There were two letters pleading for mercy in the wake of Means Testing and the increasing hospital bills. Doris Ng Hui Choo has a daughter that needs to be hospitalised every now and then for a week and her household income is $3,500. She asked whether this HUGE INCOME of $3,500 is adequate to pay for her daughter's medical bills? And Adeline Koh Kwek Poh commented that even the Medisave accounts of a few siblings may not be enough to pay for hospital bills that come in 6 figures. Can such people be mercifully allowed to opt for C or B2 wards? Would our compassionate and very rich people think a little about the plight of the common folks? I have challenged the notion or perception that a $5000 household income is heavenly when it is the combined income of 4 or 5 adults, each earning about $1k. Their personal expenses will eat up every cent, forget about having spare cash. But would people whose income is in the millions appreciate that life is tough for families with $5000 household income?
With effect from 1 May, patients can now withdraw more from their Medisave to pay their medical bills. What it means is that they need not fork out so much cash. Now is this a good news or bad news? My old illiterate and ignorant mother used to say that going to hospital is free, cause can use CPF to pay. How nice. Does this big news really change anything? Is the medical fee and cost going to go down? Hmmmmm.....can we blame people for not having enough savings in their CPF for retirement?
That was what the Press was told by Vivian Balakrishnan. But according to PN Balji, the local media was taken to task by the foreign media for an obvious lapse in their reporting of the SGX affair. It was Dow Jones and The Asian Wall Street Journal that forced the issue and a change of mind at SGX. The episode is best described by Balji as 'A Fortnight that shouldn't be forgotten.' And Balji's article is in the Today paper. So at least the Today paper is feeling the pinch for the local msm for not playing the role of a watchdog. And it needs the foreign media to do the job. What does all these means? When Taksin was in power, everything was alright. So was the time when Suharto was in power. Their local media just played along with the power. But once power changes hand, all the skeletons came out. That is the powerful role of the press when it acts the role that it knows best.
The easiest job to do Many professional jobs require many years to strenous training and discipline to acquire knowledge and skills before one qualifies to practise. The lawyers, the doctors, the engineers, scientists etc. Even a chef will have to take years of training and practice to learn the rope. If we consider the discipline and years of training required as a guide to how difficult a job is, then politician is the easiest of all jobs. One can be a cook, a driver, a lecturer, an engineer, doctor or lawyer, but without any formal training, tomorrow one can become a politician. And the presumed expertise or ability is dependent on how successful one is in the previous profession. The higher one was paid before, the more able one is supposed to be as a politician. Maybe this part is a little tricky as a qualification. The loan shark or mafia boss or drug lord also earns in multiple of millions and should easily qualify as politicians. That is why in countries like Taiwan, Korea and Japan, the mafias are behind the politicians and with some becoming politicians. In brief, the requirement for a good politician is a clean moral record and be successful in any profession. Definitely much easier than any other professions.
Recent events centred on the issue of succession for Hsien Loong, less than three years after he became prime minister. It was a subject he himself raised. During the debate over pay and good government, the younger Lee surprised Singaporeans by saying that the search for his successor would start now. He would be ready to name him by 2011 and he should be ready to take over by 2016. If this timetable plays out, he would have served 12 years – two years less than his predecessor Goh Chok Tong. This could mean one thing. Lee Kuan Yew will be around to help decide who will succeed his son to become Singapore’s fourth prime minister. (This was first published in The Star on Apr 28, 2007) The above is an extract of an article by Seah Chiang Nee posted in the Star newspaper. I have only copied the last part of the article. The main article dealt with the bigger role player by LKY in domestic politics recently. Chiang Nee ended by saying that LKY will be around to decide who will succeed Hsien Loong as the next Prime Minister. What is pertinent to the above quote is that the ruling govt is sure that nothing will change in this island and in the next few elections PAP will still be the ruling party. This is how predictable Singapore politics or political system is. We already know who will win the next few general elections. Singaporeans can sleep in peace that there will be more good years.
When all little birds are busy catching their worms, all things under heaven will be peaceful. Everyone will be happy making their fortune in their own ways. People will simply be turned into economic animals and be contented in what they are doing and all the merry makings. But things will not be simply wished and the problems will go away. The political animals will have a field day engineering the system to their advantage. And Rip Van Winkle will wake up one day not knowing where he is or what has happened. The world around him would have changed without him knowing, without his input and without his interest.
Make a wish, rub it hard enough, and genie will appear to make it happen. Apparently the Extradition Treaty is seen in the same light. With the treaty, all the Indonesian problems of corruption will disappear. There will be no more corruption in Indonesia. What a magic formula. This is cheaper and better than Singapore's solution of making everyone a multi millionaire. Should Singapore test whether the treaty work by asking to extradite those who beat up Singaporeans or illegally detaining the Singapore barges? The first case is obvious as the treaty provided for the extradition of people murdering or hurting citizens of either country. The second should be covered under piracy and terrorism. Detaining of barges on legitimate business and plying the sea lanes is definitely piracy. And setting off bombs in the quarry in Karimum is definitely terrorism. Singapore should start the ball rolling.
They did it! They signed the Extradition Treaty and Defence Cooperation Agreement in godspeed! Unbelieveable. This has taken all critics from both countries by surprise. Yes it happened, it did not get drag on for another few more years. I too am greatly surprised. I never thought that it is possible, or at least under the present conditions when both political and legal systems are as diverse as day versus night. And our bureau chief in Jakarta, Azhar Ghani, wrote about the shockwaves and disbeliefs in Jakarta. All those who were angry with Singapore for dragging its feet, all those who thought that Yudhoyono was a lame President, have the carpet pulled off under their feet. It is a great piece of work for the Indonesian President to get this inked. Now the critiques will take on another form, that they must have inked a rotten deal and that Singapore is going to benefit more than Jakarta. A very familiar tune ala KL. Would the two countries move forward from this agreement and raise the level of cooperation to another level? Or will the next President tear it into pieces and everything return to square one, with more barges arrested and more bombings? But before that, does the agreement need to be ratify by the Indonesian Parliament and be passed? There will be another round of wayang kulit in Jakarta before this treaty be accepted as a statement of better ties between the two countries.
I have spoken to many little birds or many little birds have said to me, the same trend of thinking, why waste time posting? We have a great system, a new paradise, make the best out of it. Go out and make all the money that you can and enjoy life, more wine, karaoke, golfs, Batam etc. That's life and living for the successful Singaporeans. Let me qualify. Firstly, that I am not wasting time. My postings are done on my spare time which I can find plenty throughout the day. A little thoughts here and there and ideas pop up. And I am still trying to grab some money as best I can to have a little life the Singaporean way, the Singaporean aspiration. Now, how first world is a country that thinks this way? Read the msm or listen to the bird talks, it is all about the great buys and the big profits from the rising property prices, the killings in the stock exchange, the million dollar salaries. There is a lot of buzz of this kind. But where is the buzz that will see a little renaissance in this first world wannabe extraordinary island? If there are any worthy social or political discussions, very likely they are conducted behind closed doors. Snippets did came through in the msm, probably considered not too harmful. And there is also the official line of discussion by those who can set the agenda. I saw this article in the morning paper talking about what it takes to have more Einsteins. Walter Isaacson's theme is best summarised in this phrase, 'The whole theme of the last century, and of Einstein's life, is about people who fled oppression in order to go places to think and express themselves...he believes that the only way to have creativity and imagination is to nurture free thought - rebellious free thought.' How does this compares to what the little birds thought was best for this little island? Make money and live life! Isaacson was talking about producing great talented people with great minds. And one of the prerequisites is to 'nurture rebellious, imaginative free thinkers, rather than try to control expression.' Actually this is probably the most important message the the msm is trying to put across discreetly through this little article. The absence of alternative or rebellious views on social and political issues is stark. And to some, it is good for everyone. There is only one source of political view and one truth and one superior thought, and we are selling this to the world as the model for the future on how to govern a state. That is how extraordinary we are. Time to talk to the birds and be another little bird. Birds of the same feather flock together. Imagination is more important than knowledge - Einstein
I disagree with Don McKinnon 'Singapore's decision to give hefty pay rises to government ministers is a test case on keeping corruption at bay in a region where it is rampant, the Commonwealth's chief said Thursday. Don McKinnon, secretary-general of the group representing Britain and its 52 current and former territories, said it was premature to say if Singapore's new public compensation model could help Asia shake off its corruption problems.' AP If all the Asian political leaders are paid like our ministers, definitely there will be no more corruption in their countries. I will even think that if they are paid half of what we paid to our ministers they will also become corruption free. Don McKinnon said it is premature to make any conclusion. I also say that the conclusion is obvious. We have proven that it can be done.
It is an undeniable fact that this little red dot is an extraordinary country. With a population of slightly more than 3 million and as an independent country for less than 50 years, we are teaching the world a lot of things. It will be a matter of time before all the govts around the world will adopt our model to pay their ministers. And we are even teaching and advising China on it economic development strategy. And China is a country with an uninterrupted history of more than 5000 years and a foreign reserves of more than US$1 trillion dollars. And this is real. So who can deny us this honour of being an extraordinary country?
Loh Chee Kong was not very pleased with the censorship of the film, Zahari's 17 Years. He questioned the necessity to continue to ban a film on Zahari when books on him are available in the shops. Could the film be that different in presenting a different truth or truth from another angle? Or the motions, pictures and sound can have a greater impact on the viewers? What the film is about is the political activities of a man of an era and idealism that are history today. Like communism was once a taboo topic, today it is openly discussed as just another ideology that is no longer relevant to the creating of a new world. Would the life of Zahari be that influential and emotional that exposing it to the interested public would lead to unrest in our society? Have our society and people grown over the years, matured and be able to cope with the drama and issues of the past? Or we are still the naive and impressionable little country bumpkins that must be protected from the influence of the media, that we are still deemed to be unfit to see a different truth? We are first world, man!
After Balji shared his disappointment on the two 'could have been great leaders' but failing to nurture successors, the Today paper did the proper thing by allowing replies by Tan Kin Lian and another forumer to address the issue. Both came out with their facts to prove that the two leaders actually have done very well in developing many successors especially in the case of Philip. And the forumer, Rodney Tan Wee Hong, even have all the names to show what Philip had done. Rodney also made the comment that it is easy to criticise but one must support it with facts and not making sweeping and unsubstantiated statements in the main stream media. What has happened is that it proves that the right of reply is very important to balance out a one sided view. It gives a better and clearer truth.
This en bloc rule seems to be getting quite a hearing as more minority flat owners are affected. Apparently the majority have been dictating and imposing their goodness to the minority and getting away with it. Now what is the fuss when the minority are also having a beneficiary to it? They should be very thankful to the majority for carving out a deal which they would not be able to get on their own. I say, the minority should just live with the deal and should not be the stumbling block to progress and development. And the minority should not hold the majority at ransom just because one or two wanted a little more. It is just the rule of the game and everyone should play by the rule. In the name of progress and democracy, the en bloc ruling is a good thing and should be upheld until a better or more briliant formula is available.
I share the views of Nurul Aziah Hussin in her letter to the Straits Times today titled 'Encourage ownership of national issues.' I quote, 'Public response to issues such as the recent debate on the ministerial pay hike, is more than an expression of "emotion" - it is the expression of citizens taking ownership of these issues, and asing our Govt to rise to the challenge of accountability and justification beyond performance legitimacy.' Basically what she said is that the people must change gear, move up, play a bigger role, take more interest in national affairs. If the people are just sheep, contend to grazing their little patches of grass and oblivious to all things around them, then what good are we as a nation...of sheep?
In a totalitarian, authoritarian or dictatorial system, the power relationship is very simple. The ruler has absolute power and owns everything, including power of course. And they act in such a way that power will be theirs forever. This in many instances lead to the wielding of power without any restraint, and abuses are unavoidable. But the rulers have no fear as the ruled are unlikely to do anything, nor can they do anything to the rulers. Unfortunately, history has proven that this is not true as in the case of Saddam Hussein and his family. Also happened in ASEAN countries. But during the reign of these rulers, the ruled will accept whatever that they have to take. It was a defeatist attitude, a hopeless situation. The sheep and the shepherd. The people were owned by the rulers and their lives were meaningless except just to exist, but at the mercy of the rulers. In the western democracy model, the US and Europe, the rulers understand that their power is temporal, transcient. They are elected only for a number of terms. And it is only a matter of time before they become common folks, walking side by side with the people in the market or laughing together in the football stadium. Such rulers tend to be less dismissive and arrogant. For they will fall flat on their face when power is not there. And the people knew the formula. So the people are freer in their thoughts. They speak up when they need to. They need not fear that the rulers will fix them up nicely. And if the rulers do that, they have ways to answer back. Perhaps this is the strength of the western model, when power is not perpetuated as if it will always be there and those who assumed power can do what they want. The probability of abuses is that much lower as all good things will come to an end very rapidly. Where are we? Why did so many people that I talked to, even my friends, all have this undisclosed fear? Didn't they know that the bugger could be his kampong kid or the boy in the next HDB flat, but once in power, he becomes something different, someone to fear? Would they feel the same if they know that the bugger will in a matter of time become being ruled rather than the ruler?
Intelligence not linked to wealth I can't help but to quote this amazing truth that was confirmed by a US study. "People don't become rich because they are smart.' Jay Zagorsky, a research scientist at Ohio State University. He added that IQ has really no relationship to a person's wealth. So for those who wanted to acquire more wealth to prove that they are smart, or afraid that they will look stupid to the stupid guy who is richer than them because of money, have no fear. If you are smart, you are smart. If you are stupid you are stupid. And for those who still want to pursue more wealth to look smart, then it is a case of plain stupidity. But if you can, you should grab more. Nothing wrong with having more money even if one is stupid. Hope this will take away some pressure for some people: )
Why are people crying foul of the en bloc rulings? In a democracy or democratic system where the majority rules, this is what it should be or must be. The majority, even if 51%, assumes all the power of the rest. And this en bloc ruling is even more stringent, demanding that 80% majority only can the group impose their wills on the 20% who disagree. Yes, the 80% can sell off your property against your will. And that is what the minority must accept. This is the beauty of a democratic system. I think when the rules were first mooted, it was a way to prevent a small unreasonable minority from going against the good sense of the majority. Now the table is turned against the minority by the tyranny of the majority. They knew that the law is on their side and they just lumped it to the minority. And they even ignored the minority completely by not informing them. I am impressed with such intelligent people. Play by the rule and take full advantage of the rule that favours you.
After spending time at the St James Station partying with the young PAPs and explaining the ministerial hike to the Press, LKY came out to address the fear of the Indon Extradition Treaty. It will not affect our property prices and the Indonesian rich will not be running away. That is about the gist of what he said. There is fear of how this treaty will impact our large pool of rich Indonesians who have been staying here and investing in our properties and businesses. And the fear is genuine as the main reason that has been floated all these while is to deal with the 'corrupt' rich Indonesians that are here. You can't blame the rich Indonesians for having second thoughts about their well beings. And one can't dissuade the property speculators that this will not have any impact on the property markets. There will be some who will have to change their investment plans and sell off some of their holdings. The rich are mobile and when there is uncertainty, the best option is to disappear to safer ground. No point and no need to put themselves to risk. Now we watch and see how this extradition treaty will play up or down our property market.
Not that a council of elders will be in the cards. Not that it will matter whether there is or there isn't a council of elders to make any material change. I am continuing this discussion simply for discussion's sake as a follow up to an interesting point raised by Chua Soo Kiat in his article in the Today paper on the same topic. Though Soo Kiat was advocating that more women are needed rather than oldies, he pointed out that paying a council of elders a token sum is a problem. How's that? Affordability is one problem, but a minor one. It is the moral authority of a council of elders that will be perceived by the public to be higher than those that work just purely for money. So the more one gets paid, the lesser is the moral authority, and vice versa. If this is going to be how the people will look at our political leaders, then the whole exercise of multi million dollar ministerial pay may erode and undermine their authority as we march towards the next general election. Money now seems to be the foremost factor in the minds of Singaporeans. Though I say that a council of elders may not be of interest to anyone now, but if we consider paying every one elected into the council a million or so, maybe it will revive some interest to have such a council. After all, money talks and many will be interested especially when millions are available for the taking. The more posts and positions created, the more people will stand to benefit. And no one has to come out from their pockets. Just pay from the public coffers.
According to PN Balji, Philip Yeo and Tan Kin Lian could have been great leaders but missed the boat. His misgiving for these two guys is that they left without a successor in place. In my view, they are great leaders, with their warts as all humans possessed, for all their achievements. And I can't blame them as both were young men with many years to go. Compare to all the octogenarians still strutting their stuff around, one cannot possibly expect these two young men in their prime to think of retiring. Philip has a lot more to do to see his baby grow. Kin Lian may be in a different league and may be waiting for a MNC offer. But both are doing extremely well. Then Balji quoted Nelson Mandela who quitted after one term as a great example of great leaders who never over stay their welcome. Now what does that mean? In our little island, dearth of talents, we cannot simply afford great leaders to warm their seats for one term and quit. If that is the game, soon we will be asking FTs to take over all the important leadership positions. We understand our problems and is doing everything we can to attract and retain leaders for a life time as long as they can contribute and still kicking.
So the extradition treaty and defence cooperation agreement are going to be sealed while our barges are still being detained on hazy charges. And bombs exploded in a Singaporean company in Karimum. And instead of investigating and dealing with the saboteurs, the management of the company are detained for more hazy charges. The public may not know what the deals were and what have been resolved, but coming at a time like this is a bit stinking. And we clapped to trumpet the good relations with Jakarta. Let's hope more sands and reasons will prevail.
While the debate and airing of the ministerial pay hike were furious, both in the MSM and cyberspace, the battle line is quite clear. The ruling party is obviously fully behind it, with a few exceptions, and there were Ministers and MPs standing up to defend the position. The opposition's view is as good as anyone can expect. And so are the views of the public. So far I have yet to hear anyone having a good thing to say about the issue. And they are all being polite and circumscribe. What about the opinion makers and those luminaries with a view? The academics, the retired or elder statesmen and civil servants, the professionals and the newsmakers? These are people that must have a view. They cannot be clueless or opinionless. So far there is an almost total silence. Where are the voices of the elite of this Little Red Dot? Their silence could mean two things. For or against. These densely opinionated elite cannot be fence sitters. Perhaps they are all for the pay hike so nothing more to add. Or they are against it but have taken the cue or sense that it is better to shut up. That would be a shame for a first world nation or a little country boasting of being first world when opinions and views that matter were found wanting. The overwhelming presence of LKY and his intense support for the pay hike may be a suffocating factor. Just my opinion. I think not many would want to take the other corner to take on such a heavy weight that holds no punches. Now which is the case? Where are the elite or is this the proof that we need, that Singapore is sorely in need of talents or alternative political leadership?
IN THE PAST, WHEN YOU WERE CHIEF MINISTER, YOUTHS PLAYED A POLITICALLY-ACTIVE ROLE. HOW HAS THE ROLE OF YOUTHS CHANGED AS COMPARED TO THE PAST? The role of youths! Ha! In my time, I tried to educate our people in an understanding of the dignity of human life and their right as fellow human beings, and youth was not only interested but excited about what I consider things that matter. Things of the spirit; the development of a human being to his true potential in accordance with his own personal genius in the context of equal rights of others. Today, youth is interested in getting paper qualification and, as soon as possible, shoveling gold into their bank accounts. It’s a different world, even the law. I am a consultant here [Drew & Napier]. When I left in ’78, there were three partners – it was supposed to be a big firm; two assistants – we were a big firm; 17 staff. This office has four floors. They think that it is a waste of time to use the lift so we have an internal staircase. We have more than 90 lawyers, more than 200 secretaries and I don’t know how many staff. The law is no longer a vocation, it is a business. Everything is geared to business! Of course, there is this pragmatic development of our country. Ah, our rising expectations of a pragmatic character! It is a fantastic and almost a miraculous development in my lifetime. When I was Chief Minister, there were men dying of starvation and because of ‘beri-beri’. I took my PA [personal assistant] and an Inspector of Police for night at midnight. For two hours, we toured Singapore and we estimated there were two ten thousand men sleeping on the pavements. No homes. Today - no unemployment, no homeless. I started this business of building homes for our people. Compare the puny work I achieved and the fantastic HDB homes that are available today for our people. I am deeply impressed and I take off my hat to this very able honest government. Dedicated! But I am seen as a critic and I am a critic. I am frankly terrified by this massive control of the mass media, the press, the radio, television, antennae, [and] public meetings. You can’t write a letter to the Straits Times; if there is a shadow of criticism, it’s not published. And the Chinese press follows suit. It’s a very dangerous position because experience proves that no one group of human beings has got all the wisdom in the world. I mean… well, two of you are Chinese and one Indian [Ed: actually, the interviewers were one Chinese, one Jew and one Indian]. I don’t know much about Indian history but look at China. You had Confucian authoritarianism for more than 2500 years. What happened to China? She was a fossil. She had to reinvigorate herself with the Western ideology of communism. Another authoritarian ideology! And what was the result? There must have been a million decent people who were transformed into vipers, vicious obscene vipers. I’m afraid of this control of the mass media. And are youths the miasma of apathetic subservience to authority? But you say to yourselves, “Well, you know, what do we seek in life? We seek a rice bowl, full!” It is full and overflowing, in fact. They serve you your rice in a jade bowl with golden chopsticks; not that it makes much difference to the taste of the rice. But you’re empty! You’ve got technocratic skills and you are seeking more but internally you are empty. Money is your acid test of success. I’ve got nothing against money. I’d like to have money myself! I’d like to have a house and a garden and dogs and a car and a chauffeur but, look, I’ve got a flat. I’ve got a swimming pool attached to the flat. I’ve not even got a car but I use taxis. I have a dignified way of life without being wealthy. I don’t see the necessity of owning a Mercedes-Benz and a swimming pool and a couple of mistresses. I think we’ve got our values all wrong. You know $96,000 a month for a Prime Minister and $60,000 a month for a minister. What the hell do you do with all that money? You can’t eat it! What do you do with it? Your children don’t need all that money. My children have had the best of education. In fact, I’m very proud of them. One of them is a senior registrar to two major hospitals in Oxford. Another of them is a consultant in European law to the Securities and Investment Board in the United Kingdom. They’ve had their education. There are no complaints. I never earned $60,000 a month or $90,000 a month. When I was Chief Minister, I earned $8,000 a month. Look, what is happening today is we are encouraged to and are becoming worshippers of the Golden Calf. We have lost sight of the joy and excitement of public service, helping our fellow men. The joy and excitement of seeking and understanding of the joy of the miracle of the living the duty and the grandeur. We have lost taste for heroic action in the service of our people. We have become good bourgeois seeking comfort, security. It’s like seeking a crystal coffin and being fed by intravenous injections through pipes in the crystal coffin; crystal coffins stuck with certificates of your pragmatic abilities. What has changed? The self-confidence of our people has grown immensely, and that is good to see. Our pragmatic abilities have grown magnificently, and that is good to see. Very good to see! You are very able. You’re ambitious, and the government has heroic plans for the future. It hasn’t finished. I take off my hat to the pragmatic ability of our government but there is no soul in our conduct. It is a difficult thing to speak of because it is difficult to put in a computer, and the youth of Singapore is accustomed to computer fault. There is no longer the intellectual ferment, the passionate argument for a better civilisation. The emphasis on the rice bowl! Tell me I’m wrong, come on. THE PAP GOVERNMENT HAS INDEED DONE A GREAT DEAL FOR SINGAPORE. HOWEVER, THERE IS AN INCREASING DEGREE OF DISCONTENT GROWING AMONGST OUR YOUTHS AGAINST THEM. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS HAPPENING? Our lives are empty. The above is an extract of an interview with David Marshall posted at http://thinkhappiness.blogspot.com/2006/08/meeting-david-marshall-in-1994.html. Have we cheapen public service and the passion to serve our nation and people? Or Singaporeans are all a bunch of money grabbers and nothing else?
Those were the words of LKY. He added, 'If we lose our top talent, then we will decline as a nation.' While we are calling for the retention of our talent, we are encouraging many to leave, to work overseas, and in their place, filled with foreign talent. Or did our talent left because they were unwanted, not appreciated in their own home? The prophets are not welcomed in their own towns. The risks and consequences of this craziness is like a blood transfusion for no reasons. Remove our own blood and replaced it by alien blood. How would it affect our system? What if the alien blood contains aids or some other viruses? What if the alien blood is green? If we don't value our own talent at home, we surely will have a new Singapore, more vibrant, but not the Singaporeans that were here before. The talents that left our shore will return to find themselves as aliens. And they may not even be welcomed.
Dharmendra Yadav wrote about the need for a council of elders to act as a check to Parliament amidst the controversial ministerial pay rise. The thought behind this call is simple, there is a need to check Parliament when controversial or untenable bills or issues are raised and passed. The need for a neutral and counterbalancing voice is obviously felt by many except the govt. This is natural as the govt would think that it is the best and, being voted to power by the people, is supreme and has the mandate to do what it thinks is right. And it will not submit to another group to check on its power and actions. Such a call is at best a mental exercise as it will never be implemented by any party in power. Who would want to share power or have their hands tied? Which party will be brave enough, generous enough, to want to do this knowing that it is for the good of the future of the country?
So much have been said about how vulnerable we are as a little island that we cannot afford any mistake. And the worst case scenario is a rogue govt that went about helping itself in state of helping the people. Without good men in leadership we are doomed. This scenario assumes that we have a dud administrative service and a submissive army and police that would allow a rogue govt to go on a rampage, unrestraint. It also assumes that the running of the country is only by the political leaders while the civil servants and uniformed groups will just simply take orders, unthinking and unminding. Would we reach a day when Ah Kow and his gang be elected as the next govt and went about paying themselves $5 mil or $10 mil per head and the civil servants and uniformed services just quietly stood by without lifting a finger? Or would the civil servants and the uniformed groups just join in the party and help themselves as well? Such a scenario is possible when the people are unthinking, or seasoned not to think and rather be sheep and hoping to be led, and hope against hope that good leaders would be picked and chosen. I find this position very dangerous. We need a thinking people in all walks of life to think that the future of the country is theirs to make. And that they must have a say in how the country is being run. And when they think the country is not properly run, they must stand up and step forward to help run the country. This can only come true if we have a system that will facilitate or be conducive for leaders to step forward themselves rather than be chosen. A leader is a leader in his own right, not waiting to be picked. A picked leader is anything but a leader. It is at best an employee, fit the bill of the selection board and put into his proper place. We need to question whether the present formula is the only formula for our continued well being or if there are better formula. One thing is for sure. If we think this is it, this is the only way, I think we are doomed. All empires thought that theirs was the only way. And all failed eventually. Our current system is too dependent on a few good men. And if the next few good men turned out to be rogues, we are in deep trouble when the system is not tuned to react and change for the better but only to take orders.6
That is perhaps what Janadas Devan was trying to say about how our ancestors acquired this gift from nature. And he has the internet to support his case with plenty of lurid examples, some carved to such refinement that they should be collected in a book and would probably become a best seller. And for those who find it impossible to quit, like smoking, fear not. And also do not despair. Just blame it on nature.
'How Much?' No no, I am not talking about minister's pay again. Practically all the things that need to be said other than the obvious have been spoken. It is time to forget and move on. I am referring to the big bucks in sports. It was horrifying to know that our dream for the World Cup Final is tainted with game fixing. Is this the reason why we will never make it to the World Cup? But if money is an issue, then our World Cup dream can easily be realised. Money is what we have. In our squeaky clean environment, it is incomprehensible to think that bribery or game fixing happens in our super league. I can expect such things to happen in other big leagues, but definitely not here. After all we are all super clean and if not, we just pay them well and the problem will simply go away. We better set up a task force to study the pay of professional footballers. And if they are not competitive enough, surely they deserve a pay rise to keep them clean. But if the problem is small enough, and we have our fame anti corruption agencies to handle them, then perhaps, no payrise is necessary. Of course the football talents would disagree. If there is no huge payrise, then more such cases will appear in the papers.
Yes, it is very difficult when there is no absolute power, when there are many powerful interest groups with strong support bases, when the rule of law and constitutions are supreme, like the USA. In the most recent case of the unmasking of a secret agent by a top govt official, only in the USA that the culprit can be brought to task. There is not only a separation of power, but the opposition is equally strong to prevent abuse by the top national executives. Then life is not so easy. George Bush is now facing opposition in his war in Iraq. He needs to convince the people's representatives that what he is doing is right and for the good of the nation. As long as others are not convince, he cannot do as he wishes. But when there is hardly any opposition, hardly any strong interest groups to challenge the govt, everything goes. And running a command economy is about the easiest thing to do. All essential services are a monopoly in every way. The supplier dictates the service, the quality of service, the price to be paid, without competition and opposition. How difficult is such a task? And to lose money in a monopoly is criminal. Yes there are airlines, steel mills, etc that gone bust despite being monopolies and with govt backings, all because of corruption and incompetence. In a functional govt when there is rule of law, when there is transparency, when there are watchdog agencies, incompetence and corruption will be nipped in the bud. Unless everyone is walking with eyes closed. Compare to the private sector that operates by demand, when the customer is king, life is not so easy. Any goods or service providers thinking of raising his price should be wary of losing his customers and market share. And they cannot dictate to the customer what is good for the customer. The customer decides what is good for him and what price he is willing to pay. There are alternatives and substitutions from competitive suppliers and service providers. So, which economy demands greater skills and greater talents? (Matilah, your favourite thesis)
Revisiting Means Testing Of the many reasons behind means testing is the assumption that family is the core and all family units are functional. In the Singapore of today, when many are trying to make ends meet, the family unit that is intact is probably the parent and small children. The parents will often sacrifice for their children, paying and giving without asking for anything in return. Unfortunately this only holds true when the family is young. When the children have grown, it becomes to each his own. An extended family or a bigger family may look good on paper, with household income of $5k a month, but 5 or more mouths to feed. And bet you, this is not a large sum and a lot of tightening is still required. And when it comes to a big lump sum to be paid, many do not have the spare capacity to do so. A $10k or $20k hospital bill is going to turn their lives upside down. The premise that children must pay for their parents, when children have children to pay for, is stretching the ability a little too far. But of course, when children are earning a million a year, filial piety is a given. For there are a lot of spare cash flowing around. Thinkings of people earning millions are definitely different from those earning a couple of thousands a month. Even husband and wife may not be on speaking terms or on the verge of a divorce. So would a cash rich husband or wife be forced to pay for a spouse that they would not want to see for the rest of their lives? We may have laws to enforce such payments. But if the paying party just refuse to oblige, the problem is still with the patient. What can the law do? Or can the hospital says, your husband or wife or children must pay. Otherwise the bill is still your problem? How I wish all the Singaporeans are all earning a million dollars and their family units are functional. The reality is far from it. And paying hospital bills can break up family ties and strain relations.
Great People, great country A country can only be great when its people are great. The people can only be great when their hearts are one, thinking only of country. The ruler should rule wisely, and the people should be thinking people and obey wisely. To borrow from Confucius, The ruler must be ruler, the people be people, the father be father and friends be friends. The relationship of these four groups forms the basis of a good and strong nation. When the relationship is wrong, when ruler does not rule wisely, when people do not think wisely, when father does not behave like father and when friends are less than friends, the country will be disunited. Are our ruler and people having the same dream? Are our people thinking people or blind sheep?
During the days of the Japanese Occupation, life was tough. And the worst of human traits were allowed to be given full play. Everyone was fighting for his own survival. There was no more righteousness, no more loyalty, no pride, no shame. Many locals sold their souls to the dark side. They became informers for the Kempeitai and reported on their friends, neighbours and even relatives. Many were killed or savagely tortured by the Japanese, all because of these informers. When the Japanese surrendered, many of these informers were identified by their neighbours and beaten to death on the streets. Do not be tempted by the dark side and lose your souls.
Reading the newspapers daily, one cannot be helped but to find that NKF is everywhere, but in different shades and shapes. The blatant violation of good corporate governance, the violation of fundamental principles of propriety and management principles, and the tolerance to such violations seems so convenient when people just refused to call a spade a spade. Do we need the same kind of exposure of another NKF to see more red faces? Our standard of right and wrong, of good practices, fair play etc are being eroded away right below our noses. And the party continues.
Singapore is a very good place to live and to make a fortune. And there are many who have taken full advantage of the conducive environment to make the best of their lives. Many have become multi millionaires and billionaires. We have a little paradise here. And I mean it. While many have made it in life and been very successful, the next thing that comes to mind is the higher calling. What next when you have everything? Some have answered to God's calling. Some have taken on social causes in fighting poverty or saving animals or the environment. They have done these as a cause, not for the money, but for a higher calling. A few have stepped into politics to serve the people and nation. But far too few. This has created a problem, it seems. And some, whose only meaning in life is to accumulated more money and more money, thinks that the only way to attract such good and talented people into politics, to serve the people, is to give them more money. Money will solve every problem. Just throw the money at them. Just because someone is only motivated by money, it does not mean that others will equally be motivated by money. Human beings are made differently. Some will easily succumbed to greed and other failings of human weaknesses. Some will be steadfast and will not compromise themselves and their values at any cost. The rest are in between. Take a look around us and it is very easy to find at least a couple of hundreds of very good and decent people who have all the money they need in life, lasting for a few generations, that would be as good at those in the govt. Why are these good men and women not coming forward to serve? Serving the nation and people is another higher calling that many will do it just for peanuts. Does anyone know the reasons? Does anyone know? While we are pondering the reasons, let's not insult the whole population by thinking that everyone is moneyminded and thinking selfishly of themselves. And that we can throw money at people to join politics. If these people come forward because of money, then they are not the right people to attract.
Staunching the legal bleed. Lawyers are running to join the private sector. 6.55% attrition rate. Horrors. It is good that a 10% salary hike is on the way. Maybe more with the next adjustment end of the year. With the Civil Service facing a 4.8% to 5.7% attrition rate, some departments going as high as 25%, it is necessary to do a quick fix. I would think a 20% or 30% increment would do the job nicely. Departments or Ministries with high attrition rate should accordingly be adjusted with higher pay hikes. Those with lower attrition rates should naturally get lower pay hike. According to the MSM, the attrition rate of banks is 20-25%. And the banks said it is normal. Probably not proactive enough. And for engineers, they reckoned 10% is the norm. A HR consultant commented that 20% is healthy as it provides room for renewal. I think this is a matter of opinion. I will be more comfortable with a 10% renewal rate. 20% is a little on the high side and certain industries, too high a turnover may not be healthy. But it is also very unhealthy to have too low a turnover. It is actually bad when the organisation is paying so well or so comfortable that no one wants to leave. Then a lot of inbreeding and old habits and old thinking will be perpetuated to preserve the system and the incumbents. And the top all got clogged up leaving little room for the new blood to move up. I have experienced with certain organisations where senior managers were kicked upstair or somewhere to do sweet nothing and all refused to leave because they were still being paid very handsomely. Some turnover is healthy, definitely. And anything less than 10% is nothing to panic about.
There is a letter by Alvin Tan Sheng Hui disputing the numbers of Muchamed Elfian Harun that $207 a month for the Public Assistance cases is sufficient, and some can save from it also. Alvin put up some figures to say that this sum is definitely inaccurate and not enough. I can understand Alvins's point. But to put the argument from another perspective, one must have a reference point or something to compare with. In the first place these are non talentsor not talented people. And you can only compare them with the same group which has very low market value. If there are other organisations paying such people more money, then there will be reasons to give them a hefty increase. And they can't possibly quit to go to another agency to give them more allowances. It is all about comparison and supply and demand, and also talent.
As more numbers are being churned out. As the lower level employees were told that their pay hike is between 3% to 8%, and when they compare them to those of the ministers, some as high as 25% or 30%, the position will be more untenable. The pay hike at the ministerial level is not only huge in absolute term but also in percentage term. I think the ministers have their jobs cut out for them, to defend this pay hike till the next general election.
When ex cheat is rewarded for dishonesty This is the headline of a letter by Yap Guat Hoon. Yap was appalled by the publicity splashed across the media and questioned the value we are passing to the young or to the masses. 'As parents, we must be watchful of subtle messages that permeate our minds and that of our children. The media, too, must be on guard as it weighs the opportunity to inform and its power to influence.' Yap Guat Hoon Is there a difference between this kind of cheats and those cheating public donations? At one time, when poverty was the order of the day in China, cheating, robbery, con men, etc all became a profession, a way of life. And we too have HK movies glorifying such professionals. Gangsterism as well, with their own honour and loyalty codes. We got to be careful and be thinking, and not be misled by the glorification of tinsel towns. Or we already have accepted such values and that our mindsets have changed to become MoneyMind.
When $1 is enough and $1 mil is not enough. When 80 people can decide to sell your property or the roof over your head. When reasons failed to convince, just use threats. When other people earn more than you, then you deserve to earn more. When your money is no longer your money. When cheats are glorified and highly applauded simply because they cheated, oops, they earned a lot of money by other than the accepted means. When frauds in the millions cannot be brought to justice. When the passion to serve the nation and people is lesser than the passion to make millions. When everything is measured in terms of dollars. The end is near.
This is a thread in the YPAP forum. And my answer is NO. They have explained very clearly that it is not the money, it is not for them. The pay hike is for the future, to attract future talents. And Hsien Loong is even going to donate his pay hike to charity to prove that it is not the money. And what about the rest? They will do it quietly, not ostentatiously. And since the pay hike is not for them, they did not lose their moral authority to lead. period. Can't the people understand and accept the explanation and move on? What do the people want now?
Singaporeans are truly lucky lots. They are living in paradise without knowing. On one end it is a land of opportunities. Money is everywhere for grabs. Depending on how talented one is, everyone is so happy grabbing everything for themselves. And there are plenty to go around. On the other end of paradise, when all the work is done, one can retire without a worry. Providing a roof over their heads is not a problem. And meals will even be delivered to the homes. There will also be volunteers to help clean the flats. And pocket money will be provided, all $290 a month! Wow, wow, when the body is unwilling, when one cannot eat, barely can move, barely can do anything, $290 is alot of money. Some may not know what to do with this kind of money. Too much money and nowhere to go, nowhere to spend. Singaporeans are so lucky.
'With around $207 at his disposal each month, a prudent Public Assistance recipient may be able to save for future expenses.' Muchamed Elfian Harun. I fully agree with Muchamed. If my roof and 3 meals are taken care off, $207 will become my disposable income. I don't smoke nor drink. Wow, that is a lot of money to spend. And I don't even have to leave my house. Sometimes I wonder what am I living for? Not much different from a zombie, huh? And Mr Wang had also came to the conclusion that the maids are richer than many Singaporeans with their $300 disposable income when food and shelter have been out of the way. Compare this to a Singaporean who earns $1000. After deducting CPF, transportation, food and lodging, there is hardly any money left as disposable income. Yes a maid with $300 is richer than a Singaporean earning $1000 a month.
Matilda Chua is in court to answer criminal charges but nothing to do with NKF. This time she was charged under the Securities Industry Act for share tradings and manipulating the accounts of GNR. Looks like they really have not done anything criminal in the NKF fiasco.
The pay hike in the public sector will push the private sector to follow suit. The only limiting factor will be the bottom line. In the private sector, pay hike can only be sustainable when the organisation is making money and not because someone else is paying more. Then we have the rise in rental in commercial and residential properties. And we have our famous GST increase plus all the increases. Suddenly no one is asking whether we can be competitive when everything is going up. Can we compete with China and India with our rising cost? Or we have a magic formula that says cost is no longer an issue and we can continue to raise our operating cost and remain competitive? I can only see foreign workers and FTs playing a greater role in our economy and at the expense of our citizens. Something gotta give. The investors have voted with their feet in the past. And they will do so again. And if Malaysia plays its cards right with the IDR, more companies will relocate. The slack may be taken up to some extent by the IRs. Would we face the same predicaments when job losses were the order of the day? Or would the pay hike brings about more talented solutions to our past problems when the world economy swings the wrong way?
Brace up for higher parking charges in the town areas. The rich people said parking in these areas are cheap even when one is sure to find a lot in the Orchard Road area. And they cannot understand why parking lots are always available. Normally charges will go up when demand is so high that you cannot find a lot to park. Or in the case of the expressways when the roads are jammed. Now the reason is because it is cheap. Cheap according to who? To people who earn hundreds of thousands a month? My goodness, another case of 'how much is enough.' And for the heartlanders, don't worry, their turn will come when they compare the price difference and conclude that parking in the heartland is real cheap.
The front page of a newspaper is always reserved for the most important news of the day. Today, the most important news in Singapore are: 1. JI and terrorism. 2. Young superstar, boy won top film awards 3. Measures to cut children drowning 4. How to make strong coffee. These are the things that Singaporeans are worried or concerned about.
Does anyone know how it feels to work your shit out for one whole bloody month to take home $1000 and hear that other people earn $100,000 in one day? How would such lowly people think and feel? Don't blame them for begrudging. They do not know how to begrudge. They are just going bonkers! It just reinforces their sense of helplessness and unworthiness in living. Looks like it is time for the arsehole to just shut up.
It's not about money I am very disappointed with the Singaporeans. How can they ever think that the Ministers are only thinking of the pay hike for themselves? These are able and honourable men handpicked by a proven system that would have checked them through and through. And one of the things they would have carefully assessed is greed. These are leaders who have stepped forward and sacrificed their huge private sector pay to serve the people. As Dr Yaacob had said. 'Really it's not about me, it's not about the Cabinet...' It is all about the future, the well being of the nation and people. The pay hike is for future leaders to come forward to serve the country. And future leaders can only be attracted by at least $2 million, maybe more. This is only the beginning. I hope the people really think carefully and support the pay hike. The fact that the current ministers are getting paid now is only incidental. See, Hsien Loong has even donated the pay hike to charity. And you can expect more of them to do so. And don't accuse them of ostentatious generosity. It is all about you, the Singaporeans, who are going to benefit from this pay hike.
I have a dream team that will turn Singapore into a Utopia. But you must have faith in my dream team. The Utopia will come in about 30 years time. As for the price of my dream team, $30 million each, or roughly $1 mil a month plus bonus. We will deliver as promise.
I have been pondering over the erosion of the concept of statehood. This use to come with a lot of pre conditions and obligations from the ruler and the ruled. At the rate we are going, soon statehood or nationhood will be a thing of the past. Yes Singapore Inc. Everything will be run in a businesslike manner. No obligations other than contractual. No ownership, no emotional attachment. Everything is in the price. Everything has a price. And for those who are against National Service, the day will come when private agencies will recruit their own military men to offer their services at a price. It has started. The national security of a nation can be farmed out to non citizens to run roughshod over citizens. Sorry, no more citizens but production digits. The Americans are also recruiting non citizens to fight in Iraq. It is time to change the titles of the head of state and govt. The private sector has taken the lead. Every organisation has their presidents and vice presidents. The state should also change and have Chairmans and Managing Directors and Directors.
I have refrained from touching on this topic to steer clear of some primordial sensitivities. There are things in life that are left best unsaid or the otherwise sensible and clear thinking men and women could be consumed by irrational rage and tear down a whole nation. Why do they have to report this in the main stream media? It is no secret, and has been going for years, all 10 wives and 64 children are living monuments that paraded the streets daily. Why now and why make it as if it is great news? Obviously many must have thought that there was nothing wrong and tolerable. In a small little compact country like us, such things cannot escape the eyes of those who need to know. Where is the fault? Don't blame the authority. Everyone is at fault. When able men and women, some have strings of straight As, are prepared to sit in front of a charlatan, probably even failed his PSLE, and listen to his craps every week, and are afraid to disagree with him, that is the fault. It transcends all religions and races. I was reading this 'highly acclaimed book by a highly acclaimed man' called 'Jerusalem Countdown', and my immediate reaction was that this is probably the third most dangerous book ever written. The influence of this book has led to powerful personalities living their lives and dictating national policies based on the reasonings in the book. And they set out to kill and destroy and believing that it was all faithful duty and destiny. The authority of course does not come from this book, but from more dangerous books written in ancient times. And they believe it is all about righteousness, about a divine order, to kill other fellow men and women, young and old, to fulfil a prophecy. When would modern people be sane or confident enough to ask the right questions and debunk all the dangerous ancient myths that common sense would say are simply wrong? Is the fear of God a sign of wisdom or a sign of naivity?
Maslow's 5th level of Needs - Self Delusion Have we crossed the rubicon? The staunch supporters of PAP, some MPs and Ministers, adamantly said no and are sticking to their guns. This is the best policy, though a giant bitter pill to swallow. This is reality. People loves money and will work only for money. They would even go to the extend of paying even more as the formula is deemed the correct formula and the answers coming out from the formula must be correct. A cold calculative method, delinked from any emotional attachment and sentiments. Another GIGO. Can political decisions be made by a mathematical formula that does not take into consideration all the sensitivities of politics? Why is there a need to get our best minds to be in Humanities? Maybe this is a case of too much hard sciences and engineering. The lack of the human element is so glaring. Just hear the responses from the ground as reported in the Straits Times. 1. The numbers just don't look good, laments Nee Soon South grassroots leader Poh Phien Seah....he is finding it almost impossible to explain to constituents why the same govt that this week said it was necessary to raise ministers' salaries to $1.6 million, also refused to raise the public assistance allowance for its poorest citizens by more than $30 a month. 2. The disparity is so great...says Mr Poh, who owns a logistics business. 3. People ask me, why not do more for the poor, especially in their twilight years? I don't know how to explain to them...grassroot leaders 4. Shanmugam, ...the decision was bound to strain the social compact. This is one of those policies on which political capital has to be spent. 5. Medical practitioner Edith Quah, a grassroots leader in Chong Pang, warns that some community volunteers are so disillusioned by the Govt's decision, they might stop helping out. I am talking about very loyal grassroots people who are saying this. Why? Because they see the fragmentation in society. We feel this move is a bit self serving and the timing is very insensitive. Here you have people struggling to buy school books and uniforms for their children. Despite such negative feedbacks, is there any minister who will say that it is a bad thing to do? Or how many MPs will still insist that it is a right thing to do? Or would they have stuck to the position if they were not ministers or MPs? Do they really believe in what they are saying if they were not in the same camp? Here comes the self delusion. At this stage, no decision can be wrong. Every decision is the best decision and must be right. Like it or not, it has been decided and it is for the good of the people and country. The people are just too ignorant to understand the goodness and wisdom of the decision. I know best. And they will forget when the next election comes. Or when the economy is good the decision will be vindicated. The people appreciate the Govt's transparency and intention and are probably more receptive to the proposal now. Presumably some bought the arguments.... The people will just move on because there is nothing much they can do except to register in private ways their disquiet. Where it matters, at election time, Singaporeans will not judge the PAP govt on this issue only. I think the next election will be just another walkover. Just paste a dollar sign on the candidate's face and nothing more needs to be said.
Is this debate worth it? A definite yes from the PAP's point of view. It is an opportunity to air all the misconceptions and misunderstanding about the pay rise. It is all about transparency and that they have nothing to hide. And the PAP has achieved its objectives of explaining to the people and the people are satisfied with the explanation and justification for the formula and the pay rise. My impression is totally reverse. I think this is a serious tactical mistake on the part of the PAP. Once the formula is out for the airing, it was torn to pieces by everyone, the men on the street as well as inside Parliament. Only the converted will still want to believe that everything is alright and the formula is still worthy of what it was set out to be. The presentation of the charts etc did more harm than good to its cause. The whole debate is not only creating a big doubt. It confirms a lot of things which the people were not happy about. It reinforces the cynicism and scepticism that were once only heard in whispers. Now it is spoken loud and clear in Parliament and in prints in the MSM. Anyone agree or disagree with my assessment?
Beware of your supporters! This guy dug a hole in the middle of the road. Then he went to his master and assured him the road ahead was all rosy. And together with a few more followers they cheered their master as he gingerly tip toed ahead towards the hole.
Virtues and benevolence in public office are passe I read with amazement, Chua Mui Hoong's article that in the present new age of Moneyism, old virtues should be dumped. Forget about Confucianism. Just think Money with a capital M. She also said that only the ministers and PAP MPs were strongly in support of high pay for ministers and the opposing voices came from the opposition and NMPs. This is only a simple generalisation as some MPs also spoke candidly about their opposition. What I am uneasy about is whether Chua Mui Hoong is extolling the new virtues of money talks? No money no talks. No money no public service, no passion for service to nation and people. Sacrifice is now an anachronism. And she put it as if this is what the new generation of Singaporeans are today. Is that a true picture? Are the people all so money minded? Are there no longer any saints or heroes among Singaporeans who would work just for a paltry $1 million in public service? Are chivalry, duty and honour, all to be dumped into the waste bin? I am wondering what are we teaching our young in schools today? I am also wondering what are we telling our soldiers and our civil servants? Would every Singaporean walk into his boss' office and ask, 'How much?'
Defending an Indefensible position An article by Jasmine Yin in the Today paper tried to defend the position that it is justifiable to pay ministers the million dollar payrise and $1 extra a day for the destitute. And it was argue that the two were separate issues and had 'no logical linkage'. Come on lah, the linkages are so loud and clear for all to see. Only the blind or those who refused to see them would say so. And it was also said that 'Money is not an issue'. What the f... Money is THE issue. If not, all these debate, all the time and resources would not have been spent to justify the million dollar increase. What I want to say is that the $290 for the poor and the multi million dollars for the ministers are very delicately intertwined. One is a social issue that the govt must look after. The other is the pay for the people who are going to look after this issue. How can $290 a month be enough when more than a million cannot be enough? It is all about public service. People who want to make millions must not think of making the millions from taxpayers money. There are many avenues to make the millions. Taxpayers money is to pay a reasonable rate for the passionate people who want to look after the nation and people. Not for cold logical people who want to be multi millionaires and still want the power of public service. Obviously after the debate, both in the media and parliament, many people do not agree with the increase and are unhappy with it. It is the people's view that matters. Maybe not. Maybe it is the decision makers' view that matters.
More than just MONEY Balaji Sadasivan finds more value in being a Minister of State, earning lesser money, than being a practising neurosurgeon. The position of a Minister or Minister of State is a position of a national leader and cannot be measured simply in monetary terms. So what if someone is making several millions more? A minister, the appointment as a minister, the role or function of a minister is much much more. A minister is a much respected and honoured member of our society. He is someone to be looked up to, a leader, a guardian of the people and nation. Let us not degrade the value of a minister and the respect and honour due to such a position and compare them to money. Money is just money, to be earned and spent. It is not recognised as anything worthy except as as a commodity. We should accord more respect to our political office just like in developed countries. Why would so many successful people want to take up political offices and assume the role of Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers, and getting lesser income? Do they take up public office because they can take more under table money? Obviously not. These positions are positions of authority, of fame, of recognition, of being part of history. How can we equate them with cheap money? We should cease comparing the value of political office with money. For all the money that a person may earn, he is never in the same standing as the political leaders of a nation. Balaji knows when he chose to remain as a Minister of State. It is a greater honour. Money cannot buy such positions. Can it? And I am not even talking about the power that comes with it. Why is it that historically many leaders will just cling on to the seat of power and refused to let go?
Singapore Press Club gets it right the second time 'It has been an embarrassing start for the new management of the Singapore Press Club. The first order of business was to correct a gaffe.... A news report in the ST, based on the circular, triggered a flurry of email among club members and office bearers, with one describing the circular as "misleading and inaccurate" and urging that it be withdrawn immediately. Another member wrote "the record does need to be set straight" but added that it would be a "shame if issuing a correction to members is at the ocst of any embarrassment to..." A third member who said he was uncomfortable with the circular wrote "we need to quickly control the damage".' The above was reported in the Today paper on the mistake made regarding the appointment of Patrick Daniel as the 'new First Vice President" of the Press Club but there was no such position. The mistake was later corrected by Leslie Fong.
Appropriate sense of proportion I worked up this morning with a few old songs ringing in my head. The first one goes like this, 'If you want it, here it is come and get it. But you gotta hurry costs it may not last.' The second one was by the rock group the Monkeys, and it goes like this, 'Money, money, money. Must be money. It's a mad, mad world.' How could one explain why people can correlate the same thing to different things? For instance you point to a dog and a child will scream 'dog.' You point it to a teenager, and he will shout 'pet.' And you point it to a foreign worker, he will shout 'food.' So don't be surprised when you show someone a $600,000 bill and the person shouts 'peanut.' It is all about circumstances and experience in life. Some people count the number of zeros behind the number and some count the zeros in front of it. Once they get use to them, it becomes second nature. $30 is huge to someone who is used to get by with $260 a month. That is more than 10%. A few million is small change to those who are used to the numerous zeros behind the number. So the recipient of the $30 will be very grateful. But the recipient of the millions may not. For $1, I have been worshipped like a god by a bicycle cab peddlar. The ride was $1 but I gave him $2 instead. He immediately dropped on his knees and prayed to me like he was praying to Buddha. That extra $1 was a windfall to him. This story only tells the right sense of proportion at different level of society. It is a different world to different people. It is a mad mad world.
PAP's most severe test in 40 years Shall I or shouldn't I put my frank assessment of this current crisis facing the PAP after the controversial decision to raise ministerial pay? I emphasise, the issue is ministerial pay and not the increment for the civil servants. Though the main stream media is trying to do its best to present a picture that the people are mostly in support of this decision, the truth is far from it. And they have bungled badly. I know that no one would be happy with the messenger of bad news. But the situation has deteriorated so far that only the blind would fail to see the true picture. Until today, I have yet to hear an honest person telling me that all is well and the ministerial pay is a good thing and a welcome thing. So I will try to be as diplomatic as possible to tenderly touch on the unpleasant truth. Actually, the whole ugly episode can be akin to the severance of a strong bond between the government and the governed, painstaking built over a period of 40 years. With this bad decision, the Red Sea was parted. This is truly a very bad judgement call of unbelievable proportion. The debate in parliament was clearly divisive with many MPs trying very hard to express their disagreement without breaking rank. It's negative impact is like the NKF but at a national scale. For those who spoke out in favour of this move they would have to live with the consequences of their misjudgement in times to come. Hsien Loong must have sensed the seriousness of the temper on the ground and is trying to do some damage control by announcing that he will freeze his own pay, to gain some moral authority on this issue. Unfortunately the damage is quite devastating if one really and honestly try to feel the ground. It was a tough decision and a tough call. The worst thing is that it was seen as self serving. The people find it hard to see how this is to benefit them and not the ministers. The obvious is just too obvious. The cardinal rule that one must not decide to benefit one's self interest has been broken. The objective and honourable justifications become irrelevant. Would any minister or the President have the temerity to hang on to the pay increase and still think that the people will see them the same way as before? Like it or not, it is the people and their perception that matters, not the clever arguments in parliament. It is right to say that it is an emotional issue. But the logic and reasoning also failed miserably to convince the people that it is the right and necessary thing to do. People are free to disagree with my assessment. But the question now is how the PAP is going to turn this around and regain the confidence and trust of the people? The moral ground, the moral authority has been severely undermined. It is not a right or wrong thing to do. It may sound logical on paper. But if the government cannot sell it and the people refuse to buy it, it becomes a disaster. It is politics and a political decision, and the reaction of the people is political and yes, emotional.
White House official floored by our Ministerial Pay He shouldn't be. It takes tremendous skills and ability to be able to push through such a motion without the people protesting. The White House official should also deserve a huge payrise if he can get it pass Congress for a similar motion.
Myth 130 Singapore leaders are the highest paid in the world 'The Taiwanese media reported on Monday that our Prime Minister's salary is 10 times that of their President's...their President gets a private jet, spending millions with each overseas trip, whereas our Prime Minister only gets to travel first class on Singapore Airlines.' Ong Ah Heng At least we have the Taiwanese who are paid more than us. And they are also facing corruption charges while we are clean.
'Even if a person has a wonderful brain, without the hands, legs, eyes, nose and ears, he cannot function effectively. We need to pay top civil servants well, but we must not forget the rest of the public service.' Halimah Yacob. In the past when pay increases were implemented, everyone would get roughly the same percentage, a little plus and minus. And then the lower income will get a lump sum which actually boosted their percentage to a very high level. It was all because everyone knew that in percentage terms, the higher income will get that much more. 10% of $100k is $10k. 10% of $1k is $100. Today, there is no attempt to be apologetic. The ministers are going to get something like 25% increase. And at the lower end, something like 14% ot 33%. And in absolute terms, the amount is in hundreds of thousands against a few hundred bucks at the lower end. This is indeed a very tough and unpopular decision. They really deserve to be paid the huge increase for having the nerves and toughness to make such an unpopular decision, all for the good of the people. We need strong leaders who can make tough decisions like this one.
A profound quote 'As responsible leaders, we must be careful not to leave behind a system or structure that combines power and monetary rewards to such high levels, where incumbents are so handcuffed by this lethal combination that they find it hard to let go.' Denise Phua Ah Kow and his party will be waiting in the wing, and with our stupid electorate, one day Ah Kow and his party is going to be elected into power. And yes, they will not let go. With so much power and money for the taking, who would want to let go?
The formula is flawless The timing is right. The methodology is good. The amount is just right. The assumptions and reasonings are all well thought out. In other words, it is flawless, the best formula there is. Chee Hean has all the answers to queries, questions and objections. And all were answered perfectly to the satisfaction of every questioner. Any more questions? But I find this quote quite difficult to understand. 'If a person is motivated by money, then even a low salary has its dangers.' Teo Chee Hean I am still trying to understand the essence of this quote. But the people can rest assured that all the politicians are not motivated by money. For if they are, they would have been dismissed long ago.
A matter of values and perception Who says the ministerial salary is high? There will be those who say the ministers are underpaid for whatever reasons. And there will be those who say that it is too high, unreasonable and unjustifiable. And some will be very angry that you say so and will tell you how important they are and that they should be paid even higher. It all depends on who you are, which angle one is looking at it and also whether you have a vested interest in it. Better not ask a minister if his salary is high. Better not ask Ng Eng Heng as he is famous for earning $4 million a year. Can we ask ministers who used to earn $200k, if there is one? And also don't ask an aspiring minister. His answer will be too obvious. Or shall we ask the people if the salary is high? Who should it matter whether the salary is high or low? Does it matter to anyone at all? I think it does not matter to anyone. Everyone will have his own view on this, right or wrong. Life goes on. Let's move on.
Samples of Hard Questions raised in Parliament 'My Greatest worry is that an open ended linkage between ministerial salaires and top earners,...could in the long run undermine the moral authority the Govt needs to lead the people...' NMP Siew Kum Hong 'There are others who feel our Govt leaders are paid to much compared to other countries...This comparison is grossly unfair.... The key issue here is that of opportunity cost. If our ministers decide not to be ministers...chances are they'll be head honchos of some of our listed companies....' NMP Gautam Banerjee 'With the right leaders, no amount is too much. With not the right leaders, any amount sees too much- that is the heart of the issue.' MP Alvin Yeo 'I believe that the great public interest generated...serves as a timely reminder for those of us in public office that we are measured by the extent of our active compassion for our fellow citizens.' Mayor Zainudin Nordin '...the senior civil servants will never, ever have to face a downward cycle because it is pegged to the salaries of top earners (in the private sector) and there will always be top earners.' MP Lim Biow Chuan The issue is about timing. 'Has the PM lost a single minister or a perm sec? I think the issue is not as urgent as it's made out to seem....about a month ago, debating and arguing why we shouldn't be giving our Public Assistance recipients - some 3,000 of them - another $100...and now we are talking about million dollar salary increases.' MP Inderjit Singh 'What signals are we sending Singaporeans?' Inderjit Singh '....We believe there is no need for enormously large salaries to attract and retain the right talent... It's also ironic that we are consuming taxpayers' money and discussing how much more of a fraction of a million to pay civil servants and ministers while we haggle over additional tens of dollars to hand out to our needy and disadvantaged citizens.' MP Low Thia Khiang '...ministers in other countries may make more money after their term in office ends, such as through public speaking.' Well spoken by MP Josephine Teo
How much is your IQ? The intelligence or ability of Singaporeans is measured by how much the person earns. The more he earns the higher is his intelligence and the more qualified he is to run the country. At least that is about what it means during the discussion on ministerial salary over the last few days and in Parliament. We need to pay competitive salary, actually means very high salary, to attract good people, which means people earning very high salary, to be in the govt. People like Wee Cho Yaw, Ng Teng Fong, Ong Beng Seng and Quek Leng Beng, or Sim Wong Hoo, or our Popiah King, or the former Remisier King, will be excellent candidates for the next election. Unfortunately the salary for ministers is still too low to attract them. Mahamat Gandhi, the pauper, will not qualify as a talent in our context. So will Deng Xiao Ping. Or for that matter, all the Presidents and Prime Ministers around the world who earn less than a peanut, will not be good enough for us. Our talents can now briefly be classified under $300,000 a month Top Super Talent or TST. The next level is $30,000 a month Super Talent or ST. The $3000 a month talent should be familiar to all, the FT or Foreign Talent. At the lowest level, the $300 a month NT, No Talent. And one group that I have left out or best forgotten, the ULT, Unwanted Local Talent, found only in overseas market. Some can be found hiding behind the wheels of taxis.
Good news! 'MINISTERS' salary will rise to $1.6 million from $1.2 million by end of this year. Announcing the pay rise, Minister in-charge of civil service, Teo Chee Hean said on Monday, ministers' pay will be raised further to $1.94 million by end of 2008.' posted by legolas in YPAP forum. Let's hope the ministers are happy with the pay rise and we can have a clean and honest govt. Singaporeans are so lucky that they are not asking for the full offset of the shortfall according to the formula.
Don't expect hefty payrise Hay Group, a human resource consultancy, has cautioned that payrise would be in the range of 2.8% to 3.2% for professionals and senior management. And the reason, according to its MD Roland Ruiz, 'Singapore's current salary levels are already among the highest in the region, which explains the smaller percentage growth.'
Ministerial Pay Debate Today is the day for Parliament to debate on the issue of Ministerial Pay. Let me summarise the justifications put forth so far. 1. The formula said so. According to the formula, the minister's pay is below the bench mark by $1 mil. 2. If we don't pay them the govt may become corrupt. 3. Or they may be poached by Morgan Stanley or other American companies and be paid $5 mil or more. 4. No talented people will come forward to serve. 5. Our women folks will become maids. 6. Singaporeans and the economy will suffer. While there will be a debate, I just read in the paper that there will be no voting. No need to vote? That means it will be passed. Anyway, the MPs promise to ask tough questions. Might as well since the decision has already been made and nothing they said will change the outcome. So far Dr Lim Wee Kiak has said the smartest thing. 'Instead of waiting a few years and doing a big adjustment, why not do a small adjustment every year.' Yeah man, just like bus fare increases. A little at a time, looks more affordable. $1 million increase spread out over 5 years, $200,000 a year. I hope the MPs will also ask where in the world can one earns a life time pension after serving 8 to 10 years in a job? And also it is acceptable and reasonable for people who is to benefit from the pay rise be allowed to put up the supporting reasons and decide on it as well? Don't we need an independent third party that has no interest in the formula to make the proposal and decision? But then again, where to find an independent party that has no vested interest? And with such compelling reasons put forward, how to disagree? I will abstain from commenting on the compelling reasons and let the MPs comment about them in Parliament.
Means Testing is back People opt for C wards mainly for two reasons. The first is affordability. The second is an age old wisdom called thrift. For those who are hard on their cash flow, looking at the statistics provided in the MSM, probably 50% of the population will be hardup when faced with a huge hospitalisation bill, this is understandable. The other of course is a great virtue, thrift, spending within your means so that one will not become a burden to other people or society. And no one knows how much one really needs to have to be enough. Thus being thrifty is the best guarantor to be self sufficient. Should our official policy frown on people being thrifty and choose to endure the lesser comfort of a C ward than the creature comfort of A and B wards? There is subsidy and so people are deemed to cheat or deprive others from the subsidy. Good reason. I will never be a cheat because I have a million in my saving. Not yet actually. Still waiting for the Toto winning to fill it up. Maybe next week. When there are so many people demanding for C wards, it means that there is a genuine need for such level of services. It is good reasoning to say that we must always level up, upgrade the quality of our services. Who does not want that? Unfortunately, the income of most people are not levelling up. Many have stagnated and going downhill and would make do with lesser quality of services. Insurance and Medisave are not a real alternatives. They suck away the little cash that the lower income people have for other necessities in living. These people have limited income and any amount stased away for medical uses will mean that some thing has to go. And if we let this great quality of medical service and cost to runaway, it will only mean that the lower income earners are going to be poorer overall. It is a zero sum game when every cent counts.
When there is no honour...but MONEY The public service is all about public service, a service to the public. Or at least that was what it used to be. Throughout history, great people have stood up to serve country and people in the name of honour above all else. Today, in a new world when such values, including honesty, integrity, magnanimity, compassion, or just to make a difference in the lives of less able people, are now as good as outdated. All these have been subsumed by a new motivator called money. I have left out sacrifice from the list as sacrifice is no longer a factor. In our context I cannot see any sacrifice in the real sense of the word. What we are seeing is a new morality, a self serving morality, a morality of greed. We have all turned to become very practical people, and always ask what's in it for me. And more, to have more. Are our ministers suffering from being underpaid? Can $1m a year plus other perks that can or cannot be quantified be called underpaid? Yes and no. No when $1 a year can buy all the niceties in life and with a lot more to spare. I will be the first to support a payrise if a minister cannot afford to buy his $2 million private property after a 5 year term. But yes because other people are getting more. The main reason why there is this urgent call to double the $1 million is simply because relatively they are paid less. There will not be any call for a pay revision at this level if the other top earners are earning less. And with a formula that is built with all the biases to shoot to the sky, the $2 mil or $10 mil will never be enough. The formula will demand that the salary must continue to go up. When we replace honour with money, all our values change. We should not continue to teach our children values that are best described as 'admirable sentiments.' Let's get real. The moral values we are teaching our children in schools are impractical and smack of hypocrisy. They can no longer survive in a new world where self interest and well being comes first. We must not bring them up into a world that is totally different from their textbooks. They will suffer a culture shock when they realise that all the goodness that the teachers are teaching them is but a farce. The real world is not like that. We need to teach them a new set of values that befits the survival of the fittest. And yes, a return to the laws of the jungle.
Reaching out to the needy in the heart of Singapore. This is a heading in the Straits Times by Radha Basu. 'There are around 22,000 vulnerable residents in the heart of Singapore who may need financial help, according to estimates by the Central Singapore Community Development Council.' And island wide there could be hundreds of thousands of them. And we are arguing that $1.2 mil a year is not enough. And the people pounding the ground, doing the sweatings, are volunteers of welfare and grassroot organisations. These are the dumb heroes of the people who work without getting paid. Socially responsible and with a heart to serve the people without asking how much they are going to get for their sacrifice. Maybe they get a pat on the back and be invited to the Istana for a year end party. These are the selfless men that should be the examples for all Singapsoreans to emulate.
The biggest bullshit Ho Kong Loon wrote, 'Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew spoke so plainly and precisely that dissenters to the proposed salary increase for ministers and top civil servants cannot but nod, albeit reluctantly, in assent at the sheer force, simplicity and veracity of his stand.' I can agree that it was spoken plainly, simply, precisely and with sheer force. I can agree that civil servants should be paid well but nor exorbitantly. But for once I find the justification totally unacceptable. We are no longer paying peanuts at the top level. What is enough or not enough is relative. Ho Kong Loon added that Singapore is what it is today...'only if the leadership is focussed, steely minded, possess extraordinary IQ and EQ, and is socially responsible and incorruptible. Good governance is a rare commodity.' Again I agree but with a little exception. Can you use the word 'incorruptible' on anyone who tells you that he will become corrupt if you don't pay him his asking price? An incorruptible man is incorruptible no matter how much you pay him. He may have a stupid principle that tells him that he should not be corrupt. And he lives by it. This is the plain, simple and precise message. Is this the compelling reason why Ho Kong Loon is so convinced? To me, just this point alone is deeply troubling. Only in Singapore can such an argument be used to justify one's own pay rise. Tell that to the American Congress or the British Parliament and see what the elected representatives of the people will have to say. Can anyone see what I am saying? Can anyone understand the underlying assumption of this kind of logic? Do we need to pay so bloody well to attract the best and talented and incorruptible Singaporeans to come forward to serve the country and people? Or maybe I should rephrase this and ask why are all the good and able men shunning the political minefield? Do we have a political system that encourages the best to step forward willingly for altruistic reasons or are we creating a system that is attracting people who are only interested in the money? If people step forward simply because there are a few millions on offer, what kind of men are they? Socially responsible and incorruptible? If we are serious in getting more able people to step forward to serve. we need to re examine why they are not coming forward in the first place. Singapore has many talents. Singapore's success speaks for itself. Singapore's success cannot be attributed to a handful of individuals alone. It goes all the way down. And at the top, people who are able to run the country as well as the current leadership, you can bet there are at least a few thousands of them with such ability, integrity and honesty out there.
Heard this story in the lift. A FT was telling his peers. It goes like this. George Bush went to congress and threatens to quit if he did not get what he asked for. And he also threatens to go the corrupt way to get it. George was fighting for a noble cause, asking for money to protect his troops in Iraq.
How predictable! Even before the ink is dry the expected backtracking has started. The two free access zones in the IDR are now scrapped because of domestic politickings. How much confidence can foreign investors have on a govt that is so fickleminded and will bend to local political pressure no matter how hysterical and irrational they may be? Who is there to guarantee that 3 weeks or 3 months down the line all the terms and conditions will be changed? Will the IDR becomes an Internal Development Region catering to the domestic markets and interests like all the housing estates built but cannot be sold? With all the backtrackings as a norm, investors must think very carefully before putting money in the IDR. The other point that led to the scrapping of the FAZs, other than the irrational fear of becoming slaves of foreigners in their own country, is the anti semitic mindset. Historically, the Bumis and the Jews were living in two separate corners of the globe and hardly know each other. Why is there so much hatred for the Jews to be a reason to scrap the FAZs?? This kind of unthinking hatred for another race is very frightening. Don't the Bumis have a mind of their own and think what have the Jews got to do with them that they have to hate the Jews so intensely? There will be reasons to hate their former colonial master for exploiting and ruling them as a subject people. But what have the Jews done to deserve such acrimony?
The artificiality of an Aquarium Nobody begrudges anyone earning too much money. Even the ministers are not begrudging other high earners from earning too much money. But they only said that they deserved to be earning as much as other top earners by virtue of the assumption that they are the top talents and holding the top jobs in the country. It is even suggested that all of them would be offered more by top foreign companies, a proposition that has not been proven. Maybe a couple of them could receive that kind of offers. I doubt more than one will have such a rare privilege. What were thrown out in all the debates recently re nothing but a green eye syndrome. What other's have I must also have. Like the 'eye' which they called it the 'flyer.' Other countries have the ferris wheel so must we. This is hardly a rational justification for being paid the same as the private sector. A business concern is totally different from a public service. One is money and profit oriented, the other is people oriented, a lot of nobility, passion and mission towards a country and the people's well being. The rewards are different. The political structure or system that we have is an artificiality that cannot be replicated nor continue to exist forever anywhere in the world. Up to a point it will look ridiculous and will self destruct. It will be dismantled or become a joke in times to come as all things artificial must go the same way. Our system is built by a one party dominance system that has entrenched itself and thinks that this is it and will be institutionalised for perpetuity. A political system is a political system. It is never meant to be an occupation where people can built a lifelong career, as an employee. The conditions, prerequisites, mentality and expectations are totally different. In the first place the political appointees do not need any objective qualifications. Anyone, a barber, taxi driver, or even a comedian without any skills in govt, or the discipline of higher education, can stand for election and get elected by the people. The supertalent concept is only a system applied by the ruling party. No other party is doing the same. And given the unpredictability of the electorate, the party of supertalents may be voted out and replaced by a party of average talents. When it happens, the whole pay system will become incongruent to the reality. It is no laughing matter paying millions to a wayward group or pretenders. And whose millions are being used to pay the politicians? It is the people's money. The billions of the nation's money are the people's money and cannot be used to pay politicians to serve the interest of any political party. Everyone receiving public money must be accountable to the huge sums he is being paid. If he is redundant or not doing a job worthy of that kind of money, then it is a misuse of public fund. The value of the job must justify the money paid and not for any other reasons. In a commercial enterprise, especially a family owned business, the grandfather and grandmother can continue to draw exorbitant salaries for doing nothing, maybe given a big title as chairman or director. That is private business and private money. One can do whatever one is happy with his own private money. The govt must look at the bigger picture and understand that the current aquarium set up is a temporary condition, an artificiality that may not hold in the longer run. Sooner or later, the longkang fish, the tadpoles, and the worms are going to infest the aquarium and it will not look so perfect on the window display. And a country cannot be held at ransom for fear that the elite will become corrupt or be offered a higher pay by the private sector and leave the people in the lurch. There will be a few not so clever individuals who will step forward to serve the country for more noble and altruistic reasons. Unless this money culture has already set roots in the minds of all Singaporeans. Then we will be doomed for sure. And I can assure everyone that it is a matter of time before the nation will be sold to the highest bidder.