Equal misery

Rajasegaran Ramasamy was quoted in the ST Forum complaining that teachers are getting free parking while in other ministries and stats boards the officers have to pay for parking. To him this is grossly unfair. He wanted the system to be fair to all and teachers be made to pay for their parking in school compounds. His most convincing argument is that 'the govt is losing a potential revenue of some $1.625 mil monthly.' Now who can argue against such a big sum of money logic. I am sure the bean counters will be smiling in glee with so much money to collect. Sorry teachers, your little privilege is habis. I will be glad to support Rajasegaran if he were to proposed that all the ministries and stats boards should follow the example of the MOE and allow their staff to park free. I forgot, Mindef officers are allowed to park free also. Will I be seeing paid parking lots in military camps and carpark wardens patrolling inside them as well? Rajasegaran's suggestion is a 'bee tang' idea and should be implemented and he be awarded a gold medal for public administration. The best suggestion I have heard from a citizen so far.

Tan Kin Lian speaking his mind

Tan Kin Lian has developed a new speak your mind culture in cyberspace. He spoke about things he knows best, insurance. And he went one step further by taking on NTUC Income on the changes in the payout of insurance bonus. He was unhappy when the payout formula was changed and policy holders will be getting less than when he was in charge. He ran a protest in cyberspace and would have taken the issue to the NTUC Income AGM. Fireworks were expected. Then, pssssst.... He was invited for tea by Lim Boon Heng and Matthias Yao. As reported in the ST, 'Mr Lim told him that his committee would ensure that Income's policyholders would continue to get good value, while Mr Yao said the restructure was designed to improve Income's solvency position.' Wow, if the payout formula was not changed, Income's solvency will not improve. Matthias added, 'those who terminate their policies this year would not be in any worse off position compared with the previous bonus structure.' What about those who did not terminate their policies this year? Should they all scramble to terminate their policies so that they will not be worst off? Anyway, 'Chairman Ng Kee Choe called the restructure a "very carefully considered decision" and one in the best interests of policyholders.' Was the old bonus structure carefully considered?

NKF story - Amazing Grace?

The Amazing Case or Amazing Grace? Durai is back and will serve his 3 month jail sentence from 10 Jun 08. He has to date paid $1.4 mil to NKF and still owing $2.6 mil of the total $4 mil owed. He has two rich friends to lend him $500k each to help to pay the debt. Wonderful friends to have. What is so amazing about that. Nothing. What is amazing is that it was reported that Richard Yong, Loo Say San and Matilda Chua, all three has yet to make any payment. They were declared bankrupts. All of them were high flyers, with big paychecks, living is style and luxury. And they could not and did not pay a cent to NKF! What's going on? Isn't that amazing?


The right to give and to receive

The right to give and the right to receive With charity taking a new form, and with some gaining ill repute, it is best to leave it to the individuals to do what they think best. I am talking about the right to scholarship here. The right of the govt to give scholarships and the right of the recipients to receive the scholarships. On the right to give, a noble act which is often tied to rewarding the best and the most brilliant who would in turn benefit the country. This must be distinguished from giving bursaries, normally seen as a financial assistance scheme to help the recipients financially. Malaysia was giving only 20% of govt scholarships to non Malays for at least 20 years. 80% of govt scholarships were given to Malays, assuming the numbers are true. This is the kind of racial disparity dictated by Mahathir and UMNO. And Malaysia is paying for it today, for giving scholarships not to the brightest but according to racial birth rights. Singapore has another kind of problem, giving scholarships to non citizens. From the citizens' point of view, from the taxpayers' point of view, both are seen as unfair and unacceptable. The right to receive, in Malaysia's case, is quite evident. As taxpayers, as citizens, the non Malay students whose academic grades are excellent should be awarded scholarships based on their merit. What about Singapore giving scholarships to foreigners whose parents are not taxpayers or citizens? Or are they aid or assistance packages to other countries? Malaysia is now revising the percentage from 20% to 40% in favour of non Malays. The MCA and MIC deserve to lose the election for allowing this to go on for so long. How many Scholarships did Singapore gave to foreigners? What is the percentage vis a vis citizens?

Stoned right!

Sharon Stone may be stoned, but she is damned right that the big earthquake in China is a karmic retribution for China's role in Tibet. But she forgot to elaborate more by looking at the progress in the US, Europe and particularly Japan and Germany. Many people actually are confused about the law of karma. The true karmic law is like the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest. The greater the evil, the better a nation or people prosper. China has not done enough evil, and that is why it is still a developing nation and suffering from national calamities. And that applies to the poor Asian and African countries. Compare to Europe, after they colonised and robbed the rest of the world their wealth and their dignity, and impoverished most of them, Europe is peaceful, graceful and rich. So did America. Look how great and rich the USA is? It is all karma. They reaped their good karma from killing and exterminating the Red Indians. They reaped their good life from turning Africans into slaves. And their good karma will continue if they keep killing the Arabs. China should learn from the USA, then it will become a richer country. Germany and the gassing of the Jews, concentration camps etc, see how good is the karma of Germany? It is now the most prosperous nation in Europe. The same applies to the Japanese. Remember the atrocities they inflicted to Asians when they tried to conquer and rule all of them, including the Rape of Nanking and the chemical factory using Chinese to test chemical and biological weapons, which they passed all the information and research material to the Americans, see how well off they are now? The law of karma says that a country and people must be cruel to beget good karma and live well. Now watch carefully as America and Europe start to decline and degenerate into the third world league as they become more human and care for human rights. Stone is right. She is stoned right. China was not evil enough to reap goodness!

Frivolous pursuits

Today I am running out of things to do or things to write. As I was fiddling with what to do, as I have a little time to spare, the thought came over my mind that I should say some good things about people. Maybe I should pick up some people I know and praise them sky high. Making people feel good is always a good thing. I often see the gladful smile on the faces of ladies when I greeted them with, 'You look so good this morning.' After all it is free compliments. But I am also cautious not to over do it as it may sound insincere or freakish. It is just a thought. All of you who have nothing better to do, please say something good about someone else. That will be a good start for the day.

No issues, so nothing to write

Surprisingly there are no more hot issues to write about. Mas Selamat case, settled and closed, Pedra Branca dispute over, high cost of living no longer an issue with govt handouts and now special one time bonus for civil servants. Singapore now regaining its top position as the 9th most expensive city to do business, and no riotings or protest with high cost of petrol and food. It means that the people must be happy. Tough that there are nothing else to write or talk about. Oh, maybe I shall join the party and praise Boon Wan for being the best minister Singapore ever got. Does he deserve such an accolade? Duh, who am I to say he is good or no good? Better to leave it to the people who are affected by his policies to tell their stories. Anyway, his policies do not affect me at all. I don't patronise govt hospitals. I can't afford such luxuries. The only thing that adversely affected me is that my money are stuck in Medisave. If I were to grade him on this point, I fail him. As for his mean testing policies, only the people affected will be qualified to comment.


Knocking on the door of Opec

Indonesia quits Opec. It has become a net importer of oil despite its huge reserves. So no point staying on as a member. Never mind, Singapore should register its interest to take over Indonesia's vacated seat. We have all the wherewither to be an Opec member now. We have the sea in front of Pedra Branca to explore our oil. We have our oil rig builders to build all the rigs that we want. And we have the oil refineries to refine the oil. And we have all the supporting services to go oil exploring and oil digging. A new company, maybe call it SinOil, will soon come into the picture when Singapore starts to produce its own oil. Boom town Charlie for Singaporeans. We will be able to finance all the retirement schemes for our aged citizens. Another 100 years of prosperity.

Myth 181 - Low taxes

Our income tax has been lowered quite substantially. Estate Duty has been removed. Corporate taxes also lowered. And we have a free port where many things are tax exempted. Singaporeans must be paying the lowest tax in the world. Very true, for the very rich. The richer you are, the lower you are taxed unless you buy that yacht or that bungalow in the sky. On the other hand there are many kinds of 'taxes' that Singaporeans are paying. CPF, Medisave, CPF Life, Minimum Sum are all taxes in different guises. Basically they take your money away, with a promise of returning them some time in the future. Even the choice of hospital wards is a kind of compulsory choice to pay. Then we have taxes on cars, road tax, road usage tax called ERPs, petrol, COEs, TV and Radio Licences and all kinds of licences, Consumption Taxes on utilities, taxes to teach you and remind you water is precious, contributions to compulsory social services like CDAC, Mendaki, Sinda, and the all pervasive and comprehensive GST that go on top of all the purchases, including those already taxed, like cars, essential services, petrols, and whatever. Is it really true that Singapore is a tax haven? For corporations and doing business, perhaps. For the people, what is the absolute amount of tax that the people are paying vis a vis say UK, US and Australia or even Malaysia?


Engaging the bloggers

Najib Razak agreed that it is important and correct to engage bloggers and clear whatever misconceptions or misperceptions there are among the people of the govt. It is simply communication, talking to and with the people. This is one of the good things that came out of the recent political earthquake in Malaysia. The earthquake has propelled Malaysia ahead of Singapore in openess and willingless to engage bloggers. Their politicians are even confident enough to advocate that all politicians must have their own blogs to share their thoughts on things. Such attitude cannot have happened in a political system when politicians would have to double check with the boss for approval before sharing their views. Malaysia is going to lead Singapore in this area. Posting in cyberspace requires a lot of give and take as words could not always describe correctly or accurately what the poster intended. Also, without mischief or malice, some words or views may come out harsh and very critical. At times they are due to misconception, misunderstanding or wrong interpretation of things. And all these can easily be clarified and straightened with two way communications that cyberspace is best at. Honest people posting in cyberspace should engage honest people in a gentlemanly way even if both do not see eye to eye. Views can be different or opposing. No matter. What is unfortunate will be for some uptights to resort to threats and taking people to courts for the slightest misunderstandings or misrepresentations. Adults must be allowed to talk it out, reason it out in a rational and graceful manner. Then we will have progress as a civilisation and keep pace with the progress in technology, like internet and cyberspace. Only when the intent is more than simply an airing of views, when there is intent to mislead, to libel, to attack someone's integrity wrongfully, and when sincere exchange of views were ignored, then there is ground to seek legal justice. At the moment cyberspace is seen as a dangerous place, where angels fear to thread.

No to subsidised petrol for Singaporeans

It is a right move by the Malaysian govt to stop subsidising petrol to foreigners. On a matter of principle, a country should only subsidise living cost to their citizens. Subsidising foreigners is like giving away taxpayers' money. It must be citizens first. I think Malaysia should be very appreciative of our ingenious 3/4 tank rule. It puts a lid on Singaporeans benefitting from their generosity, or exploiting their generosity. On the business point of view, to attract foreigners to spend money in Malaysia, especially around JB, now that is a different issue. Big shopping centres don't mind giving special discounts or offers, or giveaways to attract shoppers. Is the subsidised petrol a giveaway discount to attract shoppers? Issues like this cannot be simply done away with. It is quite complicated and need a little more thoughts.

No legislation on rest days for maids

The onus or privilege is left to the employers to look after the maids well. The fact is that many employers have not been treating the maids well. Why are we not legislating at least one day a week as rest days for maids? It is only decent and human to allow the maids a day off a week like all workers. If as a country we are unable and did not want to do it, we can expect employers to think that it is alright to do so. Individually some employers may not want to do it. As a country, as a people, it is important that we get this message across that maids are human beans and need a rest day. Maids are not indispensable for 365 days a year. There are just like tools of convenience for those who can afford them. But they are not mechanical. It is unbelieveable to accept the notion that our families cannot live without a maid for one day in a week. And if they really need a maid everyday, pay for it. It is definitely a luxury. Maid is a new development and a new help for families. We, as a people, fails miserably in this area. This is not even about being graceful, it is about being disgraceful. We don't expect ourselves to work everyday of the week but we expect another human bean to do so for our comfort. What are we becoming when we get richer?

A return to the LKY era

We are changing fast, but I can't help thinking that we are moving back into the 70s, the days when LKY was in charge. LKY is everywhere. You see him, you hear him, and you feel his presence, not just physically, but his influence on policies. In those days, all he needed to say is an 'ah choo,' and the whole place will be disinfected. There was this joke that he had a round of golf at Tanah Merah Country Club and his ball was curved by the wind. He asked why the wind was so strong. The next day the casuarina trees along Changi Beach were halved in height. It was a joke to exemplify how people over reacted to his comments. Recently he commented against subsidies as it would distort the market forces. I think this will become an official policies or an unwritten rule from now on. Subsidy is going to be a four letter word. No ministry will dare to wander near it. Let's see which subsidy will be the first to go.


Disappeared without a trace

I think Mas Selamat really vaporised into thin air. Totally no trace of him. But one good thing about closing this chapter on him, as reported in the msm, is that people have cooled down, at least in Parliament. The Mas Selamat issue is over. There is a final accountability in Parliament and a proper closure. The people at fault have been properly dealt with. It is no longer an issue.

Another case of Dictation Culture

The new motor insurance framework, if drivers did not comply may lose no claims discount. This will take effect from 1 Jun 08. 1. At the accident scene, drivers must not only exchange their particulars but take digital or MMS photos of the vehicles involved. 2. They must call their insurer's hotline for an authorised tow truck or further advice. 3. Then, take their vehicle to an approved reporting centre within 24 hours or by the next working day, whether or not it was damaged. If one does not have a camera of mobile phone with camera, mati. And the picture taken is specifically defined as digital or MMS photos. Film camera not acceptable. The insurers assume that everyone has them and in working condition, battery must be working and charged. And even if there is no damage, still must send vehicle to approved reporting centre. What for? If owners accepted that there is no damage, not enough, must send car for proof! What nonsense is this?

Extraordinary Gains!

With the high cost of living escalating, oil and commodities and food prices running wild, the least the govt can do is not to ride on the extraordinary gains through GST and other taxes on these items. Do something towards these taxes to reduce the cost a little for the people. And this is NOT asking for subsidies. Just maintain the govt's income from such taxes and not making more because of all the external factors. Why no one raises these issues in Parliament? Seat belt is important. But so important meh, that the high cost of living is a non issue except to Low Thia Kiang and Sylvia Lim?

Subsidies to instal seatbelts

This is a hot issue among the mothers in parliament and they fought with gusto. They wanted to protect the safety of children and wanted seatbelts to be installed immediately. Who pays? The most sensible MP coming from this discussion is Sin Boon Ann. It is only $25, not a big cost to the govt and subsidy is needed. It is so easy to demand that the bus operators pay for it. Huh, how much are they making to ferry the school children? And this is an essential service, a national service. Why must the govt be so careful over issues of $25 or $30 and then talked about million dollar salary not enough? No subsidy. It will distort the market. Come on lah. Just because LKY said so and it becomes an edict? Everything must be seen in its proper context. Must as well cut off all subsidies to HDB flats and medical bills. These are the greatest subsidies that distort the market price mechanism. Anyway, what's the big issue?

It's happened, what to do?

This is about what sum up the proceedings on tackling rising cost of living. Lim Hng Kiang said, "we 'cannot completely insulate ourselves' from the global price hikes." The govt is looking at other measures, no cutting of GST or petrol taxes or that sort of things. Anyway our petrol tax is 'modest,' only 44c a litre. And the govt's policy is to maintain price stability etc. Have prices been stable? Many have reached a point when every cent counts, when every little increases are no longer affordable. Can understand this or not? Oh, the high inflation rate will cool off later in the year. It is only temporary. Really, are we expecting the prices to go back to where they were before after the cooling off period? Obviously not and they will stay at current level. So how would temporary once off handouts going to help in the long term? And workers are not going to expect pay rise or substantial pay rise to offset the high inflation cost. The solution, please tighten your belt.


Get rid of baju kurung!

A heated debate is on in Malaysia to get rid of the baju kurung which the Malay students have been wearing since time immemorial. It is a traditional Malay dress and there is nothing indecent or disgraceful about it. What the advocates dislike about the dress is that it is too sexy and will be the reason for rape. How silly can they be. A pretty face is also a reason for rape. Hide the face? Ok, Ok, bring in the burqa. Malaysian students should henceforth be banned from wearing traditional Malay baju kurung and opt for Arabic burqa. Soon they will all be more Arabic than Malays.

Crazy people and their crazy ideas

Singaporeans who have the privilege of living to the ripe old age of 70 and above should be preparing themselves to depart from this physical world. Only those who have a lot of unspent money should think of how to spend those money, and one prerequisite is to keep themselves alive at all cost. And for Singaporeans who think they are lucky to live till 80 and above, enjoy everyday they can. Don't ever think of wasting your money by putting them into any form of life or medical insurance. The end is near. Whoever is asking people to keep buying medical insurance at that kind of age needs to have his sanity check. But of course, if there is plenty of money, go for it, and try to live till 100. For those who need the money to live, live and be happy for the day. Everyday is a bonus.

What's wrong with subsidies?

"I read the newspapers and the simplest thing is to write and say, subsidise. Rice, oil, bus fares, even putting seat belts on school buses. That is the surest way to go downhill” LKY I don't agree with his views on this. Subsidies or handouts are different forms of welfare. If one is wrong, both are wrong. Anyway, I don't think Singaporeans are asking for subsidies to the extent of giveaways at below cost. Market subsidies is one thing that can be cut for essential items. Profit in essential goods at times like this can also be cut as long as the importers are not losing money. Making profits on such items at such times leave much to be desired. Then there is the huge petrol tax that can be lowered without affecting govt revenue when petrol price was much lower. In fact it should be cut to lower business cost. Nobody is expecting a blanket subsidy for everything. Fine tuning a little here and there to help the people is what the people expect of the govt.

China got money!

China got plenty of money, $2 trillion in reserve. With so much money, China does not need any donation or help for the Sichuan victims. Is this what My Paper is trying to say in its front page article? I must agree. People with a lot of money should not be given more money. People who are earning millions should stop whining and demanding for more. Why? Simple, they got plenty of money. Anyway, just to ease my conscience, and to do a little for humanity, I still a few dollars to the Sichuan Earthquake victims. Never mind if China has a lot of money. It is personal. You do what you think is right or what that makes you feel good. You want to give, just give. Don't want to give, don't give. What about those who got millions and still think they need more? Does My Paper has a view on that? Never mind lah, they need it, and if they are able to take it, let them take lah. It would be nice if the msm take up such an issue for discussion. And if a rich country like paradise got hit by a natural disaster, I think many people will also ask the same question. Should they help paradise? Paradise got money what?

Legislation for whistle blowers

Singapore is like a Third World nation when it comes to the protection of employees' rights. Corporate Governance advocate Mak Yuen Teen. There is a serious need for legislation to protect whistle blowers if Singapore is serious about reducing fraud in the workplace. I think this is asking too much. As the culprits of abuses in corporation are mainly inflicted by the management. Why would they want to push for such legislation? In my experience, we have perhaps one of the most disciplined and docile workforce. And management often were very high handed and got away with it because no one dare to scream. Legislation is absolutely necessary to prevent further abuses in the corporate world.


Is there a gag order?

Or is there a unwritten order not to engage bloggers in cyberspace? Or is it a crime or a sin to be seen in cyberspace for official or professional journalists and reporters? More likely it is a kind of self censorship. Without the official nod, without anyone saying it is ok, better stay clear of cyberspace. I have on many occasions quoted journalists and reporters on their articles and views, with their names clearly written. I was hoping that they would come by and add in their views or to offer some alternative views. It was always silence. I have yet to see a journalist or reporter engaging the bloggers in cyberspace. For that matter, people in authority. Are they afraid that their names will be tarred with feathers? Or are they afraid that their views will not receive the same silent approval, or be attacked and they could not defend by censorship or by not printing the rebuttal? Cyberspace is the most level playing field one can get in a discussion. Everyone is free to post, from king to pauper. But titles are not respected. It is the view that carries the weight. When will official and professional journalists and reporters feel safe and comfortable to write and post freely in cyberspace?

Something slips by

We were ruled by the colonial masters and fought for our independence, to be free people, and to be able to determine our own future. Has anything changed? Yes, we got rid of our colonial rulers. We were no longer ruled. Did we? Have we gone to sleep and woke up to realise that we are being ruled again? We are now talking of the rulers and the ruled, or the rulers and the many rules. And the rulers are not denying that they are the rulers. Or at least no one thinks that such a perception is misplaced and needed to be clarified. Maybe the rulers are happy to let it be, to continue ruling. And the people also contented to let it be, to continue to be ruled. Is this political development, progress? Or have we gone back to the medieval days where kings and princes were born to be great and the people to bow in their presence? Long live the king! After more than 40 years of independence, this feeling of being ruled is creeping in and surprisingly very comfortable. Is this the mentality of Singaporeans, that they loved to be ruled, needed to be ruled, and wanted to be ruled? Without being ruled, without rulers, they will feel unease and lost? In the next general election the campaign should be, 'Elect your Rulers!' Then we need not live with the hypocrisy that we are electing people's representatives to Parliament.

The schools gone by

Some of the bloggers here reminisced about the days gone by when we studied very little and still got by with our lives with very little. Those were times when Standard 5 or equivalent of Primary 6 could land one a job as a Chief Clerk(tua chye hoo) in an organisation or even as a senior civil servant in the colonial civil service. And one could wear white long pants and white shirts, to be whiter and more similar to the white lords. Educational standards then were very low. Qualifications of teachers were equally low. It was a case of the blind leading the blind. The aim was to be able to learn the 3 Rs. That would be adequate. The colonial masters did not see the need for the locals to be too highly educated. The first Chinese secondary school, The Chinese High School, was a communal effort by the Chinese community to educate their own children. No, not the responsibility of the govt then. They paid for everything, including land and building and the teachers' salary. And school life was simple. As children, did we study? Play was all we knew, or staying out of the cubicles we called home. Sometimes home was a folding bed, or bed was a corner of a floor inside the cubicle if one was lucky. Or it could be the corridor or 5 footway. Staying out was the norm, at least for the children of coolies and odd job labourers. The outdoor was the living room. Tuition or proper guidance by parents in education was a luxury that few could afford. Even if some parents tried, the teachers were mostly school dropouts, whose parents could put them through a few years in school but they failed to progress to secondary school or at best Secondary Two. Anyway, who cared about education when parents too were illiterate and did not know anything that the children were learning in school except ABC? Life was simple and no big dreams. The common big dream of the labourer mothers was the 'tua chye hoo' or a pen pushing job in an office. That was a great achievement and improvement in the quality of life. A 'tua chye hoo' was the senior administrative staff in an office, and could often earned enough to own a car. In the minds of the children it was play and quickly grow up to work. Those who failed early were the joy of parents. They could start work earlier, in the kopitiam as kopi kias, or helping the kok kok mee to peddle the streets for business. When poverty was everywhere, no one felt that poor or miserable. The little corners of wealth were in the Bukit Timah, East Coast and Orchard Road areas when the Ang Moh resided and those enclaves of the babas who were mainly civil servants or working with the British forces as clerks. Stress? The only stress was when the legs were covered with cane strokes left by abusing parents. How to hide them in shorts at schools. Other than that, many passed their lives aimlessly. Life was unstructured and so was elementary education. What's happening today to our children? Striving to be the best that can be. We spent our times singing 'God Save the Queen.'


Over achieved and over stressed

That is the impression I get from the discussions in the ST on the way the students are pushed. As a generalisation, our Primary One starts at kindergarten now. And by Pre university the students are actually doing undegraduate works. The question is what for? So what if our PSLE students are taught at the level of Secondary students? So what if our A level students are taught at university level? Did they shave off a few years in the education system? Or did they becomes smarter than the cohorts in other countries? They are just learning ahead of their time. A simple analogy is for a young person to start dating. Some start at 12, some at 20. What is the big deal if they ended up in a mess? We either derive some goodness from increasing the pressure or else we should let things cool off a little. The pressure can be selective, only for those who are good enough and wanted it. The PSLE and O level should be flexible to accommodate the different standards of knowledge acquisition. Forcing all students to attempt unusually tough questions is wicked. The A level only allows the exceptionable students to do more papers and H3. So the less gifted need not be put through the pace and be unduly stressed. Have mercy on the primary and lower primary students. They cannot be cooked in the same pot.

We got our bets back...some

We put Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge on the betting table and won it back, but not all. Now ain't that clever? What if we lose all? The judges voted 12 to 4 in favour of us. There were 4 who ruled against us. If only 4 more thinks that way. I still think it was a silly thing to do. if we have lost...everything. We lost Middle Rocks and South Ledge. Now that the sovereignty of the island is settled, other issues are still left undecided. Ownership of the territorial waters around Pedra Branca is still vague but more likely to be in Malaysia's favour. They owned Pedra Branca originally, which means that they own the whole area. Only Pedra Branca was signed away to the British and we inherited it. The only thing now is to claim territorial water from Pedra Branca. How far from its shore or, in the case of Malaysia, from the shores of Middle Rocks. The southern waters of Pedra Branca are going to be cut short by Middle Rocks. Hopefully we can claim 200 km from the north and the eastern waters. Even 50 km will be great. Then built on it if we can. Bye bye Middle Rocks and South Ledge. We won! Really?


Chipping at the armour of resistance

As the bloggers keep soldiering on, their presence as an alternative news source cannot be ignored. Vivian Balakrishnan made the strongest statement yet on alternative views in cyberspace. He said in no uncertain terms that the govt is willing to listen to honestly held views from responsible people online. This is the first shift that we are seeing and hearing. Another step forward by bloggers to be heard. But bloggers need to be reasonable and post their views decently and stay away from inciting racial and religious tension. That is not only fair but necessary as we cannot afford to have such issues discussed in an irresponsible manners that will lead to more anger, instability and violence.

Purchasing power down by 2.4%

According to Irvin Seah, an economist, and as reported in Today, his estimate is that 'the purchasing power of wage earners is now 2.4% lower than a year ago. I am wondering whose purchasing power is down by only 2.4%. Perhaps those earning $50k or $100k a month. I think my purchasing power must have gone down by at least 10%. And for those whose income is primarily spent in food and transportation, I think it will be more than 20%. How many percent down will be someone who earns $800 pm when he has to spend $500 on food and $100 on transportation with the rest going to miscellaneous? Pray that he does not have a big medical bill to pay.

Don't expect any pay rise

Of course this statement is meant only for the workers. All the rosy pictures painted a few months back, golden years, full employment, needing more foreign workers and talents in a tight job market, employers paying extraordinary salaries to compete for talents (this is still true if we read how SMU fresh graduates are being paid $10K pm), job applicants can pick and choose their jobs, all these are no more. Despite the runaway cost of living, there will be no huge pay increases to soften the impact. But have no worry, the govt will be there to help. If the govt can afford to give another few hundred thousand dollars to raise the salary of underpaid ministers to market level, they will definitely be able to give another few hundred dollars to the poorer Singaporeans. It is not that bad after all. Employers don't pay more, there is the govt to back up. I don't think there will be another round of retrenchment or get rid of the oldies. Then again oldies can look forward to cleaning tables and washing plates in food courts. And they are all very happy doing that in their golden years. They have been interviewed and they have expressed their happiness to have a job and an income. I think the retirement age for such jobs will be raised to 80.

Feedback between the Ruler and the Ruled

I thought this is an outdated concept of the days of kings and emperors and feudal lords. But it seems that it is still relevant in a democracy like ours. Civil Servant Kathryn Ng of SingHealth commented that the Reach and Rap feedback mechanisms did not seem to work and all feedback appeared to have fallen into a dark and bottomless pit. She actually referred to it as a big, dark hole. She said that it would be better if the public knew what happened to their feedback and there would be better trust between 'the ruler and the ruled.' Her usage of these two words were very appropriate. The ruler replied and it included this, 'Leadership can't be held hostage to every idea expressed or every view or every solution offered.' That is quite a normal response from a ruler, I supposed. Or is this the norm in other democracies and this is how the ruler talked down to the ruled? Maybe it is not like that. Very likely is that we know what is best and what else can the ruled offered that can be better than our ideas? And we don't entertain simple and shallow ideas.


Speaking words of wisdom...let it be

I still remember these words from the Beatles. The ST gave two full pages to Ngaim Tong Dow today to speak his words of wisdoms from his recollection of the past and using them as lessons for the future. Among the things he lamented was the selling of Natsteel, the company that contributed to the building of HDB flats and many infrastructure of the island in the early days. He saw it as a sale of a host of knowledge. And yet we have sold more things, a host of history when some foreigners are willing to pay for it. Raffles Hotel is one. What's next? Ngiam also talked about civil servants being flexible and understanding the need of the people. Not everything can be priced and price is not everything. The govt is about the people and the people's general good, about empathy and compassion. What he did not say, but could be read, is that money grabbing and money policies are not the way to go. He is speaking words of wisdom, not word of intelligence. You need not be very intelligent to be wise. And one can be very intelligent but very unwise. And many of the things he talked about are the things that cyberspace is talking about but not spoken in msm. Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.

Singapore's Hall of Fame

With so many super talents gathering in this little piece of rock, it is timely that we shall have our own Hall of Fame. To start with we can instal the honour to a few founding members like the Super Gambler, Super Fundraiser, Super Monk, and so on.

The Peanut Monk

From the view of the practitioners, paying a monk peanuts is the most appropriate means of compensation. Peanut is also vegetarian. Having more peanuts is good for a monk. From a professional and business point of view, a monk that can command $600k must be a super talent. To be able to raise that kind of fund to pay himself requires exceptional talent. An entrepreneur comes to my mind. Perhaps they can nominate him for the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. For the prices he charged, or the temple charged to the consumers, it must be quality service and quality stuff. Value for money. The more you pay, the better you get. You want good stuff, you must pay for it. Soon someone will write to the media to extol his greatness and that he is deserving of the pay he is getting. Now what more justifications can I add in to support this kind of philosophy? The Hokien has a phrase for it, something like 'bird talk.'


Mahathir resigned from UMNO

What is he up to? Is he saying that if he is out and down, everyone, including UMNO must also be dragged down? I think it is a very irresponsible act for Mahathir to do. With this move, UMNO if finished. Just 20 or 30 candidates to follow him and Mahathir would have deliver UMNO to Anwar on a silver platter. But that is beside the point. UMNO will henceforth become a small and inconsequential race party, and soon be forgotten to history. It will be a has been, for the oldies to recollect their memorie of its former glorious days. But might as well. He has paved the way for UMNO's destruction for 22 years. Might as well take the honour to hammer the nails into the coffin.

Sichuan Earthquake Donation

The tragedy and death toll of the massive Sichuan earthquake have touched the hearts of many people both in China and elsewhere, including Singaporeans. Many people are donating very generously to help the victims. Hawkers voluntarily put up signs that they will donate their day's earnings to the victims. People queued up at the Chinese Embassy to donate in thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, in cash or by cheques. While many people spontaneously gave to help, there is always the question whether the money will get to the victims. The fund raising is voluntary and haphazard and depends on the goodwill and honesty of the people collecting the fund. Under such circumstances, scams or cheats will appear to take advantage of the people's generosities. The Charities Acts require anyone raising funds to submit an audited account. But in this case, it is not necessary at the request of the Chinese govt. In the case of small individual efforts like the hawkers, it may be cumbersome to manage the fund raising and a bit of give and take may be acceptable. But when the amount is big, proper accounting and auditing must be in place. I find it very unsatisfactory at the way the Chinese Embassy handles the fund collection. The procedure is totally unacceptable. People going there and handing over cash in the thousands and all they received was a piece of photocopy paper with a chop from the Embassy saying they have donated such a sum of money. That is the only piece of paper given to the donor. On the part of the Embassy, they did not keep any copy nor did they record it anywhere that the sum is received. Money were just shafted into a box. Presumably they will count it themselves and aggregate the sum collected. But such a procedure gives rise to uncertainties and possibilities of misconduct. The Embassy must do something quickly to assure the public/donors that the money is properly accounted for with a proper accounting procedure. Even the collection of money in a funeral wake is more credible with the donor signed a book against the amount he contributed. In this case, the Embassy will not know who donated and how much were donated.

MRT adds 700 more trips weekly

MRT has added more trains to alleviate the congestion in trains and lessen the waiting time. Commuters interviewed hardly noticed any difference though some said the trains were slightly less crowded. With 700 trips a week added and the impact was hardly felt. It can only mean that the trains were still travelling in full capacity. What is interesting is that some(two spoken to by the media) commuters expected a price hike for the additional trips and welcomed higher fares. MRT has commented the additional trips would cost another $5 mil annually. Would this be a reason to raise fare given the $150 mil profit it earned last year, and could be more with increasing ridership? The additional $5 mil cost could turn in more profit rather than lost as more people switched to take public transport. My view is that a price hike is good. It will force those who cannot afford the fare to give up taking public transport. They can walk to work. This will help to relieve the jam in the trains. For those who can afford to pay more, it will be a blessing in disguise as they will be able to travel in more comfort with lesser passengers to squeeze with, more free space and fresh air. Geeze, I am getting wicked, talking like an elite. My comfort comes first and I will pay for my comfort. Those who cannot afford to pay is their problem. They are not fit to be around. They should work harder and find the money to take public transport. And it is so cheap. How can they said they cannot afford to pay? And cheat some more! TParadise has no place for the unfit, lazy and untalented.


Crisis in Leadership?

'Leaders need to have an intrinsic sense of right and wrong. These qualities don’t seem to be apparent in our society. This is worrying. The difference between what is expected of a political leader and a senior civil servant is that the latter helps to formulate policies, while the former assesses the soundness of the proposed policies, their long-term implications, and then goes out to convince people to believe in them. While we have good people with credibility and integrity in cabinet, not enough of them appear to have the acumen to explain them clearly and simply, and persuade the ground. This is a key quality of leadership, which in turn is a tacit balance of IQ, and EQ – an intrinsic capacity to listen.' Viswa Sadasivan I have extracted the above comments of Viswa's recent speech on the crisis of leadership in Singapore. Nothing new, but surprising and unbelievable to know that this is the perception of Singaporeans from all walks of life. I also share the same conclusion. Why surprising? How can this be when we are paying so much for the best, and the best, so well paid, give people this kind of negative impression? What is wrong? Paying not enough or the best is simply not good enough? With the money we are paying, and the honing of interviewing and selection skills, and scrapping the bottom of every barrel, we should be having very outstanding leaders whom the people can easily accept and associate with, and say, yes, these are the best leaders we are paying for. What we have are doubts and a feeling of unease, that they are not what they are expected to be. How many of you share this impression? Or is this just isolated cases of a small group of people having such views? The quality of leadership is not what they think they are, but unfortunately, what the people think they are.

Revisiting our wasteful ways

With petrol prices going up, many cars will become collectors items. Bought and kept in the car park. Many will be driven only occasionally. Then there are the weekend cars that are used sparingly because of the usage restriction and owners' lifestyle. Now why must cars that are in excellent condition be made to pay additional road tax just because it is more than 10 years old? The mileage clocked in many of these cars are less than those clocked by normal cars. Should I ask the supertalents to take a look into this anomaly of unthinking past policies? Oops, sorry, better don't say policies are unthinking. They were designed to collect more revenues for any justifications. But please, please, think again and modify the formula for cars that are obviously under used despite the 10 year age.

The ugly and obnoxious poor

We have the ugly elite and the ugly Singaporeans everywhere. How about the ugly and obnoxious poor? Michael Palmer met a resident who demanded that he gave him $20k as a loan and he promised to repay him in 3 years with interest. Now, who in his right mind would hand over $20k to an asshole he does not know? And where is the MP going to find the money to give to one and many assholes who come to demand for that kind of money? While we discuss the plight of the poor in general and wanted them to have a less diffficult time, but on the individual level, many of these assholes do not deserve any kind of kindness. Do not be deceived by their pathetic and helpless sight. You do not know what they talked about the givers or what they scolded the givers for giving less. Heard of the beggar sneering at the $2 he got and demanded more with an insulting tone? In Today paper there was a complaint against this aggressive taxi drivers who tailgated a hogger. From the way he described the incident, the driver was definitely road hogging. But the threatening way the taxi driver drove and challenging him was uncalled for. Not only taxi drivers, bus drivers, sales staff, waiters and waitresses, hawkers etc, if only you hear what they say or curse at you. Even cleaners in foodcourts can be very nasty and abusive. Sometimes the Way or Tao is still worthy of retrospection. Let them be. It is their karma. They have to lead their lives the way they were, an experience that they need. The problem is that many don't seem to learn to be a better person. And if karma is real, they will repeat their sorrowful stories over and over again.


Pay up TV licence fee or else...

While the transport companies are going after the small time cheats, MDA is going after those who refused to pay the TV licences for their own reasons. Many just find it ridiculous to pay for things that they do not want. There are many channels, yes, but how many want all those channels that are programmed for them? Many will be contend to live by one or two channels and some may not want a single channel at all. Haven't technology caught up and be able to monitor which channel people tune in to and charge for usage, and not because the provider wants to provide and the viewers have NO CHOICE but to pay? It reminds me of the Medisave, Life CPF, Minimum Sum retention scheme etc etc, when the people have NO CHOICE. Who cares if MDA provides for 10 or 100 channels free if those are not what the viewers want? Who cares if MDA thinks it is important or good to provide 'TV and radio programmes that "inform, educate and entertain our multicultural and multiracial society"?' Why are the masses made to pay or subsidise for the effort of MDA to want to cater to everyone? Personally I only watch one channel. Not even listen to radio and all the craps the rowdy and at times silly DJs are gabbing about. So why should one pay for services and programmes that one does not want? Compulsory woah. If MDA thinks that they are the one to decide what the people should hear or see, then they should pay for it themselves and not demand that the viewers and listeners pay for them when the people did not want to hear or see.

Time to catch the bus/train cheats

Public transport companies are going all out to catch these petty thieves for cheating the transport giants for a few cents or a few dollars per trip. These are big monies to lose and it is estimated that the total amount lost is $9 mil annually. At $1 a trip cheated, that is 9 mil trips or roughly 25,000 trips daily. Either we have so many cheapskate buggers or cheats, it is still no good. Cheating is cheating, even for a few cents. It is now like a war against these petty thieves, and manpower and all resources, including satellite technology will be harnessed to save the $9 mil and to teach these useless buggers to be honest. People who have to cheat for a few dollars are not worth living. And worst still, there is a higher justification for the huge amount of money going to be spent to tackle this cheating problem. If not because of the cheating, transport companies need not keep on raising transport fares. So the cheating hurts the majority of the honest fare paying commuters. All fare paying commuters must be grateful and should lend a helping hand to catch all these cheats. And when the problem is solved, they can expect fares to be lowered. Or at least there will be lesser fare hikes. The moral of the story is that if these people want to cheat, they must cheat big and in style. And they would not even be called cheats if they are smart enough to do it. They will even be respected for being able to collect hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars without anyone knowing what is happening. The real and big cheats always get away and it is the small petty thieves that are caught and embarrassed.


We don't need subsidies

Just like we don't need help from the govt, we also do not need subsidies if the real cost of inflation is arrested. Many of the high costs can be attributed to inflation and 'market value.' Both need not be the case and need not add to the high cost of living. One angry example is the high price of HDB flats, priced at a subsidy to market value or market price instead of the actual cost of building the flat. And the govt feel damn good, and expect the people to feel damn grateful because it is giving the people a subsidy. When has this mindset of really serving the people's interests been changed to one where, 'the people would be worst off without the govt subsidies and have to pay real market prices' while allowing market prices to runaway? HDB pricing is not the only area that the people are made to pay much more than the cost of goods. Medical services is another sore point. Why must HDB insists that medical practitioners pay market rate rentals of space that were built donkey years ago at a fraction of current day prices? Essential services should be charged or cost at as low a price as possible to keep the price of such goods and services down. Why can't the govt identify specific essential services and charge them at minimum profits so that the service providers need not pass the cost to the consumers? It is time to shut those who keep trumpeting about how much subsidies are given to help the needy. They are not subsidies. The people are charged with inflated market prices with a little discount called subsidies. The high cost of living must be tackled at its root. Many services and goods must not be treated simply as a business to make profits. In certain areas, making obscene profits from the users is criminal or morally unacceptable, disgraceful. As costs keep going up, cost of public transport and many essential services must be brought down to help the poor communities. The high transport cost is going to take its toll on the tertiary students and their parents. These are the country's assets, young people being educated to come into the workforce and having to pay like hell to go through their years as students/undergraduates without any income. Do away with subsidies like clamping down on those who are scheming to help the people with their obscene schemes when the people become worst off and may not even benefit from their schemes.


Classic material

Leadership lessons from a sub-contractor

Lim Chih Yang It is not often that one can learn leadership lessons from The New Paper. While our local tabloid is a surprisingly good resource on how to manage one’s finances, enjoy fine dining, get the latest gossip, and contains the most comprehensive coverage of football news, it rarely comes up with soul-inspiring stuff...(until this comes along).

Mr Lam Teck Foo, a sub-contractor, was fined a total of $150,000 for “failing to take reasonable and adequate fall protection measures, under the Workplace Safety and Health Act”. He was fined as a fatal accident had occurred to one of his workers, who fell to his death while working on the rooftop on September 2006. While his workers had been wearing safety helmets, safety goggles, gloves, safety harnesses and belts, they had no lifelines to secure their harnesses to.

The fine of $150,000 is huge when we look at Lam’s income tax return of a little over $43,000. He had not contested the charge and had in fact acknowledged his responsibility for the worker:

…I was not around the work site, but my foreman said that the worker was feeling dizzy. He was walking backwards when he fell off the roof. But, he admitted, that as the boss of the company, he is responsible for the safety of his workers….

While we are in no position to gauge Lam’s financial means, I am nevertheless touched by his gesture and sincere apology to the family. Feelings aside, though, a few questions are still in my mind.

While Lam is the boss, he was not physically present at the worksite to personally supervise the workers, and ensure that his workers had their life-lines secured. So why, then, is he being held responsible for the accident?

Perhaps Lam should have taken a leaf out of our Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng’s example. Here is how the scenario would have played out had Lam been an attentive student in Wong’s leadership class.

1) Upon knowing that the accident had happened, Lam would have made a gesture of apology by telling the deceased family, “This should not have happened. I am sorry that it has.”

2) Then, he would have convened a Commission of Inquiry (COI), including one of his own safety officers as part of the committee.

3) Thirdly, he would then have released the COI’s findings and absolved himself of all blame, since he is the boss and he is reasonably not expected to be on site to check all lifelines.

4) Fourthly, he would have gotten his colleagues to be both cheerleader and defence attorney, and exhort everyone to “move on”.

5) Lastly, he would have lain low and waited for it to blow over.

Hey if Lam had learned his lesson, he would have saved his company a whopping $150,000 in fines, plus all the other costs he incurred in compensating the deceased’s family.

But no, Lam did not evade responsibility. In fact, he did just the opposite. He stood up, accepted his part of the blame, apologised to the family of the deceased, paid the $150,000 fine, paid for the funeral and even pledged to give the family $3,000 for the next three years at Hari Raya.

Now that, dear readers, is true leadership – from a sub-contractor.

Mr Lam has, according to The New Paper report, five children aged 3, 11, 12, 14 and 15. His request to pay the $150,000 fine over ten months was rejected by the authorities.

[The above should be copied, bounded and included as a module in management studies in our universities. It can be used as an SOP by top executives in both public and private companies as an efficient and effective way of crisis management, and keep the job.]

Celebrating the Civil Service

The Civil Service as an entity deserves special mention as the backbone that holds Singapore together as a nation. Not only that the Civil Service is the storehouse of talents, not many in Parliament can match the academic and intellectual talents of the civil servants, it is also the longest, continuous surviving organisation in the history of Singapore. Political masters and politicians come and go, the Civil Service will stay and continue to serve the people, through the politicians. Without the Civil Service, the politicians will be more like a bunch of magicians pulling white rabbits from a hat. It will simply be magic for a show. It is the civil servants that turn magic into reality. What is important and vital for Singapore is for a Civil Service to remain politically neutral, not beholden to anyone or political party, to do what it should do, as the non political govt organisation, looking after and managing the country's affair. An independent Civil Service shall be there to provide the continuity of govt as govt will change overtime. And it is this independence of people and mind and purpose that will ensure its legitimacy and continued existence, traversing different govts. A Civil Service that has compromised its independence and neutrality will only see to its own demise whenever there is a change of govt. Singapore should count itself lucky to have maintained the Civil Service as an independent institution of govt, uncorrupted by politicians and the swing of political powers. The sanctity and independence of the Civil Service must be protected and the tradition preserved for the long term viability not only of the Civil Service/Servants but also of the nation.

Breaking the religious armour

Lian He Zao Bao reported that the abbot of Leong Hua Monastry, Sek Meow Ee earns $660,000 a year, owns a condo and 4 companies. And he is a monk! What is a monk? A monk is one who has taken a vow to detach himself from the attachment to worldly material things. A $660k salary, a condo and 4 companies are material things that monks are not supposed to crave or own. Any monks want to dispute this fact? What looks wrong, usually becomes wrong. The services at the monastry, from my experience, is anything but cheap. It is a monastry to relieve the pains and sufferings of ordinary beans. The last thing is to relieve them of their money for services at commercial market prices. We are seeing more and more of money grabbing religious organisations among us. It is time that the govt takes a tough stand on such money grabbing organisations and tear away the religious armour of protection. No one shall be allowed to hide behind a belief to fleece money from the unthinking believers and worshippers. Religions are innocent. It is the human beans who are exploiting religions and the blind believers to line themselves with money and more money. As these are public organisations, feeding from the generosities of simple and sincere beans, accountability and transparency must be absolute. They are not private organisations established to make some people rich and earning money legitimately as a business organisations. In such religious organisations, the money were given in most cases, to the religion to do good for the sufferring transient beans.


Cyberspace one up

The news of Hsien Loong's mother in ICU came out first in cyberspace. Timely news of important or relevant events reported in cyberspace ahead of the msm. Now isn't this one up over msm in timeliness of reporting? Cyberspace has literally millions of reporters. Everyone can be a reporter and report on anything that is of public interests. The msm with their limited number of paid reporters will find this difficult to beat.

More bus rules

Some bus lanes are full day, some are only for certain times. Fantastics. I think all cars must be fitted with a bus lane detector device to tell the driver which is which. With so many traffic rules, where got ERP gantries and when they are operational and how much to pay, it is going to be very troubling. Then got to remember where got traffic cameras just in case you go a bit faster. Now buses are fitted with cameras to capture errant drivers and each fine is $130. Wondering how much is each camera costing the bus company and how much it costs to maintain the system. And who is paying for the increase in cost? Obviously not the bus companies. Next cameras to catch littering in HDB estates? Cameras in foodcourts to catch smokers. Please include the lifts also.


Time to do a little national service

Or maybe put it another way, time to reciprocate and return some profits to the commuters. This is what SMRT and Singapore Bus should think of doing. The govt is working so hard erecting ERP gantries and raising ERP charges to pressurise motorists to take public transport instead of driving. And the results can be seen by the packed trains and buses at all hours. All these through no effort of the public transport companies but the govt. Public transport companies' profits are going to soar with such heavy usage and instead of trumpeting their huge profits, why not help their loyal commuters a bit huh?

In the mood for Celebration

Reading the msm on home news, I just got this feeling to celebrate. The National Day is around the corner and a lot of exciting programmes have been lined up. Then the Nature Walk from Mount Faber to West Coast. This has been reported over and over again over several days. I too got into the mood for the walk. But thinking about logistics, parking the car and finding the way back to the car is going to be a big hussle. And don't forget about the parking fees. Singaporeans are truly lucky. Cyclone in Myanmar, tornadoes in US, bombing in India and earthquakes in China with tragedies unfolding. Here we are safe and sound and looking towards celebrating and enjoying our parks.

Electing masters or representatives?

Since everything is so peaceful and blissful, let me indulge in this issue a bit more. The older generations elected their representatives to look after them, to give them a better life. Actually during those days, they don't care if the people elected would assume a greater role as their masters. When living conditions were bad, they were only concerned about basic needs. A good material life was all they want. And they got it. And their elected representatives gave them what they want and still remained as elected representatives. Now the newer generations have everything and wanted more. They want their elected representatives to be elected representatives and not their masters. They are beginning to question the formula or the relationship between their elected representatives and how it resembles a master/serf pattern. One thinks he is there to be the master and the other accepts that but not very happy that it should be this way. And they are getting quite edgy. When a relationship is unnatural, not what it should be, it is unbalanced. It needs to return to what it should be or else more screws will be needed to tighten and hold the unnatural balance in place. The problem is when it is too tight, it might break. The people and elected representatives must be made aware, told and retold, that the relationship is a temporary one, one built on the consent and trust of the people, that the elected representatives will be there to look after the interests of the people as the people think fit. Not one where the elected representatives think that they have become the masters and decide what is fit for the people. Master/serf relationship has no place in modern democracy.


India students prefer Singapore

[Singapore: An emerging destination for Indian students Kaustubh Kulkarni / Pune May 14, 2008, 0:05 IST reporting in Business Standard The Indian student's dream foreign university is usually either from the UK or US. Other countries find it difficult to attract Indian students. Singapore, however, is trying to position itself as the destination of choice for Indian students. The country wants Indian students to enrol in its institutes, from the higher secondary or the junior college level onwards. Singapore is basing its pitch on its geographical proximity to India, professional education that provides excellent job opportunities, the business and trade environment of Singapore and its cosmopolitan culture.] Why would Indian students want to pursue their education in Singapore when India is producing better and more talented students that are replacing Singaporeans in the local job market? Indian talents are more sought after than Singaporean talents and this can be seen in their strong and growing presence here. So what is the attraction? The quality of Singapore education or job opportunities vis a vis the less talented Singaporeans?

From 146th to 153rd

Does Singapore deserve its press freedom ranking? Posted by theonlinecitizen on May 13, 2008 [Terence Lee In a 2008 survey by Freedom House, Singapore has shown no improvement in its freedom of the press, despite the maturing of online media as a medium to air alternative views. The latest results reveal nothing new: much has already been said about the deplorable state of press freedom in Singapore, ranked a lowly 153rd out of 195 countries, sharing the same ranking as Iraq. The idea that Singapore is first-world in economic competitiveness but third-world in press freedom and civil liberties has already become an over-sung tune.] Funny that I agree with the Freedom House ranking. Anyone want to disagree? With so many high brow and talented journalists, it is strange that our ranking is at par with Iraq. What? Iraq? And Terrence Lee was hoping that the online media viewing alternative views will lend some weight to our media ranking. Terrence forgot that online media and cyberspace are two different entity. One is part of msm and the other is citizen reporting. The latter not counted lah.

Lest we forget- Just a little reminder

This island is a republic, not a kingdom, dictatorship, a communist state or whatever. It is run on democratic principles where the people elect their representatives to manage the island for the benefits of the people. How is it that the people so easily forget that they are the owner of this island and the elected representatives are there temporarily and can be removed if they are not living to the expectations of the people? Not only that the people forget easily, even the people's representatives also forget that they are elected by the people to serve the people's interests. And for this, any major decision made that will affect the people must have the consent of the people and not simply be decided by them. Am I being confused? That once elected, the people's representatives have full power to do whatever they think right? There must be some big issues that they need to go back to the people, go through a referendum, to get the people's consent. One issue I think deserves to go back to the people is the growing population by unnatural means, ie, importing more foreigners to a target of 6 to 8 mil. This is helluva decision to make. The people are going to be affected by it, and hopefully it is good, but it can be very bad too, depending on how things turn out. For such an issue, I still think that the people must have a say on which way to go. In some European countries, even rebuilding and changing the buildings in a place needs a referendum. The people must consent to tearing down and building new buildings and structures. The people's representatives are only representatives and are temporal in nature. They are not there forever and neither could they bear the burden and responsibility of such a big decision that affects everyone, now and in the future. No one shall be given this right to decide what he thinks is good for the people without the people's consent. Maybe they will say I am talking cock. The elected representatives can do whatever they want or whatever they think best.

All problems solved

The msm is a pleasant read the last couple of days. In fact it is quite boring. Nothing of significance was reported except for the natural disasters overseas. Locally, it is all quiet in the western front. Anyone reading the papers will be feeling very comfortable. There is no problem in paradise. All problems were either solved or non existence. No more cries for help because of rising food prices. That must have gone away. No unemployment problem or housing problems. It is just so blissful.


Myth 180

Singaporeans are the richest people in Asia Other than the Japanese, on the average, Singaporeans believe that they are the richest people in Asia. How true is this statement? There are many rich people, true, and many millionaires. But we also have the highest percentage of people having financial difficulties, needing govt handouts. 200,000 households are struggling to make ends meet. That is a huge percentage of people in trouble. Now why is that so? The people with the highest savings needing to go for the dole. What kind of paradise is this? Got flats, got a lot of CPF savings but begging for govt assistance. Tak boleh tahan! So are we the richest people in Asian outside Japan? Or is this a myth?

When will they be caught?

The spate of kidnapping scam is getting to the nerves of Singaporeans. It is a traumatic experience for the older folks and those weak at heart. Has any of these bandits been caught? They are thinking that Singapore is Shanghai 1930s or are they going to turn Singapore into one? The law enforcement officers must work doubly hard to nab them and display them in the Padang for public caning for one week, chop off their hands before deporting them. Don't be soft hearted in dealing with these bandits as the harm they intended is much more than the pains of chopped hands. Need to set a few examples as a deterrent. Let there be no mercy. They better hurry to get rid of these pests before it gets too prevalent and others start to imitate them. It is a serious social security threat.

Do not forget the moral of U Turn signs

While the debate is on with the regulation or deregulation of cyberspace, let's not forget the morals of the U Turn signs. If it must, and the govt insists on regulations, let's hear more of No U Turns than to implement the U Turn signs when everything is not allowed unless allowed. Let's go for the specifics that are not allowed and that are not already provided by the existing laws. With this mindset, bloggers will be given more space to roam and explore and avoid the clearly defined OB areas which are actually non issues. Otherwise we will again end up with everything is OB unless specifically stated as permissible. In cyberspace age, the U Turn sign mentality is terribly dangerous.

Please come forward if you need help

Don't be shy, don't feel ashame. If you are a failure, if you cannot look after your family, or you have no money to pay for the housing mortgage, it is alright. You are just a useless bum and admit it. But we will help you. We will help you. You see, we are so helpful, so caring and so generous. There are several types of people who will come forward to seek help. The really desperate when there is no more rice in the rice container and no money to pay for the bills. Then there will be the professional tricksters and those who live by charity. But there is a big group of people who needs help but will not come forward. People who blow their trumpets loudly calling others to come forward to beg for charity are quite senseless and very insensitive to how other downtrodden beans feel. They think that they are inviting these people to a party. Even if the desperadoes brave themselves to walk into that door, they better bring all the proof and documentations to please the person sitting across the table. For that person will have no qualms to strip him naked to see if he is deserving. A man that goes on his knees for charity is a broken man. And so were his family. It is a terrible feeling of despair and helplessness. Don't ever think it is damn great to shout for people to come forward for help. The system is failing when so many people need help. A sound system is one that prevents people from getting into desperate situation, that make sure that people can live with some dignity and get by with their lives on their own. Our system is stinking despite the wealth that we have created when people are told not to be ashamed to ask for charity.


Why not cheaper medicine?

A Mdm Chin Fong wrote to the ST about her experience with the Singapore General Hospital. Her husband is a retired civil servants. She noticed that another patient was given similar but branded medicine while her husband, being on govt medical benefits, were given cheaper medicine. She enquired whether the two drugs were equally effective and was assured the case. And when she asked further, she was told that patients could not opt for the cheaper medicine. And I ask, why not? If the drugs are equally effective, why can't patient ask for the cheaper one even if it is not branded and pay less? This is an obvious case of a possibility of lowering medical cost with cheaper medicine. What happens to all the great motherhood statements about being prudent, being frugal and reducing cost? The people, patients, must be given a choice to elect for cheaper medicine or more expensive medicine. Cannot is rubbish. Can someone answer to this simple question, why people must be made to pay more for branded medicine when cheaper unbranded medicine can do the same job? I can't believe that this is happening when everywhere we are talking about cost cutting measures. Unbelieveable is the word. Does Boon Wan know about this?

Man, you are less than a man

How much are you taking home? Any man that is taking home less than $300k pa is less than a man. It was computed that a housewife is worth $300K a year. That is her contribution and worth. Are you worthy of $300k? Terribly embarrassing huh?

No reason to die

Malaysia introduced a form of National Service for their young men and women. It was not the rigorous form of military training expected of NS in Singapore. It was aimed at nation building and racial integration. Despite the less demanding physical and military training required for fighting soldiers, death seems to be quite frequent. Quite a number have died for strange reasons. Parents are questioning how their young and healthy sons and daughters could die after a short stink in training. They are angry and in deep pain for these things to happen to their loved ones. The random selection for NS is like striking a death lottery. How could this continue to go on?

Nature starts its culling

The earth is getting too congested and nature has no way out but to start its culling. Tsunami, cyclones, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, droughts etc are simply nature's way of getting the excess fat away. Those people that perished must be not deserving to live. This is a tough statement to make. For if that is true, and if nature wants them out, why help? Civilisation also has its own way to cull people. Financial crisis, recession, job losses etc are social ways of letting the less able to go. Yes, these less able people are either of bad genes or lazy or stupid, and do not deserve to exist. For the strong and able, the rich and mighty, time to cut the crap and hypocrisies, laugh and sneer at those that can't make the cut. They have failed, it is their problems and they have themselves to be blamed. And if anyone wants to give them or show them a little kindness, that is strictly voluntary and they better appreciate it and don't ever demand. This is the tough and cruel realities. No more niceties. The fittest survives. I think many will live by such principles and truths. No one owes anyone else a living. They have made it and others must or should also make it. If they don't or can't, it is their funerals. And when nature has started to cull a population that is growing too big for its own good, when resources are exploited to its maximum and used up at a rate that is higher than it is able to replenish, it will lead to doomsday. Better be careful about that silly 6 mil, 7 mil or 8 mil population. Instead of going green, stop producing or increasing the population is the solution.


A timebomb ticking

Friday � April 25, 2008 CHITRA RAJARAM Deputy Editorial Director chitrarajaram@mediacorp.com.sg ARE Singaporeans racially sensitive as a society? Do we merely tolerate each other or do we really understand and care about the different races and sensitivities in our midst. While we pride ourselves as one people, one nation, one Singapore; I am not sure there is real depth of understanding at all when it comes to racial sensitivities. My recent experience with public transport is testimony to this. I drive to work four days a week and every Friday I take taxis, sometimes even in the wee hours of the morning. I have to confess, I have been appalled at the lack of sensitivity by taxi drivers. Why? Every time I had gotten into a taxi, it was to blaring music in a language I do not understand. The first few times, I kept quiet and endured the "noisy" journey back home. But once, after a 14-hour exhausting work day, I refused to take it any longer. When I told the driver to turn off the music, he told me he had to listen to it because it gave him traffic updates!... As a Singaporean, I find such behaviour rude and somewhat odd. We have grown up here on the mantra of four races. We have inter-religious organisations (IROs) to build understanding and tolerance. We also have celebrations of the four main festivals.... But my experience is not uncommon in societies where there are predominantly majority societies. The hegemonic behaviours of such groups of people is not extraordinary. But it is the minorities in these communities who perpetuate this hegemonic behaviour by adopting "paths of least resistance", one of which is silence. Once the sounds of silence set in, then the behaviours transcend from the personal, to the state and systemic levels. Admittedly, the Government has recognised this and has provided many avenues for us to be sensitive and sensitised to our innate differences. However, we are products of the socio-cultural systems we are born into and learn these traits in our social context, traits which are not biologically determined. So, we as a society (majority and minority) need to unlearn and reconstruct ourselves. How? To put it simply, we need to challenge ourselves, speak up when we are uncomfortable and reconstruct the social dynamics of our society � then we will truly be one people, one nation, one Singapore. Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved. The above article is an early sign of the stresses building up in our society. It is good that it is being aired for if kept unspoken and unchecked, it will blow up in the most unexpected and ugly way. I have personally witnessed a few cases of citizens finding one another annoying in SMRT, and they spoke up, with their fists. If we cannot appreciate the intensity of this tension, we should expedite it by increasing the population at a faster speed and hit our 6 mil or 7 mil target quicker. Then everything will become real for all to see and experience. Our 40 years of nation building is going to go under with this thoughtless influx of superficial residents that would want their rights to be different in our own home.

I am sadden

I read from the feedback of MPs that more and more people are seeing them for help, for handouts. These people used to be from the lower income group. Now increasingly they are from the lower middle income group. What is happening to these Singaporeans huh? Giving them the best education money can buy and they are now in queue for charity? Why can't they buck up, work hard, and like the smart Singaporeans, earn $100k a month? In this land of opportunities and possibilities, how can they be in the queue for free money? That is the wrong queue. What have gone wrong? We are the best, the most highly educated in this part of the world or among the best in the developed world. Why are our people begging? They must be lazy, and maybe our claims that we have the best workers are not true. And yes, yes, we need more foreign talents to replace them. These useless Singaporeans only have themselves to blame when foreigners can work here and be so happy. Or like the little girl said, my father is earning so much, these people who cannot make a decent living here should get lost.

Bring back the foreign worker statue

Some time last year someone thought of honouring the foreign workers' contribution to the growth of Singapore and created a statue to stand side by side with Stamford Raffles, sharing equal honours in the history of Singapore. I was cynical about the idea and was unhappy that such a thought did surfaced, not that their contribution should be ignored, but what about the contributions of all our citizen workers past and present? With the recent publicity given and explanation of the greatness of foreign workers, I am having second thought. After hearing all the reasonings, I am starting to be convinced that foreign workers are our saviours and deserve a special place of honour. The statue that was discarded and kept in wrap last year should be brought to life and put at a high profile place. I think the most appropriate place would be in front of the NTUC Building in Finlayson Green, to replace the piece of tin can there. Now what made me change my mind? 1. They do the works that Singaporeans did not want to do. 2. They save the embarrassment of Singaporeans for allowing their parents to work as cleaners cleaning tables and washing plates or sweeping floors. Without them, all these cleaners will be the fathers, mothers or grandpas and grandmas of Singaporeans. 3. They create work for Singaporeans, like littering the parks which means more cleaning works and more contracts for cleaning companies. 4. They create demands for rentals. So Singaporeans can retire living on their rentals and can dump the CPF Life for good. 5. They create demand for goods and services, ie higher sales. This also leads to more jobs for service staff and foodcourts. I believe the public transport companies high profit is to a great part contributed by foreign workers. 6. They help to reduce cost to manfacturers who will then relocate here. We will become more competitive. 7. They provide a talent pool to bolster our otherwise talent depleted manpower. 8. They keep Singaporeans on their toes so that Singaporeans will not be complacent. 9. They can buy over the properties of cash strap Singaporeans or Singaporeans who are migrating, thus maintaining the value of properties. 10. The presence of these talents will rub off to the less talented Singaporeans and Singaporeans will get smarter in the process. And I can go on and on. They are indeed our benefactors and we must give due respect and recognition to them. They also teach Singaporeans not to be too gullible, and be easily conned by kidnap scams or washing dirty money. I rest my case.

Dirty Index - Another dictation culture

ST May 5, 2008 Conservancy fees may be tied to index, with dirtiest precincts paying more By Alfred Siew TIRED of hardcore litterbugs, Aljunied GRC plans to start measuring the cleanliness of its precincts under a new litter index to be introduced in October. Officials also said they will consider raising the conservancy charges for the dirtiest precincts to cover the extra work that goes into maintaining them. The index, the first of its kind in Singapore, was unveiled on Saturday by the GRC's Members of Parliament.... Aljunied Town Council chairman Cynthia Phua said... that the plan is under consideration and would not be confirmed until next year, she said. The above is another case of Dictation Culture.


The Singaporean Phobia

The fact that this letter is circulating all over paradise simply means that it strikes a familiar cord among many Singaporeans. Yes, this help thing is getting sickening and frightening. How about the govt got kicked out in the next General Election and the reason is that the people do not want to be helped and want to be left alone? This is an interesting development and may prove my theory is correct. Whatever that is good will end up bad. Whatever policies or good intention that can bring a govt to power could at the end of the day bring it down. The people who support the govt or are instrumental to keeping the govt in power will be the one that will bring down the govt. The formula for success is the recipe for disaster. This fear of too much help is no longer a joke. It is a genuine fear that help is really no help. Just think about it.

See GP and pay polyclinic rates

This is the latest innovation to help the elderly and not so rich Singaporeans to pay lesser medical fees. Those who are above 65 are entitled to apply for a Primary Care Partnership Scheme cards to enjoy this privilege. The conditions, Singapore citizens and a per capita household income of $700 pm. Just bring your ic, proof of income or no income, and a CPF statement or payslip to a Community Development Council or a community centre or club. Ok, to prove per capita household income, I think you may have to bring more documents to prove the number of people in the household and how much each is earning or what they are doing. How else to prove if one just bring his/her own payslip or CPF statement? Gone were the days when a GP would automatically run through his mind the affordability of the patient and charge accordingly. The place or type of residence, the general appearance or clothing, the neighbourhood, and if he knew the occupation. They did not ask for so many private information in the past. So a richer patient would be charged a higher rate than a poorer one. Not foolproof but a general practice by the GPs then. A kind of self regulation and social consciousness. Now this got more money pay more is being institutionalised.

Boon Wan should go on holiday

There is an email circulating in cyberspace pleading to the PM to stop helping Singaporeans. With Boon Wan working so hard, he should also read that same email and take the message as addressed to him as well. He is just working too hard to help the Singaporeans which I think many are finding it giddying and must be wondering whether too much help is a good thing or a bad thing. The latest is a Health Promotion Board letter for health screening at a discount rate. Whenever I receive a call from a bank or a flyer telling me about a promotion or discount, I never trust them. The discount, no matter how much, will end up with you parting with your money. It is like a foodstall saying $2 a plate. You will end up paying more when you have to ask for more as the $2 does not give you what you want. Or a beauty salon advertising a hair cut for $10. Once in, you may end up with bleaching, perm, massage, facial, steaming etc etc, and from $10, the bill may come to more than a $100. Just don't help the people so much. Too much kindness can be repulsive.


Best way to help Singaporeans

There is nothing better than to have the best and able men and women to run the country. Let's go for the $10 mil quality of leaders who can then come out with even better policies and formulas to help Singaporeans. $3 mil quality is a bit jaded and does not seem to be good enough. We need the best and deserve the best. And we need real change, the meat and the bones as well. It will be unproductive if we pay $10 mil for the same meat and bones.

Pride and Nationalism

The engineered protest by the West during the recent Olympic flame run has rekindled a long forgotten passion among the Chinese youth. They were enraged by the attempt to humiliate China and sponstaneously stood up to defend China and Chinese interests. This is a new phenomenon from a people that have been humiliated for the last two centuries. They have found a new pride and confidence to fight back and to tell the West that they will not be pushed around. How this sense of pride and nationalism came about is to a great extent a result of the economic growth of China and the general well being of its people. There is now a renewed pride to being a Chinese and China. And this comes from the people itself. Some may say that it is supported and encouraged by the govt. There is some truth to it. But if the country is not governed well, will the people stand up to defend country and govt, even with govt backing? Would Singaporeans stand up and defend country and govt if the country is attacked? This is a strong signal of how the people feel for the country and whether they are behind the govt. What is the present mood of the Singaporeans? Will they stand up spontaneously for country and govt or will they join the attack? We have seen many criticisms in cyberspace and many strong negative feelings at the moment. Are these isolated and from a small minority or could they be willed away in the presence of a crisis or external threat?

Flogging a dead horse

Conrad Raj is tenacious in trying to rein in the abuses in corporate governance and the way independent directors are appointed. Today he wrote an article telling companies not to appoint cronies as independent directors. And he praised those independent directors who resigned when they saw things were not right. For this part I strongly disagree with him. The independent directors are there exactly for this purpose, to make right what they see is wrong. Running away is running away from problems or in army terms, a dereliction of duty and responsibilities. It is important and honourable and a duty for independent directors to stay on and right the wrong or if they could not do so, tell the shareholders why they have to leave. I am still waiting for a system that works to replace the present system when companies could appoint cronies as independent directors. How could we allow such a system to exist in the first place? And how could we allow it to continue to exist without doing anything to it? Beats me. An international financial centre could not come up with a better system!


Abusing Quota System

There is an article posted in www.littlespeck.com on the abuses of the education quota in Malaysia. What the writer said is that bumi students with very bad results, not even qualified for university places were not only admitted, but were also given scholarships. The saddest part is that they failed after 3 or 4 years in university, in engineering disciplines, when you really must have the academic knowledge to pass. What is bad about such abuses is not that money is wasted for a helpless cause. There are many very bad consequences. Universities and their degrees being discredited, university education being wasted, and the time of the students are also wasted. Why waste these poor students time in the university when they could be placed in an institution more suitable to their level of academic and skill needs? They could graduate with a useful skill to earn a living. If a piece of paper is all the govt wants to give them, just designate a third rate university and print the degrees for them. It will save a lot of money and the time of professors and students, and money for scholarships could be put to better uses.

Mica responding

Mica has responded to the initiative by TOC and Yawning Bread and said it would take their proposals into consideration when regulations concerning cyberspace are being studied. What is interesting, and too good to be true, is the comment by Bhavani, press secretary to Boon Yang, that Mica is continuing with its lighter touch approach and may even go lighter. Wow! She said, 'Our intent... was to foster the growth of the Internet and to enable us to exploit its vast potential while safeguarding our society from its undesirable aspects.' Sounds promising, to foster the growth of Internet and to exploit its vast potential. But what is a bit dicey and may need to be looked at carefully is the meaning of 'undesirable aspects.' This is a motherhood phrase that can mean anything according to whoever is interpreting it. Just keep the finger crossed.

As the truth sinks in

The spectre of high cost of living is sinking in gradually. One of the first to be hit is car ownership. You may be able to buy, pay the instalments, but you cannot afford to drive that precious car of yours. Every trip out is going to cost that much more. The MPVs and SUVs are going to be hit badly. Cars that guzzle petrol are going to be sidelined. The latest COE dip for cars under 1600cc is a clear signal. The big cars will go on selling as that market is quite inflation proof. The rich will still have plenty of small cash to spare. The hardlanders who wanted that car to enjoy a little luxury will find it that much more expensive for the thrill. Malaysia is rethinking on the high toll fees and may reduce them to lower the high business operating cost. We are still sitting mighty high in ivory towers and will not budge in cutting a little on petrol tax to bring down the cost of transportation and related essential services. Always good to err on the high side with more taxes. Then can be generous to throw a few handouts around and the lucky few who are dying may relive for another few months. Those that miss the net, sorry lah.

Yes, speak out when necessary

The reply by CCS that the market is better to be regulated by more competition came under attack by readers in Today paper. Two letters, by Angeline Lee and Alvin Hoon, were not satisfied with the reply. They demanded that CCS should take action now against the $5 charge by Nets claiming that there is no competition in the market now. Net is the only provider of this service at the moment. The hike is only acceptable if there are competitors. (My view is that if it is pseudo competition with a few providers it will not make any difference and profiteering will go on at the expense of the consumers. That will be the CASE.) The people are now getting more vocal and would not take crappy answers and reasonings for granted. The people are learning to speak up. They are not going to let unfair actions be simply explained away. This is the only way to make sure that their rights and interests are not trampled by big organisations and big voices. Let's see if CCS will take some action against Nets. But from the look of things it is already a done deal. Pay up.


I challenge you!

The last time I remembered challenging someone was 40+ years ago. And we ended up in the backlane wrestling each other. The last we heard of the Seng Han Tong challenge to the Workers Party was for the WP to hire only Singaporean workers. And I heard a second challenge was issued to WP for its contractors not to hire foreign workers. This game of challenge is getting interesting. Would the WP start to challenge the govt to allow foreign talents to stand for election? Or would the challenge be on the reduction of petrol prices, reduction of hospital bills? Or would the WP make a challenge that if they become Ministers they will only ask half the present pay? The possibilities of throwing challenges at one another is enormous. And why not when there is no consequences.

High price ok provided...

Chin Yen Yen, Dep Director, Corporate Communications Competition Commission said, '...under the Competition Act in Singapore, a high price set by a dominant player does not in itself imply an abuse of dominance.' This is only true if certain conditions exist. She added that there must be 'competition among different suppliers in a free market environment. In many instances we actually have a near monopoly situation here and a free market environment is not present. Public transport quickly comes to one's mind. TV licence, news provider, privatised public services etc etc. The public needs to be protected from such monopolistic environment or in industries where cartel like practices are possible.

40% of Singaporean households will be millionaires

By 2017, according to a report, that is. Now isn't that good news? If we are looking at asset worth, we can make 50% of Singaporeans millionaires tomorrow by simply raising the prices of public housing. And Singaporeans will be boasting to one another that they are now millionaires. But every Thursday night they will queue up to see their MPs asking for help as they have no money to buy rice, pay instalments or medical bills. What is important really is the purchasing power. In the 60s, one needed not be a millionaire to buy a semi D at $40k. Today, a millionaire cannot even afford to buy a semi D, or come 2017, can't even buy a 5 room HDB flat. So shall we celebrate this great news to be millionaires in 2017?


Is LKY having a change of heart?

Quote: Lee(LKY) said the Chinese should learn to take the western media on the western media's terms. If protesters get into the Olympic stadiums waving 'Free Tibet' banners, China should shrug it off, he said. If I were them I would expect that and say 'So what?' Lee added. Unfortunately they are still in the old set way they react, but they're learning. Unquote Would LKY apply this advice to the Chinese govt to our local context? When there are demonstrators, would the authorities shrug it off and say, 'So what?' Now if this is going to be the things to come, it would be interesting.