Category: Uncategorized

Singapore Leaders’ Family Relationships with One Another

Two days ago, I put up some charts on the families that rule Singapore.

Here are the simplified versions.

In the chart below, you can see how Singapore’s leaders are related to one another, and how their relationships extend back to the 1800s.

Teo Lee, on the top left, lived from 1833 to 1899. Ang Choon Seng, on the top right, lived from 1805 to 1852. Singapore’s current deputy prime minister, Teo Chee Hean (bottom left) is Teo Lee’s descendant. Tony Tan (bottom right), the previous deputy prime minister and the current president, is the descendant of Ang Choon Seng.

Singapore's Top Families

In this next chart, you can see the political connections (highlighted in orange). These families take up 2 positions as prime ministers, 2 as deputy prime ministers, 2 as presidents and 2 as ministers. (Note that these are only the known connections.)

But not only that, their ancestors also held political leadership positions. Lee Choon Guan, Tan Jiak Kim and Kwa Siew Tee were also Municipal Commissioners. Wee Theam Seng’s brother, Wee Theam Tew (not mentioned here), was also a Municipal Commissioner. Tan Keong Saik was also elected to the Municipal Commission. Lee Choon Guan and Tan Jiak Kim also sat on the Legislative Council.

Together, they held the majority of the positions for Municipal Commissioners that Straits Chinese held. Municipal Commissioners oversaw local urban affairs in Singapore. The Legislative Council was responsible for enacting laws in Singapore.

Today, their descendants hold leadership positions in the Singapore government.

Singapore's Top Families - Political Connections.jpg

The chart below shows you the banking connections (highlighted in green). Note that the highlighted people are all connected to the OCBC Bank and its predecessors, and they all lived during the same era and after.

OCBC was formed from the merger of three banks – Chinese Commercial Bank (1912), Ho Hong Bank (1917) and Oversea-Chinese Bank (1919).

Lim Nee Soon was the Oversea-Chinese Bank’s chairman and the Chinese Commercial Bank’s vice-chairman. Lee Kong Chian was also a vice-chairman and Tan Jiak Kim, a director, at the Chinese Commercial Bank. Lee Choon Guan was the Chinese Commercial Bank’s chairman. He was also a shareholder of the Ho Hong Bank. Wee Theam Seng was the Chinese Commercial Bank’s manager.

Wee Theam Seng and Teo Beng Wan were both OCBC’s senior bankers. Kwa Siew Tee and Tan Cheng Siong were OCBC general managers. Tan Kah Kee played an influential role at OCBC.

Tan Chin Tuan, Lee Kong Chian, Teo Cheng Guan and Tony Tan were OCBC chairmen. Tan Chin Tuan was also its managing director and Tony Tan was its CEO. Lee Kong Chian’s son, Lee Seng Wee (not mentioned here), was also a chairman, and his grandson, Warren Lee Tih Shih (also not mentioned here) is also a director.

Singapore's Top Families - Banking Connections.jpg

In the chart below, you can see the GIC and Temasek Holdings connections (highlighted in blue). The positions are also listed. (GIC and Temasek Holdings are the two government investment firms.)

Again, they all hold top positions.

Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong (was) and is the GIC’s chairmen. Goh Keng Swee and Tony Tan were both GIC’s deputy chairmen. Tony Tan was also the executive director.

Lim Kim San and Teo Chee Hean (was) and is the GIC’s directors.

Ho Ching is Temasek Holding’s current CEO and Lim Boon Heng is its current chairman.

Singaporeans’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) pension funds are invested by the GIC and Temasek Holdings.

Today, Singaporeans earn the lowest long term returns on their pension funds and have one of the least adequate retirement funds in the world.

GIC and Temasek Holdings have become one of the richest sovereign wealth funds in the world, at 8th and 11th respectively (at the time of writing), on the back of Singaporeans’ CPF pension funds.

Singapore's Top Families - GIC and Temasek Holdings Connections

If you want to see the full charts, you can go to my previous article.

Note that these are only the known connections as much of the information is not available online.

These charts give you a sense of the closeness of the family networks in Singapore’s political leadership and its close links with the OCBC Bank. Most of them also hold top political and banking positions.

Not only that, these few families have been holding key positions in government and the financial sector in Singapore since the late 1800s, which means that there hasn’t been a break in their dominance for more than 100 years (or 130 years). Singapore’s independence from the British in 1965 did not usher in a new era in politics, but rather a continuity in these families holding on to key leadership positions. What independence did bring was that these families no longer had to work under the British.

Most of these families are Straits Chinese (or Peranakan), which formed the Straits Chinese British Association in 1900 (now known as the Peranakan Association) where Tan Jiak Kim was the president and Wee Theam Yew, a founding member. Lee Choon Guan was also a president. They were also active in the General Chinese Trade Affairs Association known today as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

These Families Rule Singapore final

For the references, you can read Jess C Scott’s blog and my blog.

These are the Families that Rule Singapore

These are Singapore’s top families. Most of them are heads of the government or some organisation in Singapore – look at the colour codes in the boxes.

The chart below also feature 2 prime ministers, 2 deputy prime ministers, 2 presidents and several ministers, who are related.

The top Straits Chinese families have held top positions in the government and financial sector in Singapore since the late 1800s. It has been more than 100 years now.

These Families Rule Singapore final.jpg

The conservative Chinese leaders in Singapore won the progressives, who mostly migrated overseas.

The Ongs and Seahs are also top families.

The chart below highlights the political connections.

The chart below highlights the banking connections.

An older chart shows other banking connections.

These are the known connections. If you have more evidence, you can let me know.

For the references, you can read Jess C Scott’s blog and my blog.

Defamation Trial Titbits & Fund Update 17

Two days ago, another S$500 was raised for funds to pay the Singapore prime minister.

Defamation Suit Funds Raised 10 April 2016.png

Background: I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article on this blog and have been asked to pay him S$180,000. So far, I have raised S$30,050.71Please see at the end of the article more information. 

In case you had missed the exchanges in court during the hearing on damages for my case, below are the postings from the CPF Broken Promises Facebook page and The Online Citizen.

Thank You for Your Support for the Fund Raising

As of this morning, a total of $$30,050.71 has been raised. I still have to pay another S$149,900 to the prime minister.

If you would also like to help to defray the costs and damages, you can also fund raise to the bank account at POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling) or PayPal at royngerng@gmail.com. Thank you.

My dad sells carrot cake at Block 107 in Ang Mo Kio. Some people had visited my dad’s stall to pass him some contributions. Dad’s stall is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 4pm to about 11pm/midnight.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But for transparency, I will continue to update on the funds raised and used, on this blog.

Meanwhile, I have also attached my LinkedIn profile here, if it might be of interest. I was fired after I was sued – the hospital that I worked at and the Ministry of Health, Singapore sent out press releases to support the firing, with the hospital alluding to the defamation suit.

If you have a job opening, scholarship or fellowship, please feel free to contact me on the opportunities. I would be grateful if you do so. I am open to working overseas as well.

View Roy Ngerng's profile on LinkedIn

View Roy Ngerng's LinkedIn profile View Roy Ngerng’s profile

*****

Background: In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for defamation. The judge ruled in a summary judgment that I have defamed him. I have apologised to the prime minister. I was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 to him. In a settlement reached with the help of my lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, I am to pay an additional S$30,000 in costs. In total, including the previous payment that I have made to the costs of the summary judgment (S$29,000) and application for the Queen’s Counsel (S$6,000), I would have paid/will pay S$215,000. 

Two weeks ago, I have paid the first tranche of S$30,000 (of the S$180,000) to the prime minister. From April 1, 2016, for the next 5 years, I have to pay $100 every month. Thereafter, from 2021, I have to pay $1,000 every month until I finish paying.

You can read the previous updates here: [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten] [Eleven] [Twelve] [Thirteen] [Fourteen] [Fifteen] [Sixteen]. I would like to thank Mothership.sg for reporting about the fund raising. 

I would also like to thank the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Safenet for releasing statements in support of me, as well as iMediaEthics and Hong Kong Free Press for interviewing me.

You can also read the previous update on the funds raised in 2014 and its usage. I would like to thank The Straits Times for reporting about it. There were also inaccurate online reports that the funds were used to pay overseas trips. This is untrue. You can read more about these in the update here.

Solutions for Singapore (& Update 16 of Defamation Funds)

Update on Fund Raising for Defamation Suit to Pay Singapore Prime Minister

Here’s a short update on the defamation funds – S$63.35 was deposited into my account from an AXS machine two days ago. A man also gave my dad S$10 at his stall yesterday. Thank you to the both of you!

Defamation Suit Funds Raised 7 April 2016

My dad sells carrot cake at Block 107 in Ang Mo Kio. Some people had visited my dad’s stall to pass him some contributions. Dad’s stall is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 4pm to about 11pm/midnight.

Background:

  • I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article on this blog and have been asked to pay him S$180,000. So far, I have raised S$29,550.71. 
  • The funds coming in have slowed down. But as long as there are funds coming in, I will update them on the blog.
  • For more information on the fund raising and the defamation suit, please see the end of the article below.

I would like to thank everyone for supporting me and contributing to the funds. I wouldn’t be able to do this without you.

I also wrote a post on my Facebook on the solutions for Singapore and thought to share it here.

Slide1

Solutions for Singapore

Below, I briefly outline the solutions that Singapore can take, with some calculations and estimates.

Note that in 2013, Singapore has a total cash surplus of S$31 billion.

Synopsis

  • The Singapore government can provide free healthcare, education and adequate retirement as well as provide unemployment benefits for less than an additional S$6 billion and still have more than S$25 billion in savings – all these are possible with the current revenue and without increasing taxes.

(1) Healthcare

Slide2

(A) Current:

  1. In 2014, the total health expenditure in Singapore is S$20 billion. Of this, government expenditure accounts for about 35% and Medisave accounts for only about 4%.
  2. Singapore government’s expenditure on health in 2014: S$7 billion [3]
  3. Singaporeans currently pay 8% – 10.5% of wage into Medisave. [4]
  4. In 2014, Singaporeans have paid S$71 billion into Medisave [5] but were only able to withdraw S$852 million [3] or only 1.2%.
  5. The Singapore government spends the least on healthcare among the developed countries, as a percentage of GDP. Singaporeans have to pay the most out of our own pockets in the world, purchasing power parity dollar.

(B) Proposed*:

  1. Increase government expenditure to 40%: S$8 billion
  2. Increase Medisave withdrawals so that Medisave accounts for 60% of total health expenditure – benchmarked with other countries. (In total, government expenditure and Medisave withdrawals will account for 100%.)
  3. Medisave withdrawals will increase to S$13 billion or only 18% of total Medisave balance, with plenty of surplus left.
  4. (Future plans: build more hospitals, educate and increase number of healthcare workers – to reduce hospital bed to population ratio and healthcare workers to population ratio – which is currently the highest among the developed countries.)

*There are many permutations to this. For example, Medisave withdrawals can increase to 50% and government expenditure increased to 50%.

(C) Net Effect: Free Healthcare
Additional Government Spending: S$1.4 billion

Background information:

(2) Education

Slide3.JPG

(A) Current:

  1. Singapore government’s expenditure on education in 2015: S$12 billion
  2. Singaporeans pay S$1.6 billion in fees to study in ITEs, polytechnics and universities. [7]
  3. The Singapore government spends the least on education among the developed countries, as a percentage of GDP. Singaporeans have to pay one of the most expensive university fees in the world, for citizens.

(B) Proposed:

  1. Increase government expenditure to S$13.6 billion (to cover for the S$1.6 billion in fees.)
  2. (Future plans: build more universities and increase university enrollment for Singaporeans; educate and increase number of teachers and decrease class sizes – which is currently the highest among the developed countries, and abolish streaming and examinations in earlier years, for greater equality and opportunity.)

(C) Net Effect: Free Education
Additional Government Spending: S$1.6 billion**
**Additional spending can come from other sources e.g. reducing surplus accumulation at educational institutions or reduce government sponsorships for overseas students, which can reduce additional government spending.

Background information:

(3) Retirement

Slide4.JPG

(A) Current:

  1. Central Provident Fund (CPF) pension fund interest rate: 2.5% – 4% – which is one of the lowest returns on pension funds in the world. Singaporeans also have one of the least adequate pension funds in the world. (link & link)
  2. CPF is invested in GIC (and Temasek Holdings) where they earned between 5% and 19.2% last year. Much of the interest earned is not returned to Singaporeans.
  3. Additional government spending to supplement retirement incomes (only introduced this year): ONLY S$320 million (to provide S$100 to S$250 a month for poorest 20% to 30% of elderly Singaporeans aged 65 and above)

(B) Proposed:

  1. CPF to be managed independently (STOP CPF from being transferred to GIC and Temasek Holdings – they will manage government surplus funds instead, which they currently do anyway.)
  2. CPF interest rates likely to increase to about 6% or more (global average pension returns last year was 6%).
  3. Delink CPF from being used to purchase residential apartments; let CPF be used solely for retirement purposes and reduce CPF contribution to about 10% – 15% (this is enough for adequate pension, according to studies). (With higher disposable incomes and increased wages – see (4) below – there will be enough cash on hand to purchase residential apartments, and without the need to pay accrued interest.)
  4. Increase government supplement retirement incomes to S$500 every month for all elderly Singaporeans as the current average CPF payout is estimated to be only a few hundred dollars and is not adequate for retirement – this will cost S$2.6 billion (This component is a stop-gap measure in the interim and is expected to decrease over the years as wages and the CPF interest rates increase and the CPF is able to provide adequate retirement.)

(C) Net Effect: Adequate retirement for all Singaporeans (All elderly Singaporeans will be able to retire.)
Additional Government Spending: S$2.3 billion

Background information:

(4) Wages

Slide5.JPG

(A) Current:

  1. No minimum wage – Singapore is one of very few countries in the world without one.
  2. By right, Singaporean cleaners should earn a mandated wage of S$1,000.
  3. However, there are still about 10% of Singaporeans who earn less than S$1,000.
  4. Singaporeans earn the lowest wages among countries with a similar cost of living and national wealth. Singaporeans also have the lowest purchasing power among the developed countries.

(B) Proposed:

  1. Singaporeans would need to earn a minimum of between S$2,000 and S$2,500 to have a most basic standard of living, if there is free healthcare and education, and adequate pension.
  2. Currently, there are about 30% of Singaporeans who still earn less than S$2,000 and about 40% who earn less than S$2,500. The estimated poverty rate in Singapore is 30%.
  3. Implement a minimum wage at S$1,500 for a start and gradually increase it to S$2,000 (or S$2,500) over the course of a few years.
  4. To do so, the government will stop collecting foreign worker levies (In 2011, the government collected S$2.5 billion in revenue from foreign worker levies. At the rate of growth, the revenue could have grown to S$3.5 billion or S$4 billion last year.). If businesses stop paying levies, this can be diverted to increase workers’ wage instead.
  5. The share of GDP that goes into wages in Singapore is only 43%. [21] In other developed countries, the wage share is between 54% and 63%. [22] If the share of wages increase to about 58% of GDP (average wage share of developed countries), this would unlock about S$60 billion of the GDP that can be returned to Singaporeans in wages.
  6. (Future plans: minimum (living) wage will be adjusted annually/biannually for inflation. Labour unions will be strengthened so that the government reduces its role in setting wages and unions will collectively negotiate for wages sustainably.)

(C) Net Effect: Adequate living wages for Singaporeans to have basic standard of living 
(To note, the government already spends S$900 million on the Wage Credit Scheme and S$650 million on the Workfare Income Supplement to supplement the wages of workers, which mean that there is S$1.55 billion in existing funds to tide through the transition into minimum wage. This is in addition to the S$3 or S$4 billion in collects in foreign worker levies.)

Background information:

(5) Unemployment Benefits

Slide6.JPG

(A) Current:

  1. No unemployment benefits – Singapore is one of very few countries in the world without one.
  2. Singaporeans who are out of jobs still have to pay for the most expensive healthcare and one of the most expensive education while having one of the least adequate retirement funds in the world.

(B) Proposed:

  1. Introduce unemployment benefits to 60% of proposed minimum wage for 6 months (for a start) – this will cost S$756 million (There were 81,800 unemployed residents in 2014. The citizen population is about 85% of the resident population, which gives about an estimated 70,000 unemployed Singaporeans. 60% of the proposed minimum wage is S$900. In total, unemployment benefits would total about S$756 million, for a start.)
  2. (Future plans: unemployment benefits can be extended and pegged to individual incomes after the initial trial period and a study of the effects.)

(C) Net Effect: Unemployed Singaporeans are protected while they look for another job
Additional Government Spending: S$756 million

Background information:

(6) Ministerial Salaries

Slide7.JPG

(A) Current:

  1. Singapore’s ministers are paid tens and millions of dollars every year – they are paid the highest salaries in the world (link, link & link). The ministers earn a benchmark salary of S$1.1 million a year. [28]
  2. The prime minister earns S$2.2 million every year (not yet accounting for other bonuses). [29]
  3. The ministers earn the highest salaries in the world but Singaporeans earn the lowest wages among countries with a similar cost of living and national wealth. Singapore also has the highest rich-poor gap and income inequality among the developed countries.

(B) Proposed:

  1. Cap the prime minister’s salary to 10 times that of median income. Last year, the median income was S$3,000 a month. [17] This would work out to about S$400,000 a year for the prime minister (inclusive of one month’s bonus).
  2. In comparison, the United States president earns US$400,000 a year.
  3. Cap a member of parliament (MP)’s allowance to 5 times that of median income. This would work out to S$195,000 a year (inclusive of one month’s bonus) for MPs, which is about what MPs receive now (S$192,500). [31]

(C) Net Effect: More reasonable ministerial salaries 
There will be government savings.

Summary

Slide8.JPG

  1. Total Additional Government Spending: S$5.8 billion*** (for free healthcare and education, adequate retirement and unemployment benefits)
  2. In 2013, Singapore has a cash surplus of S$31 billion. (enough surplus in 1 year to pay for the additional spending for 5 years)
  3. Even after the proposed additional government spending above, there will still be more than S$25 billion left.
  • There is no need to increase taxes to increase social spending to protect Singaporeans, as there is currently already enough revenue and cash surplus.
  • This is also possible because what Singaporeans pay into CPF and Medisave is already enough to cover for most of the additional spending for retirement and healthcare, and does not require further government spending.
  • Even with the proposed additional government spending, Singapore will still have the lowest expenditure on social protection among the developed countries.
  • Note that with the proposed spending in the above to provide free healthcare and education, and adequate pension, this would mean that some current expenditure, such as on social assistance and Medifund, will be consolidated – some made redundant – and the expenditure on these reduced, which would mean that there will be more savings. Savings will also come from the reduction of ministerial salaries. (***Taking into account the savings, the total additional government spending might be only another S$3 or S$4 billion.)
  • Also, note that it is estimated that tens of billions of dollars are lost in Singapore due to illegal money-laundering activities, which would be enough to pay for this additional spending for several years.
  • Note also that as wages increase, so will the revenue in tax collected, which will also boost revenue for these spending.

Note: this exercise is not to say that government expenditure should cover fully for basic necessities, but it is to show that this can be done and that there will still be an extravagant surplus left. The next step is to have a national conversation on what should be done – noting that the money which should be used is currently sitting inside government coffers without helping Singaporeans. What matters is whether there is the political will to do this.

Read more:

*****

Thank You for Your Support for the Fund Raising

As of this morning, a total of $$29,550.71 has been raised. I still have to pay another S$149,900 to the prime minister.

If you would also like to help to defray the costs and damages, you can also fund raise to the bank account at POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling) or PayPal at royngerng@gmail.com. Thank you.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But for transparency, I will continue to update on the funds raised and used, on this blog.

Meanwhile, I have also attached my LinkedIn profile here, if it might be of interest. I was fired after I was sued – the hospital that I worked at and the Ministry of Health, Singapore sent out press releases to support the firing, with the hospital alluding to the defamation suit.

If you have a job opening, scholarship or fellowship, please feel free to contact me on the opportunities. I would be grateful if you do so. I am open to working overseas as well.

View Roy Ngerng's profile on LinkedIn

View Roy Ngerng's LinkedIn profile View Roy Ngerng’s profile

*****

Background: In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for defamation. The judge ruled in a summary judgment that I have defamed him. I have apologised to the prime minister. I was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 to him. In a settlement reached with the help of my lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, I am to pay an additional S$30,000 in costs. In total, including the previous payment that I have made to the costs of the summary judgment (S$29,000) and application for the Queen’s Counsel (S$6,000), I would have paid/will pay S$215,000. 

Two weeks ago, I have paid the first tranche of S$30,000 (of the S$180,000) to the prime minister. From April 1, 2016, for the next 5 years, I have to pay $100 every month. Thereafter, from 2021, I have to pay $1,000 every month until I finish paying.

You can read the previous updates here: [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten] [Eleven] [Twelve] [Thirteen] [Fourteen] [Fifteen]. I would like to thank Mothership.sg for reporting about the fund raising. 

I would also like to thank the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Safenet for releasing statements in support of me, as well as iMediaEthics and Hong Kong Free Press for interviewing me.

You can also read the previous update on the funds raised in 2014 and its usage. I would like to thank The Straits Times for reporting about it. There were also inaccurate online reports that the funds were used to pay overseas trips. This is untrue. You can read more about these in the update here.

Panama Papers: How Singapore is Involved

I searched through the news to find out how Singapore is involved in the Panama Papers. Below are excerpts from the news articles. Unfortunately, none of the newspapers in Singapore are part of the global consortium of news organisations and journalists who have been investigating the leaks, and the mainstream media in Singapore is largely controlled and unlikely to report on the news. We have to rely on external sources to find out more. (“Singapore” is highlighted in bold font in this article.)

Note: Please note that none of the articles are written by me – all articles are credited to their sources and writers, where the names are available. Please click into each of the header links to read more from the news sites.

Data breach is busting heads of states running a world of international crime (eTN)

“Panama, Bahamas, USA, Anguilla, U.K. Iceland, Seychelles, Syria, Costa Rica, Belize, Hong Kong, Samoa, Niue, Singapore, New Zealand, Uruguay, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Malta, Cyprus, and Switzerland are only some of the countries mentioned in the biggest database breach ever, opening up the flood gates to bust heads of states and other high-level officials from some of these countries of running the world’s largest criminal enterprise. Revealed today were the Panama Papers: With 11.5 million emails, documents, contracts, invoices and bank statements, it is the biggest data breach ever.

It reveals global capital transfers and secret deals of condemning criminals and persons who prosecutors accused of serious crimes – including war crimes, drug trafficking, sanctions fracture, the trafficking of children.

The Panama papers also show how heads of state as well as authoritarian rulers and their families build and use secret asset structures without anyone this seriously controlling it.”

 Video: The Panama Papers leak, explained with an adorable comic about piggy banks (Vox)

Panama Papers: What are ‘tax havens’? (Rand Daily Mail)

Written by: Tommaso Faccio 

“The Panama Papers leak sheds some light on the intricate ways in which the wealthy can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. As well as charging minimal or no tax to residents and non-residents, the main characteristics of tax havens are their lack of transparency and effective information exchange.

As the leaked files of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca show, these havens are used by individuals and companies to stash their cash, away from the prying eyes of civilians or investigators. This is not necessarily because their money has been obtained illegally. In the case of public figures such as politicians, for example, they may want to keep the size of their wealth a secret or hide from their electorates that they or their relatives are legally minimising their tax. To do so, they hide their identity using a number of complex legal mechanisms.

Whether it is a wealthy entrepreneur or a drug trafficker, the tricks used to make their affairs hard to trace are pretty similar. It all starts by incorporating a “shell company” (or a “letterbox company”) in an offshore tax jurisdiction, using the services of a law firm such as Mossack Fonseca. These companies have the outward appearance of being a legitimate business but in reality are just empty shells. They manage the money they receive and hide who owns it. The management is made up of lawyers and accountants, whose only role is to sign documents and allow their names to appear on the company’s letterhead.

The money is received by this shell company from people who wish to hide these funds from tax authorities and the wider public. Very few questions are asked about the source of this money, which can then be used by the shell company to carry out legal activities such as investing in real estate — or illegal activities such as bribing a government official.

It is not illegal to have dealings with a tax haven — and in fact there can be very legitimate reasons to conduct business there, such as investing in a hedge or mutual fund. And tax havens are often used by business people in unstable countries where they are at risk of “raids” by criminals or their governments.

In spite of this, the lack of transparency and lack of information exchange can also be used for illicit purposes, including money laundering, bribery, corruption, tax fraud and other illegal activities. Because the beneficial owners of a company are kept secret, the proceeds of crime can be hidden or used for nefarious purposes without any authorities being able to trace it. If law enforcement and other competent authorities had access to beneficial ownership information, they could “follow the money” in financial investigations involving suspect accounts or assets held by corporate vehicles.

Panama is far from alone in this business. According to the 2015 Financial Secrecy Index for 2015 compiled by the Tax Justice Network, Switzerland, Hong Kong, the US, Singapore and the Cayman Islands are the top five jurisdictions for secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities.”

Here’s Why You Should Give a Shit About the Panama Papers (Vice)

Written by: Drew Schwartz

“Offshore companies aren’t illegal – not inherently, anyway. But using them to hide assets from tax authorities, thwart investigations and and protect criminals is.

Here’s how this whole mess of a situation works:

An individual, often through a middle-man they’re close to, pays Mossack Fonseca to create a “shell company” – a business on paper, but in reality, a storehouse for a shit-ton of money, whether in cold hard cash or tied up in shares. Mossack Fonseca sets up the shell company offshore in a place like Panama (where the firm is based), the British Virgin Islands, or any other “tax haven” – a place where the true owner of a company can be anonymous and their home country (which, typically, doesn’t know about the company in the first place) can’t tax it.

Say a politician makes £100,000 pounds per year on salary, and for some reason – bribes, business deals, all manner of shady shit – also makes upwards of £1 million in some other way. If they put that money in an offshore shell company, they can access it without being taxed for it. Even if the shell company is discovered, it can’t be tied directly to the politician because the company is technically owned by someone else – a stand-in owner who’s appointed by Mossack Fonseca to run the company on paper, but, in reality, doesn’t own anything. To move the money, the company pretends to make business deals: the Panama Papers reveal thousands of fake share trades, million-dollar payments for “consultancy” and huge payouts in “compensation” for cancelled transactions.

“This is not business,” money-laundering expert Andrew Mitchell QC told BBC Panorama. “This is creating the appearance of business in order to continually move and hide assets.”

Hong Kong, Singapore implicated in ‘Panama papers’ rich people scandal (The Rakyat Post)

“The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes and among the tax havens identified are Hong Kong and Singapore in Asia, while the rest are mainly in the Caribbean vicinity.”

Panama Papers: where the money is hiding (Brian Kilmartin)

Singapore has 48 clients, 135 beneficiaries, 2,275 shareholders and 4,081 companies – one of the highest in the world.

Panama Papers show 1,800 UK intermediaries involved in offshore tax havens (CCH Daily)

Written by: Pat Sweet

“For the countries with the most active intermediaries, Hong Kong tops the list, with 37,675 intermediaries, followed by Switzerland 34,301 intermediaries); UK (32,682 intermediaries); Luxembourg (15,479 intermediaries); Panama (8,624 intermediaries); Cyprus (7,157); (Uruguay (5,174 intermediaries); Isle of Man (5,058 intermediaries); Singapore (4,050) and Russia (3,541).

ICIJ says more than 500 banks, their subsidiaries and their branches – including HSBC, UBS and Société Générale – created around 15,600 offshore companies for their customers through Mossack Fonseca.

Most of the offshore companies were active for only a short period. The number of active companies managed by Mossack Fonseca peaked in 2009, with almost 82,000, and have since been in decline. A total of 21 offshore jurisdictions were involved, including Nevada, Bahamas, British Anguilla, and Singapore.

The data includes emails, financial spreadsheets, passports and corporate records revealing the secret owners of bank accounts and companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions, from Nevada to Singapore to the British Virgin Islands.”

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Photo credit: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists The Panama Papers

Hong Kong tops for secretive offshore financial services, according to leaked docs (Hong Kong Free Press)

Written by: Tom Grundy

“According to the Tax Justice Network, Hong Kong is second only to Switzerland in its 2015 Financial Secrecy Index*. The ranking compares national jurisdictions based on their secrecy laws and the scale of offshore financial activities in the country. The United States, Singapore and the Cayman Islands were also amongst the “worst offenders” in the top five.”

*See below Financial Secrecy Index 

Panama Papers: Top Ten Tax Havens—Where the Money is Hidden (Newsweek)

Written by: Lucy Clarke-Billings 

“Singapore

This former British colony vies with Hong Kong to be Asia’s leading offshore financial center.

According to the Boston Consulting Group in 2015, Singapore held around one eighth of the global stock of total offshore wealth, and an IMF report in 2014 estimated that over 95 percent of all commercial banks in Singapore are affiliates of foreign banks, a testament to its extreme dependence on foreign—and offshore—money.

It hosts substantial activity in insurance, in debt and equity capital markets, in derivatives, and in offshore companies and trusts. It is a major wealth management center, with $1.4 trillion in assets under management in 2013.

As a country, it poses many of the same threats that Hong Kong does—a lack of serious reforms to its corporate secrecy regime and a lack of interest in creating public registries of beneficial ownership.”

The Panama Papers: Where are the Americans? (Politico)

Written by: Danny Vinik 

“Tax evasion overall is a far larger problem in developing countries, where norms around paying taxes are weak and rules designed to stop such evasion are ineffective. And when wealthy Americans do want to evade taxes, they turn to Bermuda, or the Cayman Islands, or Singapore. They don’t park their money in Panama.

“If there was a leak from Singapore, as opposed to Panama, which is what we have so far, we might find more [evasion],” said Reuven Avi-Yonah, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has testified before Congress about tax evasion.””

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Companies shift billions in Singapore (The West Australian)

Written by: Shane Wright 

“It has been revealed Australian companies funnelled almost $110 billion in and out of low-tax Singapore in one year as tax authorities globally ramp up focus on the world’s richest.

As the Australian Taxation Office confirmed it was looking at the financial affairs of 800 Australians, data shows Singapore is by far more important for local firms than major trading partners such as the US and Japan.

Tax-office data also shows how keen Australian firms have become to move money through Singapore, where the corporate tax rate can be as low as 2 per cent.

In 2013-14, Australian firms declared revenues in Singapore through “international related-party dealings” of $51.2 billion, a 13 per cent rise on the year before.

Firms declared expenditures with related firms in Singapore of $57.8 billion. The money-flows through Singapore dwarf other countries, including the US ($16.4 billion in revenues), Britain ($17 billion) and Japan ($12.3 billion).”

Panama Papers: Fraudsters, former tax officials among Australians identified in Mossack Fonseca leak (ABC)

Written by: the National Reporting Team’s Lisa Main and Elise Worthington

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Photo credit: ABC

“Former Queensland-based Lifestyle trader chief executive Murray Priestley relocated to Singapore after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) found he engaged in “deceptive conduct” and offered clients “misleading advice”.

In June 2013, ASIC banned Mr Priestley from providing financial services for three years.

At the time, Mr Priestley was a director of a company registered by Mossack Fonseca.

After Mossack Fonseca became aware of Mr Priestley’s ban, the firm sought additional due diligence information but it appears requests went unanswered.

Despite the ban, Mr Priestley and his company Alpha Holdings Management remain active, according to the leaked documents.”

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

#PanamaPapersIndia Part 3: Bellary baron, tank tycoon, top industrialist (The Indian Express)

“Bhandari Ashok Ramdayalchand

Mossack FonseCa records show Bhandari Ashok Ramdayalchand is the sole director and shareholder of a BVI company called Ferryden International Limited, which is registered with MF’s Singapore branch. The company was registered in January 2005, with Bhandari holding all its 50,000 shares.

Bhandari operates mainly out of a single-storey bungalow called “Bhandaris” in a gated community known as Abhiship Bungalows in a posh stretch of the road between Ahmedabad’s Thaltej and Shilaj localities. He provides financial services including expertise on accountancy, auditing services and investment banking to a host of companies, including some listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

RESPONSE: He declined to meet or speak on the phone to The Indian Express for a response. “I have informed him about your queries. He is not interested in talking about his businesses to the media. We live in this part of the town because we love a bit of privacy,” said a woman who said she was “Mrs Bhandari” but declined to give her name. The address The Indian Express tried to reach him on is the same as the one in the MF records.

— Avinash Nair/Ahmedabad

***

Rahul Arunprasad Patel

Patel is one of the three managing directors of Sintex Industries Ltd, an Ahmedabad-based company that has made a name for itself in manufacturing water tanks. He is among the promoters of the company listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange. MF records show Patel was a director with a BVI entity named Amarange Inc which was registered in 2008. The company was struck off the

MF records in 2014. The purpose for which it was set up has been recorded as: “Investments and for holding real estate in Singapore”.

RESPONSE: Contacted by The Indian Express, Rahul A Patel said: “We have a number of companies registered abroad. I am not sure if Amarange Inc is still ours. I do not deal with the financial part.”

In response to the questionnaire sent to Rahul Patel, the managing director of Sintex Industries, Amit D Patel said over the phone: “We have about 21 plants outside India. We acquired this (Amarange Inc) in 2007. While we acquire international operations, we need to create holding companies. When you acquire a company, you need to hold it outside India and then repatriate the dividends to India. So it is done with RBI permission and guidelines. We also borrow money there and we also send money outside India to fund our acquisition and we also get dividends from those companies into India. It (Amarange Inc) is part of our balance sheets and we also disclose (information about) it in our balance sheets since 2007. We keep on creating and closing these companies as and when the acquisition opportunities arise.”

— Avinash Nair/Ahmedabad

***

George Mathew

Thiruvananthapuram native George Mathew is a chartered accountant who moved to Singapore 12 years ago. He launched a firm, Future Books, which describes itself as a one-stop service-provider for setting up companies.

MF records show Mathew has been associated with a clutch of offshore entities registered in the BVI around 2011. He is shown as a director or nominee director, and several Powers of Attorney have been signed by him for the companies, among which there is a lot of cross-shareholding. BVI companies linked to him include Soul Rhythm International Limited, Seabridge Group Holdings Ltd, Azaxel Asset Holdings Limited, Hallwood Enterprise Ltd, and The Wonderful Solutions Corporation. MF records contain his addresses in Singapore and Kerala.

RESPONSE: Mathew told The Indian Express from Singapore that he has been an NRI for several years, and RBI regulations did not apply to him. “For the last 12 years, I have been away from India,” he said. Asked about Wonderful Solutions and Soul Rhythm International Limited, Mathew said: “These companies belong to our clients, who are natives of Singapore. The RBI and the Income-Tax Department of India have little to do with them.””

— Shaju Philip/ Thiruvananthapuram

Read more: 

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

“Panama papers”: how close to Marine Le Pen took out money from France (Le Monde)

Written by: Simon Piel and Anne Michel

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Photo credit: Le Monde/Julien Muguet/Hanslucas

“A sophisticated offshore system has been set up between Hong Kong, Singapore , the British Virgin Islands and Panama. It was used to getmoney from France , through company s screens and fake invoices with the desire to escape the French anti-money services.

At the center of this financial engineering offshore Frédéric Chatillon. Former leader of the Group Union Defense (GUD), student small group of extreme right, he met Marine Le Pen at the University of Assas right to early 1990. A strong friendship was forged since his company Riwal , has become the main provider of FN for communication during election campaigns and in 2012, its exclusive provider.

In 2012, just after the presidential election less than a month before the elections, Frédéric Chatillon is organized with the support of Nicolas hook to make out EUR 316 000 of the company Riwal and French territory. He intends to reinvest a portion of that sum in the company headed by one of his friends, Pascal Xatart based in Singapore without having to explain the origin of the funds.

To do this, a complex assembly is formed. First step in May 2012: the boss of Riwal is acquiring, through a company linked to Riwal and FN Unanimous France, a shell company, nicely called Time Dragon, based in Hong Kong, whose house mother is domiciled in more than 15,000 km away, the British Virgin islands. Time Dragon is a 100% subsidiary of Harson Asia Limited, domiciled on the island of Tortola in the Virgin Islands by Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca. It is she who will perform the final investment in the company of a friend of Frédéric Chatillon Singapore. But it is still necessary that Time Dragon can receive the French capital. Without attracting attention.

This is where Nicolas Hook is the second step. To confuse further tracks, the accountant – who was charged Marine’s economic program Le Pen in 2012 – proposes to use as porting entity, one of Hong Kong offshore company of his brother, Sebastian: Ever Harvest Garments Limited. A company also at odds with the Chinese tax authorities.

A false invoice is issued by Ever Harvest for the attention of Unanime France to justify the transfer of funds from France to Asia. This bill is supposed to regulate the realization of Marine Blue Rally websites for the laws, the beautiful benefits and well done but by a different provider qu’Ever Harvest. It remains only to make a transfer from the bank account to that of Ever Harvest Time Dragon. What’s done.

The third step can therefore engage Frédéric Chatillon recovers its funds in Hong Kong. It invests in Giift the company of his friend Pascal Xatart, by buying out a Luxembourg shareholder. Money travelagain, this time to its final destination, Singapore. The operation completed, the front company of the Virgin Islands was dissolved in October 2014, and Time Dragon, renamed flatly Unanimous Asia.”

(translated from Google)

Pakistan Wikimedia

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Panama Papers: Something fishy with Pakistani Politicians (The Siasat Daily)

“‘Saifullah family of Lakki Marwat’, which has a history of politics and business in the country, owns a record number of 34 offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles.

The companies are owned by Senator Osman Saifullah and his family members. The companies also own bank accounts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland and lands in the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, Senator Osman Saifullah is a member of the Tax Reform Commission set up by the government to check revenue leakage, broaden the revenue base and improve tax administration.”

Panama Papers: List of Pakistani politicians, businessmen who own companies abroad (Pakistan Today)

“Sultan Ali Allana, Chairman of Habib Bank Limited, and Khawaja Iqbal Hassan, former NIB bank President, held the power of attorney of Swiss Fixed Income Advisors, S.A. registered in BVI in April 1999. A letter from ABN AMRO N.V. London advised to its Singapore branch for the issuance of a draft of one million dollars favoring USB AG and to hand that over to either Sultan or Iqbal upon production of a passport. The Swiss Fixed Income Advisors was dissolved after this. Their detailed version in response to The News questions has been given at the bottom.”

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

Action against any firm named in Panama Papers (The Star)

Written by: Razak Ahmad 

“The ICIJ on Monday reported that members of the Malaysian Government and their families were among those who owned offshore firms in Singapore and the British Virgin Islands.

Datuk Mohd Nazifuddin Najib, the Prime Minister’s son who was among those named in the leak, has explained that he was no longer involved in the two companies implicated.

There was no immediate reaction from the Inland Revenue Board over whether it would start investigations.”

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

803 Indonesians Named in Panama Papers (Tempo.co)

Written by: Fery Firmansyah, Abdul Manan and Wahyu Dhyatmika 

“The Panama Papers named 899 individuals and companies in Indonesia who have set up shell companies in a number of tax havens, consisting of 803 shareholders, 10 companies, 28 set up companies and 58 relevant parties.

Panama Papers is different to Offshore Leaks. The Offshore Leaks, released in 2013, named 2961 Indonesians who were registered in 23 companies. Panama documents leak is from Panama-based legal firm Mossack Fonseca.

Whereas Offsore Leaks data came from Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and British Virgin Island-based Commonwealth Trust Ltd. However, both Offshore Leaks and Panama Papers were released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a global network of investigative journalists.

The Panama Papers named, among others, oil tycoon Riza Chalid and the Attorney General’s Office fugitive, Joko S. Tjandra.”

Panama papers: Indonesia combs files for dodgers (SBS)

Written by: AAP

“More than $US200 billion is estimated to have been parked overseas, in places such as neighbouring Singapore, by well-off Indonesians, effectively allowing them to evade their tax responsibilities.”

Govt to use Panama Papers as supplementary tax data (The Jakarta Post)

Written by: Ayomi Amindoni

“Leaked information on clients of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, known as the Panama Papers, will be used as supplementary data by the tax office, the finance minister says. Analyst have urged the government to use the data to pursue hidden tax potential.

Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said the government would examine information in the Panama Papers thoroughly and expected that the data would reveal a number of Indonesians who had undeclared assets in offshore companies.

Bambang said the government had information on Indonesians who had stashed money in countries that were tax havens. British Virgin Island, Cook Island and Singapore are the favorite tax havens for Indonesians.

“We will use the papers to supplement data that we currently have. According to our data, many Indonesians have ‘paper’ companies in various tax havens,” said Bambang in Jakarta on Tuesday.

He estimated that funds stashed overseas totaled more than Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP). “From estimated calculations of potential money owned offshore by Indonesians, I’d say it is more than our GDP, more than Rp 11.4 quadrillion [US$861.7 billion],” he said.”

Panama Papers: Inside Anglo’s ‘smooth and quiet’ Austrian business (The Irish Times)

Written by: Simon Carswell

“The Irish bank’s Vienna operation had in the 2000s been aggressively soliciting for business from wealthy depositors on the basis that their money would remain a secret if deposited in Austria.

The branch featured in a list of seven banks recommended by Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm that helped the rich and powerful conceal the ownership and control of assets, according to leaked documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which The Irish Times is a partner.

Anglo Irish Bank (Austria) appeared in other records leaked to the Washington-based consortium three years ago from a Singapore company that helped clients set up offshore companies and trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other tax havens.

One Anglo executive in Vienna boasted in an email to Portcullis Trustnet in Singapore in 2006 that Austria “deliberately keeps a lower profile” than the world’s private banking centre, Switzerland, and that investors appreciated “the smooth and quiet way in which the Austrian bank conducts business with their customers”.”

Shady trade deals back in focus (The Telegraph – Calcutta)

Written by: Jayanta Roy Chowdhury

“In the case of Bahamas, it was seen that exports had surged from just $2 million in 2008-09 to over $2 billion in 2010-11 – an increase of 1,000 per cent in shipments to a country with just 400,000 people, about 20 per cent less than the population of Siliguri in North Bengal.

Payments were often made via a string of shell companies in various places even as the actual shipments went to or came from some other place.

In the case of coal imported from South Africa or Indonesia, the payment could be routed through tax havens in Dubai, Singapore or the British Virgin Islands.

The payment shown on paper could be 50-60 per cent higher than the actual CIF (cost, insurance and freight) value of the shipment.

Importers would claim that the spot prices had shot up for that day or the coal was of a higher calorific value. The actual price could vary between $30 per tonne and $40 per tonne, but the price shown as paid through the various layers of companies in tax havens could be anything between $70 and $80 per tonne.

Enforcement Directorate officials said while the actual value was paid to the company in South Africa that shipped the coal, the “extras” were paid to the intermediary firms in tax havens.”

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Panama Papers: Dmitry Rybolovlev used offshore company to hide art from wife, leaked documents reveal (The Art Newspaper)

Written by: Cristina Ruiz

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Photo credit: The Art Newspaper/AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

“In December 2008 Elena Rybolovleva filed for divorce from her husband Dmitry, who is now embroiled in a separate legal battle with his former art advisor Yves Bouvier. The Rybolovlevs were based in Switzerland and under Swiss law each spouse was entitled to an equal part of the couple’s wealth.

But tracking down Dmitry Rybolovlev’s assets was not easy. Mossack Fonseca had helped the businessman transfer ownership of many of his art assets to a company they set up for him in the British Virgin Islands, Xitrans Finance Ltd. This off-shore firm owned paintings by Picasso, Modigliani, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Rothko and “also bought Louis XVI-style desks, tables and drawers made by some of Paris’s grandest furniture makers,” the ICIJ writes.

“As the marriage broke down, according to notes from a court hearing sent via email to Mossack Fonseca in January 2009, [Rybolovlev] used Xitrans Finance Ltd to move these luxury items out of Switzerland to Singapore and London, beyond [his wife’s] reach.”

Here’s the Price Countries Pay for Tax Evasion Exposed in Panama Papers (The Intercept)

Written by: Jon Schwarz

“So as a result of all the different schemes like the ones being unveiled by the Mossack Fonseca leak, governments around the world are dealing with at least a one-third of a trillion dollar annual shortfall that must be made up by cutting spending, borrowing, or taxing the rest of us more than they should.

In terms of tax avoidance, Zucman points out that about a third of U.S. corporate profits, or $650 billion, are purportedly earned outside the country. Corporate tax lawyers use accounting tricks to make 55 percent of this $650 billion bogusly appear to have been generated in six low- or zero-tax countries: the Netherlands, Bermuda, Luxembourg, Ireland, Singapore, and Switzerland. According to U.S. law, the corporations don’t have to pay our corporate tax rate of 35 percent until the profits are brought back to the United States, so the profits generally stay overseas. However, if those profits did come home and were taxed at the proper rate, the U.S. corporate tax bill would be about $130 billion higher per year.

Thus tax evasion is most costly for the regular citizens of Russia, Latin America, and Africa. Meanwhile, while it’s impossible to calculate precisely, Americans and Europeans pay more of the burden of American corporations’ tax avoidance.”

Panama Papers: why tax havens matter, in one chart (Vox)

Written by: Matthew Yglesias

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Photo credit: Vox

“The use of shell companies and tax havens isn’t new, but it’s an increasingly important subject, and not just because the Panama Papers leaks have it in the news. According to estimates from UC Berkley economist Gabriel Zucman, the share of global wealth being held in these kinds of structures has skyrocketed over the past quarter-century:

Pretty much any tax regime you can think of is going to have some exploitable loopholes. If you don’t do anything to change the system, over time those loopholes are going to be found, publicized, exploited, and expanded. Eventually, their use becomes so simple and routinized that whole industries are dedicated to guiding tax avoiders through the process and foreign economies (like the Cayman Islands) are based on protecting the gains.

In a functioning political system, this becomes a cat-and-mouse game where the government closes the loopholes and the lawyers and accountants try to keep discovering news ones. But across much of the world, the cats — inspired by anti-tax ideology — have been deliberately falling further and further behind, and the mice are acting with more impunity. That’s what you see on this chart.

The result is a world in which it’s hardly fair to call things like tax shelters in Panama “loopholes” anymore. They are a visible, persistent part of the global tax system, and the authorities behind that system have implicitly signaled that it is safe and even acceptable to use them.”

The Panama Papers expose how the global elite ruined the housing market and stopped you from buying a home (The Independent)

Written by: Hannah Fearn 

“Last year, speaking in Singapore, David Cameron was forced to acknowledge that foreign investment in British housing stock was damaging to the housing market and provided a cover for illegal activities. He agreed to crack down on individuals and organisations using the mask of offshore companies to invest in the UK property market as a means to launder what he called “dirty money”. He described how London property was being snapped up with “plundered and laundered cash” and promised that the UK should not be a “safe haven for corrupt money”. But it wasn’t enough.

In making the speech, Cameron was responding to a growing realisation that, in ushering in foreign investment, the government had also welcomed in a wealthy elite that objected to transparency in its financial dealings. Did we really know what, or who, we were dealing with? More importantly, did we understand how significant an effect their secret spending with the global luxury real estate brokers of Mayfair was having on everyone else, right down to the family trying to buy a modest two-bedroom semi in Chelmsford?

Even Donald Toon, director of economic crime at the National Crime Agency, said the use of ‘corporate wrappers’ and other tactics to launder money had “skewed” the property market. “Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK, ” he said last year.

Wealthy elites, purchasing high end residential and commercial property, have pushed up the prices of housing for everyone. In the city centre, global high rollers compete aggressively for prime space, the solid investments that can weather a global financial crisis – and even a predicted future downturn. The fight pushes up the price, but when you’re finding ways to sidestep all the financial obligations that go with buying a home, perhaps that doesn’t matter quite so much. The buyers keep on coming.

What hope for an ordinary household, requiring two incomes to repay a mortgage? Even with a major deposit of, say, 40 per cent, the buyer with the readies will always take precedence. That causes a ripple effect.”

Panama Papers: UAE president leads London property holdings (Daily Mail)

Written by: AFP

“The president of the United Arab Emirates owns London properties worth more than £1.2 billion ($1.7 billion, 1.5 billion euros) through offshore companies revealed in the so-called Panama Papers, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan was among numerous public figures named as owners of billions of pounds of central London real estate following the huge leak of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Owning British property through offshore companies is perfectly legal, but it is controversial because such holdings obscure the identity of the owners, allowing them to avoid scrutiny and tax.

“There is no place for dirty money in Britain,” Cameron said in a speech during a visit to Singapore.”

To millennials caught in the rent trap, the Panama Papers matter (The Guardian)

Written by: Kate Lyons

“So it doesn’t come as a surprise to us, nor I imagine to older generations, that leaders are out for themselves, that some wealthy people do immoral, or possibly illegal, things to make more money for themselves and keep as much of it out of the communal pot as possible. It’s easy to get blase about what are extraordinary revelations, and to dismiss them with a world-weary shrug of the shoulders.

Which is exactly why today’s revelations about the connections between tax havens and property ownership are so important. Revealed in the leaked documents was the fact that 2,800 Mossack Fonseca companies are connected to more than 6,000 UK title deeds, worth at least £7bn . On top of this, according to Guardian analysis, more than 90,000 properties in England and Wales are listed in the Land Registry to overseas owners, at least 75,000 of which are owned by companies or individuals registered in tax havens.

In a country where most young people cannot afford to buy a home, the fact that thousands of properties are bought through tax haven-based companies, by people who are already wealthy enough to restructure their finances to take advantage of tax havens, driving up house prices, and pushing out owner-occupiers, matters. And it especially matters to millennials.

This is where the Panama Papers come in. Now we know just how much property is owned by companies linked with Mossack Fonseca, we can see how it affects young people. These companies buy property for very different reasons and with very different resources at their disposal than the average millennial looking to get on the property ladder.

The tax haven-operated company is not wondering whether it can scrimp and borrow from their family to get together the deposit for a two-bedroom apartment that mightallow them to have a child, rather than the one-bedroom property that’s already bankrupting them. They’re not debating whether the savings they get from buying in the furthest-flung suburbs of the city are worth the cost of the commute. In fact they may not be thinking about the property as a place in which people live at all.

Properties owned by offshore landlords aren’t illegal, nor are they the only reason for the precipitously escalating house prices across the country, but they are a factor. And as these companies and the, until now, mostly anonymous people behind them, buy more properties across the country, the dream of young adults buying a house, not as an investment, but as a home, gets further and further out of reach.

Millennials probably won’t be surprised by the revelations of how the tax haven system keeps the rich and powerful rich and powerful, but it’s important to remember that such wealth often comes at the expense of others. Even if it doesn’t shock us, it should make us angry.”

*Financial Secrecy Index

The Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities. A politically neutral ranking, it is a tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows or capital flight.

The index was launched on November 2, 2015.

Singapore ranks 4th most secret.

Financial Secrecy Index

You should also read the following – from the previous Offshore Leaks by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2013

  1. Offshore Banking / Money Laundering (Jess C Scott Singapore Politics: Blog) 
  2. ICIJ’s Offshore Files: The Singapore Link? (Article 14)
  3. The Secret List of Off-Shore-Companies, Persons and Adresses, Part 147, SINGAPORE

Highlights of Offshore Leaks so far (The Center for Public Integrity)

Written by: Kimberley Porteous

  • “The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on June 14 (2013) released the Offshore Leaks interactive database that allows the public to search through more than 100,000 secret companies, trusts and funds created in offshore locales such as the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands and Singapore.
  • British tax authorities said they were working with the United States and Australian tax administrations on analyzing a 400GB data cache “showing the use of companies and trusts in a number of territories around the world including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Cook Islands,” the British tax office statement said. The data cache is believed to be the same one obtained by ICIJ and used as a basis for the Offshore Leaks investigation.
  • British authorities say they have so far identified “over 100 people who benefit from these structures … and are under investigation for offshore tax evasion,” as well as more than 200 UK accountants, lawyers and other middlemen who helped set up the offshore structures.
  • Fabio Ghioni, the former head of information security at Telecom Italia who was later convicted of hacking the data of 4,000 people, had an offshore company called Constant Surge Investments Limited. Internal documents reveal he was advised by the Singapore branch of Deutsche Bank to do business with Portcullis TrustNet. When interviewed by L’Espresso, he denied being the beneficial owner of CSIL: “I don’t know anything of this. I don’t even know where the Virgin Islands are located.”
  • Top Malaysian politicians and their families, including former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s son Mirzan and current cabinet minister Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin, are among prominent Malaysians with secretive offshore companies housed in Singapore and the British Virgin Islands.
  • Two major French banks, BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole oversaw the creation of a large number of totally opaque offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and Singapore from the late 1990s until the end of the 2000s for clients in search of secrecy and lower tax rates.
  • Nicky Hager provides an in-depth look at the offshore service provider Portcullis TrustNet. Roughly 45,000 of about 77,000 of the client list come from China, Taiwan, Singapore and other East and Southeast Asian nations. The firm is used by many of the world’s major banks, such as UBS, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse subsidiary Clariden, and by the world’s biggest auditing firms, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG, to provide secrecy for their wealthy clients, and was implicated in New Zealand’s “winebox affair” scandal of the decade.
  • Germany’s largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank, helped its customers maintain more than 300 secretive offshore companies and trusts through its Singapore branch.”

Dirty Money: Will Singapore Clean Up Its Act? (Spiegel)

Written by: Martin Hesse

“And therein lays the contradiction: Singapore wants to be an attractive financial center while preserving its reputation as a corruption-free zone and remaining a level above pure tax shelters, like Nauru. The government under the ruling People’s Action Party is relentless when it comes to keeping streets, subways and parks spotlessly clean, but some question whether it is equally diligent about implementing the new laws on money laundering and tax evasion.”

And now, look at how Norway responds – with conscience and ethics:

At a glance: Global fallout from offshore accounts reports (Yahoo)

Written by: The Associated Press 

“The bank DNB said it regrets having helped about 40 customers open offshore companies in the Seychelles with the help of Mossack Fonseca. The bank was reacting to a report in Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten showing it had helped customers set up shell companies in the Seychelles to avoid taxes.

The bank said “that it was legal to set up this type of companies doesn’t mean that it was correct for us to do it for these customers.””

Update 15 of Defamation Funds & All-You-Need-to-Know Singapore Statistics

I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article on this blog and have been asked to pay him S$180,000.

Thank you everyone for your support and contributing to the funds for the defamation suit. I am very thankful and grateful for your support. It would have been difficult to do this alone.

As of 12pm today, I have raised S$29,477.36. 

The funds were raised from the POSB bank account and PayPal, and also from customers at my dad’s stall who have been kind enough to support. A nice lady also recognised me on the street and also gave me S$150.

(1) POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling): S$23,135.47

Defamation Suit Funds Raised 1 April 2016.png

(2) PayPal (royngerng@gmail.com): S$4,627.89

PayPal 1 April 2016.png

(3) Customers at my dad’s carrot cake stall: S$200

My dad sells carrot cake at Block 107 in Ang Mo Kio. Some people had visited my dad’s stall to pass him some contributions.

A man gave my dad S$200 for the fund raising yesterday. Thank you for your help!

Some people have also said that they would like to visit my dad’s stall to eat the carrot cake. Just to let you know, he is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 4pm to about 11pm/midnight.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But as long as there are funds coming in, I will update them on the blog.

First Installment Payment Made to Prime Minister

Yesterday, I also made the first installment payment of S$100 to the prime minister. (Two weeks ago, I paid him S$30,000 for the costs.)

I have to pay him S$100 every month from April 1 2016, for 5 years. Thereafter from 2021, I have to pay him S$1,000 every month until the S$150,000 in damages are paid off.

Below are some posts I made on my Facebook and I thought to share them here. 

Singapore Flag

Here are all the basic statistics you need to know about the socioeconomic situation in Singapore. Read this and understand what is at stake for your life in Singapore.

(If you need to just read one thing to understand what’s really going on in Singapore, all you need is to read this to know the economic truths in Singapore.)

On healthcare:

On education:

On retirement:

On unemployment benefits:

On wages:

On taxes:

I will just leave this here. I will stop writing for a while. I didn’t know that people close to me were hurting from what I have been doing. People have even asked them how they raised their son.

I cannot keep hurting the people who love me the most.

People can read and make up their own minds of what’s happening here, and what they need to do.

You can also read and share the above via Facebook: 

You can also read the following links:

Thank You for Your Support for the Fund Raising

As of this morning, a total of $$29,477.36 has been raised. I still have to pay another S$149,900 to the prime minister.

If you would also like to help to defray the costs and damages, you can also fund raise to the bank account at POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling) or PayPal at royngerng@gmail.com. Thank you.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But for transparency, I will continue to update on the funds raised and used, on this blog.

Meanwhile, I have also attached my LinkedIn profile here, if it might be of interest. I was fired after I was sued – the hospital that I worked at and the Ministry of Health, Singapore sent out press releases to support the firing, with the hospital alluding to the defamation suit.

If you have a job opening, scholarship or fellowship, please feel free to contact me on the opportunities. I would be grateful if you do so. I am open to working overseas as well.

View Roy Ngerng's profile on LinkedIn

View Roy Ngerng's LinkedIn profile View Roy Ngerng’s profile

*****

Background: In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for defamation. The judge ruled in a summary judgment that I have defamed him. I have apologised to the prime minister. I was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 to him. In a settlement reached with the help of my lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, I am to pay an additional S$30,000 in costs. In total, including the previous payment that I have made to the costs of the summary judgment (S$29,000) and application for the Queen’s Counsel (S$6,000), I would have paid/will pay S$215,000. 

Two weeks ago, I have paid the first tranche of S$30,000 (of the S$180,000) to the prime minister. From April 1, 2016, for the next 5 years, I have to pay $100 every month. Thereafter, from 2021, I have to pay $1,000 every month until I finish paying.

You can read the previous updates here: [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten] [Eleven] [Twelve] [Thirteen] [Fourteen]. I would like to thank Mothership.sg for reporting about the fund raising. 

You can also read the previous update on the funds raised in 2014 and its usage. I would like to thank The Straits Times for reporting about it. There were also inaccurate online reports that the funds were used to pay overseas trips. This is untrue. You can read more about these in the update here.

How Much Singaporeans Should Earn and Update Fourteen of Defamation Funds

I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article on this blog and have been asked to pay him S$180,000.

Thank you everyone for your support and contributing to the funds for the defamation suit. I am very thankful and grateful for your support. It would have been difficult to do this alone.

As of 11am today, I have raised S$28,950.99. 

The funds were raised from the POSB bank account and PayPal, and also from customers at my dad’s stall who have been kind enough to support. A nice lady also recognised me on the street and also gave me S$150.

(1) POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling): S$22,904.70

Defamation Suit Funds Raised 30 March 2016

(2) PayPal (royngerng@gmail.com): S$4,532.29

PayPal 30 March 2016 a.png

One person left this note on PayPal as well. Thank you for your note!

PayPal 30 March 2016 b

(3) Customers at my dad’s carrot cake stall: S$350

My dad sells carrot cake at Block 107 in Ang Mo Kio. Some people had visited my dad’s stall to pass him some contributions.

A man gave my dad S$350 for the fund raising yesterday. Thank you for your help!

Some people have also said that they would like to visit my dad’s stall to eat the carrot cake. Just to let you know, he is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 4pm to about 11pm/midnight.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But as long as when there are funds coming in, I will update them on the blog.

Singapore 2.jpg

A few days ago, I made some rough calculations on my Facebook about how much Singaporeans should earn to have a most basic standard of living and thought to share it here:

The Singapore Government Wants Singaporeans to be “Self-Reliant” but the Government Does Not Allow Singaporeans to be “Self-Reliant”

You can also read it below:

Here’s another thought.

How much do you need to spend on the following every month, at the very least? (for individuals):

  • Food: S$450 (S$15 × 30 days)
  • Transport: S$100
  • Housing: S$500 (cash mortgage, estimated)
  • Healthcare: S$500 (for insurance, estimated)*
  • University Fees: S$100**
  • CPF: 20% (employee contribution)
  • Pension: S$500***
  • Other bills: S$200 (public utilities, telecommunications, estimated)
  • Other necessities: S$300 (for clothes, furniture, electrical appliances etc, estimated)

Total: About S$3,300 (inclusive of 20% employee CPF contribution, for all estimates)

(Please also do your own estimates.)

*Medisave and MediShield Life does not fully cover for healthcare. To have adequate protection, it is necessary to buy insurance for hospitalisation and accidents.
**Assuming S$32,200 is paid to a 4-year university course (at cheapest current fees), or about S$100 every month for 27 years (without interest earned) – almost the work span of a person.
***CPF does not provide for adequate retirement. It is necessary to invest a separate pool of money to earn interest, to be able to save enough to retire.

~~~~~

Below, I made some amendments to the estimated expenditure, based on the following assumptions:

  1. What Singaporeans pay into Medisave is already enough to provide free healthcare for all Singaporeans. Assuming healthcare can therefore be provided free, a negligible amount needs to be paid.
  2. There is enough budget surplus to provide free education for all Singaporeans. Assuming education can therefore be provided free, a negligible amount needs to be paid.
  3. There is enough budget surplus to provide additional pension for elderly Singaporeans. Also, if GIC returns the interest it earns on Singaporeans’ CPF, the CPF adequacy will also increase. Assuming CPF can be made adequate and the government provides an additional pension, a negligible amount needs to be set aside.

This is the amended expected spending, based on the above assumptions (for individuals, assuming with free healthcare, education and adequate pension):

  • Food: S$450 (S$15 x 30 days)
  • Transport: S$100
  • Housing: S$500 (cash mortgage, estimated)
  • Healthcare: S$0
  • University Fees: S$0
  • CPF: 20% (employee contribution)
  • Pension: S$0
  • Other bills: S$200 (public utilities, telecommunications, estimated)
  • Other necessities: S$300 (for clothes, furniture, electrical appliances etc, estimated)

Total: About S$1,900

~~~~~

This is what the above exercise means:

  1. If there is free healthcare and education in Singapore, and adequate national pension, a minimum wage of about S$1,900 would be enough to ensure that all Singaporeans would have the most basic standard of living. (This is similar to the situation in Japan now, which has a similar cost of living and where minimum wage is S$2,000.)
  2. However, with the current system where Singaporeans are required to buy additional insurance for healthcare, and set aside additional money for university and pension, a minimum wage of at least S$3,000 would be necessary.
  3. However, today, cleaners earn only about S$1,000 and there are about 10% of Singaporeans who earn less than S$1,000. Also, 30% earn less than S$2,000 and 50% who earn less than S$3,000. An estimated 30% of Singaporeans are living in poverty. This means that at least 30% to half of Singaporeans do not earn enough to have a most basic standard of living.

~~~~~

For couples: 

But the above estimates are only for individuals. For couples with two children, they would need to double the estimates for food, transport and healthcare, and housing for a bigger apartment (and perhaps also increase spending for telecommunications and other necessities).

Under the current system, a couple would need to each earn at least S$4,600.

If there is free healthcare and education, and adequate pension, a couple would need to each earn at least S$2,600.

  1. Today, about 45% of Singaporeans earn less than S$2,600 and about 70% of Singaporeans earn less than S$4,600.
  2. If a couple decides to have children today and if they belong to the bottom 70%, they are likely to live in perpetual debt.

~~~~~

Conclusion:

(A) There is currently enough budget surplus (and Singaporeans already pay enough) to provide free healthcare and education, and adequate pension for Singaporeans.

(B) If this is done, a minimum wage of S$2,500 should be implemented in Singapore, so that all Singaporeans will be able to have the most basic standard of living, and still be able to have children and not go into debt. (In comparison, for countries with a similar cost of living, Australia has a minimum wage of S$3,000 and low-income earners in Switzerland also earn S$3,000.)

(C) Under the current system where Singaporeans have to fork out additional for healthcare, education and pension, the minimum wage should be set at about S$4,500.

(In comparison, for Norway, which has a similar GDP per capita and cost of living as Singapore, the lowest income earner earns S$5,000, so a minimum wage of S$4,500 is not far-fetched. Norway is said to have high personal income tax but the average personal income tax rate is 39%. Singaporeans pay 37% into CPF, which is not that different. Tax in Norway and CPF in Singapore serves the same function of providing for healthcare, education and retirement, so their fundamental usage is similar. Moreover, there is free healthcare and education for Norwegians which means that the purchasing power is a lot higher for Norwegians even if Singapore would have a minimum wage is S$4,500. But with Singaporeans still earning as low as S$1,000 or less, you can imagine how horrendous it is today for the majority of Singaporeans. Or rather, hopefully you can realise.)

~~~~~

How can Singaporeans be expected to be “self-reliant” when the government does not allow them to have enough to do so?

The whole point of this exercise is this – the government wants Singaporeans to be “self-reliant”. If so, the government should ensure that Singaporeans are paid enough to be “self-reliant”.

If Singaporeans are not paid enough, then how can they ever be “self-reliant”? If 70% of Singaporeans earn less than S$4,500 when this is the minimum they need, then how can 70% of Singaporeans be expected to be “self-reliant”?

It is irresponsible of a government to want Singaporeans to be “self-reliant” when it does not provide adequate resources for Singaporeans to do so.

Then the government is shirking its responsibility.

~~~~~

Anyway, you can also do your own estimates and we can exchange our estimates.

You can leave your estimates as a comment below.

Afternote: The estimates for the components will cause the minimum amount to vary. For example, if health insurance is about S$200 and the additional amount set aside for pension contribution is S$250, then a single person should earn at least S$2,600 every month and a married couple should minimally earn S$3,600 each, or which the minimum wage should be set by this level – about 55% of Singaporeans earn less than this today. (This is slightly higher than Australia and Switzerland’s minimum.)

Thank You for Your Support for the Fund Raising

As of this morning, a total of $$28,950.99 has been raised. I still have to pay another S$150,000 to the prime minister.

If you would also like to help to defray the costs and damages, you can also fund raise to the bank account at POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling) or PayPal at royngerng@gmail.com. Thank you.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But for transparency, I will continue to update on the funds raised and used, on this blog.

Meanwhile, I have also attached my LinkedIn profile here, if it might be of interest.

View Roy Ngerng's profile on LinkedIn

View Roy Ngerng's LinkedIn profile View Roy Ngerng’s profile

*****

Background: In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for defamation. The judge ruled in a summary judgment that I have defamed him. I have apologised to the prime minister. I was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 to him. In a settlement reached with the help of my lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, I am to pay an additional S$30,000 in costs. In total, including the previous payment that I have made to the costs of the summary judgment (S$29,000) and application for the Queen’s Counsel (S$6,000), I would have paid/will pay S$215,000. 

Last Wednesday, I have paid the first tranche of S$30,000 (of the S$180,000) to the prime minister. From April 1, 2016, for the next 5 years, I have to pay $100 every month. Thereafter, from 2021, I have to pay $1,000 every month until I finish paying.

You can read the previous updates here: [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten] [Eleven] [Twelve] [Thirteen]. I would like to thank Mothership.sg for reporting about the fund raising. 

You can also read the previous update on the funds raised in 2014 and its usage. I would like to thank The Straits Times for reporting about it. There were also inaccurate online reports that the funds were used to pay overseas trips. This is untrue. You can read more about these in the update here.

Thoughts on CPF and Update Thirteen of Defamation Funds

I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article on this blog and have been asked to pay him S$180,000.

Thank you everyone for your support and contributing to the funds for the defamation suit. I am very thankful and grateful for your support. It would have been difficult to do this alone.

As of 10.30am today, I have raised S$27,440.06. S$50 came in over the weekend.

The funds were raised from the POSB bank account and PayPal, and also from customers at my dad’s stall who have been kind enough to support. Also, last Wednesday, a nice lady recognised me on the street and also gave me S$150.

POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling): S$22,804.70

On Good Friday, a person sent me S$50 via DBS PayLah!

Defamation Suit Funds Raised 28 March 2016.png

This was all the funds that came in since the last update.

My dad sells carrot cake at Block 107 in Ang Mo Kio. Some people had visited my dad’s stall to pass him some contributions.

Some people have also said that they would like to visit my dad’s stall to eat the carrot cake. Just to let you know, he is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 4pm to about 11pm/midnight.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But as long as when there are funds coming in, I will update them on the blog.

CPF Logo.png

Over the weekend, I wrote a post on CPF on my Facebook and thought to share it here:

There are Many Ways to Fix the CPF but There’s a Lack of Political Will

So here’s a thought.

The government now makes Singaporeans pay a huge chunk of our wages – 37% – into CPF, then make us use our CPF to buy housing. When we sell our apartment, we have to pay an interest back.

This is the “accrued interest”. Normally, the government pays an interest on our CPF. But when we take out our CPF to use, the government says since they cannot pay us the interest, we have to pay the interest back. Do you find it weird that the government makes you pay an interest that they should pay?

They say that since you take your CPF out to use, you have lesser CPF to retire on, so they want you to pay the interest back. Shouldn’t it be the government which top up our CPF since they take our CPF to use without returning the interest earned?

But you know, what’s the point? Even if we pay this “accrued interest” back, we still won’t have enough to retire on. For many reasons – depressed wages, low CPF interest, high housing prices etc.

Funny that we pay the highest contribution rate – 37% – in the world for retirement but Singaporeans have one of the least adequate retirement funds in the world.

So, why not this.

Let the government not take so much of our wages into CPF. 37% is excessive. Based on some studies, we might only need to set aside 10% to 15% of our wages to save enough for adequate retirement.

If so, a study should be done to calculate how much wages people should set aside and how much interest they should earn to save enough for retirement. Mind you, we only earn 2.5% to 4% on our CPF. The average pension return globally last year was 6%. So with just 10% to 15% of our wages and a 6% interest, we should be able to save quite well for retirement.

So, let the CPF be just for retirement – what it’s meant to be for anyway. Many economists and academics have proposed this too.

Then with whatever more cash we have left on hand, we can decide to use it to buy an apartment, or to rent one. Or we can invest it in what we want to earn higher interest and be able to save more to buy an apartment – without having to pay an “accrued interest” some more! Our money is our money! No rules by the government and no change of rules without our permission. We are in control.

Then we would have fixed the problem. The CPF will earn enough. We will have cash on hand to decide how we want to use it on our own. The CPF won’t be thrown into housing, to artificially inflate HDB flat prices and with CPF and housing seperate, there’s more transparency.

Good idea?

But they won’t do it, lah. 69.9% voted for them.

And if they reform the system to be more transparent and fair, then where will they get cheap money to invest in GIC and Temasek Holdings?

But CPF is your money, you say? No lah, NMP already say CPF not your money.

69.9% agree. Unless they change their minds lor.

Problem is the government still sees your CPF as their money to invest and to use for infrastructure – just as they took your money to use in the 1970s. And at that time, your CPF was earning a high interest – up to 6.5%. So that’s OK.

But things have changed today. The government shouldn’t have to need the money anymore but they still keep taking to use.

Don’t know is it because they are greedy or what, they then decreased the CPF interest rate to only 2.5% from 1999, so that they can take more to use. And when they take our CPF to let GIC and Temasek Holdings to use, they also don’t tell us.

Old habits die hard, I suppose. But 长江后浪推前浪. You don’t want to wait until you 死在沙滩上. Sometimes we have to move on with the times. Find new ways of doing things. Otherwise, one day, the wheel will stop turning.

There are many ways to fix the current problem. Only whether they want to or not, or dare to.

Problem is the system not only makes Singaporeans scared. It also makes our policymakers and government scared.

How, got hope or not?

Thank You for Your Support for the Fund Raising

As of this morning, a total of $S27,440.06 has been raised. I still have to pay another S$150,000 to the prime minister.

If you would also like to help to defray the costs and damages, you can also fund raise to the bank account at POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling) or PayPal at royngerng@gmail.com. Thank you.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But for transparency, I will continue to update on the funds raised and used, on this blog.

Meanwhile, I have also attached my LinkedIn profile here, if it might be of interest.

View Roy Ngerng's profile on LinkedIn

View Roy Ngerng's LinkedIn profile View Roy Ngerng’s profile

*****

Background: In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for defamation. The judge ruled in a summary judgment that I have defamed him. I have apologised to the prime minister. I was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 to him. In a settlement reached with the help of my lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, I am to pay an additional S$30,000 in costs. In total, including the previous payment that I have made to the costs of the summary judgment (S$29,000) and application for the Queen’s Counsel (S$6,000), I would have paid/will pay S$215,000. 

Last Wednesday, I have paid the first tranche of S$30,000 (of the S$180,000) to the prime minister. From April 1, 2016, for the next 5 years, I have to pay $100 every month. Thereafter, from 2021, I have to pay $1,000 every month until I finish paying.

You can read the previous updates here: [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten] [Eleven] [Twelve]. I would like to thank Mothership.sg for reporting about the fund raising. 

You can also read the previous update on the funds raised in 2014 and its usage. I would like to thank The Straits Times for reporting about it. There were also inaccurate online reports that the funds were used to pay overseas trips. This is untrue. You can read more about these in the update here.

A Short Note on Budget 2016 and Update Twelve of Defamation Funds

I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article on this blog and have been asked to pay him S$180,000.

Thank you everyone for your support and contributing to the funds for the defamation suit. I am very thankful and grateful for your support. It would have been difficult to do this alone.

Thank you for reading the blog as well. I have written more than 600 articles since 2012, in the hope to shed light on the socio-economic situation in Singapore and I am glad that we have been able to raise a level of awareness on the issues.

Last night, I received another S$145. A couple gave my dad S$45 for the fund raising yesterday. One woman gave S$50 and an Indian man gave S$50 as well. Thank you to you.

My dad sells carrot cake at Block 107 in Ang Mo Kio. Some people have visited my dad’s stall to pass him some contributions.

Some people have also said that they would like to visit my dad’s stall to eat the carrot cake. Just to let you know, he is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 4pm to about 11pm/midnight.

There were no new funds in the POSB bank account (130-23068-7 Ngerng Yi Ling) and PayPal (royngerng@gmail.com).

As of 12pm today, S$27,390.06 has been raised. 

The funds coming in have slowed down. But as long as when there are funds coming in, I will update them on the blog.

Singapore.jpg

Singapore Currently Has Enough Surplus to Provide Free Healthcare and Education for Singaporeans

On Thursday, the government announced Budget 2016.

What stood out for me was that GIC and Temasek Holdings will be contributing S$14.7 billion to the budget, via the Net Investment Returns (NIR).

Note that as GIC primarily uses Singaporeans’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) pension funds and part of the CPF is transferred to Temasek Holdings, this means that the NIR would also indirectly come from Singaporeans’ CPF.

The CPF can be used for not only retirement but healthcare and education.

As I have calculated, Singaporeans spend S$1.7 billion on university fees and S$11 billion on healthcare, from our own pockets. In total, we have to pay S$12.7 billion by ourselves for healthcare and education.

The NIR of S$14.7 billion (some of which is our CPF) is already more than that. And as I also mentioned, from 2005 to 2012, Singapore has a surplus of between S$18 billion to S$32 billion, which can also more than cover for all of Singaporeans’ expenditure on healthcare and education.

As I also explained, Singaporeans contributed S$32 billion into CPF last year. This can also more than cover for all of Singaporeans’ expenditure on healthcare and education.

Importantly, Singaporeans have paid S$77 billion into Medisave but in 2014, we were only able to withdraw S$852 million for direct medical expenses. This means that we were only able to use 1.1% of what we have paid in total. Even if Medisave is used to fully cover for all private healthcare expenditure, it would only take up 15%.

Which means there is a lot of money left.

Moreover, as I calculated, “the existing surplus/contributions that Singapore has in one year can provide free education, healthcare and retirement for another 4 to 8 years, or more, at the current spending”.

Anyway, I am sounding like a broken record. I have said this many times on the blog.

I am reiterating the above points to highlight that there is enough money to provide free healthcare and education for all people living on this island, including adequate pension for elderly residents in Singapore.

It is up to Singaporeans to have a conversation on this.

The Government Should Provide Unemployment Benefits in View of More Job Layoffs

Important to note – last year, Singapore saw the highest number of workers lose their jobs since 2009. At the same time, Singapore saw the least jobs created since 2003. And of the jobs created, only 0.3% went to Singaporeans or permanent residents.

As such, I would think that the most urgent thing that the government should do is to provide unemployment benefits for Singaporeans. As it is, Singapore is one of very few countries in the world still without unemployment benefits.

And this is worrying because not only is Singapore the most expensive city in the world for three years running, Singaporeans also pay one of the most expensive university fees and healthcare in the world, MediShield Life premiums for example still have to be paid even as one is unemployed.And MediShield Life premiums can go up to more than S$1,200 a year, which can be harrowing for a person without income to pay.

With 1 in 3 Singaporeans in debt and an estimated 30% of Singaporeans living in poverty, this means that many of those retrenched might not have enough savings to pay for these necessities.

As such, I would think it is urgent to provide unemployment benefits for Singaporeans.

You see, where the Singapore government spends the least on healthcare and education among the developed countries, as a percentage of GDP, this means that Singaporeans who are working already face a huge burden, noting that Singaporeans already have the lowest purchasing power among the developed countries.

Thus for Singaporeans who are unemployed, this burden would be insurmountable, indefinitely.

So, the choice is for the government to either increase healthcare and education expenditure on its side, or to provide unemployment benefits so that unemployed Singaporeans would still have financial aid to afford these essentials. But even with healthcare and education expenditure increased, some form of unemployment benefits would still need to be provided to help the individual get by while looking for a job – people who have become unemployed at some point will understand this.

But the government is doing neither of both.

There is a Way to Implement Minimum Wage in Singapore – Remove Foreign Worker Levies

In addition, Singapore currently does not have minimum wage – one of the very few countries in the world still without one. There is a de facto minimum wage of S$1,000 for cleaners but even so, there are nearly 10% of Singaporeans who still earn less than S$1,000.

Now, employers who hire foreign workers for low-income jobs are required to pay foreign worker levies to the government.

The median wage for a construction worker is S$1,000. The employer would have to pay an up to another S$900 in foreign worker levy to hire a foreign worker.

In total, the employer would be paying S$1,900 to hire the construction worker, if based on the median wage. In total, the government collected S$2.5 billion in revenue via foreign worker levies in 2011. At the rate of growth, the government would have collected S$3 or S$4 billion last year which would have been able to provide free education for Singaporeans for more than 2 years.

If the employer does not need to pay the foreign worker levy to the government, the levy could be diverted to pay the worker which could possibly mean that a construction worker could potentially earn as high as S$1,900.

Instead of the government wanting to collect revenue from foreign worker levies, it would be more beneficial to the worker for the government to implement an industry-level minimum wage to level-up and increase wages for the different low-income occupations. (The levies are industry-based now anyway.) For example, if the lowest paid construction worker earns S$800 now and the employer has to pay a levy of S$900, this would add up to S$1,700. If so, the government can implement a minimum wage of S$1,700 for construction workers to allow the workers to earn more. (More information would be needed to calculate the exact minimum wage.) 

Where government spending is the lowest among the developed world, the government collecting more revenue is honestly meaningless when the money does not go back to the people.

Moreover, is the foreign worker levy a tax on businesses, or is it really a tax on the worker, in lost wages?

The foreign worker levy is effectively a de facto 53% tax (S$900 out of S$1,700). For construction workers who lose the potential to earn higher wages because of this, it is an implicit tax of as high as 53% that they are paying. This is on top of the 37% CPF contribution rate that they currently have to pay.

Therefore, instead of the government taking away workers’ wages in the form of foreign worker levies, I would think that a more enlightened government would return the levies to the workers and implement a minimum wage, which would have the same effect of encouraging businesses to enhance productivity but at the same time, increase wages for the workers – since businesses are already paying these manpower costs right now, but instead of paying to workers which they should rightfully do, they are made to pay the government instead.

Look at it another way, if the foreign worker levies are returned to the workers, all workers would have higher wages. Even after the worker pays personal income tax, he/she is still going to have a higher disposable income than now with the government taking the foreign worker levy wholesale and leaving the worker with much less – as much as half, which is the less desirable situation right now.

It is just a question of whether the government is one which is more profit/revenue-driven or if it is one which is more citizen-centric.

So, here are the statistics and some background information. It is up to you to have some discussion among yourselves.

There is Room to Increase Spending for Childcare and Old-Age Pension

Another comment is that the government is giving a grant of up to S$6,000 for the first and second child, for children born on or after 24 March 2016, which can be used for healthcare and childcare. Where average childcare fees are about S$1,000 and with the numerous hospitalisation bills in the earlier years of a child, the grant will not last a year, or even half a year.

This goes back to my previous point on how providing free healthcare and education, or at least much higher spending by the government on these is therefore necessary. Such current grants or the lack of unemployment benefits are insufficient to protect Singaporeans today.

Another comment is that the government will be giving the bottom 20% to 30% of elderly Singaporeans an additional pension payout of S$300 to S$750 every quarter. This amounts to only S$100 to S$250 every quarter.

Some thoughts – as it is, we still do not know what is the median CPF payout that elderly Singaporeans are able to get. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman said in 2011 that the median CPF Life payout is only S$260.

If so, even in the best case scenario, S$260 and an additional S$250 is only S$510. This is just enough for food, and maybe transport. But it will not be enough for anything else.

As such, the additional pension payout should be increased, and be given on a monthly basis. As I had explained, if each elderly Singaporean were to get S$500 every month (which would only be a total of S$760), this would amount to only a total of S$2.6 billion every month, which the surplus outlined above is more than adequate to pay for.

Also, even if the payout is given to only the bottom 30% as the government prefers, it would only add up to S$0.78 billion. Noting that there is a projected S$3.45 billion surplus this year – unused money, this would be enough to fund all elderly Singaporeans S$660 every month (which would total S$910) or to give the bottom 30% of elderly Singaporeans S$2,200 every month.

As the Centre for American Progress also writes, “Money targeted toward the long-term unemployed helped not only those individual families hardest hit by the Great Recession but also kept dollars flowing into their local communities and helped unemployed workers access health care, undoubtedly mitigating the well-documented negative health effects of unemployment.

“Clearly, there is solid evidence that government spending can create jobs in a recession as deep and protracted as the Great Recession. In fact, given current conditions, investments in infrastructure, education, and other areas are critical to job creation and boosting the U.S. economy. This is something that economic forecasters from across the political spectrum agree on: The need now is to boost demand, not cut spending,” it added.

As such, it is only prudent that the government increases its spending and investment in healthcare and education, and for the unemployed, so as to boost economic growth in the long term by generating domestic demand.

This is simply about economic sense. And the social benefits are immense.

Thank You for Your Support for the Fund Raising

As of this morning, a total of $S27,390.06 has been raised. I still have to pay another S$150,000 to the prime minister.

If you would also like to help to defray the costs and damages, you can also fund raise to the bank account at POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling) or PayPal at royngerng@gmail.com. Thank you.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But for transparency, I will continue to update on the funds raised and used, on this blog.

Meanwhile, I have also attached my LinkedIn profile here, if it might be of interest.

View Roy Ngerng's profile on LinkedIn

View Roy Ngerng's LinkedIn profile View Roy Ngerng’s profile

*****

Background: In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for defamation. The judge ruled in a summary judgment that I have defamed him. I have apologised to the prime minister. I was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 to him. In a settlement reached with the help of my lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, I am to pay an additional S$30,000 in costs. In total, including the previous payment that I have made to the costs of the summary judgment (S$29,000) and application for the Queen’s Counsel (S$6,000), I would have paid/will pay S$215,000. 

Last Wednesday, I have paid the first tranche of S$30,000 (of the S$180,000) to the prime minister. From April 1, 2016, for the next 5 years, I have to pay $100 every month. Thereafter, from 2021, I have to pay $1,000 every month until I finish paying.

You can read the previous updates here: [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten] [Eleven]. I would like to thank Mothership.sg for reporting about the fund raising. 

You can also read the previous update on the funds raised in 2014 and its usage. I would like to thank The Straits Times for reporting about it. There were also inaccurate online reports that the funds were used to pay overseas trips. This is untrue. You can read more about these in the update here.

[Update Eleven 250316] Funds Raised for Payment for Defamation Suit

I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for an article on this blog and have been asked to pay him S$180,000.

As of 12pm today, I have raised S$27,245.06.

The funds were raised from the POSB bank account and PayPal, and also from customers at my dad’s stall who have been kind enough to support. Also, last Wednesday, a nice lady recognised me on the street and also gave me S$150.

(1) POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling): S$22,754.70

Defamation Suit Funds Raised 25 March 2016.png

(2) PayPal (royngerng@gmail.com): S$3,471.36

PayPal 24 March 2016.png

My dad sells carrot cake at Block 107 in Ang Mo Kio. Some people have visited my dad’s stall to pass him some contributions.

Some people have also said that they would like to visit my dad’s stall to eat the carrot cake. Just to let you know, he is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from about 4pm to about 11pm/midnight.

Thought about Recent Deaths of 20 and a Pregnant Lady’s Imprisonment

People walking to love

Recent events got me angry – 20 deaths and the imprisonment of a pregnant lady because of some writings. Yes, this happens in Singapore too.

But the response from the government has been tepid and evasive.

I wanted to write about my thoughts on it in this update but decided to publish a separate article instead.

I don’t know why Singaporeans aren’t worked up enough to do something.

We have learnt to suppress ourselves, our thoughts, our fears, our emotions.

We get on with life, hoping that things won’t bite us in the back someday. But they do.

I write because I hope that I can change things.

But sometimes, it gets you demoralised – when 70% of the population vote for the very same government that many of them are angry with, back.

You accept the fact but you cannot understand why people will choose to live with something they are unhappy with.

I try to fight this impulse because I want to stay true to myself, I want to be honest to who I am.

More than 600 articles in 4 years, a job lost, a guilty charge and damages to pay, all because I want to fight to be free.

But what would people give to do the same?

Ai Takagi, the editor of The Real Singapore, who has been sentenced to jail, said: “Regret would be the wrong word.”

I feel the same.

I fight because of what I believe in – for a better society.

It might be naive, or idealistic. But at least I am willing to fight.

Maybe it is not some of us who dream too much.

Maybe it is the rest of us who no longer dare to dream, to fight.

You can read more about the thoughts I wrote here.

Martin Luther King I Have a Dream

Thank You for Your Support for the Fund Raising

As of this morning, a total of $S27,245.06 has been raised. I still have to pay another S$150,000 to the prime minister.

If you would also like to help to defray the costs and damages, you can also fund raise to the bank account at POSB Savings Bank Account 130-23068-7 (Ngerng Yi Ling) or PayPal at royngerng@gmail.com. Thank you.

The funds coming in have slowed down. But for transparency, I will continue to update on the funds raised and used, on this blog.

Meanwhile, I have also attached my LinkedIn profile here, if it might be of interest.

View Roy Ngerng's profile on LinkedIn

View Roy Ngerng's LinkedIn profile View Roy Ngerng’s profile

*****

Background: In 2014, I was sued by the Singapore prime minister for defamation. The judge ruled in a summary judgment that I have defamed him. I have apologised to the prime minister. I was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 to him. In a settlement reached with the help of my lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, I am to pay an additional S$30,000 in costs. In total, including the previous payment that I have made to the costs of the summary judgment (S$29,000) and application for the Queen’s Counsel (S$6,000), I would have paid/will pay S$215,000. 

Last Wednesday, I have paid the first tranche of S$30,000 (of the S$180,000) to the prime minister. From April 1, 2016, for the next 5 years, I have to pay $100 every month. Thereafter, from 2021, I have to pay $1,000 every month until I finish paying.

You can read the previous updates here: [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten]. I would like to thank Mothership.sg for reporting about the fund raising. 

You can also read the previous update on the funds raised in 2014 and its usage. I would like to thank The Straits Times for reporting about it. There were also inaccurate online reports that the funds were used to pay overseas trips. This is untrue. You can read more about these in the update here.