Yawning Bread. October 2007

Robo Chan's short-lived happiness




Robo Chan came home happy. "I just got a pay rise," he told his live-in partner, Anita Hiew.

They went out to celebrate, only to find that food and drink prices have gone up. And then she broke the other piece of happy news to him: "Eh, our 4th child is on the way."

"Wah lao," Robo slapped his forehead with his palm. "Another mouth to feed. Some more, price going up. Like that, I am richer or poorer?" [1]

* * * * *

A few weeks ago, the Department of Statistics announced that Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) for the third quarter of 2007 was 9.4% higher than the same period in 2006. Our economy is doing very well, it suggested.

Separately, it also announced that the Consumer Price Index stood at 104.2 in September 2007, compared to 101.4 in September 2006, a 2.7% increase.

The index had been recalibrated to 100 in 2004. Thus:

2004 100.0
2006 Sep 101.4
2007 Sep 104.2

The CPI had clearly shot up in the last 12 months.

I do not think the flash GDP estimates are adjusted for inflation; I think the numbers are based on current dollars. Nor is the CPI a measure of inflation across the board; it is based on a select basket of goods of interest to a typical consumer. It does not capture wholesale prices, for example.

Still, it illustrates an important principle: that economic growth figures can be puffed up merely as a result of rising prices in the economy. Or, to put it in another way, if an economy is said to have grown 5%, but prices across the board have increased 4%, then the actual increase in goods and services produced could be said to be just 1%.

Here's another statistic: Singapore's population at mid-year 2007 stood at 4.681 million, a 4.4% increase year-on-year [2]. Most of Singapore's migrants are working-age adults. They start contributing to the economy almost as soon as they arrive.

Naturally, more hands would produce more goods and services. To take another example then, if economy B is said to have grown 6%, and population growth was also 6%, per capita output would have remained stagnant.

Understanding these principles, look at the data for Singapore again. In the third quarter 2007, GDP was 9.4 % higher than the same period a year earlier. CPI running at 2.7%. Population growth 4.4%.

* * * * *


Everybody likes to boast about going green. The aviation industry is no different. Moreover, with crude oil prices often above US$80 a barrel, with US$100 a barrel not unimaginable, it must be important for corporate news releases to say reassuring things about fuel efficiency to stock analysts.

It was recently reported:

The [Airbus A380] can carry more than 500 passengers in a three-class configuration - about 100 more than the B747 - and also burns less fuel per seat.

It runs on less than three litres of fuel per passenger over 100km, which its maker says is 12 per cent less than the B747 built by its American rival Boeing.

-- Straits Times, 27 Oct 2007, Travel like a king

Interestingly, an earlier report in the same newspaper noted:

Emirates - Airbus' biggest customer with an order of 45 A380s - will have up to 644 seats in its aircraft.


The new jet is actually more economical than other planes now flying, burning 2.9 litres of fuel per passenger per 100km - 12 per cent less than the B747.

-- Straits Times, 20 Oct 2007, ST 20 Oct,
Will superjumbo result in more seats, lower fares?

A web search revealed that the Airbus maker specifies that the new aircraft is able to carry 525 passengers in a "typical" 3-class configuration. Some years earlier, it had said 555 passengers, but this was revised when they updated their seat sizes.

Aviation journalists have also said in many write-ups that in an all-economy configuration, the plane can carry up to 853 passengers. I can't determine if this figure came from Airbus itself.

As for the Boeing 747, I am unable to find from a web search its maximum design capacity, other than this statement from Boeing's website:

747-8 can be fitted with 400- 500 seats.

However, from a Wikipedia entry "Boeing 747", I read that:

JAL operated the 747-100B/SR/SUD aircraft with 563 seats on domestic routes


The 747-300SR is a short range version to meet Japanese airlines's need for a high capacity domestic model. JAL operated such aircraft with over 600 seats on Okinawa-Tokyo route and elsewhere.

The upshot of all this is that the number of seats on an aircraft can vary a great deal. Hence, if one boasts that the A380 burns only 2.9 litres of fuel per passenger per 100km, 12% less fuel per passenger than a B747, this statistic must surely be contingent upon the number of seats assumed.

Most likely the comparison is based on the manufacturers' recommended maximum number of seats for their respective aircraft.

Since Singapore Airlines has fitted the A380 with just 471 seats, well below the maximum, do these claims of fuel efficiency apply? Nobody seems to have thought to ask.

* * * * *

Girls arriving for work, men arriving for play, at Orchard Towers

Do you know that there are girls for rent pole-dancing in Singapore?

I happened to walk past Orchard Towers a few nights ago with a friend and was persuaded into one of the bars. To my amazement -- maybe it's not news to horny hetero guys, but forgive me, I'm gay and I know not such things -- the bars had clearly kept up with the times. The one we went into had built raised platforms, with as many as 12 poles on them. Around each wrapped a petite female dressed quite skimpily.

As in (many) years past, all around the bar floor were dozens of additional girls, each trying to catch the attention of middle-aged men with fat bellies and hopefully fatter wallets, a steady stream of whom were coming into the place.

This guy waiting for a cab had picked up 3 girls.

More girls lingered in the foyers outside the various bars, hoping perhaps to snare the short-time romeos even before they stepped foot into the clubs.

Evidently, business is roaring at our world famous "four floors of whores".

I mentioned this to another friend a few nights later, and he told me something else that his friend had recently said about Orchard Towers. His friend had noticed how the Vietnamese girls seem to have taken over the place. It used to be mainly Thai and Filipina girls, but now it is swarming with Vietnamese.

* * * * *

On 24 October 2007, the Straits Times reported that there was a 7.1% increase in tourist arrivals in September, over the same month last year. More good news for our economy! Somewhere in the middle of the news story was in interesting tidbit:

Vietnam charted the highest visitor arrival growth, with 16,000 visitors, a 24.3 per cent increase over the same period last year.

-- Straits Times, 24 Oct 2007, Record 766,000
tourists last month 

Yawning Bread 



  1. Robo Chan and Anita Hiew are fictional characters.
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  2. Source: Department of Statistics.
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