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2/29/2008

The ultimate weapon

After two days, no one has come out with a sound idea of nabbing Kastari quick and fast. It is time to use the ultimate weapon...Money. Offer a $1m reward for his capture, Dead or Alive, as the bounty hunters like to call it. I think many people will be motivated to do the chasing for the money.

Upgrading the quality of education

According to an article in MyPaper today, a parent sent an email to them talking about Sec One students in Maris Stella High are now expected to purchase a $2k MacBook for their personal use. The school has this motto, 'One student, one computer, one great way to learn.' The laptop actually cost between $2277 for a basic model and $2,672 for an upgraded model. The students will definitely be more computer literate and can access to all the websites in cyberspace. It is a bit heavy for a Sec One student to lug along though, and a bit of money to lay hand to one.

Possibility of satellite technology

While so much effort and resources have been invested in satellite technology to track cars on the road, car speed and cars going through ERP gantry points or causing jams, now there is a better use of such leading edge technology. Instead of wasting such resources to become more efficient in collecting tolls, I would suggest that we use it to tag prisoners. Then we can keep track of their every movement. We would definitely know if they are in the toilet if they said they are going to the toilet. And if they escape, if will be a piece of cake to track them down. Satellite technology must have some better use than tracking cars on the road.

Mood was tense but generally inconsequential

The mood in parliament was tense. You could see that on the grim faces and uncomfortable composure of the MPs. Other than that, the issues raised were either irrelevant or of non consequences. I heard about loan sharks and how to make borrowing from them illegal. I heard about trying to meddle with Myanmar's internal affairs, that Myanmar violates human rights, put their opposition leaders in prison, corruption in high places and that sort of things. Actually talking about Myanmar is the safest and most correct thing to do. It was a non event. No more scoring own goals.

2/28/2008

Open your hearts to foreigners

This statement alone is flawed and misleading. It is a misconception that Singaporeans are hostile to foreigners. Nay, all foreigners are welcomed here. There may be a few personal and individual incidents of unhappiness or irritations, but on the whole we do not exhibit xenophobic behaviour to our guests. Most fit in very well. Some even go around beating up Singaporeans and insulting them for being stupid. And the Singaporeans take in with a big smile. Some even offer the other cheek. Last year alone we have 63,600 PRs and 17,300 new citizens, nearly 81,000. Our birth rate probably produces 35,000 to 40,000 newborns. With such a huge influx into a small pool of 3 million citizens annually, and to get away with it is a near miracle. But how long can it last? How long can relations and peaceful co existence be maintained? How long can the economy continue to grow to absorb all the people? Shall we stop at 5.5m or 6.5m or 10m? Whatever number, the number game must come to a stop. I still find it very dangerous to think that our lifestyle and environment will not be affected if we keep on stuffing more people here. We will soon be like goldfishes gulping for air on the surface of an aquariam. We should stop this foolish thought that we can go on and on with the help of creativity and technology. Just the roads and transportation will kill us. We are entering a stage when people will not leave their little flats as it is very costly. Driving a car to town, petrol, parking and ERPs will easily add up to $30 or $50. For those taking trains and MRT, a return trip is $3 to $5. Hey, these are money that not everyone can spare. And all the little frills of green lungs and space for a little escape from the rat race will be gone. We may have no place to train our NS men or camps for them to stay. Yes we can keep building higher and higher. We can build more and more roads and MRTs. For what? For who? For what kind of life and what quality of life? At what cost?

What happy mistake?

Whoever thought that the $6.4b surplus was a mistake was being too presumptious. How could it be when all the detailed planning and calculations were churned in the computers and simulators for so many rounds? And the ending of the budget debate was as predictable as the sun will rise from the east. OK everyone had been given a chance to kpkb, and all the criticisms were flawed. Period. I was also presumptious to think that some measures that I thought had gone overboard would be reined back. Alas, I was as wrong as everyone who were calling it a happy mistake. It was an outcome that was likely to be well conceived and expected.

2/27/2008

More Parliament gems

Judy Mitchell must be told the brutal truth. If cannot afford to stay in 5 rm, downgrade lah. Go for 4 rm, 3rm or even rental flats. Live within your means and affordability. Simple. Now who is going to tell her that? Who is good at telling brutal truth? I am only good at talking about compassion, kindness, help the needy etc etc. But these are only rhetorics in cyberspace. Just talk cock only. Can't do anything for them. What, I don't have that kind of money, and that's the truth. And Lily Neo is fighting for the lower income group again. She is appealing for more help for them. She said we can't keep telling these untalented people to keep running faster. We need to train them and help them to upgrade. That's true. If they can, they would not need help anymore. But what do they expect, to become managers, CEOs or Ministers? Just kidding.

MPs scoring own goals

Unbelieveable, but the MPs are doing just that, questioning policies and happy mistakes in Parliament. At the rate it is going, we don't really need an opposition. They are definitely doing a better job than the opposition, or is there an opposition? Inderjit Singh looks more like the leader of the opposition bench. If they continue to do such a fine job, next GE everyone may be voting just for PAP. Now when will the Whip crack? When will someone stand up and say don't score your own goals? Actually it will be interesting for all the govt MPs to say aye and shut up and see what the opposition will say. It is likely that Parliament will be over in two hours. And everyone can go back to work and make more money. Don't have to waste time saying the obvious. But the obvious have to be spoken for two reasons. If they are raised and forgotten, like the housewives, then people will say, see, I don't hear any objections any more. The people are all happy and support the policies. After a few days everything will be forgotten. I also forgot who spoke for the housewives vehemently in the last Parliament session. Now everyone will not want to know about the housewives anymore. Correction, Amy Khor did mentioned about them again. Anyone else? Issues must be repeatedly raised and spoken to keep them alive or else face the fate of becoming non issues and passe. The second reason is that though they are obvious to many, to the decision makers, they may not be that obvious. Or they would not agree to the policies and decisions and schemes. That's how happy mistakes are made and why MPs got so many goals to score. And then there is the group that will say everything is affordable. I am going to stick up a column to quote the comments whenever someone said something is affordable from now on. That will be good for posterity. Then we can start counting the affordables and aggregate them up.

2/26/2008

When bonuses are tied to profits

Where would these lead to? Essential services, transport companies, hospitals, schools and universities, etc, when the bonuses of their top executives, including staff, are tied to profits made, what would be the organisations' objectives and policies? Would the fees or prices of their goods and services ever come down? Coming down means lesser or no bonuses. So what? Profit for profit sake without looking at other intangibles or objectives can be very destructive. Just like managing a country for economic and monetary rewards and ignoring other values or the people's general well being, can lead to one certainty.

A $6.4b happy mistake

Some said it was pleasantly embarrassing, while some said it was an astonishing surplus. Some even praised it as commendable, far sightedness and prudence. Really? Ask those who have been squeezed out of their few dollars which could buy them another meal. To those who have contributed tens of thousands to this $6.4b happy mistake, they would simply brush it aside as a non event. For those who are adversely affected by it, would they take it as a joke and laugh it off? Inderjit Singh was pointed in saying that all the affordable increases have contributed to a projected $.07b budget deficit to a $6.4b surplus. But some offered that it was all because of the adjustment of the value of housing. It seems that it is very difficult to understand how a little affordable increases here and there when added up can become a little mountain. Is it that difficult to understand or too tedious to understand? Or is it that such little irritating problems do not deserve to be looked at as they are very time consuming? Better to spend time assessing the benefits of buying a 80ft yacht or a 100ft yacht. Now that is a pleasant problem to spend time on. For those who still fails to see how a few affordable increases can bring hardship to the people and lead to a happy mistake, they should be punished to watch 100 hours of Moses Lim and Jack Neo's comic sketches on throwing a few bits of litter now and then. The moral of these comic sketches is that a little bit here and there will soon add up to become a big big mountain of rubbish. Whether it is a happy mistake or a pleasant embarrassment, the high cost of living is not going away, the GST increase is not coming down, all the affordable increases will remain and the poor will continue to be squeezed. Must be very pleasant experience, like sitting in an Osim chair.

2/25/2008

Huang Lizhen's hospital bill

The MOH has put up an advertisement on the hospital bill of Huang Lizhen in the paper. It started with the first paragraph as follows: 'For the past seven years, Ms Huang Lizhen has been in and out of hospital, chalking up medical bills that have since wiped out her widowed mother's Medisave savings.' Medisave wiped out! Later her case was referred to 'medical social workers, who helped her apply for Medifund assistance.' The Medifund covered 100% of her bill after subsidy. And they were grateful even though the mother's Medisave was already empty. For 79 days in a C ward in Tan Tock Seng Hospital for Systemic lupus erythematosus, the bill came to $52,000! Govt subsidy was 80% or $42,000. After subsidy, balance $10k was fully paid by Medifund. They paid nothing. Or they will be in deep shit since her Medisave was already wiped out. How many people can afford a $52k bill? And this is C ward rate. It could be higher if in better wards. It is more than $500 a day. That's what it costs for world class medical treatment. Please don't get admitted to C ward if you can afford it. Huang Lizhen and mother are so lucky. For those who are not as desperate as them, please make sure you have money, and plenty of money, to pay your hospital bills.

Time to bring back the discards

With life expectancy going to 100 and with good medical care, it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that healthy Singaporeans can work till past 80, and still doing very well. The old practice of retiring people at 55 and the discards because of that policy should be looked at and those still in good health and able, should be brought back to the main stream of economic life. We are wasting a lot of talents and experience that these senior professionals have accummulated throughout their lives. Sad to see them ended up as taxi drivers and foodcourt cleaners or wasting their time in clubs drinking and merry making aimlessly. They have another 10 to 20 years of productive life to live.

A wonderful educational experience

As we get more influence and have more money to spare, we become more creative and innovative with what money can offer. Schools are increasinly organising overseas trips for their students as a badge of honour, as a wonderful educational experience for the children. We are seeing trips not only to neighbouring countries, but to the US, Europe, China and Japan. At the university level we have exchange programmes with other universities all over the world. Such experience will definitely make our students smarter and brighter. They will definitely be better than third world students who can't even afford a trip to town. Money sure can buy quality education. The more expensive the education fee, the better will be the education.

$100,000 mouth!

Singapore has developed a new mini tooth implant that could save the patients a lot of money. It was reported that the sum could come to $70k for a full mouth job. That could possibly put the cost of a full job to well over $100k using the old technology. Imagine putting $100k inside a mouth. The $6m bionic man is now a reality with so many parts to change and upgrade.

2/24/2008

A case for selective comparison

Many Singaporeans have taken issue with the length of NS that our young men have to serve and lost 2 years of their precious youth. Some are suggesting that the 2 years are still too long and can be shortened. I am not going to agree or disagree with that kind of thought. Ok, let's adopt our favourite past time and practice and do some selective comparisons. I think Taiwan and South Korea both have nationals service and the duration is about one and a half to two years. Israel probably the same or more. How about about nearest neighbour, Malaysia? They can do their national service in 3 months or 6 months. And only a few are selected to do NS. Maybe we can have something in between. Something in between is also a good thing.

Myth 173 - No talents in paradise

In the 70s, when HDB started to build 5rm point block flats, there used to be this remark that the talents in a block of 5rm flat, 96 units, are enough to run a country like Malaysia or Singapore. For in each block there will be enough engineers, doctors, lawyers, professionals, senior executives, civil servants, with enough experience and talents to run a country. And several of our senior ministers too came from 5 rm flats too. Till then, only 3% of each cohort went to university. But we have talents, great talents that brought us here today. We now have 30% or more of each cohort of students going on to tertiary education. Some gone further to do post graduate degrees with MBAs and doctorates a common certificate to flash around. And every year, we proudly declared the thousands of straight A's students graduating from O and A levels. There used to be one or two such students per year per cohort in the past. And today we are living in a myth that we have no talents. How so? The Hokiens will exclaim, 'Oo Yia Boh?' Literary it means got shadow or not? Got shadow means human. No shadow means inhuman. Actually it means true or not. But I digress. Why is there no talents when talents are everywhere? Or are we looking at the wrong place or at the wrong things. Today's talent means you must be able to prove that you are a million dollar earner. Many Ah Longs will qualify, including pimps. But many of these are only interested in chasing money. They have perfected their skills in their chosen fields and set their minds to make millions. That is their reason in life, not serving the people and earning peanuts. We do not need exceptional talents to run a country. We need the heart to be in the right place. For we have all the best talents, the super talents in the civil service and the stats boards to provide the brains and do the real works. We need a heart man to lead, to tell these talents what is good for the people and not what is good for their own pockets. In a way, we need people with a little bit of idealism, selflessness and a little bit silly, to think of others and not of self. These kinds of silliness are now laughed at as naive idealism. What is being promoted and championed are hardcore materialism and what is in it for me. We have ended up like the animal farm when the wrong pegs were fitted into the wrong holes. Wrong kinds of talents to do the wrong kinds of work. And the objectives, goals and policies manifest the thinking and values behind them. We will have solid and high growth rate but for who and for what? In the meantime the people were made to believe in the myth that there is no talent, maybe one, or two, or at the most five. The rest are not talented or good enough. When one block of 5 rm flat was deemed enough, now we have one third of the population that are far well read and schooled, and we can't find the talents. Oo Yia Boh?

2/23/2008

When the music stops?

We are in the golden years. Full employment, high salaries. People have a lot of money to spend. Property owners can afford to sell at high prices or charge high rentals. Everyone take the opportunity to jack up their prices of goods and services. But after a few grumblings, life goes on. Taxi fares go up, ERP rates go up, GST goes up. No sweat. KPKB for a while. People will get use to the high cost. Conservancy rates go up, PUB rates go up. Never mind, got rebates. And for those who are struggling, there are the annual handouts from the govt. The budget goodies. Now, what will happen when we price ourselves out of the market system? Or if the world economy goes on a tailspin? No jobs, no fat salaries, no budget surpluses to handout, and all the rebates and subsidies expire? Can we see prices coming down? Can property prices come down, rental comes down, food and essential services come down, transport fares come down? Some can but many can't. Can the goodies, handouts, rebates, subsidies go on and on and the people keep stretching their hands out and expecting to get them? The high cost of living is likely to stay even when times are bad. Anyone heard of transport fares coming down? Conservancy fees or PUB bills coming down? Or foodcourt prices coming down? Many are committed to a higher lifestyle, higher property prices and rentals. When jobs are gone, or salaries cut, just like in the late 90s, the noose will tighten. This time even faster and tighter. It was a lesson that we never learn. There was euphoria before the bust.

Notable quotes by Leong Sze Hian

'Are there any countries in the world which have national pension schemes that exclude the bottom 25 per cent of the population?' Leong Sze Hian My answer is yes, in paradise. Leong Sze Hian was responding to the CPF Life annuities scheme that excluded those who have less than $40,000 in their Minimum Sum. And this is exactly the group that needs help. So what will happen to them when they are old and have no money and not in the scheme? Search me, I do not want to know. Not my pasar.

A positive and welcome move by Singapore

Singapore's initiative to bring economic growth into North Korea and lead the communist state into the world community is the most positive and effective way to engage North Korea. An economically strong Korea fully engaged in the world system, economics, trade and industry, and all things, will bring prosperity to its people and harmony in east Asia. North Korea could be like China and Vietnam, communist in political system but capitalist in economic development and trading with the world as another responsible nation. Such a concept is totally in contrast with the wicked and destructive scheme of the US, branding it with all kinds of hostile terms, axis of evil, arms exporter, threatening world peace, supporting terrorism, violation of human rights etc etc. Such outdated methodology was only workable in the past when the Asians were weak and ignorant or under the total domination of the western powers. Today, the picture has changed. There is no SEATO or CENTO and no colonial states. The last two semi colonies of the US, Japan and South Korea, are also trying to break free from the American control. The Asian countries must find their own reasons and meaning of existence in the new world and not be told by the Americans who is good and who is bad. The Singapore initiative is commendable but risked being derailed by the Americans. The Americans will not support it and will get its semi colonies to tow the line. Fortunately Howard has been kicked out and hopefully Kevin Rudd will not dance to the American tune. Maybe Asean can come in to give it more weight. Engaging and welcoming North Korea into trade and industry is better than telling the North Koreans to sign some scrips of paper on intangible and meaningless stuff like Treaty of Cooperation and Amity.

2/22/2008

President Wee Kim Wee

I read a post in Sammyboy forum praising Wee Kim Wee as the humble and down to earth president that Singaporean loved. And another forumer saying that no one could get his name wrong as you could read it forward and backward and still got it right. With all due respect to President Wee, let's hope no reporter or msm is going to print his name in the western format with his family name behind his name. Fry the bugger if it is in the local press.

Charity begins at home

'Amid calls by some US lawmakers for wealthy universities to lower tuition costs, officials at Stanford University have said they will no longer charge tuition to students from families earning less than US$100K (S$140K) a year. For students whose families earn less than US$60K a year, Stanford will not charge for either tuition or room and board.... Stanford is now among a small string of top tier schools, including Harvard, Yale and Pomona College, that have taken steps in recent months to help middle class families and, in some cases, households with incomes ovr US$150K.... "We will continue to evaluate international applications on a case by case basis."....' Reuters, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Straits Times. How would these compare to our policies on education? Oops cannot compare apple with oranges.

Wrong place to look for role models

Edison Chen said he was not a good role model. His girlfriends in the videos admitted that they were naive. Why would children all look up to these bad role models and naive girls as role models? There are many good role models in many other professions. The last place to look for role models, you know where. The most naive group of people coming out from this episode are those people who look at them as role models.

ERP, pay according to usage

Thomas Koshy has some great suggestions in his article on ERP rates in Today. The principle he relies on is that the more one crosses the gantry, the more one pays. And for those who cross more, the rate will also be higher. At the other end, I like this best, is infrequent users will be given a kind of waiver for the first time they cross a gantry. The fees not collected is compensated from the high users. As for those in the transport business and need to transport goods and people, try to use buses and MRT to save on paying more ERP charges. And for those unfortunate poor buggers whose travel patterns require them to cross ERP frequently, or have an ERP outside their homes, maybe they can introduce something like a frequent travellers or mileage rewards like what the airlines are doing. Very interesting suggestions, the same principle as using water. The lesser water people used the better. The lesser people use the roads, the better. Why do we need to build roads and rails?

High property prices

How to help Singaporeans when property prices are destined to go higher? I dreamt of a good scheme to ensure that all Singaporeans will have money to buy their dream flats. I mean HDB flat. The private sector high end flat is a different kind of dream. So how does this work out? My premise is that all the young men and women at the age of 25 must have at least $100k in their CPF accounts. This money can come from a CPF insurance scheme paid by their parents on the day of their birth. For a start, the day a baby is registered, $30k of one of the parent's CPF accounts should be deducted and set aside for a Housing Endowment Fund. This fund will simply grow and by the time the child is 25, it should be around $100k or more. If the parents have two or more children, the equivalent amount should be set a side for the respective children. With such a scheme, no young people will have problem paying for a HDB flat in the future. Not bad idea huh.

2/21/2008

Money to bail out sick banks.

Below is an extract from an email that came to me. It shows how much money we have to invest in sick banks which I agree is a great opportunity given to us and a risk worth taking. But I also share the author's sentiment about why we were so desperate to need to raise GST by another 2% to help the poor when we actually have so much money to bail out sick banks. (I have omitted copying the cynical and naughty parts of the arguments as I am not sure of the source of this article.) In the past year alone, the Singapore government ¡V through its investment arms of Temasek and GIC - invested a whopping $34, 560, 000, 000.00 in various investments worldwide. That's $34.56 billion. GIC: UBS - $14 billion British Land - $388 million Citigroup - $9.8 billion US Hedge Fund - $429 million Temasek: British Bank Barclays - $4.3 billion Merrill Lynch - $5 billion Standard Chartered - $643 million And if you think the government is stretching itself too thin, no worries. GIC deputy chairman and executive director Tony Tan says the GIC has capacity to bail out another bank. (AFP) Now, government investments are not a bad thing, to be sure. Of course there are questions of transparency and accountability which some people have brought up. Be that as it may, what is even more troubling is another issue. This is the constant lament of the government about not having enough money or financial resources to deal with Singapore 's ageing population, helping the poor, providing subsidized healthcare and so on. Thus, the government has introduced the GST hike to 7% ("to help the poor"), and is introducing the Compulsory Longevity Insurance (for our ageing population), and Means Testing (for healthcare). All of these are paid for by Singaporeans, in some way or another. In raising the GST to 7%, Channel NewsAsia reported PM Lee as saying: "Mr Lee explained that the hike was necessary to finance the enhanced social safety nets, needed to help the lower income group.." (CNA) The extra 2% will give the government a further $1.5 billion to finance "the enhanced social safety nets, needed to help the lower income group". Now, if the GIC and Temasek Holdings have $34 billion to bail out ailing foreign banks, why does the government not have the money ( a mere $1.5b) to help poorer Singaporeans, which it says it needs? Why does the government not have enough money to spend more on the aged and healthcare? Contrast the obscene spending by the GIC and Temasek with the pathetic excuse given by MCYS minister Vivian Balakrishnan about giving those on public assistance a further $23 increase, which some MPs have asked for: "The government is reviewing the S$290 monthly public assistance (PA) allowance for needy Singaporeans to see if it should be increased. It is also conducting a separate review on the qualifying income limit for assistance, which currently stands at S$1,500 a month. The review is expected to be completed later this year." (CNA) (TOC) Why does the government need to have months of "review" to ascertain whether giving another $23 to those most in need is justified? If this is not the height of hilarity, then I don't know what is. It would be funny if it weren't so sad ¡V that our government would not blink an eye in spending billions bailing out foreign banks in risky undertakings while being so hardfisted about giving a mere $23 to its most vulnerable and needy citizens. Something is just not right. How did the government suddenly make $34.5 billion appear out of thin air when they were just lamenting, not too long ago, that they didn't even have $1.5 billion to help the poor? Now, the next time I hear the government says it does not have enough money and need to raise this and raise that to fund certain "programmes" to "help the poor", I will tell them: "Please stop....."

Bee tang ah! Huat ah!

Gabriel Chen wrote in the ST about this guy whose net worth is about $6m and after some computation found that he has an angpow of $200k! Wow, what about those with $20m or $200m net worth? Huat ah, huat ah : ) Thanks to the Good Year Ang Pow Budget. And Singaporeans still complaining not enough?

Oil price hitting US$100 a barrel

Looks like the future of oil prices is only up and will be above US$100, maybe US$200 or more. We need to prepare our people for high oil prices and get use to paying for them at high prices. More importantly we must educate our people to cut down and save on wasting power and electricity, like going green. The situation of oil prices is like water. Oil is precious like water. We must do what we did for water. We have taken many measures to save water and educate the people from wasting water. I find all those measures very effective and should be adopted in the same way. To prevent people from wasting electricity unnecessarily, to teach them to switch off lights when not needed, we need to double the price of electricity. And we can include an electricity surcharge tax of 30% just like we tax for over usage of water. These measures will guarantee to be effective as it hurts the people where it hurts most, the pocket. People will then be more careful in the use of electricity and will not anyhow waste them. The other go green measures can come in. Don't get me wrong, raising electricity rates is only one of many measures to save on fuel cost. Now I am getting green conscious. I am going to save the world. I might even be awarded with a Save Mother Earth Medal like Al Gore.

Frightening but good for the people

A new bill is being tabled to protect 'patients who are detained or forced to be admitted to psychiatric institutions' in Parliament. To even think of people being detained or forced to be admitted into psychiatric institutions in paradise is really frightening. There is no such thing in paradise, cannot be. Such things only happened in communist regimes of the past or in some dictatorships. But of course it is good to have such a law just in case such things did happened and there is some protection for the people being wrong. Under the current procedure, according to Tan Hui Leng, 'a person can be admitted or detained for treatment if he is suffering from a mental disorder that warrants such an action, and if it is in the interests of the person or to protect others.' Hmmm, what do you think? Can bloggers be deemed to be suffering from some disorder and needs to be detained in the interests of the blogger or to protect others? My imagination is getting wild. But in the future, if paradise is taken over by a dictator, a bad dictator, this is a frightening possibility. So this new bill is good for the people and the victims. It is a proactive bill.

2/20/2008

Same floor flat different price

Brother wanted to buy a 4 rm flat next to another brother but found price increased by $84k. It was $280k a year ago when his brother bought it from HDB. It is now $364k from HDB. This is reported in the New Paper. The price has gone up as it is marked according to market resale value of flats in the area. And this brother is unhappy. He found it unreasonable as the costs of building the two flats were the same. But he forgot. When his brother bought the flat at $280k, it was already subsidised. Now if he is going to pay at the same price, the subsidy will be whatever plus $84k! Now that is a very huge market subsidy. Further, the $364k is also cheaper than market price. I think he is expecting too much. Too unreasonable. $364k, good price, fair price. Cheaper than market price, and subsidised some more. What more does he want?

In praise of smelliness

Jayandran Sandra Alison posed an interesting perspective about giving Jalan Kayu a clean makeover and 'why smelly Jalan Kayu' should not be clean up like Chinatown. Chinatown has lost its charm and authenticity as the residents are moving out and all that was retained or came in to replace them were commercial outlets and business people. Chinatown will not be the same again. It will be clean, not smelly, and not very real. Should Jalan Kayu be retained for its smelliness and chaotic nature? One thing for sure, the tourists would want to see an old dilapidated Chinatown, with all its squatters and squalors than a clean and modern one.

No Estate Duties

This is a good piece of news for all Singaporeans, including the HDB dwellers. With the world's rich and infamous coming here to park their money and buy up the properties, anyone holding on to one will be seeing its value double or triple. This is better than the asset enhancement scheme. While the rich foreigners are buying up the high end properties, and some locals cashing out and downgrading, they will be a filtering down effect to HDB flats as well. How about a 3 room flat costing a million bucks? If such a price can be attained, who needs Long Life Annuity Schemes? Practically everyone will become a millionaire, in strong Sing dollars of course. While all the rich who are holding on to their properties and counting the gains, some thoughts must go to the new flat buyers, the young people starting out to buy their first HDB flat. How are they going to earn enough money to buy a 3 rm flat which by then the prices will outstrip their income? We can't be sitting on our fat arses and waiting for things to happen and say it is due to external forces, nothing can be done.

Anti Competition Practices

Two articles in Today were on anti competition practices and abuses here. It is good that more people speak out on this issue and those who were victims take up legal suits against the perpetrators of such practices. Organisations that allowed such practices to continue should be made to own up and face 'the consequent loss of reputation and goodwill' as stated by Lim Bee Khim from the Ministry of Trade and Industry. So far all is talk and no action despite the prevalence of such abuses and unethical practices.

2/19/2008

Celebrating Singaporean - Lily Neo

MP Lily Neo As an MP she may not be given enormous projects to tackle, so nothing too visible. But in her own ways she has contributed very significantly to the downtrodden and otherwise taken for granted group of desperate people in paradise. Without her challenging their cause, these people may still be getting $250 a month to get by. Now, not only that they are getting $290, they are going to get $330 soon! And people now realised how pathetic and difficult it is to live with that kind of money. Maybe some people may think that for such people, the money will be too much for 3 packs of maggie mee a day. Now don't ever think that this is an easy thing to do. For raising it in Parliament, she was embarrassed. She took it quitely. She is a true champion for the poor and deprived, with a real heart. She is sincere in what she is doing. Don't be surprised that one day she will be honoured as the new Goddess of Mercy of Paradise.

Charity in Paradise

For a small little island we have thousands of charitable organisations, all thriving and collecting millions and millions of dollars annually from the generous and kind populace. But this is not all. The govt gives out $1.8b of handouts this year, and has been doing it for many years. We are indeed a very generous country with many generous donors, many people in need of charity, and many people enjoying running charitable organisations. Soon setting up charitable organisations, running and managing them, collecting donations and receiving donations will be a way of life in paradise. And this is only natural. Paradise is where all the good people with good hearts are found. Paradise is synonymous with charity.

2/18/2008

Ungrateful Singaporeans

What, what, I can't believe my ears. Singaporeans not happy with the Golden Year Ang Pow budget! With the govt giving away $1.8b from the $6.4b surplus, Singaporeans are saying not enough, that this is not atm budget, that the govt is not playing Santa Claus, and they are disappointed! And some families are getting a few thousand bucks, like striking 4D, still not happy. What are the Singaporeans expecting? These are money from heaven, no need to work for it and they are disappointed. Unbelieveable.

Windy Cool Words

There is a Chinese saying, something like speaking windy cool words, or fen liang hua. It doesn't require much skill though. Anyone with a few million bucks should be in a position to do it. Even the Ah Longs are quite adept at such phrases. A frequent encounter between an Ah Long and his debtor can go like this, after the beating up and paying up of course. 'I advise you huh, got no money don't try to gamble or live like a rich man ah. And don't borrow money from Ah Long. Live within your means. Got money eat more, no money eat less. Then your life will be better, no need beating from Ah Long. See. Then every year got angpow from the govt some more, then can go for a short holiday in Malaysia. With a roof on your head, with enough food to eat, even house brand never mind, what more is there to be unhappy about. Live a simple and happy life.

2/17/2008

The upper crust

Both SICC and SIA were in the news, two law suits involving the cream of our society, the privilege class. It was interesting to read the petty details of the cases, especially when the masses always look at this distinguished class of people from a distance with great admiration and envy. Face it, money is just a facade to give some signs of impeccability and dignity. Beneath that, human beans are human beans and they all eat and shit just like everyone else. What astonished me is to read this statement in the paper, 'All we did was to capitalise on it.' Capitalise on people's private life, little silly mistakes or indiscretion, blowing up in the msm, seems a normal game in paradise. If this kind of things becomes an acceptable norm of social behaviour, we can forget about gracefulness. We are just as good as anyone in any little corners of the world. We are just petty human beans in disguise. Let's not breathe a word about being ethical and on moral high grounds. In paradise, things are more precarious as everyone seems to know everyone or hear something from everyone. And if everyone is going to capitalise on such information, we will have a very exciting and colourful society.

Short sighted policies

We think we can keep on raising prices. We think we can keep on raising salaries. We think we can keep on having full employment and budget surpluses. We think our people can all be turned into geniuses by having the best education with the best facilities and best lecturers. We forgot that water will always find the lowest level. Gravity will bring everything down to earth. The US thought the world owes them a living and they have been living it up for a couple of centuries. But time is catching up with them. They are at the brink of a total collapse of their economic system based on high expenditure and borrowed money or printing money and high salaries. They think they can continue to pay their workers the best salaries only to see jobs fleeing to cheaper places. When we over pay our workers, jobs will flee too. When we overprice our services, properties, rentals, they too will look for cheaper places to go. This is a fundamental economic truth. Any exception is shortlived.

Imported inflation or inflating prices?

Our secret of fighting inflation is to let the price hikes flow down to all levels. Then we pump in the money, raise salaries or give handouts to the people. This theory seems to be sold and have been accepted by our leaders. So price control is out of question. Let all the prices to rise. Don't worry, there will be handouts every year. Two points to note. Are the price hike really imported and beyond our control or they are self manufactured by profiteers for some obscene reasons? The second point is that inflation will always come first and the handouts one year later. And while handouts are being given, one year late, inflation continues to rise. Giving handouts are reactive and never enough. Many basic necessities like rice, water and food, need not rise so much given our strong dollar and cheap imported water. The reason and the extra taxes placed on the price of water is obscene. And we are inflating the cost of education by throwing money after the so called best lecturers or most expensive lecturers. Do we really need to buy the best from the world? Can we have second or third best or only a few really good ones? Not only that we cannot afford world class prices, Ah Meng's children will still come out as orang utangs even if they are taught by the best brains. The failure of Haw Par Villa, Tang Dynasty and Sentosa was evidence that Singaporeans were not or could not pay outrageous prices. Are we serious in wanting a world class transport system with world class prices? Looking at the profits of transport companies, they can do well with lower prices if profit is not the only reason for their existence. Instead of privatise, return them to the govt as essential services to serve the people's interest instead of a few shareholders. Then ERP, imported inflation? Rentals and property prices, pressured by external factors to go up? Medical fees, really must go up so high? Many of these high cost items are self created and self inflicted. And the poorer people have to bear the brunt of the pain. And comes budget time, we give them a few pieces of 'koyok' or a bill few good pills and all thinks everything is ok. For things that are really caused by external factors beyond our control, fair enough, we have to find ways to live with it. For high cost of things that we have full control and consciously pushed it to the people, we can do more to avoid them. Not everything is due to imported inflation but we inflate the prices ourselves.

2/16/2008

Oo la la, Good Year Ang Pow

$1.8b of GYAP coming our way. Where on earth can one find an ATM that gives this kind of money to the people? It would be unreasonable for anyone to find fault with the budget. It is too good to be true. Money pouring into everyone's pocket. But criticism there will be, on the details perhaps. There will sure be some reasons for people to nickpick. Let me start with one. In the last debate, it was a good one too, but after some criticisms and afterthoughts, several MPs stood up to defend their mothers and grandmothers. They felt that the housewives who stayed at home to look after the children and spare the working mothers and fathers from having a demonic maid at home, deserve something more. They are playing a very vital role in supporting the family and growing the children. Well, Tharman has forgotten his mother and the housewives again. Not a word was mentioned. Let's see if the MPs remember and kick up a scene in Parliament. Nothing will be done after that anyway. But a little wayang will be good if they want the votes of the housewives. Or at least it gives them something to throw at Tharman. The other point that people tend to miss out when there is a goodies galore is how the goodies were made possible. There is a budget surplus of more than $6b. And this is the result of a policy of taxing and getting as much money from the people in all ways. Then after emptying the people's pocket, just give a few handouts in return. And as usual, the sheeples will respond in a most predictable manner. Very happy and grateful for the goodies. They have forgotten about the GST, ERP, the fees and fare hikes, the causes of the high inflation. The latter were blamed as the result of external factors beyond our control. If policies were to tax a little lesser, there may be lesser need to give handouts. Or there will be lesser to give. Wonder which is better. Collect like hell to give a little more, or collect less to give less?

2/15/2008

We are not short of talents

How can we be short of talents when we can easily create more? Ah Meng could be a great talent if we pay her more than peanuts and bananas. As such, Ah Meng would probably be remembered as a peanut and banana talent. Imagine if Ah Meng is paid $1m! He will instantly be a million dollar talent. Creating talent in paradise is so easier. Just pour money onto the person.

NUS Law fees up 20%

I nearly missed out on this. 20% hike for NUS Law students. But that is fair given the amount of money they can make on graduation. After all all the parents interviewed believed in quality and don't mind paying for them. So with the message that the higher the fees, the better the quality, I think all the parents would soon be demanding that the fees be raised higher. Then they can go around telling people how much they paid for quality education.

2/14/2008

Prepare people to die

I believe it is kinder to prepare people to die or to accept death once they have past 70 years than to prepare them to live forever. The later could be more pain and suffering, loneliness and a life of physical deprivation. Only the very rich, with all the filial children around them could enjoy life forever. Death is a certainty. Once 70 is reached, biologically we are gone. All the parts needs to be changed or we will look worst than scrap cars in the junk yard. Face it, old people will be a problem to themselves, their families and society unless they are physically able to live life on their own. We should prepare and educate people to accept that the time will come to depart. The fantasy of living past 80 and forever is not a good thing to many. It can be very tragic even with $600 pm. What for? Live a glorious life. Let the end be fast and swift, with little pain.

What we need is respect for the citizens

We need to respect our humble citizens. We need to respect their rights as individuals, their pride, their rights to be masters of their own money. We cannot keep telling our citizens that they are inept, irresponsible, cannot be trusted to look after themselves and their money, dictate to them how to live their lives, how much money to take from them, how to spend their money, when they can get back their money. We cannot tell them that for their standard and quality of life, they should be contented with being squeezed like sardines in trains and buses. We cannot tell them elementary logics that even Ah Long can think of. We cannot keep treating them like mindless and unthinking masses and on the other hand telling them that they are products of world class education system.

Quality of tertiary education going up in 2008

The quality of tertiary education will go up between 4-10% in 2008. To be more specific, NUS and NTU's quality will be up by 4% and SMU up by 10%. This is if you are convinced that quality can be measured by money. The more money the better the quality. At the rate we are going, we will soon be world best, better than Harvard and Stanford. All we need to do is to buy over all their top professors. And if we put Ah Meng's children in expensive universities with expensive professors, they will turn out more talented than cheaper universities. Our graduates should rightly be paid a premium and be in hot demand around the world. We will have solved our lack of talent problems forever.

2/13/2008

People exempted from TALIS

1. Those with less than $40k in Retirement Accounts at 55. 2. Those with serious medical conditions. 3. Those on pensions. 4. Those with private annuities. What about those millionaires or half a millionaires? What about those with properties worth half a million or more? PS: TALIS is short for The Amazing Lifelong Insurance Scheme

Why my coke is 80c?

Ah Pek was seen arguing with the mama shop why his can of coke is now 80c and not 60c. Ah Pek said he read in the paper that the prices of common household goods increased only by 4.3%. Now his coke of 60c increased by 20c or 33%! How can? Profiteering huh!

The Amazing Lifelong Insurance Scheme(TALIS)

It's so amazing. Simply brilliant. Foreign workers used to return to their villages to tell stories about paradise, where people can walk to a machine in the wall to take money when they need money. Now the citizens of paradise will have a $600 payout for life. No govt in the world can promise their citizens such a scheme. If we sell this scheme to the world, we can have 20 million people queueing to be citizens. Just a few questions. Who is paying who? A life time payout, or forever? How many more years can one live after 80, 85, or 90? One good thing coming from the review is that it is now not compulsory. The people will have 12 flexible schemes to choose from. For those who are going to live forever, this is like paradise. I am going there to prepare mansions for all of you who believe in me.

2/12/2008

Long Life Insurance

Same assumptions and reasoning. People will live longer, no money, go to meet the people session to ask for help. How many of these people really need help at the end of the day? Why don't we have another set of assumptions. Some people will live longer. They will make provisions for themselves personally or through their families. They don't need govt's charity. Is this group more than those in the former group? Assuming that 70% live till 65. So 70% will may need the Long Life Insurance. Assuming 50% of those reaching 65 will live till 85. So half of the 70% or 35% may need the insurance. Take this at the half way mark this will give 17.5% who would need the insurance. The assuming that half of this 17.5% have been responsible and have savings, then only 8.75% will need the insurance. And assuming that half of this have families to take care of them, the final figure will be 4.375% that really need the insurance. For the sake of 4.375% who for some reasons cannot look after themselves in old age, 100% of the population will have to be forced to buy Long Life Insurance. Actually this figure is a bit inflated as many who cannot afford to live that long would have die naturally. Those who can afford to live to the ripe old age would have some means to do so. What the Govt can do is to issue a Certificate of Proof of voluntary rejection of the Long Life Insurance and allow people to opt out of the scheme. And at the end of the day, if these people come for handouts, just give them the $290 pm and nothing more. The COP will make them ineligible for more govt handouts. I think this will be fair. The people will take responsibility for their own actions and life. And the govt would not be blamed if they mess up their lives. And given the benevolent Long Life Insurance Scheme in place, not many will be left in the lurch. Is it really so hard to let people have the option to opt out? Why so adamant about making it compulsory? Let people be responsible for their own actions. Trust the people. If the govt cannot trust the people, why should the people trust the govt?

What makes a great PM

I was reading P N Balji's comment on the barriers of age, gender and race. And he mentioned that LKY was a PM at 35, Chok Tong at 49 and Hsien Loong at 52. For this, he suggested that the future PM could be older, maybe in the 60s. This is natural as our population, including the supertalents will live to 100. And if they are not fruitfully employed after 60s, then they will be rotting somewhere and will be a waste of their talents. But it would be better if we can find younger PM, say below 35. From the above statistics it is proven that the younger the PM, the better will be his contribution and achievements. And this is only logical. For if a young man in his 30s can shine and be seen as good enough to be a PM, then he is truly an exceptional talent. And he will grow in his job. An older PM will just slow down with time and age. So, an older PM is not the best choice.

It would be more palatable

If only public policies were made not with the people's saving but with public funds from taxes or revenue. It would be better if the urge to provide world class services comes with a public announcement that it will cost so much from the users' pockets. It would be better to provide world class services but at the same time offer those who cannot afford it an alternative service to pay for a cheaper service, and without mean testing of course.

2/11/2008

Notable quotes - Lionel De Souza

'The relevant authorities should take the necessary action to criminalise anti competitive practices before they become prevalent.' Lionel De Souza. Before they become prevalent? I support Lionel's call, but wake up, it is prevalent and blatantly practised in many industries by supposely professional and respectable top management staff. They are rightfully called criminals and need to be punished for not only the crime but immoral and unethical practices. It is a poor reflection of the high moral standards that these individuals eschewed and blared out loudly in public speeches. It is hypocrisy in the highest level of corporate management.

New NKF - Spartan but safe

This is the headline in Today on the new NKF. The new CEO, Eunice Tay, has gone in for about a year and has changed the image from a lavish setup of a business and profit oriented organisation to one that looks more like a charity organisation, emphasing on the well being of its patients and on thrift. She cut, reduce, reuse and recycle, and even manages to remove more than 10 vehicles and freeing 5 floors of its HQ office space for rentals! How could so much space and vehicles be made available or not made available by the previous regime? The surprising result is that patients that were unmotivated, depressed and suicidal are now happier. And so were staff morale and a lower turnover. All the little empires and bickering of office politics were gone, including the lavish office of the CEO and the golden tap. I think the new NKF will gradually regain the confidence and trust of its donors, supporters and patients. Other public service organisations could learn a thing or two from the concept of 'Spartan but safe' and discard the golden tap philosophy to benefit the customers they are serving. No need to have first class or world class dreams if the customers cannot afford them.

2/10/2008

Myth 172

Saving that is not Technically Singaporeans are among the greatest savers, saving at least 38% of their income directly into the CPF and more for those who can afford to in their private personal accounts. But Singaporeans will never have enough for their old age. How so? Because the saving is not savings. The savings will be spent along the way and by the time they retire, they will be shock to know that there is hardly anything left. Savings of Singaporeans is a myth. Where would all these big savings go to? Housing will take a huge proportion over 30 or 40 years. This is perhaps the biggest item to be taken out from the saving. Then there is the Medisave that will be spent in world class hospitals charging world class rates. And if this is not spent, it will be kept out of reach of the Singaporean till he passes away. Then there will be the fees for education, the premiums to be paid for medical insurance and life long insurance. And Singaporeans can count on more schemes in the future to help them spend their savings in the CPF, and probably even compulsory spending. So whatever the Singaporeans saved in the CPF, they will spent it, in one way or another, in advance.

Indigenous population growth

We are getting 37,000 new births last year, slightly better than the year before but still not good enough. It is still not enough to replace the attrition rate. We need more babies. Go forth and multiply. It is easier said than done. How much does it take to bring up a child to adulthood? $250k, $500k? We have many pro family policies to encourage parents to have more children. The question is that how many can afford to bring up children to go through our expensive web of life? Everything costs money and the cost is going up very quickly. It will not come down. Having more children is easy. But how many will be able to reach a level of comfort, by paying through the education system and quality of living, to say that life is worth living? How many will end up struggling for an existence, a life not worth living? Come to think of it, it is better to bring in the richer foreigners to supplement our population target than to encourage the indigenous hardlanders to produce more babies and to end up living in drudgery.

Lasik surgery getting cheaper

This piece of news sounds odd. Very odd indeed when it was accompanied by news that Lasik surgery will now be done using an improved and expensive equipment with enhanced technology. The result is higher accuracy and safer, and of all things, cheaper. Can this be true? How could better medical services be cheaper? This is against the conventional wisdom of paradise land. In paradise, everything, or anything that is better must be paid with more money. The delivery of a child in a hospital, private or govt owned private hospitals, now cost thousands of dollars. Has the delivery of a baby been different today than those done yesterday? Why is delivery of a baby costing so much? Several of my siblings were delivered by mother, free of charge. She did it herself. Are the women of today constructed differently? Or are the women of paradise built different that delivering a baby is now high technology and requires modern science to assist? The way a child is delivered today, other than a complicate case, cannot be different from a child delivered a few hundred years ago. A midwife could do it, a mother could do it. It is a natural process, a motherly instinct. That's how the human race populated itself. The additional cost today is contributed by all the comfort and fineries, all the pampering and the assurance of professional help. Minus all these, delivering a child can be made very much cheaper. The increasing cost must be a choice by those who want to splurge on them. For the ordinary soul who just want to deliver a child the old way should not have to pay a bomb to do it.

2/09/2008

A lesson from Thailand

The military junta led by Sonthi and his generals are wetting their pants. There is fear of reprisals, fear of vengeance, fear of Thaksin's return. Why should there be fear? They have been upholding justice and truth and did everything they did, for Thailand and the Thai people. Or what they did were something else? In third world political systems, the obsession of power, the unwillingness to share political power, the unforgiving and vicious exercise of power against political opponents, depriving the people of their elected representatives by the abuse of power, will inevitably lead to fear and tension. Fear and tension in the victors as well as the losers. When Sonthi led the military coup, he made use of the whole state machinery to go after Thaksin, his family, relations and friends, and his party. All kinds of charges were drummed up, from treason, disrespect to the king and corruption. With all the civil servants under his control, he could go throw all the files, all the documents, to dig out every little things that Thaksin and his allies did, and frame any charges he wanted. That was justice, the justice of power, the truth of a third world political system. Compares that with what we are seeing in the US. The losers are as gracious and the winners as forgiving. And they accept each other in good spirit and with goodwill. They are willing to share political power with whoever the people chose. They accept the will of the people. They accept a system and play by it. There is no inkling of a coup or grabbing the machinery of the state to serve private and personal political interest. The winners and losers continue their lives as if nothing had happened. After the last election Al Gore continues his life lecturing and trying to save the world. We can see Romney, Hucklebee, McCain, perhaps Obama or Hillary continue what they were doing after the Presidential election. There will be no fear of vengeance or oppression or law suits. Thailand will take a long time to be free from fear. The military junta was ruthless in the persecution of Thaksin and his friends. Now they fear the same ruthlessness befallen on themselves. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. No exception. Third world political systems are vicious and shortlived, and will end in upheavels when there is a regime changed.

On the 3rd day of Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days. And on the 3rd day, still full of new year cheers and good wishes, saying all the good things is a must, you would not want to be greeted with any bad or unsavoury news. No one would be happy to be greeted with news of someone passing away. But that is exactly what greets everyone on the front page of The Straits Times. Is it an ominous sign, a sign of things to come for the year? It is a great objective and unfeeling piece of news to be flashed on the front cover of the main paper, to greet everyone first thing in the morning when he/she picks up the paper. Thanks but no thanks.

2/08/2008

High rental good

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Current.com.au, the Harvey Norman co-founder and executive chairman rent rises of up to 50 per cent in one year, coupled with leases restricted to three years, meant all major electrical retailers there were under pressure. "The rents are just horrendous, and trying to figure out how you can do business is a really difficult thing, because you think 'Well, how do you do this?'" He said all three major players in the Singapore electrical retail market – Courts, Harvey Norman and Best Denki – had the same issues. "We all have the same problem, and probably sooner or later one of the three of us will disappear, and there'll be two of us. Then there's a good chance there'll be one of us." I copied the above extract from a post in Sammyboyforum. The rent hike is getting crazier by the days. A small foodstall in a refurbished aircon foodcourt will cost more than $13k a month in the new towns. Can't imagine what it will cost in town or big shopping centres. And how many bowls of noodles would the stallholder need to sell before he breaks even? But we should encourage the property owners to raise rent faster. Then the effect will be more dramatic. It is like blowing a balloon.

Thank you Maggie Mee and all instant noodles

Maggie Mee the saviour The shadow hovers over me but I am strong for my baby My baby sleeps so sweetly beside me She is my only reason to live, to die, to laugh and to cry Tonight is reunion dinner night, most stores are closed I'll have maggi mee and teh or Happy New Year everyone .. life is tough, but it is not so bad, can survive, got someone to love and got internet The above is posted by Downgrader in Sammyboyforum.

Budget time and more goodies

If there is anything to look forward to, Singaporeans should be eagerly waiting for Budget Day on 15 Feb. With all the collections, the govt should be rich enough to return some to the people when Tharman make his budget speech. We have had ERS and Singapore shares before. This time we may have GYAP or Golden Years Ang Pow for all Singaporeans. It will be a nice handout for the new year, and for more good years to come. In the past every budget day is likely to see more tax hikes. Nowadays every budget day is like waiting for the 4D results and see how much one is going to strike. Budget Day is now a Red Letter Day. We should have budget day for every parliament seating. It is better than anything else raised in parliament.

Spare a thought for the less well off

George Yeo urged firms not to increase prices unnecessarily and to spare a thought for the less fortunate. 'Mr Yeo urged businesses not to forget the less fortunate, particularly when times are hard. He said, "Inflation, because of high fuel and food prices, is a problem. And it is a concern for all Singaporeans, especially for those who are less well-off. "I also hope that those of us who are in business, yes, we have to adjust prices, because the input costs are high, but where it is not necessary to increase prices, it's good to spare a thought for ordinary Singaporeans who will be affected." ' A very surprising call actually. Times are hard? Since when? We are in an economic boom, golden years, full employment, everyone is getting richer with housing prices shooting to the sky. What hard times? Prices did not go up yesterday. And who have been jacking up all the prices? And who have been saying that it can't be helped? Do these big organisations, including the hospitals and transport companies ever spare a thought to the people when they raised prices? But they did. They made sure that the increases were all very affordable. Maybe George is living in a different paradise. The rest are still partying every night in the land of possibilities.

2/07/2008

Personal Tax cut

Budget Personal tax cut? Singapore government may cut personal tax from 20 to 18% as inflation soars and growth slows, reports Thomson Financial. Feb 6, 2008 By Jonathan Burgos The Singapore government is expected to announce a cut in personal income tax to cushion consumers as inflation accelerates and growth slows this year, analysts said. Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is expected to announce the tax cuts when he unveils the budget for the year to March 2009 in parliament on Feb 15.... 'The inflationary consequences of the GST hike have significantly raised costs of living for the lower-income groups,' Kit said. It will be politically difficult for the government to roll back the GST, but Kit believes the budget will introduce a generous one-off package to offset inflation. To do this effectively, the government will have to do more than reduce the personal income tax rate, since fewer than 30 percent of Singaporeans pay income tax, said Tay Hong Beng, executive director for corporate tax at KPMG. Individuals whose annual taxable income is less than 20,000 dollars are not required to pay tax. The government may increase tax reliefs, Tay said. It could, for example, exempt medical bills from the GST. Health care costs rose 6.3 percent last year. I copied the above from www.littlespeck.com My immediate reaction is who will benefit from a tax cut? I will benefit a little. But most of the people suffering from the rising prices are not going to benefit from a tax cut as Kit had pointed out in the above article. What is needed is to bring down the rising costs of things and services that are within the control of the govt. The things that will affect the bulk of the population at the lower income end, food and essential services, must be looked at seriously. And the regressive GST that taxed more on the lower income group, is not helping the poorer people. All the handouts are a one off thing. When are we going to stop taxing on the poor so heavily?

The American Presidential Election

I was watching a bit of the Presidential race in the US. I am impressed and envious at the maturity of a people, at a system that allows the people to step forward confidently, without any sense of fear, to choose their President. From the Presidential candidates, their supporters, the civil servants, the electorate, we can see a certain level of ease and transparency, non interference in the election process, and a very high level of Freedom, a freedom of choice in the political stage. And they are not going to riot or rampage whichever party won. When will we be able to reach such a state of maturity when we are like the Americans? Or are we a less able people that cannot aspire the American dream, that we have to live in a straight jacket system like what we have now and will be like this forever? It seems that our hearts have no room for anything. We have no room for alternative parties and talents, no room for a political system that is as free as the American, no room for a people to feel and vote the way the Americans are doing. After 30 years of near 100% literacy rate, with 30 or 40% of our people receiving tertiary education, we are still infants, immature, small heart, ungraceful, uptight, full of vengeance, unable to live with opposing views, unable to accept that others may be right, or there are other alternative ways than just one way. If we do not allow the people to grow and mature, we will be stuck in a rut, a third world mentality and a third world political psyche, where the losers in a political race is condemned, embarrassed or can be worst. We have a very educated and bright citizenry, worldly, sophisticated and ready to move on to the next level of political maturity. What is holding back the country and people from progressing and attaining a higher level of political awareness, participation and involvement in the running of a nation, the political process of governing a country and be a part of that process? Without the full participation of the people from all corners and all walks of life, the governing of the people and country is, by default, left to a small select group of self appointed people. We are not tapping the full resourcefulness and potential of the whole population. In a way, we are like those countries that do not tap on their women talent pool, or underdeveloped nations that tap on a small pool of their elite. Are we ready to be like the Americans? Yes in all aspects. The illiterate and ignorant immigrants of the past have mostly departed or lying in nursing homes. We are a new generation of confident and well educated people. If we cannot be more graceful and mature, then we have failed as a people. We shall deserve to be sheeples if we accept that being sheeple is the only way to progress, to a better life. It is a kind of bondage.

2/06/2008

Celebrating Singaporean - Noeleen Heyzer

Noeleen Heyzer Another high achieving Singaporean, landing a very senior job in the UN is Noeleen Heyzer. She is Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. A very charming lady in a the company of international leaders.

Celebrating Singaporean - Dr Susan Lim

Dr Susan Lim Award Another great achievement from a Singaporean to have an American Award named after her. The American Academy of Continuing Medical Education awards her for her work in minimally invasive surgery by naming a Dr Susan Lim Award to be awarded to renowned medical professionals in the same field of Laparoscophy.

Jam packed MRT

Whichever idiot ever suggests that it is a good idea, a bearable idea, to be jam packed inside a MRT train should first be put through the process and experience what it is like to be sandwiched between two smelly commuters. If he can stand the smell for 3 minutes, he is qualified as a super pig. For only pigs will be accustomed to such smell from a pig sty. Who is lauding the great Tokyo squeeze as something that we must get use to? What kind of world class standard is that?

Doing the opposite

We encourage entrepreneurialship. We want our people to take risk. High risk high returns. We must teach our people to be entrepreneurs. Hahaha. The real thing is that we are just doing the opposite. We reward employees and make the job as an employee so comfortable and rewarding that everyone is looking for a job. Singaporeans are looking for a job in Singapore and around the world. We are grooming the best employees for the world market. And the last hope for Singaporeans to take a little risk, to manage their lives and find their dreams is also dashed. We are keeping your money and we are going to manage it so that you will get $600 a month for the rest of your life. So safe, so secure, so predictable, no chances, no errors. Singaporeans will live a comfortable life as an employee with a monthly pay check from his employers and then a monthly pay check from his own savings. No need to take risk. The entrepreneurial dream is just a dream.

A little reflection

Chinese New Year or any new year is a time for reflection. Today paper wrote a frontpage article about the lonely people living alone and their need for the warmth of kins and young people. But it also said, 'A festive season that is all about kin and friends can be an especially depressing time for...the bedridden, the estranged, the abandoned, the lonely...' Many caring organisations and welfare groups are helping out to make these few days less lonely and less sad. 'At a dinner held last Friday, Madam Chew Ah Yim, 68, who lives alone and is childless, told Today: "It's like having grand children to talk to."' Because of the good work of all these organisations and the kind people that help to make these people happier, less lonely, life is worth living. The good thing is that all these people will have the chance to live beyond 85 years and have many such happy hours to look forward to. The unfortunate thing is that these happy hours come once a year. thanks or no thanks to the advances in medical science that these people can live to 100 years. Is it joy or is it suffering?

2/05/2008

Halal canteen in a Singapore school!

This is shocking. We have been telling everyone everyday that we must respect other people's religion, culture etc and way of life, but not to impose our own way of life on others. How could this happen to Boon Lay Garden Primary School? I read it in the Straits Times but not in Today. What is more shocking is that it was implemented for more than a week! And School Discipline Master and Security Guards were checking the food the children brought to school to make sure that they were halal. Shouldn't they be spending time checking for terrorists? For such things to happen, there must be several meetings among the teachers and principals before it is being implemented and letters sent to parents. The sheeples as usual just like to keep quiet and be led around. If people are thinking, if teachers are thinking, the whole mess should not have taken off. It would have been stopped in the meeting room and not allowed to progress so far. This is the price we are paying for an unthinking populace, an unquestioning people that fears authority. Just take orders. Keep quiet, don't get into trouble by arguing with authority. What is happening?

Furious with Khaw Boon Wan

Forumer Seah Leong Khai was furious with the affordable $10 pm increase in MediShield premium introduced by Boon Wan. He used to pay $160 each for himself and his wife. Now each will have to pay $280 a year. This is almost double what he used to pay. But if you look at it from a monthly basis, it is very affordable. Only $10 mah! What irks Seah is that after collecting $297m, the CPF paid out only $119m in claims and expenses. 'It had a surplus of $178m in 2006. It now has more than $925 m in net assets in the MediShield Fund.' Seah asked why couldn't some of these be used for the higher payouts. Now, how to explain to Seah that the surplus must be kept for rainy day and that $10 a month is affordable?

Natural selector in govt hospitals

I was rather amused by what Salma Khalik wrote about natural selector in govt hospitals. And I was also not too amused by the kind of thinking behind the concept. What Salma said is that C wards were deliberately designed to make it uncomfortable or inconvenient, eg locating the toilets outside the wards, so that those who do not want to live with the condition will have to opt for better wards, and pay more. Really we have decision makers thinking this way? Like dat also got ah? Salma's recommendation is that hospitals should provide the necessary, some improvement will be appreciated without being extravagant, to subsidised wards. These hardup people know that they cannot demand for luxury or extraordinary creature comfort. But to make things difficult deliberately...hmmmm, what shall I say? Better don't say anything. Can we provide these subsidised wards with a decent environment without the intent to make them uncomfortable? Hopefully we have matured, more graceful, and not being small minded like our predecessors.

The vanishing conscience

We have many learned men but something is missing. A civic consciousness, a conscience to say and do what is right for the ignorant masses. This quality seems very lacking as we see how our lives are being managed by the state. The state is now managing our lives and our money as if they belong to them. And not a whimper is heard. Where on earth can you find elected people's representatives arrogantly going about planning the people's lives and planning with the people's money as if the money belongs to them? And the people accepted that, that it is ok for the state to decide how much to set aside their savings, what they should spend on, what they cannot spend on, and when they can get it back. This principle of individual right and ownership is being threatened and challenged everyday. When your money is no longer your money. Oh, oh, maybe I am wrong. Everyone agrees that this is the norm, the right thing to do. That may explain the silence. Shit, sorry, I am wrong.

No need for 4G leaders

If we believe what we say, what we claim, 1 in 2 Singaporeans who is alive at age 65 will live past 85, maybe 100 years. That is what the Lifelong Insurance Scheme is all about. LKY and Chok Tong will live past 85 to 100 years at least, given the quality of life, food and medical care. Hsien Loong too will be in the same boat. What do these mean? It means that in the next 30 years we will have 3 living PMs in charge. All tested and predictable leaders. We can't have 3 mentor ministers and more senior ministers to go with without bursting our budget. With the three around, there is no need for a fourth generation leader for the next 30 years. So no need to worry so early lah. Unless we don't believe in the assumption that all those who reach 65 will live past 85 to 100 years.

2/04/2008

Choking the toilet

There was this solitary toilet next to a big restaurant. You can imagine what it was like when the customers are all full, belly like 48 gallon drums. All will head to the toilet at the same time. Sure jam. Big queue, long queue. The the jamban jaga got smart. In order to reduce the number of people queuing up, he raised the entry fee to the jamban. He solved the long queue problem. But there were no jamban around. Not his problem. These overfed people must find another jamban or go to the backlanes.

The queer things we do

We buy cars but not to use them, only to park in the car parks. We build roads but limit cars using it. We build expressways but do not allow cars to travel faster. Then we complain that the expressways are too slow. We save money but cannot touch or use them. We raise taxes and said it is to help the people. We pay very high salaries and claim that it will prevent corruption. We boast about our world class education system but claim that we have no talents, or need foreign talents to help them. We claim that we have a lot of talents, just pay them if you want them, but not enough to form two political parties. We keep raising prices and claim that we can't do anything about high cost of living. We legislate laws to make the people save money but insist that they must spend them in expensive hospital bills and buying lifelong insurance. We insist on people saving for to live to 100 years when 50% or more will die before 65. We continue to whine and whine about the govt but keep on electing the same govt.

Trust the govt with your money

Trust the govt with your money This is what Eng Heng was saying when he talked about the modified Lifelong Income Scheme. Do I want to trust anyone with my money? When I started to contribute to the CPF scheme, the contractual agreement, not just a principle, was that I would get to withdraw all my money at age 55. Did I get to get all my money back? My second disappointment was when it was announced that $30k of my money must be kept in the Medisave, only to be used on hospitalisation or serious illnesses. So $30k taken from me and I may not see it or touch it in my life. My third disappointment, when it was legislated that a huge sum of money, more than $100k, will have to be helded back as minimum sum. This too was not in the original scheme of the CPF. Now it is proposed that I have to buy Longevity Insurance to give me money after 85 which my god said I don't need it. Ok, maybe it would not affect me now with the Longlife Insurance as this will only affect those under 50 today. How could there be trust when I don't even have any right or say to my money. If I have a choice, I will take out every cent in the CPF immediately. For I do not know what schemes will appear tomorrow that will keep my money away from me.

2/03/2008

The great planners

The thing that Singapore excelled and did very well is estate planning, infrastructure development and driving the economy, and many other things that planning can do. We have planned everything, and anything that can be planned, we have thought of it and planned ahead. But one area we have failed miserably, that is transportation. We have let the problem grow for too long, and not because we cannot afford to solve them. And this is weird. Of all things, transportion, the roads, vehicles, and population are all numbers that can be crunched easily. Dealing with numbers and being able to manipulate the numbers to a high level accuracy is our forte, what we do best. Can I say that these problems are predictable and could have been forseen and solved progressively instead of the gridlock we are talking of today. Luckily now we have Raymond Lim to look at it closely and to do something about it, quick and fast.

Myth 171 - Who is more talented

Today, talents are measured by the salary or income they get. So we have a $10m talent, $1m talent, a $100k so so talent and a $10k not so talent. It is very easy to spot a talent, just by the things that he can afford, his home, his cars, his accessories and his ability to afford holidays, fine dinings and the theatres. When monetary reward is the accepted means of comparing talents, our local talents will have difficulty matching up to those in the developed and rich west. How could we pay someone in our GLCs the equivalent of Citibank, Microsoft, Shell, Yahoo, or the Stock Exchange of New York? What we can afford to pay is simply peanuts to them. So they are more talented than all our talents. Even a small MNCs will be able to pay much more than our best GLCs. Or a senior executive, not even a CEO, will be paid more than our top talents, more than our ministers. So what else can we do to tell people our top talents are as good as these western talents of large international corporations? Shall we pay our top talents as high as them so that we can also be recognised as billion dollar talents? Or shall we hire billion dollar talents to boost up our pool of average million dollar talents? A top talent in public service in China will probably be earning 10% of our average talent in civil service. So our average talent must be more talented. In this way we can tell the world that our talents are the best in the whole of Asia, in monetary terms. But our best will be third or fourth best in the west. For that is likely the amount they are paying to their third or fourth rate talents. The suggested road for Singaporean talents is to go west, get a reasonably high paying jobs and come back to be better than our local talents as they will command a higher pay package. Otherwise don't come back.

Celebrating the unsung heroes

It is easy to notice the great achievers and share their successes. The fame of entrepreneurs, statesmen, professionals etc are well documented, acknowledged and published in the media. These people are generally those who have acquired fame and wealth. We spoke in awe at the doctor or lawyer who earned several hundred thousands for each case executed. The higher the fees, the more respectable they become. He is good and that is why he can charge more. Looking at another corner, there are great people who have done great things for the people by making their lives liveable at very low cost. They do not pursue high profit margin for themselves. They produce goods and services at the cheapest possible price and at reasonable quality to benefit the masses. The first name that came to my mind is the instant noodle manufacturers. At a few cents, they pack a decent meal for those who cannot afford to be lavished. Millions in the world are living on instant noodles daily, 3 or 4 meals a day, 365 days a year, and for several years. Not only the lonely and the unemployed or retirees are doing it, many students from not too well off families are doing eat, eating instant noodles to get by, saving every cent they could to get their education. For the good that these manufacturers have done and served humankind, their contributions are mostly taken for granted. Then there are the hawkers in some hawker stalls that are selling quality and excellent meals at $2 in this expensive city called Singapore. And they are continuing to do it, happily serving their grateful customers, not raising prices despite all other costs being up. How could they do it? Or why are they so stupid to continue to do it and not ripping off their customers by claiming that costs are up and they need to raise their prices? Or would people be looking down at them for not earning the millions they should be and to claim that they are also talents in their own fields? The answer, i think, is that these people are happy with what they are doing, and they are happy seeing their customers happy. They are happy with the profits they are getting and do not seek to maximise profits at all costs. Basically they are not greedy people. But we should not be too happy about this state of affair. Soon the greedy people will come into the picture to force them out of business, raise their rentals and whatever costs. Then they will have no choice but to raise prices or go out of business. Then people will all claim to be innocent and blame somebody else for the high cost of living. The BSE disease is a very good excuse to fall back on.

2/02/2008

Cash prizes to improve govt efficiency

'Give the Govt an innovative, impactful idea to cut red tape for businesses and win $1000.' This is a new drive by the Pro Enterprise Panel(PEP), an agency to help cut unnecessary bureaucracy in regulations, to create a more pro business environment. My first suggestion, and I want to claim my $1000 prize, is to remove this agency and this award. You do not need an award like this to solicit suggestions from the ignorant and no talent public to improve govt efficiency. If the public can do that, then they should be running the govt agencies. And we are having the top talents, paying top salaries running these agencies. Why are they incapable of looking into the problem, cutting red tapes and improve their proceduces and efficiency? Who create the red tapes and inefficiency? What is happening? Million dollar talents asking the peasants to teach them to suck eggs? Let me rethink over the issue again. We pay top talents millions of dollars, in turn they are asking the no talents to teach them how to improve and willing to pay the no talents a miserable $1000 for it....

Money everywhere

With ERPs as another great source of revenue, there is money everywhere. And motorists are also 'encouraged' to use public transports, the bus companies and SMRT are going to laugh all the way to the banks. They may be crying, that they can't cope with the volume of people traffic. They would not cry because of the revenue they are collecting. Now, where are these money from the ERPs and the commuters taking public transport going to? The shareholders of transport companies must be the great beneficiaries with the govt helping to promote their services. Shouldn't some of these profits be ploughed back to the people in some ways? The increase revenue is due to govt effort and policies, not because of the effort of the transport companies. What kind of private business can get this kind of booster from the govt? Is it too much to ask for some kickbacks to benefit the commuters in reducing fares? Or are we expecting fares to go higher because of increasing demand?

Two pet projects

The two hottest pet projects today, no guessing, must be Mean Testing and Longevity Insurance. I do not know how they came about or who were the great thinkers behind them, they sure come across as two pet projects that must die die be implemented at all cost. And despite the obvious, that both are no gos, the tenacity and furiousity to get them accepted are unbelieveable. With so much effort and resources put into them, no matter, an inadequate idea is still an inadequate idea. Yes I am harping, I am belabouring my point. Take mean testing for instance. What does it hope to achieve? Peanuts. And what are the costs? Financial, manpower and political costs are high, very high. Worst, it is all about a little principle that people are whinning about? We need bigger hearts to overlook the little idiosyncracies of man, of those who choose to live frugally and save every cent they can. These are not sinful or criminal ways and need not be hit so hard with the full machinery of a state. Then the longevity scheme. It is a good scheme like any insurance scheme. But how useful is it? How many will need it that the whole population will now have to bear the cost of someone's pet idea? Which god is so sure that 50% of the people will live past 85 years? And how many of these will need monetary help? You mean all these people who live till these ages could not think for themselves to make some kinds of provision for their old age? The joke is that many of those who can afford to live past that age are people who can afford to live on and on, even hooking on to expensive machines. Those who cannot are happier to let nature takes its course. There is no reason to prolong life in misery when the people cannot afford to even feed or house themselves. Once we accept that everyone must die, the natural way, let it be and the problem will solve itself. There is very little need to have longevity insurance. But for those who want it and can afford it, by all means. The little remnants that survive to those ages and could not feed themselves do not cost a bomb to the govt unless the govt wants to treat them like little Suhartos, hooked to machines and attended by an army of medical professionals. The scheme is but a red herring at best. LKY has publicly said that the 6.5m population, another pet idea, may not be what he is comfortable with. I am sure the planners will be scrambling for cover now. Do we need LKY to raise some doubts about these two pet projects before they are abandoned? Maybe it is too late. The rice isw almost cooked. Maybe LKY also agrees to it.

2/01/2008

Smelling problems

One of the fine secrets of our success is smelling for problems or predicting problems. In management term it is called proactive. Every time when a problem is found and anticipated, you can smell money. We are being proactive in the ageing problems. Ha, money everywhere. We are anticipating water shortage and higher prices, more to collect money! We are planning to reduce jams on our roads, more money again. Increase our population, even more money. Lack of talent in govt, more money also. Medical care, housing shortage, ahhh, money akan datang. Every problem is actually a happy problem as more money will be in play.

Longevity Insurance - So what's new?

It was called National Longevity Insurance Scheme. Now it is called National Lifelong Income Scheme. A high power team has done its work and the scheme has been revised, repackaged and ready for the ears. The scheme met with a lot of unhappiness when first announced. Presumably everyone will be celebrating and very happy when the revised scheme is heard. Heard that instead of withdrawing at 85, now can withdraw at 80. Great, fantastic! And money need not go to someone else but back to the families. Another great improvement. And there are options. Great ideas. Never heard of options before. So, is it still compulsory? Have they addressed the issue that many do not need such insurance as they are well covered or have made plans for themselves? What ever, if 50% as believed will live past 85, maybe to 86 or 120 years, the other 50% will not reach this age. The error is 50%. I woke up this morning and a saw a bright light. And I realised that everyone must die. I challenge anyone to dispute this truth with me. I am 100% right! Not 50%. So I am going to recommend that life insurance be made compulsory for everyone since all must die. Brilliant isn't it?

Near full employment

Unemployment rate at 2.1% is as good as full employment. And according to a UOB economist Ho Wei Chean, '...most locals who want a job are able to do so. There is competition but it is not creating a lot of unemployment among locals.' This is good news and as good as tooth, I mean truth. I only hope that our university graduates and professionals are happy driving their taxis. Ok, their income has risen with the taxi fare hike and they should not be complaining. 236,000 jobs were created last year and 61% or 144,000 went to foreigners. 39% went to locals or a new group called 'indigenious workforce.' I call this term ingenious for it does not tell whether they are citizens or non citizens. Anyway full employment is better than unemployment. Parents should still spend hundreds of thousands to send their children to university and they can be assured that if all else fails, their children can still drive taxis and enjoy a mobile office.