Saturday, 3 September 2011

Book Worms

Wheelock-backImage via Wikipedia
Two things that Singaporeans love used to be a sale and good book.  While the first remains true the second is now a matter of some debate.

The large book selling chain Borders closed its Wheelock Place outlet in Singapore and the sale attracted thousands, looking for 50% off bargains. People stood in the pay queue for up to  two hours.

Wheelock Place is a strangely designed building on Orchard Road, largely overshadowed by its newer and flashier neighbour, the Ion Mall.

Wheelock is one of those places with confusing levels of escalators so a visitor finds it difficult to navigate to the lower levels but once there you can enjoy the subterranean walkways under the main thoroughfare, escaping the fierce midday sun.

Border's closure in Orchard Road leaves it with one remaining outlet in Parkway Parade but it too is reportedly up for sale.  Its demise is symptomatic of the decline of print with the modern generation choosing to read from their digital tablets.

Wheelock is named after the Hong Kong development company that bought over the property from the original failed owner.

Also buying up property are the Chinese but they are doing so globally. A Mr. Huang Nubo is hoping to purchase a large chunk of Iceland and transform it into a high-end resort. Losing 300 square kilometers of their small country to an overseas developer is not going down too well with Icelanders but given the parlous state of that country's finances they may have few options left.

At least in Iceland they will have built in spa possibilities with the odd volcanic eruption doing away with the need for imported theme parks.  The spa business in Singapore by comparison is going through a rough patch with creditors lining up to get their money back from the failed True Spa enterprise.

Meanwhile the new president of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan has been sworn in and apart form being "deeply honoured, humbled", has pledged to protect the country's financial reserves.

One would sincerely hope that this is so, although there remains disquiet in some quarters about the President's former role as Chair of the GIC and the corporation's bad choices of investment in 2006 & 2007 under his stewardship which wiped millions from the fund.

This observation needs to be balanced by the GIC's fund management over a wider period of time.  According to an entry in Wikipedia, over a period of 25 years to March 2006, the annual rate of return on the foreign reserves managed by GIC averaged 9.5 percent in US dollar terms, and 8.2 percent in Singapore dollar terms. The average rate of return over global inflation was 5.3 per cent per annum.

To the new President's credit he was one of the few in power at the time who vehemently opposed the building of casinos in Singapore.

Commerce in Singapore is always in a state of flux and as Borders closes its doors a new chain, Swedish retail fashion giant H&M, are opening theirs. Needless to say there is a queue forming some 20 hours before opening.

And last but not least; Singapore's own answer to the Yeti has been spotted once again. The "Naked Man of Sengkang" has reappeared in a lift lobby much to the consternation of the residents of Block 124. The citizen journalist who captured this rare sighting is on record as saying "Not sure if there was something wrong with him or if he was an exhibitionist".

My theory is that he was in such a hurry to join the  H&M queue in town that he forgot to dress.
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