Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fortune Favours The Brave

"I told my wife and my two daughters. Vote for the opposition party! We all voted for the opposition!" the self-employed businessman in his early 50s had invited me and another friend of his for lunch at Toa Payoh Crystal Jade Restaurant yesterday May 11, 2011.

This person whom I shall call Jeremy had gone to the MP for help as the URA wanted to evict him from a building which was not ready for enbloc development. So he rented without official licence from the government and used it to house foreign students' hostel. He had around 30 students from Vietnam and China. Due to some complaints, the URA wanted him to close down his business by threatening the Landlord for non-compliance with government laws. The MP wrote a letter and sent it to the URA. The URA replied but the subject of the letter was incorrect. He asked the MP to see his original letter. The MP refused to show him and that led him to believe that this PAP MP was not sincerely trying to help him. He got help from his contact for a breathing period of time to close his business as he needed to place his students to approved hostels.

The end of his business and income. His daughter was getting married soon. He was jobless. So he was not happy with the way the MP was handling his case. "Why don't you forward your case to PM Lee Hsien Loong and let him get the feedback as to the lack of care by his MP in your case? Writing incorrect letters and not wanting to show what he had written is just not what is expected of an MP" I had never approached MPs in my life but this act of the PAP MP would be one of the several that had cost the PAP a loss of the overall voting percentage in the 2011 General Elections. He shook his head. After all, he had cast his protest vote and his family had done so too.

"So you are pro-PAP," Jeremy deduced.
"I voted for the PM because he has performed well in his job to develop Singapore into a first-world country. Performance counts in real life and in business." I said.
"You too?" Jeremy asked his friend who is living in China doing some business.
"Yes," he said.

So, in this group of 3 citizens over 50 years of age, 1 in 3 voted for the opposition.

"You should thank the MP whose assistant wrote the incorrect subject to the URA," I said. "After you lost this job, your China contact asked you to handle a $1.3 billion oil deal by looking for oil terminals to buy and you have got one appropriate seller now in the midst of negotiations. How much is 1% commission if the deal closes?" I asked.

His friend said: "$1 billion is 1000 million. 10% is 100 million. 1% is $10 million. We should have more free lunches from Jeremy!"

Jeremy smiled. Life is certainly good for him, thanks to this PAP MP who did not show compassion by refusing to let him see what the MP had written to the URA.

"I am looking for an experienced property lecturer to give talks to a group of 30 foreigners coming to Singapore in July," he announced as he signed a bank loan document brought to him by a young lady banker to the restaurant. This bank had loaned 80% to his foreign buyer and he had to bring the option to purchase to the buyer in China personally to get it signed and delivered within 14 days. So he would be flying to China soon. He had sold a few condos to foreigners. "No point servicing Singaporeans," he told us. "Foreigners are better. Do you have any Singapore developer as I have a township to be developed in China?"

We don't have any. "I have a lecturer for your Seminar," I said. "He is 70 years old and is well qualified to talk about property investment in Singapore. He is licensed to teach RES and REA courses presently."

So he has what he wanted just by inviting me for lunch out of the blue.
Fortune Favours The Brave.

We talked about HDB flat prices in general as he is now a licensed RES property salesperson. "I advised my daughter to buy a 4-year-old Strathmore HDB flat by paying more rather than a 20-year-old flat in Holland Road. The piping would be new and the prices will appreciate more as she can see Orchard Road's Ion Shopping Centre from her flat. It costs $800,000," he said. "You know, the cash over value (COV) was $70,000 cash. I did not have money to help her as the government had closed down my hostel business. Fortunately, my in-law wrote a cheque for that."

I was happy for him as life is rough for a self-employed with this PAP government introducing new rules, new fee charges and new licensing requirements which can only benefit the more successful enterprises that have the money to comply with such stingent rules. The cost of living keeps going up yearly as the various government departments keep creating new licensing rules which need money to be paid for the new statutory boards and qualifying examinations and indemnity insurance.

"How come your daughter can buy a 4-year-old Strathmore flat when the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) is 5 years?" I asked, remembering my REA lecture notes as I will be taking the examination in May 25,26,27, 2011 soon.

"The MOP was 3 years for this flat at that time," he said. Now I recalled that the lecturer had stated some dates in which the MOP was 3 years but don't remember the exact period of time.

"She and her husband just exceeded the $8,000 household income ceiling as there was a promotion for her," he said.

"Well, what happened?" I asked.

"I wrote to the HDB to let them know that I was jobless. HDB checked me out and found it to be true. I would need to sell my flat as I would not be able to cope with payment of the $2,000 mortgage payment. So, the HDB permitted the purchase of the flat."

"So you see, the PAP government is compassionate," I tried to let him have a balanced view of the politics of governing Singapore. "Otherwise, your daughter and son-in-law should not qualify the resale flat. In other words, you have so much good fortune owing to the good performance of the PAP (in getting so many HDB flats built) and even giving your daughter a $30,000 housing subsidy as a first-time HDB resale flat buyer. Her father in law wrote a cheque of $70,000 for the COV. That is $100,000 cash for a purchase of a flat. Where does other fathers find such good fortune?"

He did not comment since he knew both of us did not vote for the opposition. Fortune really favours the brave. For lesser self-employed sole operator persons, a close down of his business by the government policies usually means the end of his working life. But Jeremy is the type who actively helps others and network quite extensively. You can see that he even got a qualified real estate practitioner and lecturer to give a talk to his group of 30 foreigners whom he has got from his bank.

In life, you have to be proactive by networking and helpful to others without being calculating and you can see why Jeremy is successful. With 30 foreigners qualified by the bank and interested in Singapore real estate and the sale of the oil tanker as a storage terminal in China, Jeremy is much more successful than many in their 50s.

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