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7/31/2007

Tough leaders and tough decisions

While the leaders of Afghanistan and South Korea are acting tough, and they are expected to live up to that image as strong leaders, that they will not yield under pressure, the fate of the 22 hostages hangs in a limbo. Heard that one more was shot last night. So 21 left. And at the rate it is going, the leaders can act tough for another 21 days before the ordeal is over. Great men think alike and behave alike. They will be remembered as strong and tough leaders. Stupid people need to be shot to learn a lesson in life. And they can be remembered, either as martyrs or fools.

Citizen journalism

It is reported that NowPublic, a citizen website in Vancouver, now has 120,000 contributing 'reporters' in more than 140 countries. Though the figure is definitely exaggerated, but even a 10% active contributors will mean a figure of 12,000. Thats very good. Redbeanforum and Mysingaporenews have quite a lot of readers and some contributors. It will be nice if everyone do a little reporting and contribution and we can grow a bit bigger. Everyone is a citizen journalist. It is not just reporting, but expressing a different view point on things and events. The age of citizen journalism is here. Technology has make it so convenient and efficient for anyone who has something to say to say it, without having to be vetted or edited to suit someone else agenda. Citizens must exploit this new tool to the fullest for personal development, satisfaction or to better the life of the people or the cities or countries they are living in. Gagging of public voices is a thing of the past.

Better quality public transport

So we are going to see better quality public transport and a transformation of the quality of life of the commuters. Travelling in public buses is now going sci fi with life information of bus arrival time. That's not all. Information will also tell whether the bus is wheelchair able. And since we are having such a sophisticated system, as a commuter, I would like to see more information provided. How about displaying how many empty seats available, the aircon temperature in the bus, the type of bus and the type of seats, cushion or plastic? Some may not be able to sit on hard plastic because of medical or physical conditions. We can add on more quality services later on. And with so many things to read on the screen, bus stops must be upgraded so that commuters can spend more time to enjoy the facility in comfort, eg air condition and pipe in music, to read books. Another thing that they must upgrade is the quality of the drivers. Oops, sorry, captains. Lets have something like airline captain standards, with nice manners and at least clean and nicely pressed uniforms, and with a captain's peak cap to go with the new image. And must send them for personal grooming courses so that they appear more like a captain. We will look quite futuristic as a city. Clean, green, sophisticated, hi tech, sci fi, and well groomed. Talking about making use of satellite technology to the fullest. It was reported that the first proposal cost $100 mil and the second was $40 mil. Both were scrapped because of cost and now this one is cheaper. But no figures given.

7/30/2007

Retirement village in oil palm plantation

I was discussing with some investors on the viability of setting up retirement villages in Johore, inside oil palm plantations. The return would surely be much better than what oil palm can give, and faster. With low land and labour cost, it is an attractive proposition. The only hitch is security. How to keep the place safe and really safe that safety and security would never even be an issue, that safety and security can be taken as a given? For retirement villages, the residents may be rich, but old and feeble. They are very vulnerable and safety and security will be the number one concern. This is a comparative advantage that has yet to be exploited for financial gains.

Malaysia's comparative advantage

Najib is saying it again to reassure foreign, esp Singaporean investors, that the IDR is a long term investment and there will be no flip flops of policies again. I think the Malaysian govt knows very well the problems and issues and is trying to alleviate the fears of investors. But talk is one thing. It is actions and concrete rules and regulations that the investors are waiting. And Najib also understand the huge comparative advantage which Johore has vis a vis Singapore in terms of land and labour cost. The Malaysian govt should exploit this fully as the ridiculous land and property prices and rentals in Singapore would make Malaysia extremely attractive. Why are the Malaysians waiting? This is the time to compete aggressively with Singapore and wrestle as many investments as they can to Johore. And it is so easy if they can ruin in the parochial and kampong mentality of the local politicians and keep them at bay. A rich and prosperous Johore is good for everyone. And Johore stands to gain to become the most developed and industrialised and modern state of Malaysia. Only if they have the political will to grab the bull by the horns.
The beast of Cyberspace 5 govt agencies are going online to tap the power of the internet. They want to participate in feedbacks and two way communications with their customers. They must have seen the goodness and the evolving role of cyberspace and do not want to be missed out. The importance of cyberspace and internet as a communication tool are growing by the days. But the fear is always there. How to manage and control feedbacks and information, how to censor the undesirable, how to not hear the bad news? Political observer, Viswa Sadasivan said, '... a good starting ground could be sectors that are less "risky" and where the citizenry-government rules of engagement are 'less rigid", such as sports, the environment and tourism.' This fear of the cyber beast is frightening. Any wrong move will see them being devour to pieces by the beast. Got to tread gently. So frightening.

The changing and unchanging political dynamics

For more than 40 years, the political dynamics and the way politics are played out have hardly changed here. Like it or not, it is a system based on a powerful personality dominating all political decisions and policies. Once decided, there it goes. Right or wrong, good or bad, let's move on. It looks so simple and easy to run this place. The same pattern of a domineering leader at the top was also the case for Malaysia and Indonesia. There were Mahathir and Suharto, all very powerful personalities that do not allow anyone to mess around with them. And between these three key players, many things could be done, deals struck, just by their own wheelings and dealings. Between LKY and Suharto, they have reached a certain understanding and would honour their agreements. In the case of Mahathir, though he had all the power to make deals, at the later stage of his political life he came out as one that would break deals or interpret them in whatever ways he wanted or to his benefit. There is nothing that is cast in stone. Everything is changeable. That was the political scene then. The same pattern and style of politics still exist in the little island but no more in Malaysia and Indonesia. They have changed with the passing of Mahathir and Suharto. More pressure groups are getting stronger and getting heard. More demands are made on their leaders that prevent them from exercising their power as PM or President. They no longer have the absolute powers of their predecessors. This is frustrating to Singapore. Making deals are no longer between two personalities, a four eye meeting to solve all issues. Things are going to be dragged on and on and nothing done. This is the new dynamics of the region. We have remained quite the same in the way we do things. The rest have changed. How to make deals anymore?

7/29/2007

The Seniors Game

LKY is roaming the streets of Jakarta. And we see a smiling Suharto meeting his old friends as if nothing has changed. Time stood still. It was yesterday once more. It will be fun if Mahathir was there too. The reappearance of the seniors give one a very strange feeling. When they are not around, the yudhoyono, Sudarsono and the who dunno, and their counterparts here all look so real, big men, national leaders. But in the presence of the seniors, they appear so young, so youthful, so fresh, like freshmen. The faces of the seniors are too domineering and too overwhelming for the young leaders. They have a presence that cannot be matched by the new leaders.

Sunday morning is to think about impossibilities

What would be best for Malaysia in the future? Or what could become of Malaysia? The thinkings or aspirations are quite diverse. The country at the moment is dominated by the views and interests of a minority of religious fundamentalists. And if they are to have a free hand to do what they like, Malaysia is likely to become another Iran or Iraq or at best a Saudi Arabia. Anything else will be full of contradictions and tension. How would this affect the rest of the population, those who would want a more secular and modern Malaysia, travelling in the comfort of the best limousines as opposed to those who would prefer to ride on a heavily carpetted camel back? The modernistic group would include the progressive bumis as well as many who have been accustomed to the good life of western technical and scientific societies. And the other racial minorities are not that small a group that can simply disappeared. Then there are the East Malaysian states living in the backwaters of Malaysian economic and political strifes. They have very little affinity to be Malaysians even to these days. They are different and would want to run their own lives and create their own future. Or maybe my reading is wrong and they too would want an Islamic state and live under Islamic principles and fundamentals. They have not made any noises with regards to the comments that Malaysia is an Islamic state. Or they have and not reported. There are thus three distinct groups with totally irreconcilable interests and outlooks for the future of Malaysia and there is no accommodation if or middle path. It is only a matter of time for these groups to gravitate further and further apart from each other and each will have their distinct characteristics and values. Provided no force is used to coerce any of the group to become like another group. What we may see is a federation of the north eastern states of Kedah, Kelantan Trengganu and Pahang plus the four southern states of Thailand, Narathiwat, Pattani, Suratthani and Songkla, breaking away to form their own Islamic state. And the East Malaysian states will break away to become a new independent country. The rest of the western and southern Malaysian states may choose to become more secular and moderate from the religious point of view and developed along the lines of western countries. Then some will use the slogan that Allah has moved northeast and the religious will move in that direction. If there is an agreement that the three new entities should leave each other to chart their own destinies and do not meddle in each other's internal affair, we could see the emergence of three new countries that are more coherent and with their people having more similar dreams and more likely to sleep more at peace. Just a Sunday morning indulgence in fantasy.

MSM says, Lucky Singaporeans

Singaporeans are splurging in Lamborghini, expensive cosmetics and paying mindless prices for seasonal food, $888 for a few pieces of mooncakes. And a billionaire can live in a whole condo, $100 million worth of it, for just 3 persons and all his expensive car collection. And better still, prices or inflation is stable, hardly any change. And all the complaints about Singapore rental going too high is nonsense. The foreigners now agree that Singapore rental is reasonable and 10 years behind Hongkong. In a way this is bad. How can we be lagging behind Hongkong by 10 years? Plenty of room to catch up. So, with good times here, what nonsense are Singaporeans complaining about a plate of noodle or rice going up by 50c or transport fare going up by another 3c or 5c? The proof, Singaporeans can now celebrate National Days for two months. I think we will not beat the Latin Americans in merry making. Singaporeans are crazy. All having big fat pay and worrying about a few cents increases here and there and making a mountain out of a mole hill.

7/28/2007

The 23 South Korean sacrifice

The world is made of many suckers and naive or youthful idealism. These Koreans believe in a world of goodness, to do goodness without knowing that for every goodness in this world there is an equal wickedness out there. And they may have to pay for their stupidity with their lives. And the pain is at home, their love ones. And of course the South Korean govt saw its balls stuck in a mouse trap. This is a stark and brutal lesson that Singaporeans must learn and I hope the govt has put a ban to prevent naive Singaporeans from walking the same path to martyrdom. In my conversation with some Singaporeans, there is a little group that lauds the act and is celebrating their impending status as martyrs. They have only praise and adoration for this group of silly Koreans. And do not be surprised that some Singaporeans may be planning a similar mission to save the Afghans or the Iraqis.

notable quotes - LKY on Indon media

'The Indonesian media is a spontaneous combustion engine that responds to what sells, what's news, what the political parties want to create as news. then you chase the news.' LKY Now different or similar is the Indonesian media to our own media?

The uncaring and undeserving super talents

Where are our super talents found? In political offices, in ministries, stats boards and GLCs. These are the organisations where most of the super talents are employed. They are employed by Temasek, EDB, GIC, DBS, SIA, Keppel, PSA, Singapore Engineering, Sembawang Shipyard, etc etc and paid like super talents should be paid. What happens if there were no Temasek, EDB and the long list of GLCs? What happens if the first two generations of Singaporeans did not do what they did and none of these organisations were around to provide the jobs? From the political leaders, civil servants, the entrepreneurs, the engineers, the business community, the industrialists, the cheap labour in the factories, the construction workers who helped to build the infrastructure, if all these nuts and bolts, the cogs and the screws, did not play their parts, who would be able to provide jobs for our super talents to pay themselves super talent salaries and brandish themselves as the talents, the successful and able and clever Singaporeans? Today's Singapore is the proverbial giant tree planted by the early pioneers and give shade to all beneath it. Without this giant tree, I wonder how many organisations will be able to provide super talent jobs and pay super talent salaries to the Singapore brand of super talents? Now some of the super talents are rubbishing the little fellows and telling them that they deserve to be in the low station of life. That they are the failures and should not be complaining. Without all these low talents or no talents, without the arsehole, can there be a place for the super talents? Would these super talents be able to create and generate their own wealth as entrepreneurs and wealth creators? Or are they just good enough to be employees, resting comfortably under the shade of the giant tree planted by the pioneering generations? Shall we remember the arsehole and appreciate his contribution to the whole prosperity?

7/27/2007

Asean, the fools have it

Asean was conceived to bring small countries together as a group to compete against the world and keep the big powers at bay, politically and economically. But one thing that they must settle first is their internal bickering. If Asean countries cannot live and cooperate with each other, what chance to they have when competing with the giants and bigger countries? But there are so many fools within Asean that constantly try to cripple the organisation. And one of the sore point is the little Red Dot. In their own bizarre and simplistic underdeveloped mindset, I am using strong language here, they have painted this harmless little dot into a monster to fear. Really, what can the little Red Dot do to any of the countries in Asean? Conquer and colonise them? How foolish. And for their foolish thoughts, they make it so difficult for Singapore to invest in their countries. Do they really believe that it is better to have the big powers to invest in them? With the little dot, they know that we cannot bully them in any way. We have to play by their rules. On the other hand the big powers will have nothing of their nonsenses. If the big powers are not happy, they will take out the cane and whip them, real hard. They better remember very clearly that the big powers were the ones who had colonised them and still have the capability to do so. Not the little Red Dot. When will the fools get wiser? Or are they so happy and contented to live in the backwaters of the world economic activities and believing in their rural fantasy that Singapore is giant demon?

The Risk of Stockbroking agents

Stockbroking agents, housing agents, insurance agents, taxi drivers all have one thing in common. They provide jobs to the people. Killing these professions will only bring more problems to society and anger against those whose minds are set to destroy these jobs. Some think that these are cushy jobs that pay very well, and do not need much talent or effort. How wrong they are, and how ignorant. Every job comes with their own problems and risks. In the stockbroking industry, the people that are likely to go bust are the top remisiers. In good times they made very good money that people will get green eyes. But all it takes is for the market to turn against them. Many top remisiers went broke when their clients incurred huge losses and disappeared or declared themselves bankrupt, leaving the remisiers to pay for their debt. This is one of the biggest risks that remisiers faced, bad debt or bad clients. The next big risk is human error. Because every push of the button can be a deal of millions of dollars, a lapse of attention is all it takes to be down hundreds of thousands or millions. And making such mistakes is so easy. Our minds often play punks with us. Several remisiers worked up in the money and the first thing they hit was the button and instantly they are in the red, losing thousands of dollars. No joke. How to live with a $300k or $500k loss just by pushing a button? The next risk is infringement on rules and regulations and the fines are very heavy for the smallest transgression. With the miserable commission it is just not worth the risk. Then there are the bad clients who put the blames on remisiers when it was their own fault. And this put a lot of pressure on the remisiers, damaging their credibility and even risking being suspended from business. The risk that the remisiers are taking is not commensurated with the miserable commission they are getting. It is not a simple push button job. They are many rules and regulations to remember and all the stocks to look out for. One day they can be laughing to the bank. The next morning they may be crying for help. Do not be envious of the remisiers.

Educating Tribal Chiefs about honour and trust

LKY is on an education mission to Indonesia to educate the tribal chiefs about honour and obligations. This all started with the signing of the Extradition Treaty and Defence Cooperation Agreement, DCAET. The Indonesian politicians were told of the consequences of backing out of an international agreement signed voluntarily between two govts after thorough negotiations. This kind of attitude and precedents have dire consequences. LKY should remind them of the two glaring examples, Malaysia and Indonesia. Once the trust is lost, it will take a long time to rebuild and regain it. Malaysia was the first culprit of changing their laws and applied them retroactively to the detriment of foreigners. They thought they were smart. Now they are living with the consequences of all their backtracking and volte face in their commitments to international practices and the rule of law. The IDR is going to be hanged until assurance be given that these kampong mentality and practices will not be repeated and foreign investments are protected by law. Otherwise who is going to pump in millions of dollars of investment into the country? Thailand is a newcomer to this game of highhandedness and unravelling of legal practices and obligations. They tried to forcibly recover the assets of Shinsat after being sold to Singapore. All at once the international community stood up and held back all their investment plans. It shocked the military junta and they are backtracking to correct their error. But the investment funds are not coming in so fast until they really affirmed that this is not going to be the way Thailand conduct its business. Do the tribal chiefs in Indonesia think they can get away with their tribal ways and still think Singapore and the foreign communities will pump money into Indonesia? Do they really think that Singapore can be blackmailed or has its arms twisted by them? They can kiss their Batam, Bintang and Karimum Economic Zones goodbye if they don't play by international law and practices. Like it or not, they will have to learn to live by the norms of a modern world.

7/26/2007

Myth 155 Things Singaporeans believe in

Things Singaporeans believe in Singaporeans are believed to believe in these things. 1. The people fully support the high salaries of ministers and the reasons for it. 2. HDB flats, medical fees, and education are heavily subsidised. 3. The GST increase is to help the poorer Singaporeans and good for them. 4. Increasing the population to 6 million is good for the country. 5. Singaporeans lack talent and need foreign talents to help them to grow. 6. Inflation is very low. 7. All price and fee increases are affordable. 8. They will never save enough for their retirement. 9. The money in the CPF is their money. 10. They are better off than yesterday. 11. More good years to come. 12. No one is left behind. 13. We are moving forward together. 14. Singaporeans are honest and incorruptible when they are paid very well. 15. We have the best political system in the world. 16. They believe everything they read in the msm. 17. What else do Singaporeans believe in?

Political Parties Manifesto 8

Would there be a party who would state it clearly in their manifesto that they will not make indecent profit from the people for providing essential services and basic necessities? Would they declare that the costing for subsidies like medical fees, education and housing be on an open formula where profits are based on replacement costs plus? Would any political party dare to be sincerely transparent in their transparency on costing subsidies?

Inflation up 2% next year

Johnson Choo wrote in Today about inflation probably hitting a record 2% next year. Statistically, depending on the formula and the basket of goods, the number may be right. But with 2% increase in GST and the way prices are shooting to the sky, who will ever believe that inflation is only 2%? This morning I bought a pack of horse hoof pastry, made in Malaysia, in pink plastic bag without brand. It costs $4! It was only a couple of months back when it cost $2.20. I took out both my hands and try to use my fingers to count how many percent increase was that. Even with my toes, still not even for the change. Anyone still believe that everything is ok? Johnson added, 'Even so, to the man in the street, the pinch may feel harder than the cold inflation numbers would indicate.' The GST offset will definitely help the poorer Singaporeans. Their life is getting better.

Myth 154

Professional, Ethical and Honourable Managers LKY recently talked about good leaders being men of honour who will mean what they said and deliver what they said. What he said is basically the qualities of a decent man which can also be seen as the good qualities of managers. How do Singaporean managers fair in these 3 criteria? There are definitely the good and the bad managers. I have seen many who are neither professional, ethical nor honourable. An ethical manager is expected to make decisions that are ethically correct and fair to their employees and staff. They cannot short change or cheat their employees. That is a fundamental requirement not only of managers but any decent man in any position. And at times when decisions came from the top, from head office, that are ethically or morally wrong, as professional managers, they must say no to them, reason it out with HQ that the decisions are bad decisions. Many choose to keep quiet and follow the orders. Not to rock the boat. Why should they. Not sure if you can call them smart managers. The third point is of honour. Any man that is worth being called a man must honour what he said. How often when confronted with what they said, many managers will pretend that they are dumbfounded. What? Who said that? I never said that! They will not even remember what they said or committed. And one good way to prevent themselves from being caught and can't back out from it is not to have anything in writing. Not even minutes of meetings. Definitely not in emails also. The best summary for such managers is the 3K Manager, Kiasu, Kiasi and Kiamistake. They are anything but professional, ethical and honourable.

7/25/2007

Time to cane teachers and principals

Read about the case of a foreign student being taunted and bullied until he broke down. First time student was counselled and bullies punished. Not sure how serious was the punishment but it seemed that the bullies were having a great time bullying the student again. This time the poor student went berserk and attacked the bully again. Even after that he was uncontrollable. It was obvious that the bullying was not a simple case of friendly taunting between pals. Things were thrown at the student and all kinds of unfriendly and insulting remarks were used to attack him. How could this be allowed to go on and on to the point where the poor student could go mad? This is uttterly irresponsible on the part of the teachers and principle. They should be caned in the assembly hall. It is so shameful that our education system can allowed such abuses to go on and on and hurt a student physically, mentally and emotionally. The experience is so traumatic for a young man that is growing up. He will grow up hating all those he met here and Singapore.

Myth 153 Annual increment

Annual increment In compensation for employees, people have taken it for granted that there must be an annual increment every year, good time or bad time. So every employee expects some kinds of increment as if it is an entitlement. Only during really bad time that annual increment could be waived. This expectation is quite natural given the fact that many employees are being paid just about enough to keep them alive. They needed the monthly salary to live on, without much savings to last more than a couple of months. And with inflation and rises in the prices of everything, if there is no increment, they are actually getting worst off. They may be getting the same income, but lower purchasing power. Thus, an annual increment to a large extent will help to maintain a certain standard of living and purchasing power. Now this expectation is being extended to the CEOs and top management whose compensation package is not only huge beyond imagination, but also with all kinds of perks and incentives. Even these turkeys expect a payrise every year when the cost of living really hardly affect their lifestyle. Then the other fallacy is to peg annual increments in percentage terms. You can imagine how much is 10% to someone whose income is $1 million or $10 million. This is the myth in human resource compensation that has been perpetuated and will be likely to be continued forever. After all the CEOs are not going to say no. More likely they will insist that the practice should be continued in their best interests.

Hospital bills up by 10% to 30%

Across the board increases of hospital bills from 2005 to 2006. Average bill size of C wards gone up from $858 to $1112, B2 wards from $1094 to $1,284, B1 from $2,736 to $3193 and A wards from $3473 to $3830. Maybe should take the numbers with a pinch of salt and wait for someone to verify that they are accurate, huh? And 1% of C ward patients paid $9,071 while B2 paid $8.813. Now this definitely requires more checking as the numbers are unnatural and unbecoming. The good news is that all these are still affordable. And the Boon Wan is looking closely at it to monitor and manage the inflation of medical costs. Who is causing the inflation? Although they are claimed to be privately run hospitals, operating for profit I supposed, they are in many ways a monopoly or a cartel. Can anyone force them to increase their cost and fees?

Don't comment and can't report

Another dark day for msm for reporting on data that were wrong. And it took a blogger, Alex Au of Yawning Bread to do his own checking to confirm that the numbers published were indeed a mistake. Rental price of a 3 room flat in Jurong East was reported to be $2,500 but actually it was for two adjoining units. What happens to the professionalism and the checkings and double checkings to ensure accurate reporting that were bragged by the professionals as their trade mark for excellence? We in cyberspace are so sloppy and lucky that we can say anything without being professional and accurate. The other point highlighted by this case is that the two units were let out to foreign workers. Any problem? If there is no control and 10 to 20 foreign workers were squeezed into the two units, how would it affect the security and social aspects of residents living there? Who would want to leave their aged, housewives and young daughters in the midst of strangers? Would the authority like to look into this?

The Malaysian Paradox

Malaysia is probably the only country in the world where the govt openly admits that the bumiputras are of lesser talent than the other minorities. And after 40 years of NEP, affirmative actions and handouts, they have proven that this theory is true. They are still behind the other minority races. And giving up special privileges will mean that they will fall further behind again. Either way, like Mahathir said, they will fall behind. But Malaysia has high ambition to be a developed country. How then can Malaysia ever make it when the people are so untalented? To achieve a developed country status, the people must be as talented as the people in developed countries. But in Malaysia, the bumiputras are even behind the Chinese and Indians, who are far from being first world countries. And if they cannot even keep up with them, how to ever dream of being like the Europeans or the Japanese? Or perhaps Malaysia can become a first world country without having to work for it, just depend on NEP? This is the greatest Malaysian Paradox. The bumiputras believe themselves that they will never make it, that they are by nature slow. Why don’t the bumiputras stand up and prove that they are not really a backward people? That they can compete with other people on the same level playing field, domestically and internationally. Or they still need more weaning time? If it is true that they are backward, then their dream of being a first world country will forever be a dream. Now, is their assumption of being backward true or real?

7/24/2007

The last hurrah

In a couple of weeks we will be celebrating our National Day in big time. Two months to rejoice. With so many people making so much money and many more to come, it is timely to make this a big bang. On the other extreme, with all the costs shooting up, not just 2% more because of GST, but many times more, many people have already used up their GST rebates and their savings are running dry again. It had been reported that the first thing some of these people did when they received their rebates was to pay off all their debts and mortgage payments which they have not paid for months. So the windfall of a few hundred bucks disappeared quickly, though a temporary relief. How could these people go on before the next rebate kicks in? And this time round, with practically every little thing up, and the rebate gone, it is going to be a last hurrah. It is going to be tougher, no doubt about that.

Spreading a second wing

The news of Temasek's investment in Barclay's Bank and $3 billion should greet Singaporeans as good news though there will be sceptics wondering whether we will lose the money if it does not turn out well. All investment comes with risk especially in foreign land where we have very little control over their political and legal systems. Such investments are welcome as there is really very little room to grow in our little corner. The world must be our oyster. Having said that, as a citizen who is seeing his CPF money being deferred from withdrawal till dunno when, I have my own concerns. I hope some parliamentarians will raise some questions in Parliament to comfort the people on their CPF money and that there is no relation between foreign investment and the deferment of the withdrawal of their CPF. The question is to clarify that people are not planning their big investments with the expectation that there is a cheap CPF fund available and that the money in the CPF should be kept as long as possible for their investment plans. Any CPF fund available should be incidental and be used only because it happens to be there and not the other way round, that the CPF fund must be made available for foreign investment. The CPF money is the people's money and must be quickly returned to their owners without anyone harbouring any strange ideas on how to hold them back and use them. The assurance that this is not the case is welcomed.

7/23/2007

We are first world, we believe in the tooth

If we cannot believe in tooth, or if we believe in tooth, or we don't care even if it is tooth? How far down the abyss are we prepared to go as a first world country to allow ourselves to be so deceived? It is so ridiculous for anyone to believe in untooth. It is a different matter for a nation to believe in untooth or let the people believe in untooth and do nothing about it. Are we saying that some people are allowed to propagate untooth? Or have we degenerated to the level of the third world intelligence? Uniquely Singapore

The pincer squeeze

Singaporeans are just like a nut in between two pincers, the rising cost of living that makes us less competitive and Sing $ that gets to buy lesser things at home. People who think that their salaries are going up, if not in big percentages are actually getting a pay cut. How far can this go on before we wake up and say shit, what is happening? The next round of retrenchment when companies start to move out of Singapore, when jobs are gone, will be very serious when there is no income and prices of everything at sky high.

MSM accused of sensationalisation

Not I say one hor. I only read in the Today paper this morning that msm has been sensationalising the prices of the property market by publishing a one sided picture without qualification or any supplementary comments. And this has led to some saying that it is sensationalising the issue. I thought our msm were objective and all reports were carefully written in a mild, calm and balanced manner. Just plain reporting of facts that have been confirmed and deemed to be accurate. I think if there is any sensationalistion of issues, it must be in cyberspace where all the postings were anything but professional.

How proactive are we?

Today the hot topic is property prices shooting up, including rental of HDB flats. And the govt is saying don't worry, a lot of supply are coming downstream. It was only a few months ago when we heard of HDB over built and a lot of flats are still not sold. We also heard of changes in HDB policies not to build bigger flats and then to build bigger flats. If we are really proactive, we should be anticipating all the demographic changes coming our way and all the demand and supply issues. All the information are generated in the msm. Even the public knew about all the influx of foreigners and the 6 million population. Why are we reacting and trying to coop with all the impending changes instead of being ready for them without any surprises? Oh we are still planning and planning and planning ahead.

7/22/2007

TV broadcasting - Time for liberalisation

With Singtel and Starhub providing a full range of programmes in competition with Media Corp, and with more broadcasters and programme providers coming into the fray, it is time to discard the archaic TV Licensing Scheme where consumers have to pay $110 to a sole provider whose programmes are hardly what the consumers want. Let the consumers have the choice of who to pay the $110 to. Oh, it is to the govt, but at least let the consumers have the choice to pick the service providers. Why should consumers pay $110 for Media Corp programmes that they don't watch and pay extra to watch programmes from other service providers? Doesn't make sense right?

Generation aXed - a thought provoking article

The above title of an article by Cheong Suk Wai in the Sunday Times is a very interesting article to read. She started by talking about this guy, I presumed must be a man, telling her that the country or the world will be a better place without the labourers or labourer's genes. The crux of this guy's theory is that good genes produce good genes. A very familiar line of thought. Then she cheekily quoted this Prof Wald who was asked to donate his sperm to the sperm bank for Nobel Prize winners so that the world will have more good genes. And the professor's reply was that his Nobel Prize genes came from a poor tailor. His own genes only produced two guitarists. Reading the article at face value is funny and a bit of an anti climax. But read in between the lines and the messages and all its nuances come through quite clearly. And there are many messages to be discovered. This is a real treasure hunt. One of the key message can be traced from these quotes: 'Now I don't know what he made of me, but my stunned silence throughout his tirade did not mean I agreed with it.' This is very Singaporean. Many audacious things happened recently, and all we hear is silence. 'But time and tribulation have taught me that the best response to such head scratching pronouncements is to say what you know in the very pit of your gut to be right and real.' What Suk Wai was saying is that you must be polite and say nicely to him but not to offend him or make him think that he is really an idiot. So her way of replying to the guy is this: 'What would competition be like when there are only good genes to compete against other good genes?' She did not talk back or demonstrate violently. She did not tell him he was wrong. She just asked a few plain questions. Hmmm, very similar to what I have been doing all these while.

Ranking a World Class govt

While we cherish and got delighted and gratified by all the number One rankings showered upon us, it is about time we do something for ourselves. Other countries have their private agenda for ranking countries to achieve their covert objectives. The one that comes out very clearly is the ranking of world class universities. By insisting in the goodness of having foreigners, academic staff and students, as good, highly desirable and a pre requisite to quality education and a high ranking, countries that feel insecure and needed a high ranking to boost up their egos will easily succumb to such seductions and import more foreigner academic staff and paid them handsomely to make their rankings look good. So, with a simple survey ranking, many academics were in hot demand all over the world. And the unwritten truth is that good academics are western academics. So the world has helped to get more western academics employed and with healthy bank accounts. It is practically a one way traffic as not many Asians or Africans will be good enough to be employed in western universities. Some may call this neo colonialism of the educated minds. A ranking of govts as world class, not first class, can also adopt some of the criteria used for world class universities. Needless to say, the foreign component is important. So govt will be encouraged to recruit foreigners into their ranks to boost the fertile mindsets of their contemporaries. Having cross fertilisation of ideas will definitely stimulate more innovative and novel thinking in govt. It is definitely better than incestuous thoughts. The other advantage is that with world govt feeling the need to employ foreigners into their ranks to be ranked among the tops, there will be more exchanges of people and ideas and this will bring the world closer as one big family. The seed of a world govt and international citizenship may be born through such a survey. Singapore will have a great advantage in having its fine politicians being recruited not only to third world countries but also first world countries. We will then be able to export our world class expertise in govt to the world. And we will benefit by having some of the best political brains in our govt. No politicians can resist the temptation of being paid world best salaries to be a political leader here. And it will not be a surprise to have Bush, Blair, Chirac, Putin, Abe all queuing with their CVs in hand at our doorstep. We will have truly world best politicians governing us.

7/21/2007

Myth 152

Saving not enough It is a myth that people will never save enough for their retirement. It is like the insurance salesperson coming to you every other day to tell you that you are under covered and needed more insurance even if you have several millions covered. What is enough or not enough is very subjective. People earning several millions will say they are not having enough. So is someone earning $600. How much is enough is not dependent on how much one saved but how much one wants to spend. If one spends within his means, any reasonable amount is enough. And with other sources of income or savings, even $30k savings are more than enough for one who does not need to spend as he is fully provided for. For someone who wants to sail first class around the world for the rest of his life, several millions may not be enough for his lifestyle. We shall not dictate to the people on what is enough or not enough. It is subjective and personal and not a science. Why are we being forced to save so much and for who?

Good times are here

The msm have been reporting that corporations are having a hard time looking for talents and will pay practically anything to the right candidates. And talented professionals could really call their shots on how much they want. Today the media again splashes the good news over several pages showing how easy it is for fresh graduates to land a job and how well they are being paid. The headache lies in the human resource dept. How to adjust the salaries of those recruited over the last few years and how much is enough. When fresh grads are getting $3000, $3500 or more, how can they continue to pay their recent hires less? And taken into considerations their few years in the organisations, how far should the adjustments go? This is especially sensitive and critical to large organisations especially govt and stats boards where fresh grads are taken in every year. For the average run of the mill graduates, no problem. No need to adjust too much as they can be easily replaced or they can't command much in other jobs. The problem lies in the talented and good graduates that they took in. These are their very bright future leaders and they can easily judge whether they have been shortchanged by the organisations. They are no fools and if the adjustments are not equitable and fair, they will leave at the first opportunity. Those who are staying or keeping mum are those that have not yet landed a job of their desires or under bond. When the path is clear, sayonara. Human resource administrators will have to review their recent intakes carefully and do the due diligence before a mass walkout is at hand. This is the good time, the golden years, and people, especially the young talents, will also want to be paid in gold and not peanuts.

Islamic State: The story untold

Malaysia is an Islamic State. Period. No one shall talk about it anymore. It is sensitive and makes people nervous. It may remind people of many conspiracy theories. It may make political leaders kiss their krises, or people may run amok. The press and media have been told not to report about it. And slowly but surely, govt agencies will issue decrees to invoke Islamic principles for the people, muslims and non muslims, to conduct their lives. Snoop squads will be formed to invade homes and check on the residents to see if they live their lives according to islamic principles. Though the supreme court is supreme under the constitution, all matters that involved islamic principles are out of their juridistion and referred to the syariah courts. There you have it. How could the supreme court or secular courts protect the rights of the minorities when they have no jurisdictions over islamic matters? How could the minorities seek redress in secular courts when these courts just raise their hands and say, not my problem?

7/20/2007

Myth 151 - No beggar in Singapore

No beggar in Singapore Technically there is no beggar in Singapore except for a few baskers and a few rich beggars that make begging their profession. And we also do not believe in free lunch and no charity from the state. We are not a welfare state. The reality is that we only beg big time, and in style. Everyday there is news of some kind of begging in the media, or on TV, telling people how good it is to give and how stylish and noble it is to beg. And the proxies to all the beggars are the celebrities and the leaders, all dressed in their Sunday best and asking for donations. This is first world style of begging. We don't encourage begging. But if you must, do it in style in a big way. Why waste your effort begging for a dollar or two when you can beg for millions?

Notable quotes from Sammyboy forum.

We want the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth. You want the tooth? You can't handle the tooth. Ouch, the tooth hurts. It is an inconvenient tooth. Just a little distractions.

notable quotes - mahathir

'When you're coming up from behind to catch up, you have to run faster, you have to make more effort.' Mahathir Mohamad Without the NEP the bumis will regress. That's what Mahathir said. With the NEP for almost 40 years, they are still behind. They have not made good use of the policy. So they must run faster to catch up. Who would want to run faster when there is no need to run, where money drops onto their laps? This is the irony of the NEP. It is based on the wrong assumption that people would voluntarily want to work hard when they don't have to. Like it or not, it is a double edged sword. It cuts both ways.

MOE, not 987

MOE corrected the misleading data It is 18% and not 4.3%. That is the official data, 4,218 foreign students offereed places in local universities, not 987 in the latest intake.

Myth 150 - Threats in Parliament

I read some postings in other forums discussing about Sylvia Lim being threatened by Jayakumar, a law minister and DPM. Now this is ridiculous. In a first world country like ours, such things will never occur here. This may happen in third world countries or in Taiwan Parliament, or maybe a communist country, but definitely not in our democratic Parliament. Further, we have carefully chosen the best men of impeccable character, honourable and intelligent to become politicians, they will not resort to such tactics to intimidate other parliamentarians. We will become a joke if this really happen. In a kingdom or in communist state where abuse of power is common and prevalent, these things happen. For those in power know that their power is forever. In our democratically elected govt, power is only for a short duration. And everyone knows that they can become ordinary citizens the next day. So fooling around with unrestraint power or abusing power can only be temporary and the day of reckoning will come when they step down from power. And such abuses are very rare if we look at all the happily retired politicians. They live among the people without anyone spitting at them or threatening them now that they have no power. Our politicians are sensible people and will not do that. Those people who commented about the threats are stretching the argument a bit too far. Nothing will happen to Sylvia Lim.

7/19/2007

Let the religious have a say on GAY

Andy Ho suggested in his article in the ST that we should let the religious have a say on the gay issue. The religious is generally assumed to have a higher morality than the atheist on such issues. I beg to differ. Religion should not be allowed to interfere in state and secular matters. The Americans, though more inclined to Christianity, will not allow it to be part of the state belief system. It is best to leave state and religion separate. Every religion has their own set of strong beliefs on moral issues. And not everyone agrees to them. It is best that such beliefs be left among their believers and in the confines of their religious sacred grounds. No religion is superior to another and no religion must be allowed to impose their values and systems of beliefs on other people, atheists or people of other religions. There cannot be peace when religion is mixed with politics. Some extremists will emerge in time to invoke god to suppress the free will of others, and in the name of god, wickedness will be seen to be right. Let religion grow as a personal pursuit but not be allowed to become a national belief to govern a country.

Myth 149 - The Incorruptible Asian Minds

Asians are more superior to the Westerners. They are incorruptible to power and wealth. And these are the basis from which all dynasties and Asian empires were based on. So when they came to power, they will concentrate all the powers in their own hands, in the families or among the cronies. Another interpretation of this is that they believe that they have the mandate of heaven and they are given the right to kick the asses of all the lowly masses anyway they want. Compare this to the West, the Western philosophers believe that men are corruptible. The more powerful they become, the more corruptible they will be. And the American founding fathers refused to take any chances on the incorruptibility of man and enshrined into their Constitutions the separation of power. They don't even trust their elected presidents. And rightly so. Anyone who thinks that it is acceptable to place all the powers to an individual or office will be the first to be hanged. And no American will be able to invoke any nonsensical theories to dismiss anyone challenging the concentration of power in any office. And what is happening today in America is the best vindication of the wisdom of their founding fathers. Without the separation of powers, Bush and his gangsters will be killing all the Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East, plunging the world into another world war, and will get away with it, unstoppable.

7/18/2007

Malaysia is an Islamic State

It is official and no need to beat around the bush. Najib has said it. Malaysia is an Islamic state and is governed under Islamic Laws and principles, but protects minority rights. He said Malaysia has never been a secular state. Only silly non Muslim Malaysians think that Malaysia was a secular state. Prepare to have their hands chop off when they steal. Prepare to close all the nightspots and entertainments. Lights out at 10pm. If the non Muslims still do not speak out and make a stand, it will be like 1955. The position of Malaysia becoming an Islamic state will become defacto and then dejure. The next demand will be sunat to be clean.

CPF for old age

With the increasing uses of the CPF savings, and with the runaway cost of living, it is necessary to decide what is more important. Is it retirement fund or a flat, or education for children? For many, their CPF savings will never be enough for any one of these big ticket items, and worst if they are going to use it for so many things. Ng Eng Hen is right to say that those who have a lot of CPF savings have no need to use them as they are mostly very rich and have a lot of money for many other things. It is the 'eat not full, hunger cannot die' heartlanders that have to juggle on what to spend and how much to spend. They are the ones that have little in their CPF savings but stupidly insisting on using them for the education of their children. But what choices do they have when they are struggling to make ends meet and education is not cheap? And there are many other bills to pay too. One good solution is to follow the policy of the old NKF. Save for the future and forget about the now. If they cannot manage their day to day living, it is their problem. They will be very thankful if they live old enough and see a big nest egg waiting for them. Their golden years, provided their money is still worth what they are and have some purchasing power left. These poor people are real irritants and irresponsible. Not enough money still want to take out their retirement funds to spend. Why can't they think and behave like the rich, don't touch their CPF savings? It it for their own good.

Priority tertiary education for locals

28,000 locals applied and nearly half were offered places. This means about 14,000 places were offered to locals. This is a big number given the average birth rate of Singaporeans at about 35,000. Hey, that is 40% of each year's cohort. Then why are Singaporeans complaining that they cannot get admission to local universities. And the govt's target is only 25%. The actual intake was 23.5% or 8,225 students out or 35,000. Where is the balance of 14,000, ie about 5,700 comes from? Is the intake 8,225 or 14,000? And how many of these are citizens? Locals are not necessarily citizens. Or can we assume that 8,225 are citizens? If this is so, then the percentage of non citizen locals, ie PRs, is 41%. So for every 5 students admitted, 3 are citizens and 2 are PRs. But the actual intake could only be 8225, as 14,000 places were just offered and not necessarily accepted. The numbers are my guestimates based on the data provided in the paper and may not be accurate. What is the real number? Also, should it be a local-foreign problem or a citizen-non citizen issue?

7/17/2007

Princelings and Whistle blowers

Two letters by Chan Hwa Loon and Lin Junjie in the ST discussed about the Hongyi saga. Chan Hwa Loon was more concerned about the possibility of an attempt to cover up a princeling which is a step towards the direction of feudalism. That is very bad for a young and modern country like ours to take. Protection of princelings and covering their misdeeds is worst than nepotism. He expects the SAF to shed light on this issue given the rumours in cyberspace. The consequence is serious if we have such a culture in public services. Lin Junjie was more concerned about how a whistle blower is treated. If Hongyi did what he did out of frustration over an issue of favouritism and condoning a breach of military discipline, then his action should be taken as a positive act and be commended. Why should he be punished instead for raising a serious bloop in the SAF? Who else would dare to stand out and be a whistle blower? There must be an official channel or culture to protect whistle blowers who risk everything to disclose a misconduct or foul play. This saga has opened up a can of worms. Thanks to the brave act of a young man. Now should he be punished or be commended?

Tell your story

LKY wrote to the ST forum encouraging the first generation leaders and pioneers to write their stories as they are, as truthfully as possible for the future generations. He has openly admitted his respect for Chin Peng, a worthy political opponent. What is important is to tell truthfully without distortion, and to respect each other for who they were. A man worthy of respect is a man who believes in his ideas even if that was not favoured by history, and his principles. Once a person stoops to play dirty and disregard basic human decency and behaviour, he is not worthy of any respect. Basically it is still between good decent men and indecent men and not about talents or clever men who are crooks.

UNSW - The Angmo TuaKi Syndrome

The UNSW episode shows how vulnerable we are when we believe in the Angmo TuaKi Syndrome. Many would always want to believe that the Angmo will be benevolent and honourable gentlemen that we can look up to and adore. That they will not scuttle an agreement, pack up and run with not regards to the damaging consequences. That saving their own skin is all that matters. The govt should pursue the matter to the fullest and recover every cent that we spent on the project. Take them to court and sue them for every penny. We need to stand on our principles in negotiating a deal and stand by it. And the same principle must apply to our negotiation with those that are not Tauki but think that they are Tauki and would renegate on whatever that were agreed upon and signed. We shall not waver in negotiating a fair deal and will stick to it. We shall not succumb to tribal pressure and kampong mentality.

Sylvia Lim rebuked by Jayakumar

Sylvia Lim opposed the new bill to allow the PM to nominate two members to the Legal Service Commission and raised the spectre of executive interference in the judiciary. It reminded Jayakumar of the Conspiracy Theory of abuse of executive power. The last time this happened, an investigation was conducted and Jayeratnam was fined. Would we be seeing another investigation? Given the high quality of the people in political office today, such abuses of executive power is only a conspiracy theory. There are all kinds of checks and balances to prevent it from happening. Quite safe at the moment. Even in corporate governance in the private sector, when there are good people in charge, the present system will be more than adequate. For that matter, when a decent man is in charge of the old NKF, nothing of the like would have happened. It all boils down to decent men in charge. What happens if loanshark Ah Seng got elected into power? Or say a George Bush equivalent is elected into power? Can our system prevent such an eventuality? Are there enough safeguards in our system to prevent a rogue govt from coming into power? Given the past experience, the people has been proven to be quite naive and can elect any thing into power. This possibility cannot be ruled out. When that happens, and when too much power is vested into an office, would we be digging ourselves into a very deep shit hole.

$1 tax for use of plastic bag

Hongkong has done it. It is going to impose a $1 tax for the use of a plastic bag. The reason is to protect and save the environment. So the lesser plastic bag is used, the better for the environment. Thus to get the Hongkongers used to the valuable resource at a high price is a way to teach them to conserve the use of plastic bags. This reminds me of the theory on how to make the people appreciate how valuable water is and the need to save water. Make them get use to high water price by charging more plus higher tax in advance. We should apply the same principle in the use of plastic bag and follow the lead taken by Hongkong. We should prepare the people ahead in the need to conserve the environment, save gaia, and make them pay $1 for the use of each plastic bag. And we can excuse those who can't afford to use plastic bags for their swill to let them pour the swill into the rubbish chutes.

7/16/2007

Political party manifesto 7

Political parties' support comes mainly from the poorer masses that form the bulk of the population. Without the support of the massess, no political party can come to power except from the barrel of the gun. Political parties have all the reasons to work for the masses. And the masses are the one that really need help from the political party in power. The two have a symbiotic relationship. Cost of living is a key concern of the masses. This is contributed by rising cost and taxation. The first will hit the masses very badly in every way. The second, taxation, is often skewed to favour the masses as they have less to pay tax and needed every cent to keep them going. Taxes that put a heavy burden on the masses are contrary to their interests. The pervasive nature of GST is not good for the masses unless it is fine tuned. No form of tax is good for the masses if they have to pay for them. The impact of the increasing GST will find the masses getting poorer despite the rebate. It will never be enough as life goes on day after day and year after year. In the long run the masses will still have to foot increasing taxes through GST. Why are there no political party fighting for the masses to modify the GST so that at least the essential services and food stuff are GST exempt? Why is it that political parties that claim to represent the masses and needed the support of the masses could so happily dismiss the plight of the struggling masses? Why are the masses supporting political parties who are not for their interests? Or is this a temporary trend, a transient phase that will be over taken by the basic realities, that the masses will eventually know which party is for them or against them?

How serious is profiteering?

There were little profiteering, very few raised prices. Now there are more appearing, and more complaints. The msm has done its survey and found only 4.8% of those surveyed raised their prices. Ask any housewives or any consumers and they will tell you practically everything is up. And if prices are not up, the quantity goes down. I had a personal encounter when the meat came in paper thin slices instead of the usual one cm thickness. I could not believe my eyes. I stared at the plate of rice and meat and the stall holder looked away. I know that that would be the last time I buy from that stall in a food court. But what is real? Are the people now being shortchanged by the stalls and shops? How much is a dollar worth now?

Li Hongyi - Abuse of email?

Thomas Koshy said Li Hongyi was a victim of abuse of email. He also said the matter he raised, AWOL, was a matter that hardly concerned the whole SAF. Does Koshy read the details in the publicised email and the problems raised? If the email circulating is accurate, it is not a case of AWOL alone. It is repeated AWOL and hardly any action taken with people treating military duty like a boy scout camp. Does Koshy know what it means by Duty Officer of a camp over the weekend? It simply means the whole camp is under the charge of a Duty Officer. He is to take full command of the camp. In the absence of an officer, the next person, probably an NCO, will now have to shoulder the full responsibility. What if the NCO burns down the camp and ransack the place? What if the most fear things happened in his absence? Dereliction of duty is a very serious offence and if this is allowed to continue without being stopped, I wonder what would happen to the whole system. Of course it is a matter that concerns the whole well being of the SAF. It must be reported one way or another. It is a case of a lesser evil by raising the issue to the highest authority since it was ignored at the lower level. By passing the normal procedure using email is a lesser wrong than correcting what he set out to do. It is good that the problems are addressed immediately and discipline restored. Can't imagine officers can go AWOL and taken lightly.

7/15/2007

Perpetuating a tragedy

How to condemn your children to a life of misery and poverty? This seems like a textbook case here and around the world. For the illiterate, poorly educated, often jobless, the only thing they care to do is to produce as many children as possible with no thought of how to feed them and provide for them. Just read in the papers this morning of two often jobless parents with 12 children. Whose fault is this if the children continue a life of poverty, even becoming drug addicts or delinquents, becoming misfits of society? Is this the responsibility of the govt and the general public to take care of them? The people can expect the govt to help those in trouble. But should the govt help those who voluntarily bring trouble upon themselves? If the govt takes on such a responsibility, it will only encourage the irresponsible to continue with their stupidity and recklessness. The parents deserved to be caned for condemning their children to a life in the gutters. All the horror stories and tragedies are being set up for the future.

Buddhism is not a belief

Buddhism, unlike other religion, is not a belief, but a philosophy of life, how to live life. But to the laypersons, and the not so enlightened practitioners, even decorated high monks, many have treated is as religion of belief. The ridiculous thing about a belief is that one can believe anything if one is willing to. One can believe that the tooth of a cow can be the tooth of a human and adamantly tell the sceptics that 'All the time I believe it is true and I do not want to question its authenticity.' So get lost and don't argue or question whether it is real of fake. We all have different perception of what is real. And I must be strong in my faith and I shall not waver. I know that one must be strong in understanding the teachings of the old masters. I am also very sure the old masters did not teach the followers to believe blindly or that he will insist that his followers must believe in things that are claimed to be his. Such an attitude is bad for the religion and followers. Many would be turned off by such disregard of real and false, by stupidity to the extent of being moronic. That is why I always encouraged believers of any religion to question the truth and reject falsehood when it stares them into the eye. A lump of shit is a lump of shit no matter what the person wants to believe. And worst, making all the followers believing in his shit. Modern people of today have the privilege and advantage of modern science and technology and knowledge that are several thousand years more advanced than the ancient believers whose understanding of things that were rudimentary. When today's truth is obvious, it is pure stupidity to believe in yesterday's falsehood as truth.

7/14/2007

My home - the toilet

58 year old mother and 14 month daughter in tow, Madam Hong's home is a public toilet in the Park. Her husband, an odd job cleaner, earns $600/$700 and sleeps in his work place. They have no where to go after losing their 4 room flat for failing to keep up with the mortgage payments. Squatting in relatives' place only last a while before patient runs out. We also have people who cannot pay their dialysis treatment and owing NKF thousands of dollars. To these people, the treatment is a matter of life and death. Some people may say that these are useless people that deserve to be where they are and it is their own problem. They fail to make it in this island of opportunities and it is their fault. That is a pragmatic point of view, and also a realistic one. It is forgiveable as a private individual view. But when we are talking about a nation, its govt and people, we are talking about a people like a family. No one shall be left behind cannot be an advertising slogan and not to mean anything. We are not living in the animal kingdom where the lion king lives supreme with his harem and there is no room for the feeble, old and sick. The weak shall perish or be eaten. Even the lion king will be driven away when he loses his teeth and has to wander in the wilderness, alone till his solitary death. Human society needs to spend some resources to keep the weak and helpless going. The other option is to terminate them and their misery. Every society will have the burdensome and the irresponsible. Every case has to be looked at differently and for the irresponsible, the country still cannot terminate them but to help them to be on their feet again. But make sure that they are willing to pick themselves up and the help is something like co payment. Help as much as he is willing to help himself. Otherwise $290 is also too much. The $290 is only for those who no longer can help themselves. The desperate cases of old and unable to work anymore.

Legacy of the babyboomers

This is the generation that sees the transformation of the world and this island, from war to peace, and from poverty to wealth. And they are the ones who are holding on to all the wealth and power, and not letting go. They will cling on till their deaths whatever they have, position, money and power. On their passing, in 10 or 20 years time, we will see what they have left behind. One thing for sure, they will be a lot of properties passing down. Many have several properties for their children and themselves. At the worst each will have a HDB flat. Their children or grand children will be the beneficiaries of the wealth. The next generation will not be roofless. They will have more than one roof or a better roof over their heads. Any demand for housing will be more of a case of upgrading. But there will be a net increase in the availability of housing/flats in the market and a dwindling demand for various reasons. Other than the many already well provided for by the babyboomers, or inheriting an extra unit, the population is not growing at such a healthy rate to generate a growth in demand for more residential properties. Can there be a continuous demand and a running away of property prices? It can, with another 3 million foreigners coming in to grab up all the high end properties. The demographic pattern will change. Today it is the old and new rich that are holding onto their landed properties and the masses in HDBs. This may changed when the bulk of high end properties in expansive downtown be all owned by foreigners and the citizens living in the outskirts of town. And living in downtown will be so expansive that it will be a truly foreign city within a city. Singaporeans could be alien in downtown other than workers in the hours of light. When darkness falls, Singaporeans will return to their HDB estates away from downtown. Would we see a day when the new choices part of the island, the new downtown, be a paradise of foreigners?

7/13/2007

Li Hongyi - The making of a future leader

The case is now officially in the msm. A very interesting case study on the integrity of our system and the development of a fine young man. Personally I feel that the case is very well handled and with a lot of transparency. As for Hongyi, he is starting to cut his spurs. It is good to be young, to test the waters, get your feet wet and learn from the experience. We were all brash young things once. We have our own tales of innocence and flirting with the authority. It is the right of all young men to make controversial decisions and to learn along the way. The last historical Hongyi turned out to be a fine emperor. This modern Hongyi could follow the same path. Everyone should enjoy the passage of youth as a growing up process and to live to remember the good times.

Upgrading peasant expectations

We have made progress. We started by squatting on the roadside eating from street peddlers. We have moved to hawker centres, aircon food courts and into restaurants. Now we are even into fine dining. At hawker centres, the dirty hawkers would throw the plate of char kway teow at you, with the dirty chopsticks as well. And you cannot demand for anything. That was what you paid for. In fine dining, things changed. The cooks are of international standards and paid top dollars. They knew perfectly what they are expected to deliver. The ingredients are the finest and freshest. The dining tables and chairs, the crockery and cutlery, each piece may cost a few hundred bucks. The table cloth, the service staff, not simply waiters and waitresses, are specially trained with fine manners to pamper the diners. These are what the peasants must learn to expect in fine dining. And they need to upgrade their taste and attitude. They cannot simply accept slipshod services and quality of food. When the service staff are rude and uncourteous, they must be rudely told off. When the food are not well prepared, they must demand to see the chef. There is no excuses for poor quality. They cannot turn around and tell the peasants, 'If you don't like huh, you could yourself lah.' They may be peasant made good chefs, no matter. Professional chefs of international standards, and paid in millions, must live up to their reputation and deliver quality stuff. Anything less is shortchanging. There is no such things as asking the people on how to cook a meal. They are the experts, and they called themselves the experts. When the menu is for French cuisine, it must be French cuisine. How would the peasants know how to prepare fois gras or escargots? How would the peasants know what is good wine or higher grade vinegar? The attitude and expectations of both peasants and chefs must change. Peasants should be more discerning and demand for good service and quality products. And they must know what is good service and quality products. They have the right to demand. For they are paying top dollars for it. The chefs must have some self respect to do what they are paid for. They can't be expected to continue with hawker fares and shaft it down the throat of the peasants. It is terribly embarrassing for top chefs who can't deliver and still collect top pay checks. As we progress, everyone must upgrade their mindset, their training and skills and expectations. Then only we will have real progress.

7/12/2007

How not to make friends?

I was staring at the Today paper this morning. And staring back at me, on the top right hand corner of the front page, titled, Where Money Talks, Some of Asia's least and most corrupt countries. Standing right on top is the famous brand, Singapore. Right at the embarrassing bottom, Indonesia. The thing is that there are many ways of presenting data that can help to blow our own trumpet without blowing foul air at people whom we have no reason to dismiss. Why can't the column just post the top 5 best and leave it as that? Or is it our nature to tell the brutal truth? I am best, you are last!

Myth 148 - The Golden Period

Many people will be turned off by this phrase. Many will sneer at its pomposity. Many will rubbish it off. But believe me, it is true. This is not a myth. We are indeed in the golden period. Never in our history have so many people who upgraded from HDB flats to live in mansions. And not only one mansion but another 5 or 10 private properties. And some better still, a few more properties overseas, to hedge just in case Singapore sinks tomorrow. With so much money to play with, they can have all kinds of contingency plans. Never in our history have there been so much wealth that $600k is rubbished as small change. And there are many people who have so much money that they can say, 'What is $5 million or $10 million?' And never have there been so many people bathing in money, earning millions and millions. If this is not the golden year, then what is? And the phenomenon is not only happening here. The same thing is happening in Malaysia. Many are also laughing all the way to the banks. Many have exceeded the Swiss standard of living by all means. For those who are left behind and cannot experience the golden ray, it is their fault. This is a land of opportunities. Exploit the system to your benefit. If you can't then don't blame others. I don't blame others though I am not experiencing any of the golden ray. Just not talented enough.

7/11/2007

Infidelity - The Andy Ho Twist

We spent some time last week speaking tongue in cheek about lust and the sweet young things and about ladies night. The issue was how lusty and alluring these young things were compared to the more mature and experienced ladies in their matronly age. Who would be of more value to lure men to spend money on them in night clubs and to sought their company? It was all about how sex sells. Andy Ho has given the issue a new twist in his article in the ST today. He compares the value of the womenfolks with the value of aged women like his grandmother. Interesting way to include grandmother into the discussion on human lust. Now I am amused. Cheers Andy, for the humour.

Golden Period or Golden Era

There is a big debate going on now. No they are not arguing whether it is a period or an era. It is about who owns the most gold. And gold is what people should be going after. The prophecy of Matilah is coming true. The fiat money is shrinking so fast that once it took $1 million to buy a home, now it is going to take $2 million. Once it took $3 to buy a plate of noodle, not it is $4.50. Once it used to be $4 or $5 a trip on a taxi, now it is $8 or $10. The safest thing to do now is to convert all the fiat money to gold. Soon we may be trading, buying or selling things with gold when the fiat currency turns into banana currency. Good luck to your $200k or $1 mil savings in the CPF when you lay your hands onto it. Now you know why your savings will never be enough. Better to ask CPF Board to allow depositors the choice to convert their savings into gold. Welcome to the golden period.

Myth 147 - The good news myth

The landlord goes to his tenants with the good news. The economy is doing very well. Property prices are going up. But he is going to increase the rental by $500 a month. And another good news, he is giving the tenants 3 month's of rebates. So for three months in a year he would waive the $500. And a sweetener. Every month he is going to provide one packet of 3 in 1 coffee free for his tenants.

Why are prices higher?

Lilian Lee Pei Lin went to Shop N Saves and found that all the prices are higher than it used to be. And there are many signboards shouting loudly that the store is absorbing the 2% GST increases. A pack of eggs used to be $4. Now it is $4.08. Anyone needs a calculator? Wondering why is she asking 'Why are prices higher?' It will be more fun is Shop N Save puts up another sign saying 'It is good for you.'

A surprising GDP growth

8.2% yoy growth in the second quarter and economists are revising the whole year estimates which can possibly be double digits. That's a big surprise. Would there be surprising news for the people, I mean the citizens, the good kind of surprises? Basically, what's in it for the people? Higher income, higher employment rate, higher prices, higher costs? Would the better than expected economic data be justification for raising fees and rates in good times, quickly before the feel good moment is gone? That may not be surprising. Not at all.

Red Mosque - Violence begets violence

The situation at the Red Mosque left Musharraf with little choice. When militants chose the path of violence, it must be met with violence. Procrastination or appeasement will only bring on more pressure to the Musharraf govt. He is left between the devil and the deep blue sea and not between god and prosperity. The storming of the Red Mosque is like a repeat of the Tian An Men Incident. It is controversial and will be attacked by one side and defended by another. Once violence has been promised, it must be delivered to quell further violence. And it needs a greater violence to stop it in its path. Unfortunately, the violence of muslim militants will not be stopped by the storming of the Red Mosque. The disease is too widespread, it is an international problem and will be supported by international movements and organisations. It will never end until one party is extinguished. A similar situation is festering in southern Thailand. Peaceful negotiation is no longer an option. It is now a fight between God and Allah.

Political Party Manifesto 6

Education is the greatest leveller of our society. It facilitates mobility of people up the social strata. It is a relatively neutral vehicle to carry the people along and it must be kept that way. The citizens must be given every opportunity to take a ride on this vehicle without any obstruction. And political parties must ensure that the education vehicle assists and not inhibits the aspirations of the citizens. I am stressing on the word citizens and not people from all corners of the world. Doing a bit of charity for other people is acceptable but citizens must always come first. Violation of this principle is unacceptable if political parties are seen to represent the interest of the citizens. Provision of educational opportunities at minimal cost to the citizens is a key objective of political parties. It is investing in the people and the future of the country. This is different from investing in non citizens which is a hit and run option. Also, the country's resources are meant for the citizens. Non citizens have no right to this claim and neither any political party has any obligation to take care of them. A citizen's first policy is vital to the existence of all political parties.

7/10/2007

Political party manifesto 5

No one shall be deprived of hospital care A motherhood statement that is politicallly correct to say but must be seen to be done. Means testing may be one way to do it to make sure that no one is deprived of hospital care and no one shall take advantage of hospital subsidies. Of course this is debatable. There are many ways to skin a cat. Maybe skinning a cat is not the right choice of phrase as it connotes the meaning of tearing off something and causing pain. There are many ways of providing health care, or there are many ways of charging health care. I think for political parties, the key issue is how to provide health care at a reasonable cost and not how to make profits from the sick. But both can still exist side by side, make profits to subsidise the less able to pay. At the profit end, there are people who are willing to pay and it is criminal not to make profits from them. At the lower end when people are sick and unable or unwilling to pay too much, it is sinful to force them to pay. Political parties have to strike a balance between the two and hopefully making one pays for the other. It would be nice to hear political parties come out with a position that B2 and C wards will be subsidised without the tedious and mean process of means testing. That people are given a choice to choose to pay little or pay more and the hospital facilities structured accordingly. Political parties should not have evil thoughts and mean minds to skin the poor and those who do not want to be skinned. The attempt to skin, the obsession to skin is bad.

Changi and NUH up charges

Singaporeans are so lucky that both hospitals have not raised their fees for the last 10 years. Finally, when costs are pushing up after 10 long years, they have decided that some of the fees like A & E have to go up by 10 to 15%. For the sceptical and cynical, they might argue that for the two hospitals to maintain the rates for 10 years without increasing, then either the fees they charged 10 years ago were giving them very good returns or that they were absorbing all the increasing costs and suffering losses. It all depends on how one looks at an issue. One can criticise or rejoice, complain or praise according to how one interpret the data. But the truth will still be out there.

7/09/2007

CPF - Grabbing at straws

The Straits Times gives Chua Mui Hoon almost one whole page of the Editorial Page to justify why it is good to raise the withdrawal age for the minimum sum to 65. It is so pathetic. Her only good reason for not returning the money to its rightful owner is for CPF Board to improve its returns to the people. Who cares about those miserable returns that could not even keep pace with the GST increases. It is a non issue. Nobody is interested in the interest rate. The longer the money is kept, the lesser it is worth. The issue is what right has the govt to keep on holding on to the people's money? The life long savings of the people must be returned to the people at the earliest possible as it is their just reward for a life time of struggling and working. This is the last contentment for the ageing and dying men and women and no one shall deprive them of it. They have worked for a life time, waited for a life time, looking forward to this moment to breathe a little easier, to touch the money that they have slogged and saved all this while. How cruel it can be to die without seeing it, without touching it and without being able to spend it for themselves, to go for that holiday, to buy a good meal for themselves, or a little toy for their own amusement?

The strong Sing dollar

We have one of the strongest currency in the world. Great. Imagine what I can do with $200k in India. The thought of the possibilities is so pleasant. Find a little village and live like small Maharajah. Thanks to our strong dollar. Now the bad news. It is not even enough for my retirement here. Not enough even to buy a 4 room flat in town. May not be enough to go for a major operation in our world class hospitals. Barely enough to buy a good entry level continental car. That is the value of our strong dollar at home. Can any Singaporean with $200k afford to retire here? What about all those who have less than $30k when they retire? It is the good life,so bless to live in the golden years of this island paradise. I rather spend my money in the not so golden era of India and enjoy my twilight years bathing under the golden ray of my $200k. The rich poor Singaporeans. That is really stretching the dollar. Blessed are the Singaporeans.

When LKY talks about caution

Yes LKY cautioned that if we let our rental run wild and beat Hongkong to it, we will lose our competitiveness. We will gain the coveted title of the most expensive Asian city and make many property owners very happy. But that will be the last euphoria. Who is LKY addressing this remark? Food for thought.

No one be turned away for medical treatment

$20k deposit is required for a major ops inspite of medical insurance. This was what NUH expected from Rebecca Lim Ching Ling as she recounted her shocking experience in the ST forum. She was told by the staff bluntly that 'many people will tell me the same thing, and if they cannot pay, we make a loss.' The staff is right. NUH is not a charity but a business concern and they cannot make losing money decision. After making many frantic calls, Rebecca managed to get her deposit reduced to a smaller amount. How many people, ordinary beans, can afford to cough out $20k cash as deposit? How many people are resourceful enough and educated enough to make all the necessary phone calls to get the deposit reduced? It pays to be cash rich or educated. If not, just too bad. And you cannot blame the hospital or system. You want quality service, you pay the price. No one will be denied medical treatment. No conditions attached.

notable quotes from NKF Eunice Tay

'We cannot afford to let these people squander public money and rob the poor of their rightful subsidies.' NKF CEO Eunice Tay NKF is facing the problem of $1.8 million of unpaid fees by its 393 patients. One owes as much as $29k. Now this is serious and the New NKF is taking this very seriously. They have sought all ways to get the defaulters pay their debt and 'if they still refuse to pay, they will have to seek dialysis elsewhere.' Now this is the kind of tough business decision the NKF has to take. Owe money pay money. NKF is not a charity or is it, that can give free treatment and the patients refused to pay. They pay or go elsewhere for treatment. Tough decision for a tough problem. Shall this be a business decision or a human decision? Shall this be a political decision or a charitable decision? The patients do not go to NKF for a glass of wine or fine dining. It is a matter of life and death. Those who could pay will have to pay. Those who can't cannot go elsewhere as they still have to pay or they die. Period. No man shall be deprived of medical treatment because he cannot afford to pay. This must be in the manifesto of any political party.

Political party manifesto 4

I used to think that the people that form the lowest strata of our society and struggling to live a decent life may be just about 10%. With the shrinking dollar and a higher cost of living, this group could be much bigger. Any family of 4, with two school going children and has a household income of less than $3k a month is tough. And any family with 4 or 5 kids will need at least a $4k income to get by. For living decently in this island, we shouldn't be talking about subsistence level living or we might as well use the poverty stricken Africans as our yardstick, a $3k to $4k family income is barely enough. And if prices are going up, as they are expected here, surely, every year, the income will get smaller and smaller. Another way to look at it, for some individuals, is to say, forget about these people. They buck up and work harder or they live as they are. But political parties have to adopt a different stand from private individual views. They are to work for the people, all the people, at least that must be their declared objective. This must be clearly defined in their manifesto and supported by their actions. If they can't make it materialised, at least they must be seen to be pushing for it. There are at least 50 to 60% of the voters that will buy such an idea.

The unabashedly pro govt press.

P N Balji, Editorial Director of mediacorp, confirmed the unabashedly pro govt media stance and does not apologise about it. And the main reasons, other than a string of others that he gave, is money. Money is everything. And he quoted LKY saying, 'Once you have growth, all the problems can be managed.' Quite true. All money related problems can be solved with money, especially greed. The problem is whether money is used to solve the problems or whether the problems can be solved by money. What is scary is that money can buy everything, even the way media reports and its contents, especially the unabashedly pro govt one. What happens if money runs out? In the longer run, when all Singaporeans are driven by money, this drive for money will turn them against the interest of Singaporeans. That is for sure when all they think of is money for themselves and nothing else. Does it make any difference where the money comes from? Could foreign agencies provide the money for news that are favourable to them and get the msm to print it? Good luck Singapore. The other part of Balji's comment is the drying up of ideas in the msm to captivate the interest of its readers. With a press that is so predictable, focussing on reporting pro govt news, which may not necessarily be bad, what else is there to interest the readers. Where are the alternative views to generate discussions and thinking? Have no fear. The role of the msm is now confined to one of reporting facts and events. The role of providing commentary, interesting commentaries, opposing views, alternative views, lays squarely on the lap of cyberspace. The blogs and internet forums are the new sources of views on events and issues. Thank you msm for relinquishing your role and concentrate on what you now do best, factual reporting without views or commentaries.

7/08/2007

The right to die

Visited a nursing home or a hospice? I assure you that it is not a pretty sight. My respect for all the care givers in the homes, paid or volunteered. Many of the inmates are no longer able to look after themselves. Can't see, can't hear, can't move, can't talk and can't think. And everything must be done for them. Is it a good thing to keep them living in those conditions? Are they living and enjoying life, or are they serving penance for a life not worth living? Many kind hearted souls will swear and fight tooth and nail to keep them alive and going. Life is precious. Anyone with a different view? We are not meant to live forever in this physical form. We come and we go. Different religions and races have their theories and teachings on what come next. Some may believe that this is their one and only existence. Some believe that there is life after death. Some believe that one's spirit lives on forever. The question is whether people should be preserved to live with such indignity, in such a pathetic condition, and celebrated as living. Living life must be living life, not suffering life, immobilised in bed. A lot of education needs to be done to prepare people to live and die gracefully and respectfully. People must not be imprisoned in their dysfunctional bodies in this world one day longer that they have to be. They must be set free to roam the universe, to carry on living as a free spirit. We have the right to live and also the right to die, in dignity. A lot of work must be done in this neglected area that has been left to chance and the opportunitists. We need some of our best talents to be trained in this field and to enlighten the ignorant masses on what life and living is all about and remove the fear of dying. Dying is the last act of grace. A beautiful moment to a new life. Dying is to live again. PS. Exclude the violent and unnatural deaths for they are not meant to die through natural wear and tear.

celebrating singaporean - Glen knight

This man had done wrong, punished, paid his price and live life again peacefully. He has come to terms with his past and taken them in his stride. He is like a buddhist who has found the meaning of letting go. He retreated from life in the fast lane and lives simply on the peripheral of civilisation, doing his things quietly and contemplating on nothing. The man has returned with the youthful enthusiasm to live life again at 62. You can see that he is happy and has no signs of lingering anger or unforgiveness. This is a reformed man, a born again man. Fallen, picked himself up and walks again. Singaporeans have a lot to learn from this man on the lessons of life and humility, and to regain self respect in the face of adversity.

Be mindful

I am not going into a discourse on Buddhism. Political leaders too need to be mindful of the life they want for the people and how the country should move forward. There is this opposing pull of forces to run the full capitalist way and the softer socialist way. The former will let things run their full course, where human nature and the law of the fittest survives will not be restrained. The latter, a more humane look at the inequalities of people and their social makeup that make them less able to pursue their dreams. Criticism of this path is that people are lazy and deserved to be in the doldrums. There will be such people, no doubt about it. Taking the capitalist road, a lot of wealth will be generated and a lot of rich people will be made. At the same time a lot of people will get poorer and less able to get by. In the long run, the pool of the very rich will shrink as they are supreme in their abilities to accumulate wealth at the expense of their less able countrymen. The system will breakdown unnaturally and there will be a new beginning. The role of the govt, with all the powers vested in their hands, has the privilege of being god, to allocate resources and wealth to the people. It has to be mindful where the wealth and resources are going and whether that is the best direction to take. For the last few years, we are seeing this relentless pursuit of money within the govt and outside the govt. The private sector, with money as their only motive while obligation to nation and society as incidental or not in their mindset, will push for the highest return they can get, at all cost. They will maximise profits for short term benefits and ruin the country in the long run. The future of the country is not their concern. Instant gratification, money is. We are seeing cost increases in properties, rentals, services and goods and salaries going only in one direction as if it is the law of gravity, that cost can only go up. The consumers will eventually bear the brunt of everything until they can bear no longer. Forget about the top 20% when their income will always outrun the rising cost and will not matter to them. There must be a price to all these. When will it stretch to a point where it snaps? It is dangerous to slow down growth by shackling the enterpreneurial drive of the able. They must be allowed to push to the limits of efficiency and returns. They are the growth drivers. What can the govt do to keep the less able part of the population more wealthy without increasing their income and pushing up cost? This is the other danger of losing our competitiveness. Rising cost will drive us out of business. Stretch their dollar! The people can live better and feel richer if the cost of 'their' living can be restrained and keep low. Housing, transportation, medical, education, food and essential services can be kept low to increase the value of every dollar these people. This will create a 'controlled economy' at the lower end when govt intervention is necessary to make life more manageable and without pushing up cost to an unbearable state. There can be two economies existing side by side, like two systems, one country. The full force of capitalism and free enterprise shall be allowed to run their 'full' steam in one economy and a managed one for the people who are mostly not so talented but needed to form the base of a thriving nation. This makes the human world different from the animal kingdom. It is the animal farm but subject to how the animals want it to be. This is the mindful part.

7/07/2007

How open are we?

Skimming through the few pages of the Goh Keng Swee book by Tan Siok Sun in the papers, it is clear that Keng Swee left politics because of a new love and not too because of his health. In 1982, or even now, we are still a society of monks and priests. A second love life is uncomfortable and could become an embarrassment and the topic of gossips. So it was better to stay away from politics. And Singapore lost one of it brightest leaders because of our high moral standard of social norms. A few days back it was reported that Hilary Clinton was taking out her big gun in her presidential campaign. And that big gun was non other than the charismatic Bill Clinton. Clinton was still as popular as before with or without Lewinsky. The Americans have adored him for what he is and forgiven him for his little indiscretion. And he is still being invited to talk about his exploits in the White House and being paid big money for it. Are we that pragmatic as a people compare to the Americans 'can do' attitude towards life? Or are we just some uptight society that taking a second glance at a pretty face is scorned upon? Or are we just a hypocritical society that claims to be whiter than white and any little speck of dust marks the ruin of a man no matter how talented he is? America is a big country with a big heart for forgiveness. And they are not so uptight about the private lives of their people and leaders. They love them the way they are with all their warts and scars. George Bush is the best living example of how the Americans have accepted him as their president and all his boobs and slips. He is after all a man, and not god.

Sonthi's game of deception

The Bangkok Post had an article pointing to the misleading information and statements made by Sonthi and questioned if this man can be trusted. It reported that just one week prior to the coup he publicly denied that he was going to attempt a coup. And he did. And now he admitted that his charges against Singapore for spying was such for public consumption and was not true. The question now is how long can he get away from deceiving the Thai public? He is now in power and no one can touch him. When his grip on power slips away, how would the new man in power deal with him? Or how would the Thai people deal with him? Would they begin to have doubts about the NSC's charges against Thaksin given such a record? His downfall and disgrace are quite certain unless the Thais are willing to forgive him.

higher cost? have no fear

'Costs are always important but we are not going to allow costs to prevent us from growing. You do want the standard of living of Singaporeans to go up and a higher stand of living means more income in real terms.' Goh Chok Tong Recently we are seeing all kinds of increases, the euphoria of property prices and the jubilant cheers of property developers and beneficiaries of en bloc sales. We also hear some grumblings from the foreign business communities and the lower grade foreign talents that it is no longer feasible to work here and have their families with them. Can the rentals of office spaces and shop spaces continue to go on without somebody paying for the increases? High costs mean higher standard of living provided the income is growing as fast or faster. How many Singaporean's real incomes are growing? The 2% GST increases means that income has gone down by 2%. Period. The rebate is only a short term stop gap measure. And if the goods and service providers just add up their costs and transfer to the consumers, as many have seen recently, the increase in prices are more than 2%. Effectively cost of living is up and real income down. Then the surge in property prices that will filter down to the heartlanders. Real income must come down when buying a flat is now that much more. The en bloc hordes with their overflowing cash windfall can only benefit one time by downgrading. Unless the en bloc phenomenon can go on and on. But that does not change the fact that many first time flat buyers are going to pay more for their new flats. And if their incomes do not run away as fast as the prices, they are going to face the squeeze. We believe that our standard of living can go on the upward climb despite the high costs. Maybe the top 20% could do so. Do we believe that the general masses are that much smarter, productive and efficient that they deserve that much more for their effort and services than people around us? Many in India and China have proven that they could do as much and as good as us for lesser. The competition from these seas of humanities will not allow our workers' salaries to go on rising in line with the rising costs. I wish that I am wrong, that this island is really a pool of talented people that can command exceptionally higher remunerations for the quality of their work vis a vis the Asian giants. And we can continue to push up our cost and standard of living at will.