Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Tree has fallen

I live in Toa Payoh and recently, the neighbourhood's iconic tree fell. You can read the Straits Times' report for some of the background. I used to make small offering on my birthdays at my mother's request. My brother did that only not so long ago. I was thus taken aback when i read that it had fallen.

I discussed this "event" with a colleague who also stays nearby and we feel that the tree was one of those little things that made Toa Payoh unique. She added that the authorities have been a little slow with regard to trees. On reflection, the issue of trees is similar to that of crows and mynahs - issues that cross boundaries within the bureacracy.

Of course you can find more heritage tidbits here but the tree, along with the blue fountain in front of the library were what constitute my sense of the place. As we grow old, we yearn for some fixity in our environment. I guess as time passes, memories fade and a new feature will be built on the site.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Can healthcare be affordable when we are living longer?

My father recently suffered a heart attack and had to go for an operation to open up the constricted arteries using stents. I do not agree with some of the stuff that he eats but he leads quite an active lifestyle. a lot of walking here and there. The only downside is that he is a shift worker, so his sleeping patterns are affected. It was thus a shock when the doctor told me about what happened.

The bill was also another shocker. I had to go through some "financial  counselling" since I was the next-of-kin and the gross bill (operation plus ward before subsidies) came up to S$15,000. After deducting for government subsidies, the estimated bill came down to S$5,000 and the "financial counsellor told me that me this could be offset by insurance, medisave and other means (cold hard cash). The balance was a manageable amount and it will be likely fully covered by my father's company insurance.

My father is about statutory retirement age. The big question is, how is he going to pay for any future hospital stays should he suffer from another heart attack after his retirement? He has a few options such as paying from savings or Medisave; settling from private insurance; his children paying; and may be to sell his house. There are pros and cons to each option and I admit that I am not very clear how insurance can cover you after 65 or how Medisave can offset most of the medical bills.

But the depressing conclusion is that unless you have a big house, a lot of money or children, the older you get, healthcare will not be affordable. Upon retirement, while the range of diseases that may strike an individual increases, the individual's ability to pay, especially if you are less-than-average, diminishes rapidly. It reminds me of a saying I heard when I was young, that you are better off dead than sick in Singapore.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Petra Foods: What's Happening?

Petra Foods (I am invested) has seen a sharp decline in its share price, diverging from the Straits Times Index over the past month. Petra has sold of its ingredients business and this obtained approval at the end of June 2013. Dividends were slightly higher year-on-year but no special dividends have been announced with the sale and this probably has added to the selling pressure. Furthermore, as Petra announced its second quarter results, it also announced changes in key management, namely the CFO and COO.

I believe that the stock is attractive at current prices but I already hold a significant amount of stock relative to my portfolio. The upside is that its strategy is correct and special dividends are imminent. The downside is that all the information has been priced in (particularly in a bullish market) and that the stock trades thinly.