Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Watz Buzzing - 15 May 2012

Prevailing Battleground Hougang

The by-election at Hougang is now appearing to be a contest between PAP’s Desmond Choo and Workers’ Party (WP) Png Eng Huat, though we will never know till nomination day who will be the confirmed candidates. Therefore, it is apt that we kickstart the build-up to the 2012 Hougang by-election by engaging in some punditry of our own. The focus of this write-up will be on WP’s Png and PAP’s Choo. 

An independent voice
One of the assurances Choo gave with regards to his candidature is that he will serve as an independent voice. He assured voters that he would not be afraid to speak up against policies that do not serve the interests of his residents. If elected, he will also not hesitate to speak up on areas where the government can do better.

Such statements from Choo are expected; you do not play a PAP yes-man in an opposition stronghold such as Hougang. However, the question most are asking is whether Choo really means what he says. The main factor that is currently going against Choo is that he is a PAP newbie. If it was a certain Tan Cheng Bock (just for example) going to the Hougang by-election, and he gives a strong assertion that he will be an independent man, chances are that most of the audience will be convinced by that.

After all, this is the chap who accumulated his spurs or battle scars if you so prefer in earning a rebuke from the late Goh Keng Swee when he voiced critical opinions over streaming in schools, and went against his party whip over the Nominated Members of Parliament scheme because he strongly believed that all members of Parliament should be elected and be held accountable to the electorate.

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Hougang By Election: Is ‘shall’ the same as ‘must?’

Few days back one evening, I was passing by the coffee shop at Elias Mall. I saw Taxi Ong sitting alone drinking his beer. When he saw me, he was so agitated and insisted that I sit down with him. He straight away ordered two bottles of Tiger beer for him. He knows I only drink Tiger whilst he drinks Heineken.

Taxi Ong was already quite tipsy having drunk few bottles by himself. It was his off day. Those people from the neighborhood would gather there to chit chat and while away their time either drinking coffee or beer in the evening. Sometimes, they read newspapers there. They call me ‘MRT’ whenever they see me around.

Their congregation at the coffee shop to chit chat sometimes leads to arguments and even turn hostile at times. When it touches on MRT issues, they would look to me as an authority and I turn out to be the arbitrator of sort....... 

Macy says:
You see our PAP is so capable of abusing the law. The law exists to resolve ambiguity and to be used as a sovereign tool for a leader to do the right thing. Instead of doing the right thing, our clown do thing right for himself and his party.

This is not politics but abuse of power. If the PM is fair, he should be affirmative that the by-election be hold as soon as possible and not play with technicalities of words in the first place using his legal team. In the end, his act backfires, and his team endup as been backstab by none other than PM himself due to his indecisiveness and poor judgement. the reputation of his team suffers and endup in ridicule in history, karma happens.

At the end of the day, it is not really the SHALL or MUST , it is the act of doing the right thing according to prudent judgement of ruling a nation in a fair way regardless of party. PM forgets that as a PM and as a minister, they are liable to serve the people of the nation foremost , and not to their party, and they get this so wrong and now make to look like a fool in the world. If they get the foundation wrong, nothing else matter.

Make rules and rentals “attractive and honourable” first

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said he wants to make hawking “attractive and honourable”. He said he hoped that more Singaporeans would pursue the hawking profession in the future. He needs to get his priorities right. It is the rules and rentals that have to be made “attractive and honourable” first.
The MEWR minister said that with the announcement of 10 new hawker centres to be built, and the removal of minimum bids for stalls, rental prices of hawker stalls have dropped. But why were they allowed to escalate to such a high level in the first place?
There is a simple reason why rental prices of hawkers stalls have risen so much in recent years. Its because the government has failed to control supply and demand, which led to rapid inflation of asset values, and consequently, a sharp and sustained increase in rental prices. There is absolutely no mystery about it.
Who benefits from this? The landlords and the government make the most profit out of rapidly inflating asset values.

Don't share the wrong things 

Today's headlines in the Straits Times - "$100m help for the region - Temasek's Foundation's new programmes will be in technical training and urban planning". Reading on, we find out that these are seen as philanthropic activities, i.e., help for the areas that need it in Asia. The journalist writes without a hint of hesitation that "Singapore is often held up as an example of successful urban planning, despite having the highest population density in Asia".

Clearly implying Singapore's superiority, the foundation's director is quoted as saying that "All the cities in the region are growing rapidly. Planning roads, transport networks and public housing are areas where we can share the Singapore experience." 

Through sheer willpower and efficient execution Singapore has indeed built up a clean and safe city over a short span of a few decades. It certainly seems impressive. But getting a job done fast does not mean it is a good job. It does not mean that the model adopted is the best one for other cities, and actually not even for Singapore. Certainly the planners should by no means start to congratulate themselves, or start acting as an authority on urbanism (cue the award "conferred" by Singapore to New York City a few months ago

What’s at stake in the Hougang by-election

Now that the by-elections for Hougang has been called, it is interesting to see how the ruling party is trying to down play this by-election by characterizing it as a “local election, about local stuff“.

I wish they did not do that. I wish the PAP couched this by-election as a “referendum” of how they have fared in the last 12 months since the last general election. It will help the PAP in many ways. If the election is more than a “local’ one, the PAP can take lessons from it.

The PAP can’t just choose to set the agenda by merely saying that this is a local election. There are plenty of things that the PAP has not come around to answering and for what it’s worth, the general sentiment is that it is back to status quo.
For all the “apology that the PM rendered last year, not much has happened. He was vague enough in the apology and kept it open but more importantly, there is the missing part of what will be done by when.

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Like the MRT, our past efficient public administration has suffered a setback in recent years. The more the government is eyeing for profit maximization, the more social and political issues the PAP has to face. The MRT breakdown is not an isolated case. It represents the Singapore problem as a whole. Just like the Hougang by-election, it is a local as well as a national level election.

The current COI on MRT breakdown has been going on for several weeks, however, has it got the basic right? Have we looked at the human resource strategy and management of SMRT? Is there a shift from engineering to marketing? Is there a policy to retain old and experienced but expensive workers? Or the worst situation is to replace expensive locals with cheap foreigners.

Our MRT system has been in operation since 1980s. Only recently we experience the frequent breakdowns as often as a daily happening. We do not have operation problems at the beginning in 1980s as well as in the 1990s and 2000s. Why suddenly there are so many problems? Are the current management and staff less competent and efficient than before? Or there is a shift of focus on the core value of public transport service?

We know the operations of public infrastructure usually face great challenges when it first runs into operations, like the opening of a new airport. Delay, new problems for new system, staff training, and co-ordination etc. will always challenge the new airport management. However, after that, it is usually a smooth operation unless the maintenance is not up to date.

All infrastructures at the end of the day are still handled by human beings. If there is a quality shift of the workers, or a preference towards certain groups of employees, or a change of profit focus, all these will affect the performance of SMRT staff. The COI is only looking at the system, so even the system is corrected, there is no guarantee staff attitude towards work, the same old service standard can come back.

Heartland Headaches

I have just read a very interesting and informative article by Louis Lee on the cost of living in Singapore. Even in our years in Singapore the price of basic hawker food was on the rise so it is not too much of a surprise to see that the price of a simple bowl of noodles is now $5 and expected to rise to $7 a decade from now.

The concern, as the writer points out, is just how affordable living in Singapore has become for its own citizens.

They are not alone in experiencing this global phenomenon in the current economic climate but Singapore is not a welfare state and so any cost of living associated with the basics of food, housing and transport hits its Heartland hard.

The above chart shows the change in Singapore's CPI (Consumer Price Index-All Items Inflation) in the past 12 months.

Moving from right to left it is easy to see that most of the basics have risen significantly with the transport figure reflecting the government's rise in COE (Cost Of Entitlement) which gives one the right to purchase a vehicle; not the actual purchase price of the vehicle itself

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Tunnel vision on birth rate and integration 

Don't be tunnel-visioned when analysing citizen population scenarious 

“Without immigration, and if our current low total fertility rate and high life expectancy continue, the number of citizen deaths is projected to outstrip births by around 2025...At that point, our citizen population will start to decline.” - Report from the government’s National Population and Talent Division dated April 2012.

We have had a 15-year increase in life expectancy in the last 40 years alone which, combined with the current fertility rate, spells disaster for Singapore, predicts the report by the government agency led by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

There is mounting evidence that the extremely low 1.2 Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is linked to the People’s Action Party (PAP) government's 'Stop at Two' policy of the 1960s. This policy, when coupled with the push in the 1990s to attain the 'Singapore Dream' comprising of the 5 Cs (cash, credit, cards, car, condominium and country club membership), proved toxic because large proportions of women delayed pregnancy and the average age for first pregnancy increased.
In his Chinese New Year message in January this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that the “government will do its part to reduce the anxieties and burdens of parenthood.”

The Prime Minister seemed to understand that offering money to couples to have children alone does not work. Women very often do not make a simple monetary cost-benefit analysis when they decide to have children. They consider factors like costs to their professional careers and how friendly the workplace is to them.

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North Korea is Singapore’s friend

Singapore is the third largest trading partner of North Korea. Its second highest ranking leader, Kim Yong Nam, had just paid an official visit with a trade delegation and is now in Indonesia for a similar purpose, to expand trade. Indonesia is also a good friend of North Korea.

But in Singapore, the North Koreans have many enemies. These are the unthinking Singaporeans who have been fed with a diet of anti North Korean misinformation written by westerners and proudly printed almost daily in our media. And the minds of these morons have been so tarnished that when they talked about the North Koreans, they behaved as if their homes have been burnt and looted by the North Koreans or their mothers were raped by them. Such simple minded people with an empty and unthinking head are easy to be programmed to think like little monkeys.

To these people, North Korea is bad, poor, abject poverty, famine, miserable people, aggressor, wanting to start a war with every country, wanting to send their nuclear missiles to attack them. Funny, do they know where is North Korea? Or do the North Koreans even think that these people exist? No, the North Koreans don’t even know of their existence and have had nothing to do with them. But why the hatred?

Why did they think, or think they knew so much about North Korea to hate them? Daft is a very appropriate word here. Their whole thinking and mindset have been programmed for so many years that they are behaving exactly as what the programmers wanted them to behave.

Her previous blog entry was dated 15 May, 2011, one week after celebrity Returning Officer Yam Ah Mee announced in his robotic monotone that Aljunied voters had decidedly returned the mandate to the Workers’ Party. The Chairman recalled one supporter had bellowed out: “I want to REPE-N-N-T-T-T”, which should tickle your funny bone.

Unlike the joker who flooded you with a tsunami of words, and a decades old graveyard will still be paved over for a new property development - you read that correctly, the pathetic road widening excuse was just a lame cover up - Sylvia Lim Swee Lian ( 林瑞莲) is one of those rare types who says what she means, and means what she say. No one can express her strength and conviction better than herself, unfettered of mainstream editorial bias:

SIA: All the fault of previous CEO?

In a posting on SIA’s results, someone in Oz who seems to know the airline biz laid the blame on the previous CEO. I reproduce it because although I know bugger-all abt the airline biz, I know poster was right abt the property sale (can’t remember the dollar values though): 

Chew Choon Seng, the previous SIA CEO from 2003 to 2010,sold the SIA building in Singapore for $250 mil, and the new owner sold it away for $550 mil barely 6 months later. He gave ground handling subsidiary SATS to shareholders as an in-specie dividend, thus making millions in the process through this special dividend and losing control of ground handling in his hub.

He barely ordered any aircraft and kept shrinking the airline, in the name of protecting “yields” that he wanted but could never achieve. He introduced an enormous and absolutely space-inefficient business class, and has the lowest density 77W of any airline, as well as the lowest density A380 of any airline (for the all upper-deck business class A380 configuration)

He cut route after route, and refused to acknowledge Emirates as a competitor (which SIA has only done like, yesterday presumably) 

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