Sunday morning drive to Whampoa market for the, now, regular breakfast with my widowed father. Stopped at lights at Serene Centre road crossing and scrowled at the first pedestrian crossing the road. Caucasian family, American by the look of it, wheeling 2 prams across the street, huffing away in the heavy humidity of the tropics and the lady was quite taken aback by my hostile glare. They were followed by a worn out looking middle aged mother towing a handicap young adult boy, both looking like they would like to unload their problems on someone else. Then a group a young Singaporean women, obviously on their way to their cashier jobs, all with soft drinks in their hands.And finally, a party of 3 good looking youngsters, South American and Middle Eastern, who look like they partied into the morning, wearing tattered fairy costumes and mascara on the run.
The many faces of modern Singapore in the morning, before I was transported into a time warp at a Whampoa coffee shop. Mostly elderly folk having their breakfasts, some with iced beers and the rest with thick coffees, looking really disgruntled with everything about them including me perhaps, for Lord knows why.
Now Whampoa has a wonderful NTUC Fairprice supermarket, stocked to the brim that would make any attempt to wheel a shopping trolley quite a navigation feat. I love NTUCs as opposed to Cold Storages because you never know what you can find there. For you can have Turkish olive oil stacked next to egg slicers and I can attest to the story that some acquaintances of mine managed to find bottles of Clarendon Hills Astralis wines wonderfully mispriced at SGD 135 dollars, and bought up the entire shipment of course.
None of that luck for me at Whampoa but I did find …. Thornton’s !! In Whampoa. Yes. Amidst the oblivion of most of the other shoppers to the brand that connotes to me, cobbled streets and mediocre chocolate in the middle of Bath or Bristol, I felt caught up in strange cultural cross currents of sorts.
What will become of Singapore ?
Singapore is the only country keeping to tightening as inflation continues on a rampage, now even more so with the wage hikes coming when global currency wars rage on.
My last post on the subject in April .
|CURRENCY WARS – END GAME|
The good thing is that even taxi drivers are aware of it because the ones I spoke to admit that whilst their take home wages are more, the cost of living exceeds their incremental income. The bad thing is that awareness has led to a stampede for alternative assets and a friend was recounting to me how his friend’s wife asked for a gold bar as an anniversary present.
We are witnessing an unprecendented split in the scheme of things since QE. The too big to fails vs the not too big to fails. The haves vs the have-nots. The safe havens vs the pariah countries.
This is great divide is accelerating rapidly and descending down on our lives with a furore and wrecking havoc globally.
Taken from a Reuters article, Analysis : More Pressure on Global Wages Could Backfire by Mike Dolan which ironically, mentions how lower wages are squeezing the middle class (so Singapore’s on the right track to raise minimum wages).
“…the sharp rise in inequality as measured by the so-called GINI coefficient of wealth distribution and the fact that U.S. median incomes are no higher than they were 20 years ago, he said the social and political risks stemming from U.S. income inequality was one of his big strategic economic themes of the next five to 10 years.
But the phenomenon goes well beyond the United States.
Some 26 of 30 countries covered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development have shown a falling labor share of national income since 1990. International Labour Organisation data shows the gap between the top 10 percent of earners and bottom 10 percent increased in 23 of 31 nations since 1995.”
I get more enlightenment from astute observations in articles like, Low Wage Sectors Drive Employment Growth by Barry Ritholtz and WSJ : Only 58% of American workers are currently saving for retirement (down from 65% in 2009).
We know its the same here. Taxi drivers say so.
Why I am scared ?
“…. The central bankers are, in effect, conducting a high-stakes experiment, drawing in part on academic work by some of the men who studied and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Will history decide they did too little or too much? We don’t know because it is still a work in progress,” said Kenneth Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard and co-author of a book, “This Time Is Different,” examining financial crises over eight centuries. “They are taking risks because it is an experimental strategy.”” WSJ
The outlook is grim and fraught with uncertainty. We are all just plain pawns in a great economic chessgame that textbooks will be written about in the future, all sitting just a little terrorised from things that we cannot understand anymore and leaving it all to the hands of Ben Bernanke.
Money will multiply but gradually buy less and less. Minimum wage is going up everywhere in the world as the middle class squeeze continues. Indonesians will want to eat more chicken next year as their minimum wages go up 50%. Believe or not, it is going to affect property prices here too.
Singapore will be great as the mobile millionaires flock to this tax haven, Singaporeans will continue to grumble as opportunities diminish because everyone is a millionaire and meanwhile, we can thank Bernanke for bringing Thornton’s to the heartlands.