Who formulated the Job Credit Scheme?

A big article was written today in the ST on the role and contribution of 5 talented young men and women in the Finance Ministry. They made submissions after submissions, simulations, computations to come out with this uniquely Singapore scheme to help employers during this economic recession. It was like a reduction in CPF contribution without a CPF cut. Their formulations went in and out of Tharman's office countless time before Tharman decided that that was it. In the process Tharman also gave his valuable inputs for the final product. It was an important piece of product that was key to the whole stimulus package. Now you see why the civil servants are very important as the main work horse of the govt. Without the civil servants, the govt is nothing or without the hands and legs, just a group of parliamentarians. The civil servants did all the major works and the politicians decide. In fact in many cases, the politicians decide first and the civil servants did the necessary. What kind of impact would it be if we change the civil servants and retain the politicians or if we change the politicians and retain the civil servants? Which is more dispensable? Ideally the two shall clap together.

Hire Americans and buy Americans

Obama is faced with a whole list of problems on his first day in office. And the first thing that irked him was the continued greed and irresponsibility in Wall Street. American financial CEOs are still paying themselves crazy in bonuses in times like this and when many of them are still being bailed out by the tax payers. It is time that minority shareholders start to claim back all the nonsensical bonuses paid to these CEOs including those in the past. They must be made to pay for the fiasco they have created. Many were highly irresponsible in their financial management of the organisations. Protectionism and giving jobs to Americans will also be a priority of Obama. Foreign workers will see their job opportunities cut or reduced. And many may have to go home. But hiring Americans has long been taking place in paradise. Maybe Obama should use us as a great example of hiring Americans. And he can also recommend that all the financial wizards of Wall Street who are jobless to hit direct to paradise where they will be welcomed. We definitely love the Americans, their skills, talents and high pay mentality. And they rob their organisations without anyone complaining.


True grit and true leadership

Seng Han Thong was badly torched and recovering in the hospital ward. Many would have been so depressed in his condition. But he did not. He had written a message to boost the morale of the workers in this depressing time. The message was encrypted in a Chinese New Year card he designed. "Mr Seng's message in the card read: 'Press on in the Year of the Oxen. Do not fear the opposing tides.' ...Mr Lim(Swee Say) described it as an example of how Singaporeans could exhibit 'positive energy' even in adversity. 'Even though he (Mr Seng) is recovering in hospital, he is also projecting his positive energy to the rest of us,' he said." This is what great leaders should possess, a strong spirit even in adversity, can be down but not out, and keep on standing up to the challenge.

The journalists have found a way around

While many are lamenting at the kind of news appearing in the old media, and many are wondering what is happening to the professionalism of the journalists, there is a glimmer of hope that things are not as dull as it appears to be. There may still be the coverage of pictures showing what the average Singaporeans may be doing, like walking to the market, hanging clothes etc, or there may be the great events like which celebrity is getting married or what theyare eating for dinner, there are still real gems in the midst of the papers. They have found their way around to write the conscience piece, the social justice piece, the wrongs of our society etc etc.. There is the art of not saying but saying, saying but not saying. Or another way of putting it, to say a little and let the rest of the story unfolds in the minds of the inquisitives. We have some ingenious reporting recently, very innocent and very ordinary. The reactions were far from ordinary, at times earth shaking. So do not underestimate the professionals. They know how to wield the mighty pen to create the impact intended. Journalism is not dead yet. The media, old or new, has a very important role to play in educating the masses, reporting what must be reported and keeping everyone informed of the good, the bad and the ugly. Responsible journalism just takes on a different guise. Just look out for the subtle messages.


Dismantling the walls of Elitism

Meritocracy has done us good. In it purest form, meritocracy is fair, devoid of discrimination of any dimension. Anyone who merits to rise the stratosphere deserves to be there. But there is no pure form of meritocracy. Intended or not, there are barriers that would not allow the ablest to rise to the top. Some are social and economic, some are political. Meritocracy protected by barriers intentionally erected to safeguard a small group of people will lead to a bad form of elitism. We are beginning to witness more and more barriers being erected to protect the elite in the name of meritocracy and making stratosphere their own playground, forever. The elite are not only keeping the troughs to themselves, they are feeding on many troughs at the same time when one or two troughs will be more than enough to make them fat. This is an extreme kind of greed and will not be good in the long run. Just like the end game in the animal farm, greed and elitism will eventually be a sore point that will lead to grievances and opposition, which will lead to suppression and open revolt. When would the people rise up to notice that such barriers are not in the people’s general interest and even offensive? When will the people think that such barriers should be dismantled to level the playing field, to allow democracy and meritocracy to really thrive in our socio political system, untainted by unwarranted barriers?

Govt engaging bloggers in cyberspace

Today we are hearing that the govt may engage bloggers officially in cyberspace. That is good for communication and relations with the public. It is time to do away with the attitude that if the public want to speak to the govt they must follow certain procedures, go to the designated place and time, and agency. Otherwise the govt will not bother. The govt decides when, where, how and who to engage. Other than official engagement, has the govt been engaging the bloggers? Are there cyber insurgents out there demolishing the bloggers and attacking the bloggers in shameful ways? Probably not. It is unbecoming and shameful for govt to engage in such activities. What about unofficial groups that are somehow linked to the govt and went about attacking bloggers knowing that they are whiter than white? Are there such people creating a nuisance in people's blogs, attacking bloggers with govt blessing or with the blessing of people linked to the govt? I would think that it is fair for insurgents to counter insurgents, for engaging low lives to attack low lives. But I find it disgusting that my blogs and forums, two highly decent and respectable sites, are infested by low lives all out to attack me. I really hope that these low lives are in no way linked to the govt, directly or indirectly. If yes, it is terribly shameful. Our honourable govt with honourable people will never have sanctioned such distasteful and dishonourable activities and engaging such disgusting characters with pay to do such things. These must be pests that have no connections with the govt or links to the govt in any ways. Let's march towards a civil society where the people and govt can engage in decent discussion in cyberspace, free from pests and low lives.


The golden ox ploughing heaven

The golden ox is no ordinary ox. It doesn't plough the earth, it is set to plough the heavenly realms. It will turn heaven and earth upside down. Great changes can be expected. We have seen many changes around the world, from nations to individuals. Empires will rise and fall, fortunes will change hands. Many are still in a state of shock that family inheritance in the millions and billions could be wiped out in a matter of days. Tycoons became paupers. Power changes hands. And these are only the beginning of the year and more can be expected. How would the golden ox affect the power and wealth combination in our little island? Would we see the same fate affecting the world around us, when the rich becomes poor and power were lost? Such forces are more powerful than the economic forces of the mortal world. When the stars are not aligned correctly, nothing can be done to stop the change. Be prepare for more changes to come.

Of leadership and management

Just after my post on leadership and scholars, the ST has a full page article on leadership and management or true leaders and fake leaders by Tan Hui Yee. His article was based on the views of a Harvard Professor Dean Williams who was once attached to the NPB. Among the great observations of Prof Williams included this comment, 'Simply by virtue of you having an education at Harvard, or anywhere else for that matter, doesn't mean you are going to provide leadership. I can guarantee that even though I have very bright students in my class at Harvard, I'm actually disappointed in a good percentage of them for their unwillingness to go out into the world to provide leadership on many difficult challenges.' This instantly reminds Singaporeans of the leadership role taken on by Tan Kin Lian when leadership was needed. The professor also said this, 'Real leadership gets people to face the hard truths and take ownership of the problem. Counterfeit leadership, meanwhile, is preoccupied with dominance and perpetuates the idea that one party has all the answers.' Now what does he meant by this? He went on to acknowledge his respect for the leadership of LKY. That is the only leader he could find in Singapore. Sad, but it tells a lot about what he thinks of the leadership we are having or lacking. We have great managers, plenty of them. Leadership is still lacking and no where to be found. I think we should forgive him for he could not see nor understand what we meant by leadership, uniquely Singapore style. Only Singaporeans can appreciate our kind of leadership.


Of leaders and scholars

What does a nation need in terms of leadership in the govt? Why do I use the term leadership instead of something else? Leadership is something that is expected among the leaders of the world. It is good and desirable, that leaders should also be scholars, something in the league of philosopher kings. Often leadership and talent are found but in different people, not both in one. Scholars must not be confused with leadership. Many scholars are mere scholars, academically brilliant and destined to be in the academia where they shined like brilliant stars. Some scholars may even find the life of a top administrator or CEOs not their cup of tea. Leadership of a country is not simply a piece of paper with straight As. Leadership is not simply being CEOs of large corporations or ministries. Leadership of a country demands more. Talent, devotion, commitments, sacrifice and care for the people and nation. A nice piece of paper is simply not enough. Putting on a uniform, pinning a few stars on the shoulder of a soldier does not make him a leader or a general. Just like wearing a robe does not make one a religious leader. There are many fakes walking the streets. At the national level we need true leaders, leaders of men, not pen pushers or administrators. A simple example is to put our academic talents to stand side by side with a real leader, no need to stand beside Obama or Putin, any of their mayors or congressmen will do, and see the difference. I must say that we have excellent administrators. I am not sure about the term national leaders. In the World Bloggers Association, everyone is called a king. Does the title make the person a king? Far from it. The title is just a convenience to make a person sounds great in that position. Remove the title and see what he is in his true self. A true leader commands respect and lead. And he can only do so if the people are willing to follow him. Not because he has straight As and a big title attached to him.

Is the election of Obama a mistake?

The Americans were joyous in their election of Obama into the highest office in their country. Many people around the world too received this news in good spirit. Behind closed doors in the guarded confines of our elite, I suspect this event was received with a big frown. How could an average man, with average achievements, without a first class honours from an Ivy League university, be qualified for such a job? He would not be qualified even to run for our Presidency. He is simply not good enough. The issue is that with our elitist system and assumptions, no ordinary man can even smell the highest office of the country. It is reserved for the elite. All kinds of elitist criteria have been thrown into the path to prevent the lesser mortals from getting through. Not even in the kinds of Obama. Definitely no George Bush. The Americans are simply too slack, too complacent, to allow any Tom, Dick and Harry to take office in the White House. They should adopt our system and choose the best men or women to do that job. They could introduce the same criteria as ours. Then perhaps America will be a country that will be forever great. Then their Presidents, Congressmen and Senators could stand as equals with our elite. Under the current selection criteria, they could not hold a candle to our MPs and Ministers, and our President. Ours are great achievers with a string of pristine academic qualifications and achievements. Our leaders will definitely stand a shoulder above theirs, not physically of course. But there is a hitch if the Americans were to adopt our meritocratic system. They would have to pay them according to their talents and qualifications. In America, such talents will be commanding a few hundred millions a year. They will likely to come from Wall Streets, the CEOs of the financial institutions like Citigroup, Lehman, Goldman Sach or the property companies of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or the top lawyers. I think the Americans cannot afford to pay for such talents, and it is better for them not to. Their leaders should pay more visits to this paradise to learn from our leaders. In monetary terms, we are the best paid and thus the best leaders in the world. Obama is not even paid as much as our Ministers of State or our Mayors. He is simply not good enough for paradise.


Finally it is happening

We have been blogging for so long, finally it is happening. It is a miracle in the making. Unbelieveable that we can see it in our life times. We have been complaining about using the reserves to help the people. We have cried for public transport fares to be lowered. We have been cursing at the high rentals of commercial/business space. We have been complaining about the high salaries of top civil servants and political leaders. We have been up to our neck with the high cost of living. Amazing that all these gripes will now be answered. It appears that the govt is listening and taking the people’s complains seriously. The govt is digging into the reserves, lowering public transport fares, lowering rentals, lowering salaries of top civil servants and political leaders, and overall, the cost of living should come down a little. Even being insensitive to the feelings and sufferings of the lesser mortals will be taken to task. Cannot sneer at the lesser mortals. We may see and hear lesser brutal truths and the losers will not be embarrassed publicly. This is a good start for more changes to come. Who knows, top civil servants and politicians may be banned from attending public functions in Mercs and BMWs. They may have to buy a small Japanese car for such activities to level down with the lesser mortals. At least the lesser mortals will not see the flaunting of wealth in their faces. It is a good sign that the govt is starting on the right note, to feel more for the people and to be more with the people. No more we the super talents and you the losers. No more we deserve to be paid world class salaries and your wages must be frozen to keep the workers competitive. Happy Lunar New Year to all.


We watch, as the house crumbles...

We are entering the golden era. We are entering a crisis, an exceptional crisis that needs exceptional budget and solutions. Is there a contradiction? Our economy is in a recession, immediately after the proclamation of golden era. We did not see it coming. We watch as the minibond crisis unfolded and the financial industry crippling with toxic products. We did not see it coming. We watch as the stock market collapsed. We did not see it coming. No, wrong. We did not know that it has collapsed. We still think that it is fine. We watch as medical cost shot through the roof, rental and property prices gone berserk. No we did not see anything wrong with them. It is good, healthy and normal in a free market. We watch as top civil servants and ministerial salaries gone to heaven. We cannot see anything wrong with it. It is good for the system. In fact the salaries should go up further. We watch as the cost of living, public transportation, etc ate into the little income of the lesser mortals. We did not think it matters. We think they are necessary to keep the system running. We believe it is all affordable. We watch as the job market is taken over by foreigners. We celebrate the diversities and the arrival of new talents. We did not see the consequences to our citizens. We want our citizens to embrace and invite the foreigners into their homes. We believe all these are good for the country. Where is the contradiction? No, there is no contradiction. The best example to prove this is in the ST today. It has two pictures of a 59 year old man and a 21 year old undergraduate commenting on the dipping into our reserves. Here are their comments. David Ching, 59, old businessman, 'These are really hard times. If you don't make use of the reserves now, I don't know when is a hard time...' Charlene Sng, 21, undergraduate. ' $4.9b is a lot of money. I don't quite feel the pinch of the recession yet so I don't agree now is the right time....We should at least wait till things get worse.' Both are right in their perceptions of things. They live in different worlds, different lifestyles and different roles. One has to support a whole family and pay all the bills. The other only studies and receives pocket money for her own expenses. You can imagine what the demigods or immortals will say. 'Now is the best time to spend and enjoy the good life. We can go on long long leave. Everything is fine.' And the best part of all these, while we are watching the house crumbling, nothing is being done to prevent it from hitting the ground. For they could not see the problem and thus no need to do anything. Everything will be fine when the economy of the world recovers. Just wait. The resilience budget will buy us some time. We have done everything right, and put in the best systems with the best people in place. We need to pray that gods and demigods are kind and will do the right things. Pray, pray harder. Ignore Gurmit if he says 'Don't pray, pray.' In god we trust.

Frugality is a false virtue

Someone sent me an email about how frustrated teachers are today. And the in the email were several works of students that made my day. I quote a few sentences from this one. ‘I am a boy. I am a boy because I am not a girl. A boy is a boy. I have two mothers and one father. They are mad. I am also mad. I hope they have plenty of money. And when they die I can have all their money….’ Actually I will love to have such students. The life of teachers must be hilarious. There was this MP who was invited to a trade association dinner. He started his guest of honour speech this way. ‘A car is a car. A small car is also a car. I drive a small car. You all drive big cars. My small car takes me here. Your big cars also take you here. I am smarter, right? Oh, he did not say all these lah. I just made it up. I think the MP was trying to impress the big businessmen that just because they were driving big Mercs and BMWs, they don’t make any difference to him. Maybe he was trying to educate them on frugality and not be show offs. The new catchphrase is boastful. But he forgot that lesser mortals are just lesser mortals. All show offs. He can continue to drive his small Japanese car, the lesser mortals will still want to flash around in their big continental limousines, yes to show off. Oh, I remember someone telling me that in paradise only the rabbis drive around in Rolls Royces.


Gems of Parliament

'Tapping into past reserves, instead of exhausting current savings, allows the Govt to act quickly to deal with future challenges.' The above is quoted from Jeremy Au Yong's article, quoting Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Don't use current savings. Use the reserves. This is another logic that lesser mortals can never comprehend. CPF, do you understand the logic? If you do, please allow the people to use their savings in the CPF in times like this instead of their little savings in their bank accounts. And many don't even have any savings and can only rely on their CPF savings.

World Bloggers Association

I have just founded the World Bloggers Association(WBA). I have proclaimed myself as the Emperor of this Association. All bloggers of the world shall now be my members and they must pay homage to me daily. They are also to pay a blogging fee for the right to blog in the free world of bloggers. The first two bloggers paying homage to me shall be appointed as the King of Eastern Blogosphere and King of Western Blogosphere. Those following behind will be appointed as Kings in their respective regions. And for those who are late in joining, they have my permission to appoint themselves as Kings of whatever their fancies. Redbean, Emperor, World Bloggers Association (WBA) Laughing

Extraordinary budget working

Public transport companies are going to cut fares! The sun is rising from the west! Did I hear it right? This is an industry whose cost can only go up and not down, so how can it drop fare prices and remain profitable? The extraordinary budget to the rescue. They are going to pass the savings to the commuters. Without this budget, prices will continue to go one way, up. Public transport is the only business that is dependent on fuel price, labour cost and equipment renewal. This is an unique industry. No other industry is affected by fuel price, labour and equipment renewal cost. That is probably why the cost of other industries do not affect the prices of their goods and services. Oh, there is another industry where the price must go up. Rentals and property prices. They must be dependent on fuel, labour and equipment renewal as well. I nearly miss this one. Oops, actually I miss a lot more industries and services. They all depend on fuel price, labour cost and equipment and the prices must go up. And there are industries or services that don't depend on fuel prices or equipment renewal, but the price of their services must also go up? How so? On the contrary, there are industries that depend on all 3 but the price of their goods and services only come down, or can come down. How so? Ah, extraordinary men with extraordinary skills and ideas. Only real extraordinary men can provide better services, better quality goods at lower prices or at the same price. The rest are all bull even if they called themselves supertalents. The only thing super about their talent is to collect super pay.


Where is the wow factor?

We have this extraordinary budget, marked by the first time that we have to dip into the reserves. Wow? Where is the wow factor? Why don't people get this feeling but feeling ordinary? $2.6b for family and $4.4b for homes. These together add up to $7b. Quite a substantial sum. If only they be given to the less than 1 million Singaporean households directly with each household getting $7,000, would it be more meaningful in times like this? And confining it to citizens only, the number of households could be just 500,000 and each household can receive $14,000 each. This will be the kind of angpow that will give the wow in the budget. The amount of effort put into dividing this sum under the budget is great and complicated. The amount given is so diversified that it would not create any ripple effect on the recipients. It is extraordinary to hand out such a big budget but not getting the feeling that it is a great relief from the people.

The exciting blogosphere

How could the old media(TOM) match the excitement in blogosphere? Last few days have been tremendously invigorating, amusing and exhilarating. The cooking class and the lesser mortal episodes were given full coverage, something that TOM can never do. There were plenty of vinegar, chilly, pepper and salt added to make the cooks irresistible to savour. TOM must be able to report them as profusely as the new media or they will lose out on the readership. Unfortunately this is something they cannot keep up with. But credit must go to TOM for firing the first shot. The new media simply followed through, seized the initiative and covered grounds that were taboo to TOM. And TOM could do nothing about it except to watch silently on the sideline. Come to think of it, if TOM and the new media could work hand in hand, wow, it will be an exciting new recipe.

Extraordinary budget in extraordinary time

$20.5b of aid package for the people and industry to tie over a difficult period. How did we end up in such a state that needs extraordinary measures? Don't we have extraordinary men and women doing extraordinary things to keep us in good shape? Or are we still looking for extraordinary men and women to make sure that we don't end up in such a state in the first place? Where were the extraordinary men and women? Enjoying their Porches and Louis Vuittons. I heard that these are the things to accumulate once a person has arrived. But these are common stuff now. Everyone has it. The next statement of having arrived is to attend Le Cordon Bleu culinary courses. That is a creative way to separate from the ordinary.


Culinary colleges or cooking class?

It is time we upgrade all our cooking classes in community centres into colleges. Shatec can be rebrand into a East West Fusion Culinary University. After the branding, the next thing is to revamp the courses and issue diplomas and degrees. And if we need to, employ a few western chefs to make them more respectable. We can have French chefs teaching fine dining Nonya style. This will be truly exotic and cannot be found anywhere in the world except maybe Penang and Malacca. Then the course fee can be inflated as well.

Three days after revelation

Three days have gone by after the revelation that we are living among demigods and immortals, and probably gods, and nothing is heard in the old media. Would there be any comments from the ethereal realm of the demigods, immortals and gods? Maybe not necessary as the revelation was a disclosure of a simple truth. No mistake was made. We used to live among supertalents. Now supertalents are aplenty with the influx of foreign supertalents. Perhaps a small distinction is necessary to distinguish the distinguished from the more distinguished. So local supertalents have been elevated to another realm of existence. Praise the lord. Hosana the most high! Oh the hat is going round. Got to put more money into the hat for more blessings. Bow deeply three times.

How inspirational!

Many the world over were overwhelmed by the inspirational speech of Obama. It has to be after so many years of discrimination. Many are still alive in America and can attest to what they had been through. The installation of Obama as the most powerful man in the world, in the most powerful country, is enough inspiration for many. But like all American Presidents, the inauguration speech is a very important speech. And it is meant to inspire the Americans to greater heights. LKY used to inspire his generation of Singaporeans in his speeches. He had many admirers among the oldies and the baby boomers. Could our new leaders inspire with their speeches? I think this will be a tough call when they themselves cannot be inspired by $2m or $3m a year, and still looking forward for more. How could they ever think of inspiring people earning $2-3k pm? On what basis would such lesser mortals be led to that feel good feelings from an inspirational speech? And to cap it all, some even think that $200-$300 is good enough to live on for a month. Any leader who can live on that kind of money will be inspirational for sure. I will be very impressed if any leader can inspire a human bean to believe that $200-$300 is good enough and make them feel happy to carry on living.


To live in truth or in tooth

Not too long ago, Perm Secs were very discreet in their lifestyle. I remember Lim Siong Guan driving around in his old Honda Accord, (I think) when he could afford a Mercedes. I remember a MD insisting that no GMs shall purchase a Mercedes for his use under the corporate account. Not that they were living a life of hypocrisy. They could afford it. But then they were not paid the kind of crazy salaries that the present elite were getting. They were comfortable but not super wealthy. How would the public take it if all the Perm Secs today were to drive around in old Japanese cars? Would it make any difference if they dine in the best restaurants but put on a show to visit hawker centres to be seen with the lesser mortals? Asking the elite to dress down, live down, lie down when they don't really need to, and that they really don't, may not come down well. It smacks of real hypocrisy don't you think so?

Extracts of Obama's speech

Below are extracts of Obama's inauguration which may be spoken by another great leader who will lead us forward to a better tomorrow. ....On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.... Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.... What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.... As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.... To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist....

Notable quote by Redbean

I think Obama will feel a little envious if he were to compare his pay with our President. Redbean.

More empathy for the perm sec

The netizens are now more sympathetic to the perm sec and his culinary course. There was an expression of empathy across cyberspace for him. And the media too, there were letters in support of the perm sec and that it was a non issue. There is no reason to kick a big row over someone spending his money chasing after his dreams. It is always good to look at the good and right side of things. Let's close the chapter and continue to live happily in the paradise of the living mortals and immortals and demigods.

The Obama Inauguration

The atmosphere was filled with hope, peace and unity. It was a joyous occasion for all Americans. Their happiness was genuine. There was an absence of hate, anger or trying to settle scores. Obama and the Democrats were happy for obvious reasons. George Bush and the Republicans were celebrating the event in their strides. John McCain was invited for dinner by Obama. The whole ceremony was arranged, organised and executed by a bureaucracy not tainted by any political party. They were Ameicans first, the American civil servants serving the American people, not serving the ruling party. And the American people were there to join in the celebration. They braved the icy cold winter, made their way there on their own. They need not be ferried or herded to attend the ceremony. The did it with a genuine intent to celebrate the incoming of a new Presdent. The Americans were one people, one nation, nothing more, nothing less. No need prompting, no need coercion, no need reminders. That is what a great nation is all about. It is the people that make the nation and the people know that they are all part of the nation. A truly inclusive society. No gimmicks.


Time to build more shrines

In the land of the mortals, super beings and gods, it is time that more shrines be built for the gods and immortals. And the mortals or lesser mortals should do the building and the worshipping. Who knows, they may be blessed. I am starting to blame myself for being an atheist and not praying to gods. Looks like I better start praying to one. My preference is the 'cai shen' or money god. But now that there are so many gods to pray to, maybe I shall review my options. I am on my knees and bowing deeply, praying for more wealth.

Insensitive elite, insensitive media?

The Paris cooking class article is now seen as being insensitive, wrong timing. I thought the media was just trying to sing some merry songs in bad times, to boost up the sagging morale of the people. In bad times, we must not keep telling sad stories. A good story of success or what success can bring may brighten up the day for many people. We need more of such stories don't we?

The insensitivity of the elite

The lesser mortals shall not be envious when the super beings splashed their wealth. The lesser mortals must know their station in life. What's wrong with super beings spending their own money? This is the ethos of an elitist society. The expensive cooking class, oops, it is a culinary course, is the talk of Parliament. Cooking class is only conducted in community centres for the Ah Sohs at $50 for 4 lessons. What Chee Hean said is correct. It is a private matter for people to spend their own money. But being a top civil servant, flaunting of wealth is still not the right thing to do in times like this. What the story tells is that top civil servants are paid so handsomely that they must think of ingenious ways of spending them. Too much money that they have problem spending. Would a $100k personal grooming course or facial treatment be attractive, or a new hairdo? A tattoeing course may also look interesting. This reminds me of the Peanut Theory. What will be considered peanuts for such high paying elite? $600k or $1m? I think we will have problem motivating them with more pay in the next salary increment exercise. Anything less than a peanut will be meaningless.


How much does Singapore have?

MAS's foreign reserve is valued at $240 billion. GIC's portfolio is well over $148 billion. And Temasek is worth more than $185 billion. These are numbers as at Sept 08. If there is no overlapping of interest, it works out to an incredible $573 billion! Now what is the latest number given the collapse of the world financial market which has led to many tycoons jumping onto the equivalent of our MRT tracks? Whatever that is left must still be a large number. And this is only those assets that are officially valued.

Rentals, property tax and other costs still up!

Conrad Raj's article in the Today paper mentioned that rentals in Chip Bee Garden under JTC has just gone up by nearly 50%. A David H wrote that his property tax for year 2009 has gone up by 55% from year 2008. And this month CAAS raised the airport taxes at the main Changi terminals from $21 to $28 while the Budget Terminal is up from $13 to $15. Small feats actually. Small increases are affordable.

Bloggers forming an association?

It is reported in the media that a group of bloggers is trying to form an association for bloggers and it has been given the nod by the authority. And it intends to cover the River Hongbao event and other sporting events and is talking to the ministries, probably trying to get permission to do so. I am going to cover any event with or without permission. That is what blogging is all about. You decide what you want to do and what you want to post. Getting approval and permission are the last things in the minds of bloggers.

Encourage ostentatious lifestyle

This is the way to go. Not being ostentatious, being shy about spending is not healthy to the economy. Hsien Loong has taken the lead by donating $500k to set up a scholarship foundation. This is on top of the increment that he has donated earlier. I was hoping that this will set the ball rolling and more rich people will also take out some money for similar causes. There was no follow up. But that does not mean that no one is following his example. They may have done it quietly in their own ways. They are either too shy or shun ostentatious flaunting of wealth. For a time like this, these people should be encouraged to spend and spend. The media should do their job by celebrating their ostentatious lifestyle and this may encourage others to do so. It will be good for the economy. For those who do not know how to spend or share their wealth, just stand outside a MRT station with a sack of angpows and hand them to the passerbys. No need for any mean testing. Anyone who is willing to take the angpows will be needing them. Let's be ostentatious and spread the goodwill of spending and giving. No need to be shy about it.

Minibond investors happy?

About 50% of the investors that lost money in the minibond fiasco will be compensated or have been compensated. This looks like good news. Tan Kin Lian also commented that it is reasonable and the investors should not expect the banks to cough out the full amount as compensation. What amount of compensation is enough? Or should the banks even compensate the investors? The issue should not be compensation and how much. It should find out if it is a case of fraud, a crime or just a normal business. If there is no crime, no fraud, then there is no issue of compensation. But if fraud or crime is involved, the compensation should be in full and the guilty be punished under the law. Or are we to take the position that a cheat that cheated people of $10m and returned $5m then those cheated should feel happy and should be grateful that they got some money back? What is the real issue? Has crime or fraud been established or will it be established? It is so pleasant to cheat Singaporeans.


Charity, charity and charity

Singapore has been a good world citizen. Whenever there is a natural disaster, our govt and people are likely to dig out some cash to help the victims. The tsunamis, the earthquakes, flood and drought, we will share the suffering and pain with them. We have set up agencies with full time staff to go to the aid of the world, especially neighbouring countries. We even give generously to students to study here on scholarships with full expenses paid. We even helped the rich countries when their financial institutions were at risks of collapsing. Is it too much to ask the govt to help our aged, those who are unable to work, or those who are in their 70s, 80s or older who have no dependents to fall back on and no savings left? These are our citizens, people who have contributed in one way or another towards the growth of the country. Can the country provide the bare minimum during their dying years. They don’t have much time to live and don’t need much to survive. A roof and 3 square meals would not cost too much, with some basic medical care, will be more than anything that they will ask for. Why must they be made or expected to contine to work to their last days? For those who want to, fair enough. For those who are just too tired, toiled enough, a retirement to watch the world goes by is a little reward for a hard life that they have gone through. We need to show a little love for the old ones. Can the govt take on this responsibility, show a little kindness and compassion, to care for the oldies for once? Put them up in old folks homes in HDB flats with meals provided. No need to beg or sweat for a living anymore. No all the oldies will want to rely on the govt. Many will be able to take care of themselves or be taken care off by their families. Only those that have no one to look after them will need this kindness. No need mean testing to qualify them. Make it a simple ruling of age and if they ask for it. Asking too much? What is one family? What is a caring govt for? We should stop giving to others if we can’t even give to our own.

What is a soldier?

This has never been an issue even when ours is a conscripted army. The soldiers are soldiers. They are the men and women who will die fighting for the country. They will take orders and just do it even if the orders are bad orders. Soldiers take orders and responsibilities seriously. They don't go AWOL. They may have official working hours, but soldiering is unlike any other job. A soldier is a soldier on call, on duty 24/7, without overtime pay. At anytime he is called, he puts on his uniform and is back to camp. And when one is on duty, you do not go off your watch until the next shift takes over officially and properly. The duty must be handed over and no one just leave his job comes 5pm. And if the next shift fails to show up, the soldier will carry on until he is relieved. Where got such nonsense as 8 to 5 you are on and then you are off? Or perhaps the doctrine has been changed over the years. Our soldiers are now working according to the official working hours. And we will tell the enemy to fight us from 8 to 5. Outside those hours they will have to wait as we will be off. Or because everything is measured in monetary terms, soldiering will be paid according to the hours worked. And the pay of the soldiers is computed based on 8 to 5. If the army wants them to work longer hours, the pay scale will have to be changed to acknowledge the longer hours needed. Soldiering is a whole life affair. Now I may be wrong, outdated and lose touch with what a soldier is in a modern army.


It's lucky that Corporal Tan won

Jan 16, 2009, The Straits Times Breaking News

Family wins suit By Selina Lum

THE parents of a former full-time national serviceman, comatose for more than three years after an incident in camp, have won their lawsuit against the Defence Ministry. The High Court decision paves the way for the family of Jeremy Tan, now 26, to seek disability compensation and medical benefits from Mindef.

On Aug 3, 2005, Mr Tan, then a corporal rostered as duty storeman at Seletar East Camp, was found unconscious at the foot of a building where his bunk was located on the third-level. The ministry classified Mr Tan's injuries as non-service related and stopped paying for his medical treatment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital from March 2007. But Justice Tay Yong Kwang ruled at the end of a four-day hearing that Mr Tan's injuries were 'attributable to service' and he was therefore entitled to a payout.

The case hinged on the interpretation of a provision in the Singapore Armed Forces (Pensions) Regulations, which provides for payouts to disabled servicemen. Lawyer Lau Teik Soon, acting for Mr Tan's parents, argued that when he was found with injuries at 6pm, Mr Tan's tour of duty had not ended. But government lawyers argued that even though Mr Tan was performing his national service, he was not doing anything related to his duty at the time. He was not at his place of duty and was last seen resting in his bunk. But Justice Tay said that the words 'attributable to service' can cover injuries caused while a serviceman is on standby duty and was not doing any particular work.

If Pte tan were to lose this case, can we conclude that our soldiers' working hours are from 8am to 5pm? I think Mindef needs to take a stand on this and spell it out clearly that a soldier is a soldier and not a clock watcher. Once he is in uniformed he is on duty and subject to military discipline even when he is on his way home. I could not believe that this case could reach a civil court for justice. What is going on man? We are going to depend on our soldiers and NSmen to fight 24/7 365 days a year and now we are quibbling when he is on duty and when he is not.

When did all these bonkings started?

The bonkings of the shameless poor, those people who cannot afford to pay for train fares and cry father and mother every time there is an increase of 10c of anything, could be traced back to the naming of quitters. Quitters were the first to bonked by the elite until it became fashionable to bonk the losers. The bonking reached its orgasmic peak when a young school girl told a loser to get out of her uncaring elitist face. And there was no need for apologies for the girl was only telling the brutal truth. This was short of telling the losers point blank that they were shit and that it was kind not to say it to them too loudly. And the losers took it in their stride, eagerly waiting for an opportunity to strike back. This came with the golden tap and peanut affair. The losers went to town to tear away the facade of elitist infallibility. It was time to bonk the elite. Mas Selamat was another great episode for the bonkers to go berserk. Since then we have seen this bonking of elite taking on more steam and on every opportunity that begs to be bonked. The minibond fiasco and the financial crisis are equally dealt with. The bonking has taken quite a dramatic turn and the original bonkers are now the hunted. Would the bonking of the shameless poor continue or the other way round?


The Bonker's Years

The last few years can best be described as the Bonker's Years. This thing about elitism, about super talents and super pay, about telling the brutal truths to the losers, were getting a bit too far. I think it has reached a point when the people are angry and feeling disgusted with such attitude. It is not just cockiness, but to live it and mean it, is not cute or funny any more. The divide between the haves and the have nots is looking very stark and very ugly. And we got people paying $46k to learn cooking in Paris when people are losing their jobs and incomes. It is time for some soul searching and to embrace the people as one people by actions and deeds. If the elite cannot empathise with the people but seen as being aloof, uncaring, cocky and thinking too highly of themselves, that they are the only worthy human beings and the rest are unworthy human beans, anger can be turned into hatred. Instead of throwing shoes, more vicious acts could be committed. Time to heal the rift by coming down to earth to be really caring and sensitive to the plight of the low down human beans. Cockiness and talking down to the people is becoming a curse and will not be tolerated anymore. It used to be 'Oh, so cute!'

Don't push the gov't to act

Rights groups call for tighter regulations to prevent exploitation of migrant workers This is the call in TOC. It is trying to do something for the helpless foreign workers. But I think TOC is doing more harm to the cause than helping them. The govt will not be presurised to action. It is more comfortable doing its own thing in its own pace and when it wants to. It does not like to be presurised or seen to be presurised to do things. The TOC may be more effective if it posts it in Reach as a plea or seeking for govt help. That will get things moving faster.

Jobs available - Coming full circle

After 45 years of independence, it is surprising that many of the oldies are coming full circle to where they had started as far as occupation and working for a living are concerned. Many were in the labour trade 45 years ago, the unskilled or semi skilled trades, the waiters, doormen, sales assistants, the maids or chambermaids, the security guards, the cleaners etc etc. They started at a time when getting a job was difficult and any job will do. They had no education and little skill. 45 years later they still had little education and little skill. And they are still out in the job market hunting for that elusive job that will only pay them enough to get by. Some things or people just would not change. The taxi driver that committed the vicious crime again Seng Han Thong is a living example of the living fossils of the past 45 years. They did not change or will hardly change while time slips away under their noses.

Guessing where is Mas Selamat

It is almost a year since this magician escaped from the cage. Now the question is where is he? All the theories of yesterday are still hanging in the air. He is alive, he is dead, he is here, he is not here, he is everywhere. Everyone is still guessing where he is and no one has a clue. Somewhere out there a party will be held to celebrate the first anniversary of the Mas Selamat Escape. And we got to thank god that nothing untowards has happened. Let's pray that he will not reappear again.


41,000 jobs available!

In the ST today, 41k jobs available. 20k in hospitality for croupiers, butlers, doormen, chefs, waiters, retail assistants and animal trainers. Health care has 6k jobs for nurses, assistants and physiotherapists. MOE is also looking for teachers and teaching assts. There are 4k retail jobs for sales assts and cashiers. And security officers and auxiliary police need 3.5k people. Singaporeans need not worry about being jobless when so much jobs are available.

Beggar Sect - Income distribution

Over the weekend I was watching the Condor Heroes again. This is a series of novels by the great Jin Yong. I don't think there is another equivalent in the western world of authors of this calibre. Ok, the story was a side issue. I was quite impressed with the organisation of the Beggar Sect and the way they distributed their income. The lowest few levels were the foot soldiers that went out to collect donations. This will then be pooled and distributed among the rest of the beggars. There were altogether 9 ranks in the sect, excluding the lowest and the chief. Each level was denoted by one pocket attached to the torn and tattered shirt. The most senior rank had 9 pockets. The distribution of the collection was thus very simple. One dollar to each pocket. 9 pockets $9. I am not sure how much the lowest rank, without pocket with get. Neither do I know how much the chief would get. He had no pockets. With 9 levels of sharing, the ratio is 1:9. The amazing thing is that our national income distribution based on official statistics is very similar to this. The lowest ten percentiles earn less than $1K while the top ten percentiles earn $10K. This is about right if we use the Beggar Sect's formula for income distribution. How more fair can we be?


The plague of big hospital bills

"Since Mindef's payments ceased in February 2007, his parents have chalked up outstanding hospital bills totalling $133,000 " - Today 13 Jan 2008. The parents of NSman Jeremy Tan Chia Whee have taken Mindef to court to pay for his medical bill. Jeremy was found unconscious in camp and the issue is whether his injury was incurred while in service or not in service. Under normal circumstances the issue could have been settled long ago by his parents IF the medical fee has not ballooned to this sum. This is the new plague of our first class medical services. The price tag is also first class. Sure, you want first class you must be able to pay for it. Maybe it is time the govt should ask the people if they want first class and whether they can afford to pay for it. Even with mean testing in place, many people would still not be able to pay this kind of ridiculous fees. Progress and compassion are very expensive things to pay for.

Improved healthcare for subsidised patients

'....I do know many private specialists who have big hearts ( and I am proud to call them "friend" )and who treat poorer patients at reduced rates ( or even waive charges). Sometimes we put on leotards and become Robin Hoods. We in private practice, often try to find ways to beat the Private hospital system in order to reduce patients' charges. The more obvious means include pleading with the hospital for discounts ( for patients) or even going to cheaper hospitals. Other ways cannot be divulged publicly.....' The above is an extract from Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan's blog, nofearsingapore.blogspot.com. He has written an appeal in the media's forum and copied to MOH to suggest on cost reduction and improvement in medical practice. If we have more medical professionals to step out to stamp this ridiculous and incessant rise in medical fees, they will definitely make an impact. For a start, private hospitals can price some services or ward charges lower than govt hospitals to show that it can be done. This will definitely rattle the conventional wisdom that medical cost must always go up. A case in point is Perfect Dental Clinic in Ghim Moh. I believe its charges are very competitive and should be a role model for all dental clinics to emulate. If he can charge at those competitive rates, why can't other dental clinics do so with the same facilities and qualifications for the same treatment? Private hospitals should take the lead to cut cost and blow its trumpets loudly. This is a social service and a social cause that they can together do for the average citizens.

Smiles in English signboards


Citi and Morgan Stanley merging brokerages

The two giants are merging their operations in the face of the financial meltdown. The brokerages and their staff will have to shrink in a shrinking business. How would this affect the local brokerages? Will our brokerages shrink as well given the shrinking business in stock trading? Stockbroking, buying and selling of properties, insurances are the last few professions that allow people who can't find employments or do not want to be employees to be self employed. Of course there is taxi driving but this is a very difficult trade with the recession hitting the economy. When these three professions start to retrench, more will be out looking for jobs. The last frontier is to start your own business as entrepreneurs, provided you have a few hundred thousands of spare cash to play with. It is no longer possible to sell kueh and goreng pisangs along the corridors. It is against the law. But one can take the risk of selling pirated VCDs if one does not mind being handcuffed when caught. The loanshark business is still thriving and they need more midnight graffiti painters. Maybe the casinos can provide more jobs for those who are not bound by their religious and moral righteousness. For a start, Boon Wan has offered several thousand jobs in the medical industry. Just go for retraining.

Eerie silence in the world of elite

Are there any talents, thinkers and concerned individuals in the world of elite? Obviously there are plentiful. Do they have a view or any view on how our country and society is progressing and the direction we are heading? I think they must have. Do they agree with all the policies and what is happening? I think they do. That is why there is a total silence coming out from that world. Nothing will affect them or move them to say something. They are just too comfortable and too entrenched in their own world of luxury that nothing else is important to them. How long will this eerie silence last?

When the wheel of fortune stopped turning

2008 ended with the wheel of fortune stopped turning. The first financial crisis that hit the people was the minibond. The bigger financial crisis hitting the people without much fanfare was the collapse of stock prices. The losses were in hundreds of billions. Came 2009, the year started with mean testing. What does it mean? The first answer probably is the torching incident. Now the country is staring at a bigger crisis, recession and job losses, unemployment, defaults in paying mortgages. We are only in the second week of the new year. What more lie in store for us and how bad could things be?


The Seng Han Thong Incident

With sentiments and emotions calming down, lets take a second look at the Seng Han Thong Incident and the reactions in the media. The main media's reaction was quite expected, shock and awe and condemnation. The reaction in cycberspace was distinctively different. The immediate response to the incident showed a lack of sympathy, more of a it was coming and to be expected. Some went to the extent of rooting for it, that it was deserving. There was a kind of release of anger and frustration, not necessarily to Seng Han Thong in particular but to the govt as a whole. The mood in several of the forums were very negative. Here we had an MP being set on fire and these people were taking it in their stride, like a protest against the govt. This is definitely an unhealthy development and would set the party thinking why? The oldies were the party's strongest supporters all these years. The violent act was conducted by an oldie. The reaction in cyberspace came from a bigger spectrum, from oldies to the youngies. Could this be a little indication of bottled up feelings that need an expression and the incident was just it? Could more outlets for kpkb and letting off steam help to release the pressure along the way leading to less explosive actions? Suppressing expression of anger and frustration could only keep the feelings under the lid. When the heat gets too high, suppressing them will do more harm. Maybe the new year angpow could soothe some nerves and let the incident pass quickly as another unfortunate incident, to be forgotten. It was a shocking incident that was totally unexpected in a first world country. Perhaps many of the people are still of the third world with their world habits and mentality.


MP set on fire

This is the headline news in the papers. Seng Han Tong, and MP, was set on fire by a disgrunted 70 year man who is also a patient at the mental hospital. This kind of things is unheard of in our history. The background of the attacker suggests that this is an isolated case and should not be seen as an increase in social violence. I believe our MPs and ministers would still be able to walk the streets without being harm. Violence has not been in our culture, or political violence has not been a part of our lives since the 1950s. Poor bugger. He is hurt very badly for public service.

How useful is Talking point?

Last week CNA put up many reminders on the programme Talking Point to be aired last night at 10.20pm. The topic to be discussed was the AIMS' recommendations and the govt's responses to them. It must be an important event for CNA to keep reminding the viewers about it. I was reminded to tune in. There were two co hosts, a lady whose name just slipped out of my amnesia prone memory, and PN Balji. This gave the programme some recognition. You don't put in two hosts to tackle a programme unless it is worth the while. Two invited guests, Cheong Yip Seng, Chairman of AIMS and Gerald Giam of TOC were also present. The four should give a meaningful treatment on the important AIMS paper. After all it was commissioned by the govt. The whole programme last not more than 10 mins. In fact 8 minutes. How could 8 minutes do any justice to an important issues with 4 participants. Each could only have 2 minutes if the time is distributed evenly. Balji followed up with an article this morning in Today. His message is this, 'By now, the likes of Mr Giam should have known how this Govt behaves and operates. It cannot appear to be pressured to make changes; it will change at its own pace and comfort.' This is very plainly put by Balji. Don't expect too much. The mountain does not come to Mohammed. Bloggers are not significant bodies and must to go the mountain.

Running out of ideas

Malaysia is a one idea country. They only know how to build roads and bridges to collect tolls. Every other thing that they tried was a wash out. So they will keep on thinking of building bridges everywhere, the more the better. Existing bridges or connectors should be demolished to justify building new ones. They are going to build bridges to Sumatra, maybe Vietnam as well. The Americans are also running out of ideas. Since the computer chip revolution, the laptops and handphones, there is nothing new in the pipeline that can create so much mass appeal. They tried financing products but turned out to be the biggest fraud in history. Paradise too is running out of ideas. Other than raising fees and charges, what else could it come out with? The latest twist is recycling. They have done recycling of old buildings by demolishing them and building new ones. Now they are recycling jobs and old bodies. Old jobs are recycled with new fanciful names, everyone is a president. We have more presidents than the countries in the UN. Now the old hags are being recycled. The Dad’s Army in civilian clothes, the grandpas and grandmas are to work again. But this is a bit tricky. The parts are getting old through wear and tear. Practically every part and organ need to be changed. They can’t do it like they did to old buildings. They can’t scrap them like cars. How to make them work like new, strong and nimble, see and hear clearly, and think and do as being told? Until a new drug is developed to alter all the cells into young cells and not ageing cells, it is going to be difficult. Genetically modified cells may be a starting point. They can do it to plants, definitely possible with human beans In the meantime recycle as best possible, with redesigning of jobs to cater for slow and fumbling hands and cloudy minds, failing eye sights and weak limbs. Recycling worn out bodies is going to be big business in paradise


Resigned still caught and answerable

The Satyam bosses had resigned after the fraud was disclosed. But India is not the US or paradise where one can simply pat his backside and resign when wrong doings are discovered. Rubin, the advisor of Citigroup has also resigned. For the moment, many of the failed American financial institutions were due to mismanagement or honest mistakes, so it is difficult to find faults with the directors and top management. In Satyam case, it is fraud, like Madoff, and they have been arrested by the India authority. Madoff is still walking around happily like a free man. There must be a higher expectation of accountability for paid executives whether as top management or board of directors. Walking away by resigning is too easy a way out from accountability. If people are brave enough to take compensation from organisations they must be brave enough to answer for the mess created during their watches. Honourable people must do what is honourable.

How much must be earned in a life time

How much must be earned in a life time to live in paradise? Take an average 4 roomer two kids family. In his life time he must spend these money other than the normal living expenses. His flat will cost him $500k or more when fully paid up. His Medisave that he cannot touch will be at least $30k. His two kids, if lucky enough to get into university locally, total cost for each upon graduation would easily be $300k. GST at 7% for a $4k monthly expenditure for 50 years will come to $148k. S&C at average $50 pm for 50 years will be $30k. And if he owns a small car, changing one every 10 years, or 5 cars in his lifetime, he will spend at least $300k at $60k each. The above adds up to a cool $1.6m. Even without owning a car, the amount is $1.3m. This he must have in addition to what he needs to live daily. At a simple $3k pm for 50 years it will add another $1.8m to his total budget. So an average Singaporean family will spend $3.4m in their life time. A very conservative number. And he could count himself lucky if he does not need to be hospitalised. One entry could empty his Medisave or more. The cost will go up for those who bought bigger houses and cars. A job and a steady income is crucial to keep an average Singaporean alive. it is amazing that we could go on for so long and still aspiring to be more prosperous and to pay more for our standard of living. Singaporeans born today would easily need double or triple that amount to get by. Would the system be able to pay them that kind of money or would Singaporeans still command that kind of premium in a competitive world market of the future? When I look at our Ah Beng, Ahmad and Muthu, and their counterparts in other countries, they are not much different. And when they put out their best to compete with us, either their income will go up or ours will go down. A new level will be found. Would ours still defy the odds and move up or will the law of diminishing returns drag us down?

Frugality by choice

To live frugally by choice and not by circumstances is a very pleasant concept. It is like people desiring to work for life, by choice and and not by circumstances, and even with the choice of what they want to do, not to become cleaners or dish washers. To live frugally is like being thrifty, to spend on when there is a need to, no extravagance, is an age old virtue. Individually, it is a good value to live by. At the national level, it is too a good policy to preach and to practise, or maybe not. The contradiction between preaching something and doing the reverse is quite obvious to many. While on the one hand people suddenly got enlightened that there is goodness in frugal living, there are people and even the govt, exhorting and extorting the people to spend. Our govt's policies have never been about frugality. Think COE and car scrapping. Even in times like this, Chok Tong is asking people to spend away on little comforts. Boon Wan has just introduced mean testing to make sure that people pay according to how much they have and not what they want. Ask Raymond about ERPs and transport fares and he will tell you it still must go up, but very affordable. Then Mah Bow Tan just whacked the home buyers by $200k increase in the Pinnacles. Who else, or which ministry is going to raise their fees or rentals? Can the people afford to be frugal? Even if they want to, the policies of ever increasing fees will make sure that they don't. The wheel of our economic machinery must go on running and must be fed by the people's money to keep it going. Otherwise it will grind to a halt like the ferry wheel. And a big rescue operation will have to be mounted. The economy is built on a model of growth. Without growth means recession and depression. The rich can romanticise on being frugal and live happily ever after. The poor at best is a way of life. The country cannot exist on a frugal diet. The country demands that the people must spend and spend to keep up the image of growth and prosperity. So, would the people be allowed to be frugal?


Child labour is bad

Little children working to earn a few dollars is bad. Their feeble limbs and frail bodies would not take the rough and tough of labour in the factories and sweat shops. Their ignorance will expose them to dangerous situations which they would not know how to avoid. How about the frail bodies of the aged? Is aged labour good or bad? Their frail bodies, lack of nimbleness and dexterity, slow in responding to danger, will put them in unnecessary risks and difficult situations. We need to protect the young from exploitation and unfavourable working conditions. Do we need to protect the old hags? I think exploitation of old labour is just as bad and should not be encouraged. Why are we so happy about getting the old hags to work till they die and not allowing the children to work till they die? We feel sorry to see children put to work. Do we feel sorry to see old hags toiling in their twilight years? Why are grandpa and grandma working?

Boon Yang's leeway on political films

The easing of ban on political films by Boon Yang is another step towards more liberalisation of media and film broadcast in the otherwise media phobic state. Thanks to AIMS and the strong push by Cheong Yip Seng for a freer and bigger space for social and political discussion and dissemination of news and views. The concerns by the govt are well understood by the public through its obsessive regulations and articulations over the years. The govt has also come to understand the revolution of information technology and its futility to continue its vice like grip on critics and alternative views. It has also reluctantly come to terms with a highly educated citizenry that is not going to take this control forever. And perhaps it has concluded that it is time to release the build up pressure now rather than later. To continue to do so in an environment where cyberspace is there to air the misgivings, cynicism and displeasure will only worsen the divide between truth and official truth to a level of incredibility. Hail the new leeway towards more media freedom in cyberspace and alternative means of expression. The liberalisation and more engagement between the new media and old media will pave the way for more healthy discussions on social and political issues affecting the people. It will lead to a buzz that has long been desired but absence for obvious reasons. Now is to wait and see if the buzz will go on buzzing.


Save Asia from child labour

Asia must act to prevent growth in child labour: expert 12 hours ago SINGAPORE (AFP) — Asia must act quickly to prevent millions of children dropping out of school to go to work as the global economic crisis worsens, a rights expert has warned. June Kane, an independent adviser to the United Nations and national governments on child rights, told AFP the crisis was a chance for authorities in the region to tackle child labour by giving parents incentives to keep minors in education. But she warned that authorities in Asia -- the biggest employer of the world's estimated 218 million child workers -- must act now to provide help to parents who might otherwise be forced to send their children out to work.... I happen to see the above posted in the TOC. It is a noble cause to push for, to help the children of poor countries and poor families from being made to earn a living at a tender age when they should be in school. But this is well said than done. Many are staring at poverty in their faces and helping out to earn a living is their way of getting an education in life. The country is poor and so are the parents. I was a child labour before. There were child labours in Singapore at one time. At one time many of our womenfolks were maids too. And getting a job as a labourer in the construction site was good jobs and good money. We have progressed over the years. We cannot mismanage and slip back to those days when everyone was poor. When aspirations of parents were for their children to become clerks. Even before I was in primary school, I was helping my mother in a godown, sorting coffee beans, picking out the debris and rotten seeds and repack them. The work was simple. Just sat on a large piece of mat, coffee seeds poured into the centre of the mat and the whole family sat around it, picking seed by seed, to earn a few cents a day. Quite comfortable actually. No sweat and not under the sun. No torture or abuses. Just working. And many parents were very happy when their wards failed the PSLE. They could start work earlier, working as kopi kia or walking the streets knocking on a piece of bamboo, kock kick kock, to peddle bak chor mee. It was a phase of our development and our social history.

Keep seniors at work longer

Just a few years back, not very long ago actually, there was this 40ish CEO whose message was to get rid of the oldies and replace them with all the beautiful and fresh recruits. I was wondering where did he got this cock idea from? Creating jobs, getting people employed is a major issue and problem in any country. Only imbeciles will think of destroying jobs and getting rid of employees purely because of age. Now working to death is the new mantra. Personally if I can afford it I will stop work and enjoy my life the way I want it. There are many great things to do in life than just working to keep once self fed, just to carry on living. Unfortunately many people are caught it this trap, to work to be alive, nothing more, nothing less.

Satyam, the truth is out

The doctoring of corporate accounts has appeared to be a common practice among big corporations across the globe, from America to Europe and Asia. I could understand how it could be done over the years without being discovered in backward countries without the due process of auditing. But it should not be whether renowned international auditors are engaged to do the job. Under the western model of corporate governance, the auditors play a very big role in checking the accounts of public listed organisations, and are handsomely rewarded for this task. Apparently due diligence in this role is much to be desired given the prevalence of this malpractice. In fact it is a text book fraud that all auditors must know and look out for. This is the first time that the regulators are thinking of looking at the role of the auditors to see if they are culpable to the misdeeds, whether through negligence or even being accomplice to the crime. More auditors must be hanged to give notice to the importance of their role in preventing corporate frauds. But I still remember that it was said some where that it was not their role to discover corporate frauds. So their role must be simply going through the motion of checking and submit a report to confirm checks have been carried out, without any responsibility. Other than the independent directors, the next level and most effective defence against corporate frauds must be the auditors. And they are paid to do the job. They are professionals.

Would NWC bark up the same old tree?

The high power NWC is again tasked to review the wages of workers, this time when the economy is in a tail spin. In good times, it is in a happier position to quarrel about how much increases to give to the workers. In bad times, it is going to decide how much to cut or not to give to the workers. Hard times mean tough times for the workers, the convenient whipping boy. The workers is always at the fore front when cost cutting is needed. They either lose their jobs, got their salaries cut, or lose their increments. This is the standard recipe with its standard recommendations. Didn't we know that labour cost is only one small part of the whole equation of operating cost? Would the NWC do a bit more and look into areas like land cost, rental cost, govt service cost and other cost before slicing through the workers pay packet for once? And don't forget about top management cost. Any further cuts or lowering of increments are going to hit the workers real hard. All the other costs are going up and we are expecting the workers to bite the bullet and tighten their belts further. Are we demanding too much from the workers? This single perspective approach to tackling the operating cost problem has to be addressed differently. The cost of other services and goods must be brought down if the workers are to survive this crisis with further restraints on their wages. 80% of the workforce will fall into this trap of rising cost of living and lower income. We need a more enlighten NWC to do something differently instead of just going through the motion like yesteryears.


NWC's unenviable task

The NWC will have to make its recommendations on wages soon. This time it is very likely on how to cut wages or reduce wage increases. Bet with you the people who is going to get the wage cut or wage freeze will be the workers. We will likely see how the use of absolute sum and percentages at its best. Some will be affected by a fixed sum and some by percentages to the benefits of some and disadvantages of others. The message is likely to be belt tightening to save jobs.

Myth 204 - The rich pays for their wants

This is a long embedded myth that people have forgotten to question and accepted as the truth. In reality the poor pays for everything, including what the rich is enjoying. And the poor pays for them in blood, sweat and tears. The poor is the one that does everything. They work, do, build, make, move, carry, climb, run, walk, practically everything to make goods and provide services. The only think that they do less is think. In the case of the rich, they make the poor pays for everything and at a huge profit. They pay the poor workers less if they employ them. They take as much as they can for themselves when they are the boss. Then they spend as if they were paying for it. No, it is the poor workers that are paying for it. The rich took the wealth created by workers leaving the workers poor and insufficient while they have abundance to spend away.


$46k for French cooking course

A top civil servant reportedly spent $46k for himself, wife and son to study fine French cooking. He took 5 weeks of annual leave, flew to France to learn this exquisite skill. Normally this is a thing that the rich and famous will do and will not raise an eyebrow. In this case, cyberspace is riled by such flaunting of wealth. Should it be? Why can't a man who earns an honest living spend his money the way he wants it? Put it in the proper Singaporean context, here is a case of someone that is overpaid, paid too well, that he could spend big money on niceties. The best part is that he is a public servant and his money is paid from the taxpayers' money. It is a good example of a very well paid civil service and that the people is ired by it and any flaunting of wealth by this group of public servants will definitely invite criticism. The top civil servants and politicians are increasingly being viewed as being overpaid, and not ending. More pay rises will be on the way as there is now no cap to how much they should be paid given an unique formula that could literally pay them hundreds of millions when the condition is right. This case proves that they have more money than they need and are finding creative ways to spend them. Any justification for more pay rise at the top level is going to get rotten tomatoes and rotten eggs. It is difficult to be frugal when you have too much money.

Cannot afford to be frugal

How could it be that people cannot afford to be frugal? Frugality used to be a fad in the era of the hippies. Scions of wealthy families went around in torn and tattered jackets and jeans and looked scruffily poor, like children of working class. It was not that they had to be frugal. They were just making a statement. They were dissociating themselves from their wealthy background as if it was a shameful thing, They were denouncing the decadence lifestyle of the bourgeoisie. Then there was the legendary Tan Kah Kee, probably the richest man in the island whose daily meals were plain porridge, salted peanuts and vegetables. He died penniless after giving away his wealth. He was frugal to a fault. The financial crisis has made some of the affected rich to cut down on a holiday or two, drink cheaper wine etc. There is no need to be frugal but a little less lavish living. For those who were living quite comfortably or just getting by may need to be frugal to save a little. Life will go on practically unchanged. But for those who have been making ends meet, whose income are stagnant or falling, the rising cost in everything will make frugality a meaningless word. They cannot afford to be frugal. There is nothing left to be frugal. To them, living frugally is not about making a statement. It is poverty in a rich oasis.


Time to be credited.

Many of the bloggers here are still using anonymous to post. Increasingly there are more who are using a nick to represent themselves. This is year 2009 and we have seen how the internet has evolved over the last few years. The quality of the postings are getting better compare to the early years when it was a lot of battering just for the sake of battering one another. We are seeing many respectable people in the cyberspace using their own names to express their views and make their points, not necessarily anti establishment or to bring down the establishment. The discourse in the internet is far ranging, very informative and challenging. Many views are expressed ingeniously and artfully. It is time that bloggers should be credited with what they post. It is not necessary that they should use their real name or identity. A pen name, like many authors or even journalists did will be good enough. It will be a cyberspace identity that will grow with the author and may become part of the author. I strongly encourage all the bloggers to use a nick of whatever that they fancy to post. It will be more meaningful for everyone. Cheers.

Peanut spitting monkeys

I went mountain climbing, or hill climbing, at Bukit Timah one weekend. As we drove into the car park we could see the monkeys lining up at the car park fringe waiting for us. When we alighted they came dashing towards us, anticipating some peanuts from visitors. We gladly obliged and threw a few in the air and they went jumping all over the place. Hungry monkeys. There was a weekend that we went to the zoo. We brought along packets of peanuts for the monkeys as well. We went from one beautifully landscaped confine to another watching the monkeys. One thing we noticed was that the monkeys were not as energetic as those at Bukit Timah. Even when we threw the peanuts at them some even refused to move. Over fed monkeys! Then we heard the zoo keeper telling the visitors to be careful not to disturb the monkeys. When angry they would spit out peanuts at them. They were so well fed that they stored the nuts on both sides of their cheeks. It is not easy to get them excited over a few peanuts anymore.

Paying less to workers to pay more to management

How is that possible? One of the ways is like what Wall Street was doing. The top management just pays themselves crazy. But this is not serious then as the financial institutions were churning up big profits and the workers were small in numbers. Put this into the context of manufacturing companies or any large organizations with a big worker base. The amount paid to the top management must come from the general pool of money available for payout. The more being paid to top management, the lesser will be available for the workers. Yes, it is a zero sum game. In the same way any organization that pays big bucks to the top must get the money from somewhere. Normally it comes from paying less to the workforce in general. Organisations that pay their top executives big salaries must find ways to boost up the kitty every month. It either comes from higher cost to their products or services, or from paying the workers less. As simple as that, unless money can appear in mid air. The consumers pay for everything. The workers indirectly pay for the top dollars of their management. True or not?


The internet is YOU!

Below is an extract of a fairly long article posted in TOC by a KJ. It is very good reading for those interested in seeking alternative views other than from The Old Media. ....The Internet is not the perfect mass medium, and it need not be. Being an excellent one is enough for its purpose. Its inconsistency, unpredictability, and dilettantism are precisely its strengths. Its excellence and political potency cease only when individuals no longer blog, participate in forum discussions, forward that incriminating email, access a plethora of info-news websites – professional and amateur, local and foreign – and continually comment, debate, and quarrel, post pictures and put up videos and form communities. Its potential for political change is anywhere and everywhere. But political activism is neutered at its heart when individuals forget that change comes not just from the arena of parliament and street protests, but also from the sitting and thinking individual. The personal is the political, and the political is in the quotidian and in the everyday. Action originates from one’s thought, conscience, and consciousness. An impassioned thought is in itself activism. Taken together, they constitute the truer citizen, one that perpetually questions received wisdom, rips up underlying assumptions, and resists and unmasks the artifice, injustice, and sophistry emanating from those enthroned in the white chambers of power. Taken together, you rebuff the vacuous regurgitation of propaganda by those indoctrinated ones, and you expose their shallow, hollow, and spurious patriotism.... Since the Straits Times has abdicated its role as the paramount purveyor and conduit of critical, independent thought, then the Internet should attempt that role. As long as you have something original to say, the keyboard is yours....

We have failed to progress

After so many years of trying to restructure our society, we have failed miserably in the most important quarter, the purpose of life. Today the front page news is about saving jobs, create jobs, create employments so that people can work until they die. And everyone is singing this tune mindlessly. This is a sick society alright. In paradise, a true paradise, there is no need for people to work for a living. That must be the goal of all societies. The more prosperous we are, we should need to work less and enjoy our lives the way we want it. We have forgotten. I still remember that some 10 or so years ago we were trying to restructure our society to eradicate jobs. We were on the right track then. Now we are so confused with the purpose of life. We think working to death is the only thing in life. Slave drivers! We have the technology to give humankind the freedom from work. We can mechanise, automate, use robots, use the computers to think, plan and do everything for us. Humankind deserves better, to live life and enjoy life of plenty, without worries and without work. Shouldn't that be the goal for working so hard? Have we gone crazy? Creating more and more jobs to work the people? We should be planning on how to pay people a million a year without having to work. Then everyone can spend their time flashing around in their newest personal commuter or personal jet. And for those who still enjoy blogging, they can continue to do so without a worry, 24/7 sitting in front of their latest model personal entertainment system. What is the point of having the IRs, the flyers, all the theatres and fine restaurants and facilities when we have to work and no time to enjoy them? Do we pay millions to super talents who can only think of creating more jobs to work the people to death?


My tummy ache is more complex

I used to visit the dentists quite regularly in the past. Today I see them less frequently. Not many teeth left to give problems. But I still have tooth ache occasionally. The same tooth ache I had 50 years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago. And my tummy ache is no different today then 50 years ago or 40 years ago. So were my flu and sore throat. And I think this goes with many other sicknesses, migraine, heart attack, artery blocks, piles, or whatever that our bodies can inflict on us. I protested to my doctors and dentists. Why are they charging me 10 times, 20 times or 30 times for the same ailments? The panadol and vitamins are still the same except for the branding. After repeated protests the doctors finally gave in and explained. He agreed that they were all the same. He agreed that the only thing that was different was the bill. And he said the medical condition probably made up 10% of the bill. The rest were other costs. At least now I know that my medical conditions are not more serious, not more complicated, not more complex, not more heavenly that require a medical maverick to heal them when the ordinary doctor of the past could not. And I pay more.

The new Singapore success story

Ting Kah Ting is a very happy man. As a contractor his income is inconsistent. He had problems paying his mortgages for his 4 rm flat but HDB was understanding, agreed to stretch his payments in smaller amounts and at one time allowed him to postpone his payment for 6 months. Today he has no more outstanding loan. Peace of mind. He sold his 4 room flats for a tidy profit and downgraded to a 3 rm flat and live happily with his 4 children age 11 to 21. The morale of the story is that Singaporeans can live a happy life if they know how. The trick is downgrading. Singaporeans are downgrading from bigger flats to smaller flats. And the demand for smaller flats is exceeding supply. HDB is rushing out a programme to build more 2 and 3 rm flats. The other kind of downgrading for a happier life is downgrading jobs. Many Singaporeans are finding a new life, new contentment by going for training to acquire new skills that can fit them into lesser paying jobs. And of course the lifestyle needs to change a little. Take public transport or buy a smaller car. Eat more at foodcourts or hawker centres instead of restaurants. Life will not be the same again, but without worries. An anonymous blogger here posted that many young girls are earning more than $10k pm. These are real. And many more are earning 6 figure salaries per month, too big that they don't appear in the statistics, just like when you type in 10 zeros into a calculate, it cannot be shown. The calculator cannot capture too many zeros. Some are even more fortunate. On retirements they were given directorships that pay them double or triple or quadruple their incomes when they were fully employed. And all they need is to attend a board of director's meeting once a month. But the best goes to those who retire with a pension good enough to buy a private property every year. But the pension is only the appetiser. They will be moved from running a full organisation to one that practically does nothing and continue with full pay plus pension. Now that is the real success story. They can now live life to the fullest, enjoy what they missed as little children and buy the Porsche or Ferrari that they dreamed off in those fairy tales. Singaporeans have different success stories.


Why be mean when no need to?

I have spoken enough of mean testing. But I must say it again and again to show how detestable is this thing called mean testing. By the way, how many of you think that mean testing is an acceptable and decent thing to do to another loser? If you think it is ok, then you must be prepared to be mean tested when your turn comes. Not everyday is a sunny day. There will be cloudy days, raining days and thunderstorms. Your sunny day may be over without you knowing and thunderstorm may be here tomorrow. The idea of mean testing is simply that the poor can be humiliated, that they can be paraded in public, to any strangers to prove how poor and what a failure they were in life. This kind of thinking can only be present in the minds of the rich and powerful who have no qualms in treating the downtrodden as useless bums, deserving to be abused. It is an elitist concept. It will not happen to me because I am rich and successful. And I will not be a loser. So it is ok to line up the losers and subject them to despicable acts of verifying how poor they are. Make them show you how miserable are their incomes, open up their bank account books to reveal that there are only a couple of dollars left, make them reveal how useless their fathers and mothers were, all losers. Then give them a pat and say ok, you poor bastards, you deserve the handouts. It is a sad day if our elite show this lack of compassion and kindness and subject the poor to such disgraceful acts in the name of kindness and compassion. Oh this is in place to catch a few cheats! I regard this as a failure of good policies. A good policy should be able to do it without the humiliating experience. It is totally devoid of human kindness.


Market Pricing and market economy

I have posted many times, and most of you are aware of my views and orientation with respect to market pricing and market economy. I always believe in moderation, market pricing with a little govt interference without allowing extremism to push things too far. The pricing of HDB flats, medical fees, and all kinds of services are gradually moving towards full market pricing in a market economy and it is something I don't agree and don't feel comfortable with. My position is that the govt must always work for the betterment of the people and a market economy running along market pricing is only as good as long as it is good for the people. If it is good just to make more profit at the people's expense or causing more hardship to the people, then it is not good no matter how fair it is claimed to be. The govt must always be for the people. The profit made must also be for the people. The money made from the people must not be excessive. There is no point in hoarding a huge reserves when the reserves are not managed for the interest of the people. As the govt edges further and further towards a full market economy, many policies will eventually be market driven. Good or bad is not an issue. Here we have a govt that makes it very clear of its philosophy and policies. There will be people who agree and support such philosophy and policies. There will be people who don't agree. It is good that the govt takes on such a position, clear and transparent. It allows the people to understand how such policies will work out and how they will be affected in the process. The people can then make an informed choice of whether this is what they want. And it will be good if there are alternative parties presenting alternative models for the people to choose from. For the dogmatic and party loyalists, they may want to view the alternatives as a for me or against me ala the idiot called George Bush. This is a very narrow minded way of how a country and its people should evolve. In a democracy, it is the people's choice and not a matter of you are my friend or my enemy. I am not sure how many of you are in favour of this trend of market pricing. I know that some are for it and some are against it. While we are discussing such issues, let's be more objective and mature and avoid behaving like kids. It is not a crime to disagree with the policies of market pricing. Neither is it a vindication of goodness to support it.

The Hippocratic Code

This is one of the most honourable code of any profession in modern society. I believe those who swear by it still believe in it and would like to uphold this code of conduct. The Code upholds the value of life, not money. What is happening to the medical profession is that it is being turned into a money making machine, a very efficient and ruthless one at that, by the people running it as a business. Today, being admitted into a hospital, even a privatised govt hospital, do not be surprised with a bill that goes above $30k or $100k or even more. The amount to be paid for a month or two in a hospital is enough to buy a 3rm HDB flat! The question is whether the medical professionals who swore by the Hippocratic Code have any say in how the profession is being turned into a money making machine in direct conflict with what the Code sets it out to be? The doctors were very highly regarded as honourable men with a noble passion to save lives and heal the sick. It will be very sad and disappointing should their reputation be tarnished by this madness to milk as much money as possible from the sick and helpless. These are people who are in a desperate state of medical and mental condition that made them highly vulnerable, and money is no longer a factor to them. To slap these people with an exorbitant bill beyond their means is cruel by all counts. The medical professionals should wrestle back the control and management of their profession from the business minded and money minded people and restore honour and respect back to them. Other industries can go to the dogs, but not the medical profession. It is the last bastion of human decency that needs to be defended by none other than the selfless and passionate medical professionals themselves.


Are there saints running corporations?

Bankers Can be victims, too! Everytime a Singaporean makes a frivolous investment claim against a bank, he undermines thousands of genuine fide cases Dec 31, 2008 This is the heading of an article posted in www.littlespeck.com. The gist of the article is that bankers are also innocent victims to unscrupulous customers. And the bigger picture is that most organisations, including banks, are run by highly righteous and honourable people. What a myth. In my experience, many organisations are headed by unscrupulous thugs. This is the kindest word that I can use. Anyone think otherwise, that there are saints running organisations? Of course there are a rare few that still believe in a little virtues and moral standards and responsibilities. In the name of profit, survival, politicking, all kinds of unspeakable things were done for self preservation. Anyone working in a corporation would have experienced them personally, seen them in practice or been a victim of such thugs. Am I telling the truth a bit too hard?