Myth 127 Sacrifice family for the Nation Our politicians are the most self sacrificing people in the country and deserve to be paid well. They wear so many hats, spent 18 hours working and 6 hours sleeping and dreaming about how to run the country, and totally have no time for the family. Where on earth can you find such honourable people who are willing to give up so much to serve the people? And when it is time to retire, and continue to receive a well rewarding 2/3 of their last drawn salary, to spend time with the family that they have neglected, they choose to stay on to work for the people and nation. They will work till they die on the job. The success of Singapore is a result of their sacrifice and commitment to the nation.
The choice of where to peg Would it be nice if the top govt official's salary is pegged to a middle civil servant's salary? I can immediately see the advantage of such a pegging. It is likely to benefit the salary of all civil servants, at all levels. As with the present formula, pegging to the top earners, almost to the top, would only mean that the income gap will get wider and it becomes a case of 'cannot be helped' even if everyone knows that it is undesirable. But if we pegged it at the middle civil servant level then the income gap may not widen that fast. But it still could, and the final amount could still be very large, depending on how many times is seen as decent and acceptable, and that it will not lead to them running to join the private sector or to prevent corruption from taking place. Then again, the reality is that no amount is enough. Long long ago, $5000 pm for minister is enough. Then $50,000 is considered very good. But if time permits, the number can keep going up, $100k pm or maybe eventually $1 million pm. It is all relative and depends on human greed. No one is humble enough to ask how many bowls of super grade rice he can eat a day, or how many bungalows he can sleep in a night, or how many limousines he can drive at one time, or how many pretty lasses he can sleep with in one night. Hey, that reminds me of what Einstein said about limits. The difference between a genius and an idiot is that a genius knows his limits.
The Evil corner While we crow about how first world we are, how many millionaires and billionaires we have, how many millions should our top officials be rewarded, and all the good lives, let's not ignore the little evil corners that live among us. As we gain material wealth and comfort, and a better quality of life, as we upgrade ourselves to a position where all the menial tasks are done by maids, we should not forget that maids are human lives, just like everyone of us. The incidents of maids being ironed or becoming a punching bag have not appeared on our papers for a while. Maybe our evil corners have behaved a little better. Maybe not and the ironing and punching have continued but not reported. But the ill treatment of the maids is still going on going by the number of distress calls that the help agencies are receiving. The Indonesian Family Network group alone received 45 calls for help. And 25 of the calls were for food deprivation where employers deprived their maids of food or feeding them with leftovers or nothing at all. These inhuman acts within our society is a shame and make us no better than animals. First world? And for these things to happen regularly, daily, only speak on the mentality of a people, all the way from top down, that they could live with such human cruelties. By not doing anything about them is as good as being an accomplice to the crime against humanities. The perpetuators of such acts must be dealt with seriously, instantly and shame, yes shame publicly. Let such crimes be wiped out completely from this so called first world island, and completely from their mentality that this can be tolerated. There are laws provided to deal with the culprits. But for so many incidents to repeat itself daily means that it is not enough. It has to be stopped immediately if we are to be seen as a civilised people. When the evil corners are still thriving and lurking among us, let's stop crowing about how great we are as a people and as a nation. Ok, after airing a little conscience, let's start to justify about how many millions shall one get.
Very simple. Singaporeans are very rich. All of them will retire will hundreds of thousands in their CPF, and also some properties. So when they reach a point in life when they can no longer see, can't hear, can't walk, can't move, can't think,can't eat, can't desire, can't do anything, they still can't die. Singaporeans can't die! For they can still afford to be hooked up to a machine and live for as long as there is money to pay the medical bill to keep them alive. What a beautiful life.
With the concept of retirement at 55 being thrown into the rubbish bin, the cpf and the huge minimum sum that has to be retained is no longer relevant. I have written about this issue but not getting any response from any one. Is there anyone thinking and agree that CPF policies need to be changed in view of all the changes in the lifestyle and working life of the people? If someone is working and earning a decent income to keep himself alive till 70 or 80, is there still a need to have 100k or 200k in his CPF when he dies? Or have we to live with this straight jacket policy under someone important enough say something?
I find it very unfair to keep the best talents in the govt and pay them a miserable salary that is below what they should earned. We should free these talents and their enterprises and encourage them to join the private sector and join the list of billionaires. That is their destiny, as they are gifted people and must not be restrained by being cooped up in public service. Let them serve their terms in public service and then release them to prosper. By doing so, not only we have many rich and happy individuals, we will also have many talents with bright ideas to help revitalise the private sector, and the nation will benefit too. And with so many young talents waiting in the wings, it will allow them to get promoted faster, and be happier as well. And the younger and eager talents will be out there to push themselves to serve the people and nation better. It is all for the good of the nation to spread out our talents. Just look at the brighter side, if all the ministers and top civil servants above 50 were to join the private sector, we will definitely have a more vibrant and creative climate and more companies and corporations will surge to the forefront internationally. No need foreign imports. The approach of keeping these talents and limiting their pay and having to justify to a people that do not believe in public services being overpaid is bad for the country. We must think creatively and find a solution that will benefit the poor talents that are kept in the public services from becoming billionaires in their own right and abilities. Set them free.
6.5 million people is a big squeeze Far from it. If we plan properly, build upwards and downwards and using the best technology, Singapore can easily take in 30 million. Just build the whole island like the Tower of Babel. Use steel and glass. Yes a lot of glass, like a glass tower towards the heaven. We will be the most futuristic city, fully airconditioned, and several layers over layers. Bukit Timah will become a mole hill when all the surrounding buildings are 3 or 5 times taller. And we can connect everywhere, at different levels, with travellators. No need cars and no need petrol. With the whole Tower of Babel adapted to become a solar cell, we can maximise the use of clean solar energy. That will be the future of Singapore. A glass city of the future, built by the best minds money can buy.
Britain is putting all diplomatic pressures to secure the release of the 15 marines arrested by Iran. And if these fail, the next phase could be war. We have our vessels arrested by the Indonesians, which is supposed to be our friend, and a neighbour with close relations with us. It is appropriate that we try all diplomatic means to secure their release. So far nothing works. Next could be to table it at ASEAN meetings or later at the UN. If all else fails, what cards are there left for us to play? Should we let the Indonesians arrest our vessels illegally or under false pretence and let it be, be compliant? The Indonesians claimed that investigation is still going on. What kind of bull is that? If it is smuggling, it is smuggling. If there are sand there are sand. It does not take more than two days to find out these facts. Or are they trying to cook up something to justify their illegal acts? With the vessels in their control, and with so much time, they can do anything they want to them and present whatever evidence they want. Who is there to stop them from fabricating evidence?
Finally we are seeing a real debate going on. The issue of minister's pay is being discussed everywhere and by everyone. And the points raised are serious and relevant, not polemics or hogwash. Many valid points have been put forth by the public, mostly to oppose the linking of minister's pay to the private sector, or the current formula. Some even question the multiple hats that senior servants are wearing, which to me, is not an effective utilisation of a man's ability no matter how supertalent the person can be. Everyone is limited by the 24 hours we have per day and minus all the rest hours and time for food, bed and R & R, there are just a few hours left. And expecting a super talent to take on 5 or 6 important appointments with the same limited hours is just asking too much and expecting too much. Dilution will be the consequence of such a hectic demand, or skimming through the details will be another. One point that I would like to add is that civil servants and minister's are getting double or almost double what they are getting today. I am not referring to the perks and other benefits that they could derived from their appointments but pension. They are entitled to pension which is 2/3 of their last drawn salary for life. This is a very significant portion of their pay that have not been included into the current formula. Many have raised the issue of public service and private sector employment as two different kinds of fish and rightly cannot be compared the way it is being done. We need people with passion to serve the nation and be paid reasonably well and not exorbitantly well, like the private sector whose main interest is profit to pay themselves. If money is what they want and their main motivation, then let them join the private sector. There are always brighter and more eager young talents to take over their places. No one is indispensable. As it is, the top echelon of civil servants are very well paid, including ministers. This is the view of the masses. It is the junior officers that were doing the donkey work and being paid like national servicemen. The recent survey of new graduate salary is a glaring example of how underpaid are the young officers. They will simply leave. For those at the senior levels, resignation is not a problem and should be encouraged to share their expertise and talents with the private sector. Let the debate continues. It will be good if the MPs and senior civil servants will also share their views on this.
The Asian Corrupt Culture Asians are born with a hereditary condition called corruption. Corruption is in their psyche and the earlier we know and accept this condition the better. The good thing about this is that the outbreak of this sickness can be delayed by money and more money. The bad thing about this is that how much money will be enough is relative. So the disease will soon rear its ugly head and need more money to suppress it and keep it benign. As long as there is periodic increase in money, be it $1 million or $10 million or $100 million, the sickness will be contained but will not go away. It is like syphillis.
The other day I saw Lim Swee Say in the news trying his very best to explain why pay rise for ministers is important and necessary. Somehow it just did not come through as convincing. You can see the doubt in the faces of the listeners. Is it because he did not explain it well enough or the issue is simply too difficult for the people to accept? Or is it that the people just cannot accept it? Whatever, the increase will be a reality comes 9 April. The govt has explained and that is what it is going to do. And it is done for the good of the people and country. Can't imagine the consequences if all the ministers quits to join the private sector for more pay. Things can be worst if the payrise is not implemented.
1500 quarry workers in Karimun out of jobs and running out of money. There could be another few thousands in Batam and Bintang in the same state of despair. Thanks to their govt for looking after them so well. Their govt is trying to get them a better deal, a better price for their granite and sand by demanding that buyers must pay the price they want. This is how they think business should be done, a seller's market. They do not need to read economics to know that the price is determined by demand and supply and needs to be negotiate and not shaft down the buyer's throat. For the time being the quarry workers can go hungry for all they care. Poor pawns in a big corruption game. Any price increase will not translate to any increase in their pay but go to someone else's pocket. The people deserve the govt they get.
We are now being given ERS/NSS shares as citizens. Does anyone know whether there is a qualifying period for new citizens to be given these shares? Or if one becomes a citizen yesterday one will immediately be qualified for such shares? The payout of ERS/NSS were from revenue made from funds accumulated and contributed by citizens in the past. New citizens or very new citizens, eg those who are less than a year, an arbitrary figure, do not contribute to the cumulative national reserves that generate this revenue and it is unfair that they be given these shares immediately. (To newsgean: this is an issue that questions the right of new citizens to benefit from national reserves which they have not contributed to. It is like some countries that rule out citizens not by birth from holding top govt offices.)
A minister or a bank CEO? What drives a man in his choice of a career or his mission in life? Which is more attractive between being a minister that pays him $1m and a bank CEO that pays him $7m? In America, many big earners gave up lucrative jobs just to be in the govt. And they continue or go on to earn much more after their stints in the govt, not in the govt but in the private sector. Obviously the two jobs have different motivations and people consciously choose what to be according to their callings. Some even choose to earn barely enough when the calling is from God. Are these jobs to be compare under the same set of factors? Should national leaders think that they are bankers and bankers think that they are national leaders? Are they one and the same? Or should national leaders compare their income with sportsmen and artistes who earn millions by the hour?
Are we Sparta or Athens? When I caught sight of this heading by Lim Cheng Tju I immediately burst out laughing. I instantly recalled the jokes that an invading army would be stalled by the massive traffic jams in Bangkok while another invading army would laugh itself to death when starring down at our soldiers. Now comparing ourselves to 300 Spartans who fought themselves to death, without asking for a cent more, or the creativity and imagination of Athens, a vibrant and intellectually stimulated city, are we having a drink too much? In a country that is driven by monetary rewards, when every decision is made on monetary terms, when citizenship rings hollow, when the citizens are happily being replaced by foreigners that have little emotional attachments to this island, where can one find the passion like the spartans or the creativity of Athens? The callous input of foreigners to boost up our population is as good as undermining the whole foundation of nationhood. The immigration patterns of today, the motivation, and how the immigrants would immerse themselves and set roots in a new country are very different from the past. To use our immigrant historical background as a justification for more immigrants is a dangerous starting point. We were created out of accident, out of a historical past where nationhood was not our choice. Even the USA was a historical accident. But to try to repeat the same formula is a very simplistic approach to nation building. We are just thinking about numbers and ignore the social glue that needs to bring the diverse people together as one. We have tried that for 40 years and still without much success. The influx of foreigners would only weaken whatever we have built in nationhood. There must be value and passion in the people. Philip Yeo was angry that Singaporeans, especially the young scholars, did not have any value with regard to being a citizen of a country. They think self and money. And in his fit of dismay he said to the effect that money would be better spent on better foreign talents. This is true when value and passion are not important. Just buy talents. And talents that can be bought with money can also be bought by others. That is what foreign talents is all about. It is about their market value and which country offers the best value. We are heading towards a society that has no root, no value, no passion, but only money. Yes, we are creating a culture of mercenaries. Or should we ask, where is the passion?
Just a thought If the court finds Durai innocent of all the charges, or the one charge that they can frame against him, then rightfully Durai should be reinstated as the CEO of NKF to continue his good work. He could even counter claim for wrongful dismissal and loss of salary and claim compensation for the sufferings he went through, including tarnishing his reputation. Actually the one and only charge of a $20k payment speaks for itself, that there is nothing criminal in what Durai had done. After spending so many hours of expensive investigation time, this is the only thing that came near to a crime and still got thrown out by the court. We shall be proud of the transparency of our legal system and how the rule of law is upheld in our country.
Lawrence Low wrote a letter discussing about the weak students and the strong students sitting for the same national exam in the Today paper. He lamented that these weaker students would only do less well than the good students. So? Should we have a set of lower standard exam papers for weaker students and one for stronger students? That is what his letter is implying. Actually we already have that, the N level. The weaker students are already doing N level. Are we saying that this is not enough, that we should have a NO level for the weaker students doing the O level so that they will appear to do better, like N level students scoring 6 As which are of lower standard than O level? This kind of averageing down to make the weaker students happier but having fictitious grades is definitely a shift towards a soft solution. What is needed is to raise the standard of weaker students, or spot their talents in other fields instead of trying to compete academically when they are not so gifted. They are meant to do well in other fields. Everyone is gifted in their own ways. Lets not force square pegs into round holes.
There are several key issues today that are testing the govt and the people. The minister's pay is not only one of them, but a major one. Then there is the widening income gap which is also related to the minister's pay, the rising cost of living in every area from education to hospitalisation, food and essential services. All from the basic premise that you pay for what you get and all organisations must be profit driven. Then the CPF and all the people's money being locked away against their wishes. The 6.5 million population is also not sitting down well. There have been many explanations, but all mainly top down, shafting down into the throat type. And the people are expected to swallow it, like it or not. All the decisions have been made. It is actually more like telling the people that we are telling you this is what we are going to do. No way are we going to change what we have set out to do. We are the thinkers and knew best what is good for you and what is good for us. And we have explained to us. So let's move on. Now the real test comes. The quality of leadership is not just getting things done but to be able to convince the people to go along with the decisions. Failing to do so will only draw down on the goodwill of past credits and once expended, it will be pay back time. Are our leaders convincing in their arguments on all these critical and sensitive issues? Are the people buying them or just gritting their teeth and seaming with anger inside them? It will show over time.
Pay rise, looking at the big picture This pay rise for Ministers is undeniably the hottest topic today. There is no running away from it. Everywhere everyone is talking about it. So there is no point in putting the head in the sand and pretend that nothing seen, nothing heard and nothing is happening. What is important is to discuss it rationally so that everyone gets a fair hearing and a better understanding of the issue. Sue Ann Chia or Chia Sue-Ann said we must look at 'A big picture view of public sector pay.' She mentioned Dr Henri Ghesquiere, an adjunct professor at the LKY School of Public Policy, saying 'It would look high when viewed in isolation.' What Henri is saying is that it is not high if one look at the big picture, ie, Singapore's success as a first world country. 'Consider how Singapore comes out tops in global rankings for effectiveness of govt and efficiency of the court system....Highly remunerated officials are expected to go the extra mile and deliver beyond the call of duty, he added.' This is another way of looking at the issue other than that they will also not be corrupt. What Henri said also pointed to our obsession to be rated number one in everything. Maybe this is one of the yardstick which the govt is using to measure Singapore's success and the contribution of ministers and civil servants. The more number ones, the more deserving for higher pay. The grassroots must be trained to look at the big picture.
NKF trial a shining light for Singapore Singapore is a police state that used draconian methods of interrogation to extract confessions from offenders. This has been the impression published in most unfriendly media on Singapore. But when one listens to the cross examination of Sant Singh on Osman Ahamed, the chief special investigator with the CPIB, it is very clear that the police will have to abide by certain standard of decency. And a person under police custody has all the rights including an interrogation room that must be at least the size of a hotel room, to make him comfortable and not feel coerced. Definitely not the Guantanamo type of standard and practices. According to Sant Singh, David Tan was interrogated in a very small room, about 4m by 4m, there about. And the light was kept on at all times to add to the pressure to "induce" him to give testimony for the prosecution, including being detained overnight in a 2.1m by 2.4 metre room. By virtue of the fact that these are grounds of complains to coerce a person, under police custody, speaks very well of Singapore. Perhaps if the govt can be more generous and build bigger and more comfortable interrogation rooms with cushion sofas, and rooms to hold suspects or possible offenders over night, then it will be just perfect. And no bright lights please. Too glaring on the eyes and intruding into a person's privacy. Provided the taxpayers did not complain about extravagance on the govt's part to provide luxury for possible offenders or violators or the law.
Philip Yeo the real blogger I was reading the exchange between Philip and Chen Jiahao in the Sunday Times today. Philip in all aspects is a suave and cool blogger, the style and words used, without mincing. That's what a real blogger is. Saying it as it is or in the way it should be said. And he did not pick a safe topic to talk about. He chose the issue of the day and smack right into it like any cool blogger will do. No hiding or shying a way. If Philip just joined the fray because it is cool to do so, or because he wants to be seen to do it, then it will be comical. Imagine Philip posting about his favourite pie and his favourite ang tau tng. Kudos to Philip for truly engaging the bloggers in their turf. So far he is the One senior civil servant who feels secured enough to do. :wink:
Role of the Internet - Balakrishnan speaks Govt will continue to take a light touch approach to the internet as they are not really that significant. The Govt will 'continue to set the political agenda and rules of engagement.' Below are some of the notable extracts of what light touch could mean. 'the Govt would not hesitate to 'demolish' those who crossed the line...' 'Any political leader worth his salt will sooner or later be unmasked and, therefore, can be dealt with or engaged on political terms, one on one.' I am trying to figure this one out on what he meant by political terms and one on one. 'I put this not in a threatening way but (the point is) that at the end, the cyberworld cannot escape the realities of the real world.' Luckily he did not use the term brutal truth. 'But he said Singapore's leaders have nothing to hide and are not afraid of the new media.' 'If it is true, I have to reply. If it is untrue, I have to demolish it. If it is seditious or defamatory, we will go after the person.' I think I am alright. 'the PAP had seen the press "cynically manipulated by politicians for short term goals."' 'I don't need The Straits Times to be the mouth piece of the Govt. We have the ministry spokespersons....' I think bloggers and forumers will now have a better picture of he govt's stand on internet postings.
The NKF story - Durai could walk free Now the rest of the story ...@#$%@#$%&*..............................................................#@#$%.
If New York and London can... We cannot simply pluck examples out of context and use them as justifications to our cause. We have heard so many supporters of a highly dense Singapore, with 6.5 million people, as reasonable because there are New York, London, Tokyo or Shanghai that have bigger populations than us. 6.5 million is simply another case of peanuts, a relative term depending on what one is comparing. I will just elaborate on two points why using these examples is a serious flaw. These are big cities of a reasonably big country. Or at least there is a countryside to talk about where the people can disperse outwards if they need too. And even if they did not do so, mentally there is this sense of space around them. Psychologically it is very reassuring to know that they are not strapped into a shit hole. We don't have this privilege. The doorway north can be closed or strangled at any time. In the south more or less the same. Claustrophobia? Then there is the bigger population to even out the acute abnormalities built up in the big cities. The greater population and the greater culture will be there to absorb and balance off the vast diversities of the cities. We don't have that either. Once we mess it up, that's it. We are in a little shit hole and we will be full of shit. No running away, no running out, except for the privilege few. So for those who will have to face the shit if the little red dot is risking to become a shit hole, they better stand up and say their peace. It can be a paradise with 6.5 million. It can also be a hell hole. Who is God enough to say it will be this or that? I am just sharing my reservations and concern.
A refreshing thought Kishore Mahbubani is probably the best mind in his cohort that Singapore has produced. I can't agree with him more when he said that in many areas Singapore is already world class or surpassed that. The fact that we are still exhibiting traits of little boys like I want this and that because the boy next door has it, like Kishore said, is a sign of our lack of confidence, not amounting to immaturity. The 'eye' is the most glaring symbol of a third world mentality. Just because London has it, so we must have it. But maybe that got a little to do with our colonial heritage. The next thing we may want to have, God forbids, is to have a Queen. We have the English Premier League living in the local papers and in the minds of all our football fans. They even know which brand of toothpaste or underwear their favourite footballers used or wore. And while we have achieved in some very important areas like education, and telling the world how good our education system is, which has been vindicated by the large inflow of students from abroad, we have started to dismantle our own education system which have been the envy of the world. We don't believe in ourselves. We always think that our local stuff aren't good enough. Our local talents from one of the top world universities, NUS, are of lesser talents than talents from universities of third world countries. Or just because a few who could not make the grades and went overseas and returned with inflated grades, talked a bit louder, and impressed the listeners, so foreign universities are better. Sure there are many great universities abroad. But not many of the rest are great. Otherwise our NUS ranking is pure fiction. Do we want to believe in these rankings? If not, then we should not pursue them. If yes, then we must believe that our local grads are good, or at least better than those from third world and lower ranked universities. Have we grown up as a nation?
Based on a list of factors Singapore is name the most conducive city for business but lags behind other big cities in other areas. We scored badly or at the bottom in areas like lifestyle assets, intellectual capital, technology and innovations, and even financial clouts. Have no worry. We shall overcome and be number one in these areas too. It is so easy to achieve. Lifestyle assets, once the marinas and all the high end properties are up, all these rich residents will bring in their pleasure crafts and all their Rolls Royce and antiques and exquisite jewelries here. Technology and innovation, and they are talking about broadband penetration. We just introducted this and in no time we will exceed the numbers needed. Maybe our Bus Arrival Time Panels will put us ahead of other countries. This innovative act is hard to beat. And taxi waiting time too. Intellectual capital is quite puzzling. With so many super talents and foreign talents, how can we be rated so lowly? Maybe we need the 6.5 million population of talents to put us up there in this category. Lack of financial clout, do what Mahathir did. Make more billionaires. What is unbecoming is that we are placed joint fifth with New York in terms of safety and security. Hmmm, all the muggings in the streets of NY and Central Park. Are we near there or already there?
Myth 124 The Govt is overpaid I need to demolish this myth that the govt is overpaid. Simply look at the pay of the CEOs of our local banks, in 7 to 10 millions. Compare that to our ministers, no fight right? Our ministers are really being paid peanuts compare to these bank CEOs. And looking at the things and issues our ministers are doing, they deserve to be paid more than the bank CEOs. For their decisions affect the 4 million people in the island. On the other hand the decisions of the bank CEOs affect only the business people and hardly affect everyone in the island. Perhaps one, when they charged all the cheapskate people who have very little money but insisted on having a bank account. And they were so kind to charge them a token sum of $2 monthly. The cost of maintaining the accounts is very high, expensive buildings, expensive staff, expensive softwares and equipment and expensive CEOs to pay. What is $2? They would rather these cheapskate depositors keep their money in their Milo tins. Back to the ministers, every decision they make, good or bad, will hit the people in one way or another. If the decision is bad, they will suffer the wrath of the people and the bad karmas from 4 million people. They deserve every cent they are getting and more on this alone. The counter argument to this is that they are making all the good decisions that are good for the people and will be amply rewarded by 4 million good karmas. In the Singapore context this is true as all the decisions are for the good of the people. But no one get away from the appointments and titles of the job. These are national appointments. Just like the kings and princes and princesses, they are on top of the heap and must be rewarded accordingly. The king or prince may be born an idiot, but by virtue of their titles, they should be paid more than the commoners. In the case of a government where the ministers have huge responsibilities and are the best of all the talents the country can produced, they must be paid more. Or at least more than the bank CEOs. I rest my case.
I would like to borrow a few phrases from Liang Dingzi from his article 'Changi must learn to excite.' Changi has dropped from poll position to number four. And that is a rude shock to many. What Liang Dingzi thought was the problem is that Changi does not excite anymore. Changi needs to inject more exciting stuff to meet the demands of frequent flyers. I thought the solution would be simple enough. Just move a part of Geyland to Changi and we can be assured that excitement will be all over the faces of travellers. The men will be excited. The boys too. And their wives as well. But where is the real problem? Let me quote Liang, 'When you believe you have the Midas touch, there is a tendency that whatever you do next becomes self serving. You become convinced you know exactly what your customers want. Consequently your product takes on a tired mien.' Is the introduction of arrival time of buses, waiting time for taxis etc falling into such trend? I think not only the transport companies are pushing out 'tired miens', but many organisations are doing the same. Yeah, running out of ideas.
Witnesses appearing in court will be told how serious it is to tell the truth. And they will be sworned in by the court to tell the truth, nothing but the truth. Then there are witnesses who have been given friendly advises by their good friends to tell the truth. Some even have emissaries to remind them to tell the truth. Anyone being reminded over and over again can be expected to tell the truth. What happens if the truth is so confusing and contradictory that it gave the impression that the truth teller is coming through as either a knave or a fool? Is simple truth so confusing? Or confusion and contradiction is what truth is all about? Under such circumstances, shall one examine the truthfulness of the truth of the soundness of the witness?
Running out of ideas When one runs out of ideas, anything will do as long as it is an idea. Better than doing nothing. And best when the users will have to pay for the brilliant idea. So we have expensive electronic system to tell motorists how long it takes to travel to another point. We have electronic boards to tell commuters how long it will take for them to reach the start of a taxi queue. And now how long it will take for the buses to be late. Next time you will have electronic boards to tell you how long before the ERP will come on go off. And better still, to tell the motorists how much it will cost to go pass the gantry. And motorists who are caught in an expressway jam, there will be electronic signs to tell them how long will they get out of the jam. All these are great leaps forward in the harnessing of technology and science to improve people's life and lifestyle.
Bus arrival time So the bus panels to tell how late a bus will arrive is going to be set up. This is the strength of this island. Once decided to do something, just do it. No one really cares whether the commuters are willing to pay for the cost of the system. Someone has decided that it is good for the commuters, a better quality of life. So get it done, and the commuters will just have to pay for it. Would someone want to improve the efficiency of the system without adding all these cost? Looking at the good side, we will probably acquire another world number one title for introducing such a futuristic system for our commuters. And with so many panels under the blazing sun, perhaps they can consider building bus kiosk, and aircon them for the comfort of the commuters under the hot tropical heat. The panels need some protection from heat and bright sunlight. Killing two birds with one stone.
For $4.2 million to be shared among the NKF, KDF and Khoo Foundation, kidney dialysis patients will now be subjected to means testing. These poor buggers will now have to prove how poor they are so that they can get another $100 to relieve them from this deadly curse of being alive. Means testing to catch cheats is not a bad thing. But who would want to cheat when they are in dire straits? We are a very caring and compassionate society, especially in how we exposed the sufferings of the poor and sick, on air as well. The only good thing in my view is to subject all the charities to scrutiny on their accounts and management of public funds. When Penny Lane wrote the lyrics of Amazing Grace and the phrase 'wretched souls', was he referring to himself or the poor slaves that he caught and sold?
Myth 123 Plight of the big earners The CPI has gone up over the years. It was reported that the lower income group suffered the most as the rise in cost of living in the lower sector was the highest. It grew by another 2% as against 1% for the top 20% of the population. Look at these numbers and see how serious they are. 2% of a $10k annual income is $400 a year. 1% of a $5 million income is $50k! For the lower income group, their problem is so easy to solve. I think the govt handout will more than cover the $400 and with excess to spare. It is the higher income group that bears the brunt of higher cost of living. Prices of top end housing are running away. Soon they will not be able to afford them. You should pity them for having to queue over night just to get one of those units. And the cars are not cheap, about $300k each and drinking petrol like nobody business. And when oil price shoots to the sky, it will burn a hole in the pockets of their $5000 suit. Poor buggers. And now with the 7% GST, all their dining and wining will cost more. They might have to make do with a $200 bottle instead of a $2000 one. These are the people who are going to find it hard to keep up with the cost of living. And it is only right and proper that their income be raised accordingly so that their lifestyle is not compromised or they be forced to downgrade and live a lesser life. The poor should not envy the high income earners. They need the big increments and bonuses or they will be in trouble. They have more expensive problems befitting their lifestyles.
Do away with O level result Sunday morning is always a good time to take a flight to fantasy land, to explore the impossible or the ridiculous. Creative thinking or wishful thinking, all thrown into one. There is an article in the Sunday Times by Sandra Davie titled,'Time to relook admission policy' to the polytechnics. It seems that the trend is changing and more students or parents are finding it more dollar effective to enrol in Polytechnics rather than JCs. This has resulted in many students with very good results competing with students with lesser results and nudging them out of a place. And this is bad. The solution is to rethink the entry criteria. One of which is not to look at the O level results. Just assess the aptitude of the students. Offer the place on interest, passion and talent. Whatever all these meant, and how to assess them in an interview or what, the key is to throw away the 9 years of education leading to a silly slip of paper called O level result. I think this will make many parents and students jump in joy. Society will have lesser problems of stressed up students. Schools can then indulge in creative and really life relevant courses like gambling in the stock market or trading unwanted dolls or toys to learn business skills. And those who are talented can spend more time either in sports or practicing their acting or singing talents. That will be the great future for Singapore, highly charged with innovative and creative talents, a freer and lively environment where people just do what their gut feeling suggests. Our pop and artistic industries will bloom. More casinos can be built to replace all the dull and monotonous factories or research labs. The latter is a hell hole for people who do not mind mugging and slogging for 20 or 30 years of their precious lives doing nothing, except reading books that nobody understand. They really have no life. Life is meant to be happy and easy going. Go where the heart will take you. Be happy. I feel so good already.
Myth 122 Social Integration The last few weeks the topic of new citizens not integrating or mixing with the locals was raised in many quarters. There were complains by the locals that new citizens lived their own lives and were completely cut off from the locals, or even worst, looking down on locals. This is another divide that is cutting across our nation despite people assuring the population that all will be well when we have 6.5 million people, mostly new citizens. Wondering how many are gullible enough to have so strong a faith to believe in the happy eventuality of this story. After 40 years of independence, social engineering, demographic management and distribution, national education, campaigns after campaigns, our inter racial relations is still on tender hook. At the slightest instigation we can see the cracks emerging very quickly and a lot of damage control to put it back in place. We have all kinds of grassroot activities organised to promote social mixing and understanding among the people of different backgrounds. We tried very hard in these areas. Now another problem is added to this mixed matches of people. Before an old problem is solved, new problems are added. And we believe all is well. We have this simple mentality that we must herd the people together, play together and feed together. And unless they are seen to be feeding together like a flock of sheep, we are not a people united, not one people. So we try and try. And everytime we see people not mixing together or staying away from each other, horror, we are splitting apart. Suresh Kumar wrote in the Today paper to address this apparent disunity among new and old Singaporeans. In his view, everyone have their own things to do and own interests. And why should they be forced to be with people that are so different to them and do not share the same interest? it is only natural. The same kind of experience can be seen with a family or between brothers and sisters. When each is busy doing his own things, enjoying his own interests, pursuing his own dreams, they have hardly anytime to be together. Maybe once or twice a year over some cultural or traditional events. Even husband and wife have different dreams will sleeping on the same bed. But they are a family when the crunch comes. While we strive for unity, the superficial herding of people together does not mean anything if their hearts are elsewhere or they don't share the same dream and aspiration. Just like a flock of sheep, with a blank mind, grazing the grass and oblivious to anything. A perfect target for the wolf packs. What is important is for the people to have a soul or spirit, that they believe in being a Singaporean and will defend and die for this island. That their future well being is intertwined with the well being of this island and people. The money kind of nation building will turn us into a soulless cosmopolitan city, everyone grazing their little patch of grass and will scatter in all directions when the wolf pack attacks. When the social glue is money and nothing else, we no longer qualify to be called a nation of people. We will become a country of mercenaries. To each his own. Grab as much as one can during good time and plan to run away with houses and properties in some safe havens.
A knave or a fool? Sant Singh: 'Then you are either a knave or a fool. what is your position as of today? Are you a crook or just foolish?' This was what Sant Singh said to David Tan in the witness box. And the paper reported that he is the great grandson of the well respected philantrophist Tan Tock Seng. I just feel so sad. I feel sad for Tan Tock Seng. And I also feel sad that in this episode, starting from the civil suit to this criminal trial, knaves and fools seem to be everywhere. Singapore really needs a big influx of foreign talents or we will be washed away in no time. How can there be so many implications of knaves and fools and crooks in so many places, and all very successful, all highly praised, in the circles of high society? And if knaves and fools can be so successful, what are the less successful and unsuccessful made off? Idiots, donkeys and asses? Quick, quick, bring in the foreign talents. Maybe the govt know this in advance and this could be the prime reason for the foreign talent policy.
Celebrating all the successful Singaporeans After the glowing reports on Singaporeans earning millions of dollars in bonuses it is only appropriate that we should all be happy for them and share their rewards for working so hard and being so successful. Cheers to all the million dollar earners and those who received bonuses in the millions.
Bite the sand In the face of unruly behaviour, Singapore might as well bite the sand, or bullet, and stop all importing of sand and granite from Indonesia. Go for new sources, pay a bit more, slow down a little in the pace of construction, spread them out by a year or two especially those projects that are not really that urgent. This will do a lot of good to relations in both countries.
Perjury in court? 'He (David Tan) was accused of lying and of fabricating stories, in order to help out long time associate TT Durai, the NKF's former chief.' Today paper reported. Now is that a serious accusation? If proven, does it mean that he can be jailed? Does David Tan know the consequences of what he is saying? And he had been reminded to tell the truth, which now becomes a mess of contradictions. Maybe truth is just like that, a big contradiction.
No ban on granite. Some of the barges were alleged to breach regulations. So the Indonesians told George Yeo. What do all these meant? There were barges who did not breach any regulations. So have they been released? Then what do they meant by breaching regulations? Smuggling sand is not a simple breaching of regulations. It is smuggling. And if they did smuggled, they have to pay the price. But breaching regulations? What regulations? Too many crews on board or too few crews? Some crews did not have immigration papers or what? If the breaches were minor and have nothing to do with smuggling, why are the barges still detained? Charge them or fine them and the commercial activities must continue as per regulations. What if, after finding out that there were no smuggling of sand except some minor breaches of regulations, and the Indonesians persist to detain our vessels there at their pleasure? Then what? We are talking with international forces to set up a task force to combat piracy. Who are the pirates?
I was in a discussion with two anonymouses in the threat on hostile acts by Indonesia. And they were exasperated by the notion of rules of law which they found it so difficult to accept. To them, when a foreigner is in Indonesia, they are at the mercy of the authority. You do not need to commit any crime or violate any laws, or be completely innocent, but they can arrest you at their whims and fancy. And to these two anonymouses, that is an acceptable way of life. That is their system and how they do things. In countries that operate under the rule of law, no one can be arrested, citizens or foreigners, if they did not breach the law of the country. Their rights are protected by the constitution and upheld by the authority. How fortunate Singaporeans are. Even in Malaysia, if you are hauled up by the police for speeding, you can ask for evidence. If the police did not catch you on radar and have no proof, they are likely to waive you off. You will not be fined arbitrarily. Malaysia also practices the rule of law. Not the rule of might and warlords. In countries where you have corrupt people, corrupt system, corrupt culture and corrupt ways of life, there is no rule of law. The strange thing is that these are so invisible to themselves that when it is their own kind, they cannot see anything that is corrupt. But when you add the word 'Chinese' to Indonesians, everyone and everything they do is corrupt. Every Indonesian Chinese that is rich is corrupt. On the contrary, not a single Indonesian is corrupt. And they can live happily ever after with their loot which they robbed from the people and country. I would like to assure them that if they are foreigners and living in Singapore, our police or authority will treat them with full respect and all the rights of a free individual. They will not be arrested for no rhyme or reasons. We don't arrest ships in our territorial waters just because we feel like it.
The praising continues Alvin Tan wrote an article on the exemplary MPs in Parliament, praising them sky high, that they have done a great part in fighting for their constituents. And of course the opposition MPs failed miserably. This elicited a response from a Jeth Lee who said that for that they said, it is all about debate and saying something in Parliament. And Jeth quoted Tan Cheng Bock saying that for as much as he spoke against an issue, he still would have to vote for it. The issue that is in question is whether the MPs should put the party's interest first or the people's interest first? In a bi party system when there is a strong opposition, taking sides with the opposition is unthinkable. But in a near monopolistic position, when PAP MPs are speaking for themselves and not the opposition, taking a stand that is different from the party cannot be seen as for the opposition. It would be seen by the people that the MPs are speaking up for them or for a position that they strongly believe in. There lies the difference in a one party system, or an almost one party system. The ruling party MPs actually have more leeways to vote for their own convictions without being seen as anti party. And the party will be seen as being objective, open and not obsessive of domineering over opposing views within the party.
Another sign of decline We are losing our 0.5% of the top brains of future Singaporeans. Our peaks will be lower. So to arrest this problem we cast our nets wide and rope in another 2.5 million foreign talents to replace the 0.5% Singaporeans. How many is this top 0.5%? 1000, 5000 or 1000? It reminds me of the debate between Wei Ling and Philip Yeo. To cast a big net or to be focussed and narrow in to what we want? Take a little more care and time, look at what we want, go for the catch. Or grab everything that comes along, all and sundry, the more the merrier, and hoping that some good ones will be caught? But the 2.5 million also has another objective. Without them there can be no growth or little growth.
Our shipping vessels being arrested while plying the trade route doing legitimate businesses. Our assets being confiscated by drummed up fictitious charges. How would LKY have reacted when confronted with such issues? How are our leaders handling them? These are major crises. Would we come out of these tricky situations as a respectable nation or would we be forever thumbed down by bigger countries? How the present leadership handle these two crises will be an indicator of where we are heading.
The salary of new entrants to the Civil Service has lagged behind the private sector over several years. And the difference is not 10 or 20%. The gap is HUGE. Depending on which level one is looking at, the difference can be more than 100%. But for the average entry level graduate, there is at least a 50% gap. And this has been going on for at least two years according to SMU survey. Does it mean that the Civil Service were underpaying their new employees or shortchanging them? What happens to the pegging to the market mechanism? Rip Van Winkle just woke up? Was the Civil Service caught napping?
Is the $20k payment for work done? When David Tan was given the $20k by Durai, he was elated. It was reported that it was a token of appreciation for fundraising. Now it has become payment for consultancy work done over cheap chicken rice. The chicken rice was only the appettiser. The $20k was the main course. But why would David Tan return the money to NKF when he was questioned by the authority? Didn't he has any clue whether the money was payment, token of appreciation, legitimate or illegitimate? What a big puzzle. The recipient of $20k, told to raise an invoice which he did not know for what, returned the money and now admitted that it was payment for consultancy over chicken rice. What kind of wayang is this?
There was no granite ban The Indonesians are just musing over whether to have a ban on granite. And according to the Trade Minister Mari Pangestu it is unlikely to ban granite sale. Those who are talking about protecting their environment should ban the exporting of oil or oil exploration and go back to use firewoods. Oops, firewoods would also harm the environment and send more haze all over the sky. Now that there is no ban, what happens to all our vessels that were seized? Have they been returned? Were there any compensation for the illegal arrest of legitimate shipping vessels with proper papers? Why is there no protest from Singaporeans when their vessels were seized by illegal and unauthorised means? This is the worst kind of piracy. Singapore as a nation is at the lowest in terms of respect from other countries. Our vessels seized, investments confiscated or slammed with all kinds of charges and probably ended up losing every cent. Our people being beaten up, robbed and killed in foreign land. And we are all living happily as if nothing has happened. We are small and that is our disadvantage. Growing our population to 6.5 million is not going to make even a ripple. What we need, maybe, is to consider becoming the 52nd state of the USA. Then we will no longer be small and we will walk in and take our vessels back. We will also confiscate or put a sanction on the properties of foreign countries that violate the legal process to seize our assets in their countries. We will called up ambassadors to give them a dressing and demand justice when our citizens are being attacked. Now would that be better than a little red dot? Just musing.
Reward for patient care or chalking up revenue This is the latest debate involving Wei Ling and Dr Ranjiv Sivanandan. Ranjiv's point is that in restructured hospitals, doctors and departments are rewarded based on the number of private patients treated. This underlines the whole Singapore ethos of existence, from state, organisations and people. Money is the only reason and the only reason that can justify work and achievements. Wei Ling came out strongly against this impression. And she quoted her department , NNI, as a living example of patient care first, quality care comes first. Bringing in money is not a criteria for performance appraisal. She knew what she was saying. That was her department and that was where she called the shot and set the ethos. The sick are very fortunate to have some of these special individuals who are passionate in what they do, without having to bother with how much they earned or how their rice bowl will be affected. Unfortunately, NNI is probably an isolated case. Will there be another hospital heads who will stand up to say they too are doing the same? Probably not, and Ranjiv's case still stands. We need mavericks, people who are high achievers, confident and secure, to stand up to the weight of bureaucracy to do what is right and not what the bureaucracy wants them to do, or they will have to face the stick.
NKF Story - The good side of Durai As in all stories, there are always the good side and the bad side. And humans are no difference. There are the good side and bad side in all of us. David Tan, a close friend of Durai, who was given $20k as a token of appreciation, was all praises for Durai. He had told the court that Durai was an honourable man. And he also quoted anecdotes of Durai telling him 'on two occasions' to tell the truth to the investigators. Durai must be worried for David, for whatever reasons. Durai, as reported in the Today paper, also called David Tan's nephew to remind David to 'tell the truth' in court. And in all the years that David had known Durai, he confirmed that Durai had not asked him to do any dishonourable thing. Here is the good side of Durai on display in court. At least we are now assured of some truth spoken in court.
Good to have if it is free Unless there is a breakdown or system failure, the next MRT train will arrive in 10 or 15 minutes at most. This could also apply to the buses. At worst, the buses will be late by 30 minutes. Anything more than that, the system must be very badly managed. This is the inbuilt advantage of being small. No need to think like big cities and big countries. It is good to have all the screens to tell the time of the next arrival, provided they don't add towards the operating cost and thus to the cost of the fare. Unavoidable if these perks are added. Imagine how many thousands of bus stops with one or more screens showing the arrival of the next bus? What kind of cost on the software and the maintenance to add these frills to the lives of the poor communters who just want the cost to go lower? Then there are the more affluent commuters who lusted for such thrills as they can afford them. It is important to look at the lowest common denominator, LCD, before implementating all these good to have gadgets. Be mindful that there is a large majority who still struggling to save a few cents on their daily trips. Not everyone can afford to throw away $10 or $100 as tips or small change.
The call to ban granite export is on again. Which confirms that there was no ban and the arrest of our vessels was a violation of international law, Indonesian law and a wanton hostile act. The military commanders were acting in their own accord, in violation of Jakarta, a kind of mutiny or warlordism. Still want to help them, still want to develop Batam and Bintan? On a personal basis, on humanitarian ground, the feeling of wanting to help the victims of a disasters is unavoidable. There is the heart and emotion to want to help another human being. But if their government do not appreciate such acts of humanities and repeatedly acts in a hostile and unfriendly manner towards us, let them shoulder the burden of helping their own kind. Let them bear the guilt of not able to provide their people in times of need. We shall fold our arms and look elsewhere. Our resources are limited and there are many Singaporeans more worthy of our assistance. The money or aid can go to the needy instead of giving them one dollar more. We cannot help the world. We need to help ourselves and our own kind first. Why waste our time and resources when the hands that feed are going to be bitten?
A nation or a MNC? I wrote about Singapore becoming an IBM, ready to be sold to the highest bidder earlier. How relevant is such an observation? PN Balji wrote an article on the Revolving Door Nation today. In his article he discussed about the real intention of the new economic migrants flying first class to our shores as opposed to the penniless migrants of our forefathers who came on cargo ships on a one way ticket. Balji started by saying 'Let's not kid ourselves. Most expatriates who come to work and live here don't do so because they want to make this place their home.' He had spoken to many expatriates and came to the same conclusion. He knew what he was saying which is not what people believe. It is ok for people to want to believe what they want to believe, that foreign talents love this little red dot and are all here to stay. But to believe in blind faith and trying to convince others to believe likewise is a very unjust thing to do. Feel free to believe in your fantasy, but reality as felt and seen by the people on the ground is reality. People with value or are wanted will pick and choose where they want to go. And people who did that are just doing it purely for their selfish reasons and more, they don't owe us a living. What is more humiliating and would in the long run do a long of harm to this young nation, is to self deprecate ourselves by glorifying the foreigners and dismissing ourselves as less than equals. When I look at Parliament, I don't think the foreign talents are that superior to any Singaporeans to be put on the high pedestals. If those are considered the best and better than Singaporeans, then Singaporeans do not deserve to exist. We need to return some pride to the Singaporeans. As Balji said, 'Without pride, there is nothing.' We will only turn into a country without a soul, without shame, just a corporation. Or as Balji said, a revolving door nation. Inevitable? That for our survival we must be soulless and become a flotsam of people, that to survive we no longer have any pride or self worth?
It was really impressive to know that there are so many billionaires among us and around the world. These are no ordinary people to be able to acquire so much wealth in their lives. And many are self made. Bill Gates did it in less than 30 years. Warren Buffett did it about twice that time. The Singapore smaller billionaires did it in their life times. Would the lesser beings of Singapore suddenly think that they are less able and less worthy than these great men and women for earning less than them? After all the intelligence and respect in this island are measured according to how clever one makes money or how much is one worth? Would the Forbes Report make people lose their self respect because they were only millionaires in several hundred millions or in tens of millions? Would we see people going around trying to grab more monies to make themselves billionaires?
Move aside Caldecott Hill, you no longer have the honour for having the most well dressed and glamorous personalities in this island. The honour is now given to the old NKF. Other than the handsome and charismatic Durai and the meticulously well dressed Richard Yong, now appearing on stage or at Havelock Road magistrate is the cool and fashionable David Tan. Anyone at 62 will be green with envy to be able to look so good and so flamboyant, and so happy. And they danced away in Durai's office when he clinched a donation of $5 million for the NKF. They were jubilant and exhilarating for landing such a huge sum of money for the charity. And David was not even a member of NKF Board. But his joy for doing such a great deed for the needy NKF patients is something that every caring Singaporeans can share. Not sure if they pop a few bottles of champagne and a party after achieving such a big success, but for sure, David's effort was not forgotten.
Of Parliament and debates For those who are casually following the happenings in Parliament, it is excusable to think that the opposition in Parliament is the PAP. Where were the Cheam See Tong, the Low Thia Khiang and the Sylvia Lim? Never seen and never heard of in a Parliament that is most of the time 75% empty except for the first few sessions. They must be among the absentees. That is the impression if one watches the TV news coverage. Quite natural when the opposition does not really have a role to play in a Parliament that is overwhelmingly dominated by a ruling party. And quite natural that the debate in Parliament is just debate. Nothing happens after that no matter how much the speaker said. Everyone who bothers to be in Parliament, made their few comments and asked a few questions and things just 'move on.' Their comments and questions were answered, and that's it. Scanning through the main stream media and the TV, which rightly allocated about 10 minutes of their precious time to Highlights in Parliament as they have more important programmes to broadcast, tells how important were the proceedings in the house. And the camera cheekily showed the 3/4 empty Parliament every now and then to tell the audiences how heated and thoroughly engaging the debates must have been. With the impression that the opposition were non existence, at least from the reports available in the MSM as a measure of their contributions, the floor was all for the PAP MPs. And the notables who spoke passionately, and at times aggressively on the issues that they pursued were the likes of Inderjit, Lily Neo, Ong Kian Min and Sin Boon Ann. They were convincing in wanting to put their points across strongly. But despite all that, the greatest victory goes to Lily Neo. In her quest to help the poor and needy living on government handouts, she succeeded in getting another $1 a day for them. That was the greatest achievement that no other MP could ever think of doing. Halimah is the most persistent fighter for the working class on record. She practically spoke on every issue that affected the workers and plea after plea for the government to spare a thought for them and their plight. So far she has not won her $1 worth yet. Maybe she will get her desserts as events unfold in the years to come. But one thing for sure, as against all the cynicism by Seng Han Thong, the ERP is going to be more expensive and hopefully more effective. Definitely not more effective and less expensive.
Ang Pow is an acceptable customary practice Giving ang pows (red packets with money inside) is a traditional Chinese practice. During the Chinese New Year, the Chinese parents will give ang pows to their children, unmarried ones, for good luck. And they extend this by giving it to the children of all visitors to their homes or neighbour's children. This practice is further extended to workplace where employees are given ang pows too by their bosses. Nowadays, ang pows are also given to friends in the business circles as a show of appreciation. It used to be $1.10, then $2, $4, $10, and now $20,000! I will be deeply moved if anyone were to give me a $20,000 ang pow. It is just a customary practice.
Then we have countdown at traffic light junctions. I supported that. It is not only a convenient and useful information, it is also a safety feature to cut down on unnecessary risk taking and accidents. Then we have road signs telling motorists how low it takes to reach certain roads. Dunno for what? Then we have satellite technology to tell bus commuters when the next bus will arrive at the bus terminals. Great piece of information. Then we have signs telling passengers when will be his turn hop into the next taxi or he can change his mind and join another queue somewhere. Now we are going to have signs at all bus stops, did they say all bus stops?, to tell commuters when the next bus will arrive. Too much money to spend? Like Sam Tan raising the issue of a small length swimming pool in a public hospital for the benefit of patients to admire and relax. Something like the beautiful marine aquariums in NKF for the dialysis patients. No cost is mentioned as they were paid for by donors. So nothing to worry about. As long as someone else is paying for it, it is ok. The bus commuters are likely to have all the signs paid for by somebody else for their convenience. Great idea. At the rate we go, we are going to be an ultra modern, technologically advanced and futuristic island. World class facilities and leading edge technology on the road side. Somebody needs to pay for it, surely.
The MPs have done their part to praise this 'Made in Heaven' budget. It is time to reciprocate and praise the MPs for their angelic chorus. The quality of debate has been good beyond recognition if we are to learn from Kan Seng's summation of how good parliamentary debate is today. But he also dropped a hint that time and effort should be apportioned to more important issues and not wasted on issues that are of lesser importance. That is as frank and honest as Kan Seng can be. Now what after the great debate? Is there anything that is going be changed or all the papers submitted will be passed lock, stock and barrel? Are we going to have our 6.5 million population, increasing ERP charges, higher cost with world class facilities and infrastructure, or spending more money on not so important mega projects and lesser on the bread and butter issues facing the pathetic poor by giving them another $1 a day for a meal? Will our MRT go the Tokyo way to be world class and be packed 100%, 20% more than the current under utilisation? It must be a great sight to see MRT staff shoving and pushing commuters into an already 100% sardined pack carriage so that we will be more like Tokyo! The 6.5 million population is a very serious proposition that no one, no matter how conceited he is, is in a position to guarantee that nothing can go wrong. For when it does, it will go drastically wrong. We have made all these great plans only seeing it from our own point of view and interest. I cannot imagine the conditions at the causeway and second bridge every weekend and how our neighbours will react to the massive jams. Maybe next time not only no sand or granite, but no causeway as well. Who knows, as the problem that a 6.5 million population can contribute to our slow and leisure pace lifestyle of our neighbour is yet to be fathomed. A Richard Lim Siong Kheng wrote to the ST, 'There ought to be smarter ways to grow our economic pie, for examples, through increasing productivity...In other words, emphasise quality rather than size in the Little Red Dot. Let us do things the smarter way and leave something for posterity.' This kind of problem solving is nothing different from increasing ERP charges. Like Ong Kian Min said, '...there is a "psychological limit" to how high the ERP rates can go before drivers "will be up in arms". When there is only one aorta in our system, all the blood must go through it no matter how hard one squeezes it. And this is elementary and does not need supertalents to see the problem and does not take so long for anyone to realise why increasing ERP is not the solution. Or as Seng Han Tong said, 'lets make ERP more effective and not more expensive.'
Changes of CPF rules for top ups Why would people want to put in money into CPF for top ups of relatives when they could simply put the money aside or into their savings account? For the 2.5% or 4% interest? Is that good enough to put give up good money which one has full control and put into a fund that one loses complete control over the money? Once the money is in the CPF, CPF is in full control of the money and any changes to the rulings, if unfavourable, cannot be reversed. Once in, that's it. But it is a great scheme for Singaporeans who cannot manage their own money.
Richard Yong and Loo Say San were charge for failure 'to exercise "reasonable diligence" and casued the charity to pay excessive fees to an IT company.' The IT company wanted to charge NKF 9,219 man days spent. But the IT department disputed the claim and NKF agreed on a new figure of 5,310 mandays, a savings of nearly 50%. Under normal circumstances it should be a great job done. But in this case the former IT head of NKF, Jayaraman, actually computed the number as only 538 mandays. But after that Jayaraman was out of the negotiation when the final number was accepted, ie 5,310 mandays.
Enough jobs for Singaporeans Lets look at some of the numbers quoted by Eng Hen in the Today paper. 173,000 new jobs were created last year. And another 90,000 jobs will be created annually over the next 5 years. Singaporeans could only filled 30,000 jobs annually. And for every 'additional foreigner brought in has resulted in three jobs being created for Singaporean workers.' What does all these mean to the employment of Singaporeans? If Singaporeans can filled in 30,000 jobs annually, then out of the 173,000, 143,000 must be filled by foreigners. Am I right or wrong? And for the next 5 years we will need to bring in 60,000 x 5 foreigners or 300,000 foreign workers to fill all the new jobs created. Correct? So from last year, 143,000 and another 5 years, 60,000, we will have brought in 203,000 foreign workers. Now comes the happy part. For every foreign workers brought in 3 more jobs will be created for Singaporean workers. So how many jobs will be created for Singaporeans as a result of this 203,000 workers? 609,000 jobs! Wow, we will have more problems don't we? Singaporeans can only filled in 30,000 jobs annually. I am just drawing a simple computation from the numbers and reasons given. It is a happy problem for Singaporeans. No Singaporeans will be unemployed. Employers will be begging Singaporeans to work. There will be more pay rises when demand exceeds supply.
The Straits Times editorial raised a very pertinent question today as it discussed about the reemployment of the aged workforce. While the govt is planning to revitalise the employability of Dad's army, if another economic slump hits us, the first to go will still be the aged. And if we have 6.5 million people, the problem will be multiplied accordingly no matter how much assurance we are going to get. And with the world economy going in cycles, it is only a matter of when it will hit us again and how serious.
Over supply of HDB flats is a good thing The building of HDB flats should be treated slightly different from commercial properties. The original objective to provide a roof over the head for all citizens is still relevant today. Too much speculation in these flats, if it leads to everyone making money will be the best. But when wild speculations lead to people losing their homes, then it can become a negative event. The appreciation of flat value should be allowed to take place gradually and not be left to the mercy of speculators. And building flats, and with some excess capacity for those needing one, should be the main objective of HDB. Not too obsessed with profits as the reason to build. People who really need a place to live and are not fuzzy about location will then be able to get a HDB flat without having to pay a ransom. Those in choice areas will fetch better value depending on market demand. Of course the over supply should not be over excessive to cost a big overhang and tying down too much capital. Let there always be flats available to the people without having to push the price beyond their means.
Until today, I am still not convince why people covered by Medishield or their own medical insurances must still have a large chunk of their money locked in Medisave. Can someone enlightened me on this? If a citizen has provided himself adequately with medical coverage, even setting aside a sum in the Medisave in case he cancels his insurance coverage, would that not be enough? Why forced people to leave excessive money in the Medisave?
National Education in Cyberspace 40 or 50 years ago, life was simple, at least for the children. Go to school and home to play. Not many would even consider tuition. The schools were there to teach the children everything that was needed to know. And parents expectation were simple. Learn to read and write and make sure that there was no red ink in the report cards. A pass was a pass and was good enough. Today we want the teachers to become magicians, teaching the children more knowledge than ever before. Other than the 3Rs, there are the languages, the computer knowledge, the ECA, social works, how to do business, how to gamble in the stock market, how to have good EQs and IQs, how to be the best by having straight As, how to be a star sportsman or sportswoman or a musician. In other words, a supertalent in all fields. They don't even have time for their pimples. Today they need to be politically aware of national affairs as well. National education will be taught. What, from the angle of the children, would they want to spend their precious time on while growing up? Play, play computer games, hip hop dancing, dating, sports and fun. Do they have the time to do all these wonderful things that children are supposed to do? It is tough to be a child today. As for national education, why not let them go into cyberspace or visit sites like this and they will stand to learn a lot more and more interesting than what the teachers can teach them? The schools should allocate an hour a day for the students to surf the nets and explore the social and political discussions taking place, and discuss about the issues that are being posted. Now would that be far more interesting than the regurgitation of teachers from prepared text? Bring the children into cyberspace is like going live, be there and experience it.
Medisave versus Medishield Would any MP raise the necessity of having Medisave and Medishield at the same time? Why is there a need to keep so much money in Medisave when people already opt in to for Medishield? Shouldn't this be an either or option? And many even have their own medical insurance in addition to Medisave. Do the people need to be covered 2 or 3 times over? Isn't it a waste of money kept in the unproductive care of Medisave? The people must be given a choice to decide which option they so desire, Medisave, Medishield or Private Medical insurance. Surely one should be more than enough.
Of Living Hell and Paradise I was in Chinatown during the CNY to take in the sight and I strayed into the little corners around Sago Lane. The very old of Chinatown are there. Many of them. Yes they are alive, heart pumping and breathing. But are they living? There are many of these pathetic souls that can be found in all corners of the heartland. Sitting in the void decks or some little corners oblivious to what is around them. They have defied nature, humans have distorted the course of nature, when they should have moved on and be in paradise. Many still cling to the idea that keeping people alive for as long as they can is a good deed. Life must be preserved on this living hell for as long as possible. And now we have created this enormous problem of the aged, not knowing how to deal with them. For nothing can be done unless youth can be restored and vitality returned to their fading lives. What could have been done is to make them live the last leg of their lives with dignity and with peace and without pain. The latter medical science can do quite a bit. For them to live with 3 decent meals, without worries should be the minimum the country can do for them. What is the cost of 10 packet of 3 in 1 coffee or tea a day? Or 3 meals of sweet potato porridge and vegetables or beancurd? For the lonely and destitute and unable to work, shouldn't they be taken care of by the state? Or shall we say that they deserved to be where they are? It is very cheap to provide some free meals and coffee for those above 60 or 65s in the citizen's corners. It would not cost more than a couple of hundred bucks per head to do it. Not all senior citizens will need them. Only a handful will. Welfare state? It is welfare in a way and a necessary one. Whose fault to keep them alive for so long when their bodies are no longer useful for work to pay for their own living cost?
Medishield to reach newborns This is another very good scheme. Babies are national assets, boys or girls. The country must give them the best medical care to raise them into productive adults. This is like organisations calling their human resource as the most important asset of the company but...treating them like shit. The country has been encouraging the people to produce more children in a declining birthrate. And without the children coming, the country will perish unless replace by foreigners. If the country treasures these babies, shouldn't their health at these early stages of their precious lives be the concerned of the country and the little cost of insurance be paid out by the state? If we can pour in so much money on beautifying the parks and canals, don't these babies deserve better?
John Chen the Singer I take my hat off to John Chen for doing something he loves. He was an academic turned politician and now turns singer. Go for it John, do the things that make you happy and enjoy life. Don't be a slave to money. How many people can take such a dramatic turn in life? Ok, he has made his dole. And that is exactly what making money is for, to earn enough to buy oneself the freedom to be what one wishes to be. I can see John Chen a happier person, more joyful and younger even. He is now sporting a new celebrity look, so different from his past expressionless, dull academic and politician image. Let's see more Singaporeans follow his happy path.
China is raising its corporate tax on foreign companies from 15% to 25% while lowering the local companies' tax from 33% to 25%. This would make Chinese corporate tax very much higher than our 18/20%. Would this make us now more competitive than China? No doubt China has other comparative advantages like a huge market and a huge labour pool and can afford to raise its taxes. MNCs will have to make their assessments as to where will give them the best value. And Bintan/Batam with their own sets of problems that make operating there unprofitable, Singapore will now be slightly more attractive as a preferred destination. Oops forgot to mention India as another choice market. But we still have to lower everything to make ourselves competitive, except wages. But we have comparative advantage in having a big pool of local and foreign talents that can command higher wages. So not a problem there. Oh, workers level, that is another story.
An act of war? Banning sales of sand is a commercial decision, an unfriendly one at worst. Banning granite sales is similar in nature. All these are within the rights of a sovereign nation. Indonesia can choose to sell or not to sell to us. We can negotiate for a fair price, even make them an offer that they cannot refuse. But when all else fails, we find alternative sources for our supply. Then it was reported that 12 barges and 12 tugboats were arrested for carrying granite from Indonesia. And with the Indonesian Foreign Minister and Trade Minister confirming that there was no ban on granite, the cargoes were legitimate and with legal papers. They cannot be breaking any Indonesian laws. And they were carrying our flags. This wrongful seizure of our shipping vessels is a very provocative act, an act of hostility. Many countries have gone to war for such a hostile act. And this is repeated 24 times, with 24 of our boats arrested while conducting legitimate activities. Singapore cannot take this quietly. We must demand their immediate release with compensation. We must demand an apology. We must demand that the commanders involved in such hostile acts between two friendly neighbours be sacked. These are the least Singapore should do to remain a respectable sovereign nation or be forever compliant. Forget about all the acts of kindness and offering of help. These are never appreciated and regarded in most instances as acts of pretension. They are seen as an appeasement by a small nation trying to curry favours from a big nation. Singapore should reassess how it conducts its relations with its neighbours. It should be on an equal basis, cordial, friendly and mutual respect. No necessity to run like a eager beaver to offer help when help was never seen in that light.
When you are 45 or 50 and staring down the future and knowing that you have possibly another 30 or 35 years to go, and you are jobless and unwanted. My god, is this the fate of older Singaporeans? And what can one look forward to if the likely jobs available are menial or manual works like cleaners and sweepers. And what if the whole country's infrastructure is being upgraded to world class with world class facilities, luxuries and world class price tag? The Age Committee would have to come out with a miracle, like a wonder drug that can make old people younger and marketable.
Age Committee The most powerful committee yet formed today is the Age Committee to tackle unemployment among the senior citizens. 4 ministers, 5 ministers of state and a parliamentary secretary. Singapore and the senior citizens' problems are in good hands.
The housewives or homemakers issue is going to be another hot debate. Read several letters in Today paper in response to a writer, Siao Kian Kiong, who said that homemaker is a self centred decision. Working or doing part time work is also a self centred decision. The interest is in the self and also benefits the family. And just as working is an economic activity, so is being a housemaker, which is everything a maid is doing and many things more. The value of a housewife or housemaker is not something to be trifled with. Looks like many people, after being looked after by their mother, have already forgotten the sacrifices of their mothers.
Branding Singaporeans We have heard the familiar quitters and stayers descriptions of Singaporeans. Then the local talent and foreign talent, the pro govt and anti govt, the whiners, the complainers, the insurgents, the dissidents, the anti establishment, the disloyal citizens etc etc In cyberspace, there is one group, the pro govt, versus the rest, ie the anti govt, the whiners, the complainers, the insurgents, the dissidents, the anti establishment, and the disloyal citizens or whatever negative words that can be used to describe them. Why can't bloggers and forumers be concerned citizens, interested citizens, politically aware citizens, political/social observers, people who just want to have a say about our national affairs, people with an alternative view, a different perspective etc? When the govt talks about the light touch, it reflects the kind of mentality behind the statement. It is control and punishment, light or heavy as it deems fit. It is the stick that rules. Compare this with the BBC's tie up with YouTube and you can straight away see the stark difference in the approach. I quote: "As the BBC has acknowledged, I think it;'s better to embrace it and jump in," said analyst Chris Lake. "That way, you can monitor the quality and the content." Mr Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of future media and technology, said the BBC would not hunt down all BBC-copyrighted clips already uploaded by YouTube members, but would reserve the right to swop poor quality clips with the real thing, or to have content removed that had been edited or altered in a way that would damage the BBC's brand. "We don't want to be overzealous, a lot of the material on YouTube is good promotional content for us," he said. This right to alter is similar to the govt's stand on the right of reply. The govt is free to reply in cyberspace on any misinformation put forward to clear the air. There is no need to always think of using the stick. It will also generate more healthy debates on issues and better understanding. Did I hear a renaissance? What renaissance if the mentality is to curb and control, and to use the stick? Or anyone with a different view will be branded as anti govt, anti establishment, dissidents or insurgents?
Lim Swee Say on sensitive ground The TV camera showed Swee Say expounding the virtues of housewives as the pillar of our society, praising housewives as a noble thing and cannot be compared with low wage workers. But the long and short of it all was that housewives will not get anything extra from the 2007 budget. If they want workfare bonus they must go out and get a job. And there are organisations out there helping and training them to get back to the job market. Housewives are as noble as the virtues of honesty, loyalty, pillars of society, mother etc, and just that. Good to see but cannot eat. Then the camera switched to a few faces, presumably housewives. And their expressions said it all. And if that was what they were thinking, Swee Say better stay clear of the path of housewives for the time being. Housewives love what they are doing. Housewives enjoy the pleasure of looking after their children and watch them grow. That is the most important reward for them. I agree. But when money is being thrown around, public money, the pillar of society also wants to be recognized and wants some too. Words are just plain words. The Ah Huays and Ah Lians may leave him alone. Not sure about the Ah Sohs and the aunties.
Ministerial, civil service salaries expected to go up Chee Hean made this belated announcement yesterday. It is high time that a salary revision takes place before they lose more talented people to the private sector. I bet with the kind of starting salaries for new job entrants they are definitely having difficulties recruiting or at best getting the leftovers. The resignation at entry grade is a startling 25% while the overall number has risen from 4.8% to 5.7%. But no figures were given on the resignation rate at the senior civil servant level. Can't recollect any resignation at these levels except for retirement. Chee Hean also said that the increment will not be across the board but be determined by performance and those jobs that have been lagging behind the private sector. A good measurement of this is the resignation rate. It will be interesting to know the number of senior civil servants who have resigned to join the private sector voluntarily.
Lag in middle income growth These are the statistics on income per household member per month published in the ST today. 31st to 40th percentile $960 41st to 50th percentile $1180 81st to 90th percentile $3190 91st to 100th percentile $6990 A family of 4 with a $6990 per household income will be getting a household income of $27,960 per month. Not bad at all. What about those with $1 million annual household income or more? The 100th percentile gives the impression that the richest Singaporean earns a household income of $27,960 per month. Off hand I can think of at least a handful of people earning $2 million and above per annum. This will give a per household member income of $500,000 each per annum or more than $40,000 per household member per month. Official numbers in the ST has reported that there are several thousand millionaires in our midst. Looks like all the millionaires are not included in the numbers. Or the numbers are strictly just on middle income earners.
The foreign talent and 6.5 million population issue were raised in Parliament. The reply, as often repeated over the MSM was regurgitated. We need the huge population to ensure vibrancy and our viability. We need all the talents that we can get. We need to compete with the giants like China the US and Australia for the rare talents. And our birth rate is slowing down and we will not be reproducing ourselves. Giving this kind of explanations, looks like all the small little rich countries in Europe are destined to perish. And they better follow our example and start a frantic drive to recruit talents for their long term existence. Or is it that they have been doing it and we are following their brilliant examples? The population will decline if we add 8,000 new citizens annually in 2030. So in 23 years time, we will face a decline if we add in only 8,000 new citizens. It was also reported that we attracted 13,200 new citizens and 57,300 prs last year alone. Adding another 35,000 new births, we actually add on 105,000 in a year! Knock off 30,000 death rate, it gives a nett gain of 75,000. At this rate, in 20 years we will add 1.5 million to our population or we will hit above 6 million in 2030! It will be even more if the momentum is kept up at this pace. Is the 6.5 million figure just a planning figure for the next 40 or 50 years? It will be realised by 2030 at this rate of growth. There should be a debate among the planners and intellectuals on the pros and cons on this big leap forward. So far the people are hearing only one side of the story. Without the population growth and foreign talents we will perish. And there were all kinds of assurances that nothing will go wrong and everything will be alright and we will have prosperity for everyone. It is important that the people hear the other side of story before we suffocate ourselves to death. I don't trust sales pitch.
No need for caps Napoleon and his friends were having a great time in the animal farm after seizing it from the farmer. They were having a great time feasting and frolicking from the new wealth they they had inherited. Life was good, really good. From the outside, the sheep, the cows and horses and all the chicken and fowls watched in amazement. 'Wow that's what the good life meant.' They were probably wondering why couldn't they too partake in the frolicking and share the good time. One sheep ventured to ask. 'Why no caps?' 'No caps for us, caps only for sheep.' Came the reply. And the sheep nodded and walked away sheepishly.
"You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy,the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, Germany doesn't want to go to war, and the three most powerful men in America are named Bush, Dick, and Colon. - Comedian Chris Rock
With the economy doing so well, with so many millionaires being made, with so many wealthy foreigners being lured to our shores, hopefully to become citizens, our estate duty laws are out of date. Currently the $9 million for one property and $600,000 cash that are exempted from estate duties are too low. A more reasonable and realistic number should be $20 million worth of properties, not limited to only one property, and $10 million worth of cash, would make citizenship or dying here more attractive.
Letter from Lee kiao Hoong in Today paper '....My wife gave birth to twins at the SGH recently. They were born premature - at six months gestation - and thus admitted to the NICU. After a two and a half month stay in a B2 ward, the hospital bill for my elder daughter came up to a whopping $29,000, after government subsidies. As a result, the Medisave accounts that both my wife and I had built up over 10 years were wiped out overnight.... I also hope this serves as a reminder to couples who are planning to have a baby. The simple act of having your very own child could possibly turn out to be one huge financial nightmare.' World class facilities matched with world class bills. That must be expected. Nothing is for free. There is a price to everything.
MP Seah Kian Peng suggested that those who earned $100k or more should be opt in to donate the $100 they are receiving from the GST rebate the govt is giving out. I supported this definitely. I agree with Seah Kian Peng that they are so happily rich that $100 really mean nothing to them but a lot to those who need them. And I am very sure that those being opted in will be more than happy to do so. This is a happy opt in, though it violated their right from having the choice to opt in/out. What the heck? Can we just opt people into anything just because it is insignificant to them or useful to others?
'Without spirit, what is sport? You can have really nice buildings but without spirit, what use is the hardware?' Ang Peng Siong I like to borrow this statement by Ang Peng Siong and substitute sport with Singapore. Without spirit or passion, what is Singapore? We can have all the world best infrastructure and talents, but without spirit, we are nothing. Yes just a hotel.
Between Hell and Paradise Paradise is where everyone desires to be. It has the best of everything, world best! But paradise is only for the select few, the chosen few. Not many people can afford paradise. Many people will be in 'hell' in a way, the living hell. It is admirable for the govt of the day to want to build a paradise on earth, world best in everything. But can we afford it? How many can afford it? It is like the debate between Wei Ling and Philip. Philip operates on a huge budget and casts his net very wide. Wei Ling is talking about making choices with our limited resources. We need to be selective and spend cautiously. We want world best facilities in everything. Yes we must have them. But no, we cannot have all of them. Segmentation and allocation of our resources must take into account the reality. The 'we' is a very loose group of people stretching from the penniless to the super rich, including foreigners that we want them to be here to pay for world class facilities. National resources must be allocated to build or develop facilities according to the needs of the different segments of our society defined by financial affordability. We have to cater to the needs of all levels and our resources must be allocated proportionally. Ask anyone if they want world best facilities and I bet the answer is yes. But ask them to pay for it and the answer will be no. The govt will continuously be running on an ever expanding budget if it keeps on telling the people that it is striving to provide them with everything that is world best. And the govt will be perpetually coming back to demand more money from the people for their world best ideas. Why not just try to make 'hell' more liveable instead of building a paradise
Chapter Three The criminal trial has started. And Durai is facing two charges which he pleaded not guilty. The charges are 'using false documents with the intention of deceiving the NKF into paying out $25,000-$20,000....' Are these all the charges that he is going to face?