Financial (or Capital) Globalisation

This would be useful information and analysis for the GCE Cambridge A Level History and General Papers; and would more be useful for the GCE Cambridge O Level Social Studies paper (Syllabus 2267 rather than Syllabus 2204).

It is a summary/review of Chapter 2 in Part Two of <The End of Finance>. The term ‘capital’ refers to financial capital. The book describes one subset as ‘portfolio investment’. This has traits similar to subprime mortgages – which were sold and purchased on secondary markets; such capital can be recalled and disbursed quickly. One can consider the ‘capital flight’ during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis as an example. The authors argue that such volatile inflows and outflows form the crux of crises from Mexico (1995), Southeast Asia (as written above), Russia and Brazil (1998), Turkey and Argentina (2001). Hence, history continually repeats itself. Why does this happen? Arguably changes in market confidence, which ironically can be a self-fulfilling prophecy… [Foreign Direct Investment were deemed less responsible for fluctuations of international capital availability and transfers].

This globalisation was underpinned by 3 things: international freedom of capital flows; ostensibly unrestricted enlargement of money supply; and central banks acting as a lender of last resort to prevent collapse (for most of the years after 1945, this was the US Federal Reserve; and perhaps of greater prominence in recent decades, its Governor Alan Greenspan). The trend began in the mid 1970s. [Technology was also pinpointed as a catalyst by Walter B. Wriston (August 3, 1919 – January 19, 2005), a banker and former chairman of Citicorp, in 1988. It should be surmised though that technology’s role should be considered contributory, in my opinion.]

Relating the recent subprime crisis (2007), it had been the ‘international capital market’ who targeted the credit shaky borrowers in the US with ‘predatory practices’, and ‘often underhand and occasionally fraudulent’ methods. This has some parallels to the 1970s ‘oil shocks’ and resultant ‘petrodollars’ which flooded Latin America, providing the structural foundations for the Debt Crisis of the 1980s. The negative repercussions from the subprime collapse amounted to an estimated net loss of homeownership for approximately 1 million American families (quoting from Subprime Lending: A Net Drain on Homeownership, 27 Mar 2007, Center for Responsible Lending – headquarters in Durham, North Carolina, US)


According to Investopedia article <Subprime Loan>: Subprime borrowers ‘have a reasonable chance of defaulting’ i.e. have a higher risk of being unable to repay their debt.

For the US city of Cleveland, Deutsche Bank Trust (agent for bondholders) became the biggest property owner in late 2007 by virtue of retaking homes when people failed to pay. Mortgage brokers, for the majority, did not inform the borrowers adequately that these “new sub-prime mortgages would “reset” after 2 years at double the interest rate.” See <The downturn in facts and figures> British Broadcasting Corporation. (21 Nov 2007).

Wriston’s works can found at his Tufts University archives.

More on the Debt Crisis from <10. Debt Crisis of the 1980s> by Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS). [Do note that their analysis for the causes of the crises may differ.]


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

I was initially frustrated with searching for more information about ADD via the online search engines. Many of the searches came back with ADHD instead. Providentially, I was able to find the site provide by the (US) Cleveland Clinic (Glossary Page, last updated on 27 Jul 2007) which clarified (in some senses) that ADD was a subset of ADHD. People with ADHD display “inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity” whereas people with ADD is described as: “A label with the same meaning as ADHD. At one time, ADD referred to a disorder involving difficulty paying attention or focusing attention without hyperactivity.”

It can be daunting and confusing (especially if one is a parent of a child showing similar symptoms – think of the emotional flux) conducting research on this topic. The definition of ADHD had been revised ‘many times’ (Shea, p. 5). Further, ADD and ADHD had been considered one and the same at certain junctures (Shea, p. 6). [Again, I highlight and show the need for cross-referencing. This is practiced in History and Social Studies.]

With regards to interventions, one can consider:

  • exercise (one success story raised was Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer)
  • organisational aids like smartphone/tablet/electronic organisers (this is similar to sufferers of dyslexia)

These can help affected people better manage the condition.


Book reference and notes:

Therese Shea. (2014). ADD and ADHD. New York. The Rosen Publishing Group.

A recent US survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that in excess of 5 million children (ages 3 to 17) were diagnosed with ADHD: in other words, 9% of that age group. CDC likewise stated that 4% of US adults suffer from ADHD.

[Reflections] Reportage – 2008 Subprime Crisis

Swimming with Sharks

I began reading this for two reasons – the sensationalist title and (perhaps less importantly) trying to understand the financial earthquake that took place.

I ended up though with sociological/anthropological insights into banking. Luyendijk apparently researched electric cars via the “idiot’s” or “dummy’s” approach earlier. It is replicated here. He went through an excess of 200 sources from the front, middle to back end; the regulators (none other than the Bank of England); and even partners. It is largely a British/European angle (the author is Dutch).

The book reads somewhat like an emotional roller coaster; and no, not all of the bankers are like sharks; neither were all of them responsible for the breakdown in 2008 (or 2007 depending on your timeline). If what the bankers described were true, then we went really near the (financial) abyss.

Read it yourself – especially if you plan to go into banking. It is also rather recent and up to date; published in 2015.

A related post on the American banking scene here. For the generic Singaporean banking context, consider <The Ultimate Banker> by Edwin Lim and co-authored with Leong Kaiwen and Edward Choi. (2012). Lim, the banker, was diagnosed with ‘motor neuron disease’ (fatal) in 2010.

Further references:

Marcello Estevão. (Dec 2015). The Jaws of Finance. Finance & Development. International Monetary Fund.

Review in The Telegraph by Nicholas Blincoe – Swimming with Sharks: My Journey Into the World of the Bankers by Joris Luyendijk, review: ‘prophet of doom’.

The original blog by the author (last update 1 Oct 2013) – The Joris Luyendijk banking blog. The Guardian.


US-Singapore Relations: Diplomacy – 2016

A snapshot of the TODAY (freesheet) on 4 Aug 2016. p.8. Exposition on the Joint Statement on Bilateral Cooperation.


Singapore would host the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative’s Urban Planning Workshop in 2017. (It is stated that the Initiative has connected in excess of 80,000 youths.)

Correspondingly, Singapore sets up a scholarship summer exchange programme to finance 100 Singaporean and American students (split equally) in the future 5 years.


With the Memorandum-of-Understanding, there would be built in intelligence sharing; benchmarking; and cooperation in reacting to cyber incidents.


Interesting points:

Page 6 showed a photo of actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys attending the State Dinner to host the Singapore delegation. Why were they there?

Mrs Michelle Obama actually supervised the State Dinner effort! (Wow)

Singapore is also the first Southeast Asian state to be provided with such a formal dinner (at least during Obama’s tenure?)


The United Nations (UN) – L’après guerre froide dans le monde

The traditional Sabbath is ‘…from sunset to sunset, that is, from Friday evening to Saturday evening.’ As of most general Christian traditions, it has now become Sunday.

I am rushing now to complete this piece of work. Or is it leisure? (Even though I am hardly a proponent of work life integration. Division is the key – yes – KEY.)

I have said to my former colleagues in the past, ‘God willing’. It is biblical, once one refers to the book of James from the Bible. Who knows whither comes tomorrow? (Thanks, John Bunyan for the word ‘wither’.)


Life is so precious and fragile…but how many truly act in congruence with this, for lack of another word at this point, realisation?

Enough of the philosophical musings…


It is now past midnight, and herein is the due date for the above book.

I will hardly waste the time left for garnering useful insights.

No particular new thoughts from the author. The UN was hampered by the Cold War and great power vetoes.

The author seems to put a positive spin on UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who in 1992 spoke of ‘preventive diplomacy’, which in other words meant nipping conflicts in the bud.

The writing nonetheless revived memories of Gorbachev’s 1988 speech in the UN. He stated the need for cooperation in demilitarisation; human rights; and environmental management: the diametric opposite of class conflict actualised by Lenin and Stalin. One can safely quote this as an example of political liberalism in contrast to political realism. (Of course, some also use this defining moment as the end of the Cold War.) This was concretely proven in the short term at least, by the consensus during the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991).

But it is more pessimistic or ambivalent. It painted an uncertain future. The US was compared to France post World War One, a state that neglected urban infrastructure; possessed a broken and bankrupt social security system; with medical/chemical industries (overtaken by the Japanese). This is in line with Jim Rogers’ analysis of things (he cross referenced the US to the dwindling British Empire).

Who was to displace the US?

It remains to be seen… and this is despite China’s supposed invincibility.




Korean Peninsula – L’après guerre froide dans le monde

I am grateful that I can still read Chinese since my French is still rather basic. The above was translated by 北京 : 商务印书馆, 1996. The original by Charles Zorgbibe – ‘Lawyer and historian of international relations‘ – was put into print in 1993. I concur with the translation of the title by the publishers, this was <冷战后的世界>. What interested me was the world from the French perspective. [Interestingly, the series was named Que Sais-Je, in other words – What do  know? It mirrors the final line in French playwright Yasmina Reza’s work <God of Carnage>.]

The author held an optimistic view towards tensions on the Korean Peninsula where both Koreas (North and South) remained at war since only an armistice was signed back in 1953. I see why he had reasons to be positive. China was prodding North Korea to make peace with South Korea. The United States was planning to execute the Guam Doctrine or Nixon Doctrine to pull troops from Asia (eventually). In 1990, the then Soviet Union recognised South Korea. There was also the significant event between the two Koreas with an agreement to ‘resolve differences, adhere to mutual non-aggression, conduct trade, and cooperate’ in 1991. China likewise normalised relations with South Korea in 1992.

Yet as one sees today, reunification does not seem near. The basic premise of German-styled peace progress is flawed, at least based on the anecdotal evidence I have heard. West Germany basically ‘gobbled up’ the East. The led to a tremendous strain on the finances, I have heard one person say that he would not go back to Germany ‘to starve’. In 2010, German paper de Spiegel stated: ‘…economic benefits that West German politicians promised failed to materialize.’ This parallels a recent television discussion this year on Channelnews Asia, where a Korean put forth the view that South Koreans saw North Korea as ‘a burden’. At the time of publishing (1993), North Korea spent 20% of its income on defence, 12% of the male workforce was in the military against 6% in the South.

But perhaps the largest sticking point was the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea in 1991. This was discovered by the United States. It seems that this is crux and key to the entire puzzle? That the North Korean oligarchy or dictatorship is giving its all to maintain power and a life of luxury through means as dangerous as nuclear missiles?


Airline safety


In the world of news, national boundaries have become next to meaningless…(and the pace of life is simply incredible.)

One Singapore Airlines plane (SQ 368) returned to Changi Airport at 650am this morning and its right wing exploded into flames. (It is great news that everyone was safe!) Channelnews Asia put up the first report at 803am. The United Kingdom’s Guardian posted its corresponding article on 27 June 143 BST (? British Standard Time) based on information from Channelnews Asia and The Straits Times.

Last year in November, there was a bomb scare on a Singapore airline flight to San Francisco, United States. (I particularly remember this as I saw it on the flight returning home.) In the same article (Singapore Airlines flight from U.S. faces bomb threat; Aircraft lands safely in Singapore on same day Turkish Airlines plane diverted to Halifax) by CBC/Radio-Canada, planes from Air France and Turkish Airlines were likewise affect by terrorist fears.

With the globalised nature of international terrorism and the proliferation of air travel, people have become more akin to global citizens, who are quite literally up in the air… The news crew aim to sell the news, while the terrorist investigators/security agencies and foreign ministries eagerly take it in to respond such as through travel advisories. This is indeed another market for intelligence gathering.