The year is coming to a close. In the immortal words of Queen Elizabeth II, this has been an Annus Horibilis. No, this is not a dirty word, at least not in the "common" way it is understood (tsk tsk, what are all of us thinking of on the last day of 2008?)
It started out promisingly enough, coming off a year (2007) that saw record profits for businesses and stratospheric growth of wealth by individuals in en-bloc'ing their private properties - typically their houses. For those who don't know what that means, it is a collective sale of an entire block property such as a condominium, for hundreds of millions of dollars, the proceeds of which is then allocated to the owners according to their share values in the property. A friend of mine received over a million dollars for his townhouse, which was part of a bigger cluster development. No wonder that erstwhile neighbours became mortal enemies when such en-bloc sales were blocked because they couldn't garner the 80% minimum 'ok's' to proceed with the sales. A few lawsuits are still pending in the courts over these disagreements, and people have even complained through the press above the oppressiveness of Sales Committees who just cannot stop thinking about selling their houses.
The year is ending with much less optimism though, amazingly, there are people who still want to go ahead with their en-bloc projects. One wonders if these people have lost so heavily in the stock market, or business, or whatever bombs they had bought into that cash has suddenly taken a critical dimension in the grand scheme of things.
The year is ending with bitter memories for many over the Lehman Brothers debacle, where older people would have lost their entire retirement savings had not DBS done some refunding on compassionate grounds. Of course goodwill and reputation also meant a lot to the bank. Well, never mind, if you are short of cash, there are ways to raise money, such as the rights offering on 22nd December 2008, a third of which was taken up by Temasek Holdings. In these times, you really need Temasek to come in because there aren't much free money sitting around as it used to. And whatever money that many imagined they had have just gone up in smoke, either in the stock market, or in Bernard Madoff, whose estimated US$50 billion loss was the largest any individual had managed to lose - on behalf of his clients, i.e. That's why I have never believed in pyramids where money is concerned, however respectable they are always dressed up to look.
And people are beginning to be out-of-pocket where jobs are concerned. Again, DBS started the ball rolling by putting 900 people out of work. It got an obligatory tongue-lashing from Mr Lim Swee Say, the Trade Union chief, over this action, but it is not likely that retrenchments will stop at DBS Bank, in spite of what the Union leaders say. When the business dries up, when the money stops flowing anymore, you've got to close shop - its a fact of life. What the government can do is pump money into the economy to sustain it, but this can only be a short term measure. Hopefully, the economy will recover at the end of 2009, as some high government officials have dared to predict, but the majority opinion seem to be that this depressing state of affairs is going to last much longer.
And it is sad that the year is ending with news of abandonment of foreign workers by Singapore contractors, who suddenly find that they have no more jobs for people whom they have brought into the country. What's worse, these workers have reportedly not been paid for some time now and some are starving and are no worse off than beggars.
And to end it all, the symbolic Wheel of Fortune, the Singapore Flyer broke down on the 23rd December 2008, trapping 175 people on board at the time. Truly tonight, the last day of 2008, when thousands of people throng the various new year's eve parties on the island, they'd be singing Auld Lang Syne with a new gusto, and especially agree on the question:
Should all acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind...
Goodnight and goodbye, 2008.
Image: morgueFile.com. Author: elemenoperica