Updated: Sep 28
This might be Money Maverick's most controversial piece, yet.
I get a message on Saturday, the 16th of May. 6 unread messages on LINE.
I'm scrambling, I almost drop my phone.
The last message received was on the 9th, a good 7 days. It reads: 'I should have electricity soon, on Tuesday.'
That was 5 days ago.
7 days without contact with my girlfriend. Not a message, a phone call - nothing.
Manow lives in a rural village where electricity is powered by manual generators. The village has a history of flooding, reported cases of gun violence and pretty exposed to significantly higher wildlife-nature risks. But that's not the worst of it. It started slow. The markets started to close earlier. Then, they were forced to close entirely.
The people get really pissed.
Every person in my girlfriend's household makes money through the market, literally. Not the stock market. They drive to the nearby towns and sell goods there, to each other for the most part, and then they go home.
I don't blame the landlords because they have their own problems. But when better prospects come up and you're not getting paid your rightful rent, you do what you have to do.
So there was no electricity. Then, water.
And then, eviction.
My girlfriend and her family were homeless.
I ignore the messages completely and call her. She picks up, making a face and looking surprised. Like I wouldn't be worried out of my mind.
"You okay?" I ask.
A stupid question. I know she's okay. I'm looking at her right now and she's smiling and she's beautiful and she's okay but I still don't think so.
"I'm ok." She pinches her cheek. "Fat a bit."
I laugh. Try to, anyway.
I know she's being strong. Every week for her gets worse. But she just smiles.
"If have you, I'm ok always."
She does. Have me, I mean. She means emotionally, but its not just that. Her family moved to a house which I essentially funded (for us). It's a two room place and it was cheap, nothing remarkable to speak about.
There should have been enough of my money left over to get by - but when I heard there wasn't water and electricity and for the longest time - even a door...
I wave bye to her and close my screen. My Facebook pops up, the last thing I was reading before her messages came in.
It's another person, moral flexing about staying home, keeping people safe.
How people are morally bad for wanting to go back to work - not people who are forced in any way, but would love to work to make a living. To provide for their families.
If you believe otherwise, you're a bad person. If you believe otherwise, people will die if you decide to act carelessly without the better regard for the group.
I was very comfortable with such messages before.
I'm wildly uncomfortable now.
As the greedy capitalist-type who profited greatly when people thought Trump would crash the market in 2016, I might be more inclined to feel this way and say these things. And it's true.
But hopefully you'll still listen.
1) Wrong Perception of The Economy
What likely kicked off this article was how irritated I got as a Finance person with privileged Singaporeans being critical of the Economy.
"Oh, look at these idiots protesting in other countries, violently fighting the lockdown measures in other countries. Just to protect the Economy. DOn't they CARE about oTHer pEOple getting sick?" ...And yes, the fact that I, one of the least PC people I know, used a buzzword like 'privilege' - should tell you exactly how irritating and wrong it is. Ironically, its PC people who tend to be like this the most, but that's a story for another time.
The Economy is not a large scale entity or conspiracy where Employers are able to magically force employees to work (at least, most of the time). People want to work for an income. In the emerging market countries, this is especially pronounced. Most of them are:
1) Self Employed [between 70 -85%], where mobility and selling to others is of vital importance.
2) They live in slums or close quarters in large underdeveloped cities, where measures such as Lockdowns or Circuit Breakers would be completely redundant from a practical perspective
3) They live in wide sparse areas where social distancing measures are more than sufficient.
The economy is not a nameless entity where people even think about stocks and shares or company profits. To them, the circulation of money and its existence is vital for their existence where a prolonged failure can result in literal starvation.
In those contexts, Lockdowns are completely useless, unnecessary or redundant.
And if left leaning LA times thinks so as well, that's when you're really in trouble. 2) Wrong Perception of Spending...and Government Spending, Generally
In efficient countries, such as the US or Europe, there are some differences - which presents entirely different problems.
The unemployment numbers in the US keep shooting up, for example. According to a report the 1980s (which is where the Big Short Movie gets its quotation), 40,000 people die for every 1% of additional unemployment.
But the 1980s isn't like how it is now.
'In Georgia, the median worker on unemployment now makes 160% of what they did in their job. And that’s the median, which means half of all workers make MORE than 160% of their salary by staying on unemployment.
The median earners in fields like medical assistants, sales and retail, transportation, construction, and teachers all make more on unemployment than they do in their jobs.
And it’s not just Georgia. In EVERY state, the median earner makes more by NOT working than by going back to work.'
People are mocking the US now, but other countries may as well be pots, based on their respective political histories.
There are consequences for government spending, whether you look at the governments role in the 2008 Financial Crisis or in the dilapidated states of living for other countries where money seems to go down an endless black hole of unproductivity.
And while we still see positive results in Indices like the SNP500 (also suggesting Americans are still spending what money is being doled out to them on the economy), most of us are probably still asking - how long will it go up?
For Singapore's case, as I write this on the 26th of May it seems they will announce another package. While we may have muffed up the Dorm Worker side, for the most part we might be a bit less awful on Government Spending.
From a global benchmark our track record is excellent.
But its a huge misconception for people to assume that everywhere is like Singapore.
Many countries would be better off reopening their economies compared to us, where they would worry less about potential governmental abuse.
We are fortunate that we can afford the option of taking our current route, and we have the credibility of the Singapore government's money-management history.
3) The Numbers
Lastly, it all comes down to the numbers. Like I suggested - medicine here is worse than disease. There's a reason why we don't pour ALL our money into saving the planet (climate change), or why we don't tend to internationally condemn India or China for their high carbon emission rates.
You would knock out a lot of the world's population with every dollar not used to feed them or teach them to feed themselves.
'Dr. Stefan Peterson, chief of health at UNICEF, the U.N. agency responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children, said the consequences of “stay-at-home” restrictions could kill more than a million children worldwide and be more dangerous than the virus itself.
• Vaccination campaigns against diseases like the measles being disrupted - at least 117 million children worldwide are likely to miss routine immunizations this year.
•Up to 1.2 million children could die in the next six months due to the disruption to health services and food supplies caused by coronavirus restrictions.
•It found that child mortality rates could rise by as much as 45% due to coronavirus-related disruptions, while maternal deaths could increase by almost 39%.
•The research looks at the consequences of disruption in 118 middle and low income countries: Best-case scenario: Access to health services drops by 15% and child malnourishment rises by 10%, leading to the deaths of 253,500 children and 12,200 mothers.
•Worst-case scenario: Access to health services drops by 45% and child malnourishment rises by 50%, resulting in 1.16 million additional child fatalities and 57,000 maternal deaths in just six months.'
More Numbers (and Questions)
Other questions that no one seems to have really brought up to me are...
• Will absolutely no one who is old or in bad health die from natural causes this year?
The majority of people who have died from this are really old. There's been countless studies and verification's of this, while for the most part: the literal definition put out by WHO and UNICEF are:
Most people who fall sick with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without special treatment.
• Mass Media has typically taken positions where Covid numbers have been either inflated or deflated.
This is primarily because there hasn't been a good consensus as to determining a Covid-related death, or even a Covid infection case.. It is elaborated quite eloquently in this article, which is eloquently named as well.
And it's a Catch-22 regardless, when it comes to assessing the virus infection to mortality ratios.
If the virus numbers are deflated, the disease simply isn't as deadly as it is widespread.
If the virus numbers are inflated, it suggests that there are other agendas at work compared to stomping out a deadly disease.
• Do they (lockdowns/CBs) even work?
Yes, I literally have to find myself asking this question and I am genuinely surprised not a lot of people have asked themselves it as well. There is CLEARLY a lag time for policies to take effect, due to Covid symptoms and reporting findings etc. For example, at the start of our circuit breaker we only saw numbers escalate like crazy.
It is extremely hard to tell if pre-CB measures wouldn't have brought down the count on its own, especially more so since the majority of our count is not foreign-dorm clustered.
As an Investment Specialist, I had to look at previous diseases such as SARS and H1N1 to give my clients some reassurance of their investments rebounding. Unfortunately, as you know, these diseases did not require lockdowns. And while most people understood that even history hasn't given me a clear answer as to how their investments would go, the real question I find myself asking is if lockdowns (or any other name it can go by for PR purposes) even work.
Either way, with new articles on hundreds of business begging and pleading for the right to work every single day MONTHS after the virus first became prevalent - there's less and less reason not to open up the streets and let people get back to work with social distancing measures in place. I'll leave you with this.
My girlfriend disappears for another few days, before calling me yesterday.
We talk for a while. The house has been hit by lightning, but she has enough spare cash from me to fix it. It just takes time, and a repair person is trying to come over as quickly as possible.
"I worry about you," she says, brushing off the fact that our home was literally hit by lightning and she could have been hurt. She saw the news report about the migrant dorms in Singapore and the much higher levels of cases reported daily compared to a month-plus ago.
I choke, not sure whether to laugh or cry. She worries about me?!
Between the eviction, homelessness, moving into a new home, her entire family losing their income or taking huge pay-cuts, building that home with her bare hands, a lack of water and electricity, getting struck by lightning and she worries about me?
"Don't be silly, I'm fine. It's not that bad here," I say, referring to the virus.
Even though I am essential services, I do doubt that I'll get it anytime soon.
"How about you? How is the virus like there? Aren't you worried?" She shrugs, cutely. "No." "I don't think about it at all."