28 September 2009
24 September 2009
19 September 2009
MARIKA DOBBINThe Age, Australia
September 19, 2009
NICK Johnstone is a man on a mission. Next week, the Brighton estate agent will fly to Shanghai with the aim of selling 30 of Melbourne's most expensive homes to Chinese buyers.
It will be the first time a Melbourne agency has attended the China International Luxury Property Show, but it is just one example of a phenomenon that has transformed Australia's residential market.
''Australia is the flavour of the month amongst the Chinese investors,'' Mr Johnstone, 41, said yesterday. ''They love property and there's plenty of money over there so they're good clients to have.''
While Chinese buyers have fuelled the top-end real estate revival, they are also courting controversy, with some local house hunters complaining they are being priced out by foreigners who have no intention of living in their new properties.
A few critics go further, arguing Chinese money is now putting upwards pressure on interest rates.
But you will not catch Mr Johnstone of J. P. Dixon complaining. He has made at least 40 per cent of sales this year to the Chinese. Other agents in the east and south-eastern suburbs have reported the same level of demand.
''We've had several buy properties sight unseen, just over the internet and phone.'' Mr Johnstone said. ''A lady from Shanghai, whose son goes to Wesley College, bought four houses in Brighton from us in two months, worth $20 million.
''They buy them to land bank, not to rent them out. The houses just sit vacant because they are after the capital growth.''
The floodgates opened on foreign investment in March when the Federal Government relaxed its rules on property ownership.
The changes made it easier for foreign companies and temporary residents, such as 12-month business visa holders, foreign students, and their parents, to invest.
Last month, Treasurer Wayne Swan announced a further relaxation of Australia's foreign investment screening to ''help boost Australia's growth''.
But the big spend-up is being fuelled by more than just Australian policy change.
Armadale entrepreneur Barry Jan, who runs property shopping tours from China to Australia, said the Communist Party had had an about-face on citizens investing their wealth overseas. ''People are investing now in case they can't get their money out later,'' he said.
Kew property adviser Monique Wakelin said many Chinese had come to see Australian property as a stable hedge against global economic tumult and the potential devaluation of the yuan.
''They are looking for avenues to protect at least part of their wealth, and A-grade Melbourne residential property fits the bill.'' The confluence of events has seen Chinese money inflating prices for top-end homes by at least 10 per cent in a matter of months, according to Boroondara agent James Connell from Marshall White.
''Chinese people have effectively kick-started our economy and underpinned all our housing values in inner Melbourne,'' he said.
Keen to cash in on the boom, Marshall White, J. P. Dixon and other big agencies such as Jellis Craig are hastily establishing connections with offshore accounts, lawyers and businessmen to funnel a stream of buyers into Melbourne.
Also in hot demand are Mandarin-speaking Melbourne real estate agents and property lawyers.
Meanwhile, Australia's largest developers - including Australand, Central Equity, Simonds, Becton - are setting up offices in China and Hong Kong to spruik off-the-plan developments.
And an industry of ''Australian property and migration'' exhibitions has burgeoned in the cities and mining towns, such as Taiyuan, attracting hundreds of people.
Yet all the evidence put forward about the property revolution is so far anecdotal because there is no measure being kept on the amount of investment by temporary residents in residential property.
The Government's March law change abolished mandatory reporting of such acquisitions in a bid to ''enhance flexibility in the market''.
What is certain is that in the past financial year before the change, foreign investment in Australian residential property increased by a third to $20.4 billion from the year before. Victoria attracted 21 per cent of that investment, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board's annual report released last month.
18 September 2009
12 September 2009
THE SILENT MAJORITY ROARS: OVER 2 MILLION MARCH ON DC AGAINST TAX AND SPEND POLICIES; STATE-CONTROLLED MEDIA REFUSE TO COVER;ADMIN OFFICIALS "SHAKEN"
Photo source: www.dailymail.co.uk
Filed by Michael Henchard.
Whenever the left collects a group of 500 misfits for one of their lunatic causes, they refer to it as a "million man march." Well, a two million person march took place in the nation's capital today as the silent majority stood up to reclaim their republic against an administration and a Congress that have borrowed, printed and spent trillions (that's right 12 zeros) of dollars. This was the tea party circa 2009. Members of the state-controlled media, Congress and administration officials are said to be shaken to the core as they witnessed these two million people from the heartland of America taking to the streets. Their mutual agenda to destroy the American republic through fiat money has been halted, at least for now.
Let this be a lesson to all inexperienced politicos: in a republic, the silent majority always exerts itself.
10 September 2009
|Bio-chemist Dr Cai Minnjie who failed to land another research position after losing his job last year now happily prowls the streets as a cabbie.|
August 29, 2009
INSIGHT: BY SEAH CHIANG NEE
SINGAPORE’S fraternity of taxi drivers, with its fair share of retrenched executives, has now an exalted new member – a PhD bio-chemist from Stanford University.
Prowling the streets of Singapore today is 57-year-old unemployed scientist Dr Cai Mingjie who lost his job at Singapore’s premier A-Star biomedical research institute last year.
The China-born naturalised citizen with 16 years of research accomplishments said he began driving a taxi last October after failed efforts to land another job.
The news shocked this nation, which holds an unshakable faith in the power of an advanced university education.
One surprised white-collar worker said he had believed that such a doctorate and experience was as good as life-long employment and success.
“If he has to drive a taxi, what chances do ordinary people like us have?” he asked.
I have met a number of highly qualified taxi drivers in recent years, including former managers and a retrenched engineer.
One cheerful driver – a former stock-broker – surprised me one day in giving me detailed reasons on what stocks to buy or avoid.
“At a time like this, the taxi business is probably the only business in Singapore that still actively recruits people,” said Dr Cai.
To me, his plight is taking Singapore into a new chapter.
“(I am) probably the only taxi driver in the world with a PhD from Stanford and a proven track record of scientific accomplishments ...,” blogged Dr Cai.
“I have been forced out of my research job at the height of my scientific career” and was unable to find another job “for reasons I can only describe as something uniquely Singapore”.
The story quickly spread far and wide over the Internet. Most Singaporeans expressed admiration for his ability to adapt so quickly to his new life. Two young Singaporeans asked for his taxi number, saying they would love to travel in his cab and talk to him.
“There’s so much he can pass on to me,” one said.
Others questioned why, despite his tremendous scientific experience, he is unable to find a teaching job.
His unhappy exit is generally attributed to a personal cause (he has alleged chaotic management by research heads) rather than any decline in Singapore’s bio-tech project, which appears to be surviving the downturn.
The case highlights a general weakening of the R and D (research and development) market in smallish Singapore.
“The bad economy means not many firms are hiring professional scientists,” one surfer said. “Academia isn’t much of a help – there’s a long history of too many PhDs chasing too few jobs.”
While the image of taxi drivers has received a tremendous boost, the same cannot be said of Singapore’s biomedical project – particularly its efforts to nourish home-grown research talent.
“It may turn more Singaporeans away from Life Sciences as a career,” said one blogger.
One writer said: “In my opinion, PhDs are useless, especially in Singapore. It’s just another certificate and doesn’t mean much.”
Another added: “The US is in a worse situation. Many are coming here to look for jobs.”
“I won’t want my child to study for years to end up driving a taxi,” said a housewife with a teenage daughter.
The naturalised Singaporean citizen underwent his PhD training at Stanford University, the majority of his work revolving around the study of yeast proteins.
His case is not unique. US research-scientist Douglas Prasher, who isolated the gene that creates the green fluorescent protein (and just missed the 2008 Chemistry Nobel Prize) faced similar straits.
Prasher moved from one research institution to another when his funding dried up, and he eventually quit science – to drive a courtesy shuttle in Alabama.
“Still, he remains humble and happy and seems content with his minivan driver job,” said a surfer.
With an evolving job market as more employers resort to multi-tasking and short-term contracts, more Singaporeans are chasing after split degrees, like accountancy and law or computer and business.
Others avoid post-graduate studies or specialised courses of a fixed discipline in favour of general or multi-discipline studies. “Experience is king” is the watchword; there has been a rush for no-pay internships.
“The future favours graduates with multiple skills and career flexibility, people who are able to adapt to different types of work,” one business executive said.
During the past few years, as globalisation deepened, there has been a growing disconnect between what Singaporeans studied in university and their subsequent careers.
It follows the trend in the developed world where old businesses disappear – almost overnight – and new ones spring up, which poses problems for graduates with an inflexible job expectation.
I know of a young man who graduated from one of America’s top civil engineering universities abandoning the construction hard hat for a teaching gown.
Another engineer I met is running his father’s lucrative coffee shop. Lawyers have become musicians or journalists, and so on.
Cases of people working in jobs unrelated to their university training have become so common that interviewers have stopped asking candidates questions like “Why should a trained scientist like you want to work as a junior executive with us?”
In the past, parents would crack their heads pondering what their children should study – accountancy or law or engineering, the so-called secure careers – and see them move single-mindedly into these professions.
A doctor was then a doctor, a biologist generally worked in the lab and a lawyer argued cases in courts – square pegs in square holes, so to speak.
Today the world is slowly moving away from this neat pattern.
o Seah Chiang Nee is a veteran journalist and editor of the information website littlespeck.com
Editor's Note: See Dr. Cai's blog here.
Flashback: New York Times Reports in July 1995 article on the oversupply of PhDs:
Supply Exceeds Demand for Ph.D.'s in Many Science Fields
By MALCOLM W. BROWNE
Published: Tuesday, July 4, 1995
THE holder of a doctoral degree in science or engineering would probably make a better taxi driver or bank teller than someone without a Ph.D. But if a newly minted doctor of science is hoping for a permanent, full-time job in his or her specialty, there is a 1-in-4 chance of being disappointed, according to a recent survey.
As if that were not bad enough news for young scientists, the authors of the report have concluded that increased government spending for scientific research, even if it were granted, would eventually make the job situation even worse.
The survey, supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and by Federal funds, was conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Research at Stanford University and the Rand Corporation, a Santa Monica, Calif., research institution with traditional ties to the Defense Department.
The study, which covered 13 science and engineering fields, 210 doctorate-granting institutions and more than 1,000 educational institutions that employ people with doctorates, was led by two economists, Dr. William F. Massy at Stanford and Dr. Charles A. Goldman at Rand, assisted by two graduate students, Marc Chun and Beryle Hsiao. They concluded that "universities in the United States are producing about 25 percent more doctorates in science and engineering fields than the United States economy can afford."
The group experimented with mathematical models designed to predict the effects of changes in conditions, and concluded that increasing government funding for scientific research would actually exacerbate the glut of Ph.D.'s in the long run.
By increasing research funding, Dr. Massy said, "the whole system will be expanding and people will get the kinds of jobs they were trained for.
"However," he adds, "as soon as you stop increasing it and go back to a steady state -- not a decrease -- all of a sudden the underemployment comes back. In fact, it comes back worse than it was before because the whole system has scaled up."
Professors whose research projects depend on cheap, competent help from a constant supply of graduate students are among the main offenders, they said, and it is time for university administrators and professors to throttle back the flow of graduate students passing through the educational system into very uncertain careers.
Surprisingly, the overproduction of Ph.D. degrees seems to be highest in computer science at present. The surplus of doctoral computer science degrees currently awarded over the number of those who get desirable jobs in their field is 50.3 percent, Dr. Massy said. (This figure does not represent an actual unemployment rate of 50.3 percent, but merely the current estimated imbalance between supply and demand.)
The job situation in other branches of science and engineering is better, the study found, but surpluses of supply over demand are still large; for example, 31.5 percent for physics, chemistry and mathematics; 26 percent for chemical engineering; 44 percent for mechanical engineering, and 23 percent for geological sciences. The survey found that demand actually exceeds current supplies of new Ph.D. holders in psychology, but Dr. Massy said the probable reason is that doctoral-level psychologists are often siphoned off into clinical jobs not included under the heading of science and engineering.
The findings of the new study closely parallel those of several recent studies by other academic and professional groups.
A task force created by the American Chemical Society and headed by Dr. David K. Lavallee, provost at City College of New York, reported in May that its preliminary findings "indicate an annual oversupply of chemistry Ph.D.'s in the work force of between 250 and 400."
The overall unemployment rate for chemists is low, only about 2.5 percent. But substantial numbers of chemists recently awarded Ph.D.'s are unable to find permanent, full-time chemical research jobs. Many therefore accept postdoctoral academic appointments as teaching or research assistants, usually for two years at a time with relatively low pay and little chance for permanent employment.
The chemical society task force calculated that if a postdoctoral appointment persisting for more than four years is considered unacceptable, 12.5 percent of recent Ph.D.'s are either unemployed or stuck in undesirable temporary jobs. If the desirable cutoff is assumed to be anything more than three years in a postdoctoral job, the percentage rises to 19.5.
To some extent, the gloomy job prospects for aspiring scientists have already affected the degree-granting institutions of the nation.
A recent report by the education and employment statistics division of the American Institute of Physics said that the number of first-year physics graduate students has dropped by 6 percent for the second consecutive year; about 2,900 students entered physics graduate programs in 1993-94, down from 3,300 in 1991-92.
Some universities have announced their intention to hold down enrollment in physics, and one, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., has announced that beginning with the coming semester, it will no longer offer a physics major program at all. The contracts of the university's 10 tenured physics faculty members will be terminated in August 1996.
The outlook for young mathematicians also looks bleak. A survey by the American Mathematical Society of the 1,125 recipients of doctoral degrees in mathematics from July 1, 1990, to June 30, 1991, found "an alarming 12 percent of this population to be unemployed and seeking employment." This rate, according to Dr. Donald E. McClure, professor of applied mathematics at Brown University, was more than twice as high as for the previous year's crop of Ph.D.'s.
Holders of doctorates are not alone in facing the slump in scientific and engineering jobs. A survey by the National Science Foundation published this year concluded that the 1993 job market for recent college graduates in the sciences and engineering was significantly worse than it was in the late 1980's.
Dr. Goldman of Rand said in an interview that it had been "surprisingly difficult" to get reliable statistics on the sizes of university faculties in scientific and engineering disciplines, or on the rate at which academic positions become open, and that many sources of data had to be compared to calculate estimates.
Most science students tend to regard their professors as role models in research careers. But instead of becoming tenured faculty members like their teachers, many end up with temporary postdoctoral jobs or worse.
In a recent satirical essay published by the journal Nature, the British physicist and humorist David Jones chided television programs that "take up science on the absurd pretense that science is fun."
"In fact," he wrote, "there is no demand for scientists, as shown by their low salaries and dismal career prospects." Dr. Jones's tongue-in-cheek advice was to have a student float stock to pay for his studies, and let market forces shape his career.
"Suppose he wants to study physics," Dr. Jones wrote. "If the market feels him to be a rotten physicist, or reckons there are too many physicists already, he will find it hard to raise capital. His shareholders will steer him toward classics, advertising studies or wherever they see the best future returns."
Dr. Massy took a more sober view. Asked what he would advise children of his own who might be considering earning Ph.D. degrees in science, Dr. Massy replied: "I'd tell them, first of all, that they should not expect, as a matter of course, to be able to replicate the kinds of careers that their mentors have had, or that I have had. The job market is just too competitive to have any expectation of that. They might be very fortunate and achieve it, but the odds are against it.
"Having said that, if they have a true, deep and abiding interest in research, they certainly could give it a try," he added. "It's a wonderful career, if you achieve success. And if you have a deep interest in teaching, as some doctoral students do, this might not be a bad time, if they select their institution carefully.
"I think there will be renewed interest in the profession of teaching as opposed to the profession of research," Dr. Massey said.
04 September 2009
By Bian-lian Huang.
On October 1, 1999, the People's Republic of China celebrated its 50th National Day with a large and impressive military parade on the grounds of Tiananmen Square. I still recall with goose bumps then-President Jiang Zemin riding in an open-top military jeep inspecting and saluting the People's Liberation Army (Renmin Jiefang Jun). Military hardware including missiles, tanks and fighter jets were on parade. These images were broadcast all over the world.
It was the first visual sign of China's re-emergence as a global power. Ten years on, as the People's Republic of China prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of the country's Liberation, we look forward to seeing an even greater display of wealth and power. Over the last ten years, China's gross domestic product (GDP) has almost doubled, and its military might is now indisputable.
If the 1999 celebration was the first concrete, visual sign of China's prowess as a global power, then the visuals coming out of the 2009 parade shall leave an indelible mark on the world -- that China has stood up. Qi Lai!
02 September 2009
Column: Abroad View
Now might be a good time for China to push its currency, the yuan, as a global currency. It has US$2 trillion in reserves in the United States, making the powerful nation its debtor. It also has a list of other debtors that includes Europe. China holds all the cards to be a powerful global power.
The United States and Europe have dug their own graves with their financial excesses, an emphasis on globalization and an unnecessary war in Iraq. If it pushed hard, China could make the yuan the gobal currency.
While the United States and Europe were busy showing off their wealth and power for the last 20 years, China was taking away all the Western world’s manufacturing. This resulted in the West importing everything from socks to desktops from China – which imported next to nothing.
When the United States and Europe were struck by the financial meltdown in 2008, they turned to China for cash.
China’s trade surplus rose from a mere US$18 billion in 1999 to a staggering US$297 billion in 2008, thanks to its low-value currency. Its trade has made China the world’s manufacturing giant and its strong cash reserves have given it power to manipulate world opinion.
In 2007 China hinted at its intention to promote the yuan as an alternate reserve currency. And at last month’s G-8 Summit in Italy China pushed for enhanced status for the yuan. While Russia endorsed the idea, there was lukewarm support from both India and Brazil.
Although high-ranking U.S. government officials have visited Beijing to discuss the issue, President Barack Obama’s administration has been more engaged with domestic issues like the recession and rising unemployment than Beijing’s ambition to promote its currency.
Due to the global recession, the gross domestic product of the West is predicted to drop by 3 to 4 percent. In comparison, although China’s GDP has also been hit by the recession, its manufacturing sector and US$2 trillion in cash reserves – mostly loaned out to other countries –place it in a commanding position. China’s growing military might also places it in a more dominant position in the world.
The next two years will be a period of “rest and recovery” for the United States and other world economies. Although China has suffered on the export front, its economy is still humming at the rate of 6-7 percent annually. It has put its unemployed to work with its own version of a stimulus package, and surplus goods that could not be exported have been diverted for local consumption.
Since the end of World War II the West has been arrogant and overconfident. Western countries have ignored talk of reducing the role of the dollar and giving a greater role to the yuan or any other currency. But with almost all Anglo-Saxon economies in bad shape, they may have no choice.
China recently signed currency swap deals – in which dues are settled in yuan instead of the U.S. dollar – with Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Brazil and Russia. These countries support the idea of reducing the U.S. dollar’s dominance in world finance and business. This is the first in a series of steps China plans to upgrade the yuan and make it fully convertible in global financial markets.
The rise of the dollar was Europe’s gift to the new world after World Wars I and II. Until then the British pound was the world currency for trade, commerce and international transactions. When the British position began to erode after the wars, the United States outmaneuvered Britain into transferring international banking transactions to the United States. As a result its military power began to grow by leaps and bounds.
Then came the Cold War. Europe submitted to U.S. machinations and yielded all power. The value of the dollar rose and it maintained its lofty position until about 1990, with massive U.S. government support. The whole world recognized it and every nation, including oil producers, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India and China, began maintaining U.S. dollar accounts.
Then China emerged on the world economic stage. The United States did not anticipate that China would take away its entire manufacturing sector in such a short time. Initially, the United States transferred its labor-intensive smokestack manufacturing to China. But once the floodgates opened, there was no stopping China.
U.S. President Bill Clinton assisted this process, calling it prosperity. Unfortunately that was only on paper, with financial gains in stocks, bonds and other speculative markets proving worthless in 2008.
Next, after the 9/11 terror attacks former President George W. Bush’s administration got busy fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, putting the economy into a low-priority lane. The country’s surplus cash – which actually belonged to oil producers, China, India and Japan – was made available to domestic consumers by way of cut-rate mortgages. Within eight years post-9/11, the U.S. economy and its mighty dollar suffered catastrophic losses.
Now China is in a position to take the yuan to the world stage, similar to the U.S. dollar. When the yuan becomes fully convertible it will move into the world league.
However, there is an inherent weakness in the Chinese economy that may muddy the water. Its exports depend on the goodwill of the West. If those markets close, China’s economy could fall flat. The rest of the world cannot absorb Chinese exports the way the United States does. Also, the West may opt to rebuild and redevelop its manufacturing base, like India, Indonesia and Brazil, which will be a big setback for the yuan. Although China may resist such moves, this would not help its cause in the face of a determined effort by the West.
Chinese exports have benefited from the low value of the yuan, which has not been revalued in the last ten years to reflect the current status of China’s economy. If it is revalued upward by 15 to 20 percent, then 30 percent of Chinese exports will become pricey. Demand will drop and so will exports.
In such a scenario, other countries may step in to fill the void. India is in line, with massive cash at its disposal; it had US$40 billion from foreign direct investment and foreign institutional investors, and another US$40 billion in remittances from abroad in 2008. India could build a manufacturing base as fast as China did in the last 20 years. There is only one drawback in this scenario: the West has not fully realized the implications of China’s moves.
China will eventually move to displace the dollar and replace it with the yuan as the world currency. Such a move could deal a painful blow to the United States unless it starts moving manufacturing back from China and revisits the yuan-dollar relationship.
(Hari Sud is a retired vice president of C-I-L Inc., a former investment strategies analyst and international relations manager. A graduate of Punjab University and the University of Missouri, he has lived in Canada for the past 34 years. ©Copyright Hari Sud.)
Dates, the desert fruit that traditionally break Muslims' day-long fast during Ramadan, were at the top of the White House menu last night as President Obama hosted a dinner honoring Islam's American believers during their faith's holiest month. (There was also organic chicken, potato and leek puree and late summer peas, followed by sorbet and cookies. "I am sure it will be good," Obama assured his guests before diving in.)
Obama is shown here welcoming Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a University of Memphis student who, the president noted in his remarks "broke Rebecca Lobo's record for the most points scored by any high school basketball player in Massachusetts history." You can read more about Bilquis' sports feats on USA TODAY's high school sports blog.
Other guests whom Obama singled out included Nashala Hearn, who won a lawsuit against her Oklahoma school district for the right to wear a hijab, Muslim women's traditional head covering, and Elsheba Khan, whose son, Kareem, joined the military out of high school and was killed in Iraq.
"The contributions of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country," Obama said. "American Muslims are successful in business and entertainment; in the arts and athletics; in science and in medicine. Above all, they are successful parents, good neighbors, and active citizens."
Guests at the dinner included the U.S. Congress' first two Muslim members: Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Andre Carson, D-Ind., ambassadors of a number of Muslim nations and many top-ranking U.S. government officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Indiana's Sen. Richard Lugar, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Also among the invitees were members of the president's ecumenical Council on Faith-Based and Community Partnerships: Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism; Eboo Patel of the Interfaith Youth Core out of the president's hometown of Chicago; and Joel Hunter, the pastor of an evangelical mega-congregation in central Florida.
Obama also acknowledged an absent invitee, the boxing Olympian who is perhaps the nation's most famous convert to Islam. Here's what the president said:
While Muhammad Ali could not join us tonight, it is worth reflecting upon his remarkable contributions, as he's grown from an unmatched fighter in the ring to a man of quiet dignity and grace who continues to fight for what he believes -- and that includes the notion that people of all faiths holds things in common. I love this quote. A few years ago, he explained this view -- and this is part of why he's The Greatest -- saying, "Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams -- they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do -- they all contain truths."