An educated workforce is an asset to the nation. Govt will find it to its advantage, and also its responsibility to educate its people, which in turn benefits both country and people at the same time. Educating the population is thus both a necessity and a responsibility of a govt. The investment ploughed into education will bear its fruits and the country will be rewarded with a better educated and trained workforce. Initially it may appear to be a cost centre. But it is more than just the churning out of more employable workers, it encompasses the whole well being of a nation, the quality of life and the social environment, and everything that got to do with progressing up the ladder towards an advanced country. But education has been seen as an avenue for profit by some wise guys. Which is true to a certain extent. However, when profit is the only driving goal for education, it undermines its reason to exist as an industry. The assumption of private education for profits must be quality education to befit its high price. And quality education, which culminates in producing quality students, does not depend on the infrastructure and the quality of the teachers. It also depends on the quality of the students. Another case of rubbish in rubbish out. Here comes the problem. Quality students will either be provided with scholarships to pursue their studies in quality institutions or will qualify for admission to state universities at a much lower cost. There is no need for them to pay through their nose to private institutions for a quality education. Private institutions will thus be snuffed out of their supply of good quality students. This is a simple fact that they must know. Unless private universities can provide such a high quality education that established universities cannot provide and can attract quality students to pay for it. In reality, only those who cannot get into cheaper state universities will opt for private universities and willing to pay a higher fee. What these students would expect is that the entry requirements must be lower. That is the expectation. This is the contradiction that private universities must live with. Who the hell would want to pay more for admission to a lesser private university when they can get admitted into the best universities at a lower fee? Education for profit must thus compromise the quality of the education for the students. And this has been going on in many countries when grades were inflated to keep paying students happy and coming. Exceptional cases can be made out for niche markets or for very well established universities that can still retain the high entry requirement and command a high fee. A Harvard or MIT campus here will attract some very good students who are willing to pay the high fees which again may be relatively cheaper than pursuing it in the US. Any other average brand universities must reckon with the hard realities that they will only get the second or third best candidates available if they set up business here and want to command a higher fee. Would ivory tower professors understand this simple business logic?
It is a myth that Singapore cannot solve any problem. The latest problem on difficulties in finding taxis during peak periods has been solved. This is a problem caused by heavy usage and calls for taxis during the certain hours. The solution, raise the surcharge. This will reduce the demand for taxis. It's so elementary and so ingenius. And any expressway that is too congested, raise the toll fees. Then traffic will be directed from expressway A to expressway B. And when B is congested, raise the toll fees. Traffic will then be diverted back to A which is having lesser traffic. And when it gets congested again, raise the toll fees again. Traffic will then go to B again. Just keep doing it and the problem will be solved. And if people are consuming too much food and there is food shortage, just raise the price. Then people will consume less. Just like saving water. This is the magic formula to problem solving.
ABE not good enough. No, I am not referring to Shinzo Abe but A level grade. When a ABE grade cannot find a place in the local universities, this is going to be a bigger issue than the UNSW. In the latter, it concerns only 250 students, and maybe half are foreigners. For a university place, it is going to affect many Singaporeans, dotting parents and their precious wards. Now people are going to question why their children with reasonably good passes are not going to find a place in local universities. Admittedly what are reasonable grades may be subjective depending on the standard of the affected parties and the universities. What will eventually be dragged out to air will be the number of places given to foreigners, including scholarships using public money, and how many local children would have been displaced from such a policy. The parents are now up in arms. We are the citizens of the country. We are the taxpayers. We are the people to defend this country. I could here them say...Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place, such a lovely place...
Everyday the papers and the TV flashed faces of anguish of distraught students from UNSW and their parents. It is truly distressing. A very sad episode to put so many innocent people in such a state of uncertainty with their hopes totally smashed.
Singapore is 6th most stressful country We are now ranked as more stressful than Hongkong, according to Grant Thornton International Business Report. Can you beat that? I know one sure reason why Singaporeans are feeling stressed. When you are earning $20k a year and queuing to strike toto every week but in vain, but you are told that many people are earning an equivalent of a toto win every 6 months or every 2 months, sure you get stressed. How not to when all the queuing for the next 30 years may not even strike one toto prize?
Najib was in Singapore selling the IDR. No one can doubt his sincerity and the sincerity of the Abdullah govt for what they want to do in the IDR. They will definitely be investor friendly. After so many years of comparing the nonsenses committed by the Mahathir regime and the Indonesians in Riau, and the no nonsense economic policies of Singapore and even China, they should be able to see the impact of economic growth if the policies are correct. But the Malaysian politics is as changeable as the weather and with so many kampong politicians in the wings, anything can happen tomorrow. In order for the present policies to be taken seriously, they need to cast them in iron with all the what if conditions stated clearly in the contract. If not, it will become, for future Malaysian leaders to say, "I don't know. It was the old regime. We are now changing our policies." And the investors will be caught again with their pants down, and pockets empty. And cannot pull out.
Though I posted a different sentiment under the topic Signs of Decline on this issue, I am saying something different here from another perspective. We are progressing towards a kinder and more forgiving nation and mistakes are now taken in their strides. When mistakes were made in the thousands of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars, we are now regarding them as honest mistakes and part and parcel of the risk mechanism. And anyone making such multi million dollar mistake becomes more valuable as we have invested the lost millions in them to learn. And definitely they will not repeat the same mistake again and will become a wiser person. We are progressing in the right track. Just because we are paying top dollars does not mean that the axe must come down every time a mistake is made. We must treasure risk takers and people who made honest mistakes. Otherwise no one will want to be risk takers and no honest mistakes will be made. But for those who did not do enough homework or were tardy, and left a big gap in their decisions and resulting in huge losses, now that is a different matter altogether.
How could Siew Kum Hong questioned the role of EDB in the UNSW fiasco? EDB has came out openly to say that they are not responsible and UNSW is ultimately responsible for the mess. Period. Can we not accept this clear cut position? And the reasons for not disclosing how much public money were lost were logical and for the good of the country. They cannot disclose it as it will compromise our position in future negotiations. Very reasonably put forth. Certain information are best keep undisclosed in the interest of the country. Transparency must have its limits and things of national interest cannot be divulged casually. According to the Financial Times, $80 million of public money were involved. This is only speculation and cannot be proven as no official figure has been given. Anyway it is small change. Money seems to be an issue in the article as Siew Kum Hong said that with world class pay, the public should demand a higher standard of disclosure, transparency and quality from govt employees. Though I take a different position from Siew Kum Hong, I strongly encouraged everyone to read his article in the Today paper today. He makes a lot of sense. And I am proud of him and Today for printing it. It will be better if Siew Kum Hong raises the same issues in Parliament.
Good news, govt hospitals to absorb GST increases Bad news, consultation fees to go up between 5% to 20%. Patients visiting govt hospitals should be thankful that the 2% GST increases will not be absorbed by the hospitals. But because of higher demand and higher costs, though many measures were implemented to reduce cost, consultation fees just have to go up. But a reasuring note, these fees are still affordable. Affordable according to who?
The refusal by the Indonesian Parliament to ratify the DCA also means that the Extradition Treaty will be thrown out of the window as well. Now, shall we be unhappy or rejoice for this great happening? I think we shall celebrate. If we express any regrets or unhappiness, they will think that they have done the right thing and good for Indonesia. What we should do is to celebrate loudly. That will make them ponder and probably start to worry about what they had done. Let's keep them guessing and questioning their own thinking by throwing a ball.
When setting up schools is to make money When setting up hospitals is to make money When standing for election is to make money When public service is to make money When setting up a charity is to make money When recognition of an individual's worthiness is about making money That is, when altruism is dead.
The fiction of guilt The Sentosa Resort has been plagued with an assumed guilt that Stanley Ho is linked to the triads and it is not desirable to put his money here. I have earlier commented that many of the casinos in Las Vegas and around the world are also linked in one way or another to the mafias and triads all over the world. So what's the big deal? Now western developed, advanced and high moral countries are accepting that the children of Stanley Ho are innocent and not guilty by relations to Stanley Ho. By the way, who has pronounced that Stanley Ho is guilty? Which God said so? I like what Jesus said. 'Let the one who has not sinned be the first to cast the stone.' Where are all the saints? All in the little red dot I supposed. We shouldn't call ourselves a paradise. That is an insult to our squeaky clean country. We shall call ourselves heaven on earth, Sin free City, the habitat of demigods where no evil man shall be allowed to trample on.
By now the whole machinery to achieve a first class transport system and a first class MRT should be in full swing. So far the idea of a first class transport system includes an MRT that is modelled probably after Tokyo. Tokyo seems to be the best model to take us there. I just hope first class does not mean sardine class, where commuters are squeesed, tit to tit, inside a jam pack train. The concept of first class invokes a sense of classiness, comfort, space and a little pampering, something similar to first class air travel or A class hospital wards. If that is the definition of first class, then it makes sense. And don't forget that such first class public transport comes with a first class price tag. Who can afford such services? The top 10% of the population will not be bothered with first class or world class public transport. They have their own classy private transport which they cannot part with. Maybe the next 10 percentile may consider such an option. Or perhaps the lower 5 percentile of the this group. Those who can afford the comfort of private transport will want to keep themselves away from the masses. The 80% of the population are unlikely to take it kindly to a first class price tag. They will love to have the first class service. But many would not be able to afford it or would opt to save the extra dollar for something else. Maybe a business class equivalent rather than a first class MRT to cater for the 20 percentile group at the top. It cannot be for everyone. Half the population will not be able to afford it no matter how affordable it claims to be. Let's hope that the system of first class travel will not be imposed on the population like the hospital ward system where eventually you will get first class and economy class travel. And if not enough takers for first class, means testing will be introduced to ensure that more people pay for first class services that they do not want. It must not be a 'What the provider wants is what the commuters must pay' system.
SINGAPORE: The current high occupancy rate at some public hospital is stressing doctors to discharge their patients, admitted Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday. Occupancy has hit highs of more than 90 per cent for some hospitals recently, above Mr Khaw’s ideal of 85 per cent. “When you run at over 90 per cent, it’s very stressful,” said the Health Minister, who was the chief executive of several hospitals from 1985 to 1992. “Stressful in the sense that, every day, our doctors have to go down to beg the patients (to be discharged).” Occupying a hospital bed for acute illness costs the Government an average of $1,000 a day, compared to “a few hundred dollars” for a community hospital bed. This is “the cost to society”, said Mr Khaw at the sidelines of an event yesterday. “If I don’t actively shift patients down, our total cost will just be heavy.” Reported in Today We are now starting to get a little dosage of what life would be like when we double our population. We will simply break at the seams if we continue to push to the limits.
UNSW Too hasty a decision University's governing body had 30 seconds to decide on Singapore. Sydney Morning Herald. May 26, 2006 By Harriet Alexander The University of NSW rushed through plans for its now collapsed Singapore campus so quickly that the university's governing body was given just 30 seconds to scrutinise the proposal, a senior academic says. One former member of the governing body said he was so disgusted by the decision in early 2004 that he decided not to stand again for his position on the University of NSW council. Yesterday the university announced it was abandoning the university's Asia operation in Singapore after losing millions of dollars on the venture. Fewer than 150 students had enrolled in the offshore campus this year, far short of plans to have it expand to 15,000 students over the next two decades. It is the latest hitch in the Australian university sector's troubled attempts to exploit the lucrative international student market by setting up offshore campuses. I extracted the above bits from littlespeck.com. This is what will happen when the original objective of education is hijacked into a money making enterprise. It is now all about money. The noble objective of education, the responsibility of educating and training a productive population is discarded and forgotten. Now it is whether there is money to be made. If not, simply close it down, cut your losses, and look for another more lucrative business. Is there anything to learn from this?
Recently we have been hearing very strange things coming from the legal fraternity. Some said making a lot of money is not important. They were talking about service to the people, and making money is not the end all of becoming lawyers. Now the Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong said, 'Ethics is what matters most.' When has ethics been an issue among our learned friends? The profession has always been in the thick of things, at the forefront of all important events in the island, and with many distinguished members becoming leaders of the nation. They are the cream of the society, earning big bucks and delivering justice for the wronged citizens. The Chief Justice was giving a lecture on ethics which is normally taught in primary schools to children. We should expect adults and professionals to live ethics as their second nature. The Chief Justice was talking about setting high morals and building trusts with clients. But more surprising is that he was telling them that making money is secondary to leading a straight and narrow path. What is happening or what has happened for the Chief Justice to have to lecture them on ethics and morals? Is the message to the young lawyers a reminder that our society has gone to the dogs and that they should not follow the same slippery path, of just grabbing money at all cost, without a care to their conscience or propriety?
Would a new party make a difference to the political landscape of Singapore and alter the present political system? In the last election we have seen some life coming into the political tussling for power and the ruling of the country. Everything has quiet down for the moment. JBJ's new quest may be just another yawn. Our political system has reached a mature state in its own way, not that of a western democracy model. It is a different model that has attained a level where it can only stagnate and not getting better. It has been institutionalised as a parallel to the civil service, an employment opportunity for people to build a life long career with all the perks of employment. And it has developed around it a network of systems and controls to ensure its existence for a long time to come, not to be challenged. The system is not just the political party in power. It seeps down to many levels of the govt service, to the industries, GLCs and not GLCs, and an extended linkage of people groomed and associated with the power of the day. Such an extensive network of people working as one, may not be necessarily bad as has been proven over the years. But the possibility of it turning bad is starting to show when over concentration of power leads to a kind inbreeding mindset or mentality. The group think is getting very transparent, that they share the same thinking, the same aspiration, the same value system, the same self gratification as the motivation and reason to protect and perpetuate the existing system. There is no way for new parties to make any inroad into the political fray and challenge the supremacy of the ruling party under the present conditions. At the worst the opposition parties may gain a handful of seats in the next election. We need to have a paradigm shift as they called it, for all Singaporeans to start thinking about what kind of society and political system they want. Not the present kind where serving the group in power is the end all of life. Many just serve the group, defending the group and behave like the group, unthinkingly. Change will only come when everyone, including all those in govt services, start to think for the country and people, that their loyalty is to the country and people and their general good. And when they start to question what they are doing and for whose interests and for whose goods begin to trouble their conscience, of rights and wrongs, and that it is not really right to serve the paymaster at all cost, with no qualms of the longer term good of the country, only then things will change. When the people are free, at all levels, to think freely, act freely, unfettered by power or self interests and self preservation, then only will there be a change in the political framework and a change in the political system. More parties and more new parties will just be laid on the roadside, as another new sideshow.
The students are fighting back. That is the spirit needed when the big boys washed their hands and packed up to go. The UNSW students met to demand that UNSW honours its commitment to them and keep the campus running, at least till they complete their courses. There is a contract, a social and business obligation once they admitted the students to a degree course. And they cannot walk away and offer whatever half bake measures and expecting the students to accept them. The legal route is an option. Where is the professionalism, the integrity, the honour and responsibility to see through a commitment? An university is always highly regarded by the people as an icon of all the virtues of human endeavours. How could UNSW possibly get away with the fiasco by a shock pullout like this and think that its reputation will not be affected? I do not know how much is our side's involvement and responsibility to the mess. But we cannot get away without some shit sticking to us. We will also smell as bad as UNSW. We may say and think that we are going ahead full steam to achieve our goal as an education hub. But will future students and their parents buy it after what had happened? To think that we have nothing to do with it and that our gleaming reputation is untarnished is like putting blinkers on.
The cost of staying in the govt General hospital for acute illness is $1000 a day. And for community public hospitals, it is several hundred a day. I heard the number $400 daily. Compare this to staying in a budget hotel, plus simple food and employing a maid to look after the patient, it may not come to $200 a day. Just give the maid a little training or even even employed qualified foreign nurses will still be cheaper. Incidentally how many people can afford $1000 or $400 a day if it is going to be more than a month? I am guessing how much it will cost per day in Mt E or Gleneagles?
The sand ban, the granite ban, the bombing of a Singaporean owned company in Karimun and the arrest of their executives, Singaporeans. Now they are going after Temasek's holdings in their telco companies. And the Riau islanders are protesting the joint military agreement and exercises in the islands. What's next? All the signs are written clearly on the wall, that they do not want to friendly with us. Singapore should quietly beat the retreat. Hopefully that will make them happier.
The UNSW staff held a meeting with the students and parents affected by the closure at Trader's Hotel yesterday and were bombed by the parents. It is hardly imaginable for a highly regarded institution and academics to do such a thing. Unbelieveable! The classes should not have started at all and the students need not waste their time and resources to go through such a slipshod arrangement. Where is the duty and due diligence done to take in the students only to close the university barely 3 months after classes started? The parents cannot be faulted for having trust in the UNSW which is a reputable university run by reputable professionals. But the situation is definitely unjustifiable and they should sue them for compensation. Singapore should also sue them for damaging our image as an education hub.
Go for right wage measures or risk losing edge: Swee Say 'Labour chief Lim Swee Say cautioned companies against being "seduced" by the easy option of paying higher basic wages to attract workers. Such a measure will only erode their competitive edge in the long term or force them to trim staff in lean times, he told reporters yesterday during a visit to a training.' by Keith Lin in the Straits Times
The judge said there was public outrage on the case about a preacher having 10 wives and fathering 64 children and the wives encouraging their daughters to have sex with the father preacher. Was there any public outrage? If there was, this thing would not have happened and been going on for so long. It is not sex between two frogs or many frogs at the bottom of a well and not visible to anyone. It occurred right before the eyes of many people, the whole community and neighbourhood cannot be blind to it. How could this thing go on for so long without anyone putting a stop to it at the early stages?
NWC linked pay hike with productivity The NWC recommendation suggested that employers should pay employees more when there is an increase in productivity. I think this is a bit tedious to compute. An easier way will be to commission a salary survey on comparative wage levels and then adjust the salaries accordingly when they are found to be lower than the market. It will be more objective and impartial if done by a neutral party. This is especially effective and applicable when productivity is very difficult to measure. And sometimes the lower productivity or performance could be due market forces or events beyond the employees control. And at the lower level, their performance will often be affected by many more factors, including those of their bosses.
There is a new kind of buzz in town, one that is being repeated quite often these days and would tarnish the Singapore brand. We are reputed as a country where all things work. Once we put up something, we can sleep in peace that it will be successful. The University of NSW closed down after only two months and with 148 students, Singaporeans and foreigners, stranded. It would not happen if it was a Singapore run university. We don't do this kind of things. But even if it is an Australian university, it happens in our land and we will somehow be linked to it. Our Singapore brand cannot keep getting this kind of bashing. And the students were only told after the decision to close was made and announced. Well, only 148. No big deal. Anyway, they should expect such things can happen to a new set up that does not have a Singapore brand. It is caveat emptor. They went in with their eyes open and knew the risk. In a way it is also a kind of progress for Singapore. It shows that we are taking more risk and even risky projects that were not well thought through and with insufficient finances. This is good for Singapore as we will become a riskier country that encourages everyone to be more cautious and risk aware.
It is good that Glen Knight is allowed to practise his trade again. He had gone through very rough time and had paid a very heavy price for his mistakes. He took the punishment gentlemanly and quietly and had lived a life of a reform man, in the wilderness. Though the reason to take him back into the law fraternity was because of the good words of eminent lawyers, I am more impressed by Knight himself. He is every inch a repent man. He went about his life in his darkest hours, alone, far from the main stream of all the glamorous happenings. He could be a very rich man today if not of the lapses in his life. He deserves to start life anew, albeit too late. He was out cold for too long for not too major offences that he committed. It is good that he is given a second chance.
A letter from a Charles Tan in the Today paper suggested that insider trading should be legalised. There is nothing for me say when people cannot see what this will lead to. But this is another brutal truth. When one is in a position of power or authority and accessible to sensitve information, connections etc, it is ok to take advantage of the situation to fatten one's pocket. Are we ready for the Singapore of the future?
Why is Singapore trying to explain the IDR Committee Why is Singapore taking on the task to explain to the Malaysians that we have no interest in meddling with Malaysian affairs or taking over the sovereignty of the IDR through the joint committee? It is a red herring that we should not be involved. The more we try to explain a stupidity, the more will stupid people read into our intention when there is none. The IDR is a Malaysian proposal to be developed in Malaysian soil. To have Malaysians questioning their own ability to manage the IDR and even toying with the fear of losing their sovereignty is unbelieveable. Unless the Malaysians are really that low in their ability to give away their sovereignty without knowing. Maybe this is possible and their concern is real. Don't they have talented people to manage the IDR to their advantage? And maintaining sovereignty within one's soil, with the full support of the law and the law enforcing agencies, you do not need much brains to do that. How could the village chiefs even think that it is clever to suggest that it can happen? Singapore is best to shut up and let them play their own political wayang. It is not very clever of us to try to explain away their self created paranoia.
And this is what the media big bosses are saying. Their comments are justified by the coverage of people on the ground, at the scene, shooting and relaying information and pictures to media organisations to broadcast or put into prints. Handphones and digital cameras are very handy tools for the coverage of instant news. And there is the great happenings at Youtube with everyone trying out their flair and showing off what they have shot. What the media gurus forget to say is that citizen journalism is journalism of the people. The people choose their agenda and report things they want to report. This is a huge difference from what one reads in the media when the content is chosen by the editor. Now the citizens decide what they want to write, print and shoot and read. My denture almost fell out when I read this statement from ReuterTV's senior producer Jahabar Sadiq who cautioned against the bias in such material. "I 've seen videos that were edited and shaped in such a way that they presented just one point of view...News agencies will still be there to provide a neutral point of view - a view that has integrity and is created by professionals with very good editorial policies.' He said. How much is true in Jahabar's statement? 10% perhaps. All the news we read are edited and shaped in such a way that they present the views of the journalist or that of the media or broadcasters. It is often a one sided view. A neutral view? What a load of bullshit! And integrity, created by professionals with very good editorial policies? Integrity in what? Good policies according to who? The only thing professional is that the people are professional people being paid to do what they are told to do. Only in citizen journalism is there independence of thoughts and ideas reflecting what the citizen sees, hears and reports, of course with his taint of biasness. At least the citizen does not pretend to be neutral and objective.
We need to DOUBLE the following: 1. Roads and public transport system and car parks 2. Housing, either sideways or upwards 3. Schools, polytechnics and universities 4. Hospitals and clinics 5. Recreation, sports stadiums and amusement facilities 6. Places of worship 7. Jobs 8. Shopping centres, markets 9. Land of course 10. Reservoirs 11. Air and breathing space 12. Food 13. And many more things But our land is shrinking because of global warming. When that happens, no more land reclamation and many housing and other landed properties will be under water.
The Insurance association has given warning that car insurance premium would have to go up because of high cost and claims. It reported a loss of more than $13 mil for the first quarter of the year on a revenue of nearly $200 mil for the same period. Assuming labour and other cost works out to be 70% of the revenue, or $140 mil, the claims from car accidents must be $60 mil plus $13 mil or $73 mil. And if the total cost is 50%, or $100 mil, the claim was a staggering $113 mil. These are just ball park figure. What is alarming is that a whole year figure would be 4 times this amount or between $292 mil and $452 mil. Now that is a lot of claims. The question is whether the loss is due to high accident claims or other costs eg labour cost, rental costs or losses due to investments. The amount of claims due to car accidents was expectedly not reported. The motorists who are going to be charged with higher car insurance premium deserved to know the whole picture. If accident claims is really that high, then it is justifiable to throw back the cost to the motorists. However, if the losses were due to higher manpower cost or other losses, then it is unfair to expect the motorists to bear the hike in insurance premium. Would CASE look into this before car insurance premiums are raised?
Ah Bian was interviewed by Yang Ming over Channel News Asia. And Ah Bian was in his own self, speaking or misspeaking in words that he could not pronounce clearly, and explaining his policies and philosophy of life and politics. Yang Ming was his professional best, articulate, polite and perceptive. He was posing questions at Ah Bian, leading him along but Ah Bian evading all the sensitive issues related to China. The most important feature throughout the interview was Yang Ming's expression. Though he smiled very often, and very cool and polite in his questions and comments, he could not hide his frustration at the man sitting in front of him that he called President. His face was as red as a lobster. He must be wondering why the Taiwanese elected such a man to be their President. There was nothing in Ah Bian that could impress him as one who can lead a nation. Ah Bian was fumbling as he could not articulate his words clearly. It was not even Min Nan dialect. After this interview, my reply to Li Ao is that the Taiwanese are also stupid. How else would a people electe a President like Ah Bian when there are many capable men around. Even Yang Ming is a much better man, anytime, in all aspects. They need to raise their President's salary to attract better talents.
The terrorist threat getting serious. This is a threat that will not go away but getting worst by the day. It is a matter of time when we will cry for our brothers and sisters lying in pools of blood or dying after an attack. And the govt is aware that they cannot fool around with such threats and must take all precautions and preparations necessary to prevent such an attack. Chee Hean came out with a new scheme to train more soldiers to take on this task, to protect our beautiful houses, complexes, infrastructures and HDB flats as well. No amount of men is too many to carry out this task. Uniformed personnel will be first on the line to face the terrorists. Maybe it is time they pay the uniformed personnel in the millions for putting their lives on the line to protect the wealth, security and safety of the people. Some issues and concerns were raised in Parliament with this new change. There were fears of abuses. This is unavoidable. Lets hope that there is no repeat of the airport incident where uniformed personnel abused their power and threaten the people they are supposed to protect. In that incident, an innocuous remark by a mother and a child resulted in their plan family holiday ruined and subjected them to intimidation by uniformed personnel, held up or in a way prevented them from going for their holiday. What the govt needs to do, and the people needs to know, is that the uniformed people are there to protect the people. And the people also must know their rights and when such uniformed personnel abuse their authority, they must be challenged or a channel for official complains to bring them to task, and be punished severely. For it is a very serious situation if we allowed uniformed personnel to think that they can abuse their authority and mess around with the citizens. And knowing the sheeple that we have, they will allow such abuses against them to get by. We need to educate our people of their rights as citizens as well. And also what they should do when uniformed personnel cross their line of duty to intimidate the people. This is also a time when the people and uniformed personnel must work closely together as one against a common enemy.
The age issue in employment is receiving more attention in a population that is growing with the baby boomers. This is the group of movers and shakers of the economy for the last 30 years and they refuse to go away. They are here to stay, like it or not. They will occupy all the seats of power and influence, and money of course, until they drop dead. Who says people should be retiring? Is there an issue with people working to their sunset years? Is 62 a reasonable age to retire? It all depends. It depends on the physical and mental health of the worker. It also depends on the nature of the job. In more physically demanding jobs, you cannot afford to risk the lives of workers who are physically challenged to continue what they doing when young. And in many jobs, the dexterity of the fingers and the nimbleness of the minds, as well as the pretty face of a sweet young thing make a world of a difference in getting the job done well. Can a straight jacket law be simply introduced to be applicable to all situations? What the law could look at is a real restructuring of jobs for the oldies instead of kicking the oldies aside. There are many jobs that are suitable for oldies that have been threatened because young boys and girls think that oldies should be confined to old folks homes. On the other hand younger and physically able people could be encouraged to take on more active jobs or jobs that require more mobility. There is no hard and fast rules when physical suitablity is concerned. But one thing of concern is the slow reaction and nearly blind uncles driving taxis. The physical checks must not just be confined to general health and the eyesight. The lost of attentiveness and slow reaction to a fast changing situation can be life threatening. We need job restructuring rather than stringent laws that are cast in stone. But don't send all the uncles and aunties to become table cleaners and dish washers, or road sweepers.
This is truly exceptional and extraordinary. The change catalyst in Singapore politics is in the hands of two ancient politicians. One is in the thick of things and instituting changes all the way. Another is in the fringe waiting to re enter the scene to institute the biggest change in Singapore's politics. Make way boys and girls. Age is an advantage in politics. Go back to play marbles and catch spiders.
The ONE that refuses to go away and keeps coming back. He may be 85 in 2011, if his health permits, surely he will run the race. He has given everything he got to run this race. He will make his last stand. And he has everything going for him. There are plenty of issues that he can talk about and people will listen to him. The sympathisers will be with him. His admirers for his determination and sacrifices will be for him. And there will be the permanent opposition votes that will go to him. He is likely to waltz into parliament without any resistance. The boys and girls will be overawed by his presence. And if they dare attack him or ridicule him in any way, the joke will be on them. The only obstacle in his path is not to get himself into any legal battle and be made a bankrupt again before the next election. But the naysayers will try to write him off. Those who believe that it is good to be in the winning camp will also want to write him off. Ultimately it will be a test of whether Singaporeans have a heart to see this grand old man through the last few years of his life. He is a Singaporean that never run away.
There is no better time than now to quickly introduce means testing before things get out of hand. The public service is public service for the people and not a treasure chest for the finders and keepers. It is the public's money and not only that the money must be spent reasonably, the public must also have a say in how and how much it should be spent particularly in the area of Ministerial salary. And this is where means testing must come in. A set of criteria must be adopted to test the means of such an income that the people deems fit for the political appointees. This should be measured against affordability and real income. Real income as compared against equally well off nations and the value of the income vis a vis the basket of goods it can purchased. Next we need to look at affordability not in the sense that the country has a golden goose and it is able to afford as many eggs as the picker wants to. Affordability shall be in the area of what the salary should be able to afford to the office holders. How many houses should the salary afford to buy every year, how many Benzes or BMWs or Bently every year, how many family holidays to choice destinations, how many millions to be put aside as savings. The political appointees must be able to afford a lifestyle fit for them in a prosperous country. The means testing must make sure that they can afford all these comforts to be meaningful and of course to attract more of such talented people befitting of such lifestyle to join the fray. The govt should immediately start to work out a set of means testing for such high offices.
The perfect example of a stupid Singaporean I chance to read this little article about the TV serial Survivor and a guy called Yau-Man Chan. The way he spelt his name, which is actually Chan Yau Man, tells you how stupid he is without needing any further explanation. What he did in the TV serial was the offering to someone a Ford truck for a verbal deal. Unfortunately the world is not made up of people as innocent and naive as he is. And the other guy, a Andria Herd, negated on the deal and he lost the game as well as the truck. Andria's reason is that 'I never totally gave my word. That's how people play the game.' And Andria was proud to say it in front of millions of people on TV, that there is nothing wrong with that. Very likely the world agrees with him except for the few supporter of the sorry loser, Yau Man Chan. And the stupid Yau Man Chan accepted that. Why couldn't he negate on his words and not to give up his truck since the other party did not fulfill his obligation? And he had to apologetically said that Andria was not evil, just confused, while he himself was dubed. The character traits of this Yau Man Chan is very typically Singaporeans. They went around the world, globetrotting, got into deals only to be cheated as the other party has no intention to honour the deal. And the Singaporean would pathetically and compliantly walk away without his pants. Just a note, Yau Man Chan is not a Singaporean but a Malaysian Chinese living in foreign land and has to compromise on his rights, dignity and even the way he writes his name. Chinese Singaporeans in Singapore still have some dignity and respect to stand up for their rights inside the island. But once out of it, they will have to be another decent, innocent, complaint, and graceful victim of people who will take advantage of them as they only have themselves to blame for being in the jungle and they the helpless sheep. This is the new image of an overseas Chinese. In the past the model image of the Chinese was a super loyal and obedient cook whose only talent is cooking and washing the laundry.
Why is citizenship so important to Chinese Singaporeans? I am writing from the perspective of the Chinese Singaporeans. I cannot speak on behalf of the other Singaporeans as I am not wearing their shoes. Please excuse me for just looking at this issue from a specific angle. Many Chinese Singaporeans have taken for granted their good fortune as a citizen of this island. They failed to appreciate how exceptional this situation is. And some have become so cocky while some becoming too careless (loose in their minds) to think that losing it is okay. Look around us or at the world at large and see if there is a little corner where a person of Chinese origin can live freely as an individual, free from discrimination, victimization and even brutality. This little island is probably the only bastion for Chinese Singaporeans to live a life of his own, the way he wants it. He can turn his dreams to reality, to excel in anything that he wanted to be if he only puts in the effort, and to walk tall, speaks to anyone equally without fear, without having to stoop lower. And when he has achieved his dreams, built his fortune, he does not need to apologise or share it with any strangers who will visit him under any guises, but actually demanding that his pocket be filled or he will not have any peace. Some silly Chinese Singaporeans may think that there is always New Zealand, Australia, the UK or the US to migrate to. Yes, if they have the wealth to go over and live a peaceful life of plenty, as a private citizen. But that is all. Their station in life in these adopted countries will be merely as guests in a hotel, paying for all the services. But let them not forget, anyone could trespass their freedom, infringe on their rights, intimidate them or violate them physically or mentally. And when faced with such aggression, they can only walk away, quietly and sheepishly. For those countries can never be home like Singapore. There will be no pride, no dignity and no self respect. They might kid themselves among their small circle of friends. I know some will disagree. And they are right too. For a few individual cases, they could still be equals in other lands. But here is where they have all the rights and respect as an individual. It is a basic privilege that any citizen or decent human being should have, without fear or prejudice. This is how important citizenship is to the Chinese Singaporeans. But would any of them be foolhardy to compromise this right of theirs and carelessly give it away? For once lost, they can never ever dream of having it back. They will then be just like any overseas Chinese, the Malaysian Chinese, Filipino Chinese or Indonesian Chinese. To be kicked around, bullied and manhandled in anyway the power of the land wish to. They will then be called the Singaporean Chinese, the equals of Malaysian or Indonesian Chinese, in the same boat, turning in circles and not going anywhere. Would Chinese Singaporeans think that all is fine, that whoever comes into power will treat them fairly and equally? Never bet on that. No power to be can guarantee fairness to all and be magnanimous to those under their control. When all the chips in your hand are gone, the holder of all the chips will call the shot. Sadly, Li Ao is right. The stupid Singaporeans are slowly marching forward, oblivious to losing this right to self determination, to live as an equal among all citizens, free from discrimination and coercion. When that day arrives, Chinese Singaporeans will have no where else to go to. We cannot and must not become second class citizens in our own island, the only island in the world that offers us the right to a normal life. That is how important this citizenship is to the Chinese Singaporeans. The Chinese Singaporean is an oddity that can go up in smokes, and we will all become Singaporean Chinese, trying to exist in a world that has no place for us, a bit like the Jews before Israel.
It was only last weekend when Abdullah and Hsien Loong met in Langkawi and everything seemed to have taken off from a sound footing. It was all warmth and an eagerness to work together for mutual benefits. It only takes a few days and the mood changes. The fear has returned. The acrimony of the past, the mistrust of others and of self. Why should there be so much fear of the Singaporeans when negotiating for a deal to benefit both parties? Both enter the negotiation with a I want List. And before signing anything, both parties will have to satisfy themselves that their wish list is fulfilled. Then why should it be that after a few years down the road one party will complain that they have been taken for a ride, that they have been cheated? And now even the fear of losing jurisdiction over their own territories? I can understand such a fear after being colonised by big powers for so long. But such thing can never happen in a hypersensitive polity when everyone is politicised. It is just unimaginable that any country will ever sign away their rights to self determination. The only country that may do so is one that think too highly of itself and think that it can get away with it. The Malaysians are going to negotiate with the Singaporeans on an equal basis. It is unlike a small consumer accepting the top down terms from a monopolistic giant. One dollar for you and one thousand dollars for me. In an unequal relationship, the one getting the one dollar has to accept the deal compliantly. But a sovereign state would not accept such nonsense or an unequal treaty. The Malaysians must start to believe in themselves. What happens to Malaysia boleh?
The New NKF is going to become a model organisation in another way. The new management has just taken over for a short period of time and the cost to dialysis patients has gone down by 4 times. This is gravity defying, unheard off and unnatural in the Singapore context. How can cost go down instead of going up? Would they be sending out the wrong signal, that medical cost can actually come down instead of going up? Anyway, good work New NKF.
We have a reputation of having a lot of talented men in govt. And these men are well honed in negotiation skills and always get the best deal for us and make the other party looks stupid. And this reputation is going to haunt us and undermine our relations with Malaysia. They really fear us. What ever deal we propose or agree or accept will make them worry. They fear that they will get lesser benefits from the deal and we will get more. They fear that we will take them for a ride. Above all, they fear that the truth will be out for all to see, their incompetence when negotiating a deal with Singaporeans. How they have become so paranoid and frighten of Singaporeans and their own lack of ability to negotiate a deal that is favourable to themselves is quite startling. Don't they have any faith or confidence in themselves? Abdullah and Hsien Loong have just agreed on a few things to do together and you can see their immediate reactions of horrors!
Whatever had happened or caused to have happened, the NKF has turned Singapore into a kinder society. Richard Yong and Loo Say San both got a slap on the wrist after being found guilty of the charge for failing in their duties as directors. Each was fined $5000 for allowing a $1.3 million deal to go to waste. Though the $5000 fine was the maximum allowable other than jail terms, the judge said it reflected the 'gravity of the matter'. For a grave matter like the loss of $1.3 million, a $5000 fine is grave and appropriate. This is one step forward towards a kinder Singapore. If the punishment is too severe, we may not have any good men coming forward to serve in public service. There must be incentives to attract good people and talented people to serve the people. And from the judge's comment that Richard Yong was only an 'ornament' without any real understanding of what was going on when he went along to Chennai to negotiate the deal, it tells a lot about the talents in NKF. And even Loo Say San 'was not aware of NKF's right under the agreement'. Both instances said that they are not competent and thus should not be made to feel too guilty about not doing a good job. Their intention were good. They volunteered to serve the people in a charity. They are not aware that they were not competent to do the job. They were not party to a collusion or acquaintance to a crime. They did not benefit from the deal. The $5000 fine was thus very appropriate and we shall just move on. Case close. And NKF may want to offer higher pay to recruit better talents to run the show. Paying peanuts is what they get. If they want talents, they need to pay in the millions.
A letter by Sangeetha Bysheim in the Today paper described her experience in applying for a job. She said that all her interviews were by expatriates. This, she concluded, could be that most of the top jobs are occupied by expatriates or two, expatriates are likely to be less discriminatory. She had a point. And she suggested that we must have laws to prevent discrimination at work places, and in employment, especially when we are inviting more talented foreigners to take the place of less talented locals in the job market. I have a better idea and easier to implement. Appoint all the expatriates to the top jobs of organisations, or at least as the HR Managers. This will ensure that there will be fair play and foreigners will be given a fairer chance of getting employment here.
Professional people find it astonishing that 50% of Singaporeans did not plan for their retirement. The point is that how many Singaporeans can afford to plan for their retirement? Take the example of a two paycheck average $5k income family with two children. I believe this is representative of an average Singaporean family. With 30% CPF contribution over a period of 30 years, his CPF savings should be $1500 x 14 x 30, using 14 mths pay and all things remaining unchanged. This will give $630k. The remaining will be his take home pay at $1.68 mil. I f household expenses plus personal expenses for the two parents is $3k pm, total is $1.08 mil. The cost of raising two children to university level at $200k each is $400k. Presumably he owns a car for 20 years and monthly expenditure, including instalment etc is $800. This will cost him $192k. Then we have $1.68m less all these expenses the balance is $8000! Nothing left really. And all the holidays, social commitments, hospital bills etc are not even considered. His only savings is in the CPF. And the full amount would probably be used to pay for a 5 rm HDB flat and a little left in the Medisave. Can he afford to plan and save? Even if he is a thrifty person, thriftyness is frown upon in this island, he may put aside $100k. And all he needs is a major hospitalisation of one member of his family and it will be wiped out. In order to be meaningful, two old folks need to have about $200k in their CPF on retirement. This is based on the minimum sum and Medisave expectation of the CPF Board. If these average Singaporeans have no spare cash to save, what is there to plan? Just work and work is the best plan, really.
Taking on what Balji had said about the recruitment process of Singapore's future Prime Minister and his view that the current process may not be able to find one that meets our future needs, he presumed that there are other better methods for this. Now, what's wrong with the current process? It is a meticulous and systematic process, done in a methodical manner. It is just like a recipe. You decide on what you want to cook, find the material, go through the whole cooking process and pop, the perfect roast lamb or suckling pig is ready to be served. The academics would have a lot to pick from such a system. The choice of the final product, whether it is best to have a roast lamb or curry chicken or sucking pig, is very subjective. Then the quality of the ingredients will also be questioned. Can we pick or cook a national leader the way we cook a general or top civil servant? Historically a national leader, an exceptional leader, was thrown up by events and circumstances. They used to say that history makes a leader, or is it a leader makes history? Compare our system to the Western model and the Chinese model I think ours is closer to the latter. The American model chooses leaders based more on public appeal, a good looker, a smooth talker, and a lot of marketing and packaging. Not much intelligence needed. The Chinese model churns out a national leader through the many levels of screening and sieving. And the leader must prove himself all the way up. He needs to fight all the way, and that needs quite a bit of intelligence, real leadership and perseverence. Ours is a handpick system that looks at the quality of the candidate based on a known recipe. The leaders of today or yesterday will describe what they think the future leader should be like, and they go around looking for one that fits the mould. It is a cook leader. Is there a better system, or which is the best? Very subjective indeed.
Properties the best long term bet Many Singaporeans are laughing all the way to the banks with en bloc sales. And property investment is the big game in town. We are selling Sentosa Cove and other coastal developments at a high premium to the world's rich and famous. In the same breath we are preparing for global warming. And the forecast is that water level may rise by 4 metres or more. And we are going to built dykes around the island. Would Sentosa Cove still be there in 30 years when the water level rises? Would Sentosa Resort and our Marina Resort still be there and not be under water? Shouldn't these coastal developments be marketed for a 30 year lease?
Over the last few weeks we have heard warning voices of how Singaporeans are going to cope in their old age. There were concerns that Singaporeans are not planning for their retirement. It is all a big irony, an unbelievable irony! Singaporeans not planning for their retirement? Or do they need to? When we are talking about planning for retirement, what we are saying is saving that pot of gold so that we can live gracefully without becoming a burden to anyone. And the insurance agents will throw all the policies to you and say these are what you need. The painful thing is that after 20 or 30 years down the line they will tell you that you are not adequately covered. Not enough, after paying all the premiums! What about CPF? Singaporeans have the highest saving rate in Asia other than Japan. Probably the second highest in the world. We are saving at least 30% of our income. And again not enough. How I wish I have a million dollar income. Then I will also complain not enough. How many Singaporeans can afford to save some more when they are already saving more than 30% of their monthly income and struggling to make ends meet? How many have the luxury of earning a million a year and still complain not enough? The majority of Singaporeans will never save enough for their retirement if the cost of living is to run up continuously, and at an alarming rate. The only way out is to work till they die. And is there a need for Singaporeans to plan for their retirement when the govt is planning for them by withholding their life long savings in the CPF to be released in drips at their old age? There is no need for the lower income Singaporeans to plan for their retirement. They cannot afford to. They just need to work and work and work. The state has assumed the role of planning for the Singaporeans' retirement. How can anyone expect the Singaporeans to plan and save when they are already squeezed to save in the CPF and have nothing left to save? Do we really expect ordinary hand to mouth Singaporeans to save in the CPF, buy insurance policies and save some more in their personal savings accounts? Only million dollar Singaporeans can do that.
Gordon Brown is taking over the Premiership of UK from Blair. And his top agenda is to transfer power from 10 Downing Street to Parliament in the matter of making war. Parliament will now have the power instead of the Prime Minister to wage war, a move to prevent another PM making a unilateral decision on war. This decision will make a tremendous change to the power of the British Premiership. The Parliamentarians will have a good debate and make the decision. Transfer this to our Parliament, everyone hearing this will give a big yawn. What's the dif? Parliament to decide or PM to decide, is there a difference here? The answer is obvious if we look at the debate in Parliament and how decisions were made. Were decisions made in Parliament or made even before a debate in Parliament? Where do we go into the future? Balji this morning explore the great challenge of a new PM for Singapore. The underlying assumption is that decisions, or the future of Singapore shall be decided by one man, the PM, and not Parliament. I would like to take this further to explore the viability of Singapore in the future. I see dark clouds if we are foolish enough to ignore the dangers we are treading. I see a new diaspora of Singaporeans being displaced in their homeland. And unlike the Chinese or Indian diaspora, the Singaporean diaspora will not last one generation. Too little to mean anything, just like the dying baba culture. I will deal with this more specifically come Sunday morning.
Yes, headhunters in Singapore are really busy. They have been swamped and overwhelmed by the number of hopeful candidates who wanted to make Singapore their home, so that they could have a go at the general election. Many are attracted by the carrots we are hanging for the better talents that we want. We are raising the bar several notches higher and going to a level of talents we have not seen before. We used to go for the $1m talents. Now we are going for the $3 mil or maybe more millions talents the world can offer. And they are all coming to Singapore, the land of opportunities. Headhunters are also recruiting the other way. There are great demands for our talents too. Warren Buffett is looking for someone to replace him to manage his investment company. And he is looking at the right place. And George Bush is vacating his office soon. So is Chen Shui Bian. But these countries must be able to afford our supertalents. They don't come cheap. Who knows, a Singaporean may be headhunted to run for the President of the USA or Taiwan. The ASEAN countries would love to have one of our supertalents. For many years they have privately expressed that they would love to have LKY as their PM. But this is unlikely. They cannot afford the price tag.
As a sign of respect to those parents devastated by the air crash in Taiwan and losing their precious sons, I kept quiet for the whole morning after posting 'The Ultimate Sacrifice.' More than 18 years of caring for a son, all of a sudden he was gone. And the parents accepted what happene, and only hanged on to grief their losses. It was duty and honour for the nation. How can the state repay this gratitude and pain of the parents and those who missed them? We have came this far as a nation. We must not erode what we have achieved this far and mess it up with the foreign talent thing. The people, the citizens, is all the nation got in time of need. Not superficial talents that would scoot at the slightest unease. They, the foreign talents, have nothing to hold them here. They are here only for the good time.
Quietly and unceremoniously they packed up and left for a journey to adulthood. More importantly it was a call of duty to serve the country. Young men, bright eyed 18 year olds, were enlisted to be trained as soldiers and other uniformed services the day they finished their secondary schools. For the next two to two an a half years, they belong to the state. The parents reluctantly, hesitantly, and tentatively let them go. But deep inside them they harbour an unspoken fear. Many return to rejoin their families after their National Service Training. Some don't. We have just witnessed another undescribed grief of parents whose precious sons failed to return home, alive. The tragedy of losing someone so precious, someone about to embark on a journey of life as an adult, getting a job, courting a girlfriend, getting married, becoming a father in his own right, all vanished, while answering the call of duty. The pain was suffered in silence. The parents accepted that as any citizens would do so. It is the price of citizenship. The ultimate sacrifice the citizens made for the country. We are the citizens of this island. Are we appreciated or are we just some digits that can be replaced by foreigners with no qualms and conscience? All parents share the grief of these unfortunate parents quietly, in their hearts. The sacrifice to the nation is not only the NS men, but the parents, the siblings and all who knew the fallen men.
Bridge obsession One thing I can say about Malaysian leaders, they are obsessed with building bridges. Penang island has two bridges now. Probably a third is in the pipeline. Singapore has two bridges, and more are expected. Abdullah has said that Malaysia and Singapore should be joined by many bridges. We have, many people to people and business bridges. One other thing that I find it strange is the need to burn or cut bridges to build new ones. The causeway is the most efficient of all the bridges that are built to link two places. Why the need to cut it? If the Malaysians are really interested in improving land transport then a simpler way is to expand the causeway to a 10 or 20 lane land bridge. And if they still want to build more bridges, I know that collecting toll is a very easy and sure profit business, they may want to think of links to the eastern coast of Malaysia and Singapore. A link to Desaru will be more meaningful while the present causeway be enlarged to cater for more users when the IDR takes off. Travellers to the east coast can have a short cut to their destinations, saving travel time and distance. The days of thinking crookedly to built crooked bridges should be thrown away to the dawn of history and a rationally conceived bridge should be built to benefit both sides, cheap and efficient. And not expensive and good to collect higher toll fees.
The two granite executives arrested in Karimum have been let out of their windowless cell where 4 prisoners were cramped in and with one toilet hole to share. But they cannot leave the island, reportedly Batam. Or is it Karimun or Sumatra? The little cell that they were imprisoned may be adequate to the villagers, but to Singaporeans who are used to modern sanitation comfort and cleanliness, this is equivalent to mental bashing. And what had these two executives done? They were mere employees of a company engaging in lawful activities in an Indonesian island. And they were arrested when they voluntarily went there to assist in an investigation on a sabotage and bombing of their company's facilities. And they were kept incommunicado from the world for several weeks, without visitors. The world must take note of such tribal acts and be wary when sending their executives to such a country. The foundation of law in that country is built on lawlessness by the law enforcer. The arrest of the two executives is clearly politically motivated. There is no reason or justification to treat 'assumed' commercial crime violators in that manner. They are innocent until proven guilty. But in this case, they were more than guilty for things they are presumed to have done which everyone knew that they did not do. Compare to how China handled the case of Ching Cheong, the Straits Times journalists, when they had been monitoring him for years and have all the evidence to arrest him. He is being treated more humanely than our executives. And his charge is treason, espionage. He could be jailed for life. When is Indonesian gonna join the civilisation of a new and modern world?
I want to be a doctor. I want to be a pilot. I want to be a teacher. These were the aspirations of a time not too long ago. The aspirations of the new generation is to become a millionaire or multi millionaire. And children in schools are writing about becoming ministers. To them this is the surest road to becoming instant multi millionaires. I want to be a minister is the new aspirations of the Singapore Young.
We have been looking at economic numbers to support our claim that we have arrived at the corridor of first world nations. If the qualifications are limited to just money, we are quite comfortably in the safe zone of being first world. No one can deny that what we have, and what the people have, generally, is money and material wealth. We are rich, real or on paper, but we are rich. We can afford many creature comfort and have taken them as basic needs, for granted. Let's look at another aspect of whether we are there. One area to look at is the viability and acceptance of the political system and the fate of the political leaders when they step down from office. Would the new govt and leaders continue with the system that they have inherited or would they do a house cleaning and throw out the old and in with the new? And would the political leaders exit the political arena without any hiccups, not charge in courts and thrown into jail or have to escape from paradise? We have seen many countries where there were regime change and new systems were brought in to replace the old system. And political leaders have been thrown into jails or threatened with all kinds of charges, corruption, nepotism, abuse of power etc. All these had happened within the ASEAN countries, in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam etc. The three relatively more settled countries in terms of political system and the fate of their political leaders are Brunei, Malaysia and ourselves. Brunei's ruling royalties are very well regarded and they treat their people very well. That system looks like going to be there forever. Malaysia has proven to be quite stable until Anwar was thrown into jail. But he has been rehabilitated. A small blemish. And Mahathir is still around, happily shooting at anyone at his convenience. In the case of Singapore, we have not have a regime change as yet and things look quite good. The way it goes, our top political leaders would be able to enjoy their retirement from politics gracefully and enjoy their fruits of labour. And the political system will endure and continue in perpetuity. In this sense, we are extraordinary and deserve the first world label. I cannot forsee a new govt coming into power and tear away at all the systems that have been entrenched and legally protected by the Constitution. And neither would our leaders have to flee once they step down from power, like Marcos. And this is first world standard that we can expect.
The Extradition Treaty and Defence Cooperation Agreement have been signed. The sand ban is still there. Our men are still in their cell, not charged in court and not allowed visitors. A few of the barges have been released but many still detained at the Indonesian's pleasure. Nothing is going to change when the legal systems or the way laws are administered are so different. The signing of the two agreements should be the beginning of disengagement. Singapore shall seriously work out ways to develop other relations and cooperations with other countries that have similar legal systems and mindsets as us. When law is equivalent to lawlessness, we are asking to be slapped in our face every now and then if we continue foolishly to flirt with people of a different dimension. Compare to the Malaysians, with Mahathir out of the way, and if he is not replaced by another psychopath, there are many reasonable men over there. And our history, political and legal systems are very similar. We can expect to be treated more fairly and be able to talk sense when parochial politics is out of the way. Let this be a lesson for Singapore to reassess the situation and strike out on a new direction. We cannot be self sufficient in many things. But we cannot be dependent on unreliable partners.
SINGAPORE: Police are investigating a theft in Pasir Ris that took place in broad daylight - vandals have taken, of all things, metal railings. Support rails on an access path, specially built for the elderly and disabled, no longer exist at Pasir Ris Drive 6. It is the same at Drive 1 also. Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council says it would take at least three weeks to replace the railings, at a cost of S$20,000. Some residents said they actually saw the suspected vandals at work, but did not realise they were witnessing a crime. "I saw them sawing the railings around 3pm the day before. But I thought they were contractors. There were three workers, and another two men who looked like they were supervisors," says Pasir Ris resident Eliza Khong. - CNA/yy This is what will happen when a country is no longer a country. The citizens no longer think, and do not think anything belongs to them. We are all just passerbys. Citizens or visitors, no difference. No ownership, no responsibility, no care. And the people who cut away the railings know this. It is free for all, take what you like. It is really WYSWYG.
Not enough babies? What is your problem? Forget about all the goodies or flexi hours, incentives etc. Just be real. Just pay us mums $100k each for 5 years for each child we produce. And we assure you that every cent you spent is worth it. The children are the future of this country. Without children means no NS men, no one to look after the country and no one to look after the aged. And also no one to join the work force. See or not? If the baby bust continues, Singapore will be no more. Now that is serious isn't it? And $500k for 5 years or $100k a year, that is cheap. All the mums are waiting.
In many forums and blogs, the congestion and ERP rates are a perennial complain by everyone. There is a thread on how raising ERP rates at the CTE is not going to solve anything. Everyone is looking at the congestion as a problem. And it is true, a problem only to the motorists. As a businessman, where making profit is the ultimate goal, the congestion in the CTE is a golden opportunity to make more money. If the govt is going to sell the CTE to a private operator, yes privatise it, I will be the first to bid for it. Then I will sit back and be a genuine toll collector. Where is the problem? It is all opportunities to become rich if you can see it from a different angle.
Looks like everything is up and nothing going down. ERP, GST, property prices, etc. The good thing is that employment is also up and salaries are going shooting to the sky with some probably getting double what they were earnings. For those whose salary increases are more than to offset all the increases, it is a good thing. For those who are getting $50 increases or $100 or $200 increases, would it be a good thing? Would they be celebrating and jumping around like happy monkeys? All these increases seem to be seasonal, we will have our Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter in a 4 year cycle. Spring is the time of promises and looking a head to a glorious future, then Summer and Autumn when the food are harvested. And Winter is a time to feed on the years harvest when it is plenty, or to tighten belt when the harvest is bad. I skip Summer as the seasons of Summer and Autumn, in fact Spring as well, are very shortlived. Of the four years, probably Winter will stretch for 2 to 3 years. The farmers are having their feasts. Not sure about the cows, the horses, the sheeps, the pigs and the rest of the fowls. Or we have gone past this stage and the farmers were gone?
Neptune Court residents are also locked at battle over the sale of their estate. And the issue is, yes, the tyranny of the majority versus the tyranny of the minority. The second issue is about the ugly Singaporeans who think that with a little knowledge, a little money, they can go around demanding apologies or threatening to sue one another. The legal provisions for the en bloc sales has stood up as a sore thumb. Its provisions are clear, legalistic but simplistic. It actually provides for the majority to do what they like. And though there were some considerations for the minority, these provisions can only hold under very exceptional conditions. If the majority can command their required 80-90%, technicality the sale will go through. Unless the minority have the resources to fight a long legal battle in court. The other aspect of demanding apologies and threatening legal actions are a reflection of the kind of Singaporeans living among us, their pettiness and shallowness, simplethons in their heads, but think that they can go around threatening and suing everyone. They did not know that to do such silly things they need to have a lot of money to spare. The lawyers would love to have more of them as their clients.
Li Ao is Right Yes he is right. Singaporeans are stupid. This is no longer a myth. After assessing all the debates in the media, it is conclusively proven that Singaporeans in general are stupid. And many Singaporeans will quietly concede to this truth. And those who still refuse to acknowledge this truth are the not stupid one. They are even more stupid than the average Singaporeans. For they still did not know that they are stupid. But I am saying that only the Singaporeans in general are stupid. There is of course a very small group of Singaporeans that are smart like hell. And the smarter this group becomes, the stupidier the rest of the Singaporeans will be. Their smartness is directly proportional to the dumbness of the rest of the Singaporeans. Now, anyone going to disagree with my observation?
The media flashed a picture of Hsien Loong at the Yahoo HQ flanked by Jerry Yang and David Filo. My immediate impression is S$3m flanked by several hundred million US$. Now that is an extraordinary picture. A head of govt being dwarfed by two young men running an information exchange system in terms of income.
The professionals are expecting a revision of their salary. The doctors, except for a few exceptionally well paid specialists, are also staring at their low income vis a vis other professions. In terms of training hours put in, the medical profession is the longest, each spending about 10 years of post secondary education to become a specialist while other professions can make do with 4 to 6 years. They are justified to expect salary in the same level as the accountants and lawyers. And in the medical, engineering or technology fields, the advancement in science and medical knowledge comes in leaps and bounds and it is a strenuous process to keep up with the new knowledge. Not that accountants and the legal professionals are stagnated and have little to keep up with. There are changes and new developments. But the volume of changes is very little compare to the medical and other fields. And the doctors are eyeing the ministerial pay as the benchmark for their salary increment. Knowing the brilliant minds of the doctors, they cannot miss a good thing. The formula is crafted by the top talents of the island and is near to flawless. It is as perfect as it can be. And if one is a beneficiary of the formula, it is almost guaranteed to go one way, up, up and away. The probability of it coming down is at most 0.1%. And this can only happen if there is a world wide depression. Will the doctors get their benchmark? Can they use the same logic and reasonings like they will become corrupt if they cannot get their benchmark? Or can they argue that the medical industry will go to the gutters? Or can they say that the nurses will end up as nurses in neighbouring developing countries earning peanuts? I bet the doctors will be smart enough to come up with more logical justifications that are seen as reasonable. And one reason they can give is that if their salary is not raised, the profession will not be able to attract the top talents into their fold. And many will be poached by top medical facilities around the world.
Just feel like telling a successful Singaporean story. This is about a successful Singaporean's rag to riches story. He was a self made man, building a successful business into a little conglomerate. And at every Annual Dinner and Dance for this employees he would make his happy speech of how he arrived. He told his weird philosophies and his employees clapped and cheered. He shared his distorted logics and reasonings, and they nodded their heads in appreciation. He illustrated his speeches with anecdotes and jokes and they loved them and gave him a standing ovation. But as all good things would come to an end, his business failed and his business was taken over. He was still invited to the company's annual dinner as a very important guest. And the employees took turns to speak on stage. They ridiculed him and joked about his silly wisdom and logics in front of everyone, right in his face. He could not believed what he heard. They all sounded so right during his time of glory, and his employees loved them. Why were they telling him a different thing altogether, and actually telling him that all the time he was talking nonsenses and they were only tolerating him because he was the boss. It is a different story when one is no longer the boss man.
While everyone is falling asleep, or under severe dosage of feeling good pep pills, that everything will be fine, the problems that new immigrants are going to bring along with them here are beginning to simmer. The fault lines are appearing. These new immigrants are very different from the early immigrants of our forefathers who came here desperate, ignorant and illiterate, and will accept anything that the local authorities threw at them, including curtailment of their basic human rights. The modern immigrants are suave, well educated, affluent and demanding. Couple with a swell headed ego that the govt has bestowed upon them as foreign talents to save us from our impending doom, it is not surprising that they are demanding that the island must adapt to their ways of life and their expectations. They will bring along, other than their wealth and talents, their idiosyncracies and peculiar lifestyles, their religions, language and culture, and everything that means something to them but may be odd or make them look like oddballs to what we have built. And they are going to demand, make demands that we give way to them. They will want their own ministers, their mayors or village chiefs, their schools and language, their culture, to be carved into the main stream of our society. We must not kid ourselves that they are going to be very pleasant and compliant. The latter is a virtue of the locals. They are still new and relatively small in numbers today, but all the signs are there of what the locals can expect of them. And given time and numbers, these foreign talents, more articulate, rich, and thinking too highly of themselves, are going to exert a lot of pressure on their poorer, submissive and less talented locals. If we are not careful, we are sowing the seed of future dissents and discords within our society. If we are going to march ahead, filled with delusions that everything will be well managed and controlled, it is prudent that we set out clear guidelines as to how far we are prepared to bend ourselves to meet the demands of new citizens. We must insist now that new immigrants accept the sacred pillars that we used to build our society and nation, the primacy of the English Language and the three other official languages and that no one is allowed to challenge these basic premises. All new citizens must accept what we are and build their lives around them and not to change what we have taken so long to build. These must be the very first conditions explained to them before they take up citizenship. And if they think this is not what they want, they should go somewhere else. We must not reach a stage when new citizens are arrogant enough and have the audacity to tell the local borns to get lost if they are unhappy with their demands. This should be the right of the citizens to demand from potential citizens. If I don't even believe in Him who had sacrificed his son, why should I believe in any ordinary man?
I have posted several times on the en bloc issue and the tyranny of the majority to force their will on the minority. The law provides for the majority to do what they deem fit in an en bloc sales and this has been taken full advantage of to the detriment of the minority by some unscrupulous majority. The minority are now crying out loud at the abuses of the majority and getting themselves heard in the main stream media. Today there is another letter by a Paul Amstrong in the Today paper trying to get the public and developer to understand the views of the minority. As he explained along the way, I sense that he got himself carried away by making quite ridiculous demands of expecting everything to be what they were before, to the extend of expecting the same view, the same space, design, nooks and corners etc. This is actually what the law makers fear, the tyranny of the minority, the unreasonable minority that will not move for their weird sentimental reasons. The majority may be held captive by the unjustifiable demands of a few crannies and everyone be held at ransom. One must admit that no laws can be crafted to meet all situations. There are limitations and these can only be taken care of by the good sense of reasonableness which is often expressed as the spirit of the law. We do not want people to take advantage of the law to sue someone for a pair of lost pants for US$65 million. When laws are applied strictly to the letters, it makes the people all look so stupid. It reflects on the stupidity of a nation. What is needed in the en bloc dilemma is not more laws but a moderator appointed by the govt to mediate and ensure a reasonable settlement for all parties.
I was watching the Thye Hua Kuan Charity Night on TV last night. It was very successful, bagging another $4 million from the generous and kind hearted people from the public. The public, mostly earning less than $5000 a month, many less than $2000, made almost 500,000 calls during the 3 hour programme and raised about $2.5 million alone. I hope no one is going to laugh and make private jokes about the poor and the paupers trying to skim a few dollars to help their comrades in the shitholes. What is interesting about the programme is the formula being used. The phone calls, foreign and local artistes, the parading of people in trouble, the pathetic pleas etc etc, except that there is no lucky draw. Whoever came out with this idea is simply brilliant. Is it the old NKF, Durai or some programme producer or some PR agency? I am sure they can copyright the programme blueprint and collect royalties from it. This is a formula that can be marketed internationally.
PN Balji raised a very important and sensitive issue of race and language in the Today paper. He forsees the problems of how the Tamil group, being the majority in Singapore, feels threatened by the influx of Northern Indians and the use of Hindi instead of Tamil. And as they feel threatened, there is a discussion going on in cyberspace calling for the greater use of Tamil as well as the appointment of an Indian Affairs Minister. This is a timely call as Singapore starts its massive programme of injecting the population with better foreign talent blood. This infusion of better quality blood would inevitably bring a long some pulls and stresses in our society. The most important of these problems is the diversities of the new talents. And I believe the govt is prepared and have preview to the colourful Singapore that is yet to come and will embrace all kinds and colours in its stride. The call for an Indian Affairs should be taken up seriously. And we need a China Chinese Affairs Minister to go along as the problems of the China Chinese is never the same as indigenious Chinese. Then an Indonesian Affairs Ministers as well. And probably an European Affairs Minister as well. It will perhaps add on another $8 million into the cost of the govt's budget. But it is all worth it to make Singapore more colourful and lively. This should include the use of more languages in Parliament. And all the street signs should have all the languages of as many dialect groups as possible. And we can decorate all the signages beautifully. That will make Singapore not only unique, but very friendly to the world. Oh, I have forgotten about the Japanese, the Vietnamese, the Koreans, Thais, Filipinos, the Myanmars and the Bangladeshis. How about a minister to take care of each of this group? As we bring in more foreign talents, we must be prepared to cater to their demands sensitively. Or else we might one day be like England or France where the immigrants will start to plant bombs everywhere because they were not treated equally or fairly. But being an extraordinary country with extraordinary talents, we shall prevail. Such problems will not affect us. The talks and discussions in the internet are by innocent or naive forumers talking nonsenses and will have no impact to our society.
Charity organisations are looking for more innovative ways to get donations from the public after the NKF fiasco. Taking the same course of actions like lucky draw prizes, charity shows, soliciting using the pretext of free medical checkups, signing monthly donations etc may draw an unpleasant taste. New and more innovative ways are needed. I can imagine that an opt in/opt out scheme for the money in the Medisave would be an attractive proposition. Just make a ruling that everyone must opt out of the scheme or else the money left after their demise will go to charity. And with so much money left unused, many will likely die without touching their Medisave, this will be a huge source of donation for charity organisations.
The Sunday Times reported on Lim Swee Say's talk to a group of young and bright eyes unionists. And the reporter, Keith Lin, reported that Swee Say gave them 'an insight in the challenges of governing Singapore.' For his insightful anecdotes, Swee Say was described as 'vintage'. I can imagine all the impressionable young unionists going ga ga with what Swee Say had shared with them. If Swee Say has risen to the level of vintage, and he is only in his early 50s, and bearly 10 years in politics, what would he be appropriately called in another 10 years, artifacts or antiques?
Hsien Loong was at the White House having a strategic dialogue with George Bush, the President of the world's number one super power. The Prime Minister of an island that has hardly 4 million people and sharing ideas and strategies on world politics with the President of a world empire. And Hsien Loong is giving kind words of encouragement to Bush to stick to his strategies. It must be very comforting for George to have a convert to agree with him openly in a time when all his friends have left him. This is extraordinary. I mean the getting together of these two leaders when size and capabilities, to call them a mismatch, is an understatement. The other thing that is extraordinary is the dominant role played by Pakistanis in the world of terrorism. The latest court case in Britain found that Pakistanis were the main motivators, and Pakistan is the home and factory to world terrorism. Isn't this extraordinary?
In the past, when car prices were astronomical, COEs shooting to the sky, a car buyer who bought his car on the 30th day of a month, say April, will be considered as buying the car on 1st April and his use of the car will expire on 31 March. He thus lost the use of the car by one month, due to administrative convenience. That means a lot of money. This has been rectified today and the COE will expire on the respective days when the car is registered. Today, a forumer complained in the Straits Times that banks are using 360 days as a year to compute interest rate for credit cards instead of 365 days. The net effect is that consumers will have to pay more. Another former complained that the debiting and crediting of a bank transfer of funds are not done on the same day in some banks which again is to the disadvantage of the consumers. Why are the consumers, mostly the small people, always receiving the short end of the stick? Are these ethical business practices? Big corporations should not squeeze for every little advantage they can get from the small consumers. And in the case of 360 versus 365 days, this is unacceptable as there can be no justifiable reasons for doing this.
It is reported in the media that a Russian tycoon, Mikhail Fridman of the Alfa Group, is paying Indonesian leaders to wrestle control of Temasek owned Indosat from Singapore. And the methods used by Altimo, the company owned by Fridman, other than bribery, or they called it gifts, include a smear campaign to tarnish the reputation of ST Telemedia. Project Indosat, as the covert operation is called and reported in Indonesian media, is denied by everyone who has been named to be involved. It is a public secret that even the top Indonesian leaders are alleged to have known of its existence. If it can be proven, that taking money, or bribes or call it corruption in this case, would Singapore be able to use the newly inked Extradition Treaty to bring a few of them to our courts for a trial?
Aaron Ho Chien Kwok lamented the constant pursuit of material wealth as the new obsession of Singaporeans at the expense of spiritual or social wellbeing. Aaron was not quoting the bible or other spiritual wisdom but the simple and plain goodness of living, that there is more than just accumulation of material wealth. And he is not alone. In his article to the Today paper, he was concerned at how such ideas of me first have been reinforced daily in all media by all well meaning people. The acquisition of wealth is a good thing as it brings about a more comfortable and luxurious lifestyle, and freedom from want. But the social, moral and spiritual self are equally important. There must be a balance as we live out our lives. Aaron quoted the age old wisdom of 'What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul.' This is very similar to the temptation of Jesus Christ by the devil. The devil offered Jesus all the wealth and kingdoms. Come to the dark side. But Jesus plainly rejected them for higher moral and spiritual well beings. I love hedonism. But I am careful not to be carried away.
Rajendren Rajamani, 24, more or less single handedly set up three charity organisations, ie the Children of Singapore Foundation, Children's Lukaemia Foundation, and Club Sunshine Ltd, which was previously known as Kids-In-Distress Foundation Ltd. He is seen as a young and passionate man with a lot of dreams, as described by one of his admirers. In order for a young man to be able to register three charities and get donations in several hundred thousands, he is indeed a talent in his own right and could be a role model for our young. In celebration of enterprising young talent. Oops.
Several issues in the Today paper point out to two serious misgivings that are getting quite prevalent within our society. The first is conflict of interests as was pointed out in the case of the three charities that were struck off by the Commissioner of Charities. The second is the problem of the watchdog sleeping or transgressing. Then we will have the problem of who is watching over the watchdog. For the three dubious charities to be struck off after existing for so long and collecting so much money without raising an eyebrow or a red flag speaks very loudly of how far down our society has gone. This is a case of getting immune of abuses when abuses are everywhere and found not objectionable. In fact, as in the case of NKF, it was a model that was trumpeted and celebrated as the best thing to have had happened for the Charity scene. It becomes a blanket cover for all charities with similar practices and to get by without being questioned. Shall the watchdog be whacked? What happens if watchdogs also transgress the principles of good corporate governance? The checks and balance system and ancient wisdom of proper conduct are not there for show, and any violation should raise a red flag no matter how good is the intention or the reputation of the transgressor. Once such fundamental rules and principles can be shoved aside, more things will get through in a matter of time. Are there signs of decline or transgression that we are overlooking or refuse to acknowledge?
Halimah Yaacob is trying to fight discrimination in the employment scene by doing away with some data in the Application Form. Things like sex, marital status, age, religion or race may be a thing of the past. And photos may also be excluded. By removing such items, employers will be limited to choose the candidates for interviews based on other available data. Technically discrimination can be stopped, at least up to the interview stage. But would it lead to the employment of a candidate after the shocking presence during the interview when what the employer needs are totally mismatched? The real discrimination, if any, is at the hiring. What happened in this case is that many will be called up for interviews but find it a big waste of time, money and effort when one does not meet the employer's expectation. Example if the employer wants a female age 30 and below, probably slim and cute, but the candidate turning up is an old grandfather that weighs 100kg, and the interview has to go on, not to make it too embarrassing for the applicants. Curbing job discrimination can hardly be overcame by a mere change of applicant's biodata.
While we continue with the spin on Greed as the driving force in our economy, maybe we should try to develop a different formula, a return to the past when life was simpler, when the motivation in life includes things like passion, charity, compassion, service, selflessness etc. Though many have already subscribed and become strong believers in the new virtue of Greed, I believe there will still be people, or a few people, who will not be seduced and would still want to do a little goodness just for goodness sake. And they will also be some who have plenty and would want to give a little to charity in time or in money. There are many public hospitals today, run by volunteers and voluntary organisations. Though some have also subscribed to Greed, many still stand tall as what charity is supposed to be. Perhaps we can experiment with a govt initiated public hospital driven by everything else except Greed. We only need to convert one of the leftover HDB block to start with and the doctors and nurses can come from contract professionals where our dollar value has a comparative advantage. And we can have more young doctors posted there to break them in. And these can be supported by the very successful doctors in private practice who can volunteer a few of days a month to the hospital for free. Yes, they are not green monsters that only think of money. Many are great and generous people who would not mind contributing a little to society. Such a hospital may not have the best of everything, but it will help to protect the life savings of the less able. And no need means testing as the socially conscious would find visiting such a public hospital as a stigma. Only those who really need such a service, or refuse to pay for world class services will be found visiting public hospitals. At least the people will be given a choice. Would there be fear that if such a concept prove too successful that govt hospitals will lose their patients and income? There is a market for every segment of people. Hospitals that find making money important will have their own patients. Public hospitals will have their own patients. Can we provide such an option for the people instead of dictating what is good for the people and what price the people must pay?