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editorial

EDITOR:
Andrew Tan
DESIGNERS:
Fabian Kong
Karthik Balasubramaniam
SUB-EDITORS:
Chow Wen Xin
Leong Si Ya Lara
La Cam Anh, Emily
Maurice Quek Zhong Liang
Editor’s Note
It seems that times are always bad. There was the 1997 Asian
Economic crisis, then the dot-com bubble bursting in 2000, the
September 11 attack on the USA, and now the US mortgage loans-
precipitated crisis. The years in between are merely “recovery
phases” , and just when one thinks that the recovery is almost
complete, yet another crisis comes along.

Some people question the importance of reading the news,


reasoning that it is not tested in examinations or that it doesn’t
affect them. Well, in this interconnected world, where a slowdown
in one country affects other countries halfway around the globe, it
is impossible to stay unaffected. Even if you can’t really prevent a
crisis by knowing about it, you can surely prepare for it. Scientia est
potentia - Knowledge is Power.

With this issue of Le Message, we hope to bring the knowledge to


you.

Andrew Tan
Publications Director
34th Management Committee
The Credit Crunch and
the Asian Entrepreneur
By Karthik Balasubramaniam

Putting reasons aside, the credit crunch has


led inexorably to a startup smash. Startups
in the US are affected sorely, visibly by the
financial meltdown, though it seems like
Europe, though dented, has less affected
areas to show. Let’s see how startups and
venture capital firms are reacting.

On Oct 8th, 2008, the angel investor Ron


Conway advised his companies on their
retreat strategies during the credit crunch.
Not that he is losing confidence; having month when the credit crunch finally made
promised to keep investing, he is just tech companies hurt where it matters most:
describing how to prepare storm provisions. the work force. Interestingly enough, even
On the same day Sequoia Capital sent Ron Conway’s letter (also available here
an erudite 56 slide presentation to its in Tech Crunch.) says, in several words, if
portfolio company’s CEO’s, mentioning the you can’t raise money, cut costs, ‘lower
huge US foreign debt, the US consumer burn rates’ that is, fire a few. Benchmark’s
having barely enough to spend (they call long advisory letter zeroes in on the same
it a low disposable personal income) and ‘dispensable’ commodity, labour. It makes
corporate earnings in Silicon Valley down sense in a way, though. How else would
by 18 percent. No one seems to have you cut costs? Save electricity by switching
much money, and that makes venture off workstations? Walk to office? Use less
capital firms like Sequoia Capital worry a of the internet? The rich get poorer, the
lot: their presentation ends: Get Real, Go poor get broke.
Home. Benchmark Capital put up its own
storm warning signs a day later, telling it’s Layoffs, low investor confidence,
companies to get ‘tight control of their downturns in public markets, etc are the
finances’, which, seems like jargon for keep new buzz words, and they all speak the
the cash under the floorboards. So much same language of penury to tech start
for the top. ups, which depend more than anything on
investors and money in the kitty early on.
TechCrunch, the newsblog tracking the Fledgling startups are likely to be affected:
fortunes of tech ventures and startups, they will cease to exist, go into suspended
has a particularly depressing online animation at best.
survey/counter tracking the number of
layoffs post-meltdown. Go here if you are Can we probably decide that this is much
interested: http://www.techcrunch.com/ like the 1999 dotcom crash, and that the
layoffs/. The survey operates by tipoffs web, and Cyber, Inc. will be back, upgraded,
from workers, and October seems to be the updated and never better?
In this regard, Benchmark Capital’s letter Hence, we have two major centers of
to its portfolio companies is highly technological entrepreneurship rocking
illuminating. Observing that the 1999 under the credit crunch and taking all the
crash was worse in that it was caused by measures required to stay low and survive.
tech speculators themselves, hence kicking How does this affect Singapore?
the spiral further inward on the tech field,
it also understands that the recent crunch Asia has not been affected much by
will be felt for much longer, affecting as it the credit crunch, least of all Singapore,
does public markets the world over. What what with Singaporean investment funds
is more important, when money is lost Temasek and GIC buying up huge shares
from all sides, it is hard to put it in what is of Merill Lynch and UBS. Sitting on huge
at present only a small, stumbling startup. paper losses they might be, but let the
And money, as is apparent from the credit market turn around, and Asian money
crunch, is being lost from all sides, from all will have bailed Western banks. But most
pockets. Asian products are bought by the US
customer, whose pockets are empty right
The letter in fact, even points to an upside now, perhaps ultimately affecting even the
though. Money might be getting lost, but tech venture balance in Asia’s favour, what
still, we can depend on angel investors, and with money and opportunity now at Asia’s
the deep core of venture capital firms like leash. They may not be able to buy our
Benchmark, whose investors are generally ideas or services, but then again, they can’t
private, conservative and extremely long- buy anything. Perhaps we could start the
range in their thinking. These are unlikely investing, and the buying, and eventually
to cut off funds from the very tech start present to a recovered world a lot of Asian
ups that might play a pivotal role in the tech companies, a lot of western banks
reversal of the recession later on. owned mostly by Asians. Buy Asian, be
Asian.
Which brings us to Europe and its ostensible
reaction to the credit crunch. Europe is To conclude, we here have a nice
playing its cards with a very wooden poker opportunity to put our stereotypical
face indeed. Everyone has a bad hand, and caution and perseverance to great effect.
the Old World doesn’t see the need to A well known complaint of most Asians I
scream and agonize along with the others. know is that ‘we are behind, by too many
They are, instead, going for the jugular years’. The edifices and institutions built in
quickly and cleanly, with Fleck selling out, those years of advantage are now empty,
and other companies quietly shutting for us to move into if we want, and we are
down and reapplying to companies. moving in to stay. Where else can we get
our minds into?
More importantly, though, the European
milieu has thrown up the usual ‘why
didn’t you say so earlier’ reaction, with
a prominent young investor accusing
Sequoia of not warning his company soon
enough. However, Allen and Co, another
VC firm, did cry wolf early enough, and
Fon, his company, was able to make the
adjustment soon enough.
Policy Studies:
Not for the Faint-Hearted
By Genim Tan

Policy Studies is an inaugural debate series targeted at undergraduates


across Singapore. It provides an avenue for youths to analyse local
government policies and engage in meaningful crossre. More specically,
the theme for 2009 - “Moral and Ethical Dilemmas in Policymaking”
brings into the spotlight the elusive dimension of morality in the domain
of public policy. Steeped in controversy, this competition is not for the
faint-hearted.

Policy Debates will commence in the subsequent week. The top two teams
that emerge from the Preliminary Rounds and Semi-Finals will proceed
to vie for the Championship trophy. The Grand Finals will certainly be a
battle of brains and a war of words, keeping our audience at the edge of
their seats.

Policy Studies will take place in March 2009. It is open to all


undergraduates in local universities (NUS, NTU, SMU and SIM), including
foreign students on exchange programmes. Keen to join but have zero
experience in debate? Fret not! The competition format is catered to
absolute beginners - anyone with a passion for public policy is welcome
to participate. Furthermore, the motions will be released ahead of the
actual debates to allow teams to construct their cases. Visit www.nuspa.
org to find out more!
Chancellor’s Challenge Shield
By Ho Kee Meng

Hong Kah GRC, graced the event as the


Guest of Honour. A highly engaging final
round saw Anglo-Chinese Junior College
ultimately emerging as the winner of the
competition, beating their competitors
from Raffles Institution and Jurong Junior
College.

The next CCS, which would be held in


February 2009, promises to be just as
exciting. Students would be tested on their
knowledge of current affairs, including
The Chancellor’s Challenge Shield (CCS) areas such as politics, economics and
is an annual Current Affairs and General even arts and entertainment. Do look out
Knowledge competition inaugurated in for publicity posters regarding CCS 2009
1992 by the late Dr Wee Kim Wee, former to be sent to schools by January. In the
President of the Republic of Singapore and meantime, enquiries can be directed to
then Chancellor of National University of ccs@nuspa.org. We look forward to seeing
Singapore (NUS). This event aims to raise you at the Challenge!
the awareness of current affairs amongst
youths today while providing a platform
for interactions amongst educational
institutions. Besides raising awareness
about current affairs amongst youths, the
CCS is an opportunity to provide a chance
for intertactions amongst educational
institutions.

Past editions of CCS have been well-


received by participants and have been
graced by notable TV personalities
including Channel News Asia news anchor
Suzanne Jung, NMP Eunice Olsen and
parliamentarians such as Ms Penny Low.

The latest edition of the CCS was held on the


23rd February 2008 at NUS. The competition
attracted a total of 186 participants from
19 schools, ranging from the Universities,
Junior Colleges, Polytechnics and schools
involved in the Integrated Programme. Mr
Zaqy Mohamad, Member of Parliament for
Heritage Conservation
In Singapore
By Lara Leong

Landscape is a lens to study society. It identities. Arab Street, for example,


embodies the shifting social, economic has to be an historical landscape,
and political values and ideologies. but also a tourist attraction and this
The Istana, for example, used to house strain stems, precisely, from this
descendents of the Sultan, but since contradiction where on the one hand,
having been gazetted as a national traditional flavor is evaporating --
monument, former tenants were former shops are no longer there.
chased out. And it has since become a Bustling crowds ceased to exist, and
museum and restaurant. It is sad that yet it is still propagated as a tradition
this is happening because what is left to tourists. And on the other hand,
of our heritage is merely the shell. And commercialization draws more tourists
the commercialization of our heritage than locals to this place. An epitome
is harsh, reflecting the fact that would be the ‘Hippo Bus’ (a tour
Singapore’s economy takes precedence coach) weaving around the perimeters
above all. The Istana is probably still of this place, dropping tourists off. The
well-conserved, unlike Wayang Kulit, original flavor as the-place-to-go-for-
because of its commercial value on textiles contests commercialism. Such
top of its heritage value. This makes multiple identities contradict the flavor
us think that the state might be ‘too- and intention of this place.
practical’, in the sense that whatever
that has no economic value will not be Through this, it can be seen that
retained. historiography can be manipulated
through landscapes. By gazetting
What is intriguing is the strain borne and honoring certain places, fencing
by the place from their multiple them up, it brings focus to part of our
heritage. And whatever that is beyond
the fence, is typically neglected or
forgotten. This underlines the intention
of the government to play up certain
aspect of culture that is coherent with
national aim, and downplaying other
aspects that are not in-line with the
state’s aims. Such manipulation of
landscape emphasizes its power. It
can even alter the impression and
knowledge amongst the indigenous
locals, which explains why we had
superficial understanding of Kampong
Glam in the first place.

Upon reflection, it might not be the


case that culture is evaporating into
thin air, but rather, they are evolving
into some new set of hybrids,
building on and modifying from the
older traditions, to suit the tempo of
contemporary life. Since we do not
know what to look out for, it is harder
to see the forthcoming gains and
easier to notice the current cultural
loses. Selective attrition thus favors
the cultures best suited to preserving
the cultural creations of the past.
PAYC ‘08 “No Reservations”
By Kenneth Leo

The annual Political Association Youth Camp was one of the major
projects undertaken by NUSPA. It is one of the many camps held in NUS
to welcome the freshmen and to provide a platform for them to socialize
and forge friendships that will see them through their university life. The
camp also serves to introduce the freshmen to NUSPA and give them a
glimpse of what to expect should they opt to become one of us. I am
pleased to say that we were able to reach out to 40 over campers this
year.

This year, the camp was named “No Reservations” in the hope of bringing
out a different side of the politically savvy freshmen, whom some may
consider to be ‘not so cool’. Well, to all those who see us in such a light,
happy faces and the silly acts caught on camera are testaments that
politically aware students are also capable of having a good time.

Unlike the previous years, this year the camp was shifted from the
usual Sentosa back to our campus. This was done in view of getting the
freshmen to sooner adapt themselves to life on campus. However, the
change in location was compensated by the better quality activities and
meals provided, which was made possible due to the funds freed from a
chalet stay in Sentosa.

Some of the camp’s key highlights included an entire day’s cycling at


East Coast Park, an evening of board-gaming at Mind Cafe, and a day
of sun and fun at the Siloso Beach. The camp ended on a high with a
finale dinner at Vivocity’s Marche where each camper ate all he or she
could with the allocated budget of thirty dollars per person. Feedbacks
from the campers have reflected that the quality of food and activities
provided in the duration of their stay was value for the camp fees paid.

Kenneth Leo
Youth Camp Director
33rd Management Committee
Luxuriate
By Low Tian Leng

that any reforms in, and adjustments to,


the structure of markets and regulation
not inhibits our most reliable and
effective safeguards against cumulative
economic failure: market flexibility and
open competition”. The pervasiveness of
globalization is apparent; the immense
instability in the United States has
perturbed many countries in the World,
such as Iceland, United Kingdom, Sweden,
and Ireland. Even in Asia, China, Japan,
Taiwan and South Korea are also severely
impacted; governments were obliged to
According to the Merriam-Webster Online bail-out or to pledge the national reserves
Dictionary, “luxuriate” is the action of as a guarantee for the Banks.
growing profusely, developing extensively
and/or indulging oneself and deriving It is important to seek out the root cause
great enjoyment from the luxury and of the problem, such that we can install
comfort that ‘it’ offers. The recent financial and establish systems that the liberal
storm that started from the breakdown of banking systems cannot self-correct.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and erupted How many years of Wall Street glamour
in the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers fostered the luxuriating lifestyle and
goes to show the sphere of influence of culture in developed countries? Did the
globalization and the inevitability that a invisible hands by Adam Smith fail? Or
change in American’s well-being is able to did Karl Marx’s Capital pre-empt the
upset the rest of the world. failure of Capitalism came true? In the
midst of the United States Presidential
“A financial crisis unmatched since Elections, we are hearing speculations of
the Great Depression” , Larry Elliott, Barack Obama being a socialist in times of
economics edit for The Guardian. For a economic and financial turmoil. There are
non-economics academic and student many questions that we can contemplate.
to understand the entire process of the Although we must not presume this
Credit Derivative system that resulted in mayhem in the markets to be part-and-
the mess we are in today is not an easy parcel of civilizations, it is human nature to
feat. On March 17, 2008 Alan Greenspan forgive and forget. What we must not do
wrote an article for the Financial Times’ is to forgive and forget the mistakes that
Economists’ Forum entitled “We will never we should be constantly reminded of.
have a perfect model of risk” in which he
argued: “We will never be able to anticipate
all discontinuities in financial markets”. He
concluded: “It is important, indeed crucial,
Essay Writing
Compet:tion 2009
THEME: Negotiating Self-Identity
Essay Writing Competition is open to all tertiary students. Dateline for
submission of articles for Essay Writing Competition is 28th Feb 2009 at
5 pm . Articles can be submitted online to publications@nuspa.org.
Enquiries can be emailed to the above-mentioned address.
Word limit: 800 words
Judging Criteria:
Usage of the theme (50%)
Language and Grammar (30%)
Creativity (20%)
Prizes:
$150 for 1st prize
$100 for 2nd prize
$50 for 3rd prize
Selected entries will be
featured in the NUS Students'
Political Association (NUSPA)
Newsletter, Le Message.

Organised by: