Saturday, 7 November 2015

How good (bad?) is the Singapore economy now? - Hear from the ground! (Part 1)

Economy? 

The good news – not too bad! Unemployment is still low (though creeping up), and most jobs are intact. It is life and business as usual. 


The bad news – the worst has yet to come? 

Oil & Gas Industry

Since I had been an “oily” man working in the oil and gas industry for my entire career, I will begin with the state of the industry that I am working in. Apparently the “pain” has already been felt, since the oil collapse took place for more an a year now. 

When the oil crisis started, it was only soreness. I started warning friends, colleagues and clients that it’s just the beginning of more bad times ahead in our industry! Not that I am an expert, but maybe I am just prudent and sometimes it does make me a natural pessimist to prepare for the worst. Most people after hearing what I said will probably just forget. Then when headline news of job cuts became widespread the soreness swell. At this stage, while it is demoralizing but most people will like to think that it will not happen to them.

NOW, it’s reality! People close to me – friends, clients, business associates, colleagues and even maybe myself (soon?), are getting layoff day by day and one by one! Those days where Keppel and SembMarine shipyards pay key employees tens of months of bonuses are going to be history for many years to come. Jobs are at stake now, let alone bonuses and pay increments! 

Given my wider contacts being in the industry for quite some time, I started to receive calls from friends who lost their jobs, asking for job recommendations! Even bosses, both big and small companies, were so stressful that many gave tremendous pressure not only to their employees but also their blood-related close ones working in the company. Tensions are everywhere and it is during this kind of situation, you can witness the real ugly side of people! It is about survival! 

Back to my company, several of my colleagues on the list of layoffs are still in the dark. They are extremely optimistic about the company regional growing plans for the future, not realizing that the reality/nature of a business is to “earn money”. Those on the lists, one just bought a car because of his newborn, another was planning to buy a car. 

It is no joke and pain is felt! 

Singapore in general

Aside from the oil and gas industry and read/hear from news, I always like to hear from the ground too how the other industries are performing. Below some comments I have heard/seen across various industries from friends or associates who are either owners of the company or senior employees who worked in the industry for at least a decade. 
  • Giant US conglomerate MNC (manufacturing) - Business figures are bad worldwide and already decided to shut down plants in Singapore.
  • Giant Japan electronics MNC (manufacturing) - Continue to be sunset industry. Production in Singapore will be adversely affected eventually. 

  • Local big listed healthcare company – Expect profits to slide as sales foresee to drop 20% next year and high labour costs now is not doing any favour.
  • Local SME construction and property supplier – Inventories are stacking higher and higher.
  • Commercial rental – many companies, except for internet technology and banking sectors, are generally relocating away from the core central region to cut cost. 
  • Car dealer - business is quite good and cars are selling well. Thanks to Uber. 
  • Entertainment business - business is quite good!
  • Local Government Statutory board – Internal re-organization to improve productivity, but jobs will not be affected.
For retail and consumer sectors in Singapore, I am sure we can see for ourselves. While business is still brisk, it is slowly down also. Overall the consumer sector is still doing well, while the manufacturing sector is losing quite a fair bit of traction. Perhaps, we have to bear in mind that in an economy, the first industry to suffer is normally the manufacturing, then follow by the consumer sectors later.

Due to Singapore’s interconnectivity with the world’s economy, to have a better idea of Singapore economical health index ahead, we also need to have a better understanding of what is happening in the global economy now.

For that, stay tuned to Part 2 to find out…

Rolf’s Thoughts

Within less than 15 years of my career, I had gone through three major economic catastrophes in Singapore – SARs, GFC and this Oil crisis! Not sure it’s “Heng” or “Suay!” Nevertheless, no matter which industry you are in, if you think that the crisis will never affect you, think again! This is especially those who had never really go through a crisis before! If it happens, the "emotional ride" can be more than what we think “on paper!”

While I survived the last two crisis, I am worry about this crisis the most! I am not too sure if the last GFC is a real crisis with true tests and stressors, with the economy rebounded so quickly and driving the stock markets to all time high within a short space of time.

Given my prudent nature nowadays, I had outlined my plans for the worst. For now, I am mentally and financially prepared. No matter what happened down the road, I am confident that both Singapore and myself will be able to weather any potential storms ahead.

We will survive the crisis (if any) again and become stronger!


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10 comments:

  1. Rolf,

    It's never fun to be in a room and start writing names of those we should "let go"...

    After that, I ask my mentor who is in another room deciding our names?

    If we are not making or saving money for the company, we are a business cost.

    By the way, the sales at my weekend retail store have been down for several quarters now...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is painful if u r seeing people having family burden! I seen once and now have to see it again!

      The only

      Delete
  2. We do learn something very personal from each crisis and develop strategies to survive the next few crises.

    Read the blog post on 27 Nov 2010? Money Management - What to do with your year-end bonus?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that is a clever move! But it requires one bad experience for you to plan, and learn!

      O&G no bonus how?

      Delete
  3. Rolf
    worry too much also useless. be prepared for the economy slow down/recession better.

    2 things i feel blessed is: 1st i am holding iron bowl rice job. sway sway just like mike said, pay cut. as long as still holding jobs. then ok

    2nd luckily i dont spend much( no car, no maid, seldom dine out etc) so if really no bonus, no increment. i think i still can 挨 few more years

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Yeh,

      The whole idea is not about worrying though it is definitely worrying.

      It is about truely understanding what is happening in the world. And I mean in depth understanding and stand firm in ur conviction as minority while pple r still partying and labeling u as crazy!

      With true understanding of what is happening, then u know how to take appropriate measures and even take advantage of the crisis! Once the storm is over, u stand to benefit in a ethical way.

      Knowing is not sufficient! Even understanding is insufficient. U need to truely believe n then make difficult decisions and actions now that may change ur current lifestyle.

      All these combined are difficult bcos most pple will either think u r over pessimistic or u r worrying uselessly. But it's not that!

      Hope u understand what I m saying!

      Delete
  4. Hi Rolf

    Make use of your wide contacts to secure a better job in a better industry? Not easy since you are so oily. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi FD,

      Ahhh... No lar, as u correctly pointed out that I m so oily.

      Guess I will never do that unless eventually its my own biz in another industry. My experience and expertise are in this industry, and this may explain why I will be more productive and carry more value if I carry on within the industry.

      If the crisis did not kill me, i m sure I will definitely be stronger in the road ahead.

      Just like I believed both ur wife are gg to be stronger after the recent episode. :-)

      Delete
  5. Hello Rolf,

    It sounds really bad in the O&G industry. I work in a global tech company. So far, there is no rumour of any layoff...yet. Hopefully, things will pick up soon.

    The current state of Singapore's economy reminds me of the haze that engulfs our city state. Makes the sky look so moody. Wish for brighter days ahead.

    All the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi SS,

      Indeed it is bad and hope things will pick soon. Good to hear that life is as usual if not better for u. Maybe 3 ways to dea with the haze!

      1) to wait for the wind of change (beyond our control)
      2) to prepare and stock up masks, purifiers, more air-con expenses n servicing etc (within our control)
      3) to convince/collaborate w the neighbours (can be beyond or within control - longer term)

      I believe Singaporeans are able to achieve 2) & 3), given our intellect and EQ!

      Delete