 affected home owners on Jan 4, Lam actually said that there was no purposeful effort to keep residents informed of the columbarium plans as it was not uncommon for places of worship to house such spaces. Well, Lam And Khaw just provided justification for purposeful effort to scrutinise all government intentions.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Permanent Head Damage

Contrary to popular understanding, PhD is the abbreviation for Doctor of Philosophy, a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities, not Permanent Head Damage. The academic level known as a doctorate of philosophy varies considerably according to the country, institution, and time period, from entry-level research degrees to higher doctorates. Naturally, the institution which accords the title to an individual bears some responsibility for its wisdom to bestow the honour. The term philosophy here does not refer solely to the field of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is "love of wisdom".

It is hardly wise for anyone to take his personal grievances to the local rag, and expect his story to be told in full unedited glory. As it happened, the dirty laundry flew right back into his face. It is doubtful any political party will accept such an individual within its ranks, especially when it's impossible to gauge which way he bends with the wind. Samples of his scatterbrained machine-gun fire:
  • calling Roy Ngerng “deceitful”, saying that the funds that he raised were “ill-gotten”, mentioning ISIS murderers' and rapists' justifications with Roy's matter, and comparing him to Yang Yin,
  • writing that Vincent Wijeysinghe should “stop pretending to be hurt for personal publicity”,
  • making uncalled for remarks against other opposition parties such as saying that the NSP lacked principles, questioning the general character of SingFirst, and calling out WP's Sylvia Lim's argument as being “very silly”,
  • likening PAP's Heng Swee Keat to Judas Iscariot
  • putting up a tasteless caption of a photo of Lee Kuan Yew
  • saying that, “some religious people are stupid”
  • casting aspersions on SMU's teaching system
  • saying that one “...can rob, rape, murder...just say that you are against the PAP and anything also can. No need to take responsibility.”
It is said that the meaning of a terrorist's bomb is as specific as its debris. Best stay out of firing range, unless you welcome being castigated as part of the the Looney Fringe.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Justice Of The Future

The 71-year-old who caused S$100 worth of damage - incurred to clean up graffiti ("We support CPF blogger" and "Return our CPF money") scrawled on bus stands - was sent to jail for 4 weeks.  Even if he had a valid Pioneer Generation Card on him at time of arrest - conceived to recognise and honour the contributions of Singapore’s Pioneer Generation in nation-building - it would not qualify for a get-out-of-jail-free ticket.

The teenager who was arrested for vandalising the rooftop at Toa Payoh housing block 85A was placed on probation for 15 months and required to perform 80 hours of community service. His graffiti case involved a more explicit message, expletives included, and the writing on the wall could not be missed.

Once upon a time, we had a chief justice who boasted that the quality of his justice dispensed was dependent on his satisfaction with the breakfast he was served that particular morning. He could get away with it; he loaned his lecture notes to a prime minister when both were studying in Cambridge. And you thought Marlon Brando's Godfather knew how to collect.

But Graaaskov was not physically involved in the crime of the century, okay, maybe 50 years. He was such a obedient child, he left early so as not to miss the last bus home, and upset his doting parents for breaking a curfew. In other words, he was not guilty as charged. He was cuffed and locked up in a detention cell for something he did not do, specifically, vandalising a rooftop.

Graaskov was punished for something else. First spelled out in a 1956 science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick, and popularised by Tom Cruise in "The Minority Report", "precrime" is a system which punishes people for crimes they would have committed, had they not been prevented. As the narrative goes, had Graaskov not been apprehended, he would have had his wanton way with the spray cans. In the movie, the system of predicting the future is performed by three mutants known as "precogs", because of their precognitive talents by which they can see into the future. The local parlance is "helicopter vision", and we have our own variant of "holy trinity". The next logical step to "read only the right stuff" will soon be "think only the right stuff". Forewarned is forearmed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Happy Mistake

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) chairman and Workers’ Party (WP) chairperson Sylvia Lim explained that the omission of an additional step to avoid double counting of households in arrears over service and conservancy charges (S&CC) led to the erroneous figure of 29.4 per cent reported to the Housing and Development Board (HDB). The number that drew much flak from the baying wolves - reminiscent of the attack dogs jumping on fictitious heckling of speech needs children at Hong Lim Green - turned out to be 5.66 per cent.

Same eye popping figure that galvanised Desmond Lee into full assault mode, warning of "serious implications for residents", and other dire consequences. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong also leaped into the foray, crafting a long and verbose commentary to suggest that the town council’s silence on the issue signalled that “something is seriously wrong”. Both have dug for themselves holes so deep they are probably wishing that they had paid more attention to Ms Lim's prudent advice “not to confuse or alarm the public by speculating on whether the S&CC arrears situation has worsened or whether AHPETC is facing ‘bigger problems'”.

Apart from AHPETC, only Potong Pasir received anything other than a “green rating” for S&CC arrears management in the Town Council Management Report. What the architects of that blunt instrument fail to appreciate is that a higher proportion of households in arrears over service and conservancy charges (S&CC) also implies the town council in charge is more forgiving and empathetic in the approach on collections. Instead of harshly imposing a penalty fee of $12 as well as a legal fee of $12.85 over an outstanding sum of $192.90, and inadvertently exposing the lucrative business of legal firms charged with enforcement. Especially firms with close affiliation with town councils.