Goodbye Mr Lee

An obituary for Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, 1923 -2015.

Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore, died this early this Monday morning 23rd March 2015 in Singapore General Hospital, aged 91. It is difficult to think of another man who spent more of his life building a country.

Mr Lee became Prime Minister in 1959, when Singapore was a colonial outpost of the British Empire, suffered high levels of unemployment, racial tensions and dominated by larger hostile neighbors. By the time he resigned, over half a century later from his position of Minister Mentor in 2011, Singapore had become one of the wealthiest and most successful nations in the world.

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‘Real’ Estate: Part I

by James Cox

True Story – The gentleman was large, confident and amicable. He listened patiently whilst I explained why, given that he had not paid rent for two months he should move out. He sympathized with how he was causing me unfair expense and inconvenience. Whilst he acknowledged the logic in my arguments, he adamantly stated that I was incorrect – despite the fact that he no longer wished to pay rent, he did not need to leave ‘his’ apartment for another four out of the six months that it was ‘his.’

It was disturbing to be told by the town council that my tenant was correct. After two months of not paying rent he can be sent an official warning, two months later they would serve him with an eviction notice which would require him to leave within two months. In the meantime, should I fail to pay the mortgage, management fees or taxes the property would ultimately be confiscated. This made me question to what extent was the property ‘mine.’

Most property investors are familiar with the difference between ‘freehold’ and ‘leasehold’ and would choose the former given that there is a time limit associated with leasehold property. But the phrase ‘freehold’ is (perhaps deliberately) a little misleading and this is where the fun starts. Even if your house is freehold you are not the ultimate owner. Some legal history and etymology might be useful in order to explain further.

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“Whatever it takes”

Having kindly picked me up from Heathrow Airport just before Christmas, my brother pulled into a petrol station to fill up his car. Having seen that the petrol price had in fact gone down from an outrageous £1.30 to a less punishing £1.22 per litre he audibly exhaled with relief. The pound in his pocket going further is a respite that most of us can appreciate.

Approximately 400 miles away in Frankfurt, the same fact caused Mario Draghi to inhale with despair. A high oil/petrol price is an important cause of inflation. As President of the European Central Bank, he must have inflation no matter what. But how to cause it? Continue reading

Look to Japan for a glimpse of the future.

My friend Ishida San recently enlightened me as to a widely held Japanese belief. He whole heartedly approved of my theory that the Japanese and the English are somehow cultural cousins; as island nations, they are both fanatical about tea, being polite, gardening, social hierarchy and prone to invading other nations. But my last comparison; ‘seeing things through to the bitter end’ he stated, I had misinterpreted. Continue reading