Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Watz buzzing - 1 May 2012

Today we celebrate Labour Day but what is there for labour to celebrate?

"Higher wages push up business costs, affect our competitiveness, and may cause higher inflation"

- PM Lee Labour Message.[Link]

Our inflation is 5.2% [Link] and largely due to housing, rentals and transport cost increases. Instead of doing more to bring down inflation in Singapore, our prime minister on Labour Day, sends a message saying that higher wages for workers will cause inflation. He does not say high rental causes inflation. When a small business has to buy a van to transport goods, the small business has to pay the highest cost of transport in the world and with rising COEs the costs of doing business is escalating.

The lowly paid delivery man driving this van all day has seen his wages falling or stagnant for the last decade. Yet, on this Labor Day our prime minister says wages has to be kept down to keep business cost low but nothing about the cost of transport which is causing so much pain to small enterprises.

What is there for labour to celebrate this Labour Day?

Today we have 400,000 low wage workers who qualify for Workfare because they work full time jobs but cannot make ends meet. Our workers are the only ones in the developed world without minimum wages. They shoulder the highest % of healthcare cost expenditure among all developed countries. We have the highest income inequality among developed countries (sometimes we are 2nd to USA).

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Conduct Unbecoming

There are many posts on the closed doors meeting pertaining to the impending crackdown on the Singapore internet. It was conducted according to the Chaltham House Rule, which stipulates that nothing should be done to identify, either explicitly or implicitly, who said what. The government representatives obviously were not looking forward to being named in public, like the infamous 48 listed, in case they said something stupid. After all, their wife and children may suffer from the unwarranted glare of the media.

One said representative explained that in the light of recent reports of hoaxes, falsehoods and racist comments that have spread online, there is a need for a code of conduct to serve as an alternative mechanism for people to seek redress. Otherwise, they will resort to calling the police.

Let's deal with the last line first. A netizen made a police report about Sun Xu's “I will wait for him with a knife” threat of bodily harm. The police first said a magistrate's complaint was required, then said it had decided to take no further action “after careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case and in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers.” The combined civic action of the bloggers was more effective in the take down of the PRC scholar ingrate.

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Don’t like the mainstream media? Support the alternative then

On 26 April, my friend, colleague and fellow editor at publichouse.sg, Elaine Ee, wrote this piece in response to the government’s call for a code of conduct for the Internet: “Forget code of ethics, free up mainstream media“.

Dismissing the call, she wrote:
“What we need instead is a new journalistic environment, where the mainstream media are as free to tackle issues and make opinions as new media. Mainstream media needs to be allowed to move with the times, and be released from its public relations role of helping with “nation building” and social cohesion, which should never have been its job in the first place.”
For the longest time, Singaporeans have been calling for a new media landscape. One where, as Elaine said, journalists are free to report the news without fear or favour, without having to put up with unnecessarily cautious editors, or who self-censor because a particular issue is sensitive to the powers-that-be.

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Forget code of ethics, free up mainstream media

There are many good journalists, writers, reporters and editors in Singapore. Yes, there are. More than it appears – both in mainstream as well as new media. They are the ones who try their very best every single day to find the good stories, to tackle the issues that concern Singaporeans and to give voice to what needs to be said.

But all too often the system here does not do these talented and dedicated media practitioners justice. The well-rehearsed, top down, censorious approach and belief that the media should be the mouthpiece of the government has become a cliché which stands in the way of our genuine journalists doing the job they should be doing, and undermine their credibility.

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Show us you mean business

There's been a lot of talk about the Government's proposal for an online code of conduct, and today the Institute of Public Studies organised a closed-door discussion on the topic. It was conducted under the Chatham House Rule, so I'm not going to go into details on what was discussed.

What I will say, is that the CEO of the Media Development Authority, Mr Aubeck Kam, spoke at the discussion. Given that the attendance included a whole bunch of socio-political bloggers, he predictably heard a lot of very critical and skeptical opposition to the suggestion of a new code of conduct.

I thought Mr Kam handled the criticism pretty well. He came across as being very thoughtful, earnest and sincere.

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Driven To Despair, Literally

Seah Chiang Nee, Straits Times:
To put things in perspective, the government had intended the scheme to reduce road congestion by putting a quota on new cars. Somewhere along the way, it became a great source of revenue.
Has it cut down car enthusiasm or traffic jams? Yes, but the success has been confined to peak hours in the business districts.
COE and ERP reduces the supply. So long as the supply is limited, cost will be high.

It's time to seriously reduce the demand for private cars. That means public transportation (and semi-public transportation such as taxis) must be significantly improved from what we have today.

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Online Code Of Conduct? 'No Thanks'

Tessa Wong, Straits Times:
Several well-known bloggers and owners of socio-political websites have said no to the government's call for the Internet community to come up with a code of conduct on responsible online behaviour.
They made their stand clear in statements they posted online on Friday, a day after a closed-door discussion with government representatives.
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A code's not gonna bring civility to cyberspace

I participated in the closed-door discussion titled, 'Civility in cyberspace: Going beyond laws to self-regulation?' yesterday, which was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies.

It was brought up at the discussion that the intent of the proposed code of conduct is to make the internet less toxic. My question is, less toxic to who? Bloggers view the code of conduct with suspicion because of 3 letters - PAP.

Combating falsehoods and respecting differing views are two of the purposes of the proposed code of conduct. The questions then are, who determines 'falsehoods'? Is respect for differing views the same as 'don't challenge my views robustly'?

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PM Lee: Social media makes it ‘difficult’ for politics and government to work well

One week after setting up his personal Facebook page to reach out to the online community, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is appearing to have second thoughts after his page was turned into a ‘slugfest’ between Singaporeans and foreigners of late.

In his latest post on Facebook, PM Lee shared an article published in CNN a few days ago on the ‘dangers’ of Facebook and Twitter politics:

“Social media bring many benefits. But this thoughtful piece points out that they will also make it harder for politics and government to work well. The writer talks about the US, but many of his points apply to Singapore too.”

[Source: PM Lee's Facebook]

The original CNN article talked about how social media has led to “a political discourse that is becoming devoid of real ideas, and instead pared down to the safest of talking points.”

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Pinoy FT asks Singaporeans to ‘reflect’ on their remarks after giving them a lecture on PM Lee’s Facebook

Controversial Filipino ‘foreign talent’ Angelo Marc Jandugan now wants Singaporeans to ‘reflect’ on their remarks after being lampooned for his insensitive remarks made on the Facebook page of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Angelo Marc Jandugan has earlier posted a comment defending PM Lee on his Facebook asking him to ignore Singaporeans who have been imploring him to reduce the inflow of immigrants.

“PM Lee, I have absolute faith in you and I hope you don’t get distracted listening to all these sarcastic naysayers…they only know how to complain without offering credible solutions…..”, he wrote, sounding exactly like a PAP apologist.

He also called on PM Lee to hire more ‘talented foreigners’ and not be swayed by public opinion on immigration policies:

“I am so proud to have made Singapore home for me and my family and the credit goes all to you and your efficient govt. I hope you will not be distracted from your policies of hiring more talented foreigners to take this young nation forward. You must stay firm to your beliefs and not be swayed by public opinion on immigration policies.”

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Excessive executive compensation hurts competitiveness

When it comes to making the economy more competitive, the PAP govt always focuses on workers have becoming more productive - be better, cheaper and faster. They never ever bring up making rentals, govt fees, utilities and transport cheaper.

What about making housing cheaper so that our workers are better able to compete? The burden of Singapore's competitiveness seems to always rest on the shoulders of workers especially the lower paid workers.
The article below discusses how the bonus culture among top executives can ruin an economy according to a report by the British govt.

"The New Few: Or a Very British
Oligarchy," looks at how power and wealth in the UK has been concentrating in the hands of a small elite while the rest of the country struggles." - from article below.

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No one wants to talk about it

We cannot let higher income Sinkies to buy HDB flats. It will add to the demand and deprive lower income Sinkies from the chance of getting one, or they compete with the lower income and lowering their chances for a public flat. It sounds so clever, so logical.

How many higher income Sinkies would want to buy a HDB if they could afford the million dollar private properties? No, they must be kept out to protect the lower income Sinkies. No they must be made to spend all their savings on that private property. Prudent, spending within their means and make them spend everything?

And every year they add on something like 20,000 new Sinkies, give them a pink IC and called them citizens. The truth is that they are foreigners who were added into the housing queue and it is okay. While the Sinkie singles and other Sinkies who need a flat would have to give way as the queue is getting longer, bigger demand, because of the so called new Sinkies. And no one want to mention this.

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Police warns Singaporean not to call Pinoy lady who did not pay fare to return the money

The ‘pinoy cabby’ saga took a sudden turn when the cabby’s son went to lodge a police report yesterday evening.

A pinoy lady took a cab on 22 April 2012, but refused to pay the cabby the fare upon reaching the destination claiming that she has no money. She initially promised to transfer the fare to his bank account, but has not done so after four days.

Under Chapter 259B of the Penal Code, failure to pay taxi fare is a CRIME:

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PAP MP Edwin Tong accused of showing ‘sour’ face to homeless resident seeking his help to get rental flat

Singapore may boast of having one of the highest home ownership in the world, but there are still some homeless Singaporeans who are unable to get a flat of their own.

However, when one homeless Singaporean William approached his MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC Edwin Tong (pic left, source: Facebook) for help, he was shown a ‘sour’ face and was turned away.

Disappointed and frustrated by the response of his MP, William posted a comment on the Workers Party’s Facebook page to vent his anger:

“When it is my turn to see him at 10pm regarding about HDB matters for a second time, his face immediately turn SOUR and seen very reluctant (corrected) to help ordinary people like me to get a rental HDB flat who is at a stage of being homeless.”

He asked if he has to go to Sembawang GRC to seek the help of National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in person since his own MP refused to help him, adding that some MPs are very ‘hypocritical’:

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