Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

Property: Tharman is wrong that measures are working?

In Property on 19/04/2013 at 6:45 am

Colin Tan has a regular column on Friday in Today. Unlike the other property “experts” that appear in the local media, his take is always slightly different from the govt spin. Take this week’s

Based on the new private home sales data for March, the seventh round of the Government’s property market cooling measures must definitely qualify as an own goal, as a colleague put it. Instead of cooling the market, the latest curbs unveiled in January actually boosted it as buyers turned up in droves.

Tharman was quoted by today’s ST as saying: “Property prices remain high but they are moving in the right direction”, and that govt had no plans for additional measures.

I’m sure prices will soar now that buyers know no more curbs coming.


“Younger S’poreans should not be burdened with taxes” and “only about 50% of S’poreans pay taxes”

In Financial competency, Political governance, Property on 14/03/2012 at 9:13 am

Minister K Shanmugam has said that the Government does not want younger Singaporeans to be saddled with tax burdens, even as it ensures that the elderly are taken care of and no one is left behind.

When I read the above, I could only chuckle and then sigh. I had juz posted my very mixed tots about Mohammad Charlie Jasni who is earning $850 a month, buying a $99,200 HDB 2-room flat, noting that after the $40,000 grant the HDB loan is $59,220. On a 30-year mortgage at the HDB Concessionary Loan rate of 2.6%, the monthly repayment is $237. Mohammad is only able to pay $83 a month because the mortgage was reduced to slightly more than $20,000 because he and his wife have used up their CPF monies of $40,000. If they default, they have lost serious money.

About 15 years ago, in 1997 or 1998, I had an interesting conversation with some expat couples in their early 30s at my club . What surprised them most about S’pore was the financial commitements that their S’porean contemporaries had: 20 to 25 year loans to buy public housing apartments, and 10–year car loans. They said that back home (Canada, OZ or the UK), they would never have dared to make such long-term financial commitements. But it was par for the course here. And they would have not needed to, I added. They agreed. Well, now HDB mortgages are an “affordble” 30 years.

Of course, the PAP doesn’t want to burden the young with more taxes. The young can’t afford to pay higher taxes: they are juz managing a decent, comfortable life after meeting the interest and principal payments on their 25 to 30-year HDB mortgages. More will vote Opposition if taxes are increased. And I don’t mean the bluish near-clones of the men in white. They will vote for the people in red. Or they will riot.

The minister also said, “[W]e also have to send another message, which is that, only about 50 per cent of Singaporeans pay taxes”. This surely is wrong? If only 50% of S’poreans pay taxes, then why is the government giving a permanent rebate for the poor so that GST becomes a lot less regressive*?

We all (rich, poor and so-so) pay GST. That is why economists consider this tax to be the most efficient and effective way of taxing people. Tax is paid when one consumes. We all consume. 

(It also has the added advantage of taxing consumption, not savings or investments. In traditional economics savings and investments are good, consumption is bad. Bit like how the PAP thinks? Investing in a 30-year mortgage is good, but spending more on consumables is bad.)

What he means by “taxes” is “income tax”. The minister when he was in legal practice was one of the top litigation lawyers around. He was very, very good. Err I hope that now he is a minister he doesn’t join the likes of PritamS, Vikram Nair and Hri Kumar Nair. Their use of words reminds me of::

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master      that’s all.”
    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

(Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There )


*But TOC’s Uncle Leong has described the problem with the government’s “solution”, “A new GST voucher will be given to help particularly lower-income and elderly Singaporeans, comprising three components – cash, Medisave top-up and U-Save.

‘So, you pay for your GST increase in cash, but you get the bulk of it back not in cash, but as Medisave top-ups which you can only use for medical purposes, and U-Save which helps you to pay for what has historically been generally increasing utility bills.”

A wicked, mean tot. Could one of the reasons for putting the money into CPF accounts rather than pay cash be to lessen the cost to the government? The real value of the cash in the CPF accounts are steadily and steathily eroded by inflation. With the Medisave account paying 4%, and the ordinary account 2.5%, and inflation at juz below 5%, could the government be hoping that inflation reduces its headline cost by the time the money is withdrawn? Even if inflation returns to the 2% range, the real cost to the government is reduced. As I said, a wicked, mean tot that would never occur to a PAP supporter or a journalist in our constructive, nation-building local media.

DBS: HR costs of private healthcare sector to rise substantially

In S'pore Inc on 14/03/2012 at 9:12 am

Last week DBS Securities came out to say that costs in the private healthcare sector will go up as a result of the government’s plans to spend more on the public healthcare system. What FTs and foreign medical tourists have to pay more to get treated here? Can’t be right can it? This is not PAP policy which is FTs and foreigners first. Juz kidding.

Seriously this increased spending has implications for Parkway’s pending IPO. And for Raffles (see DBS report below) and the micro healthcare counters listed on SGX.


The Singapore health minister unveiled a healthcare roadmap in Parliament yesterday, focusing on three goals: 1) Singaporeans to receive health care when needed; 2) healthcare services will be of good quality and effective; and 3) such services will be affordable to Singaporeans.

To achieve the above objectives, the government will be increasing hospital beds and manpower. These are: a) addition of 3,700 hospital beds by 2020; b) addition of 20,000 healthcare workers (+50 per cent) by 2020 and; c) lease capacity from private healthcare operators, namely Parkway East Hospital and Raffles Hospital, to treat subsidised patients, to ease the tight capacity in the short term.

Raising healthcare workers remuneration by 20 per cent. A new salary framework will be introduced to retain manpower in the public sector. On average, healthcare workers’ total compensation will increase by about 20 per cent by 2014*, with the first adjustments by April 2012. The measures to lease beds/capacity from private hospital operators will be positive in terms of operational utilisation, and could create some initial euphoria in share prices of private healthcare operators.

However, the financial metrics of how this will be done are still being ironed out. For example, patient charges, level of subsidies to be provided by the government, and the level of take-up rates (if based on patients’ preference), etc.

Furthermore, we believe there is a limit to the number of beds each operator is able to lease to the public sector given that this could compromise its service level if the public partnership saps too much resources.

Fight for manpower issues a longer term challenge: With the increase in public sector remuneration, the bar by private operators to attract healthcare workers is likely to be raised. This comes at a time when capacity is increasing in the private sector. These are Parkway’s Mt Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Singapore Health Partners’ Connexion One (at Farrer Park), Adam Road Hospital by Fortis Healthcare, and Raffles Medical Specialist Medical Centre at Bideford Road and 30 per cent increase in GFA at its hospital.

Essentially, both public and private healthcare sector will need additional manpower resources. Staff cost accounts for about 49 per cent of revenue at Raffles Medical.

Maintain hold on Raffles Medical. Despite some near-term boost from the public partnership to lease beds, the details are yet to be finalised and the financial impact is uncertain. Over the medium term, the challenge lies in managing costs, namely manpower.

As Raffles Medical is trading at about 22.2 times FY12F price-to- earnings (P/E), above its mean of 21 times and 60 per cent premium to the overall market, we believe the valuations have already factored in the positive outlook. Our target price stays at $2.48, based on 24 times FY12F P/E, a +0.5 standard deviation above mean.

*Bet you SingHealth charges will go up. PAP caught in vicious circle. Improve healthcare but have to charge more, and lose votes; or don’t recover costs and make a profit and become like West.

S’pore politics: Analysis by stat board

In Political governance on 28/02/2012 at 6:14 am

“The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies is a regional research centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment”. It is also a statutory board whose funding comes from the government.

In its inaugral ISEAS Monitor, this is what it says about S’pore.


A series of controversies has cast a shadow on the country’s reputation for non-corruption and efficiency. News broke in late January that the chiefs of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force(SCDF) had been hauled up by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau for “serious personal misconduct”. This investigation is sandwiched between the jailing of officers from the Singapore Land Authority and Ministry of Home Affairs for fraud in November 2011 and January 2012, respectively, and news that civil servants, including a school principal, have been clients of an online prostitution operation.

In addition to these high-profile investigations, the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry into the majo breakdown of the country’s train system last December will soon begin. Already the recent assessment by international experts that Singapore’s drainage designstandards still lag behind those in other places, to explain the regular flooding on the island, put relevant state agencies in a poor light.

The coming months will see the government and the mainstream media attempt to protect and restore the reputation of state agencies and adminstitutions. The government will not down-play these controversies but, instead, seek to win public confidence by demonstrating as clearly as possible how swiftly justice is meted out tooffenders, while bold regulatory steps are implemented to minimise future organisational failings.

Meanwhile, the country’s most established opposition party, the Workers Party, has been rocked by its

expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong, the Member of Parliament for Hougang.

Yaw, who is married, had been rumoured to have had an affair with a married member of the party. His refusal to address these allegations, in addition to rumours of relations with other women, led to his dismissal on grounds of accountability and transparency. His expulsion will trigger a by-election to be called at the Prime Minister’s discretion.

Key points: As there is no fixed time within which a by-election must be held,political calculations will take over. A by-election in the next few of months will probably be to the Workers Party’s advantage given its strong showing in the general elections last year. Calling the by-election later – in a year or two – may be to the ruling party’s advantage as the conspicuous absence of an 0pposition MP in Parliament will serve as a public reminder of the controversy.

I agree with its analysis on how the government and MSM will protect and restore the reputation of state agencies and adminstitutions. The government will not down-play these controversies but, instead, seek to win public confidence by demonstrating as clearly as possible how swiftly justice is meted out tooffenders, while bold regulatory steps are implemented to minimise future organisational failings.

But I disagree that delaying a bye-election is to the government’s advantage by reminding S’poreans about the WP’s failings. If anything, it will remind S’poreans of the democracy “deficit” here.

S’pore: Despite FTs, an expensive place to make pancakes

In Economy on 27/02/2012 at 4:55 am

According to the chart in this link, only Japan, HK, Switzerland and Norway are more expensive places to make 12 -15 pancakes using 110g of sifted flour, 2 eggs, 200ml of milk and 50g of butter. And this was when we had FTs making the pancakes! Soon we will overtake Switzerland.

When Goh Chok Tong talked of a  Swiss standard of living for S’poreans, he must have meant cost-wise. SIGH. Zurich is the most expensive city in the world, and S’pore is eight places behind.

Budget: A Plague on Both Your Houses

In Political economy, Political governance on 27/02/2012 at 4:22 am

(Or “Budget: Missing the point”)

I think the government has “got it”, more or less, in the overall thrust of the Budget. More below. But I’m annoyed (and sad) that it still hasn’t “got it” when it comes to helping the poor. I like the theory behind the GST Voucher for the poor (it helps make the tax on consumption less regressive). But like Workfare (which I support in theory), it is flawed because the poor need money both now and in the future, but both Workfare and the GST Voucher focus on the future.  I’ll leave it to TOC’s Leong Sze Hian to describe the problem.

“A new GST voucher will be given to help particularly lower-income and elderly Singaporeans, comprising three components – cash, Medisave top-up and U-Save.

‘So, you pay for your GST increase in cash, but you get the bulk of it back not in cash, but as Medisave top-ups which you can only use for medical purposes, and U-Save which helps you to pay for what has historically been generally increasing utility bills.”

A wicked, mean tot. Could one of the reasons for putting the money into CPF accounts rather than pay cash be to lessen the cost to the government? The real value of the cash in the CPF accounts are steadily and steathily eroded by inflation. With the Medisave account paying 4%, and the ordinary account 2.5%, and inflation at juz below 5%, could the government be hoping that inflation reduces its headline cost by the time the money is withdrawn? Even if inflation returns to the 2% range, the real cost to the government is reduced. As I said, a wicked, mean tot that would never occur to a PAP supporter or a journalist in our constructive, nation-building local media.

But I have to reseve some irritation for the refusal of usually rational bloggers to recognise as a Bloomberg report puts it, “Singapore Shifts Priority From Growth to Curb Income Inequality” . At best, they say very grudgingly, “OK BUT …” 

Following the removal of deadwood from the cabinet, and the building of more public apartments despite a forecasted economic slowdown, the government has moved to address, by way of more than words, four other “toxic” issues that make S’poreans angry: the sheer volume of FTs flooding the streets, the use of FTs to keep wages from rising, congested public transport and growing income disparity.

Now whether the measures announced in the Budget are sufficient to reverse the problems that these four issues have caused, I don’t know. I suspect not, and more has to be done. Nor can anyone be sure that this isn’t all Wayang.

But a step has been taken. Whether the step is small or big, only time will tell. Whether more steps will be taken, again only time will tell. But a step has been taken, and this should be acknowledged by those of us who are not aligned with any of the opposition parties, whose reason or justification for existence, is rightly, to oppose the government. 

Those of us who who are not aligned with any of the opposition parties should not be professional critics of the government. Which reminds me, I found Lucky Tan’s “Threats of Defamation Lawsuits : Not a way to win over netizens….” amusing because maybe the PAP thinks that trying to make friends on the internet is a waste of time given its failure to make the internet a more PAP friendly place. If so, the likes of Zaqy and Baey could find their cushy S$15,000 monthy stipends history at the next general election.

And if it’s all Wayang, we will soon know, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” And come the next general election, the PAP will pay a heavy price.

The Dark Side is preparing for 2016 GE

In Political economy, Political governance on 27/01/2012 at 5:33 am

(Or “Why the PAP could turn the tables in the next GE: if the Opposition remains complacent)

Although what the PAP is doing is observable to the Opposition parties and their fellow travellers on the Internet, they seem blind or indifferent to the PAP’s actions, or both, because of their assumptions and prejudices. Worse, the major Opposition parties are complacent, what with the problems at WP, NSP and SPP (More of this on Monday in a CNY Special — gossip I heard while feasting and gambling).

Two Sundays ago, (as part of his ang pow strategy?) PM promised that, despite the economy slowing down, the government would improve the education and public transport systems, and build more homes so that young couples can start their families. These remarks were made at a Lunar New Year event  in his Teck Ghee constituency, part of the Ang Mo Kio GRC. He also officiated at the re-opening of a wet market and food centre where he said more of such markets will be built over the next few years, with the aim of keeping food prices affordable. Not long ago, such markets were being to a commercial company which promptly increased rentals. He said nothing then. And the HDB and Comrade Mah gave grumblers the finger.

Then last Saturday in his CNY message he said Having children is ultimately a personal decision for families to make, but Government will do its part to reduce the anxieties and burdens of parenthood. Baby Bonuses already help families with the costs of raising children. We are also doing more to help parents balance work and parent­hood, including extending maternity and childcare leave, and encouraging companies to offer flexible working arrangements for employees with children. We are committed to helping young couples obtain their first HDB flat as soon as possible. With government support, childcare has become more affordable, and childcare centres are expanding and providing many more places than before. The critical factor now is not more financial incentives, but creating the supportive social climate and attitudes that will encourage couples to have more children.

This presses so many “hot” buttons: freedom to choose to have babies, social environment, financial help in raising children and affordable housing for the young.

What with the building of more public  flats (despite the slowndown, and possible recession, Comrade Mah must be rolling his eyes in disbelief) and now taking a serious attitude towards other issues that upset voters (transport, education and the rising cost of living and the cost of raising a family, social and monetary, it looks like the government and the PAP have learnt the lesson that “It’s the voters, stupid”.

In the past, we would be told to tighten our belts to survive the slowdown. But given the still high levels, by global standards, of ministerial pay, and Grace Fu’s bitching about her pay cut, it would not be politic to tell S’poreans to lower their expectations. Better to follow the Roman emperors who made sure the populace of Rome had plenty of bread and circuses (gladitorial games). And S’pore has the money, despite what the SDP and Goh Meng Seng say. Even SDP’s most famous ex-member says so. To TJS, S$60bn from the reserves is “small change”. So does Citi, an investment bank**.

Even as late as November, I wasn’t too sure if the PAP and government had learnt the lessom of the May and August elections. In November, newbie PAP acting junior minister (and ex army brigader) was leading raids on foreign workers quarters. Judging from his remarks on Facebook, I assumed he wanted to see if the quarters were fit for human habitation, not whether there were illegal FT workers.

I was thinking to myself, he had better focus on the latter, given that the PAP is perceived by many true blue S’poreans as the “Pro Alien Party” and that the PAP should learn from the HK experience.

The once popular pro-democracy Civic Party suffered a series of defeats in neighborhood council elections in October last year in HK, as pro-Beijing politicians successfully tapped anti-immigrant sentiment as well as public hostility toward environmental measures perceived as harming employment and increasing the government’s construction costs.

The Civic Party had been gaining ground in previous elections, but ran into trouble this year as lawyers who are prominent in the party took on social and environmental causes that were unpopular among many Hong Kong residents. The most divisive issue has been whether more than 200,000 household workers, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, can eventually become eligible for citizenship.

The government and governing PAP is focusing on issues that affect the lives of ordinary S’poreans, shumething the Opposition parties especially the SDP have done for a long time. I hope bleeding heart liberals (especially those writing on or reading blogs like TOC) understand why. There are no votes (and eyeballs) to be won in helping foreigners, convicted criminals and dolphins.

Charity begins at home. Or to put it more nicely, “Conserve compassion: S’poreans come first, second and last”.

Build more homes, improve education and public transport, and keep the cost-of-living from rising too fast; and we shall see that the following comment by Catherine Lim is nothing but liberal, anti-PAP, bourgeois, elitist wishful thinking, “”PAP fatigue” among Singaporeans that is a result of PAP’s lack of nurturing Singaporeans politically, and failing to provide the proper environment for political education and growth.”

And who will care then if ministers pay themselves millions of dollars. I mean even the WP’s “base’ ministerial salary is $852,500 versus the PAP’s $1.1m. Waz 25%? The voters know that if the WP becomes part of the government, they will take the difference and keep quiet. I mean I don’t hear the WP MPs offering to take S$11,000 each, and publicly donating the balance to a charity.

One way the PAP and government can go wrong is that the PAP and govmin don’t do “circuses”. They don’t know how to spend tax-payers’ monies entertaining voters.

The other way is that they love FTs too much, thereby negating the message they are trying to send S’poreans that “S’poreans matter”. We are always hearing that less FTs, less propsperity from the local MSM, quoting alll manner of ministers, officials and “experts”, usually from local universities (esp from SMU) and broking houeses. The latest is variation on the theme that FTs are good for S’pore: yesterday, ST reported an economist from Merrill Lynch, an investment bank, as saying, “Part of the reason for the sticky inflation is that policies such as the tightening of the inflow of foreign workers are keeping wage costs high. These are being passed onto the consumer.” Knowing the reputation of the economist in question, ST most probably left out the other factors he cited, focusing on FT shortage.

FT love also means that the measures to cut back FTs will be not be serious, and enforced lightly, annoying S’poreans.

So there is al to fight for. The PAP’s continued decline is not assured, neither is its revival.


*In a report dated December 2011, Citi said meeting higher expenditure needs without running a fiscal deficit will not be a problem for Singapore’s government. While the fiscal surplus may shrink, its economist estimates that the government can draw on an additional $1-3 billion in net investment returns, without breaching the 50% cap on the amount of long-term expected real returns on reserves.

“Well-off bear biggest brunt of the price increases”

In Economy, Financial competency, Media on 26/01/2012 at 6:13 am

Taz part of a headline in today’s ST.

In the text of the story, it said “the top 20 per cent … were hit by … rate of 5.7 per cent — much higher than the 4.7 per cent for the bottom 20 per cent”.

(ST’s Breaking News reported, “The lowest 20 per cent income group experienced a lower increase in consumer prices at 4.7 per cent, compared to the middle 60 per cent and highest 20 per cent income groups, which experienced CPI inflation of 5.1 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively.”)

The editors and the two reporters Aaron Low (Econs correspondent) and Melissa Tan obviously don’t know their maths.

Say a poor S’porean is earning $12,000 a year: a 4.7%  inflation rate means he had $564 less to spend in the year on other things. For a rich S’porean earning $600,000, he has $34,200 less to spend.

Whose standard of living or savings rate is affected more? Obviously the poor S’porean, yet ST blithely writes, “Well-off bear biggest brunt of the price increases”.

What can I say?

News submerged in “ponding”?

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 25/01/2012 at 6:12 am

The u/m news report appeared in ST’s Breaking News on 21 January 1012. And a much more detailed version in ST.


Better model to predict floods likely in the near future

It will include 3-D land-height map of Marina catchment area for a start

Published on Jan 21, 2012

National water agency PUB could be using a better flood-prediction computer model in the near future.

It will include a 3-D land-height map of just the Marina catchment area for a start, to predict the direction in which rainwater will flow at ground level during storms, and where flooding might occur.

Such a map, which the PUB has commissioned, will depict land height in that area to within 10cm accuracy.

Computer models now in use only predict how rainwater flows within drains and canals, and the intensity of rainfall they can handle.


So it seems that no detailed studies were done on the catchment area that resulted from the new Marina Barrage.  So how can it be claimed by the authorities that the barrage did not cause the “once in 50 yrs” Orchard Rd floods. They occured twice in two months in 2010. And late last year, parts of Orchard Rd were “ponded”. 

No wonder this news came out on a day when S’poreans  were at the start the CNY hols? It was a gd day to “pond” the news? So did the same PR people who advised the use of “ponding” advise releasing the news on a day it would disappear without trace? If so, VivianB should kick the PUB’s new CEO again, juz as he did over the use of “ponding”. [The last two sentences were only added at 9.00am, hrs after the original posting.]

BTW, the “50-year flood” minister (“Speak to me in English” Yacoob) is now in charge of taming the Internet Tsunami. Can’t solve “ponding”, so moved to handling a tidal wave. Taz meritocracy S’porean-style? He is also a poster boy for a “sacrificing” minister. He was an associate professor at NUS earning at most couple of $100,000. He then became junior minister, with a starting salary of abt a million. Wow some sacrifice!

Refute this question PAP?

In Political governance on 25/01/2012 at 6:07 am

The MPs of the Worthless Party didn’t pose a very simple question in parly to the ex-SAF generals. Instead, it was raised by a  poster on the TRE website, see below. 

(I hope that the WP MPs were not and won’t be distracted by whom Yaw may or not have got pregnant.  I was wondering why I didn’t read abt Yaw asking questions or making points during the recent parly debate on salaries. Was it MSM censorship? Or because he wasn’t a brainy WP MP? Looks like it was because he was going to be a dragon baby father.). As to Mrs Chiam raising this point, pigs would fly first.

The WP MPs should be going for the jagular (like Lawrence Wong tried to do to WP: he failed because the timing waz wrong. Everyone winds down for CNY, even the minorities, not juz the Chinese and Perankan) 

The question I’m referring to appeared as a comment in this on TRE. I don’t think the PAP dares even trying to answer it. (I’ve added my comments: non italics and in square brackets]


January 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm Fairy(Quote)

If BG Tan Chin Juan is now making $1.1 million after 40% discount, do you think BG Tan will have made $1.8 million per annum if he had joined the private sector after SAF instead of PAP? [I would amplify by adding Kee Chiu, Heng , at the $1.8m mark, and Lawrence Wong at the $770,000 mark. Only one Lee Hsian Yang moved from the SAF to SingTel and serious money, and SingTel is not strictly in the private sector.] 

I ask this because the whole premise of the salary recommendation is that these people are making a 40% sacrifice, which with the exception of a few proven private sector cross-overs such as NEH [Ng Eng Hen], [VivianB] and Shanmugam, the rest are from the public sector with no proven private sector capabilities. Off course now they say they are paid high salaries based on “future performance capabilities”. I will be sent to IMH (institute of mental health) if I were to tell my boss to pay me high salary now based on my future performance capabilities!

Turning their arguments around, it means that the private [sector] will surely grab these super capable ministers and pay them full private sector wage the moment they are no longer a minister. After GE2011, there were three “super capable” ministers available, but I don’t see any private sector corporation making a song & dance to celebrate their good fortune to be able to snare one or more of them. [More on this see]

From Zeroes to Dragons: What KJ, GMS, PS, Tin & Han should do

In Political governance, Wit on 20/01/2012 at 4:24 am

Here’s my equivalent of a Chinese New Year hamper for KennthJ, Goh Meng Seng, Pritam Singh, Kate Spade Tin and Han the “foot-in-mouther”: advice on how to become heroes or Dragons again in the case of the first three and how to become Dragons in the case of Tin and Han

KennethJ wants to relaunch RP after its crew deserted leaving him (just before the general elections) a captain without a crew. Seeing this, the voters never came onboard.

Why not use his undoubted skills as an economist (Double First in Economics from Cambridge) to draw up an index to show S’poreans to see how well-off or worse-off S’poreans have done under PAP rule over the years? The key components would be inflation (including HDB and other property price rises), transport costs and employment (including salary rises or falls).

He can call it the “JBJ-RP Happiness Index”, linking it to both dad and the RP.

I am suggesting the creation of this index because

— I know of younger S’poreans who support the Opposition have found that asking their parents if their standard of living had improved since the last GE (in 2006), was a good way of getting them to vote Opposition for the first time in their lives in May last year.

— And Ronald Reagan won a presidential election by asking Americans if they were better-off than when Jimmy Carter became president.

Of course, KennethJ would be taking a risk. The PAP might get its act together and improve our lives dramatically. But as a hedgie, he would know it’s all about the risk/ reward ratio. On the reward side, if in the next GE the index proves to be a big booster for the Opposition, his reputation would be made. On the negative side, he can’t go lower than showing us publicly that he hadn’t read in detail a report that he attacked.

As to GMS, what about doing shumething, anything with the Chinese section that he founded (to loud self publicity in early December last year)? I mean TOC had a great December (PAP MP’s scalp and detractors grinding their teeth in disbelief at its “lucky” escape) but the Chinese section and GMS were AWOL or MIA, or both.

To be fair, signs are looking gd that the Chinese section will be active in the new yr. It published a translated a Cat Lim article, juz as 2011 was ending and had a piece on ministerial salaries by Goh.

Gd luck GMS, you got three big handicaps to overcome. You were adviser to TKL who lost his deposit in a badly run, ill-funded, eccentric campaign. As adviser you got to take some of the blame. NSP also didn’t make the break through in 2011 and you personally had a weak team and ran a lousy campaign in Tampines. My WP friends think they could have done a better job there.

Juz translate the gd stuff that TOC is already producing. Or joining TOC is juz another Wayang?

Readers might think it strange that I classify PritamS as hero turned zero. In 2011, he got his law degree and made it as a WP MP in Aljunied GRC. Trouble is that he got an undisciplined mouth in a party famous for “Silence is the better part of valour”, and then turning this into an advantage. Twice in eight months, he made comments that the constructive, nation building SPH papers “twisted’ against him. As Kum Hong said of the second time, he should try to avoid getting misinterpreted. I mean even Tin took a pot shot at him and got away with it. How bad can one get? The other time was when he spoke of “coalition” and was rebuked by WP’s Sec-Gen. 

PritamS, is the Weak Link in the WP: “Sit down and shut up” or “Learn from Show Mao” or “Silence is golden”. And if he can’t, Sylvia and Low, tape his mouth.  It is encouraging that he didn’t say anything in the parly debate on ministerial salaries that could be “misunderstood”.

If Tin Pei Ling wants to be a PAP superstar and celebrity that she was earmarked to be,  she should get pregnant this year, and talk about having four kids before the next GE. She never made it as Young PAPpy superstar and celebrity, what with her brain being dead when it comes to social media skills and ideas on helping poor (do the bare minimum to keep them alive is the implication of her speech at some conference). Funnily, I’ve been told that she is conscientious in her ward work, and when she was a grassroot volunteer. And quite a fun person when she isn’t on PAP duty mode.

Still it seems that LKY can’t stand the sight or sound of her. But as he believes in S’poreans breeding more and eugenics (her hubbie is one smart fellow and can compensate for Tin’s defects in the brain department), she could win him over by breeding for S’pore.

Imagine turning up at a MPS, a day before her baby is due with ST and MediaCorp journalists trailing her. She will show S’poreans how devoted a PAPpie can be in serving in the people. Better still if baby wants out and she is rushed to hospital. Betterest, if she miscarriages. Every mum in S’pore will feel for her. And bloggers like me will have to stop taking pot shots at her.

And given S’pore’s fertility replacement rate of 1.16, talking of four babies by the next GE, might inspire other gals to want to have babies. At the very least, Nicole Seah has to keep pace, if her partner has a clue on what to do.

The cultural elite who promote Melvyn the Dodger as heloo also bitch that the govmin should promote Singlish. Now Seng Han Thong shows us the perils of speaking Singlish. Hard to understand,  open to different interpretations. So Han should offer to front a “Speak proper English” campaign.  

So come on Zeroes, time to be soaring Dragons.

Uniting the Opposition: Framework for Consensus

In Political governance, Wit on 18/01/2012 at 6:17 am

It’s a good time to talk about uniting the Opposition what with the Opposition more-or-less united in attacking the PAP and government over ministerial salaries and train breakdowns.

So is Tan Jee Say doing anything to unite the Opposition?

A usually unreliable source tells that Tan Jee Say has not been doing anything on his pledge to unify the Opposition. Hell’s bells, he can’t be blamed. He fought two elections during period of April – August 2011, and has juz edited, contributed three articles, and published a book. If anything, he needs a break. He is after all turning 58 juz after the Chinese New Year festival’s end. And I would have tot, it would be a full time job keeping away boyars from his daughters.

But after the Chinese New Year hols, to show he is sincere about his promise, he’d better get to work. 

So to help him along, here’s my equivalent of a CNY hamper (snide remarks included as the sour stuff to balance off the sweet stuff).

After PM’s apology in May, juz before the May election, Yawning Bread wrote two manifestos saying, “To mean anything, these words have to be backed by action. I think the following ten-point plan should be the minimum proof of sincerity”.

To help TJS prepare the framework to unite the opposition parties, I’ve amended the manifestos slightly as the basis for a  questionnaire that TJS should use to send to the various oppositon parties.

(Hope TJS doesn’t mind the send-ups in the draft covering letter. Juz having a bit of fun at the expense of a fellow Rafflesian.) 


To the Secretary-Generals of the WP, SPP, SDP, RP, SDA and the President of the NSP

Dear Sir

As you are aware, I have made it my mission to unite the various opposition parties, so that come the next general election, they are in a position to form a coalition government that can take the place of the PAP.

Some of you have welcomed my mission with various degrees of warmness, while some have studiously ignored me. Never mind, as an RI boy, I’m used to people ignoring my brilliance.

As I was

— an RI boy;

a scholar with a PPE degree from Oxford (NOT NUS);

— a high-flying civil servant over 20 years ago;

— a top financial wizard (I also got big house despite not getting ministerial salary);

— a smooth operator (“political opportunist” to my detractors) who can talk of providing shared expertise to all the Opposition parties, then lobby to join one, and when that failed, join another and later leave it without upsetting too many people in the process;

— awarded a COE to contest the last presidential election; and

— someone with 25% of voters behind me (5% more people voted for me than for the WP, and NSP combined and that the combined votes of all the opposition parties was only 40% more than the people who voted for me), 

I have a mandate from the majority of those that voted for the opposition parties (40% of the electorate) and I know what needs to be done to unify the opposition parties: make ME your LEADER.

No, juz joking.

Seriously, I know it is it important to establish where the various parties stand on the various issues that affect S’poreans. To that end, I have prepared a draft “manifesto” in two parts in an attempt to tease out where the parties stand on various issues

  • Part 1 contains issues where I think the parties can agree on; and
  • Part 2 is on the issues where the parties may have differences.

I would like you to answer with a “Agree/ Disagree/ No Views” on each maifesto point. If you Disagree or have no views, please give yr reasons. The idea is to try to find some common ground on issues, as well to as to see what separates the parties.

I’ll collate the results, analyse them and publish yr responses and my analysis on a Facebook page


Part 1

Issues the parties can easily agree on

Please state “Agree/ Disagree/ No Views.” beside each point If you Disagree or have no views, please give your reasons separately

1. Halve ministerial salaries from the proposals that the PM has just accepted.

2. Publish the full accounts for the Youth Olympic Games.

3. Publish the transactional prices at which the Housing and Development Board pays the Singapore Land Authority for land.

4. Peg selling prices of new public housing as follows:

(a) smaller flats pegged to the mean of the 3rd decile of household income;

(b) mid-sized flats pegged to the mean of the 4th and 5th decile of household income;

(c) larger flats pegged to the mean of the 6th decile of household income.

5. Complete all urban rail projects on time and initiate construction of two more metro rail lines by the end of the next parliamentary term.

6. Promise to achieve a reduction of the Gini coefficient of household income of Singapore citizen households to 40 by the end of the next parliamentary term, with a longer-term Gini target of something in the mid-30′s.

Remember that the Gini coefficient of household income is a measure of the income gap between the rich and the poor. Reducing the Gini coefficient means the shrinking of this income gap. This means lifting people out of poverty and addressing the problems of an escalating cost of living. There are multiple ways of doing this; the exact tools can be left to the government of the day to decide so long as the target is achieved.

7. No increase in the total population (citizens + permanent residents + foreigners) by more than 0.5 percent per annum.

8. Abolish group representation constituencies.

9. Create a new, independent Elections Commission with rules as to how to draw up electoral boundaries that are compact and topographically sensible and with voter population in any constituency not to vary by more than 10 percent from the mean of all constituencies.

10. Set up a comprehensive healthcare safety net.

11. Repeal the Internal Security Act.

Part 2

Issues the parties may have differences on

12. Introduce proportional representation for at least one-third of the seats in Parliament.

13. Require all members of parliament to work as such (and as heads of respective town councils) fulltime, except if they take up political appointments in government.

14. Lower the candidature qualification requirements for the presidency.

15. Publish accounts of our sovereign wealth funds.

16. Detach all magistrates, judges and judicial officers from the executive branch; locate them in a separate judicial branch overseen by an independent commission responsible to its charter and the President. The commission will have the power to appoint judges and magistrates. All Supreme Court judges should have fixed tenure until they decide to retire or die. No judge will have renewable terms or term extensions as is presently the case.

16. Abolish the death penalty.

17. Abolish the Societies Act.

18. Abolish all censorship, leaving only a rating system in place; abolish collateral controls (e.g. venue licensing, good-behaviour bonds) that make certain rating classifications censorship in all but name.

19. Repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, and have constitutional guarantees for non-discrimination on grounds of gender and sexual orientation, in accordance with United Nations human rights standards.

20. Nationalise the train and bus public transport system.

TOC’s Fifth Anniversary

In Media, Political governance on 16/01/2012 at 5:24 am

Many years ago, someone who called a party said publicly during the party, “Everyone here is eating and drinking at my expense, but half of you can’t wait to make nasty comments abt me and the party.”

I attended TOC’s do last Friday, and ate more than my fair share. The programme was enjoyable, certainly funnier than if the president had been able to attend. I’m sure that there would be some self-censorship, out of courtesy. One does not offend the guest-of-honour.

So, I hope the Core Team and TOC supporters don’t think that I’m like one of the ungrateful guests at my friend’s party all that many years ago about what I’m going to say.

In 2005, Today newspaper had its fifth anniversary bash. Triumpalism was the in the air, with a slick video boasting of how Today had overcome a dirty tricks campaign by an unnamed media empire.  I don’t blame the staff for doing what they did. It was a natural reaction to what they had done: survive and build a loyal readership, despite everything the SPH group could throw at them.

But one Goh Chok Tong in his speech said,  “Today newspaper is only five years old. Compared to The Straits Times, it is still a growing child. The fifth birthday is not really a major milestone whether for a child or a commercial organisation”.

Many guests, self included, tot this was a most ungracious comment even for a “foot-in-mouther” like him. He was after all the guest-of-honour. And just as a host should not offend the guest-of-honour, a well-brought up guest should not offend his host.

The remarks turned out to a harbinger of the castration of the newspaper’s editorial team. A few months later, Today began its long, slow, painful slide into ST Super Lite, losing, by our admittedly low standards, its edginess.

 So let’s not be too triumpalist, or too optimistic for TOC, as many were on Friday especially Catherine Lim who gave a great acceptance performance* for TOC’s inaugral Lifetime Achievement Award.  Keep Nemesis away. Remember the Gods don’t like Hubris. TOC had two “lucky” escapes or near brushes with death last December when  “A significant part of what has been attributed to Mr Seng [by TOC] is false, to be quite blunt about it,” had been proven true by the time the remark was made. No-one from SMRT was willing to admit that anyone from SMRT made the racist comment that MP Han attributed to “SMRT PR person”.

I’m sure you know what one “lucky” escape is (It got the facts right). But the other is less obvious. Suppose if TOC had done what Cherian George and the Law minister wanted it to do and what ST would have done (remember Cherian has very, very close connections to ST): print the headline,”MP says SMRT PR person says …”.

TOC would have been soundly beaten up by Cherian, the minister and many others for not checking whether Han had quoted SMRT correctly. Suppose also that sensitive Malays or trouble seeking Indians, or both, had rioted, destroying SMRT property and injuring staff and police: TOC would not have had a birthday do.

The Core Team would be in jail (courtesy of ISA) while the Public Prosecutor decided which law to use to ensure that the judges could throw them in jail, and throw away the key.

So TOC and supporters: be humble, watchful and careful. Better to be alive and productive than to die and be remembered like a legend. Lions like Dr Chee and JBJ live too dangerously for “lesser mortals” like self. Be like Chiam**: Do the right thing in a low-key but determined way. The water buffalo can be just as dangerous to its enemies as the lion.  

Mrs Chiam got it right when she said, “TOC’s now the mainstream, because Singaporeans say so”. So, no more hand wringing Ravi Philemon about not being accepted by the PAP, government and their friends as part of the media*. Vox Populi, the people have spoken.


*I’ll rant abt the substance of her performance after the CNY hols.

**Taz not to say I agree with everything he does. Brickbats after the CNY hols.

***Unless TOC’s Core Team want to be part of the mega-bucks establishment or have the dubious honour of the likes of ministers and MPs like Zaqy acknowledge officially that they “engage” with TOC, or have the honour of the president attending a TOC do, or any combination of the three. Me? Prostitution sounds a more honourable way to earn serious money. And I’m anti-social. Threes a crowd.

S’poreans got money meh?

In Economy, Political economy on 06/01/2012 at 7:15 am

The SDP, KennethJ, Lina Chiam and many regular contributors to TOC and TR are forever harping that standards of living for the majority of S’poreans have dropped since the 1990s. I take these comments with a large pinch of salt, even though I am an agnostic when it came to the claims of the PAP and government that living standards had improved throughout the noughties. (What am I supposed to think when the CEO of HDB tells me that shrinking flats means a higher standard of living for occupants? Yes I am misquoting but not that blatant leh.) 

They would say that wouldn’t they?

Still I was surprised yesterday evening when catching up with the local propoganda sheets, I read, While Singapore has 900,000 HDB flats and 557,000 car park lots  [or 619 for every 1000 flats by my calculations], Mr Khaw noted the problem of car park shortages was mostly felt in older HDB estates, which were built under old car park provision norms. In estates with four-room flats for example, 560 car park lots were planned for every 1,000 flats.

“This was adequate in the past but not any more. More Singaporeans now own cars and some own more than one car,” said Mr Khaw, who noted that 5 per cent of HDB households own two or more cars. The equivalent norm now is 710 car park lots for every 1,000 flats. With these new norms, Mr Khaw assured that new HDB flats would come with adequate car parks. Today on 24 December.

This means that despite rising public housing prices and COE prices, more HDB dwellers (remember over 80% of S’poreans live in HDB flats) are owning cars than ever before.

Of course, this could be another Khawism like his S$8 heart operation.

Assuming, Khaw was not fibbing about the numbers, will the SDP, KennethJ, Lina Chiam or the many regular contributors to TOC and TR Emeritus who are forever harping that standards of living for the majority of S’poreans have fallen, explain how come so many ordinary S’poreans are rich enough to own cars (some even two) despite rising COE and HDB prices?

Does this have anything to do with the easy availability of credit? And if so, is it good or bad for S’pore?

Maybe the 60% of voters who voted PAP are not deft? And one LKY is right to wonder why 40% of the voters are not gtrateful to him and the PAP.

Come on PAP critics. The silence is deafening.

Maths not strong point of Gerald Ee and friends

In Financial competency, Political governance on 06/01/2012 at 7:08 am

Taz my impression after seeing via the Internet Table A of the Recommendations and u/m from statement by RP. Funny that a commitee where there are two* trained and very, very senior accountants (Gerald Ee and Ms Fang Ai Lien) can make these elementary maths errors. Wonder what other errors of maths and logic, there are? Check this out.


Instead of making assumptions abt how much the office-holders would be paid (including bonuses) under the new scheme vis-a-vis their take home pay in 2010 (including bonuses), why not give their basic salaries (less bonuses) in 2010 and compare it to their new basic salaries? No need to make assumptions on the bonuses that will be paid.

Doing it the way the committe did it could give rise to the suspicion (reasonable) that the bonuses are “guaranteed”.

Basic misunderstanding of median calculations
We … would like to draw attention to a fundamental beginner’s mathematical error made by the committee. According to today’s report by CNA,

“The committee said that with the discount, the pay is actually closer to the top 1,400th earner.”

Wrong! The median of the top 1000 is the mid-point between the 500th and the 501st earner. Applying a 40% discount to the amount earned by the 500th earner does not mean that the resultant salary would necessarily be close to that earned by the 1,400th earner or even the 700th earner (which is what 40% more than 500 comes to ). It would depend on the distribution of incomes between the 500th and the 700th earner. A reasonable inference resulting from this kind of elementary statistical mistake leads one to doubt the quality of the statistics used by the committee to underpin the pegging of the salaries and the Key Performance Indicators for bonus awards. We cannot believe that the committee would deliberately be disingenuous or mislead the public with such an erroneous statement so we must assume that this kind of fundamental error is merely indicative of the ‘top talent’ that the government attracts.

A committee that cannot calculate the median of the top 1000 is either deliberately misleading the public or incompetent is the very emotional personal response by KennethJ, son of the late JBJ, a man of strong passions.


Update on 6 January 2012 at 7.12pm: Seems Po’ad Mattar is also a very senior accountant. So three accountants and committee can still goof when it comes to maths. Sigh or LOL take yr pick.

Tony Tan deserves shume credit

In Political governance on 05/01/2012 at 12:55 pm

During the last PE, one Tan Kin Lian offered to take a salary of only S$2m a year, donating the rest to charity. One Tony Tan kept quiet on the issue.  TKL was widely praised by netizens, while TT was condemned for not being like TKL.

Well Tony Tan has accepted the recommendation of Gerald Ee and friends that he gets around S$1.5m. Now taz 25% lower than what TKL was willing to take, so those that condemned TT should retract their comments.  

Fair is fair.

I’m not in the mood to plough (CNY round the corner) thru the details of the Recomendations, and based on what I see on the Internet, one comparison table (Table A) from the Recommendations looks dodgy (bad methodology — why not use minister’s basic pay without bonuses for 2010 compare it to the basic — without all the discretionary bonuses– under the Recommendations). So there will be minimal blogging from me on this very impt issue.   Still trying to find the mood to analyse whether the yield on MIIF is worth the risk.

I’ll leave the heavy lifting on this to others.

Three Cheers for VivianB, Pls Go Yaacob

In Infrastructure, Political governance on 04/01/2012 at 5:31 am

No, I’ve not gone wacko like Quan Yifeng on the three occasions she was found guilty of mischief (twice) or criminal violence (one). (Err wonder if the tea or teas she was promoting had the effect of lowering or raising her wacko EQ?).  But despite all my previous rants abt VivianB, I think he deserves credit for acknowledging that there is a problem with the flood control system along Orchard Road. I mean the new CEO of PUB was in late December still in denial over the matter (S’poreans were complacent according to him, imitating SMRT’s CEO), witness the “ponding” media release.

This was shumething Yaacob refused to acknowledge even daring to claim that the flooding at Orchard Road was the fault of a 50-year flood. Yah great excuse. Two such floods in less than two months.

No but thaz not reason why he has to “move on”. As Arts minister, he is responsible for allowing one Melvyn the Dodger to perform at a venue that belongs to the state. The National Musuem website even had this

Dreaming Debussy : Melvyn Tan, Piano Solo

Venue Exhibition Gallery, Basement
Date Thurs 5 Jan & Fri 6 Jan 2012, 8pm.

Melvyn Tan opens the series …

DPM Teo rightly said years ago , Whether such NS defaulters, who have answered for their offences in Court and paid the penalty, should be eventually accepted back into our fold, is not something that MINDEF can determine. It is for society to decide. And society will also look at whether such individuals, apart from having paid a penalty, are sincerely contrite for having failed to serve our nation, and whether they have attempted to make amends.

(Note that DPM Teo admitted that the Dodger had gamed the system, Melvyn Tan’s case has highlighted an inadequacy in penalties for those who have defaulted for so many years that they are no longer able to discharge their National Service obligations in full. Perhaps MINDEF should have acted earlier. I concede that. But MINDEF will now be acting to address this inadequacy by asking the Prosecutor to press for jail sentences in serious cases of NS defaulters. This will help to send a clear signal that defaulting on National Service is not acceptable.

By allowing Melvyn the Dodger to perform in the National Museum (albeit the Basement), Yaacob is saying, on behalf of the cabinet, that dodging NS is acceptable. Will he and Mrs Yaacob grace one of these nights to show S’poreans that NS is for losers? And as a sign that his sons will give two fingers to their NS liabilities?

Yaacob kanna snookered? As I’ve written, Melvyn … gave two fingers to S’pore, and now to the performing arts elite, he is a heloo. What is beyond me is why the performing arts elite want him back? To put the noses of ordinary S’poreans out of joint? Or because he charges nominal fees because the elite treats him as a heloo, not as the pariah he deserves to be treated as? And why does the government allow this elite to get away with this? Hey PM, the voters have spoken. One FT MP sneering NSers is enough.  Voters also don’t care for self-appointed elites too much.

He was back last year for a concert, but ST didn’t cover his return, so only the artistic elite knew he was back. This year, the elite is determined to make us S’poreans eat crow over him?

Sadly Uniquely S’porean

In Uncategorized, Wit on 03/01/2012 at 5:42 am

You may have missed these Uniquely S’porean happenings because they happened during the hols between 23 december 2011 and 2 January 2012:

PUB bans, then unbans the “F” word

Initially PUB called time on the “F” word. It was now called “ponding” . Then PUB dropped the “P” word: “ponding”. It has resumed the use of the word “flooding” and “flash floods” and  as this report shows, at least for what happened at Liat Towers.

So despite a new CEO, PUB is even more dysfunctional than ever. Perhaps more so. As the CEO was previously in charge of coastal defence, Indonesian pirates must be annoyed they didn’t raid Sentosa Cove during his term of office. They would have got away with booty galore. And he would have blamed S’poreans that they were complacent, hence the attack. He blamed our complacency for the two 50-year floods in less than two months in 2010. Funny, he kinda quiet since the “ponding” at Orchard. PUB’s silly, belated reply: denies its own media release.

Elitist attitude condoned?

This JC student is upset because Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students have better facilities than “our brightest students, who will become Singapore’s future leaders” (I assume he includes himself) . Not surprise here given the sense of entitlement that JC students have and the high opinion they hold of themselves even at crappy JCs like Catholic, Temasek, Anderson, Tampines, Hwa Chong, National and Victoria. But no JC principal or MoE minister or official rebuked the boy. This I find astonishing given the results of the two elections in 2011. Government cannot multi-task? Focuing on SMRTgate and HanGate? Even WP NCMP ticked boy off lightly. Worse, TRE was nowhere in sight. Sigh. TRE should have named and shamed his parents and his JC. Boy has a bright future as Young PAPpie. He later said he didn’t mean to “attack” ITE students. Sounds like MP Han.

TV Star from Hell only gets 15 months probation

Many S’poreans were upset that FT “MediaCorp artiste” Quan Yifeng only got 15 months probation after she pleaded guilty to a charge of “mischief after she pulled out the taxi fare meter and spilling water onto the receipt printer of a taxi on June 26 after a dispute between her and a taxi driver. The damage amounted to S$70 … Two other charges – of kicking the right passenger door of the taxi and pushing and attempting to kick the 53-year-old driver – were also taken into consideration.”

This probation was despite her having form in being a dangerous and violent wacko. She was once fined for criminal violence:  getting into a fight with a bowling alley attendant.  And was fined for mischief : driving without a licence and causing an accident.

What was astounding was that despite this history of hurting others, the judge was influenced by a claim of depression more than 10 yrs ago, and that she was on anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and sleep medication when she turned violent. Medicine no work, so not her fault? So considerate leh to a wacko with a sense of entitlement? Look at her record of not caring if she hurt other people? No wonder she is a single parent. No, her hubby didn’t disppear, and his body never found. They are separated.

After her escape, she held a triumphalist media conference and blamed her troubles on everyone (including her beloved child, she claimed she was defending from cabbie. The child’s birth, more than 10 years ago, was the cause of her post natal depression) except  herself.

Her daughter didn’t do well in her Primary 6 exams. The principal and teachers must be worried that this mum from Hell will pay the school a visit?

Even if she doesn’t visit the school, she is likely to get her comeuppance soon. Given her record of being ready and willing to harm others and their property, she is likely to break the terms of her probation within the next 15 months. Then the judge will have no choice but to jail her and throw away the key.

Isn’t MediaCorp indulgent to keep her as an “artiste”. She is not exactly a role model for young S’poreans what with her record of hurting the “little people”. Or is MediaCorp indulgent because its CEO’s wife was once jailed (many yrs ago, when he was only a senior executive) for hurting her maid? Goh Chok Tong “the forgiver of mistakes” (remember ex- PAP MP and convicted criminal now facing three charges of cheating and Criminal Breach of Trust, Choo Wee Khiang, who GCT said we should forgive for his racist remarks) wrote a letter commending her to the sentencing judge. BTW, to be fair to MediaCorp, it fired this convicted maid abuser.

Sack Quan Yifeng. She can go back to Taiwan and hurt people there, if she got the guts. Taiwanese are no sheep. Let’s hope no-one dies because of the judge’s compassion towards her.

Making a mockery of NS

Can you blame 1 in 3 PRs for refusing to do NS? The performing arts elite have invited NS dodger Melvyn Tan for a concert performance. Shows that one can dodge NS , and still be in the in-crowd if one has the talent and the money. Even the constructive, nation building ST is on his side. Telling us to move on?

Sigh. This reminds me why I’m a quitter in residence. At least I did my NS 1973 — 1976. Melvyn, around my age, gave two fingers to S’pore, and now to the performing arts elite, he is a heloo. What is beyond me is why the performing arts elite want him back? To put the noses of ordinary S’poreans out of joint? Or because he charges nominal fees because the elite treats him as a heloo, not as the pariah he deserves to be treated as? And why does the government allow this elite to get away with this? Hey PM, the voters have spoken. One FT MP sneering NSers is enough.  Voters also don’t care for self-appointed elites too much.

He was back last year for a concert, but ST didn’t cover his return, so only the artistic elite knew he was back. This year, the elite is determined to make us S’poreans eat crow over him?

PM’s “give and take”

Err hope his NY message of “give and take” isn’t code for ministries and agencies to start upping their charges to take from us. Juz kinding.

Wishing the PM a gd year. May he will connect with us S’poreans in 2012 now that dad and Goh Chok Tong are no longer in the cabinet to remind him that they know better.

What Santa gave Han for Christmas

In Political governance, Wit on 29/12/2011 at 5:17 am

(Or “Why it’s all the fault of Goh Chok Tong” or “Unfair to call PAP racist, PAP loves Minorities”)

When Santa read in ST that Seng Han Thong had admitted he had misheard SVP “Do not ever damage SMRT property even if people are dying”* Goh’s radio comments, he dropped in on Christmas Eve at Han’s palatial mansion to deliver a made-in-China hearing aid and a gift voucher to see a Chinese Ear Nose and Throat specialist.

In politically correct socities like Britain and the US, where Han would be branded by the “great and the good” as a casual racist, his brain only hearing what he wants to hear, Santa would have given him a gift voucher to see a psychiatrist.  But this is S’pore, where things are different. Minorities are expected to be sensitised, not sensitive.

 Seriously, he must have a serious hearing problem if he could have missed out the “C” word in”Malay, Chinese, or Indians”. I mean the “C” word appeared in between the “M” and “I” words. If it had come first or last, a mishearing was possible. Anyway, I hope he visits an ENT specialist and a psychiatrist. We don’t want him inflaming racial tensions, do we? Or him discrediting the PAP and NTUC, where he holds senior positions.

The PM should blame one Goh Chok Tong for making PAPpies such easy targets when it comes to accusations of racism. How can PAP leaders ever be accused of racism when two out of four of the PM’s most trusted ministers are Indians (only 9% of the population), and until August we had an Indian as president for 12 years. And the Attorney General and the MD of the central bank are Indians. So how can the PAP be racist, if it has placed five Indians in prominent, important roles? If anything, the 75% of S’poreans that are Chinese, should be upset, which they are not.

Sorry, coming back to “Peanuts” Goh. In 1992, PAP MP Choo Wee Khiang complained in parly that he once visited Little India and found it in complete darkness “not because there was no light, but because there were too many Indians around there”. It was Opposition MP Chiam See Tong that objected to Choo’s comments, not a PAP MP or minister. Choo remained unrepentant saying he was talking about foreign Indians, not local Indians. Later, he apologised.

There were public calls for him to resign or be sacked from parly. But PM Goh Chok Tong defended him saying that Choo had apologised, that he didn’t mean any harm, and that we should “move on” because people make mistakes “from time to time”. 

Well his trust in Choo was misplaced. In 1999, Choo was jailed and fined for cheating offences. Taz not all. Today, he is facing three charges of accepting bribes totalling some S$2,300 from former coaches and a national player when he was STTA president from 1991 to 2008. He also faces one count of criminal breach of trust alleging he and then-STTA manager Koh Li Ping misappropriated S$8,400 from the association. If convicted, Choo faces a fine of up to S$100,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding five years for each of the corruption charges. Criminal breach of trust carries a penalty of up to 15 years’ jail and a fine.

Some more “no harm” mistakes “from time to time”, Mr Goh? Gd judge of character, that Mr Goh.

Coming back to Han. At the time of his balls-up, he was saying SMRT needs to improve its public communications, “from this incident, we also noted that the public communication system is not adequate to address issues like this”. He is the one who has problems communicating, methinks

But no need to pity him. The latest is that he is trying to weasel his way out of the hole he dug himself in by now saying he was trying to defend workers who spoke bad English** and “My wish to defend you was further taken out of context and misconstrued by The Online Citizen”***.

He is trying hard, very hard.


*OK, OK. I exaggerate a little, but not that much

**He is now denying he misheard it seems. “Unfortunately, in trying to defend you, I made the mistake of only mentioning our “Malay” and “Indian” workers where the original quote in the radio interview I was commenting on had cited MRT staff of different races, “Malay, Chinese, or Indians or any other race”.

***On this point, I have defended TOC elsewhere saying that

— SHT owns those comments because he misquoted the original remarks, giving them a racist twist (even if unintended); and

 — given his status as a PAP MP and unionist, and the sensitivity of race here, he didn’t refute what he tot he had heard  as he should have done. Instead he poured kerosene liberally.

PAP and the Christmas Spirit

In Political governance on 23/12/2011 at 5:29 am

(Or “The PAP Repents?”)

PAP MP and Parly Sec, Sim Ann, wrote of increasing social safety nets in an ST artcle yesterday. This reminded me that last Friday, TOC’s Uncle Leong talked of the latest stats report on employment and unlike SPH and MediaCorp publications and channels told us the not so good news. In particular: “Nominal mean monthly earnings rose over the year by 5.4% in the third quarter of 2011, lower than the 6.0% growth in the preceding quarter. After taking into account headline inflation, real average monthly earnings slipped by 0.2%”.

Since real average monthly earnings fell by 0.2% year-on-year, could real median earnings have fallen by a greater percentage?

This, in turn, reminded me that three Tuesdays ago, what with a slowdown (and possibly a recession) looming, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged the NTUC to pay closer attention to lower-income, less-skilled workers and help them get a “fair deal” – in terms of working conditions, skills training and decent salaries.

First a quibble: shouldn’t he have said, “fairer deal”? With a cabinet minister as the secretary-general of NTUC, they would already have a “fair deal”, wouldn’t they? Or was this a slip of the tongue?. Or was he juz being honest in admitting that these workers were not getting a fair deal what with the competition from FTs suppressing wages.

He expressed his confidence that S’pore can achieve its “ambitious” target of raising productivity by 2 to 3% over the next decade, “We’re putting in the courses, we’re putting in the incentives, we’re putting in the support to employers and companies so that they can make the investment, so that they can transform the way they operate.”

This would be difficult if FTs continue flooding in because for any given level of capacity, the more workers there are, productivity drops. (Of course, if the additional workers allow capacity to expand, then productivity can increase. But the low level of productivity growth here, which even the government admits is worrying (but which Tan Jee Say thinks could be a statistical fluke) shows that the additional FTs are here not to add to capacity, but to cut costs.

The total number of non-Singaporeans (PRs and foreigners) grew by 80,400 in 2011, compared to 59,100 in 2010, according to the latest government statistics. This is a year-on-year increase in the rate of growth of non-Singaporeans of about 36%. Didn’t the PM promise to cut back on the number of FTs being allowed in earlier this year? Instead the numbers are increasing.

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt for trying, the 36% increase shows the magnitude of the task to cut back FTs to raise productivity.

But let’s give some credit to the PM. He conceded (Remember the PAP never ever conceded anything when dad or “Peanuts” Goh was in charge), “We cannot assume that if wages go up, the lower-income will be carried along.” With globalisation and fierce competition, the lower-income will have a problem competing unless special efforts are made to help them.  

I’m glad to hear that he no longer expects the trickle-down effect and retraining to take care of this problem: hence the “special efforts”. 

The government will, he reminded us, increase social spending, and ensure that the low-income workers and their families get access to education, housing, healthcare and transport. It will also build on its Workfare Income Supplement scheme.

Nothing new in these words, but gven that he and the PAP had a bad election result, things will be done to make the governing PAP more popular. There won’t be anymore VivianB sneers like,“How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?” Rather more Sim Ann type comments.

But as usual, the PAP wants “tripartite responsibility” to ensure that the lower-income “benefit from the country’s progress”. Yes the employers should play their part, but asking the workers? Kinda rich of asking the weakest of the three to help out the government and employers?

Anyway, as it’s the Christmas season when even Scrooge repented and became generous, let’s not be too harsh on the PM and the PAP and, its soul mate, the NTUC?

Have a gd time yah. Gd feasting and boozing. You can repent later for yr holiday indulgences.

(I’ll post my tots on the casual racism of Seng Thong Han next week)

Note: No postings on 24, 25 and 26 December.

Dec 2010: A quirky look back (Part II)

In Political governance on 21/12/2011 at 5:37 am

Continuation of

This time last year, Goh Meng Seng was strutting around as Secretary-General of the NSP, talking the talk about his “ministerial specific” strategy that would win the NSP seats in parly. Well the NSP had a lousy election save in Marine Parade (thanks to the people’s princess Nicole Seah and the PAP’s Clownish Trio of then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, his side-kick Kate Spate Tin, and her assistant “fat fingered” Denise), with GMS nowhere to be seen in the GRC he was contesting (He seemed more interested in having his photo taken with Nicole was the view of WP members who had wanted the party to contest the GRC.). No surprise that GMS is no longer Secretary-General of the NSP, and will let his NSP party membership lapse. He has moved on from NSP as he had moved on from WP after the 2006 GE.

But you can’t keep someone like GMS away from publicity and activism. He is now heading the newly formed Chinese section of TOC. Planning to use TOC to keep in the public eye? But TOC needs to expand its audience beyond English-educated “networked public”*, and as Show Mao is not available, GMS is better than nothing.

Talking of TOC, their motto seems to be, “Live dangerously”. This time last year, it was spoiling for a fight with the MIW,  what with it leaving the cyberworld to organise a seminar in which it invited all the political parties. It even had the audacity to leave an empty chair when the PAP ignored its invitation. It got its comeuppance in early 2011 when it was gazetted a “political” body and made subject to MDA rules. Well this December, it announced that it had invited the president of S’pore to attend a January bash: it wasn’t being ironical. Wonder if this had anything to do with the presidential debate that it organised and which was made available to the public via the Internet ? Tony Tan came out well when answering questions from a non-partisan live audience. Remember his margin of victory was 7,000 votes,  this debate must have helped him. The other two debates were conducted by representatives of the nation-building constructive media.

Sadly, one TKL was found wanting at that debate. He had to have 377A explained to him. In December 2010, Tan Kin Lian was looked upon as a credible presidential candidate. This despite him saying he had no presidential ambitions after his failure to get more than 1,200 petitioners to sign his “100,000 names for me to stand as president”. S’poreans still fondly remembered him as the plucky ex-PAPpie who stood up for retail investors who bought mini-bonds and DBS notes. He had problems making up his mind whether he would stand, and when he finally stood for the presidency, ran an eccentric, erratic and poorly funded campaign (one GMS was his adviser) as the “People’s Voice”. He lost his deposit and blamed everyone (especially TJS) for his defeat. He should have blamed himself: especially his refusal to fund himself in a serious way, his inept tactics, and his strategy of taking the anti-PAP voters for granted.

The maturity of most voters was shown by their refusal to be bribed by his populist promises. They knew the president hadn’t the power to implement any of the goodies TKL was promising.

Many younger S’poreans this time last year, did not know who Tan Cheng Bock was. They now know that as a PAP MP, he took on the government many times. We also now know that he is very rich, what with a place in Sentosa Cove (“Invetment leh” he says). He also showed he was a savvy campaigner (mail shot to all voters), able to attract grassroot volunteers and big sponsors.

Penultimately, last December we didn’t know much about Tony Tan’s family. We now know his eldest son got deferred from NS for 12 years and never became a medical doctor or an army medical officer; his other two sons were never selected for the SAF officers’ or even combat trained NCOs’ course despite being medically fit; and he has one good looking stunner of a daughter**, who married an ang moh.

Finally, let’s remember that in December 2010, Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan, Raymond Lim, George Yeo, and Ms Lim Hwee Hwa were in the cabinet, and Zainul Abidin was a junior minister, and Cynthia Phua was alleged to be the MP from Hell. They all lost their cushy, mega millions jobs in May 2011.

The first six have yet to find anything that pays as well. Was LKY wrong when he said, “{Y}ou have to pay the market rate or the man will up stakes and join Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs and you would have an incompetent man and you would have lost money by the billions.”

I mean investment banks are not exactly falling over themselves to recruit any of the Competent Six.

Happy hols.


*”Modern media theorists refer to participants in such systems as a “networked public”, rather than an “audience”, since they do more than just consume information.”(Economist)

**TJS has two great looking daughters.

Dec 2010: A quirky look back (Part I)

In Political governance on 20/12/2011 at 5:59 am

For starters, the trains were running regularly then. I mean, one of the gd points about having an authoritarian government, is that the trains run on time. So, I’m surprised that the PM is not publicly blaming the 40% of S’poreans who voted for the Opposition for the trains breaking down. He could have said government and public services cannot be so efficient with so many unhappy voters to please, so expect problems.

Seriously, this time last year, who had heard of Tan Jee Say, Chen Show Mao, Benjamin Pwee, Dr Ang Yong Guan, Nicole Seah, or Jeannette Chong Aruldoss?

TJS stood for two elections in May, as a candidate for the SDP in the general election (GE) in May and in the presidential election (PE) in August. He did so-so in May but got a credible 25% of the votes in the PE. He is now trying to unite the Opposition parties, or so he says).

Show Mao became an MP at his first attempt and then gave a speech in parly that warmed the hearts of many Chinese-educated S’poreans. They and the other four showed that the Opposition could attract academically brilliant people (Nicole is smart, not juz sassy and pretty), and successful professionals to boot. A far cry from “demagogues”, “opportunists” and bicycle thieves.

Who knew of Tin Pei Ling, Denise He or Puthucheary in December last year? Tin and Denise He (Tin’s Face book administrator) showed that the PAP had problems getting smart, young Internet savvy people, while Nicole Seah showed that the Opposition had no such problem. Puthu showed S’poreans the kind of FTs that become citizens and PAP members. Shumething that didn’t impress many S’poreans (self included).

Last December, the Reform Party (who?) and its Secretary-General were seen as the brightest stars in the Opposition firmament. True, KennthJ had to live down his failure to take over the SDA. But one Chiam See Tong, the SDA’s chairman, had given KenJ his backing, so it wasn’t as though it was all KenJ’s fault. To show each other that they had no hard feelings, Chiam invited KenJ to SPP’s Christmas party, and he accepted. And KenJ could boast of attracting two government scholars turned educational entrpreneurs (marriage partners Tony Tan and Hazel Poa) into RP.

Today, the RP and KenJ are no longer seen as serious players in the Opposition. Most of the then party members (including the dynamic duo) walked out in early 2011, saying they had differences with KenJ. He then made things worse by his petulant reaction their leaving. In the GE, the RP did badly partly because of the weakened state of the party, but also because of one GMS of the NSP, who played hard ball with the RP over which seats the RP could contest.

(To be continued on Wednesday. Getting too long.)

S’pore: Problem Child (in 1962)

In Political governance on 01/10/2011 at 9:39 am

In 1962, a US academic wrote this:

Flanking the sea artery connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and virtually linking the Asian mainland with the Indonesian archipelago, the island of Singapore occupies a strategic position in southeastern Asia. Toward its 220 square miles of territory have converged races from all the Orient, but especially the southern Chinese in their ubiquitous quest for commercial opportunities. When Sir Stamford Raffles established a trading post near the Singapore River on February 6, 1819, the island’s only inhabitants were a few hundred Malays. Four months later, however, he wrote: “From the number of Chinese already settled, and the peculiar attraction of the place for that industrious race, it may be presumed that they will always form the largest part of the community.” Today, some 75 percent of Singapore’s million and three-quarters inhabitants are Chinese- the largest urban concentration anywhere of overseas Chinese.

Undisturbed by British colonial authorities in respect to language, schooling and customs, the Singapore Chinese established an exclusive cultural community and readily absorbed new hordes of immigrants over the years. Their ancestral ties and affections have habitually pulled them toward the homeland. Like most Chinese, they adjudge their culture to be of a superior order (especially vis-à-vis the Malay); moreover, since the advent of the Communist régime, they are proud of the great strides Mainland China has made and of its new stature as a world power. During the past three years, the English-educated Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, has made energetic propagandist efforts to create a Malay image and to infuse elements of a Malayan culture; but the majority of Singapore Chinese-those schooled in the Chinese medium, plus the illiterate-have shown little evidence of modifying their basic emotional orientation. Indeed, they receive daily nourishment in that direction from the two main Chinese newspapers (with circulations larger than any others outside the Chinese Mainland), as well as from Radio Peking, whose programs come in more clearly than any other foreign broadcast.

Buy the full article for US$0.99 here. Worth it.

S’pore is Second

In Economy on 16/08/2011 at 11:02 am

S’pore is second to HK in a list of most popular business hubs. London is third. As the people of both these cities have rioted against their living conditions, will S’poreans riot? Nope, they will elect Tony Tan as president.

Times are bad too for Hongkies

In Economy on 24/07/2011 at 7:33 am

Hong Kong and Singapore have become the top two business locations in the world – ahead of cities like London and New York – a new study by CB Richard Ellis showed. It found that 68.2% of the world’s largest companies had a presence in Hong Kong.

Singapore was a close second with a tally of 67.5%, and Tokyo was third with 63.9%. In fourth position was London, with a score of 63.2%. Shanghai was fifth with 61.4%.

Middle class S’porean faced with stagnating wages but rising transport and property prices, are not impressed by this elevated status.

So what abt the people of the HK? The middle class are in worse shape than us except when it comes to democracy.  

The territory’s middle classes, known locally as the sandwich class because they are squeezed between the rich and the poor, are frustrated by unaffordable property prices and a lack of democracy in government.

Hong Kong enjoys many civil liberties unavailable across the border in China, such as the right to protest. But residents cannot vote directly for their leader or for many legislative seats.

According to a University of Hong Kong opinion survey released last week, dissatisfaction with the government over livelihood conditions has reached the highest level since 1992 …

“What you have is a whole wodge of people who have jobs but are still struggling, ” says Christine Loh, the head of the Civil Exchange think tank and a former legislator.

The sources of discontent are wide-ranging but centre on economic issues such as soaring housing prices, inflation and the wealth gap.

Inflation figures due to be released on Thursday are expected to show the city’s inflation rate stood at 5.2% in June, its highest in almost three years, driven by rising rents and soaring food prices.

Hong Kong imports 90% of its food and much comes from China where pork prices are at a record high.

Home prices rose last 24% last year and are up 12% so far this year as newly affluent mainland Chinese snap up apartments here.

According to a report by Demographia International, Hong Kong property, at 11.4 times gross median annual household income, is the most unaffordable in the world.

Nearly half the population lives in government or subsidised housing and buying their own home is out of reach for many residents.

As regards the very poor (our VB makes his HK counterpart look like Scrooge):

Tam Kin Wai, a retired hospital porter …  lives in a “cubicle home” that is barely 2m (6ft) wide with his wife and 13-year old son in Sham Shui Po. They must share a toilet and kitchen with eight other families. “Living costs are always going up,” he says.

Hey maybe the 60% of voters who voted for the PAP have a pt. Us 40% are the daft ones.

Outlook for S’pore’s major export

In Economy on 14/08/2010 at 10:51 am

The near-term outlook for the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector is stable. The North American semiconductor book-to-bill ratio stood at 1.12 in May 2010. This  indicates that orders are still stronger than shipments and point to an expansion in the months ahead.

This is continued good news for  Singapore, and Malaysia and Thailand, which also have sizeable ICT sectors.

One up on HK — thanks to MM

In Uncategorized on 01/04/2010 at 5:39 am

This NYT article tells us of the growing air pollution problems in HK, even when China’s major cities are improving the quality of the air in their cities.

Our air is better than that of HK’s. And do remember that MM was a greenie even before the term was invented. S’pore has so many trees because of the green campaign when he was PM.