Financial crisis politically awakens Singapore investors

Fri Nov 7, 2008 6:01am EST
 
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By Melanie Lee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Cancer patient Lim Qing Si was one of thousands of hard-working Singaporeans who lost their savings in the financial crisis, especially when Lehman Brothers collapsed and its secured products became virtually worthless.

"All this money is my husband and my retirement savings," said Lim, a 54-year-old retiree, who must now scramble together what's left of her savings to pay for cancer treatment after a malignant tumor was found in her leg.

In all, nearly 10,000 people in Singapore stand to lose over S$500 million ($338 million) due to the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, the central bank says.

The incident left many financially scarred but politically awakened in a city-state where protests are rare and street gatherings of five or more people require a permit.

Lim and others have taken advantage of a recent government move to create a forum for public protest, a "Speakers Corner," modeled on the Hyde Park bastion of free speech.

Since the financial crisis struck, hundreds of ordinary working-class people who have lost money have gathered each Saturday to air their grievances and call on the government to help recoup their losses.

"I hope the authorities, who are supposed to protect ordinary people, should be much more proactive," said Tan Kin Lian, the protest organizer and a former chief executive of a large Singapore insurer.

Following the weekly protests, the central bank said it would investigate alleged mis-selling of Lehman-linked products, such as DBS Group's "High Note 5" and Lehman Brothers mini-bonds sold by banks across the island state.   Continued...

 
<p>Investors who say they were mis-sold Lehman Brothers-linked products by banks gather at Speaker's Corner in Singapore in this October 11, 2008 file photo. Since the financial crisis struck, hundreds of ordinary working-class people who have lost money have gathered each Saturday to air their grievances and call on the government to help recoup their losses. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash/Files</p>