Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Hougang by elections

I haven't blogged in awhile.
But it doesn't mean I've forgotten how to.

Just want to say for now...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Lawyer is mightier than the sword

I enjoy watching CSI. The original CSI.
You know the part where they present incriminating evidence to suspects in the interrogation room?
Yes that's where most suspects start to "lawyer up".

The ancient city of Homs is one of Syria's biggest industrial cities. There is significant Opposition presence and Bashar Assad's has opted to mercilessly lay seige upon anyone and everyone who lives there in a bid to quell political dissidents and maintain grip on power. This at the expense of thousands of innocent lives and the ire of most of the international community.

China has allegedly unleashed violence on dissenting Tibet. There are unconfirmed reports that civlians and even religious have been beaten and imprisoned. The want-away Xinjaing province is apparently also subject to similar actions.

Adolf Hitler consolidated power by absolutely crushing political dissent. Those who were against party ideology were sent to concentration camps or executed. The rest is history. Nazi Germany was totally devastated in a gruelling six year war that left many dead.

But the PAP has refined the art of suppressing alternative voices without resorting to violence. And it's called "lawyering up"!

At the first sighting of one of the founders of the increasingly popular political website TR Emeritus, who up until then (much to PAP's chagrin) were annonymous, PM Lee Hsien Loong immediately served a lawyer letter demanding the removal of a certain posting. The letter "alleged that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong secured or was instrumental in securing the appointment of his wife, Mdm Ho Ching, as the chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited...."

In the days following local media (or government mouth piece) field day with Yaw Shin Leong's fall from grace, there was online buzz that some of PAP's own were also involved in marital indiscretions. This prompted Law Minister K. Shanmugam to immediately threaten legal action.

When Chee Soon Juan was taken to court by MM Lee, yes lawyering up indeed, for allegedly defaming the latter, it was reported (actually not reported by Mainstream media) that even the incomparable statesman had to rely on his counsel to defend cross examination from Dr. Chee. And we all know how the verdict went.

The late Opposition icon JB Jeyaretnam shocked the then impenetrable PAP by winning a seat in the Anson ward and then subsequently getting re-elected. But he was subject to so much legal pressure by PAP leaders that he was eventually bankrupted and expelled from Parliament.

I guess the point is if there is nothing to hide, why the need to stand behind legal representatives?
What happened to good old fashioned debates and then letting citizens decide for themselves?

In the case of Yaw Shin Leong, the right thing to do is to hold the by-election immediately.  Let the people of Hougang judge the Workers' Party, not PAP. If anything, WP did the right (and accountable) thing to expel Yaw. Would PAP have done the same to an office holder in similar circumstances?
It is the PAP who would have let voters down if a by-election is not called asap.

Or maybe they are waiting to "find" more dirt and unleash the ultimate weapon... lawyers!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Singapore- From First World to Third

1) The deterioration of SMRT and transportation in general.
When SMRT trains started running in 1987, I remember the buzz and excitement it generated. There was alot to be proud of. Metro train travels became part of our daily lives and travelling time was reduced. Happy days.
But ever since its listing in 2000, company execs (and technically PAP since Temasek Holdings own a majority stake in the entity) indiscriminately focused on cost cutting, revenue generation and keeping shareholders happy.
Today, train breakdowns are as commonplace as tissue paper packets used to "reserve" seats in eateries all across our business district. SMRT has become a national shame.

Whilst performance have gone down, fares have headed the other way. The regulatory body Public Transport Council has sanctioned nearly every adjustment request from buses, trains and taxi operators. These companies are majority-owned by the Singapore government.

The roads are no better. Toll gantries known as ERP are erected all over the island, expanding from town and business districts to heartland areas, in the name of traffic flow management. Yet the expressways and even in-roads are still jammed. Once I overhead an Australian remarking that if they did this ERP thing down under, the public would have the mayor lynched.

COE or the piece of paper that allows you to purchase a car now costs as much as a brand new Mercedes C Class in Australia!

2) The unspoken wage decline.

The real earnings, the most accurate measure of wage growth as it takes into account inflation, have been on a steady decline for as long as one can remember. UBS's latest prices and earnings studies reaffirms this. Singaporean's wage levels are in the league of Brazil, Slovakia and Malaysia. Nowhere near Swiss standards for sure. That's shocking considering how highly paid our leaders are.

An International Labour Organisation report also documents that Singaporeans put in the longest work hours globally!

3) Corruption in public service

-Golden tap, first class travels, undeclared directorships and a "peanut" salary package of just $550,000 per year. The man TT Durai was the head of the National Kidney Foundation. Instead of focusing efforts to help dialysis patients, his corporate extravagance and misdeeds were just small symptoms of the wider elitist network that the government has created.
-A senior civil servant at the Singapore Land Authority defrauded the government and bought luxury cars with the dirty money.
-Most recently, the former heads of the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Central Narcotics Bureau were arrested for alleged misconduct. Both were high flying government scholars chosen by the PAP establishment. Looks like there's going to be alot more fire fighting for PM Lee's party if the regime's foot soldiers can't start kicking the bad habits.

Corruption exists in nearly every country but Singapore's sycophantic media has always been quick to point out how the nation is one of the least corrupt in the world.
Unfortunately for them, the irksome social media has all but erased decades of cover up for ruling party.
Watch this space for more revelations of breaches of trust.

4) Ballooning public debt

President Tony Tan claimed in his recent Lunar New Year speech that owing to PAP's fiscal prudence, Singapore does not have high sovereign debt. But that's not true.
CIA and Eurostat estimate that Singapore's public debt is 105% of GDP or ninth highest in the world!

Most of the obligation is probably to the Central Provident Fund (CPF). When the PAP liberalised CPF for housing, they had the opportunity to "borrow" money cheap (the interest rate that CPF pays account holders) to fund their activities. Over the years, misguided policies and investments (mostly kept from Singaporeans) created losses that the government increasingly can't keep up with. See Temasek Holdings, GIC and other stat boards and GLCs.
This is why the PAP keeps raising the minimum sum and withdrawal age because they just can't afford to return the money to retiring Singaporeans.
More puzzling, none of the extraordinarily high debt is due to citizen welfare schemes for the state provides almost none, which is the case for most developed state with significant government obligations.
Singaporeans have a right to know where and how government borrowing is really spent all these years.

5) Love affair with foreign talent (or trash)
60% of registered doctors in 2010 are foreigners.
50% of expats earned more than 200k a year.
38% of the population are foreigners/PRs attracted by pro foreign employment policies, lax banking rules and good physical infrastructure.
30% of our private homes were bought by foreigners in 2011.
20% of A&E patients in our hospitals are foreigners... and enjoying subsidies.

Singaporeans aren't xenophobic. Many of us have grown suspicious of foreigners who are perceived to take away many PMET jobs that Singaporeans want to do. Most of these foreigners are here for the quick buck and simply use the country as a stepping stone (and Visa-less travel) to their dreams elsewhere.

Further, you just have to question the true ability and qualifications of some foreigners. There are reports of foreigners paying for fake certs to get into Singapore.

A prestigious club in Singapore had to sack its CEO for not producing a Masters cert which he claimed to have obtained.
The country's football association removed its French deputy CEO for not disclosing his bankruptcy before taking up the job.
We're not exactly sure how foreign CEOs like Jackson Tai, John Olds and Philip Paillart (combined total tenure of 4 years), added value to Singapore's biggest bank DBS before departing with very golden handshakes.
We're not sure how three expats who started a brawl and two of them subsequently fled the country before facing court, got jobs with leading banks here. It's outrageous how they let foreign trespassers post bail and retain their passports when they refused to allow bankrupt Opposition leader Chee Soon Juan permission to travel to attend an innocuous award ceremony.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Anwar Ibrahim acquitted

Our Minister Mentor Emeritus  Lee Kuan Yew crossed path with Malaysia on numerous occasions.
In 2010, he alluded that Malaysia was a "failed state".
He also incurred the wrath of Malaysian Muslims for criticising Islam openly in his book.

Little does he realise (nor care) that Singapore pales in comparison in terms of democratic and civil freedom.
Who would have thought Malaysia had an independent judiciary?
Anwar Ibrahim acquitted!!!

In Singapore, our judges send three Singaporeans wearing kangaroo T-shirts to jail.

And you apparently can't voice an opinion on the death penalty.

I wonder if Singapore's political immaturity will affect the nation's ability to compete both economically and socially.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Minister pay cut justified?

Yes, it's trending on twitter and carried in newspapers all over the world, from Guardian to Bloomberg.
Everybody's talking about the seemingly massive 36% pay cut that Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has "agreed" to take.
While it's a long overdue step in the right direction, he remains, and by some orbital mile, the highest paid elected official on this planet. Still 4 times more than Barack Obama and 45 times that of Manmohan Singh.
But the root of the problem remains that many within the regime's ranks still think that high salaries are needed to attract the "best" talents to political office.
Such as one Grace Fu, who probably summed up what many of her colleagues feel:
"If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office."

Unfortunately, money cannot be the main motivation for joining politics. You are simply attracting candidates that will put the moolah before servitude. Such as this MP with 64 other jobs.

Personally, I think the pay cut is totally justified and there should be more to come.

GDP growth, the indicator that PAP swears by, is looking extremely weak going into 2012. Singapore could again be the first Asian country to go into a technical recession defined by two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
The party state has failed to diversify from the volatile and highly competitive electronics sector which makes up a massive 35% of non-oil  domestic exports.
Worryingly, the Purchasing Managers' Index or PMI, which measures future business activity, has been declining for 6 straight months.

Granted that if US and Eurozone growth tank in 2012, and if there were a hard landing in China, most economies of the world will be adversely affected.
Difference is that other leaders don't have million dollar salaries nor tell the US to put its fiscal house in order.
I can't help but notice the inverted commas around the word Mentor in this WSJ article.

Additionally, the SMRT debacles, Orchard floods, taxi fare hikes and persistent rise in cost of living speak volumes of the extremely disappointing performance by our Ministers.
This move may have swayed some citizens over to their side.
But please ask yourselves this: Imagine that you were all shareholders of this company called Singapore Inc. Would you continue to agree to pay directors (Ministers) the highest salary among their global counterparts millions of dollars for repeated sub par performance?

I agree with some Opposition parties' suggestion that in addition to top earners, the average salaries of bottom and average earners should also be incorporated into the salary calculation.
After all, the greatest leaders (arguably) didn't have seven figure pay packages: Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Tony Blair, Franklin D Roosevelt.....

Finally, an honourable mention to our dear President who apparently volunteered a 51% pay cut. Bravo!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Uniquely Singapore- Photo of the day

Singapore is just a very unique place to live in. We pay $70,000 for a chance to own a car for 10 years. We give away fully-paid scholarships to foreigners and deny local citizens that opportunity. And although 40% of citizens voted against the PAP, they still have a 81 to 87 majority in Parliament.

So I'm starting a segment to feature things that make our nation Uniquely Singapore.

Starting with this: A shuttered police post.
Who would have thought crimes won't be committed in the mornings.