02 May 2006

Oh, Really?

Business Times - 02 May 2006
Two mega oil projects hinge on polls: PM
He urges voters to send the right signal as political risks will count in Shell, ExxonMobil's decisions

(SINGAPORE) At least two multi-billion dollar oil projects are at stake in this general election, according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - in addition to all the other issues.

Shell and ExxonMobil are separately considering whether to go ahead and pump billions of dollars in new steam crackers - and their decision will ride on how this election pans out, he said yesterday at the NTUC May Day Rally.

'You can be sure they are watching very carefully this general election to decide whether to proceed with their project,' he said. 'They are due to do so within the next year or so, so I think we better send them the right signal, don't take any chances.'

Mr Lee said it's not just financial projections the oil giants ponder when deciding on the projects.

'They (also) look at the political risks: What kind of country is it, what kind of government does it have, what kind of unions does it have, what do the workers do, will we have a problem?'

Shell and ExxonMobil have sunk billions of dollars here because they know Singapore is safe, he said. 'But before they put in more billions, they will watch to see whether Singapore is going to continue to be safe, whether the new generation, new PM, new team, new Singaporeans will be as safe as the old generation or team.'

Let's take a closer look at what PM Lee said:
"Two mega oil projects hinge on polls."

"You can be sure they are watching very carefully this general election to decide whether to proceed with their project ...."

"They (also) look at the political risks: What kind of country is it, what kind of government does it have, what kind of unions does it have, what do the workers do, will we have a problem?"
But what is really on Shell's mind when it thinks about the possible new cracker on Jurong Island? What factors would really make Shell consider Singapore in a favourable or unfavourable light?

Let's ask Shell itself. Mr Harshad Topiwala, Shell's General Manager for the Asia-Pacific/Middle East region, is quite happy to tell us all about it. Mr Topiwala mentions factors such as:

(1) the growing need for a new cracker in this part of the world, due to Asia's growing market for petrochemical derivatives

(2) the impact of a new Singapore cracker on other Shell investments, including the Daya Bay (Nanhai) complex currently under construction in China

(3) the reduced capital expenditure and fixed costs, due to the fact that Shell already has existing infrastructure on Jurong Island that they can add to and build on

(4) the proximity to customers in key growth markets (presumably countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and China)

(5) the technological ability of the new cracker to handle a whole range of heavy liquids, thereby enabling Shell to produce a wider range of products.
Funny. Mr Topiwala doesn't mention the phrase "political risks" at all. He didn't even mention "political stability". He didn't say anything about "unions" or even "workers".

Mr Topiwala didn't say that Shell's oil project decision "hinges on the polls" or that Shell would want to "watch the polls very carefully". He also didn't say anything about the new PM and the "new Singaporeans" being as safe or not as safe as the old PM and the "old Singaporeans".

In fact, it's interesting to note that Topiwala's considerations (as listed by me above (1) to (5)) are quite completely disconnected with election results in Singapore.

For example, whether the PAP wins 65 seats or 75 seats or 84 seats in Parliament simply does not affect:
(1) how quickly Asia's market for petrochemical derivatives will grow;

(2) how the new Singapore cracker would affect Shell's Daya Bay (Nanhai) complex in China;

(3) the savings to be gained from Shell's existing infrastructure on Jurong Island;

(4) Singapore's geographical proximity to customers in key growth markets;

(5) the technological ability of the new cracker to handle a whole range of heavy liquids.
Strange, isn't it? How come PM Lee is so mistaken about what's on Shell's mind? Maybe he needs to meet Mr Topiwala for a cup of tea.


Anonymous said...

The same silly rhetoric replicated all these years. Sighz.

hugewhaleshark said...

Bravo! I sure hope the opposition is reading your site.

Anonymous said...

"... what kind of unions does it have, what do the workers do, will we have a problem?"

Good grief. What an admission to make... God forbids that unions here should ever champion the rights of the workers over the demands of investors!

Anonymous said...


Exxonmobil and Shell have already decided that they will build their steam crackers here since way back in Nov 2005.

Unlike malaysia, they will not just stop work halfway because of a miniuscle reduction in number of seats of the PAP in Parliament.

This coming from a petrochemical business analyst in Exxonmobil.


singaporean said...

The lack of an alternative party capable of forming a government is inherently a serious political risk. The future of Singapore cannot hinge on whether or not one single party not failing, especially when that party still doesnt seem to know how to walk without the crutches of it's founder.

All the PM needs, is to beat the ikan bilis running against him in his own GRC to ensure forming the next government, even if they need to form a coalition government with another party. I'm sure that's all the political stability Shell and ExxonMobil needs. Surely he has confidence to do that right?

While the ruling party has much to be proud of, it is sad that they have to resort to greed and fear to attract votes. It is probably a reflection of their serious lack of self confidence.

Remember, Master Yoda said, "Fear is the path of the dark side..."

Anonymous said...

What nonsense. I hardly think a few more Opposition seats in Parliament would cause Singapore to be any more 'dangerous' or 'unsafe.' Look at China. Hardly the safest or most stable country in the world, but oil companies are dying to sell oil to them.

Anonymous said...

If Shell and Esso can commit to not setting up any more refineries in Singapore and polluting our environment if the PAP loses more seats, then this is another good reason for an environmentalist like me to vote opposition and send a strong signal that oil companies are not welcome here, especially ones with very poor social and environemntal records such as Shell and Esso!

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, if the 2 oil co's are closely watching the GE, then u better take down that photo of the WP rally lest it frightens the wits out of them.

Mr Wang, we are eagerly awaiting your response to the TSS article.

Anonymous said...

The question arises:


Anonymous said...

The govt has lost the people's heart.
We are only voting for them out of fear and money!

Please, vote opposition!

Anonymous said...

no balance in bt story, totally unprofessional

Anonymous said...

OMG LHL please come clean!

Anonymous said...

Read Mrs Budak's take on this!

Anonymous said...

Anyone emailed Shell and/or Exxonmobil to get their official reply on this matter?

Anonymous said...

According to the PAP, Gomez would have claimed that the Elections Department deliberately lost his form and he would have accused the ED of colluding with the PAP to deprive him of his Indian Minority Certificate....which....Gomez did not require to contest in Aljunied GRC (Aljunied GRC requires a Malay candidate). Doesn't make sense, right?

The WP has declared that Gomez was never considered for contesting Ang Mo Kio GRC which requires an Indian candidate. This explanation makes PERFECT SENSE: it would be highly unlikely for Gomez to enter parliament by defeating the PM in AMK GRC. Furthermore, the WP team fielded in AMK GRC is obviously the weakest WP team with the least chance of winning. So I believe that all along, Gomez planned to contest Aljunied GRC (Gomez has been courting Aljunied since 2001) where he, along with the strongest WP team, would stand the best chance of winning.

This begs the question: Why did Gomez bother to apply for an Indian Minority Cert? I think Gomez really wanted to keep PAP guessing whether he was going to lead the WP in AMK GRC. It was a 'wayang' for the media and the PAP so as to hamper PAP’s preparation for the election. There is nothing wrong with a bit of deception to keep your enemy guessing what your strategy is.

The real question is: Do you believe that Gomez wanted to submit his Minority Form and he forgot about his non-submission due to too much distraction? If this explanation sounds reasonable and possible, you must also accept that when Gomez showed up to collect his form, he was genuinely upset about the form being misplaced (hence his irritated reaction) but he was NOT trying to frame anyone.

Do you believe that Gomez is trying to FRAME the PAP and Elections Department for losing his form? Can you recall who started the media controversy and the name calling?

What does Gomez have to gain out of framing the Election Department? PAP says Gomez would have made the integrity of the ED and PAP an election issue; where is the proof? The WP does not have the track record of SDP when it comes to questioning PAP integrity. Even if we assume Gomez was going to frame the ED and the PAP, who has the immense resources to convince the public otherwise? Who is the public likely to believe?

Did Gomez really expect to get away with framing the ED? Gomez was in a closely monitored environment with multiple CCTV cameras which PAP claims Gomez was not aware of. Even from the CNA video footage of the Gomez incident (go to the CNA website), I can clearly see the CCTV cameras and they are not concealed. Moreover, every opposition politician knows that the ISD monitors your every move, especially during elections! It would have been a suicide mission for Gomez to attempt framing the ED.

There are a lot of speculative "Gomez-would-have-accused-PAP/Elections Department-of-collusion" accusations being made by the PAP. The PAP has an excuse to attack Gomez because of the lack of independence of the Elections Department. The WP Manifesto is right: the Elections Department should be a neutral and independent office and not under the direct control of the PAP. Why must every public service in Singapore, from the LTA (fixing flooded roads) to the Election Departments be linked to the PAP?

All this self-righteous sound and fury is very distasteful and not becoming of a first world government.

Anonymous said...

Gomez is quite cool. Loved his rally speech shown on CNA - "You've got to have some class to call yourself world class"

PAP, enough is enough. Stop insulting everyone's intelligence. You're just alienating more and more post '65ers as you continue to flog this mummified horse.

Anonymous said...

"But what is really on Shell's mind when it thinks about the possible new cracker on Jurong Island?"

Mr Wang, a slight error here.

Shell intends to build the new cracker on P. Ular, which is the island adjoining the existing refinery on Bukom, not on Jurong as mentioned.

I did hear about the usual reason of Singapore being a safe and stable place to put in billions worth of investment but nothing about the result.

In addition, I believe that the project involving the cracker was concieved some many years ago.

Anonymous said...

The Star
Thursday May 4, 2006

Election campaign heats up


THE contest in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Ang Mo Kio constituency has been likened to “an egg going against a rock”, meaning the opposition party is likely to be crushed.

It has been an uphill campaign for the Worker’s Party team which is taking on Lee’s PAP team in the group representation seat in Singapore’s May 6 general election.

The seat is being contested for the first time in 18 years.

Constituents smile when asked about the campaign, saying there is little to discuss and implying they have decided who they want.

In denying Lee his usual walkover win, the Worker’s Party said that they were fighting Lee so that he would not be a “walkover PM”.

Lee, who was not without a sense of humour, replied that PAP was grateful for the Worker’s Party doing “national service”.

When asked whether he thought the opposition would lose its deposit in Ang Mo Kio, Lee said with a laugh: “We’ll try our best to make sure it’ll cost them some money.”

Despite the assured victory, the prime minister’s team of six, which includes Malaysian-born engineer Lee Bee Wah, has not taken it easy.

They still hit the pavements, go door-to-door and make the rounds at markets and hawker centres.

Now that the campaign has crossed the half-way point, the pace has quickened and the pressure on the opposition even hotter than ever.

On Tuesday night, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew joined the rally circuit for the first time in the campaign.

He turned up at a rally to help an “old friend” from the 1960s, Ong Ah Heng, who is fighting to keep his Nee Soon Central seat. But it was obviously more than just for old times’ sake or friendship.

It was also a strategic stage appearance which the elder statesman used to attack the Worker’s Party, calling its leaders a string of unsavoury names and challenging them to sue him.

At 82, the senior Lee is still an electrifying speaker and he did it in his trademark style, emphasising each accusation with karate chops in the air and lots of finger pointing.

The Worker’s Party, which has emerged as the most prominent among the motley opposition parties, has emerged as the PAP’s chief target of attack.

The PAP may resemble a rock but the Worker’s Party seems to be a tough egg to crack.

The attacks have focused on what has become known as the James Gomez saga.

It began with Worker’s Party candidate Gomez saying he had submitted some forms required for his candidature when he had not.

But cameras at the Elections Department office caught him filling up, then putting the forms into his briefcase.

His party called it an honest mistake, the PAP accused him of dishonesty and the whole thing has been blown up to such an extent that it has eclipsed other election issues.

The PAP has used the Gomez saga to question the integrity of the Worker’s Party.

The Worker’s Party accused the PAP of making a mountain out of a molehill on the issue.

“The PAP tactic does not reflect a first world government. It is the start of third world gutter politics,” Gomez said at a rally.

Analysts said the Gomez issue was unlikely to influence the way people vote.

“There have usually been about 30% of people who will support the opposition with another 5% to 10% of swing votes depending on the issues. If there is a vote swing, it will be within these margins,” said an analyst.

Lunch hour rallies also made a comeback this year and Lee who is seeking a mandate for his leadership was the crowd drawer in the central business district yesterday. His speech touched on Singapore’s future and sense of self.

Anonymous said...

Remembered the last transport fee hike? Someone told the ex speaker of the house that everytime singaporean will forget the hike when election comes, but not this time. Seems that it's coming true?

Mike Wang